Browsing articles tagged with " Tim Chester"
Feb 13, 2013
neil

The power to overcome the sin in your life

Last Saturday morning the men at City Church gave some time to thinking through issues of sexual purity. This post is the second part of my handout that went with the talk. Part one is here

3) Go to God with your behaviour

Know the compassion of a gracious God . ‘The Lord pities his people’ – JC Ryle

David Powlinson writes:

Your natural instinct is to turn to yourself, instead of to Jesus. This is true of all sin, but it’s obvious in your struggle with pornography because it’s a solitary pursuit. Your pornographic sins are, by definition, only about you: what you want, what you hope for, and what you long for. When you are facing hard or disappointing circumstances—boredom, loneliness, money problems, fighting with a spouse, distance from a friend—it’s easy (and instinctive) to turn in on yourself and try to escape your troubles by going to your fantasy life.

Apply the gospel to your behaviour

The gospel is not only a comfort for you as you struggle with sin. It is God’s very means of fighting sin. Just saying ‘no’ or taking cold showers is not a way to fight something that has a first-place in our hearts. The only thing that roots out sin is to replace that sin with a higher or greater love. Loving Christ more than we love sin breaks its attraction and therefore its power over us.

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) preached a sermon entitled The expulsive power of a new affection in which he set out exactly  how the Christian can and should fight sin:

Salvation by grace, salvation by free grace, salvation not by obedience but according to the mercy of God, is indispensable. . . to. . . godliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel. . . and you take away the power of the Gospel to melt and reconcile. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity of the Gospel which so many dread as the germ of Antinomianism [permission to sin without consequence], is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against sin.

Along with the light of a free Gospel, the love of the Gospel enters. To the measure that you impair Gospel freeness, you also chase away this love. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart as a devoted thing to God, and to eschew ungodliness.

[Why is this grateful love so important?] It is rare that any of our [bad habits or flaws] disappear by a mere process of natural extinction. At least, it is very seldom that this is done through the process of reasoning. . . or by the force of mental determination. But what cannot be destroyed may be thrown out—just as one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection in the mind.

So, eventually, a boy may cease to be a slave of his appetite. How? Because a [more 'mature'] taste has brought it into subordination. The youth ceases to idolize [sensual] pleasure. Why? Because the idol of wealth has. . . gotten the ascendancy. Even the love of money can cease to have mastery over the heart because it is drawn into the whirl of [ideology and politics] and he is now lorded over by a love of power [and moral superiority]. But in none of these transformations is the heart left without an object to worship. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered—but its desire to have some object. . . is unconquerable. . . .

The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one. . . It is only. . . when, through faith in Jesus Christ, as we are received as God’s children, that the spirit of adoption is poured out on us—and the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires. That is the only way that deliverance is possible. 

Thus, for true change to occur. . . it is not enough. . . to hold out to the world a mirror of its own imperfections. It is not enough to demonstrate the evanescent character of your Christian life. . . or to speak to the conscience. . . of its foolishness. . . Rather, try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts, for the love of Him who is greater than the world.

4) Go to others that they might be God’s change-agents in your life

Christian growth comes in and through community. Sexual sin has a hold on us because we do not use the resources God has given to fight it. That resource includes others. Rick Warren writes:

If you’re losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and you’re stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention-failure-guilt, you will not get better on your own. You need the help of other people. Some temptations are only overcome with the help of a partner who prays for you, encourages you, and holds you accountable.

a) Who are you willing and able to talk to about these issues?

b) Who is going to remind you of the gospel in the midst of your struggle?

c) What accountability can you build into these relationships?

d) What protections can you put in place to help you in the fight?

Covenant eyes, time-lock on computer, etc.

 

Conclusion – Hope and the power of the gospel

What seems so small and so weak (an acorn) has the power to break even the strongest stone. So the gospel is powerful to set you free from even the most besetting of sins. However you feel about the battle with lust the gospel is able not only to save you from your sins and to comfort you in your falls but to give you some level of victory over sins like lust.

Tim Keller tells the following story about the power of the gospel that is in you.

A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, “I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don’t believe in it.” Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, “If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God’s resurrection power do in a person’s life?”

Keller comments:

The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It’s the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection.

 Post-script:  Why marriage won’t fix things

It’s not about sex, not even about lust, it’s about you and the gospel. Tim Chester comments,

It you’re not yet married, porn is a sin against your future wife. You’re also creating a set of expectations that bears no relation to real sex or real marriage. You’re storing up a database of images that will compete with your future wife. You’re gifting the devil, a reservoir of temptations to use against you.

Using porn is a bad way of preparing not to use it when you’re married! Every time you use porn, you’re giving it more control over your heart. You’re sowing a bitter harvest for your married life.

Feb 11, 2013
neil

Men in a sex-mad world

Here are my notes (part 1) from a City Church men’s breakfast held last Saturday morning exploring issues of lust and pornography.

A. Why can’t we talk about it?

Lust is

1) a secret sin

2) a shameful sin

3) a highly-addictive sin

4) a debilitating sin

5) an enslaving sin

6) an isolating sin

All of which is a recipe for denial and deceit.

B. Why might we not be in the fight?

1) We like our sin too much

2) We’ve tried everything and failed

3) We don’t know how to apply the gospel to sexual sin in a way that helps us fight sin

4) We dare not ask for help or speak to others about our sin

C. Is change possible?

Yes,by God’s grace. Change happens when you

1) Face your behaviour honestly

2) Understand the roots of your behaviour

3) Go to God to work true (gospel) change in your behaviour

4) Include others as God’s change-agents in your behaviour

 1) Face up to your behaviour

Flee sexual immorality – 1 Corinthians 6:18

a) What is it doing to God?
  • Dishonouring God – 1 Cor. 6:18-20
  • Denying Christ – 1 Cor.6:18-20
  • Grieving the Spirit – Ephesians 4:30

 

 b) What is it doing to me?

Short-term

 

  • Robbing you of your joy
  • Rendering you ineffective in ministry
  • Weighing you down with a guilty conscience
  • Creating barriers between you and your wife, girlfriend

 

Long-term

  • Our salvation is at stake
  • Hebrews 12:14 - Without holiness no one will see the Lord
  • Matthew 5:27-30 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
  • Ephesians 5:3-5 - But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

c) What is it doing to my spouse (future spouse)?

Porn (or lust more generally) hijacks your brain. One secular author has said:

Countless men have described to me how while using porn, they have lost the ability to relate or be close to women. They have trouble being turned on by “real” women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse.

2) Understand your behaviour

The problem is in your heart and not in your Internet provider – Mark Driscoll

a) Understand and avoid the circumstances in which you are tempted.

David Pawlinson advises asking ourselves to work out the triggers for temptation;

  • When does it happen? What is going on? What happened that day?
  • What were you thinking about? What was the nature of the temptation?
  • What did you do about it? Did you act on it?
  • If you didn’t act on it, how did that happen?
  • If you did what did you do after you fell?
  • How did you recover? What was the after-effect?

Keeping this journal will help you see what is really going on in your struggle with pornography. As you start to grapple with your deeper sin patterns, you’ll see that your problem is much bigger, your need for grace is much deeper, and your goal is much more magnificent than you ever imagined.

 

b) Understand the underlying causes of sexual temptation

Is it hardship, boredom, hurt, anger, betrayal, loneliness?

Sexual temptation is rarely simply about sex. Sexual temptation is usually much more about idolatry. When we stumble into sexual sin what we are seeking is a form of salvation. In secular language we might say ‘escapism’ but what we are really doing is asking our fantasies to rescue us from a world of insignificance, rejection, loneliness, boredom, etc.

Tim Chester writes:

Our longing for porn is a version of our longing for God.

The following six-points are adapted from Tim Chester’s book and highlight how in six different ways we look to pornography to save us from ourselves. He then goes on to show how the gospel is the real answer to our temptations.

i. Porn says ‘in my world you’re significant’

The fantasy-world of pornography is attractive to people because at least in that world they are not only noticed but they rule! Porn provides a fantasy world in which you’re potent, adored, the centre of attention. Women ‘offer’ themselves to you. That is a very attractive thought to self-centred fallen humanity.

Is that really good news?

Any gospel that put’s you at the centre and through which everyone else exists only to serve you is not good news at all. It’s not only fake reality but a very damaging one! The gospel is the daily lesson of learning not to see yourself as the only one that matters.

God’s gospel also says ‘in my world you’re significant’ but in a true way.

We’re significant because we matter to God. He loves and adores us but not because we are lovely but simply because he has chosen to love us. So we receive God’s love in an undeserved way because of Jesus. The result – God is in his proper place and I am in mine.

ii. Porn says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’

Porn promises the relationship we seek and the intimacy we crave. In the world of porn I don’t face rejection and I never need feel  lonely.

As Tim Chester comments; Porn offers a safe alternative to intimacy

It seemed like a safe way to be sexually active without getting involved in a real relationship.’

Fearing rejection, we retreat into the fantasy world of porn in which women adore us and offer themselves to us without risk.

God’s gospel is one in which he says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’.

Rather than retreating in false intimacy because we cannot risk rejection. The gospel offers us the unconditional acceptance that I crave and need. In a relationship with God that will go on for ever.

I may or may not enjoy the intimacy of marriage and of a sexual union in this life but the gospel promise is that human intimacy even between a husband and a wife is just pointing us ahead to the perfection of an intimacy with God that will continue for ever.

iii. Porn says ‘I can make your problems disappear’

Porn for so many is a form of escapism. People leaving their problems far behind as they seek an adrenaline fuelled high. Porn offers to takes you to another place on a legal high.

So when circumstances are too daunting. When you’re facing exams, deadlines, difficulties at home or work the quick fix of porn is the gospel for many.

Is that really good news?

Like any other form of abuse porn creates its own vicious circle. It gives you a brief high but then comes the big low of shame and guilt. And so you repeat it all over again.

God says ‘Do not escape your troubles – know God in your troubles’

Escapism is a failure to come to terms with reality and an unwillingness to face up to life in a fallen world. For the Christian valuable lessons are learnt in the troubles. Lessons that often can’t be learned any other way.

Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away his troubles ‘the thorn in his flesh’ but Jesus said ‘my grace is sufficient’. That is the good news of the gospel.

Paul writes: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:5-6)

iv. Porn says ‘I am your reward for a good life lived’

For some porn is a form of escapism from the pressures of life but at other times it can function as a reward for endurance.  Maybe the temptation comes from the thought that my hard-work goes unrecognised at home or work or in an even more subtle and perverse way my sacrifice for the gospel goes un-thanked then porn says I can compensate you for your labours or I can reward you for…

We might say ‘I’m giving up stuff for Christ, even the chance to be sexually active as an unmarried Christian man and porn is my compensation.’

God gospel promises a reward for obedience that is a good ultimate and lasting joy

Porn may tempt with a quick fix but it is Christ who promises a true reward when we work hard for him. Yes, we may have to wait for our final reward and it is primarily a future one but the promise of blessing now for those who serve him well is given by Jesus too.

Jesus says:  I tell you the truth, Jesus said to them, no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30)

Chester comments: The life of obedience is not the bad life or the sad life. It’s the good life. Life with God and for God is the best life you could live. Change is about enjoying the freedom from sin and delight in God that God gives to us through Jesus.

v. Porn says ‘I am the god that always gives you what you want in exactly the way you want it’

The gospel of porn is a call to switch allegiance to a god who is altogether more willing to give us what we want. Why serve a God who does not satisfy your every demand when porn will?

When we turn to the idol of porn Chester notes it ‘can be an expression of anger, revenge, resentment or ingratitude…Porn may even be an act of anger against God, when life hasn’t turned out the way we want.’ It can mean turning to a god who is no god at all out of frustration with our Christian life.

Why go God’s way in life if that involves difficulty and delay? When Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of this world he is tempting him to take what will one day be rightfully his and grab it now.

God’s gospel says ‘will not God graciously give us all things’

In the gospel of Jesus God has promised us everything we need even if that is not everything that we want. I once heard Tim Keller say in a sermon ‘unless we are willing to let God contradict us haven’t we simply made God in our own image’.

In the gospel of God is a call to recognise and rejoice in the thought that God has withheld no good thing from us for he has given far more than we deserve and he has given us his son.

vi. Porn says ‘I can save you from yourself’

All false gospels are attractive because they promise us a new life. A life in which we can be different people. Porn says I can give you significance, intimacy, freedom from worry, reward and success and all with ease.

Porn offers us a way out of a tough life. It offers us heaven on earth. Well at least for a time. The attraction is in the quick fix, instant result.

I just want to feel that I’m OK, I turn to porn instead of God because the gospel doesn’t tell me that I’m OK.’

The biggest lie of all is in this gospel that is no gospel at all. For this gospel of porn is a gospel that takes us far from Christ and from the God who made us and loves us. In choosing this gospel we turn our backs on the only gospel that can save.

God’s gospel says ‘only God can save you from yourself.’

He is the one who atones for our sin and he is the one making us new. His spirit is able to transform us into the likeness of Christ with ever-increasing glory.

 

Nov 15, 2012
neil

Will the real man please step forward…

Very helpful stuff from Tim Chester on competing definitions of what it means to be a man…

(HT: Andrew Evans)

Nov 4, 2012
neil

Helpful advice from Tim Chester

Find it difficult to get out of the church bubble? Tim Chester suggests 6 simple ways to build relationships in your community from which you can share Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

(HT: Jez Dearing)

Mar 20, 2012
neil

The two problems in every marriage? You and your spouse

Finding fault, finding forgiveness – part 1

“There are two basic problems in every marriage: one is the husband and the other is the wife.” So quipped author and Church Pastor, Tim Chester.

After all how long into any marriage before we begin to realise that this is harder than we thought it would be!

There are many different factors, situations and circumstances that put pressure on any marriage but crucial to a Christian marriage is a mutual recognition that sin and failure are inevitable.

Yet, despite our theology it can be profoundly disorientating to discover that my spouse has faults I didn’t know about or expect. Somehow, at least for a time, I thought my spouse had avoided the fall.

If we are to build strong marriages we need to grasp that through our failings and faults God works out his purposes for us. They are his opportunity to manifest grace and to demonstrate his power in the weakness of a marriage between two sinners.

Three books have been particularly helpful to me in preparing to teach a seminar at our church entitled ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’. They are When sinners Say ‘I Do’ by Dave Harvey, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and What did you expect? by Paul David Tripp.  Each of the three are biblical, insightful and honest but above all else each are optimistic about the impact that spouses can have on each other.

Keller’s book appeals to us to see our marriages as preparation for the great marriage to come between Christ and the church. Once we understand that God has given us a spouse now to change us, to make us fit for Christ, it changes the way we face up to finding fault. Keller writes;

What if you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation? What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws into the new self God is creating? Then…you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.

So as we get going with a short series of posts on ‘finding fault, finding forgiveness’ let’s start with five necessary insights for facing up to sin and finding opportunity in them.

A. Five realities to remember in a marriage:

1. As sinners living together in a fallen world sin and failure are inevitable.

You might think you are going to find the perfect match but no Christian should live under any such illusion. The Christian of all people should be ready to face that fact. When we do enter marriage with realistic expectations it helps us to be ready not to run from them but to embrace them as opportunity.

2. ‘Everyone’s marriage becomes something they didn’t intend it to be.’

Paul Tripp’s observation is both obvious and yet profound. There is always an element of disappointment as well as frustration in a marriage which is flawed. When two sinners commit to spending their lives together it’s the marriage itself that will face challenges.

3. ‘Patterns of sin and failure in marriage must be met with patterns of confession and forgiveness.’

Paul Tripp again on the very way we overcome the corrosive affect of sin in a marriage relationship.Being quick to confess our sin and quick to forgive each other’s sin are necessary to building a strong marriage.

4. When we live this way real transformation is possible in a marriage.

So many marriages are damaged by our unwillingness to ‘find fault’ or to ‘find forgiveness’ but when patterns of mutual confession and mutual forgiveness begin to embed themselves in a marriage real change happens

5. None of this is possible without the gospel that supplies this power to confess and this power to forgive.

In future posts we’ll see that the ability to confess sin, freely and willingly and the power to forgive sin lie not in us but in the gospel and who we are in Christ.

The last word goes to Tim Keller:

I don’t know of anything more necessary in marriage than the ability to forgive, fully, freely, unpunishingly, from the heart.

 

Mar 30, 2011
neil

The gospel according to porn

Why is it that so many Christians can really know the gospel and delight in the gospel, celebrate the gospel and still fall into sexual sin? Why is it that something like pornography continues to have a power and hold on the Christian life. So much so that one recent study suggested that half of Christian men and a quarter of Christian women struggle with internet pornography.

It seems to me that at least part of the answer is that we don’t look to the gospel to meet our needs as human beings and too easily look to something else. We believe the gospel but we don’t look to the gospel to address our needs for human identity, value, and significance.

Tim Chester in his book Captured by a better vision describes how if we don’t seek our answers in the gospel we will look elsewhere. I call that the gospel according to porn. I want to explore some of the themes and ideas from the book under six headings:

The good news of porn becomes attractive when…

1. Porn says ‘in my world you’re significant’

The fantasy-world of pornography is attractive to people because at least in that world they are not only noticed but they rule! Porn provides a fantasy world in which you’re potent, adored, the centre of attention. Women ‘offer’ themselves to you. That is a very attractive thought to self-centred fallen humanity.

Is that really good news?

Any gospel that put’s you at the centre and through which everyone else exists only to serve you is not good news at all. It’s not only fake reality but a very damaging one! The gospel is the daily lesson of learning not to see yourself as the only one that matters.

God’s gospel also says ‘in my world you’re significant’ but in a true way.

We’re significant because we matter to God. He loves and adores us but not because we are lovely but simply because he has chosen to love us. So we receive God’s love in an undeserved way because of Jesus. The result – God is in his proper place and I am in mine.

2. Porn says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’

Porn promises the relationship we seek and the intimacy we crave. In the world of porn I don’t face rejection and I never need feel  lonely.

As Tim Chester comments; Porn offers a safe alternative to intimacy

It seemed like a safe way to be sexually active without getting involved in a real relationship.’

Fearing rejection, we retreat into the fantasy world of porn in which women adore us and offer themselves to us without risk.

God’s gospel is one in which he says ‘in my world you’ll never be lonely’. Continue reading »

Feb 22, 2011
neil

The relationship wrecker or what porn does to a marriage

The on-line edition of Time Magazine has a feature this week on the damage being done to relationships between men and women because of pornography.  It seems at last that the secular press is waking up to the realities of the consequences of life in a sex-mad culture and how the very thing God has given to bring us together (sexual intimacy) is pushing us further apart (sex without intimacy).

Countless men have described to me how while using porn, they have lost the ability to relate or be close to women. They have trouble being turned on by “real” women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse.

So writes the author of one recent book on pornography.

Tim Chester’s book Captured by a better vision exposes just how damaging pornography can be to our relationships and marriage in particular.

Not only have you committed adultery against your wife, but, as we’ve seen, there is every chance that porn has corrupted your relationship with her and your sex life. The secret that you hide from your wife will create a barrier in your relationship.

You will start to view sex with your wife not as the celebration of your love, but as re-enacted porn. What matters is no longer the relationship, but the performance. This means you may be committing adultery against your wife even as you have sex with her. That’s because you’re not really having sex with her, a person. You’ve reduced her to an object for your sexual gratification, or an actress in your sexual performance.

William Struthers in Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain warns that even if you could stop consuming pornography your actions still have consequences.

Sexually acting out in response to pornography creates sexual associations that are stored as hormonal or neurological habits. These associations are seared into the brain.  These memories and fantasies keep [the man] in bondage and worsen the consequences of the earlier behaviour. It can prevent him from being truly present in a marriage, being more preoccupied with the images than focused on his wife.

And because of what pornography does to our brains it’s no excuse to reason but I’m not married. Chester comments,

It you’re not yet married, porn is a sin against your future wife. You’re also creating a set of expectations that bears no relation to real sex or real marriage. You’re storing up a database of images that will compete with your future wife. You’re gifting the devil, a reservoir of temptations to use against you.

And we’re kidding ourselves to think we’ll stop once we get married because the truth is that porn is NOT just a substitute for sex.  It’s an escape from reality, an addictive search for a legal high. The reality is that not only do men access porn after marriage but it’s mostly married men who access porn.

Chester again:

Using porn is a bad way of preparing not to use it when you’re married! Every time you use porn, you’re giving it more control over your heart. You’re sowing a bitter harvest for your married life.

Delayed baggage

I once heard someone describe the biggest threat to our marriages as coming from the unexpected baggage we bring into marriage. Maybe it’s the uncommunicated assumptions as to how the marriage should work, or how chores will be divided up.  Or perhaps it’s a bad-temper that is controllable in the context of going-out but cannot be disguised in the day to day of a marriage, or even an expectation of great spiritual character that begins to unravel under trial.  There again it could be porn.

What makes it more difficult still is that much baggage in the most important of all relationships is  not only unexpected but delayed on arrival.  Like flying BA the baggage tends to turn up sometime later. The baggage of porn addiction (whether through the temptation to continue or the way it has warped your expectations of sex or the images that stubbornly remain imprinted in your mind) may well not affect a marriage in the early days, weeks or months but over time as the initial euphoria of a giddy romance fades it can do untold damage to an otherwise healthy relationship.

But you were washed…

The great news for the Christian is that, whatever our past, the gospel is big enough to deal with our sin.

William Struthers writes:

Can someone retrain their brain to respond in an appropriate manner to sexual arousal? Most certainly, but this must be informed by the mandates of Scripture and the wisdom found in the body of Christ. This must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The process of sanctification is an addiction to holiness, a compulsive fixation on Christ and an impulsive pattern of compassion, virtue and love. This is what we are wired for. This is what we are meant for.

The reality is that we will rarely find the resources to heal the past and deal with the addictions on our own. Reading a book (and I would recommend both Chester’s and Struthers’ to you) or a blog post is almost always not enough. God has given us his spirit and his people to help us do battle against sin – we need each other to bring lasting change.

If you’re struggling with pornography (in the present or from the past)

What do you need to do now? Do you accept the need to cut it out of your life? Who do you need to speak to?

If you’re a pastor or church leader

Do you ever address the issue of pornography, directly? What could you do to foster an environment in which the men of your church can speak openly about this struggle?  What could you put into place to provide the accountability  and support for men to deal with their sin?

Dec 29, 2010
neil

One vision – planning for the best in 2011

As the new year approaches I wonder whether you’re inspired to make plans for 2011? Newspapers and the web are full of ideas as to how to improve your lot over the next 12 months but usually it’s little more than losing a few pounds in weight or getting your finances in order.

But how can you make the very most of 2011? What about some serious planning?

Planning is not about learning to manage your time better it’s about learning to prioritise your plans so that you make better use of your time.   For Christians planning means not being efficient with our time, it is about being effective with our time, making sure that what we do with our time really matters.

And the question we need to ask is what determines our priorities in our planning?

Tim Chester’s excellent book The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness shows how easy it is to fail to plan according to God’s priorities.  When we don’t intentionally plan according to God’s priorities we’ll probably end up planning according to the world’s priorities.

Our world says ‘Success is primarily measured in the lifestyle you have’.  Therefore success is measured in money.  It’s about the car you drive, the house you own, or perhaps its about the status your job gives you.

So we plan to realise the lifestyle.

1. We have in our minds the goal lifestyle that we want and then

2. We look for the education that will lead to the job that will buy us that lifestyle we’re seeking.

3. To find the job and we move to wherever that job will take us. We sacrifice friends,family, church in a bid to get the job to give us the life we want. And then when a better job comes along we’re ready to do it all over again. My parents moved 11 times in 5 years!

4. Having found the home we are going to live in that goes with the job because we’re Christians we look for a church in the area that we can belong to.

5. Now in a church if the job allows us any time and energy we look to see if there is any way we  might serve the church.

That is the way the world works and if we don’t plan that is the plan that we’re encouraged to follow.  In other words we fall into a very worldly plan when we don’t plan otherwise and then we think it becomes a Christian plan because we have asked God to bless it.

What we’re really doing is making a plan that ignores God’s plan but asking him to bless it anyway.

And that is not the way Christians ought to plan.

You see the plans that set your priorities should be God’s plan. His plan for the world takes into account far more than that. Continue reading »

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