Originally written December 7, 2010
Within every believer dwells two natures: the flesh and the spirit. they share the same environment, same body, same eyes, ears and other senses. Each of these natures wants to rule our heart and mind. The one that eats best is the one that thrives. As I write this, God has started a new work in me within the last few years. Even within the last month or so, He has started to bring me closer to Him. I used to watch some of the goriest movies and TV shows, and they actually really interested me. I was never appalled at the graphic images I was placing in front of my eyes. And I called myself a Christian, a follower, a believer in the One and only God the Father of Jesus Christ…the man who stepped down from His rightful place at the side of God to stand in my place at the cross…to take my punishment and offer me a way to eternity with God in heaven.
As I write this, you are now 10, 3 and 1 respectively. God has convicted my heart of what I’ve been doing…of the sin in my life. How can I abhor the thought of Christ’s crucifixion and yet subject my flesh…my mind…my heart…to all that He stood to denounce? The very nature of sin is that it corrupts the heart and mind. All sin is equal in the eyes of the Father. He views murder as equally as He does hatred…adultery as equally as lustful thoughts. All sin is equal in His eyes, and His eyes are so divine and perfect that He can’t look upon sin, so much so that He turned His eyes away from His own Son, Jesus Christ, as He died on the cross for the very sin that put Him there in the first place.
Each nature is fueled by very different “foods”. The spirit is fed by Bible study, prayer, fellowship with other Christians and service to others. The flesh craves things like violent video games, TV shows filled with casual sex, movies of a graphic nature and songs celebrating recreational drug use, laziness, greed, and pride. Both natures are in constant battle with each other within Christians, fighting for control of our heart and mind. As one flourishes, the other is deprived of its fuel and eventually decays. It is the constant struggle of Christians, and of me, to see to it that the Spirit prevails. Our goal is to become more like Christ. We will never be perfect while on this earth, but it is our hope to one day be perfect as we join Him in heaven. For as long as we are on this earth, we should be working to be more like Christ. It is not until God has deemed us ready to enter into His kingdom that He calls us home.
I have been guilty of segmenting my life…separating my church life from my TV and movie life, and even my work life. And for a long time, I carried on as though this wasn’t a problem…as though this wasn’t a conflict of interest. I would go to church on Sunday morning and by Sunday night be watching TV that I would never even consider watching in church, having conversations I would never have with Jesus. By Monday, God would be on the back burner as I carried on with work and my relationships outside of church. I wonder if there are other Christians brave enough to admit the same?
I am working to bring these compartmentalized parts of our life back together and let God be the God of everything I consume. Americans are so obsessed with what we eat, but in many cases completely ignorant of what we consume in media. I have been…until now. At this young age in your lives, I am taking great effort to control what nature we are feeding within you. The time will come when I have less and less ability to help shape your lives…you will have matured into young adults who seek to discover yourselves without my support or input. It is my prayer and hope that between now and that day, I have instilled in you a deeply-rooted foundation that is fed through the Spirit, and not the flesh. You will surely have strong desire to feed the flesh, and it is my goal to have the Spirit so deeply rooted in your lives that the flesh is drowned out by the Spirit.
As you mature into adults and seek to discover yourself, feast your eyes, ears, minds and hearts upon what is lasting. The trends and fads of this world are ever-changing. They come and go as quickly as the seasons change…as quickly as you have grown from infants to the young children you are now as I type this. Not one to just tell you what to do, I want to provide you with HOW to feed your spirit. Learn from my mistakes and feed your Spirit with the following four things:
1. God’s Word – How can we know the things of God but to read His word. He’s given us His inerrant, infallible, perfectly written word. Psalm 1: 1-3 says: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”
What an encouragement this passage is to us…to know that by reading and meditating on God’s word, we prosper and bear fruit. We can find His will for our lives throughout the Bible. Every aspect of our lives is covered in the Bible. Everything from finances to sex…from peer pressure to death. It’s all covered in there. It is a guide for how we should live…HOW we seek to be more Christlike. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect…because He knows you can’t be…only Christ was sinless. The Bible is your handbook for life. To know how to respond in any situation…when faced with temptations, you have to know the Bible. When you hide Scripture in your heart, you don’t always need to have it in your mind where to find it exactly. When it’s in your heart, you know right from wrong. When it’s in your heart, you can rely on what He has given you to be able to discern right from wrong…your conscience. It is your conscience that will help to guide you along the path He has laid out for you. When something doesn’t “feel quite right”…when you get a “funny feeling” in the pit of your stomach, THAT is God talking to you through your conscience. Listen to it…it is seldom wrong. You don’t always have to know exactly where in the Bible to find it, but if you hide it in your heart, it will come to you when you need it. That’s the Holy Spirit working in your life. You hide scripture in your heart by reading it regularly and by studying it. Studying requires more effort than simply reading it. To study it means you need to research it…to find supporting and correlating scripture. To read the context of whatever favorite verse you’re quoting, so that you know in what context it was used and given to us. While it’s nice to take just a verse out and apply it to our life, to be responsible to God’s word, we need to understand why it was written and what was occurring beforehand and afterward. Read the verses before and after each of your favorite verses. I can’t remember the location of half of the verses I know by heart. But I know them, and I rely upon them when I need them, even though I can’t always find them in the Bible easily.
2. Prayer – Prayer comes in many shapes and sizes. It comes in the daily kneeling at bedtime. It comes in the moments lying in bed as you fall asleep. It comes in the quick “shout up” as you hear a friend’s prayer request. It comes as the desperate plea in your times of suffering. It comes at the table as you say grace for your meal. It comes in the car as you’re driving and think of a need. It comes in the deliberate time of fervent pleading with God for the protection of your family when they’re hurting. God has been convicting me recently that my prayer life is not as healthy as it should be, as indicated in another note, FIRST FOUR MINUTES. Make time in you life for active conversation with God, a time when you not only pray TO Him, but a time when you sit quietly and LISTEN to Him. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with God have come when I simply sit with closed eyes and allow Him to open my heart. It’s all good to ask Him to meet your needs. But do you take time to listen for the answer? My father, your Papa, once (several times) told me “you’ve got one mouth and two ears for a reason. Shut your mouth and listen up.” Over the years, I’ve discovered for myself how true that really is. We should spend twice as much time listening as we do talking (not just in our prayer life, but in our relationships too). It’s in those listening moments that we HEAR God. Take time to listen.
3. Fellowship with Fellow Christians – Earlier when I was talking about how when you hide God’s word in your heart, you don’t always have to know exactly where to find it. Fellowship with other believers helps you with this. Just the other day, I was looking to provide encouragement to a fellow Christian and dear friend. I had scripture in mind that I wanted to provide him. I was able to quote it almost word for word. But I couldn’t remember where it is found in the Bible, and I really wanted to provide the location so that brother could go find it for himself. Thank God for modern technology, because in the day of instant communication across country, I was able to find a Christian friend online. When I asked him if he knew where to find the verse I was thinking of, he not only gave me the one I was looking for, he found me another that complimented it. Wow! That is what fellowship with fellow believers is for…to help us bounce our problems and concerns off one another…to lean on each other in our times of need.
NE, when you were about 18 months old you found your way into some prescription medicine and swallowed several pills intended for adult treatment. Without knowing the circumstances of how many you took, and as you were becoming very lethargic, we rushed you to the hospital via ambulance. I had the horror of taking that call from your mother while actually working the 911 dispatch center. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down and crying as I dispatched the ambulance to our home for you. That in itself is something I hope to never experience again. When I met you and your mother at the hospital, you came off that ambulance, and I knew right away that something wasn’t right…you were not yourself. As the medical staff worked to determine how serious the situation was, the doctors told us we were in for a long night as they monitored your condition…that the medicine you took could cause you to go into cardiac arrest. It was then that I knew what we were dealing with was far beyond what we could face alone as your mother and father. We needed help…not only from God, but in support from friends. I made one phone call to a dear friend and simply asked for his prayer. Within 30 minutes the hospital room was filled with friends coming to our side…in prayer for you and in support for us. Even people I did not personally know felt called to come to our side at the hospital. I am so deeply touched by that moment that I am moved to tears even as I write this out. This occurred on a Wednesday night, and I learned later that over 50 members of our church were actively praying for you at the same time. Fellowship with fellow Christians…this is what you get when you have Christian fellowship in your life…a support system like no other.
4. Service to Others – I have been blessed with the calling to serve as League Director for the Upward Sports ministry for three years as of this writing. In addition, I help with several ministries within the church. It is through these opportunities to serve others that I have found true joy. God calls us to serve others. Jesus Christ himself washed the feet of His disciples. Can you picture that for a moment? Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Son of God left his throne…left Heaven…to come down to a sin-filled world to wash feet…to serve others. It is my hope that over the years I have instilled in you a passion and desire to help those who need it…to serve others. Not out of a sense of obedience or because you know you should. But because you want to. I enjoy serving others…more so now as I’ve matured. It is in the moments I’m serving others, that I fell closest to God. God blesses us with the earthly treasures we have so that me might share them with Him…with those less fortunate…to bring glory to Him. Use what God has given you for others. Your Time. Your Talents. Your Treasures. All were given to you by God. He gives and He takes away. Honor God by giving of your 3 T’s sacrificially. I saw a short movie clip in church once. A man brings a gift of a dozen donuts to a friend. After giving him the donuts, he asks for one back. The recipient of the donuts doesn’t want to give one back. He pleads his case, “I need all ten of these.” While we all know he doesn’t need them, in fact he didn’t even know he had them coming to him until he was presented with the gift. Yet he is too selfish to share one back to the person who so kindly and generously gave them to him in the first place. How often do we do that with our Time, Talent and Treasures? All that we have is God’s, on loan to us to use for His glory…to bring honor and glory to Him. It’s not mine to share. I am just the broker for his “stuff”, charged with the responsibility for its care while I’m here. I know I’ve been guilty of hoarding onto what God has given me for myself, and it’s my prayer and hope that I continue to let go of all that I have so that you can grow up with an example of what true giving and service is.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” – Galatians 5:17
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” – Proverbs 4:23
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
Remember that I love you no matter the situation. You can never do anything to take that love away. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. It’s yours freely.
Father God, please continue your work in me and convict my heart when I am presented with opportunities to feed the flesh. Convict me, oh Lord, and help me to turn away from it so that I may feed my Spirit. Continue your work in me that I may be who you’ve called me to be, so that my children may learn from my mistakes and fellowship in the Spirit with you.