V GENUINE MOTIV TION JUNE
THE ART OF PEACE SEARCHING FOR SIGNIFICANCE THE RIGHT TO SIN HOW TO BECOME ADDICTED TO GOD (PART 2)
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN 04
Feature Article: Searching for Significance
On The Couch: The Right to Sin
Can You Relate: A Bad Trip or Feel My Pain
May God Bless the Hell Out of You: The Art of Peace
Cornered by Grace: Gifted by Grace
Press On: How to become Addicted To God (Part 2)
The Tool Box: Mouse Wheeling and Dealing
Stone Faulkenberry Randy kosloski
THE MERRY MONK ROBERT BEAMES WILL DOLE
a publication of On My Own now Ministries
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Editor In Chief / Rob Beames Art + Creative Director / MIKE MURO & DANIELA BERMÚDEZ
searching for significance FEATURE ARTICLE
by STONE FAULKENBERRY
GM : 04
As do most adolescents, I went through an exploratory stage and faced certain amounts of peer pressure. I experimented with alcohol, drugs and sex. My parents probably thought I was just going through a phase and it would pass. To some degree they were right, but in retrospect, I know that these things were ways I was trying to fill an emptiness inside me, something I longed for but couldn’t find.
When I left home to go to college, the search continued. During my freshman year, some guys on the football team invited me to a Bible study. God was working in my life. Through this Bible study and a divinely appointed meeting one weekend with my close friend from high school, I came to know Jesus. This new relationship would ultimately change all the relationships in my life, but the change would not come easily.
My search for significance manifested itself in school, friends, drugs and girls. I worked hard enough in school (which wasn’t very hard) to stay on honor rolls and principals’ lists that were printed in the local newspaper, bringing honor to my parents and recognition to me. It was very important to me to be popular and always have a group of friends to hang out with, which led to partying and whatever else it took to fit in, like drugs and alcohol. Having a girlfriend is a great way to feel important too, fit in and always have some security close at hand. I am sad to say that was the main reason I had girlfriends.
I began to study God’s Word, spend time in prayer and meet with a small group of guys. My mindset and perception were changing favorably toward the Kingdom of God in lots of ways, but one still under my control was sexuality. I was holding on tight. While I was undergoing spiritual transformation, I dated several girls, and in most cases, things went too far physically. I had never had a conviction about purity, but it now became a constant battle. I experienced highs in my new relationship with Jesus and very deep lows because I did not want to give up my sexual “rights.” Sometimes I would wrestle with the issue and sometimes just cave in to temptation. Back and forth.
Having a girlfriend meant having dates and spending intimate time alone, which usually led to sexual involvement. It didn’t always end up this way, but sometimes it did. Looking back I had never had a conviction about on those experiences, it bothers me that it never really felt wrong to me to be involved purity, but it now became a constant with someone physically. I had never battle. I experienced highs in my new received any teaching about saving myself until marriage or sexual purity. The sexual relationship with Jesus and very deep advice I received as an adolescent was, “Don’t get her pregnant; make sure you use lows because I did not want to give some kind of protection.” I was so blind and up my sexual “rights.” selfish at the time, it was all about what I could get out of it for me. In junior high and high school I was pretty popular. I fit in with the preps (athletic, well-dressed, smart, dating a member of the drill team). I usually didn’t have to pursue girls, they pursued me. I know that sounds arrogant, and I’m sorry to say that I was a rather proud person in those days. Starting in high school, I dated the same girl for four years. It was a big farce, as I see it now. At the time it seemed so important, but looking back, I really wish that someone would have banned me from dating. They were such unstable times emotionally. I have big regrets from that experience. I took that girl’s heart, virginity, innocence and four years of her life, and in the end I trampled on it. And I also squandered myself. But high school also held a ray of hope: A close friend I really looked up to in high school became a Christian. He wasn’t vocal about it in the beginning, but I began to see changes in his life. Since I admired him so much, I began to make the same changes in my own life. I stopped partying as much, stopped cussing and started having some interest in spiritual things. However, nothing changed with relationships with the opposite sex, and I had no desire for it to change.
I remember thinking of physical involvement as analogous to rolling a snowball down a big snow-covered mountain, which, if I started rolling, I could not stop. It would gain momentum until it was gigantic and out of control, unstoppable. As I was thinking about this concept, a light dawned for me. How do I stop the snowball from ever starting down the hill? I began to search this out in my mind and I came up with a simple answer: For me, it all started with the kiss. If the place was right, which can always be easily manipulated, the kiss would start the snowball that eventually led to trouble. I realized at that point the most practical thing I could do to remain pure in a relationship was to not kiss. This principle worked great in the next relationship I was in. After a couple of months I did venture a small kiss, but the physical aspect of the relationship was far from the most important. I was changing, I thought. A short time later, the relationship ended on a good note—we just both went our separate ways. Soon I began a new relationship, with a new hope in the area of purity. Then I fell flat on my face and blew it big time. I wrestled with it at first, and then just gave up. Spiritually hopeless, I stayed in the relationship for too
GM : 05
long. I had reverted back to my old ways from before I had become a Christian. I distinctly remember one morning waking up and thinking about my predicament. As I ran the whole purity process through my mind, I questioned myself: What do I really want? What do I really need? And who do I really love? As the questions circled in my mind I began to focus on whom I really love. John 14:21 came to mind: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” As I meditated on the scripture I realized that, in a sense, I was trading my relationship with the Lord for this physical relationship I was involved in. I was convicted that I had to end the relationship because I knew I couldn’t just end the physical aspect alone.
What do I really want? What do I really need? And who do I really love? After the breakup, I turned my full attention to my spiritual walk and growth, and decided it was a good time to stay away from girls and any type of relationship for a while. During this time, I realized that my strategy for purity was centered on my behavior, the outer me. Finally, I concluded that this was a matter of love: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” And love comes through having a relationship. Instead of outward actions that would improve my image and standing as “a good Christian,” I began to grow in a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Through this new awakening and spiritual change, I realized that I had really hurt several girls and taken something from some of them that I could never give back. I made a change in my dating philosophy and a commitment to the Lord that I would not date (like I had in the past) and that I would not kiss another girl until I said, “I do.” See what a radical change a real relationship with Jesus can make? The old me never would have dreamed of such a commitment. Isn’t this like the Lord; I was just going along minding my own business (literally avoiding girls) and God brought a beautiful blonde, Gwen Ford, across my path. It was a crazy, short meeting. We were both in our vehicles and after meeting we drove off and didn’t see each other again for several months. At the next encounter, there was a spark, and I had a strong desire to get to know her more. As we were parting, I flippantly said, “Hey, why don’t you call me sometime?” Gwen looked a little embarrassed and said, “I won’t call
GM : 06
you; I don’t call guys.” I was floored, taken aback. At first I thought, Is she too good to call me? But it didn’t take long to realize that qualities like that were what drew me to her. After a short time of getting to know each other better (not dating), I shared with Gwen my commitment to not kiss another girl until we were married. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to that, but she told me that it really challenged her and she said she needed a guy to step up and lead her spiritually. She had been the one to lead spiritually in most of her past relationships. She agreed to the commitment and asked me for something too. She had been in several relationships with guys who told her they loved her but didn’t mean it. She asked me to not tell her that I loved her unless I knew that I was ready to get married. I agreed and off we went. During our friendship God blessed me with an unknown strength and a powerful patience to withhold myself physically. He allowed me to truly get to know this child of His from the inside out. God used Gwen in this critical place in my life to show me someone living out the Christian life with a real relationship with Jesus. This experience with Gwen helped solidify the work that God had begun in me. About a year later, I knew in my heart that I loved Gwen. I shared with her one night that I did love her and how much she meant to me. Since she had asked me not to say that unless I meant it; she knew I was practically saying, “Will you marry me?” A couple of months later, I asked Gwen’s parents if I could have permission to marry their daughter. They agreed, and I asked Gwendolann Adell Ford to marry me. She said yes and we set a quick date. We were both ready. We knew we loved each other and we were ready for the kiss and more. During our engagement we went through a wonderful and difficult time of premarital counseling. One of the hardest things that came up was my past. One night I decided I needed to share it all. As I unfolded before my future bride all the relationships I had failed at, I felt a strong desire that I should let her go if she wanted out. The grace I felt at the moment she told me she still wanted me was probably comparable to the grace the woman felt when Jesus released her after being caught in adultery by the Pharisees (John 8:3-6). Gwen and I decided that during our wedding ceremony, we would have a private time of prayer, just the two of us, while we took communion, remembering the death of Christ. During that prayer, we figuratively placed the baggage from our past into a box and buried it, to be done away with, just as our sin is done away with in God’s eyes through the actual death of Christ. Although from time to time, we have some difficulties with our pasts, mainly mine, I believe God blessed that prayer, our attitude about the past and our passion for a hopeful future together as man and wife.
The moment the preacher said “You may kiss the bride” was and will always be an eternal moment in my mind: the most intimate and longed for kiss I had ever experienced. I have had many more since that night over 15 years ago—by God’s grace, we’ve made it! My wife is a beautiful woman inside and out and I was privileged enough through the power of His Spirit to know her intimately on the inside first. Thank you, Jesus.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I wish I never would have had to tell my future bride about my scarred past relationships. I wish I could have looked her in the eyes and said, “I have saved myself for you.” On the other hand, I know that if God had not begun some supernatural changes in me before I met Gwen, I would have never had a chance with her. A Bible verse that is fitting for how God has worked in my relationships is Isaiah 61:3b (KJV): “Give unto them beauty for ashes.” God has taken the ashes of my misguided searches for significance and given me beauty in my relationship with my wife.
The moment the preacher kiss the bride” was and an eternal moment in my intimate and longed for experienced.
said “You may will always be mind: the most kiss I had ever
This story was excerpted from the new book Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off, edited by Donna Lee Schillinger. The most difficult task in the life of a Christian single today is maintaining purity until marriage. The payoff is perfect love and sex, just as our Creator intended. But if that’s so awesome, why aren’t more people choosing it? And how can premarital sex be so bad if so many people are doing it and loving it? People who were virgins when they married aren’t usually the type to kiss and tell. And when premarital sex goes wrong, no one wants to Tweet it. This awkward silence from both contingents isn’t helping the next generation to decide well on the issue of premarital sex. Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off is a collection of 17 first-person narratives about successfully waiting for marriage to have sex—or not. Contributors on both sides of the issue candidly share in face-reddening detail what they learned on their way to the wedding bed. Young people aiming to remain pure will be encouraged and learn practical strategies for resisting sexual temptation. Those who wish they had waited will learn that it’s never too late to restore purity with God’s grace. Learn more at PuritysBigPayoff.com. Now on sale at major online booksellers, through your local bookstore or for a special price of $12 plus free shipping at www. OnMyOwnNow.com, which receives as a donation half of the proceeds of its sales. Also available in Kindle through Amazon.com. También en español: La Gran Recompensa de la Pureza / La Gran Estafa del Sexo Prematrimonial. Visite www.VivaLaPureza.info.
GM : 07
on the couch
THE RIGHT TO SIN by Randy Kosloski
“SHALL WE ACCEPT GOOD FROM GOD, AND NOT TROUBLE?”
I recently completed some training to help me assess threats of violence in schools. In the class we carefully examined several school shootings and attempted to determine what may have been occurring in the lives of the assailants around the time of their attacks. We accessed their “justification”: how and the extent to which a potential attacker has justified his or her violence with “reasons.” We also linked their justification to “entitlement”: the belief that they are somehow entitled to more than they have. As I pondered these concepts, I realized they are analogous to my relationship with sin. I often justify my sin because I believe that I am entitled to things that are not currently in my grasp. I consequently view sin as a fair settlement made to me for not having that which I desire and feel I deserve. It is as if I am telling God, “When I get what is coming to me then I will give up the sin. So make with the blessing.” This kind of thinking is widespread in our society today. For example, I knew a man named Roman who seemed to have this attitude, although I didn’t realize it at first. In the beginning, I found him fascinating, not because he had interesting issues, but as a matter of fact, he had a lack of issues. His only real concern was a social anxiety that he had developed of late, which made it hard for him to make friends. Since he had just moved to a new city, he felt lonely. He was a Christ-seeker and honestly wanted to make things better—not only better, but right. Yet the more that I talked to Roman, the more I uncovered his underlying sense of entitlement. Together, we began to realize that he was actually irritated by people, which caused him to develop social anxiety. He avoided people because he would very quickly get aggravated with them and then feel trapped in conversation, afraid to convey his feelings. He also seemed annoyed that others were not immediately enthralled with him. Being forced to work in order to gain their interest exasperated him. It was clear that his anxiety stemmed from his irritation, and consequently, his irritation came from his feeling of entitlement. The elder brother in the Prodigal Son parable had entitlement issues, as well. The elder brother seems to be steadfast and reliable. This also described Roman. In the church and with his family, he did what needed to be done, and like the elder brother, Roman did it out of a sense of duty, considering it his prerogative to receive a reward. The elder brother is just one example in the Bible; there are many others. David felt entitled to a beautiful
- JOB 2:10
woman and took her as his own. We know he later committed murder to cover it up. Entitlement can take us to some dangerous places. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold felt entitled to something they did not have which in their minds justified one of the most heinous acts in American history: the Columbine High School massacre. Roman’s sense of entitlement was more subtle; however, his desire to be at ease caused him to pull away from others, and had other consequences. Roman did not want to work in developing relationships; he thought that they should just happen because he was a decent, hardworking guy. He became increasingly angry with God, and he was taking it out on the people around him. He was obviously lonely and unable to change his situation by himself. He needed to learn that God would have taken care of him then, and always. He needed to live with a sense of gratitude rather than clamoring for what he thought he deserved. Having more of the mindset Job had would have greatly benefitted him, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). This would have freed him from his demanding attitude toward God. But there is a demand on us, as well. We must throw aside our perceived rights and do what God asks us to do, regardless of the cost. John Piper, in his book Desiring God, talks about how the act of Christ being placed on the cross stripped Him of all of His rights and that is why people spat on Him and threw things at Him. Piper goes on to say this was because, according to Roman law, Christ ceased to be a person once He was on that cross. Likewise, I must symbolically lay aside my rights, accept my duties and seek my place in this world without demanding my rights. Then I may truly be able to see the work that God can do through me and in me. I am inspired by the cross, but I am not always convicted by it as I should be. To lay down my rights and give myself to the Lord regardless of the cost is a hard lesson to learn. Entitlement is not seen as a bad thing in our world, and yet, it is not Christ’s thing. Christ’s model for us was to lean on God for all we need, rather than to claim what we feel is rightfully ours. But like “Star Wars’” Yoda said, you have to “let go of all you fear to lose.” Dying to self has to mean that we die to our entitlements and let God direct the new spiritual being that is birthed within us.
GM : 09
// CAN YOU RELATE BY THOM MOLLOHAN
a bad trip OR FEEL MY PAIN //
About 15 years ago, I took a team of college students on a mission trip to minister to migrant workers in a resort town. At the end of an especially demanding day of labor, I was walking back to our headquarters with a young man from our group along a darkened boardwalk that connected miscellaneous shops and restaurants to each other with little patios at various intervals. By day this segment was lined with tourists casually browsing through various amusements, shopping for whatnots and trying all sorts of delectable cuisine. But at night it was dark, mostly deserted and barren of any sense of wholesomeness. The police generally stayed away from that part of town at nightâ€”although I didnâ€™t know it at the time.
GM : 10
As we walked, my companion chatted easily about everything from girls to job prospects for the rest of the summer and his success as a black belt in karate. As we came to one particularly remote portion of the walkway, someone hailed us from a shadowy corner. “Could I have a drink of water?” he called out in a voice that left me unsure if he spoke with an accent or if his speech was somewhat slurred. I slowed down just enough to see a dark form seated on one of the tourist chairs commonly found there. He appeared to be a young man in his early twenties, but given the way his eyes were abnormally sunken into his head, I was only guessing. My friend and I were both carrying water bottles. I slung mine off my shoulder and walked over to the man who I began to see more clearly as I approached. I offered him the water bottle and he took it from my hands appreciatively. After he pulled the bottle from his mouth, he offered it back to me. I smiled weakly and gestured that he keep it. “It’s okay,” I said, “you might be thirsty later.” He took another drink, wiped his mouth, and then rolled his head strangely to one side. “Hey, are you CIA?” he asked gruffly, looking at me suspiciously. “Um, no,” I answered somewhat startled. His eyes narrowed a bit. “Are you KGB then?” I shook my head. “FBI?” he asked, his eyes narrowing to slits as doubt suddenly coated his tone. Not having experienced a situation like this before, I did not know how to respond. I responded hoping not to say anything inflammatory, “No, no, my friend and I are here sharing God’s love with people.” He smiled and stood up, wobbling as he did so. I realized then that he was probably on a bad heroine trip. Still, it didn’t seem right or wise to abruptly end our conversation. I was also wondering how God might use this situation. The man, who said his name was Ramos, briefly told us how he had come to work in that town. But then he stopped, and with a wild look in his eye, he asked me again, “You said you’re not CIA?” “No,” I again replied. “They’re everywhere,” he whispered leaning towards me. “Are you sure you’re not KGB?” “No, I’m not.” “Are you from outer-space?” This question seemed out of rhythm with his other queries, but I responded with conviction that I was not from outer-space, but that I was a Christian telling people about God’s love. He remained friendly and mild for few more moments but then suddenly looked at me savagely rearing back his right arm as if he were going to hit one of us. “So do you want to feel my pain?” he snarled at me. At once I noticed in the very dim light that he was holding an empty hypodermic needle in his hand ready to strike! There was nobody else around, so what could we do?
For a split second I remembered that my companion was a black belt in karate. But my hopes were quickly dashed when I saw his sagging jaw wagging in the wind in astonishment. It was the only part of his body which was moving. Since I was responsible for him and he was clearly in no frame of mind to defend himself, I instinctively pivoted my body so that I was between the attacker and my friend. A prayer instantly lifted from my heart to heaven as quick as an exhaled breath. I looked the disturbed man in the eye and simply said, “No. But I know Someone Who can bring healing to your pain.” His rage instantly melted as he flopped back into his chair. “Do you really?” he asked wearily. Though my friend and I were not sure what he would remember when he came back to earth, we went on to explain to him how sin—doing what we want instead of what God wants—separates s us from fellowship with God. We shared that God sent His Son into this cruel, hard world to bring us hope. We explained the promise that God Himself made to save any and all who call on His Son in faith. Curiously, Ramos did not lash out again, but instead, allowed us to pray with him. We prayed that he would experience the healing of his heart by God’s love and be set free from his addictions. Afterwards, we offered to walk him home. He refused our offer, but thanked us for the kindness we had displayed. With the Bible we gave him in one hand and a water bottle in the other, he staggered off into the darkness quickly disappearing into the shadows. We tried to follow him to find out where he lived, so we could be certain that he made it home alright, but we could not tell which way he went. We then returned to our base. We came back to that same spot over the next few days, but did not see him again. Unfortunately, we found out no more about him. We were not able to find anyone who knew the man. Still, we know that it was a divine appointment arranged by our Father in heaven. Through what seemed to us to be a simple act of service and words which may have fallen all over themselves, we believe God still sowed seeds of hope in one man’s broken life. It’s good to know, wherever I go, that God can bring healing to even the most wounded of souls, hope to even the most forlorn and lost hearts, and freedom to those ensnared by sin, hate or bitterness.
“THE GOD OF THIS AGE HAS BLINDED THE MINDS OF UNBELIEVERS, SO THAT THEY CANNOT SEE THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL THAT DISPLAYS THE GLORY OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD. BUT WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY TO SHOW THAT THIS ALL-SURPASSING POWER IS FROM GOD AND NOT FROM US.” 2 CORINTHIANS 4:4, 7.
GM : 11
The art of peace
MAY GOD BLESS THE HELL OUT OF YOU BY THE MERRY MONK
It was obvious that I had failed. As soon as I woke up, I knew what I should have done. Ornate shrines surrounded the mat with images of old men and divine children filling the training hall with incense. I didn’t know how I got there but I knew why I came. I was there to teach the masters of my art. It was a daunting task since each and every one of them surpassed my rank by at least three degrees. Waiting for the class to start, 39 Aikido masters unfurled their peacock feathers and took the mat. I was alone behind a wooden partition that separated me from the rest of the dojo as I paced in the dark with my eyes closed. In my mind’s eye I rehearsed what I was going to teach. Would the peacocks be impressed with my technique? Certainly I didn’t have anything to teach them. Their eyes had seen it all, but would they approve of my performance and welcome me into their bevy? Two loud claps echoed through the training hall. Ready or not, it was show time.
GM : 12
I traveled through time—past the mat and all of the ceremonial bowing—and found myself scanning the room full of kneeling masters. Their faces were stone. Which one should I select as uke—the fall guy—to attack me so I can demonstrate proper technique? I intuitively knew the one chosen would feel insulted.
The rest of the masters stood up as well. I was enraged. “Get off my mat, all of you! Who do you think you are? You’re nothing. Get off my mat!” They all bowed to me and left the dojo.
I looked to the end of the dojo where the lower ranked masters were sitting and made my choice. I extended the invitation to join me on the mat, “Onegai shimasu.” My would-be uke didn’t move. His eyes didn’t even acknowledge my appeal. He stared straight ahead, expressionless.
What just happened? Had they all conspired together? Was this some kind of test? If it was, I had clearly failed.
The stillness shook me. This man had judged me unworthy of his assistance. I repeated my request, “Onegai shimasu.” I received no response. Embarrassed, I turned to a new potential uke and made another attempt only to be shunned again. Desperate, I selected yet another uke while trying to appear unfazed. My plea disintegrated as mist against a boulder. It was a catch-22. I had to teach but none of the masters would condescend to join me on the mat. The impossibility of the situation heated my humiliation until it boiled into anger. Then I saw a young black belt among the masters who I hadn’t noticed before. He must have been 12 or 13 years old. Surely he wouldn’t snub me. “Onegai shimasu.” This time there was a response, but not the one I desired. With his eyes the boy asked the older man next to him what to do. The master answered with silent reproof as if to say, “I already told you what to do.” The young black belt’s eyes snapped forward. He sat motionless. I erupted at the boy, “This is my mat! Do you understand me? Don’t you dare disrespect me on my mat!” A sense of power surged within me. Would my refusal to accept dishonor gain the masters’ approval? The boy looked to the master next to him again, now with fear in his eyes. This time, the older man looked at me. As soon as he did, I knew he was the boy’s father. He stood up to challenge me drawing out the rest of my anger.
Alone on the mat, I realized that my anger had made me king of an empty castle.
I woke from my dream and instantly knew what I should have done…nothing. It was as clear as the daylight coming in through my bedroom window. Aikido is the way of harmony. It’s the art of peace. It’s about resolving conflict and restoring balance. In the end, the masters weren’t interested in seeing my technique. They knew I was a competent technician but they wanted to see my heart. They knew that only a real threat would lay my soul bare, so the masters sat in stillness as an assault on my ego. The refusal to attack turned out to be the attack, and it was more effective than any punch, kick or grab could have ever been. Had I learned the art of peace? Was I devoted to harmony? My heart answered with a definitive, “No.” I wanted to prove myself for the sake of approval. I wanted respect, and when my pathway to respect was threatened, I fought to defend it. I became the attacker. I resorted to conflict in order to prove that I knew the art of peace. I understand now, that after my first uke attacked me with stillness, I should have taken my spot as instructor and sat in seiza—the formal way of sitting in Japan—for the duration of the class. It would have been a demonstration of unbroken balance and harmony. Then, acknowledged or not, I should have taken my place among the masters— maybe in my next dream. I had this dream and resulting revelation on the morning of my 39th birthday. The message later became clear to me, “Erik, nobody is attacking you. You have achieved balance. Stop fighting to prove your worth and relax in who you have become.”
I got in his face and said, “You’ll be my uke or you’ll get off my mat!” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I had crossed the point of no return. The father bowed to me and walked off the mat. His son followed suit.
I resorted to conflict in order to prove that I knew the art of peace. GM : 13
gifted by grace CORNERED BY GRACE by Rob Beames GM : 14
Most of us hesitate when asked the question, “If you died today, do you know you would wake up in heaven?” To hesitate at a question like that is not entirely a bad thing. We usually balk a bit simply out of humility. How dare we assume we are good enough to make it? We don’t want to seem too confident because we know we are far from perfect. If we could actually comprehend just how distant we are from that mark, it would be more than we could bear. Humility isn’t a negative quality, in fact, it’s essential for a relationship with Christ. We have to understand we need someone to save us in order to seek out a savior. If we fail to realize we are unable to save ourselves, we are lost. So, doubting our worthiness to enter heaven is natural since we know we are sinners. There’s a point in every Christian’s sanctification process at which we become extremely confident of our unworthiness to be in the presence of Christ. Like an unforeseen twist in a movie thriller, that’s where the gospel of Christ really gets good. No one could see it coming, but God wrote this unbelievable plot before the foundations of the world were laid. Romans 4:5 unlocks the secret to the mystery of God’s blockbuster, spiritual screenplay, “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” This details one of the central foundations of our faith: justification. It’s a tough concept to believe, and it’s almost impossible to feel. Thankfully for us, God isn’t going to ask, “Why do you feel I should let you into heaven?” If our salvation were based on our feelings, we would all be undone. Justification is not a feeling, but a fact accepted by faith. However, this doesn’t stop our feelings from being used against us. The truth that we are not good enough for God to accept us often becomes a fiery dart headed for a heart unprotected by the shield of faith. The dilemma becomes clear. We feel unworthy but that’s because we are so. We know sin cannot be unevenly yoked with perfection; no more than filthy rags are sown together with priceless fabric to fashion a royal wardrobe. Deep within our hearts we know we don’t belong at the wedding feast even though we hold an invitation in our hands. The truth appears to be devastating, but behold the splendor of justification. It’s the primary package of the gospel wrapped up and given to us as a gift. We can only accept it by faith. In a moment, not only are our sins wiped clean, but our simple trust in His completed work suddenly works to our credit. We are given a righteousness we really don’t possess. It truly belongs to us because it’s credited to our spiritual account. We understand credit in the way we experience it. We go to the store in order to purchase something we desire with our limited financial resources, and after finding out we
don’t have enough, we pull out a credit card. If approved we are given credit for the item which we desire. We immediately possess it, and it belongs to us, but we don’t question it much, because we know we’ll pay for it later. We understand we will fully purchase the item at a future date with interest. We don’t have a problem feeling we deserve to walk out with the item we wanted, because we essentially paid for it. Yet, in reality, we didn’t pay one thin dime for it at the time. The credit card company paid for it on our behalf. This concept partially illustrates the justification piece of the gospel. The payment we justly owed for our sin was paid by Christ on our behalf at the time of His death. But after that the credit card illustration falls short in accurately describing God’s gift of justification to us. Perhaps a more accurate illustration of this spiritual benefit is not a bank card, but rather a gift card. With a gift card someone else has paid for our desired item in full, and we don’t have to pay it back. In fact, no one ever does—not one cent. It would be insane to try, because the price was paid in full by a friend. Perhaps if Paul wrote about this concept for us today, he would say, “…their faith is an unlimited gift card to purchase all the righteousness they need.” I agree it’s not as catchy. Justification has been described in many ways, but as Paul explains above, although we are not righteous, we are considered to be. He says our faith is counted as righteousness. This is where many Christians fail to go deeply enough into the meaning of this vital doctrine. We can’t be considered sort of righteous. The debt cannot be only partially settled. We have to be fully pleasing to God, not just marginal to Him. We are given the righteousness of Christ, or we stand before Him in our own filth. We have absolutely no resources to save ourselves, so God can’t simply give us an advance on something we might later earn. No. It was completely a gift. We either accept it, or we go it alone. We can’t try to buy it or earn it ourselves. Our money’s no good, here. In fact, we have no credit. This makes the gift of justification all that much more priceless to us. It’s something we could never spiritually be approved to buy. It was paid in full by a friend! (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
We can’t be considered sort of righteous. The debt cannot be only partially settled. GM : 15
BY WILL DOLE
HOW TO BECOME
ADDICTED TO GOD PART 2, ACTS 2:42
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“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
PHILIPPIANS 2:1-2 Last month, we examined the things to which the early church was devoted in the book of Acts. We looked at Acts 2:42 regarding the importance of devotion to “the Apostles teaching,” that is, studying the Bible. This week we will look at a second equally important item:
F E L L O W S H I P. Since this may not be an extremely familiar word to us in our 21st century mind—outside of a book by J.R.R. Tolkien—it would serve us well to define it before proceeding. Let’s use its very basic meaning: joining with someone in a common endeavor, goal or plight. Paul uses it this way in 1 Corinthians 1:9 when he refers to God calling us into fellowship with Christ. Because Christ has freed us from sin, we are now able to be in fellowship with Him and pursue the same goal that He does, (see Philippians 3:12). In addition, we are brought into fellowship with other believers. This is made possible by our fellowship with Christ. As Philippians 2:1-2 states, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Paul calls us to be united with one another because of our unity with Christ and our fellowship with the Spirit. So how do we devote ourselves to the fellowship of believers? There are many angles we could take and particulars can vary from situation to situation, but we will look at three pursuits that are very closely connected to one another and are of utmost importance in every circumstance. The first thing we should pursue is love. Jesus tells us in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” How will people know we are following Jesus? This verse says it will be by our display of love for other people who follow Jesus. This is something that people will notice today because it is entirely against our modern culture; it truly runs counter to human nature.
Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 that it was God Himself who taught the believers in Thessalonica to love each other. Love is so important that in the midst of Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapters 1214, he pauses and gives us an entire chapter devoted to love. Why? None of the spiritual gifts matter if we do not love other believers and exercise our gifts in accordance with that love. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” (1 Corinthians 13:1). This pursuit of love for one another enables our second pursuit: unity among the body. Paul drives this concept home repeatedly by referring to the fellowship of believers as “the body” of Christ (see Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:27, and Ephesians 4:2-6). Unity is made possible by love and is especially important because we are pressing towards the same goal: to be like Christ. Our third pursuit should be conforming ourselves to the image of Christ. So often in life we are moving in divergent directions. Even in our Christian walk or in ministry we can lose our focus. We may be focused on becoming a better person, or managing our finances better, or growing our ministry – none of which are necessarily bad desires, but none of them is of any value in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ as Paul explains in Philippians 3:8. We must come to the realization that everything we do is to be done for the glory of God, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31. The way we live our lives reflect our values and what our heart truly treasures. So, in order to truly devote ourselves to the fellowship of believers, we must love each other with a self-sacrificing love, which will bring unity. Not a unity based on what the world considers common ground, but rather in the fact that we are all saved by Christ, indwelt by the Spirit, and pursuing Christ so as to reflect the Father. Until we are physically united with Him, we won’t practice this love perfectly, but it remains our constant pursuit. This is how we devote ourselves to the fellowship of believers in an effort to become addicted to God.
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THE TOOL BOX
MOUSE WHEELING AND DEALING
What’s that in your wallet? A wad of cash? Or is it receipts where money used to be? Regardless of your cash flow or net worth, if you’re planning a purchase, you should exercise due diligence to get the best deal. More information than you need or want is available on the Internet, but if you’re not careful, you can waste so much time trying to find it that you’ve diluted your deal. And browser beware that Internet surfers can be carried away by cyber riptides and end up buying things they don’t need or products more expensive than they planned to buy. The tide can quickly turn on this technique that is meant to save you money. So mentally prepare yourself before you jump in by setting a time limit for finding what you’re looking for and a spending limit. Write these things down with a list of the musthave features you’re looking for in a product. Stay focused! With those cautions, I recommend a two-pronged approach to purchasing. First, do some research a few weeks in advance by checking some sites and signing up for some newsletters that are likely to alert you of a deal on what you’re buying. Second, on the day you buy, scan the Web to make sure there’s no better deal before you click “buy now.” Here are a few of my favorites for research and keeping a watchful eye for a sale over a period of a few weeks prior to purchasing: •
www.dealnews.com – This website has over 200 select deals each day, and they are confirmed to be legit from trusted retailers. What’s their slogan? “Where Black Friday is Every Day.” You can search for and subscribe to email alerts for a particular item, subscribe to one of several newsletters for different types of products, or subscribe to RSS feeds for whatever you need. You can also get coupons to use on brand-name websites. (In case you’re wondering, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead, subscribe to websites such that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you are really simple if you didn’t know that!)
BY JEFFREY BRIDGMAN
www.techbargains.com – This site has hand-picked bargains on electronics among other things. It also includes coupon codes, etc. Deals change frequently, so you want to check this site often. It has a newsletter and custom alerts you can set up, too.
www.woot.com – This is a fun website to check out: “One Day, One Deal.” Every day they have a different deal. It hooked me for a while.
www.deals.com – This is a community for sharing and finding coupons, deals and promotions.
Finally, on the day you buy, the price-comparison websites can check various retail sites to find the best price. Search for a specific product or a general category and filter the results down to see the various prices offered on desired items. Most of these sites also have a price history feature that show what prices were charged for a particular item in the past. This function allows us to see if the current offer is a good deal, or if we should wait a few months for a better price. Some websites also have customer ratings and reviews, as well. Here are some good ones to check: •
This is only scratching the surface of all the resources available, but it should get you started finding deals and comparison-shopping. If this seems like a lot of work, compare it to going to three or four stores around town and the gas, time and effort involved. Add up those resources and keep them in mind when allotting your time to search the Web. Most guys don’t like to wander from store to store find the best prices, but we don’t seem to mind as much putting our mouse wheel to work – especially if it saves us some bucks in the end. After all, we have to keep our hunting instincts sharp, somehow, don’t we?
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The Alternative to the Men's Magazine In this issue: Searching for Significance: The Right to Sin; Mouse Wheeling and Dealing; How to Become...