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Thoughts fly in and out of our subconscious like bats from a cave. This wouldn’t be such a concern if our subconscious were not the base of operation for our carnal mind. Given that 95% of our thinking is off the radar of our conscious awareness, it is important that we force ourselves to make conscious decisions regarding the ways of this world which potentially contradict the principles of the kingdom and the commands of Christ.

Many times, reasoning drives us to compromise, and we find ourselves trying to live from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – a poor substitute for the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, mankind’s ability to reason was forever tied to the rebellion which separated us from God.

Each one of us is born into this rebellion and its result, our incredible self-centeredness. Just ask any parent. We are subsequently trained – through grammar school, middle school, and high school – to rely on our reasoning capabilities. In college, we are convinced that mankind’s ability to reason is worthy of worship. We have grown up into the Age of Reason and its doctrines.

Thankfully, 95% is not a fixed number. In fact, Christians are commanded to actively expose what naturally remains hidden. We are commanded to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5) – a discipline required for the renewing of our minds.

There are several methods of capture, each with their own measure of effectiveness. Most attempt to capture thoughts with a butterfly net, as they fly by our consciousness like bats. We eventually learn that method is not very effective. Others try securing a net over the cave opening, attempting to trap their carnal thoughts before they get out. But nets tear and those pesky bats have a way of finding other openings. All the while, Satan and the world are busy digging new ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing the right words to say can be a challenge. I often find myself attempting to communicate beyond the words that are readily available in my mind. Failure to “find” the right word makes me feel ignorant, dumb, even foolish. Choosing the wrong word can be confusing to the listener, and frustrating to the speaker. This is one reason I prefer writing over public speaking.

Listening and reading are also more complicated exercises that we might think. Much of our comprehension occurs at the subconscious level; there is more going on in our minds that we consciously recognize. With familiar words, we assume we know the meaning. Even words with multiple meanings are sorted out by the context of their use. The mind truly is a remarkably powerful instrument.

But what if the word doesn’t mean what our subconscious determines it to mean? What if the writer intended something entirely different? What if the word we assume to understand was translated from a language that gave richer meaning to the original? Could we misunderstand the author’s meaning and not know we have committed the error?

Let’s consider one example.

…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

As you can see, the New International Version (NIV) uses the word “obey” whereas the New King James Version (NKJV) translates to “observe”. According to Merriam-Webster, to obey is to follow the directions or commands of another. To observe can mean much the same thing (with less intensity), or it can mean to inspect or take note of (again, a less intense meaning).

What are we to do with these differences in meaning? Well, our subconscious picks one.

Should we trust our subconscious to make the appropriate determination? Perhaps, but keep in mind that our subconscious is the operations base and playground of our carnal mind.

How about consciously considering which meaning is closer to God’s intention? After all, He created the Greek language to communicate the richer meaning and mysteries of His kingdom. Perhaps there is a mystery here.

What might we discover with a little searching? It is the glory of God to hide a matter, and the glory of kings to search them out (Proverbs 25:2). What might God be hiding for His glory and ours? Read the rest of this entry »

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Romans 12:4-5

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 1Corinthians 12:26

As members of one body and members of one another, we care for each other’s needs, offer comfort in times of suffering and loss, and a steading hand during chaotic seasons. This is the love that will draw the lost world to Christ. But (and this is an important “but”), our unity must extend beyond mere gathering and ministering to one another.

Indeed, true Christian connectedness extends beyond the temporal. In fact, all we do in the physical realm flows from the spiritual. This is commonly understood in the Christian community. So, what about our sin? We are quick to mourn with a brother or sister over some temporal loss, and we should, but which is worse, physical loss (even the loss of a loved one) or damage to one’s relationship with God?

No sin is private. It may be secret but it is not private… The sin committed in the privacy of the home will have its effect in the assembly of the saints. A. W. Tozer

Sin in secret, even undiscovered, makes a man less fit for his participation in the Body of Christ until he has been restored through confession, forgiveness, and cleansing. Temporal personas have no effect on spiritual condition. “Fake it until you make it” is deception, not only toward the community of faith, but also for the one attempting the charade. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, we suggested that the most important thing every disciple of Jesus Christ needs to know is the identity of their number one enemy. I lamented not knowing sooner in my life that my carnal mind has been an active and aggressive ally of Satan and the world since my childhood.

Not knowing for myself means I have been unable to share the same with the hundreds of people I have attempted to disciple over the years. Furthermore, every time I brought my carnal mind into the church, I was helping the enemy gain or strengthen their position in the camp I was at least partially responsible for protecting. The same is true for every sphere of influence God has entrusted to my responsibility.

Yes, it is a sobering thought.

It is counter-intuitive to think that well-intending Christians can be enemies of the church. Only as we recognize that an enemy lies within each one of us will we come to understand how this can be so. Failing to identify and deal with our carnal mind, we have not only injured ourselves; we have brought into our fellowships and ministries, the number one enemy of God’s kingdom. In doing so, we have helped open the door to Satan and the world.

Furthermore, concession to our carnal mind is a blatant form of double-mindedness. We have been given the mind of Christ; to trust in any other is idolatry. The carnal mind is at enmity with God, and can be nothing else (Romans 8:7).

These are hard words to write and read. Perhaps they are too harsh. Perhaps I am missing something. You be the judge of yourself and your ministry. As for me, I stand convinced and convicted. Something has to change. I must deal with my carnal mind.

If this has also cut you to the heart, then I dare say you and I are in good company… and the response remains the same. Read the rest of this entry »

It is frustrating to discover something at sixty that you really needed to know when you were thirty. Of course, I might not have listened, or the information may have had little application in my life at the time, but I still wish someone had made the attempt. Maybe they did and just I don’t remember.

Those of us that place an importance on obeying the Great Commission would do well to ask God, “What does this person I am discipling need to hear right now that will dramatically change their life?” God will answer that question, over and over again. I hope and pray you will consider the following as one installment in that process.

Enemy #1

Perhaps the most important thing every disciple of Jesus Christ needs to know is the identity of their number one enemy.

Most would suggest that Satan is the number one enemy of God and His children. “The devil made me do it,” popularized by Flip Wilson in the 1970s, has found its way into the Western church. It is the way we like to think. The devil is our most popular enemy. In our confusion, we have ignored one of the most astounding claims in all of Scripture:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Satan has no power over the resisting Christian! Perhaps something else is inhibiting our resistance.

Other well-meaning Christians point to the world as our number one enemy. The government and big business are particularly favorite targets. Turning to Scripture, we again find a flaw in our thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Several years ago, we published a series of articles entitled These Sayings of Mine. The table of contents for that series is posted here. For those who prefer something more succinct (or a checklist), the following contains a brief summary of the 50+ commands Jesus has given for those who desire to become houses that stand in the storms of life.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

How can you do “these sayings of Mine,” if you do not know them? Are we foolish enough to think that we are exempt from the commands of Jesus because we have not taken the time to study them? Will our house stand because we have been purposefully ignorant?

Of course, these questions are rhetorical. Christianity is not a passive, laissez-faire religion. If we love Him, we will obey His commandments, including those found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Storms have come and storms are coming. Tribulation is promised to every Christian (John 16:33). Is your house standing? Will it stand? These questions are not rhetorical. They are two of the most important questions Christians should be asking themselves.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey (J. H. Sammis; 1846-1919).

As we consider the list, let’s call on the One who is willing and able to assess the soundness and security of our house. Participating with Him in the inspection is quite simple: for each saying, answer the questions, “Am I doing what Jesus commands here? Am I living my life according to His will?” Read the rest of this entry »

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul’s instruction for community life begins with “Let love be without hypocrisy… (Romans 12:9a).” All that follows is built on this foundation, from the twelve additional short commands (through v. 13) to the end of the epistle.

The breadth and depth of this command presents more of a challenge than one might experience in a cursory reading. Indeed, these may be the five most challenging words in the Bible.

With all due respect to Bible reading plans, the Scriptures contain matters of truth that simply do not fit earthbound self-imposed schedules. “Let love be without hypocrisy…” is one of those truths that should blow up our reading plans. We will spiritually injure ourselves (with collateral damage to those we love) if we diligently press on to the next verse (or, in this case, phrase).

We need to sit here for a while. Our Father in heaven is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). We participate with Him when we invest the necessary time to search out the truths He has hidden for His children.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions. First, as we have considered previously, God’s love (agapē) is more than “unconditional” (as so many teachers have popularized). In fact, it is not unconditional at all. God’s love is something more; it is better described as sacrificial. God so loved the world that He sacrificed His son, that those who believe (a condition) might be saved (John 3:16). We manifest God’s love when we sacrifice for others.

“Without hypocrisy” comes from the Greek, anypokritos. Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage defines anypokritos as “unfeigned, undisguised, sincere.” Synonyms (from Oxford Dictionaries) include genuine, true, honest, authentic, unforced, wholehearted, deep, transparent, palpable, and audacious. Consider each of these and you will understand why I am stuck on “let love be without hypocrisy.” If we cannot get this right, how can we move on to the rest?

Searching further, we find John encouraging and describing our sincere love. Read the rest of this entry »

I am afraid we are going to step on some toes with this article. Please don’t let a little toe pain put you off. Your carnal mind will try to distract you with offense and excuse. As an ally of the world, it will do what it can to prevent or limit your consideration of what follows.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

The first thing we have to ask ourselves about this passage is whether or not it contains commands or electives. This decision is important, so engage your mind. Reckon it to yourself. If you agree that every imperative statement in the Bible is a command, then say to yourself, “Self, God commands us to seek those things which are above, and to set our mind on them. Furthermore, He commands us to not set our mind on things on the earth.”

Next, we must decide: What is the difference between setting our mind on things above and on the things on this earth? Is it a gulf, a gully, or a hard line? In other words, is there some gray area between the two, where we can let our minds play? As you make this decision, be careful to differentiate between what your carnal mind is trying to tell you and what you believe from your heart to be true. I suspect the answer here may be different for different people, but be careful; gray areas often equate to compromise.

Next question: How and when do we set our minds? Does this automatically happen, or is some discipline required? Minds are set at the very beginning of our day. First thing.

So, what are you watching? What are you reading?

Ouch? Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. I write from experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:14-15

Is there anything worse than “an abomination in the sight of God”? In the immediate context, Jesus is addressing the love of money. But is that all that qualifies? Can you think of anything highly esteemed among men which is not an abomination in the sight of God?

Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. Make a list; force yourself to think.

In defense of our culture, honesty and integrity may come to mind, even sacrificial love. But really, are these highly esteemed among men? Or is that what we would like to believe? If the Christian virtues are so highly esteemed, why are they so much the exception, rarely celebrated, like exotic animals trapped in a zoo?

Come on, think!

Now, let’s take something of a different course. We can safely assume Jesus is not including the things of God’s kingdom as abominations in His sight. That narrows things down a bit, but still leaves us with much more than money to consider. Here’s an example from A. W. Tozer, just to make the point: Read the rest of this entry »

Last week, I shared the various encouragements which I had received from our heavenly Father during a season of chastening. I want to expound on one of those here; but before I do, I need to share something about the word “encouragement”.

Words are important and should be carefully chosen. In this case, a more natural word to use would have been “corrections”. So, why did I choose “encouragements”?

Encouragement is something a person does to put courage into someone else, and Christians today need all the encouragement we can get. When we submit to the Father’s chastening, He provides the courage we need to positively respond. Conversely, withdrawing from the Father’s chastening leaves us without the courage we so desperately need in this desperate time. I hope and pray that you will find and receive a large dose of courage as we search deeper into this matter of doing.

Neither restoration nor reformation will come until we stop treating the truths of Scripture like Christian clichés. For me, the challenge of this has come in two well-known passages: “…without Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Think about it.

Have you been thinking about it? If so, I am very interested in what the Holy Spirit has brought to your heart and mind. If you have not had the time or inclination, perhaps I can help. This matter of “doing” requires more of our thinking.

Thought #1: Jesus and Paul chose their words wisely. I am referring to the words “nothing” and “all”. They are absolute and extreme opposites. Read the rest of this entry »

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