The Shepherd’s Crook

Often, as parents, our children don’t want o listen to what is best for them. When my son, Clint was little he typically wanted to drink more than eat. He was happiest with a sippy cup full of juice. But he couldn’t get all of the nutrients he needed in juice, so we would take it away from him and say “Eat your vegetables first, then you can have more to drink.” At first this advice would be met with crying “Juice, juice”. or maybe a sad “Ju-i-ce” said in such a forlorn voice it was hard not to give in. But eventually he accepted the inevitable and ate his vegetables.

shepherd“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” the very familiar 23rd Psalm says. David was long a shepherd boy. He knew the habit of lambs to want to just run and play. Some times they had to have encouragement with the shepherd’s crook to lie down – to eat and then rest. A lamb might choose to only run, play, and eat in clover. But they need a variety of pasture. A shepherd worth his salt will lead the lamb to other pastures, so they will get what they really need.

In John 10, we have this great passage about Jesus being the good shepherd.  His flock know his voice and follow him. Our choice may be to only run and play, then lie down in a bed of ease. But Jesus knows what is best for us. He may lead us, at times, to hardship as that is how we will grow the most. He does not necessarily cause the hardship, but will allow it for our own good. In those times, we are to “press in” to his lead, learn the lessons he wishes to show us, then take on his comfort – lie down  in his green pasture.

The Saving Power Of God’s Glory

My wife and I have lived with the American military community in S. Korea for the past 2 1/2 years. One of the interesting differences with Korean churches is that most have an early (5am) morning prayer service – every day.  My wife and I began joining in with the nearest church some time ago, first only once or twice a week but eventually, most days. It has been a great blessing. Each day we sing a song and look at a passage of scripture, most of the time a chapter. This mornings reading was Psalms 80. I’d like to call attention to three verses.

3. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

7. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

19. Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

The prayer is the same in each verse except for greater reminder of who it is that is being called on. He is God, he is omnipotent (all powerful) and he has hosts of extremely powerful beings waiting to take an order concerning us.  Scripture tells us he uses both to work in our lives. Paul says in Ephesians 1 that his immeasurably great power is at work toward those who believe. And Hebrews 1:12 says in the affirmative “Are not the angels ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

The most interesting part of the prayers is the saving power of just God’s look. Certainly I know the feeling of looking upon either of my children and beaming. I did a bit of that the last couple of days after leaning how well my son is doing at a New Mexico State Law Enforcement Academy. God looks on his children with even more care and love.

But it’s also a reference to God’s glory. His glory is active, emanating from him with the power to save.

He will rescue us. We’ve just got to keep the faith.

Trusting God Through The Storm, cont.

Last time, I asked the question, “Why do some things in life have to be so hard?”

First of all we need to recognize there is a reality happening we cannot see. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul warns us there are “cosmic forces” and ” the spiritual forces of evil” who are wrestling against us. They may very well be influencing people, circumstances, even our even our own thoughts to work against us. We are not told great deal about how they work, but there are some clues in scripture. The important thing is to ask the Lord of the Angel Armies to work on our behalf and fix our eyes on Jesus.

Secondly, everything around us is in a state of deterioration. Adam and Eve’s sin not only brought mortality to their children but everything in creation. This is so constant that it is one of the laws of physics.

Lastly, God is in control, whatever is happening – he is allowing.

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:10-12

God has a variety of purposes for allowing the negative to happen in our lives. First, he is calling us to seek him more, his help. He is drawing us to himself. Second he has something to teach us through this process, he is refining us. Third, he is disciplining us as his children (Hebrews 12:7-12). Finally, suffering will draw us closer to Christ, more ready for his glory. (1 Peter 4:13)

Knowing these things may not make going through hardship easy, but we can praise God for what he is doing in us, turning all things into good.

Trusting Through The Storm

Psalms 13-5Psalms 13 How long, O Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord , for he has been good to me.

I’m not sure which time David’s life was in danger he wrote this Psalm. He had so many. I suspect this is not the first time he ran from Saul. He is clearly tired of it here.  Life has many struggles, at least for most of us. Sometimes we just get tired of it all. As I write this I am taking a break from trying to wrap up a watch I’m making. It seems to be taking forever – two steps forward, one step back (sometimes the other way around). I’ve been working on it for years. We are desperately needing the work done as we have a financial emergency I spend much time in prayer while working, focus on it most of the day, yet have little to show at the end for each of many days. Why do some things in life have to be so hard?

Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. Maybe I should quit striving and just wait on him. There’s a thousand ways he could meet our needs. Is that his plan? Or has he prepared a buyer and I need to have it ready for him?  It is hard to know.

Desperately needing God’s help

Out-of-the-Pit2I’ve been back in full time ministry for 6 years: studying, writing, putting together the seminars and taking them every where I can give them. I preach at other times wherever I can. I leave any amount paid up to the church or chapel. My wife and I also go on mission trips and volunteer with Voice of the Martys to get the Word to places it is unavailable.  In these years, the support has been less than the expenses. Lately, I have flown space available on military cargo planes and slept in the rental car. We try to live modestly, driving a 16 and a 20 year old car.

We find ourselves deep in a pit of debt and cannot get out. Due to a misunderstanding (mine) we are currently in urgent need.

We now realize we should have spent no money that the Lord did not provide. Please, please pray that he will rescue us now, though we do not deserve it. And pray he will provide everything needed for the trip to the States next month to give the seminar. I am determined not to add a single dollar to our debt. If you would like to help, you can send money through gofundme.com/764b8gkc or Paypal to jadewatch@hotmail.com or better yet, contact me there direct and help me avoid their fees.

Trapped, part 2

Is There A Way Out?
Is There A Way Out?

Growing up, we always vacationed in Colorado. Other members of my mom’s family would join us. We all adored the mountains. We would hike, fish, play cards and visit while enjoying the amazing views. At six, I began to collect rocks and minerals, a hobby I enjoyed into manhood. The beauty of crystals particularly captured me – the way they refracted and reflected light.

We moved to Colorado Springs when I was 13. We didn’t live very close to my cousins or my new friends from church. I felt very lonely much of the time. I was missing Abilene and Danny, my best friend. Occasionally, I did something with my brother. Most of my free time I found ways to entertain myself: shooting a bow and arrows, hitting a tether ball back and forth on a pole, throwing darts and knives. I eventually became fairly proficient with one knife, using the 2” side of a 2 x 4 for a target (which is actually 1 3/4″). Sometime during this activity, I remembered the pictures Danny and I found and began to “dumpster dive”. At fifteen I hit pay dirt and found a couple of Playboy magazines. I was now hooked on professional pornography, keeping them this time for “my own little secret”.

From my analysis, I see our emotions are often mixed in with our fleshly desires. The emotional connection gives them more power and importance. Have you seen times where this was obvious? Reflect on your own emotions and how they add to you own “traps”.

Posted in Colorado, Growing up, Lust, My Story, Rock collecting, Sin, vacation |

Trapped!

A special evening from my tenth year still remains clear in my memory. It was one of the nights of a “gospel meeting” at Highland Church of Christ, my home church. I responded to the invitation, was baptized and gave my life to Jesus. This was to influence me the rest of my life. Bear-Trap-Accessories-strangeline.net

Some time later that year, another event occurred which would affect the rest of my life as well. My best friend Danny and I were exploring the alley, as we often did. We walked past a trash can and noticed some Polaroid pictures had fallen out when it was emptied. They were of a half naked woman. It was our first time to see a woman’s breasts. Even at ten, we instinctively knew this was not something we should take home to show our moms. So we stashed them away. They were our little secret. It felt like a kind of passage into being more grown up, a new freedom. But it was actually a kind of slavery – a trap that would ensnare me for the next thirty- eight years.

I’m sure Eve felt like that. That she was gaining a new freedom as she picked the fruit of good and evil. She was excited enough to share it with Adam. But actually it meant slavery and death for them and all their unborn children.

What I received that day in the alley was a duality of heart. I wanted to serve the Lord, to follow him. But I also wanted to think about and have the objects of my desire.

It might not be lust that ensnares you. It might be anger, gossip or pride. It might be anxiety, greed or foul language. It might be over-eating, lying or a lack of forgiveness. What has you trapped?

Message To Those Caught In Ashley Madison from a former adulterer, Part 2

Ashley

I wasn’t buying the magazine anymore or even picking them in the store and rarely messed up on the computer. And yet it was not enough, I still lusted in stores, on the street and in the gym. I tried a new technique, “bouncing my eyes” but its effect was pretty limited, at least for me.

Then it dawned on me. I did not need more knowledge, I needed more of God. I needed to experience him! I knew a lot about God, but did I really know Him? My deepest desire became to experience eternal life, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3).

Real victory came when I learned how to pray through the times of struggle. My greatest temptation, at this point was at the gym. I began to pray when I arrived in the parking lot. I asked to experience him through the temptation to lust, to know him here. Soon, I found praying about God’s holiness and His strength was far more effective than praying about my weakness. Then, the song “The Name Of The Lord Is A Strong Tower” came to mind, from Proverbs 18:10. When lust reared, I visualized running to the strong tower of His name.

   Associations began coming throughout the workout. Drinking water reminded me of the living water that wells up inside of me. My joints ached, “Oh, balm of Gilead, lubricate my joints”. Every few days, the Lord impressed me with another connection to Him in what I was doing. How exciting this was! I was learning to pray continually in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). The Spirit was leading me, telling me what to pray.

Now it is time to get to work on your relationship with God. Begin praying through your times of struggle. Maybe you haven’t completed the recommendations I gave at the end of part 1. Ask God what you need to accomplish them. Have focus on him, not just your problem. He will guide what you need.

Message To Those Caught In Ashley Madison from a former adulterer

AshleyI’m sure so many in churches today were reeling from shock in the aftermath of scandal and your involvement in it. You may have resigned as Pastor, minister, and other church leader or are expected to after the list came out and someone realized you were on it. Or you may be waiting for that hammer to drop. Undoubtedly some of you are too embarrassed to attend and vowed never to return.  If you haven’t read my previous post on the appropriate reaction for the church, please do so.

You may feel the trouble at home even more keenly than at church. It may seem completely hopeless to repair.

I want to convey to you that even though things are very hard right now, there is hope. A great light shines at the end of this tunnel. With those who love God, we are promised he will make good out of all things (Rom 8:28) – even our greatest sins. I know he has mine. And now that some light has been shed in the darkness, there is a much better atmosphere for real change.

Believe me, I know it’s hard. I struggled with an addiction to Playboys for more than thirty years. Though I admit, there was much more giving in than struggle. It was my dirty little secret. I was looking at those magazines even at ACU, where I majored in Bible and minored in N.T. Greek and continued both in graduate school. At 19, I got married, sure that this struggle would end, yet it continued. It continued in full time ministry. Oh, I felt terribly conflicted and wearied of the constant cycles of indulgence, confession and repentance – only to feel helpless to start the cycle all over again in a few weeks or months. I got out of full time ministry but continued being very involved with churches…and the cycles continued. It was like the most extreme roller coaster, one I could never get off of.

I eventually found myself in a place I never dreamed I would be – having had an affair, filed for divorce, and remarried. Pornography didn’t cause this destruction alone, but it certainly contributed. With the new marriage, at first pornography was out of sight, out of mind. But with short separations, I found myself getting back in the Playboys, again!

This time as I threw the magazines out, I got truly desperate. In tears, I literally begged God for help. There was little point in my trying without something miraculous. Read the association of desperation in Luke 11 with asking, seeking, and knocking. I don’t believe the Lord was being petty, withholding real victory ‘till I begged hard enough. He merely was waiting for me to be in a place of full cooperation, ready to receive his amazing gift of victory. Perhaps you are there now.

Plus, I vowed to do anything God wanted me to, whatever it takes. Because of this He shone more light on my secret life. I spoke out publically at men’s retreats and Bible studies and privately with two men who shared my struggle, getting real. We met weekly for a spiritual review. God called me to get honest and admit my sin, the extent its hold had on me and the damage it had done in my life. I urged men (and myself) to get serious with God about sin. I prayed for them and with them and received support, encouragement and prayers in return.

I became thirsty for God though his word. I wasn’t in college anymore but I was studying many hours – almost exclusively, for half a year – on sin, the enemy, the world and especially on victory and the armor of God. Incrementally, a good amount of victory came after the desperation. I wasn’t buying the magazine anymore or even picking them in the store and rarely messed up on the computer. And yet it was not enough, Kent.

So, Caught, it’s the perfect time to get started in your recovery. 1. Begin by confessing to God – admit it all. Ask for forgiveness and his help. Tell God you will do what you need to do. 2. Pick someone you trust and share about it. 3. Get rid of any inappropriate relationship(s) and porn, start with committing to it for today.

How Should We React To Ashley Madison?

Ashley

How Should We React To Ashley Madison?

August 29, 2015 I just read “My Pastor Is On The Ashley Madison List”, Ed Stetzers most recent response in Christianity Today to news that has the Christian world reeling. According to the article, likely hundreds of Pastors and Ministers will be resigning this week after being outed on the list of customers for a spousal cheating website. Ed does not mention other church leaders or members but the numbers are likely to be staggering. I suspect very large numbers of churches will be reeling from the scandal tomorrow. I would like to address the church first and then the ones involved. These posts will be longer than most, so I pray you will hang with me.

First of all, church, realize this is not just a failure of a bunch of individuals. It is a failure of us all. Have we really done everything we can to “see to it that no one is sexually immoral” (Heb. 12:15-16)? The wording here is in the strongest form of command, to all of the readers, It is the duty of every Christian. Admit we have failed our brothers and sisters caught here in sin.

Secondly, realize we are all guilty. Maybe not of adultery, but of gossip, lust, wrath, lying, complaint, pride or one (likely more) of a host of other sins. Remember Jesus’ words “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” But also remember his last words to the adulterer after telling her he did not condemn her, “Go and sin no more”. It is our responsibility to help them to find victory over their sin. Take note of Gal. 6:1,2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill tthe law of Christ.” Restoration is bringing them to a good state before God and the local body of Christ and it is our burden.

Next, build in some accountability for them. I met with an elder weekly after my affair and greatly appreciated his help and encouragement. If pornography is involved (highly likely) offer to have someone knowledgeable enough go through their computer and printed material with them and get rid of it. Suggest they Install covenant eyes or similar program on their computer and make their spouse and someone spiritual as accountability partners. Also work out the circumstances they are allowed back in the pulpit. But with how you go about these, keep in mind this: “Will I really want to pray the Lord’s prayer with it’s “forgive me as I forgive others” after this?

Lastly, realize, undoubtedly the enemy of our souls has been at work here. The world will point and say “See, I knew those Christians were a bunch of hypocrites.” But they may take notice if our response is filled with love, understanding and real help. Use the last component of the armor of God in Ephesians 6, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” This must be one of the greater times for this need. Kent

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