THE NEW EWE
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 9, 2008
Addictions are not something that most “good church going people” enjoy talking about. After all, if you are saved then you should be able to overcome anything and not ever have to struggle or battle with issues, right?! Isn't it more uplifting and encouraging to hear sermons preached about positive subjects that make us feel good? Sad thing is, there are many people in our churches who do battle with various issues. But the subject is so taboo, they feel that they have to hide their weakness. They are embarrassed to admit that they have a problem. Some continue attending church, putting on a front, and living with constant guilt and condemnation for living a lie. Others feel defeated and begin to think, “What's the use of even trying”, so begin to separate themselves from God and those who care about them. They know what they are doing is wrong and that they need help, but continue getting deeper and deeper involved in their addiction.
We all know there are bad habits, and that there will be consequences, if they aren't stopped. Yet it is so easy to convince ourself in the beginning that we can stop anytime we want. Our conscience may bother us and the Holy Spirit convicts us of what we're doing, yet we ignore the warnings. We have all kinds of reasons and excuses to justify why what we're doing isn't so bad. Deep down we know the difference between right and wrong, yet if we continue blocking out and ignoring that inner voice, we will soon get to the point where we no longer hear it's warnings.
On television sitcoms and in movies, we often hear pornography discussed as being a normal activity. Looking at pornography in magazines and on the internet is something that is regarded as normal activities for “red blooded American males”. Fathers on TV assume their sons will do it (and even encourage it at times), wives turn a blind eye to their husbands looking at it or accept it as being one of those things men do, and male friends openly discuss it. They make it look entertaining and give the impression that “you're not a 'real' man”, if you don't participate.
Yet the addictions and horrible consequences that hundreds of thousands of men and women end up dealing with for the rest of their lives, is overlooked and not ever mentioned. Men and women become unsatisfied with their spouse, and have affairs or end their marriage. No one intends on becoming addicted or on getting caught, and they certainly never initially set out to hurt anyone. They think they are just having fun and fulfilling a fleshly lust, and can stop at any time. But if you fill your mind with filth, you will eventually have a reprobate mind and will do things you never thought possible. Sex addicts did not just wake up one morning and decide to do something harmful to someone. Some have issues that have happened to them in the past that never got dealt with and built over time. Many are decent upright individuals, who started slowly started opening their minds up to the power of pornography by watching R-rated movies where there were explicit sex scenes, the occasional dirty magazine, or the secret world of internet porn. Just as alcoholics or drug users never intended to get addicted, the same is true for these individuals. But once you allow Satan to get a hold of your mind, he will continue putting out bait to lure you, and whispering lies in your ear in order to slowly reel you in. No matter how good you may be at hiding it for a time, your sin will eventually be revealed. The penalty may result in destroyed families and relationships, prison sentences, and various other consequences.
Sadly, it takes too many people reaching rock bottom before they will admit that they have a problem. Only then will they surrender themselves over to God. If you wholly commit your life to God and truly repent, He will forgive you. But the consequences of your actions may very likely follow you all the days of your life. The penalties and end results are definitely not worth those moments of fleshly pleasure. Pornography and the lifestyle and acts that come from it, is not something that anyone ever wants to discuss. It's easier to keep it hush-hush. But it is a huge problem and a stronghold the binds the minds of individuals, and it separates them from God.
Women may not be as into pornography as men, but so many “Christian” women are addicted to soap operas, and read steamy romance novels that are very explicit in detailing sex scenes between unmarried individuals. It takes their minds to places they don't need to go, makes them imagine (fantasize) things they don't need to be visualizing, and can make them unhappy with their husband because they're not as romantic and sexual as the men they read about. Women can justify what they read by saying, “It's just a story and I know it's make believe, but I enjoy reading and getting my mind off my own problems for a while.” They may not be “looking” at pornography like men do, but they read about it and mentally visualize, instead of seeing the pictures directly. That's wrong too. There are good Christian authors that write books that are good stories that aren't filled with sinful or adulterous acts between individuals. If reading is how you enjoy spending your spare time, don't read trash, but fill your mind with clean worthwhile thoughts.
A few years ago, there was an incidence revealed from a hotel where a large ministers conference was being held. At the end of the conference, the bill from several rooms were exceptionally high, from the additional cost of pay-per-view pornography movies. We have all heard and read the accounts of fallen ministers who propositioned or hired prostitutes, or were involved in other types of sinful activity. It's not enough to say that you love God or to proclaim the gospel, it takes each of us daily submitting ourselves to God and allowing Him to continually be at work within our lives. Satan will tempt anyone who will open their mind up and listen to him. He is no respecter of persons.
Psalms 101:3 says, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.”
If what you are watching on TV, looking at on the internet, or reading in a magazine or book is not something you would want Jesus to sit beside you and watch or read along with you, then perhaps you need to make some adjustments. We need to fill our minds with those things that are pleasing to God.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate (think) on these things.”
Drug addictions are also so prevalent in our society. Some experiment due to peer pressure, others want to try it “just once” in order to see what the big thrill is, while others use it as a means of escape. No one dreams of growing up and having their live controlled by the power of drugs. Children don't say, “When I grow up, I want to be a drug dealer or a drug addict.” But the pull of that “high” can destroy individuals. Those who don't have the money nor means to support their addictions, begin doing things they never thought possible. Some sell their own bodies as prostitutes, sell their possessions, steal, and sometimes even kill in order to get funds for drugs. What once began as a fun party activity, now has such a grip on their life and they are consumed with getting their next high. People find themselves living on the streets, separated from families, with no job or income. When they tried drugs that very first time, did they ever picture themselves in those various situations? Absolutely not!
There are also addictions that may not seem as “bad” as others, but they can still be devastating. Anything that is harmful to our bodies and is a threat to our health, or that has the potential of hurting us or our family, needs to be dealt with.
Everyone knows the end results of a life spent drinking and smoking. Young men and women take that first drink or smoke that first cigarette, never dreaming that they will become an alcoholic or addicted to nicotine. Yet how many alcohol related accidents are there every year? How many families and homes are broken each day due to alcoholism? How many wives and children suffer abuse from the hand of a drunk husband and father? Parents use money that should buy groceries for their children or used to pay household bills, to support their habit. People may intend on just being “social drinkers”, but end up with an addiction where they have to have that drink. Men and women die every day from liver failure and alcohol related illnesses. But so many think they will never be affected or affect anyone else. I have heard alcoholics say that other people they know have problems, but they will never admit that they themselves can't control their alcohol intake. They say they drink because they enjoy it and can stop whenever they want, but yet they have to have that drink to get through the day.
I have been told by many smokers that they know they need to quit, yet they only do so when they find out they have lung cancer or emphysema. They thought they would either quit before something happened to their health, or they never really thought anything would happen to them personally. I have a friend my age who smoked from the time she was a teenager. Last year she found out she had lung cancer. She has had to endure the sickness and pain of chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her hair and partial hearing due to her treatments. The cancer is currently in remission, but unless a miracle happens, will only remain so for an undetermined length of time. She has been told by her doctors that the cancer will definitely return, it's just a matter of when. I'm sure every day for the past several months she has had many regrets and has thought “if only”, and would give anything if she hadn't let her habit and addiction control her life.
I have an uncle who has smoked for years. His daughter told me one time that once when she was a teenager, she decided to try smoking one of her dad's cigarettes, just to see what it was like. When she did, she really liked the taste of them, and said she knew that she absolutely could never smoke another one ever again, or she would be addicted.
It's so easy at times to push things aside, thinking that we're not hurting anything or anyone. It's easy to tell ourselves that we will stop before we have a problem, or that we really aren't doing anything that bad. I've heard people say, “I'm going to die from something, so it may as well be something I enjoy.” Our conscience and the Holy Spirit will urge us to make changes or stop a certain behavior or action, and we try to justify that what we're doing is okay. We think we have plenty of time to stop, but “some day” never comes for many.
There are plenty of other fleshly sins that can cause us to err, and separates us from God. One thing the Bible is very clear about is the fact that sin is sin, and there is no such thing as a little or big sin, and there are not different levels or varying degrees of wrongdoing.
Galatians 5:16,17 encourages us to, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these two are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
The next few verses list the works of the flesh; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, and revelries.
Verse 21 says, “...just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
But verse 22 continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
As long as we are on this earth there is going to be a tug-of-war between our flesh and Spirit. Daily we must go to God and submit our thoughts to Him, and allow Him to crucify (put to death) the desires of the flesh. We cannot do this on our own, and will fail over and over again if we try to do so. We can only live an overcoming life as we rely on the power of God working within us. Is this too hard or difficult to do? Absolutely not! God has given us the instructions that we need to combat the pull of the flesh. But it is up to us to obey. God gives us freedom to make choices and it's up to us to choose wisely.
The stronghold of addictions can be broken, and each of us can live a life free from those things that bind or hinder us. But God is the one and only solution that will last. If we try to overcome addictions or strongholds on our own, we may succeed for a short time, but ultimately will return to our old ways. We must surrender those things to God and allow Him to sever those things completely from our lives, and bring total and lasting freedom and deliverance. He wants us each to live a life free from bondages and sin.
I've heard many, many times that we must invite Jesus into our hearts. Of course it's true, but it brings up an interesting point. He has to be invited.
Practically no one would invite sin into our hearts through the front door. But it's easy to invite some vice in through the window. It's as easy as deciding to watch a movie we know has an anti-Christ message. Or as easy as joining a seance, hoping to meet a spirit. It can also be passing on a spiteful rumor.
A vice is like a bad neighbor. Once it's in, it doesn't like to leave. And even when you do manage to get it out of your heart, it'll keep knocking, waiting for you to open the door, or even a window. It takes vigilance, and God's help. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The one word I want to focus on here is “renewing”. Notice that it doesn't say, “renewal of your mind”. That's because it doesn't often happen once, but over and over.
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. dry Ranch dressing mix
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn ( or approx. 1 cup frozen corn)
small onion, chopped
2 cans Ranch style beans
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
Brown and drain beef. Put all ingredients into a crockpot and slow cook. If leaving for a longer period of time (5-6 hours) put your setting on low; or set on high for shorter cooking time (3-4 hours). This soup is really good reheated later too.
My sister and brother-in-law pastor a church in Barling, AR. They have several people in their church (especially women) who enjoy reading, so they recently started a library in an empty room they had in the church. They had the church people bring in any Christian books they had that they wanted to donate. Another sister and I both have many books of our own (especially me), so we went through all of our books and boxed up those that we either ended up with two copies of, or those that were not our favorites that we won't enjoying rereading, and donated them too. Having a church library gives people the opportunity to read and enjoy books without having to always buy them.
(Knowing that I have several brother-in-laws and nephews in my family who are preachers, my brother-in-law on my husband's side of the family told me this joke recently. Thanks Ken!)
It was a cold, snowy Sunday morning and only one old farmer showed up for church. The pastor told him that it looked like no one else was coming, so they would dismiss services for the day and go back home. The farmer replied, “Well preacher, if I only had one cow show up at feeding time I would still give it something to eat. I wouldn't just send it back out to pasture hungry.” So the preacher taught a Sunday School lesson, sang several songs, and then preached a full length sermon. When he finally said the final prayer and dismissed, the farmer said, “Pastor, I'd give my one old cow some food to eat, but I wouldn't feed it the whole load!”
There is always a price paid for our freedom – it is never free.
Thanks again for reading our newsletter. May you be encouraged and blessed.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon