Signet Ring COMPLIMENTARY ISSUE
“Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Life 20 College The Fight Against Idolatry on Campus 21 Entertainment Entertaining Idols 22
Rest of God Arise O Sleeper
24 Prayer Seeking in the Secret Place 25 Devotional The Good Life 28 Identity 5 Worship The Heart of Worship 6 Flesh vs. Spirit Self Confidence is Self Deception 7
Are You Teachable?
Discipleship In the Dust of the Rabbi
Freedom in Love
Relationships 11 Marriage A Love Like No Other 14 Single Life My Journey from Neediness to Freedom 16 Church The Heart of a Living Sacrifice 18 Ministry Faith, Food and Fitness
21 In Every Issue 2 Q &A How Dangerous is Idolatry 26 Recommended Reads by Jon Birch
27 Classics The Expulsive Power of a New Affection
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zodervan. All Rights Reserved. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version . Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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n a warm autumn day at a small country church my husband and I committed our lives to each other- for better or worse. Our wedding day marked the beginning of our journey as “one flesh” when we each declared our loyalty and faithfulness to the other. Plainly, my vow with the words “I do” automatically meant “I don’t” to other suitors. By nature, love is exclusive. Jesus portrays His Church -you and I- as a bride. His proposal was heartfelt, extravagant, and beyond words. He got down on one knee as the weight of the Cross pushed His disfigured, weak body to the ground. Then, He stretched out wide His disjointed arms on Calvary. Jesus took the first committed step to show His love, therefore leaving one without reason to question His devotion or commitment in this divine romance. God proved His love for you in that while you were chasing after the wind (Ephesians 2:1-2), He died for you. Idolatry is adultery. This is seen in Judges 2:17 when the Israelites “played a harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them.” To whom do you bow; what has your heart? If it is anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ, it is an “other god” which He compares to broken cisterns -cracked clay pots- that cannot hold water. These idols promise fulfillment, and they may satisfy for a time, but sooner or later their promises empty through the cracks. Yet, Christ offers Himself as the Spring of Living Water. He is the source of long-lasting fulfillment and His love
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Publisher Joyce Birch General Editor Jon Scott Birch Art Selection Haley Dye Shana Smith Layout & Design Liz RaÑola never runs dry. Christ continues to beckon our hearts toward the liberty of His love. There is joy in being fully known and unconditionally loved despite ourselves. In this relationship, He offers a freedom nurtured by grace, mercy, and forgiveness instead of rigid obedience. There is no fear of rejection or separation, for nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). Will you accept His love? Will you choose broken cisterns or the Spring of Living Water? Whether you choose to accept or reject Jesus’ love, His proposal remains. Jesus loves you either way; this is the message of the Gospel. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
“In this relationship, He offers a freedom nurtured by grace, mercy, and forgiveness instead of rigid obedience."
Advisor Candy Abbott Social Media STACEY HITCH
Published by Signet Ring, a division of Recover Church. P.O. Box 1891 Millsboro, DE 19966. For questions or comments: email@example.com Copyright © 2012-2014 Signet Ring a division of Recover Church. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written consent of publisher. ISSN: 2168-34259 (print) ISSN: 2168-3433 (online).
Signet Ring promotes a wholehearted pursuit of Jesus Christ in response to His invitation, “Follow Me.” We do this through learning about and growing in our identity in Christ, imparting His love in our relationships, and living a disciple’s life. In light of the principles of 1 Tim 1:5, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” idolatry
Q & A: Idolatry
How Dangerous is
1 2 3 4 5
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1 John 5:21 Revelation 2:4-5 Colossians 3:5 Philippians 4:6, 8 Ezekiel 14:3
Q & A: Idolatry
dolatry begins with Gospel betrayal. Anything or anyone that prevents the Gospel from being our life focus will critically affect the way we live and will inhibit our ability to glorify God. The word idolatry may conjure thoughts of ancient totems and golden statues to the extent that one may dismiss such as Old Testament concerns, belittling any modern interest as we are now in an “age of grace” that is somehow more lenient and beyond those crude traditions. However, anyone who has read the entire Bible will understand that idolatry is the most frequently emphasized problem in all of Scripture. In the New Testament, the apostle John writes a letter to the churches in Asia Minor to reaffirm the core of Christianity by expressing the love that Christ has shown and that we must abide in, only to close his epistle by stating, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”1 This may seem an odd thematic shift but it indicates the severity of idolatry and the fickleness of human hearts. Romans 1:19-28 reveals that we are worshipers by nature. Our hearts do not drift aimlessly, there is always a pull away from truth and toward something lesser. Undeniably, innumerable Christians are living without Jesus Christ as their “first love,”2 replacing Him with ritual faith, relationships, family, education, careers, social media, recreation, entertainment, self-promotion, and ever and on. Think about it, do you spend more time on Facebook than you do on your face before God? Do you know more about the fictitious characters and worlds of your esteemed media outlets than you do about Jesus Christ and Biblical history? Do you know your spouse and/or children more intimately than you know Christ? Many of us will confess when appropriate that Jesus is Lord and Savior, but when we are not “in church” or fellowshipping with other believers our practical/functional theology betrays the lie that we live. When we are not in a “Christian context” our thoughts, pursuits, and behavior often reveal a selfishness that treats God as a cosmic genie to do our bidding, thus setting Him and ourselves up as gods of our imagination.
What is the Source of Idolatry? Jeremiah 17:9 informs us: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. James 4:1-3 explains further: Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. We sin when we are not craving God and when we are not satisfied in Him. Our hearts swiftly edify those things we believe we must have in order to be happy. For example, even when we desire good things they are routinely things that would provide a more comfortable life. Thus we pray amiss (asking for idols) and then find fault with God for not answering us according to our desires, resulting in frustration, irritability, and even anger (revealing the idol of comfort). This is why the apostle Paul encourages us to put to death our earthly flesh and its fornication, uncleanness, worldly passions, evil desires, and covetousness... which is idolatry.3 In the beginning Adam and Eve had the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil to “test” their obedience; today we have the forbidden fruits of a sinful nature that test our own. How Does God View Idolatry? Isaiah 42:8 offers a plain answer: I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.
Furthermore, in Exodus 20:3-4 God declares, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and then stresses how serious He is about that declaration- it is a matter of life and death. Also, great significance exists in the fact that the first two commandments of the Law warn of the ever-present danger of idolatry! In Matthew 22:37-38, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 when He says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Such an endeavor is the ideal of true discipleship founded upon a real relationship with Christ, made possible by His Spirit. Yet how often do idols hijack our discipleship to Jesus and bend it toward their own counterfeit assurances? Of course, counterfeits only work because there is an original to imitate. The devil knows this firsthand and will relentlessly exploit every one of our weaknesses to no end. Our sin-ridden hearts will seek after worthless worship and pretenses of godliness in order to “feel good” while forsaking the more “inconvenient” disciplines of discipleship that actually “test” the heart. Paul invites us to contemplate things that are true, holy, and genuinely virtuous, being anxious for nothing and letting our desires be made known to God through prayer and thanksgiving.4 Idolatry, however, can take root and skew even godly desires into demands and fancied needs and expectations, which if not met will end in disappointment and contempt. And this progression leads to estrangement from God. The LORD addressed this issue when He spoke to Ezekiel about the idolatry of
“ ... innumerable Christians are living without Jesus Christ as their “first love”... Thik about it, do you spend more time on Facebook than you do on your face before God?” idolatry
Q & A: Idolatry
“What attracts your devotion, money, and time?... If anything is keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly, it is “another god.” Israel’s elders: Son of man, these men
have set up idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?5
Similar words were spoken to Isaiah:
Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.6 God would not hear the prayers
of those whose hands were bloodied from futile sacrifices to worthless gods, or of those whose proper sacrifices were done with a contemptuous heart. Too often our communion with God is hindered by pride, impure motives, human reason, and even unbelief.7 Remember that God did not create us to condemn us; He created us to share in His love. And because He chastises those whom He loves, there will be times that God tests us so that we can know whether we are loving Him with all of our heart and soul.8 How Can We Identify Idolatry in Our Lives? Knowing the danger, source, and divine perspective on idolatry is the first step toward identifying both the apparent and hidden idols in your life. The next step is understanding the hard truth that idolatry changes your identity.
What attracts your devotion, money, and time? Do the math and you will assuredly find some idols. Consider how reasonable any excesses are and how you react to specific discoveries. If anything is keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly, it is “another god.” Paul proclaimed, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth,” and Peter added, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”9 4
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Idols in a Christian’s life will diminish Christlikeness and establish roots of worldliness that begin to define one’s identity. The presence of idols also makes prayer difficult and inconvenient if we would rather not face our holy God while carrying the burden of willful disobedience (pride). Or perhaps we deceive ourselves (indifference) and interact with God as we would an imaginary friend, keeping our prayers light and manageable as we merrily avoid the cross, personal brokenness, and true worship. Let us examine a few infamous idols and how to spot them: James 1:22 is a familiar passage: Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only... Strangely, despite the clarity of
instruction, our natural tendency is to complicate the matter by not simply obeying it. We know better, of course. But we still fail. We study, and do not apply. We discern, and do not trust. We pray, but do not listen. We ask, and refuse to wait. Then we suddenly recognize our hypocrisy, make efforts to get back to simplicity, and fail all over again. This is evidence of the idols of laziness and presumption. James 1:5-6 informs us that if we lack wisdom all we must do is ask God, in faith, and He will grant it to us. Yet we taint our prayers with the slightest doubt that He would actually do this or we introduce the self-defeating aspect of “keeping our prayers negative” by complaining to God and concentrating always on the dissenting elements of life we may be lifting up to Him. I call this “consuming the oblation,” and it is a practice many Christians unknowingly adopt. By definition it is to be understood as “eating,” or overtly dwelling on, our petitions and “sacrifices” to God in prayer. When this happens, we sense more distance between ourselves and Christ due to growing doubt and disillusionment, which breeds a disinclination to pray that
precipitates serious discontent. Herein thrive the idols of antagonism and unbelief. How Can We Combat Idolatry? A final step toward identifying idols in your life (and beginning to combat them) is to repent of those you find and invite Jesus Christ to continuously show you any idolatrous blind spots. He ensures us by saying, “I, the LORD, search the heart. I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”10 The substance of our prayers must ever be the glory of Christ and our trust that He will provide our true needs, for only in Him will we find the power to overcome our flesh and the world. When prayers of hope become prayers of faith and our humility increases, our hearts soften and our petitions move from selfish to selfless. Truly, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds when our pleas to Him carry the psalmist’s urgency: Search
me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.11
6 Isaiah 1:15 7 Hebrews 11:6 8 Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 3:12; Deuteronomy 13:3 9 Colossians 3:1-2; 2 Peter 1:9 10 Jeremiah 17:10 11 Psalm 139:23-24
Jon Birch is cofounder of Recover Church, a discipleship-driven movement purposing to recover and promote the early church model as recorded in the book of Acts where Christ, close relationships, and discipleship-apologetics were the pillars of Christianity. He is also the author of Simplifying the Complex. For more information visit veritasunum.org.
To worship God in truth is to recognize Him for being who He is, and to recognize ourselves for what we are. Brother Lawrence
The purpose of this Christian society called the “Church” is, first: to glorify God by our worship. We do not go to church just to hear a sermon. We go to church to worship God.
The unbelieving mind would not be convinced by any proof, and the worshipping heart needs none. A. W. Tozer
The English word “worship” is derived from the AngloSaxon “weorthscripe,” meaning to ascribe worth, to pay homage, to reverence or venerate. Interestingly, the Hebrew word most commonly translated “worship” in the Old Testament is “shachah” which literally means “to prostrate oneself, bow down, fall down flat, do reverence.” The most commonly used Greek word is “proskuneo” which means “to kiss the hand, to prostrate oneself.”
Certainly true worship invigorates, but to plan invigoration is not necessarily to order worship. As all that glitters is not gold, so all that makes us feel happy and strong is not worship. The question is not whether a particular liturgical form is used, but whether a God-centred as distinct from man-centred perspective is maintained-whether, in other words, the sense that man exists for God rather than God for man is cherished or lost.
David T Stone
James I. Packer
The Heart of Worship Prayer is the human response to the perpetual outpouring of love by which God lays siege to every soul. When our reply to God is most direct of all, it is called adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honour, magnify, and bless God. We ask nothing but to cherish him. We seek nothing but his exaltation. We focus on nothing but his goodness.
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. William Temple
Richard J. Foster We must not worship without study, for ignorant worship is of limited value and can be very dangerous. We may develop “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) and do great harm to ourselves and others. But worship must be added to study to complete the renewal of our mind through a willing absorption in the radiant person who is worthy of all praise. Study without worship is also dangerous, and the people of Jesus constantly suffer from its effects, especially in academic settings. To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them. Dallas Willard idolatry
identity: Flesh vs. Spirit
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
hen Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered Him, “Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You!” And all the disciples said the same.1 Self-confidence is self-deception. One who considers himself spiritually strong will prove to be a walking contradiction. He will find himself in an environment of unrighteousness and will do nothing to correct it. In situations far less threatening than martyrdom he will deny Jesus or be ashamed of Him. Peter imagined he could manufacture the same courage Jesus would face the cross with, but like the other disciples he would run away in fear.
Matthew 26:31-35 John 11:25 Luke 22:31-33 Matthew 26:69-75 Proverbs 3:5-8 Matthew 26:36-44 1 Peter 5:6-11 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live…”2
Steve Swain is co-founder of Recover Church. He lives in Delaware with his amazing wife and three adorable children.
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Paralyzed by fear, the disciples forgot the words of their Teacher. Their cowardice amplified the greatness of Jesus and His reliance on the Father. Peter’s zealous defense of himself causes him to miss Jesus’ resurrection proclamation, all the while exalting himself above his brothers. “Simon, Simon! Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”3
Satan’s violent testing was coming, but Peter arrogantly assumed he was equipped in his own understanding and power to engage Satan. He failed to meet the test.
After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the Man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.4
We can learn from Peter’s pompous perspective that we are only heroes in our imagination. We are showcasing our lack of knowledge of the Gospel when we claim to be self-sufficient. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding... Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.5 God is our strength, not our good intentions. This example was given to Peter at Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”6
Peter’s denial came later that night. But Jesus’ love would later restore him,
identity: Unteachable Spirit
dence is Deception
Characteristics of an Unteachable spirit:
by Steve Swain
Are you spiritually shallow with no desire to increase spiritual depth? (Jeremiah 33:3) allowing Peter to finally understand where his confidence should rest. The proof is in Peter’s own words: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. “Be sober-minded; be watchful! Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”7 And because Jesus says: ”My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”8 We can say: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”8
Are you too busy to make time for meaningful worship and communion with Jesus Christ? (Exodus 20:3) Is there little or no eagerness for intimacy with God? (Hebrews 9:27-28) Is there an eagerness for God but no action taken to strengthen your prayer life and Bible reading? (Matt. 13:18-23) Do you procrastinate or fail to do what you know you must do if you truly love Jesus? (John 14:15) Do you disregard what you are taught because you feel you know enough? (Proverbs 3:5-7) Do you fail to practice what you are taught (or even preach) because you are spiritually lazy? (James 1:22-25) Do you dread the discipline required as a disciple to study the Bible to show yourself approved unto God? (2 Tim. 2:15) Do you fear or disregard the discipline required as a disciple to engage in spiritual warfare? (Ephesians 6:10-20) Do you avoid wrestling with God in your prayers and Bible study because you would rather be “comfortable”? (Mat. 16:24; 2 Peter 3:16-18)
dolatry is not a popular topic among Christians. It’s one of those subjects that has the power to convict like none other. Life would be so much easier if we didn’t think about it. We have accepted Christ into our hearts and we have eternal life locked down, what else is there? Well, more than we could ever imagine. Idolatry isn’t limited to a golden calf, a forbidden fruit or a pagan god.
In the Dust of the Rabbi by Aaron Stephens
Adam and Eve knew all too well about idolatry and the immediate consequences it has. They could tangibly see the difference in an instant. Immediately they went from being perfectly whole to broken-hearted. I think today we downplay the consequences and effects of idolatry when in fact it is of no less consequence than in the Garden of Eden. Is the first sin more sinful than the second, third or fourth? Or is God more tolerant of sin and idolatry because there is so much more of it now? I think not. Idolatry is idolatry. Sin is sin. The first sin was no more sinful than the sin that just happened or will happen.
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If you think about Adam and Eve’s initial sin at its most basic level, it was their desire to make a decision apart from God. Now think about how many decisions you make each and every day with no thought or regard of asking God. You don’t have to look far as our brokenness is on display each day with no idea or regard for the consequences of our idolatry. We have become so blind we don’t even recognize idols in our lives or, even more tragic, the desire to even want to see them. The basic definition of worship is “to show reverence or adoration” or simply “place value in.” If you want to know what people worship just look at their decisions. The decisions we make are always based upon what we value and what we value is what we worship. If we worship anything or anyone other than God, it is an idol. Idols are everywhere. The question is not if you have idols, but have you recognized them? While it is impossible to be free of idols in this world, we have some serious house cleaning to do. Earlier this year I was thinking about all of the idols in my life and the Lord blind-sided me. He revealed to me that even our knowledge of Him can become an idol. I know this sounds crazy but let me explain. To make the decision to ask Him into your heart and know Him is the most important decision anyone can make. There isn’t a decision that will be more life changing. However, we are called to more than just knowing Him. We are called to know Jesus and walk with Him. Knowing Him doesn’t always translate into walking with Him and there is a big difference between the two. For example, I “know” a lot of people, but “walk” with very few. I see people at church, co-workers or friends during a typical week, but I have no clue what’s really going on in their lives. Knowing someone is simply recognition or
counting them present. However, walking with someone is to come alongside their journey and hold their hand through the good, the bad and the ugly. The best analogy I could think of in regards to walking with a person occurred in the ancient world. A disciple who accepted the call to follow a rabbi entered into the master’s life and they shared each and every experience together. A disciple would follow his rabbi everywhere. One of these rabbis, Yose ben Yoezer, used to say, “Cover yourself with the dust of [your rabbi’s] feet, and drink in [his] words with gusto.” This idea of being covered in the dust of your rabbi was commonplace in first-century Palestine. By the end of the day, the disciples would literally be covered in dust and dirt. If these disciples had settled on simply knowing the Rabbi they may learn a lesson here and there but they would live their life apart from him and as time passed those lessons would be forgotten. But by walking with him they had the opportunity to live in communion with him and to see the Scriptures come to life and thus be transformed forever. You see the difference? Think about your relationship with God. When we choose not to walk with God because we know Him, the value of knowing Him is chosen over application. This was the Pharisees’ problem. They knew all about Jesus from the Scriptures but didn’t recognize Him as the savior because they valued their knowledge of Him over walking with Him. You cannot expect to truly know Jesus unless you walk with Him. Walking requires movement and going where He goes, just like the Israelites following the cloud in the Old Testament. Walking with someone means taking risks and going places you might not want to go. Stopping at knowledge allows you to avoid all the inconveniences and keeps you at a safe distance. Many know God but few walk with Him. They don’t want to get dirty, they want to go in the direction and stay in the places they want. Some might think or say that the comforts and conveniences of this world are just too hard to pass up. It is easy to become a flabby lazy Christian resting on one’s laurels of being heaven bound.
Clearly there are seasons in our lives where comfort is a reality, but what if our desire to be comfortable is something we choose over God? Comfort in itself isn’t necessarily bad until it is chosen in place of God. In my own experience, when I’m uncomfortable I feel like the Lord is unhappy with me so my natural reaction is to chase after comfort. In doing so I am affirming God’s love for me through comfort. Does comfort equate to blessing from the Lord? This is a dangerous ideology. We cannot judge others’ reality through the lens of comfort and riches and immediately relate it to the blessings of God. What if the perceived blessings of God are what is keeping us from breakthrough in our relationship with Christ? Is the Christian life about receiving so much from God that we don’t even need Him anymore? What we value is what we worship and what we worship is what we become. Anytime we choose someone or something over God it becomes an idol. What if God is calling you to walk with Him but you are resting on solely knowing Him? Don’t let knowing Him become an idol. He wants to walk with you. Knowing Him gives you the ticket to heaven, but walking with Him cashes it in and brings heaven to earth. May you get dirty from the dust of the Lord with your heart ablaze and your eyes fixed on Him.
Aaron Stephens is a passionate follower of Christ whose mission is the restoration of others through the freeing of the heart and renewing of the mind. He is a student lifegroup leader at Vista Community Church in Dublin, Ohio. He is also the missions trip leader for the ministries in Cambodia purposing to free and restore those trapped in human trafficking. He has written a book titled Pieces of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness which will be available in 2014. To learn more please visit www. aaronrstephens. com or you can reach him at aaron@ aaronrstephens.com.
â€œAll possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not efface a single sin. Instead, we ought, without anxiety, to expect the pardon of our sins from the blood of Jesus Christ only endeavoring to love Him with all of our hearts.â€? - Nicolas Herman
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by Wendy Bernstein Griffin
when I was a little girl, I read countless stories that ended with the words, “and they lived happily ever after.” I imagined that I, too, would be married someday although the fairy tale I dreamed about was far from the reality I experienced. During my early twenties I had an encounter that prompted me to pen the following words in my journal: “What an incredibly awesome day today was, especially considering how upset I was last night. No man has ever made me feel more loved or has been so concerned about my well being. The fresh flowers He gave me were absolutely gorgeous. The jewelry was beautiful, too. And serenading me in front of all those people...? Today was definitely a day I will never forget! My prayers have been answered, and I now know with whom I want to spend the rest of my life.” Believe it or not, this journal entry doesn’t refer to a boyfriend I was dating
or even a guy who captured my interest. Instead, this entry describes what I refer to as “The Day God Sent Me Flowers.” It was through this inspiring event that God spoke to my heart, reassuring me that regardless of my dating or marital status, He would always be my “Main Man” -my soul provider. Little did I realize that it would be more than fifteen years later before I would get married. But nevertheless, God was true to His word in being my First Love, and even though I’ve been married for almost seven years, He remains the number one Man in my life. I was thirty-seven years old before I got married, and incidentally, my husband Nathan was thirty-nine. It was a first marriage for each of us. Our wedding day was nothing less than perfect. In fact, as a little girl I used to visit my cousin Lisa who lived in Salisbury, Maryland. One Sunday I attended Asbury United Methodist Church with her, and I remember being awestruck by the church’s beauty. I thought to myself,
“When I grow up, I want to get married in this church.” Sure enough, I did. The pews were decorated with big white and periwinkle ribbons, trimmed in iridescent gold, and the centers of the bows contained shells that we found on the beach on our first date nine months earlier. We were surrounded by family and friends as we pledged our love to one another during a Christian wedding ceremony. Our reception was held at Green Hill Yacht & Country Club, and our mutual love for the beach was reflected in many facets including the decorations and favors, as well as our wedding cake. When it was time to leave the reception, we boarded our boat and cruised up the Wicomico River. About ten minutes into our ride, my husband stopped the boat and turned off the motor. Then he put his arms around me and bowed his head and prayed. He thanked God for bringing us together and asked the Lord to bless our marriage and use our lives to be a blessing to others. After praying, we enjoyed what was left of a beautiful sunset and then headed back to the boat ramp. Once we loaded the boat onto the trailer, we started to pull out of the parking lot onto a dark Riverside Drive. As we were making a left, I noticed a bright light was coming from my right. When I looked up, I saw the Mercantile Bank marquis. Its message read, “Dreams do come true. Ask about home equity loans.” What a hug from God! The Lord had blessed us with our hearts’ desires and we were now embarking on our journey as a married couple.
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Little did we realize how tumultuous that journey would become in such a short period of time! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Godly husband, a husband who was definitely worth the wait. Granted, we don’t always see eye-to-eye (and not just because he’s 6.4 and I’m 5.1). But beyond the challenges typically associated with newly married couples, my husband Nathan and I found ourselves facing some larger-thanlife circumstances. It wasn’t too long after our honeymoon that I was hospitalized with a life threatening condition. Nathan could hardly believe that shortly after helping to plan our wedding that there was a strong possibility he would be planning my funeral. Praise God, I was miraculously healed from the blood clots that filled my body. There was absolutely no explanation to the positive change in my condition other than answered prayer. In fact, I ended up at John’s Hopkins Hospital four months after
stolen from us. Nathan and I were also in separate car accidents where our respective vehicles were deemed totaled. I wish I could say that these were the only examples of spiritual warfare we experienced; however, that’s simply not the case. What is true is that in the midst of our trials, we learned to experience God’s perfect peace as we trusted Him for His provision. Though our journey has been treacherous, God’s grace has been sufficient and His strength empowering. He’s enabled us to conquer emotional baggage and financial hurdles, as well as overcome communication barriers. Most importantly, He gave us a new hope when there seemed to be none. God’s love not only sustained us during our season of testing, it helped us transition from a state of surviving to thriving. In the process, God has strengthened us as individuals and as a married couple. He’s shown us what matters most and helped us realize to what
I was initially diagnosed with the extensive clots. My hematologist said that in all of his years of practice, he had never seen anything like it, referring to my blood clots being completely gone, especially without any kind of medical intervention. Unfortunately, my near death encounter was only one of many challenges that we’ve faced in seven years. Since we’ve been married, we’ve spent endless hours in the emergency room, at Lab Corp, and physical therapy. In addition, my mother was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, and Nathan and I have both undergone unexpected surgeries and medical procedures. Our home was burglarized, and more than $11,000 worth of property was
degree He is in the details of our lives. Consequently, both our gratitude and faith have grown exponentially and so has our love for each other. And the sweet intimacy that we experienced with the Lord amidst our temporary storms? It’s indescribable and unlike anything you could imagine, unless you experienced it firsthand! Over the last seven years we’ve been reminded on countless occasions that life isn’t about us, but it is about what God wants to do in and through us to fulfill His will in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Not surprisingly, the greatest joys we’ve experienced have come from serving one another and serving others, together. As for our battles, both the short term and the
long term have taught us that God can use the good, the bad, and the broken to create something beautiful as He draws us closer to Himself and to each other... if we allow Him to do so. In essence we’ve learned that marriage, like life, can be compared to chocolate chip cookies. It takes several ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies, including baking soda. By itself, baking soda is very bitter, and yet it’s a vital ingredient in making chocolate chip cookies. Both life & marriage need balance, and bitter experiences are inevitable. What matters most is how we react to those bitter experiences and whether we will solely focus on the bitterness in our lives or trust God to provide the other ingredients in order to create something sweet. God is not only the Ultimate Baker, He’s the Ultimate Lover, the One who can love you like no other, can complete you like no other, and can meet all of your needs like no other. Regardless of what you need, just tell Him; be honest with Him. He’s the God of the Universe, and He’ll stop at nothing to demonstrate the depth of His love for you. In fact, John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). At the mere thought of being separated from you throughout eternity, Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed His life for you. Now He is a God worth worshipping… a God who meets you where you are, accepts you as you are, offers you a personal relationship with Him, an unconditional love, an abundant joy, a perfect peace, a future and a hope and an eternal home with Him and… He promises to be faithful till... The End!
Artwork painted by STACIE DESAUTELS of Daisy DeZigns Art Studio in Salisbury, MD. She specializes in both inspirational and Christian art and book illustrations. www.daisydezignartstudio.com
A Marriage Made of Three By Wendy Bernstein Griffin © 1996
God brought you both together to fulfill His plan above, as He greatly blesses marriage through His covenant of love.
And now the time has come when you will meld your lives together; your friends and families gather as you pledge your love forever.
He’s kept His eyes upon you since the time you came to Earth. His protection and His guidance have sustained your lives since birth.
What happiness and blessings you’ll experience through the years as you dream with one another and wipe each other’s tears.
He’s given you so many things: your families, health and friends, your cars, your jobs and so much more; His love, it never ends.
Undoubtedly, the rough times will also be there, too, but trusting God together will always see you through.
And so, many years ago when you were just a girl and boy, sitting in your sandbox, and playing with a toy,
May today be just the start of a love that’s full and free that God has joined together in a “marriage made of three”.
God watched you very closely for He knew there’d come a day when He’d direct your separate paths and you’d meet in God’s own way.
Nathan & Wendy Griffin serve at Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland. They actively participate in the children’s ministry and as leaders of a Singles’ Small Group. They also enjoy meeting people and sharing their faith with others. They’ve learned firsthand that when life seems hopeless, it’s important to keep the faith, because God is working! Wendy is currently writing a book entitled Are You Looking For Hope? which is scheduled to be released in 2014. For more information about the book or to contact Wendy and Nathan, you can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
relationships: Single Life
from Neediness to Freedom by Paula Hendricks
t was a desperate prayer I prayed that fall—that God would free me from my idols and teach me to trust Him with my love life. The reason I breathed this bold prayer was I wanted off my merry-go-round ride that never stopped its perpetual spinning. It went something like this: 1. Spot a cute guy (we’ll call him Guy A). 2. Dream about Guy A.
3. Do whatever it takes to make Guy A notice me. 4. Even though Guy A doesn’t pursue me, hang on to my dream of Guy A until he (a) moves to the North Pole with no access to a cell phone or computer, (b) dies and is buried or cremated, or (c) begins dating another woman. 5. Mend my broken heart by hating Guy A and finding another cute guy (Guy B). 6. Replace Guy A with Guy B. 7. Dream about Guy B. 8. Make sure Guy B notices me. 9. Hang on to my dream of Guy B until he... 10. Move on to another cute guy—Guy C. I went through an entire alphabet— and more—of guys over the years. At first my interests seemed cute and innocent, but before long I realized just how bitterly true Psalm 16:4 is: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.” As I became more and more miserable, I tried everything I knew to fix myself: busying myself, ignoring guys, hating guys, refusing to hope (it’s safer that way), lying to myself . . . even to wishing I could become a nun. But all my attempts were like slapping a flimsy Band-Aid on a deep, gaping wound. I had no power to change. Exchanging Identities That is, until I began studying Romans 5–8. For the first time, I understood Jesus didn’t die to forgive me
of my sin and leave me in it. He died to forgive and to free me from the power of sin! Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be jealous of that beautiful woman. I didn’t have to covet every guy I saw. I didn’t have to hate that guy for not liking me. In Christ I was no longer that helpless, hopeless, needy woman. I had a new identity now: I was dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus. This was the beginning of my whole new life. Notice I said “the beginning.” God still had a lot of cleanup work to do in me. You remember that desperate prayer I prayed that God would free me from my idols? Crushing Idols Well I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t a punch to my gut that left me reeling with shock and my whole world spinning out of control. Had I known how God would answer my prayer, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to pray it. While the light fixtures swung, the walls did the tango, and the evidence mocked, “Your God has purposefully been cruel to you,” deep down I knew the truth. This blow was, in the words of Sheldon Vanauken, a severe mercy. Yes, it hurt—hurt so bad my tears didn’t dry up for months—but I also knew God was answering my prayer in a way that would ultimately bring healing and freedom. A couple years later after I’d learned my lessons (or so I thought), my story took
“ That’s how you get rid of an idol—by investing your time in relishing something (or Someone!) better.” 14
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another surprising turn. It had looked like it was shaping up to go something like this:
Turns out crushing idols and turning to God isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience but a moment-by-moment journey. That’s why, nearly every morning, I pray Psalm 90:14:
Now though, once again, things hadn’t turned out like I thought they would—and my story is quite different (and more realistic, I think). Trust God with
Satisfy [me] in the morning with your unfailing love, that [I] may rejoice and be glad all [my] days.
Trust God with your love life, and when you do, watch Him deliver the gift you’ve always wanted—wrapped up beautifully with a nice, neat bow.
your love life, and buckle up for the ride!
While I never would’ve said this, in reality I was treating God like a math equation: this plus this plus this equals that. In my case, it was: trust God + wait on God + pray about everything + be led by Scripture = getting the guy and the love I’ve always wanted. But I never was any good at math. And God is not a formula. God is a Person—one who’s more interested in securing my forever happiness than my temporary happiness. Hard to believe, but as my creator, He knows better than I do what will truly make me happy. And, ultimately, the ache I’m looking to fill will never be satisfied by anyone or anything other than Him. Pursuing Christ It took me just over a week after the end of yet another relationship to realize that in the future I’d probably still be tempted to look to guys to satisfy me. I wrote in my journal, God, I thought because You taught me so much I would never be tempted in similar ways. I was wrong. If I’m not constantly being satisfied with Your love, my heart will be drawn right back to my idols.
I’m not the only one. Over and over in the Old Testament, God’s people crushed their idols only to remake and go right back to them.
Being satisfied with God’s far better love is the only way guys won’t consume my life and yours. And that’s exactly what Thomas Chalmers and a diet taught me. Thomas Chalmers was a pastor in nineteenth-century Scotland, and his sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” captured my heart immediately. The gist of it is you can’t talk yourself out of loving someone or something. Your emotions simply won’t cooperate. But you can find someone or something even more lovely to delight in. I experienced this principle firsthand the month my doctor put me on a strict diet without sugar, bread, and lots of other yummy foods. It sounded like torture, pure and simple. I honestly didn’t know how I’d survive. I was certain I’d spend the month dreaming about and drooling over iced sugar cookies, Nerds, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. But an astonishing thing happened. I didn’t even miss my beloved sugar. You know why? Instead of snacking on raw broccoli all month (yuck!), I went to the health-food store, researched interesting recipes, and spent hours in the kitchen preparing unique dishes. Was it a lot of work? You’d better believe it. But was it even tastier than processed, refined sugar? Absolutely. That’s how you get rid of an idol—by investing your time in relishing something (or Someone!) better. It’s what Psalm 34:8 tells us to do:
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man [and woman] who takes refuge in him! As you pursue Christ with everything in you—as you put extra effort into tasting and seeing His goodness—you’ll find that your idols just don’t appeal to you like they once did. Adapted from Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom.
PaulA HENDRICKS graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in 2005 with a degree in Print Communication. Two weeks later, she began working at Revive Our Hearts, where she currently serves as Writing and Editorial Manager. Her first book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, released September 2013. When she’s not blogging, you’ll find her hanging out with people indulging her insatiable curiosity by asking lots of questions. Find out more about Paula on the web: paulawrites. com or Twitter:@ PaulaWrites678.
The Heart of a L dolatry and church tradition. Don’t blame me. I wasn’t the first to explore this combination of terms, and I suspect I will not be the last. I’m not a complex person; actually, I’m rather simple, held there in simplicity by my Lord’s admonition to become as a little child and be teachable. Therefore, as I ponder I can be a “learner,” or disciple, of Christ amidst the uncontrollable human desire to know it all. Certainly, I am reminded daily that I know very little, but of what I do know I have never been more sure. Given the nature of my thought patterns, do not expect the following to be an exposé on the evils of steeples, stained glass windows, pipe organs and other physical accoutrements or stylistic external processes such as liturgy, doctrine, or a historical church philosophy applied to theology. Rather, I have chosen to focus on the internal aspect of church tradition: Who has your heart, you or God? I recall a statement made many years ago that God was more concerned with our reaction to a circumstance than what caused the reaction. We can become so absorbed in the peripheral elements of faith: what we are used to, what we are comfortable with, what we want to hear, what makes us feel warm and fuzzy. And since our faith is the most personal and intimate part of our being, we want to protect it! We cry out: Please, please, please, don’t dare rock the boatdon’t change anything!
“ The God of change never changes.” A good friend of mine shared with me something his father used to say: “The God of change never changes.” In fact, the one extraordinary constant in this universe is a God of change. If we have a relationship with Him, will we not be challenged with change? Consider Job in
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the Old Testament; his life seemed decent, but then it changed immensely. The New Covenant brought further relational change. God created His Church body, a place where He lives and dwells and has His being. He could have built His body out of anything, but He chose us. Think about the ramifications of desiring to unite us together as a beautiful functioning body for His glory. He does not dwell in temples made of human hands or in human philosophy and intellectualism, but in the simplicity of love as His Spirit is manifest in believers. Yet how often do we seek our glory before His? The book of Romans warns us about the dangers associated with worshipping created elements of our existence more than the Creator. In light of this, remember that He is a jealous God. He wants you; your heart, your love, your obedience, your relationship. He wants us to constantly abide in the true Vine, Jesus Christ, who is the source of all sustenance. But too often we do not heed the warning in the book of Hebrews, of putting aside every weight and sin that so easily besets us and our relationship with Him. Proverbs 16:20 plainly says that there is a way that seems right unto man but the end is the way to death. Throughout the Scriptures, there are examples of God disciplining, chastising, rebuking, and correcting those whom He loves. Therefore when He chastises us, let our prayer be: Lord, rock my boat. If that’s what it takes. Wake me up as a spiritual man that judges all things through your Spirit so that my attitude, my vision, and my heart is pure and not distracted by the ways of man, but ordered by Your ways.
You see, this whole thing is not my idea, it’s God’s. Would I have designed it this way? No, because I could not have devised a perfect plan. However, I must
iving Sacrifice pursue this perfect plan through faith or He will not be pleased. Additionally, I have come to realize that to present my body as a living sacrifice is what is reasonable, considering what Christ has done for me through the Cross. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 the Scripture gives us a window into the early church: “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” How many of us would have been comfortable in that environment, likely meeting in a small room of someone’s house or outside under a tree with nothing other than our love for God and our desire to know Him? There would be no “hired holy man” to do our bidding, just you and other brothers and sisters in Christ functioning as a body in simplicity, honesty, and holiness for the good of all. Protecting the trappings of what I am used to or what I feel safe with to the point of excluding the newness of God’s work in my life is, for me, much like gaining the whole world but losing my own soul. What are you going to give in exchange for your soul?
D.M. Allen and his wife Anne wholeheartedly love Jesus and affectionately share His love with friend and stranger alike.
Faith, Food and F ohn Michael Walls and Katie Nelson are cofounders of Faith, Food, and Fitness, a ministry that promotes a Biblical approach to overcoming eating disorders and distorted body image. Sadly, the various manifestations of eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that impact millions of people every year in the Unites States alone. Faith, Food, and Fitness highlights each individual’s innate beauty, since each person is made in the image of the Creator and, therefore, has a purpose. John Michael and Katie truly have a heart to reach and extend the hope found in Jesus Christ to the lost, broken, and confused. Suffering through years of distorted body image and now finding themselves redeemed, both John Michael and Katie Nelson are now sharing their inspiring story of redemption. Signet Ring caught up with this healthconscious dynamic duo to hear their story firsthand and assist them in reaching others with Jesus’ message of love and restoration. John Michael believed on the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the Cross at the early age of five years old. He recalls his first struggle with food when he ate a whole bag of cookies from the kitchen. At the age of twelve, John Michael became very selfconscious to the point of obsessing about food calories and working off any ounce of fat by exercise. It was at college when the anorexia took its toll on his body- effects such as heart palpitations and loss of muscle mass sent him to the hospital. At this point of brokenness, John Michael called out to Jesus to give him clarity, asking questions that were deep in his soul: What do You want me to eat Jesus? What is the purpose of food? What is my purpose? Jesus answered with Scripture verses such as:
*Psalm 37:5- Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. *Proverbs 16:3- Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. *1 Timothy 4:8- For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. *1 Corinthians 6:19-20- Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from
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God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. *Romans 14:22-23- So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Katie was raised in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until Bible Camp at the age of fourteen when the pieces of what she learned about Jesus became whole in her heart and He became her personal Savior. Katie loved food, especially sweets. She remembers baking donuts, brownies, and breads at home and enjoying eating as much as she could! As with most teenagers, self-image became prominent in her mind and she began to be more conscious about her eating habits. Innocently, counting calories seemed like a healthy way to control her diet. However, what started as a 2,000 calorie per day diet went down to 1,500 then to 1,000 and downward until she was only 92 pounds at 5’4”. Katie’s family intervened and demanded that she eat more. So she did, but she ate indignantly. It was initially irritating that her family was trying to control her eating habits, but then she started to seriously enjoy the taste of food
Fitness and a past-time once lost came back with ferocity in binging. A cycle started- first binge eating, then running off the calories, then stuffing herself again. This became the norm in her everyday life. What seemed like a healthy activity -exercising- turned into an obsession. And it became a prison. From your experience, what do you think is the root of eating disorders? According to John Michael, the root of eating disorders is feeling unloved. Individuals crave love so they try to become what society admires- appealing shape, healthy, and good looking. Covetousness of others, pride in oneself, and overall self-discontentment are all branches that spring from the heart and contribute to a distorted body image, resulting in feelings of emptiness and longing. What other forms of eating disorders are prevalent? Many in the population might conclude that eating disorders only include anorexia or bulimia, but it also involves over-eating. Over-eating is a more difficult problem to pin-point since it is more accepted in our culture. Celebrations, family gatherings, and church pot-lucks aren’t complete without a plethora of food! John Michael remarks that in being commissioned to be good stewards (Luke 12:42; 1 Cor. 4:2) we are to take care of our bodies by what we eat. We should not abuse our bodies and defame the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19). Since food was created
for nourishment, we are to listen to our bodies and not gorge our bellies with food. What are some examples/ evidences that you have seen of someone who might be suffering from an eating disorder or body image issue? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Counting calories Weighing on the scale Discontentment with body image Excessively looking in the mirror, and even pinching parts of the body Constantly comparing one’s body with another person Feeling a loss of control when eating / binging on food Labeling food: “If I eat X, then I will have to do Y at the gym.” Worrying about weight Eating in fear
From your experience, what is the best way to overcome a distorted body image or eating disorder? 1. Realize there’s a problem 2. Surrender the sin
“ We should not abuse our bodies and defame the temple of God.”
3. Recognize the signs of your bodyWhat do you want to eat, etc. 4. Realizing that recovering is a process Stories like John Michael and Katie’s illustrate that food can indeed be an idol. It’s temple will surely beckon us with enticing, mouth-watering, savory treats! And what makes this idol so easily disregarded is its indispensability and pervasiveness. Though our bodies need food for nourishment and survival, this necessity often transforms into a means for indulgence in pleasure and comfort to the point of obsession, making it an idol. “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As He has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people’” (2 Cor. 6:16).
Contact: John Michael 302 538 8126 Katie Nelson 302-841-9772 Whether you need one-on-one consulting, family or group consulting, or would like for us to speak at a public speaking engagement, give us a call today. We are here for you and your loved ones.
The Fight Against
Idolatry on Campus by Katie Hitch
id you know there are 1,400 hours in a school year, however, there are only 156 hours spent in church when attending every Sunday? Studies have proven that over sixty percent of students lose their religious affiliation during their college years.1 As a college student, I have seen other students lose their faith. Being a young Christian is challenging, but when college is factored in there are many more daily struggles. For example, the campus atmosphere makes it difficult to stay focused on God because of the numerous new idols that appear. Many students put most of their time and effort into education, sports, partying, fitting in, relationships, and social media. All of these are idols when they diverge necessary time from reading the Bible and praying for direction and guidance. I have personally witnessed these idols enter into the lives of students as I see my non-Christian friends struggle
1 Ken Ham & Greg Hall, Already Compromised, (Master Books, 2011), with Britt Beemer of Americaâ€™s Research Group
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through situations that idolatry brings. I have seen academics become an idol to students, parents, and even teachers as great importance is placed on grades toward securing a later occupation. The culture idolizes education and drills that approach to it into the minds of students as early as pre-kindergarten! Then when these students enter college and university, pressure is placed on them to obtain degrees which act as tickets for the American dream- the security of having the pleasure to do anything and have everything they want. Just as Exodus 32 shows the Israelites pressuring Aaron to create a god for them to worship, so has our society expressly emphasized good grades for the hope of achievement and career to save us. Aaron gave in to their calls and created a golden calf to satisfy the Israelites while Moses was away atop Mount Sinai. In comparison, many college students give in to the demands of society and culture
and then create idols to be socially and culturally accepted. Clearly, our culture has put such pressure on worshiping the idols of academics, success, and money rather than stressing the importance of pursuing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe education is important but not as important as God, not as important as reading my Bible to guide me, not as important as praying and putting on my armor to stand up against the temptations of this world. As Christians we are to be a peculiar people, and we are supposed to stand out from the rest of the culture and let our light shine (Matt. 5:16). Moses stood against the worship of the golden calf and abhorred idolatry. Being that one person who stands for the Lord in a group is tough, but not impossible. It is a challenge to keep my eyes on Jesus and away from idols while attending college, but He continues to encourage me that I am here for a purpose and will surely make a difference in someoneâ€™s life.
Kaitlyn Hitch is a student and pitcher at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Standing on faith of a mustard seed and not wanting college debt, she prayed and fasted for Godâ€™s will and received a full ride to U.M.E.S between academics and softball. Kaitlyn is thankful for praying parents but most of all, she is thankful that Jesus gave His life for her. Hebrews 11:1
dolatry is mentioned so often in the Word of God. The Bible clearly speaks of it throughout the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, yet it is easy to toss the idea aside because we don’t see the “high places” as described in ancient times in our neighborhoods or people bowing down to pagan statues on our way to work. From the beginning of time, Satan has been trying to lure the hearts of God’s people away from the One True God. We know the accounts in the Old Testament of Adam and Eve being deceived and of Israel continually angering the Lord their God by embracing pagan gods. We are aware that the very first New Testament church continued to struggle with idolatry, but we may not be aware that idolatry continues to plague the lives of Christians today. What do we allow into our lives? Into our minds and hearts? Into our living rooms? An example of modern day idolatry growing rampantly is the worship of celebrities. A few years ago I caught a glimpse of Lady Gaga performing on Good Morning America. I watched this woman’s
creative talent being used for evil. I watched thousands of people sing along. Some in the audience were even dressed with satanic horns on their heads in t-shirts which read “monster” and “holy fool.” I cringed when I heard the TV host say, “Lady Gaga has 10 million little monsters that follow her.” Lady Gaga had a set resembling a pagan temple. Dancers were in provocative black leather costumes doing an Egyptian style dance, singing these lyrics as a mesmerizing chant: “Rah-: rara-ra-ah-ah Roma-roma-mamaa! Ga-gaooh-la-la! Want your bad romance” (Ra is the pagan sun god of the Egyptians). In the video for the song referenced above, Lady Gaga is actually being sold as a sex slave forever locked in a “bad romance.” This is meaningful to me since I am also a performer who plays a woman, Gomer, who is sold in a slave auction as told in the book of Hosea in the Bible. The difference in these stories is that Lady Gaga portrays herself being sold into slavery, bought by an evil presence, never to be free from darkness and abuse, while Gomer is bought by a loving Godly husband named
Hosea who redeems her from a life from sin’s evil grasp. Gomer is truly free, and deeply loved. The Divine Romance and true freedom are only found through the Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically, Lady Gaga, in the midst of her horrible satanic song, screams into the microphone, “I’m a free %*&!.” Sadly, we who are believers know she is not free at all. She is a slave to sin, a slave to attention, a slave to the industry, a slave to outward appearance, a slave to money, a slave to the mask she must wear, and a slave to the next big thing she must do to stay in the public eye, just to name a few. The more we watch this stuff the more it becomes “normal” and one day you find that you are immune to the crudeness and blatant idolatry. We must stop and realize that idolatry is the same today as it was in the time of Moses. All the way back to the twentieth chapter of Exodus, God gives Moses the first of ten commandments, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God wanted His people to love Him with all of their heart, mind, and soul, and to put Him first in their lives.
Entertaining Idols by Geri Campbell
Geri Campbell is the founder of In-Step Ministries. She travels the country with an original drama called “The Story of Gomer” and ministers in churches, prisons, and conferences sharing the message of God’s redeeming love. Go to http://www. in-stepministries/ for more info. idolatry
life: Rest of God
Arise, O Sleeper by Kyle Hubbard
â€œSo you could not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weakâ€? (Matt. 26:40-41 ESV).
eter, James, and John traded the honor and duty to be in the presence of Christ for a nap. The desire of their heart was no doubt to be with the Lord, but instead they chose the desire of their bodies to sleep. Much like these beloved disciples we too are spiritually asleep and entering into temptation. Though we know we are to wait and pray, we chase after worldly comforts. Whether it is careers, possessions, unhealthy relationships, or any other of the millions of distractions that can be found when we seek immediate and temporal satisfaction. It is little wonder in a high speed ondemand world that we are impatient, but when we settle for the temporary we miss out on the presence of God. Substituting things of eternal value for fleeting bliss is reckless and dangerous. 1 John 2:15-17 makes this explicitly clear: Do not love the world or the things in the
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world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
So many times I have found myself chasing after worthless things. I have willingly traded precious time with God for my own selfish desires, all the while proclaiming that life is too busy and that I wish I had more time to spend with the Lord. The truth is, I think, we at times purposefully
stay distracted. Being busy affords us the “luxury” to float through life rather than focus on our own weaknesses. Of course, the problem with this is that the further we drift from God the weaker we become. The idols we set up in our hearts demand our worship instead of God. They demand we sacrifice our time and resources to things that will ultimately leave us empty. Though we think happiness just around the corner, we soon find that the endless pursuit of personal pleasure always leads to pain. Yet Jesus has set the example for us. Scripture tells us that He often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). If the Son of God found it necessary to purposefully seek quiet time in prayer, how much more do we need to be seeking the very same? If we can dedicate hours to television programs, to Facebook, or something as trivial as Candy Crush Saga, then surely we can carve out some quiet time to be in the presence of our heavenly Father. It’s only at His feet that we find clarity, for here He begins to strip away our unprofitable desires and replace them with the desire for the eternal. Are you worn? Are you tired of chasing worthless things? If so, then Jesus invites you: “Come to Me, all who
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt.11:28-30).
Author Monica Furlong is quoted as saying, “Our problem is not that we take refuge from action in spiritual things, but we take refuge from spiritual things in action.” I urge you to evaluate how you are using your time. Has busyness and selfseeking become an idol? Is it possible that you are spiritually asleep? Listen now to the cry, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead. And Christ will shine on you!”
Kyle Hubbard is a follower of Jesus Christ, who has a heart for the hurting and is the father of a precious 4 year old little girl.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1-8 idolatry
ust how important is prayer for the children of God today? Paulâ€™s epistle to the Ephesians says it like this: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (6:18).
This is telling us to become Spirit-energized, Spirit-enabled, and to be Spirit-directed so that we would be totally dependent on God. Over the last few years of being a pastor, listening and seeing changes in Christians, they seem to think that the problems in their lives are bigger than God. Our busyness has filled our
Seeking in the Secret Place schedule and has removed our prayer closet. We have no extra time to give our Lord. We pray on the run, in the car, on the way here and there, but where is the intimacy that God wants from His children? Going to that secret place, spending time with the Lord, praising Him, seeking Him for direction in life; our Lord longs for us to take the time to talk to Him and rely on Him for all things. It seems we only get closer to the Lord when the trouble of this world brings us to that place where we have no other way to go. We often wonder why our children go in so many different directions as they grow up, but as parents what have we really taught them concerning how to have a relationship with God? Have they been raised in a house that prays? Have they been taught that prayer is the most important thing to do, not the least? Everything in this world seems to be more important than having that intimate relationship with the Father who knows what you need before you ask. How awesome is it that we can pray to such a God? I have been praying for revival to spread over this world. This takes serious prayer, on your knees and on your face. This also takes away a lot of playtime and puts into perspective that we are in dying need for the Christian faith to come together in prayer, united as a family of God. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states: If My people
who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Chuck Reynolds is the pastor of Joshua House Ministries in Gumboro, DE. He is married to Renee, his high school sweetheart of 43 years, with three amazing children, eight grandchildren, and one greatgrandchild. 24
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We all know we live in difficult times, but as I read in history I see that it was extremely difficult for every generation and that people had to rely on God for everything. Perhaps we need to evaluate ourselves as children of God and ask, Can I do better? I am sure we can all say yes to that question! And if Jesus tarries, perhaps 2014 could be the greatest year yet! I pray that in 2014 our closet door, that secret place with God, will open once again and we will get alone with our heavenly Father. I also pray that as Christian families we would become prayer warriors who are willing to persevere, needing God more each day. And as we spend that time communing with God and lifting our requests to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, donâ€™t forget to also listen to what He has to say. I pray that the Lord blesses you and in return you bless God with your relationship with Him.
The Good Life
By stacey L. hitch
Looking back on my life, I realized I had made a worldly idol factory in my heart. The “Good Life” worldviews had taken root in my life. “The pursuit of happiness,” “The American Dream,” this was what I thought I needed to achieve to be happy.
y husband and I created the idol of chasing the American dream. We knew God and at one time we had been going to church, but eventually we came up with many excuses not to go. Our idols had opened the door for the devil to come in. Pursuing the American dream had left us with a mound of financial problems. God was trying to get our attention but we were ignoring Him the whole time. Every morning DEBT stared us in the face. After years of negotiating and trying to keep up with payments, we had lost the home we fought so hard to keep. We were mad that God didn’t help us, but in reality God did help us, He had taken away our idols and left us depending on Him. The idolatry of the “Good Life” was our blind spot in life. We thought we were
Stacey L. Hitch is first and foremost a daughter of the King, a wife of 20 years, a mother of 2 great kids, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. She writes daily devotionals that come from her heart on www.RunTheRaceWithJesus. org, and she prays they always communicate a love for her Savior, a love for people, and a love to serve. Stacey attends Joshua House Ministries in Gumboro DE, and she anticipates seeing what God has for her next!
okay, not realizing that trying to achieve the American dream was the very thing that was pulling us away from God, little by little; a process so slow you don’t even realize it is happening to you! The blind spot was an attack on God’s exclusive right to our love, trust and obedience. Idolatry is dangerous because it always seems to involve the offering of good things as a substitute for Jesus, and those very things can harden your heart. In fact, the “good things” my husband and I were building all our happiness on turned to dust in our hands. We had built our foundation on idols that we were too blind to see at the time. In our drive for the “good life” of this world we had ignored the eternal life. There is hope, however, for those of us who detect idols in our hearts, and I thank God for stripping us of everything including our home because now the pursuit of happiness is the joy and love we have in Jesus, and the American dream
has been replaced with being servants for His Kingdom. Though idols capture the mind, we can pinpoint them in our daydreams. The tricky part is walking the line between embracing our dreams, passions, and goals, and becoming idolatrous. And it’s a fine line. None of us have any wiggle room for anything to supersede the place of God, God has to be a priority in every part of our lives. Even though losing our home was intense and we may not have a house to call our own, we are now living the “Great Life” with Jesus, and our marriage and family are stronger than ever! Although our address has changed, I am confident that “goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life: and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:6 KJV). Remember to keep a close eye on your idol factory and be sure to keep the plant closed down! idolatry
life: Book Recommendations
The Reading Disciple by Jon Scott Birch
Proverbs 25:2 states, â€œIt is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things outâ€? (ESV).
hroughout Scripture we see our awesome God revealing the "mysteries" He has ordained since before the world's creation.1 But there are countless mysteries still to be unveiled, awaiting discovery for anyone determined enough to search them out. However, the deep things of God that His Spirit reveals are realized and established upon foundational knowledge that is acquired through fuller comprehension of the Word of God in total.2 The following three books of the Bible will collectively form a solid core of historical, ethical and spiritual truth from which to advance as we study to show ourselves approved unto God, continuing to learn from the Holy Scriptures which enrich us with wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.3 Genesis Written by Moses, the book of Genesis, as its name implies, is about
beginnings. Of course, there is no better place to begin than "in the beginning." While the Gospel is the foundation for our faith, Genesis explains why the Gospel is in fact "good news," telling of God's powerful creation of the heavens and earth,
1 Romans 16:25-26 2 1 Corinthians 2:10 3 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-15
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humanity's fall into sin and death, and of God's wondrous plan of redemption through His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Many familiar personas and inspiring stories are found in Genesis, but there are many more surprises for the reader who revisits the book with fresh eyes! For example, Genesis discloses the foundations of history/origins, prophecy, religion, civilization, literature, art, music, language, science, metallurgy, relationships, modesty, marriage, family, and most importantly, our identity. Genesis even reveals the answer to the classic questions: Who was Cain's wife? and Did Adam and Eve have any daughters?
acts Another book of origins written by the physician Luke (who also wrote the Gospel of Luke) is the book of Acts. Picking up where Luke's Gospel ends, Acts was written in the early 60's AD and records the birth of the Church and its early progress in spreading the Gospel as Jesus' disciples proclaim His glory from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria into the rest of the Mediterranean world. Beginning with Jesus' ascension into heaven and the stirring events of Pentecost, the narrative swiftly gains momentum as the Spirit immediately empowers the apostles and disciples toward preaching and displaying the fact that the Kingdom of God is surely among men! In a miraculous and staggering conversion, the worst human enemy of the Church becomes its most ardent defender. At this point the focus of Acts shifts from Jerusalem and Israel to a newly converted apostle Paul and his missionary journeys to the ends of the earth, within which there are monumental accounts of physical hardship, human drama, spiritual battles, unwavering faith in the face of death, and a resurrected Jesus clearly at work in the world through His growing Church.
life: Classics Homily Title: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)
Biblically, Acts forms a bridge between the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, providing historical background for the epistles of Paul, John, Peter, and Jude. And since the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are both personal letters to Luke's friend Theophilus, the narrative flows with an easy familiarity. Galatians A clear and present danger to all Christians is the tendency to try to earn God's favor by measuring their discipleship by works and intentions. The apostle Paul spent two years planting churches in Galatia, preaching that the Gospel of grace leads to true freedom and godly living. But by the time he had left the region most of the churches had fallen back into being enslaved by the Law of Moses and its impossible graceless expectations of perfection of performance. Thus, around AD 49, Paul wrote Galatians, his letter to these regional churches purposing to counter those who dismissed or rejected Christ's fulfillment of the Law. The truth expounded in Galatians is vital to the Christian faith, for justification and sanctification are by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the Law. Our good works and good intentions can never replace Jesus' blood that He shed to save us from our consummate doom. Therefore we must be in pursuit of Jesus alone, appealing to His power, not our own, toward spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity.
Jon Birch is cofounder of Recover Church, a discipleship-driven movement purposing to recover and promote the early church model as recorded in the book of Acts where Christ, close relationships, and discipleship-apologetics were the pillars of Christianity. He is also the author of Simplifying the Complex. For more information visit veritasunum.org.
he love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity - and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.
Thomas Chalmers idolatry
Freedom in Love Adapted from Romancing the Divine by Don Nori (Destiny Image, 2001, p185-188)
here is nothing about me that would cause anyone, let alone the God of creation, to take even a glance my way as He walked by. I have read the books of great men. I have heard the sermons of those who have studied Him. I have watched the gifted. I have imitated the holy. I have parroted the prayers of those who are supposed to know. None of it worked. Once, I was content with the fleeting love of a system that could not really love at all. But now, well, now I have found true love. So after all these years, after all this time and struggle, here we are, Lord. Face to face, Heart to heart, Love to love, Desire to desire, Passion to passion. Here I am. Incredible. I have been determined to make myself as lovable, attractive, obedient, and as good as possible hoping to somehow attract You, to somehow get Your attention
even in the midst of this universe full of beautiful things and beautiful people. I have tried to stand out among such intense competition, among all those who clamor for Your attention. I have fought and worried and connived all these years only to find -wonder of wonders- that He has been romancing me all along. This King of kings, this Lord of lords already loves me, already wants my friendship, already is determined to gather me to Himself in a
“ The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:5, 8)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 28
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union that cannot be described by mortal man. The clamor of so many very important things He has to tend to has not diminished His desire for me. It has not diminished His passion for the likes of me. He wants me as I have wanted Him! Well. Now this is almost too much to take. After all, I am nothing, I have nothing, I can do nothing worthy of the Lord God Almighty. But that does not seem to matter to Him whose love is so magnetic, so convincing, so final.
Signet Ring COMPLIMENTARY ISSUE
Signet Ring COMPLIMENTARY
MAY - JULY 2013
February - april 2013
“Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
ForgiVeneSS “seventy times seven”
L VE GOD IS LOVE LOVE
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.â€?- John 8:36
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