What Comes from Within

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I am learning that one of the joys of being a diabetic is having ones blood tested every three months. Spent a small portion of my day, yesterday, having blood drawn and meeting with my doctor. The tests showed a dramatic improvement in my glucose levels, which made the doctor happy. He told me that he thinks that I should be able to kick this diabetes diagnosis to the curb.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

But let me tell you, the holidays were tough! I had to be more vigilant than normal about what I was putting into my body. There were some days that I didn’t do the best of jobs; but more days than not, I succeeded.

Has me thinking about something I taught on this past Sunday, in Mark 7 (bolded emphasis mine):

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”   17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)   20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Before this passage, the Pharisees are arguing over the tradition of hand washing before eating. Jesus calls them out on using man-made law as an excuse to ignore God’s law:

6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,   ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’   8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”   9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
One of the greatest games ever created. No joke.

But what I want to go back and focus on verses 22-23:

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Unlike diabetes, which is all about what one puts inside them, the Bible talks about what comes from inside being the problem. We can feed this problem through what we consume on a day-to-day basis through:

  • The books we read
  • The games we play (excluding Ice Ball above)
  • The movies/television we watch/stream/consume
  • Even through our daily bad habits we’ve picked up–I see you picking your nose!–.

All of these, as with the sugar I am fighting against putting into my body, can act against our souls in unhealthy ways. Diabetes is teaching me that I can give up/avoid certain foods. That I don’t have to have a Vanilla Coke, 2-3 times a week, in order to stay awake/just enjoy/fend off headaches. We get to where we think that we have to have certain things. That we have to watch a certain series or play a certain game so that we are on top of what is going on culturally. The fact is, some of the things that we consume hurt us… and God calls us to let those things go.

We are our own worst enemies. I am thankful that I do not have to operate on my own strength. That I serve and love a God who gives me discernment, wisdom, and the ability to know when my self control has failed and I just need to flat out run/get away from whatever it is.

The Powerful Sin of Unwillingness

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One of the dark character qualities of sin that we don’t recognize as much as we should is unwillingness. We’re often unwilling to do what God says if it doesn’t make sense to us. We’re often unwilling to inconvenience ourselves for the needs of someone else. We’re regularly unwilling to wait. We’re often unwilling to be open and honest. We’re too often unwilling to consider the loving rebuke of another. We struggle to be willing to say no to our own wrong thoughts and desires.

We often struggle to be willing to answer God’s ministry call. Often we are unwilling to admit that we are wrong. Too often we struggle to serve willingly and to give generously. Unwillingness is one of sin’s powerful damaging results. So here’s what the Christmas story is all about: a willing Savior is born to rescue unwilling people from themselves because there is no other way.

You see, it’s not just the Christmas story; rather, the entire redemptive story hinges on one thing—the eternal willingness of Jesus.

– Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp

 

I had a difficult situation pop up last week where I had to confront someone. I was hurt and needed to clarify what had been communicated. The old me, the one who was raised with zero conflict resolution, wanted to be quiet.

I’ll just let the whole thing go, I thought to myself.

But I didn’t. I had the conversation that needed to be had. Everything worked out with the miscommunication clarified.

I realized though that I had been unwilling to engage God. Unwilling to allow Him to work through the situation. I think that we, as Christians, do this a lot:

  • We don’t communicate with God, when we sin, because we are unwilling to face the consequences OR even acknowledge something bigger going on inside of us.
  • We ignore God when we think that things will go differently/negatively so why pray?

Our unwilling nature deprives us in our faith walk. What God wants to use to strengthen our relationship with Him/our faith we instead put on the back burner of non-engagement. I know that we are called to more than this.

Let us be willing just as Christ was willing.

Best Theology Video Games Of 2015 – Destiny: Taken King

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This year, I had the chance to help the guys over at Theology Gaming with their Best Theology Video Games Of 2015 list. Had fun writing about Destiny: Taken King.

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Best Mirror Of Our Faith Journey
Destiny: Taken King

Sin. Repentance. Redemption. Destiny mirrors the faith journey of the Christian. Made in the console shooter creator’s image, this 2014 title launched with solid mechanics and an uneven tale. Broken from a story perspective, mired in sin, Destiny was yet embraced by the gaming populace.The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions launched the game into an orbit of repentance. Redemption found in the Taken King. Sin, downfall, always but a step away. Developer Bungie continues the journey through the valleys and mountain-top experiences of game development.

Morning Reading: Judges 17-21

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“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” – Judges 21:25

The last few chapters of the Book of Judges show the nation of Israel relying on instinct and their own personal morals rather than following God. Sin has heavily infected their worship and everyday life. The end of chapter 19 even has an incident that is similar to that of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Homosexuality and rape are a societal norm. Everyone did as he saw fit.

This mornings reading has me questioning if I am doing as I see fit; if I am walking alone in this world versus walking with God. This morning I have prayed that I would be obedient and follow God, not doing as I see fit but as He sees fit. Think of it as a realignment of the heart.

Where are you today?

Video Game Violence Aides Connecticut Shooter

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We can cast blame on “lax” gun laws or analyze the media diet of shooter Adam Lanza and still come to the same conclusion. In the end, Adam was human. To deny that we as humans are evil is to deny our humanity. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin and evil have entered our world. This should be no surprise to us as we consume the daily news and personally experience evil and injustice. Our world is a dark place.

Despite a possible mental illness, Adam Lanza was a human being with a free will. He made the choice to walk into that school and cause the physical and emotional destruction he wrought  His actions were calculated. At what point will we allow him to take responsibility for his actions?

Blame is easy. Personal responsibility, not so much. So let us blame violent video games. Adam was a kid, he must have played them, right?

Given Over

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Read an interesting article this morning in the New York Times. The article, which talks about a prominent gay writer turning away from homosexuality, can be found here. The article reminded me of two things:

1. Romans 1:18-32 (NIV) –

 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (bolded emphasis added)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

2. The article reminded me of the moment in my life where I decided to take God’s path and not my own. Let me explain:

Sin = Death

Though there have been many instances in my life where I have felt God talking to me (never audibly), the night I decided to turn away from my sin is one of the greatest. There I was, alone in the car, wrapped in guilt over the sin I was slowly sinking in. I knew that I had been doing was wrong. Over the course of the years I had dealt with this sin, I always remember Him telling me, “you don’t have to do this.” That night, God showed me two paths:

  • The first path was a continuation of me living out the sin I was in. Ultimately ending in my destruction and death.
  • The second path was what God had in store for my life. It was my now-wife and our life together pursuing God. “This is what I have for you…”

I knew that I was at a junction point, I needed to make a decision. I could continue down the path I was on, indulging my flesh, and end up dead; or I could choose God’s path and accept the good things He had planned for my life. Why would someone choose death over life? Seemed like a no-brainer to me. So I aligned myself with God once more and walked away from the sin I was in.

Walking away from sin is never an easy task. Memories still exist… I have learned to call upon Christ in times of weakness, to walk Him through the memories and ask Him to be Lord over them. Alone I cannot overcome…but with Him anything is possible.

To the gentleman in the article that has walked away from his sin of homosexuality, I wish him the best. I hope and pray that God will use him to speak both love and truth to those that have been blinded and lied to. Just because culture says that something is “normal” doesn’t mean it is. Trying to make the issue of gender identity into something equal to the Civil Rights movement doesn’t disguise sin either.