How a Person Develops what the Bible calls a “Depraved Mind”-

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done- Romans 1:28 NIV

 

Recently, I found myself attempting to encourage the close relative of a person deep in the weeds of an ugly addiction. The addict (a professed Christian) flatly refuses to repent of their sin or even entertain the notion their sin is a problem let alone a sin. To the dismay of the entire family the addict is willfully refusing to see the effect their sin is having on the lives of those they profess to love. Further complicating the whole messy mess, the addict is actively attempting to manipulate friends and family into believing their perception of the situation is faulty and the obvious is not reality.  

 Sigh.

 According to the Bible individuals become entangled in sinful patterns of behavior because they develop an evil and “depraved mind” (Romans 1:28, Hebrews 12:1). Deceitfulness, addiction and the refusal to deal with issues related to dishonesty and addiction are not the only indications of a corrupted and depraved mind. Nor is evil and depravity reserved for the worst of the worst: serial killers, sex traffickers and child molesters. Anyone who runs with reckless abandon into sinful behavior (pride, addiction, gossip, lying, covering sin, sexual depravity) and is determined to keep on keeping on is likely suffering from, or in the process, of developing a corrupt and depraved mind.

 The Bible does not exclude professed Christians from thinking or behaving in ways that ultimately lead to having a depraved mind. Like most issues in life, prevention is the best cure. Once wrong thinking leads to an entrenched pattern of immoral behavior it is difficult (but not impossible) to come back from it (Luke 18:27).

 It is critical we remember people, even unsaved people do not become evil or depraved in a day.  Developing a depraved mind is a process that begins with the willful decision to ignore a known truth about God. For an unbeliever this can be as simple as choosing to deny the existence of a Creator despite all the evidence that exists to the contrary (Romans 1:18-20). For Christians it ALWAYS begins with choosing to straight up ignore a clear New Testament command or teaching (Hebrews 12:25). The next step is choosing to disregard the guilt that goes along with choosing to ignore one’s conscience.  Then the person becomes bloated (metaphorically speaking) with pride. Pride convinces them they are above all the silly rules other Christians have to follow. They convince themselves they are special enough to sin without the consequences lesser humans inevitably suffer. Then they begin actively resisting accountability. Eventually, the sin morphs into the driving force in their lives. At this point the sin (addictive behavior) is just a symptom of a bigger sin: idolatry (1st John 5:21).

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 First, when we see these behavior patterns in the lives of professed Christians we should never entertain the notion we are better than them. That response to someone else’s sin indicates pride. Pride is a serious sin to be avoided at all costs. Once we become prideful we are more likely to get tangled-up in the same sins (Mark 8:15, 1st Corinthians 10:12). Also, pride is just super gross (Proverbs 18:13, 2nd Chronicles 26:16). Nor, should we ever help anyone escape the consequences of the choices they have made. The technical term for helping people avoid the natural consequences of their choices is codependence. The problem with codependence is that codependent people secretly think they know more than God does about what will actually help people. God knows everything about everything and He brings consequences into the lives of people because He is constantly working to mold Christians into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3). No good ever comes from helping people avoid what God is using to make them healthier, wiser, and more like Jesus.

 Secondly, we should always be alert to sin in our own lives. The human heart is capable of an insane level of self-deception when it comes to sin (Jeremiah 17:9).  For that reason it is possible for Christians to be half-way to a depraved mind and not even know it. Therefore, it is critically important we take every opportunity to self-examine and evaluate our own moral and spiritual condition (2nd Corinthians 13:5).

 Finally, anytime we see another Christian struggling with sin our first response should always be to pray for them, not judge them. Once we’ve done that we need to beg God for the wisdom, grace and supernatural insight to know how to be Jesus to them in their time of need.   

 

Why it’s Critical We Get Free of the Past-

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland~ Isaiah 43:18-20 NIV

 Recently I heard a powerful and thought-provoking quote that left me feeling more than a bit navel gaze-y: 

 Always look forward. Remember there are no birds in last year’s nests~ Don Quixote  

  I am not opposed to looking backward as long as it is done for the right reasons. We should remember the events of the past because we’re incapable of learning anything from anything we willfully forget. I also believe the heroic acts of the past ought to be honored in the present; and it pretty much goes without saying that Christians should be mindful of the good things God has done for us in the past (Deuteronomy 32:6-8, 1stChronicles 16:11-13).

 All that being said.

Far too many of us get stuck in the past in all the wrong ways. In doing so we give the past more power than it deserves which inevitably prevents us from accomplishing the tasks God intends for us to do today (Ephesians 2:10). Most of the time there is profound wisdom in leaving the past where it’s at and choosing to get on board with what God is doing right now. There are seven reasons to let go of the old so God can do whatever new things He’s looking to do in our lives:  

 Getting stuck in the past creates bitterness-

Oftentimes we get stuck in the past because we are hurt or angry about something unpleasant that happened there. The sense we were cheated or wronged can lead to bitterness in the present. It’s critical Christians keep the sin of bitterness from taking root in their lives (Ephesians 4:31). This is because bitterness makes Christians utterly and profoundly useless (Hebrews 12:15, Acts 8:23) and no genuine believer in Jesus ever wants to be useless.  The key to getting free from bitterness is to the take time to prayerfully process painful events from the past and then make the choice everyday to live life with our hearts and minds firmly rooted in the present.

 An unhealthy perspective on the past stops spiritual growth in the present-

 Whenever we develop an unhealthy perspective on the past we naturally become neurotically focused on our own personal junk. We become obsessed with our feelings and when we focus heavily on feelings we become blind to our own faults. This leads to blaming others for the things we choose to do. Transformation occurs when we see our faults clearly and ask God to give us the power to change the things that need changing in our lives.

 Living in the past makes us sentimental in all the wrong ways-

 Sentimentality is certainly not a sin. However, it can easily cross the line into sinful territory if we make the object of our sentimentality into an idol we worship. The classic worldly example is the former high school football star who cannot move forward in life because he simply cannot stop pining for his glory days. The timeless church example is the Christian who cannot enjoy church or serve effectively today because he or she cannot stop pining for the way church was once done.   

 Getting stuck in the past makes it impossible to effectively lead others-

 Christians are called to be leaders. Leaders look to the future and take people to places (physically and spiritually) they have never been before. Christians are called to lead others into biblical thinking, righteous living, healthy relationships and most importantly, relationship with Jesus (Colossians 3:16, 2nd Timothy 2:24, Titus 2:7, Hebrews 5:12). Everyone leads someone. Profession, gender and age are irrelevant to the call to lead others into spiritual health and relationship with Jesus. No one in history has ever led anyone forward while looking behind them.   

 Focusing on the past keeps us from being grateful in the present –

 Gratitude is all about noticing things (Colossians 4:2).  Grateful people don’t typically have more than ungrateful people they are just more aware of God and what He is doing for them than ungrateful people are. We are the most grateful when we are living in the moment and choosing to see what God is doing for us right now.   

 We lose our ability to forgive when focus heavily on the past-

 We will never be free do what God is calling us to do in the here and now while we are living in bondage to past hurt (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is hard because it always involves letting go of anger and hurt that in a very real sense we have a “right” to hold on to. Forgiveness rarely happens quickly and without some processing. In order to forgive we need to walk through the hurt and then ask God (sometimes repeatedly) to empower us to let go of the feelings of anger and resentment that are keeping us stuck in past.

 

What is the one sin that will halt Communication with God and Cause a Christian to Become Spiritually Useless?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more~ Psalm 71:20-21 NIV

 There are a few sins unique to a few seriously creepy individuals. Normal people might joke about murder. However, very few people actually kill people.  Even fewer people joke about cannibalism or human sacrifice. 

 Then there are the other sins.

 Those irksome little sins that sprout-up like weeds in a garden. The sins we all struggle with (1st Corinthians 10:13). There is simply no one in all of human history who has not grappled with lust, inappropriate anger, jealousy, hatred, selfish ambition and the inclination to gossip (Galatians 5:19-21, Colossians 3:5-6) at some point in their lives.

 Bitterness is another.

Scripture clearly instructs Christians to avoid becoming bitter and remaining bitter (Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). That being said, most of us (if we’re honest) will admit to giving into the sin of bitterness at some point.  

Here’s the thing.

Most people do not become bitter without a valid reason. This inevitably leads people to feel justified and even righteous as they wallow around in the anger and resentment that ultimately leads to bitterness.  I am well-acquainted with the sin of bitterness. I learned first-hand over the course of several miserable and painfully unproductive years bitterness is one of those sins that hurts us far more than it hurts the people who have sinned against us.

 It is critical we understand God does not forbid bitterness because it is not a defensible, logical or understandable reaction to certain situations. Sometimes it’s all of those things. God forbids bitterness because bitterness gradually undoes every good thing God has done in our hearts, minds and spirits.  At the root of a bitter spirit is unforgiveness. Unforgiveness causes us to miss the grace of God and prevents us from experiencing the Christian life in all its beauty and fullness (Matthew 6:14-15, Hebrews 12:15, Luke 17:4).

 The paths that lead to bitterness are endless. Something as small and seemingly insignificant as being offended or ignored can cause a bitter root to develop in some more sensitive people. An unfaithful spouse, a two-faced friend, a tough childhood or ongoing, unrelenting injustice can cause bitterness in even the most thick-skinned of individuals.  

 Because bitterness is such a common sin and because it is something we are cautioned to avoid at all costs there are at least four things every Christian needs to understand about bitterness.

 Bitterness makes spiritual growth impossible-

 It does not matter how many sermons the bitter person hears (or preaches). Nor does it matter how much of the Bible a person can recite verbatim. There is something about the choice to remain bitter that makes it impossible for that person to apply the truth they are taught or are teaching to their own life. Any learning that does take place is typically just empty academic agreement (head knowledge) rather than a full emotional and intellectual adoption of truth we have understood and embraced (heart knowledge). Satan celebrates when Christians become bitter because bitterness keeps Christians stuck in a cycle of obtaining knowledge without actually growing (2nd Timothy3:7).

 Bitterness halts clear communication with God-

 Bitterness is a sin (Ephesians 4:31). Sin impedes communication with God. Repentance from sin is the only way to restore clear and unrestricted communication with God (2nd Chronicles 7:14, Daniel 9:1-19). Sadly, bitterness blinds us to the lack of communication we have with God, making it more difficult to get right Him.

 We have a responsibility to prevent our own bitterness-

 There will always be situations that come into our lives that have the potential to make us bitter. Some of those situations are one-hundred-percent unforeseeable and therefore entirely unavoidable. That being said, the author of the book of Hebrews tells the readers of the book to “see to it” that no “bitter root grows up”. The writer is instructing Christians to process and forgive offenses as quickly and completely as humanly possible.  Likewise, Christians should be very careful about voluntarily placing themselves in situations where bitterness is an obvious and foreseeable end result of said situation (Ephesians 5:15).

 Behaving in a way that causes others to become bitter is as sinful as bitterness-

 The New Testament clearly teaches a principal of mutual accountability when it comes to sin (Matthew 18:6). For example: Christians are clearly forbidden from committing adultery (Exodus 20:14, Mark 7:21). However, spouses are also cautioned against refusing each other sexually because doing so could tempt their spouse to commit adultery (1st Corinthians 7:1-5). Obviously, a lack of “IT” in a marriage does not make adultery acceptable to God (Hebrews 13:4). However, it does make the other partner accountable to God for their refusal to obey Scripture.  Similarly, each person is responsible before God for their own choice to become bitter. However, we have an obligation to live in such a way that we do not give people just cause to become bitter. If we don’t we will be accountable to God for our sinful, selfish or evil actions.

 Finally. There really is only one path to getting free from the sin of bitterness-

 We have to forgive.

 Seriously.  It’s that simple. We have to let go of the hurt and bitterness we are holding onto and let God be the judge and jury of the other person. 

 It’s His job (1st Samuel 24:12, Hebrews 4:13, 1st Peter 4:5) and it makes us free to do what He has called us to do. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Ridiculous Lies Christians Believe-

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised~ Romans 1:25

 I have observed that a lot of folks are becoming less and less troubled by the whole notion of lying.  

 Seriously.

 Hardly a day goes by when I don’t turn on the television and catch a broadcaster or politician saying something with a perfectly straight face that is demonstrably and provably untrue. The truly tragic thing about all this is that no one seems to be calling anyone out on it.

 Sadly, this phenomenon is not unique to the secular realm. Lies are proliferating in our Christian culture as well. The lies Christians tell are especially dangerous for two reasons. First, unlike heathens who lie,  Christians typically believe the lies they tell. The vast majority of Christians who spread spiritual lies don’t want to hurt anyone. They are simply operating out of biblical or moral ignorance. Nevertheless, a lie told out of ignorance is no less harmful than a lie told maliciously.

 Secondly, when Christians lie the lies they tell almost always concern issues that have eternal consequences.  It’s one thing to lie about who-did-what-to-who. Those kinds of lies are ultimately between God and the liar and I for one am more than happy to let Him sort all that out in whatever way He sees fit. Spiritual lies on the other hand, inevitably lead to wrong thinking, wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior and wrong behavior has eternal consequences (Matthew 15:18-20, Ezekiel 18:20-23). So, in the interest of truth-telling following are five of the biggest lies Christians tell about life and God:

 As long as someone loves Jesus what they believe about life and God is basically irrelevant-

 Most people who have bought into this lie don’t even realize they believe it (Matthew 24:4-9, Luke 21:8, 2ndTimothy 4:3-4). The lie has simply become a part of our operating system as Christians. This particular lie has become so widespread that it has literally transformed the way we do church and Christianity. It is the underlying reason professing Christians don’t attend church services. It is also the reason churches have ditched Bible studies, midweek services and Sunday school classes for “connect groups” and “fellowship nights”. It is time for us to once again embrace the fundamental fact that acting on the truth laid out for us in God’s is what sets us free from sin and spiritual bondage (John 8:32).

 Love is the end-all-be-all of everything Christian-

 This lie is almost true and that makes it more believable and therefore very dangerous. Love is a really big deal to God. Christians are straight-up commanded nineteen times in the New Testament to “love one another”. The problem isn’t with love. Love is awesome. The problem is with how we have chosen to define love in our society. Christians have taken their cues from a godless culture and chosen to define love in feel-goody kinds of terms. The current definition presupposes no one should ever say anything to anyone that might make them feel bad about their choices. This is not love, it’s a form of deception (2ndTimothy 4:3-4).   

 Christian kids need to experience “life”-

  Too many Christian parents have bought into the lie that their kids are missing out on something vital and formative if they don’t get ample opportunities to sin like their peers do. I am all for Christian kids having experiences that will enrich their lives and expose them to different kinds of people (missions’ trips are great for this). However, too many worldly experiences without a lot of teaching and training will inevitably turn Christian kids into worldly people with zero interest in God. 

  God is nicer than He used to be-

 Contrary to popular belief God hasn’t actually changed since Old Testament times. He is exactly the same God He’s always been (Numbers 23:19, Psalm 55:19, Hebrews 13:8). It is far less burdensome to be forgiven than it was once was (Leviticus 9:7, Leviticus 14:19). However, that does not mean God’s opinion of sin has changed the tiniest bit (Isaiah 1:16, 1stCorinthians 15:34).

 What I do in private won’t hurt anyone-

 This lie presupposes that sin doesn’t actually affect the sinner in anyway. This is simply not true. Sin changes us, it hardens our hearts and makes it much harder to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when He is speaking to us (Hebrews 3:13). Sin also changes the way we view other people. Sin diminishes our compassion for others and makes us far more self-serving. Self-absorbed Christians who lack compassion and empathy hurt everyone.  

 God loves me just the way I am-

 This is another lie with a kernel of truth at its core, making it more believable and therefore more dangerous. It is absolutely true that God loves everyone no matter what they have done (John 3:16). It is also true no one has to be perfect or have life all figured out to become a Jesus follower (Ephesians 2:8). That said, God does not want anyone to stay stuck. God wants everyone to change and grow and become better people after we begin a relationship with Jesus and if we don’t something is seriously wrong. In John chapter eight Jesus tells a woman that He had just forgiven to “go and sin no more”.

 He wants the same thing for all of us.

Five Strategies to Implement in A Situation That Isn’t Changing-

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world~ John 16:33 NIV

One of the experiences common to man (and woman) is feeling stuck in a place where circumstances we desperately want or need to change simply won’t change. This typically happens in spite of our best efforts, deepest longings and most fervent prayers.

 There is little in life more challenging than a bad situation that won’t change, and not just because no one sane likes to be stuck in a bad place. If bad situations are not dealt with, they eventually test our faith and cause us to doubt the goodness (and sometimes even the existence) of God.

 The subsequent strategies are not magic bullets, following them may or may not change your situation for the better (sorry). That said, we become what we do. Doing these things will help you put your mess in better perspective, empower you to handle the situation more effectively and enable you to grow in the midst of your trial.

 Stop resenting the situation- Job 5:2, Job 36:13

 Resentment does nothing but cloud our judgment, hinder our ability to problem solve and steal our gratitude for the good things we do have. Resentment is an emotional black hole that sucks up mental energy that would be better spent on problem solving. If resentment is allowed to fester and grow it will eventfully mutate into bitterness. Bitterness is a destructive and defiling force that will prevent us from doing anything good in this world (Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). For those reasons (and at least a dozen others) it’s critical we deal with any resentment we may be harboring so we can move on to a healthier way of looking at and dealing with the present situation.

 Learn what you need to learn from the mistakes that landed you in the situation but don’t live in the past- 2nd Corinthians 13:5

 No one is a bigger advocate of frequent self-examination than I am. I believe with all my heart that there is a great deal of value in scrutinizing past mistakes and poor choices. Understanding and owning how we got to a particular place can prevent us from making similar mistakes in the future. However, an unhealthy fixation on the past (ruminating on it constantly) is a pointless distraction that will rob us of our ability to deal with the present productively.

 Control the one thing you do have absolute control over- Proverbs 16:22, Titus 2:11-12, 2nd Peter 1:3-10

 One of the most maddening things about a stuck situation is that oftentimes the person who is stuck has (or feels they have) very little power to change the details of the situation or move things in another direction. Our perception of the situation may or may not be accurate (see next point). That said, it is true that there are times when the only thing we have any control over in a given situation is ourselves. We cannot control other people or the circumstances that come into our lives but we can control how we react and respond.

 Get advice from others and take some of it – Proverbs 12:1, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 13:10, Proverbs 15:22

 Stuck people tend to develop tunnel vision when it comes to their situation. As a result they tend to think there is absolutely nothing that can be done to change or even improve their situation. Typically other people (friends, Pastors, counselors, coaches) can see options and alternatives that the stuck person cannot. This is why it’s absolutely critical we seek the counsel of others. However, simply asking for advice will do nothing if we don’t take the advice we are given and make the appropriate and necessary changes.

 Don’t give up- Galatians 6:9

 Ultimately, staying sane in a stuck situation is all about keeping things in perspective. Perspective is about far more than simply finding a way out of a bad situation. It’s about making a commitment before God to come out of the situation a better person than you were before. It’s about keeping your heart open and free from bitterness, so you can learn and grow in the midst of the situation.

 Keeping things in perspective will enable you to help someone who is going through something similar in the future (2nd Corinthians 1:3-5). Keeping things in perspective and refusing to give up (no matter how tough it gets) will empower you to come out of your difficult situation with a deeper faith, stronger character and more passionate love for God.

 And that’s what life is all about anyway.

Finding Authentic Freedom

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly~ Psalm 84:11

 Content warning ahead:

 Our family drove to the Oregon coast this past weekend to connect with my four siblings for the first time since our Mother died eight-years-ago. The reunion was a blessing in every sense. However, it was also chaotic (in a good, loud, big-family kind of way) and a marathon of frenzied activity from start to finish.

 I left the beach emotionally gratified and seriously sleep deprived.

 The emotional hullabaloo and lack of sleep combined with too much time to think on the drive home left me feeling a bit navel-gaze-y. Evidently, one possible side effect of too much reflection is an overly emotional blog post. That little disclaimer out of the way, I do believe that I may have hit on some spiritual truth in the midst of at least some of my musings.

 For that reason I pray you’ll give it a read.

 As we passed through a really ugly part of Eastern Oregon it occurred to me that Christians seldom talk about the fall of mankind anymore. We should because our world and everything in it was dramatically distorted in the blink of an eye and not just spiritually. The fall altered how we relate to God, one another and even the natural world. Relationships that were once carefree and easy to navigate suddenly became complex and even adversarial.

 One of the results of living in a fallen world is that even the best stuff in life often has a distinctly sad edge to it.

 Reunions are happy but the separations that instigated the reunions never are. Parenthood is one of the most joyful events a person experience in this life; it is also one of the most difficult and befuddling. Roses have thorns; every profit has a loss built into it. Human innovation typically has at least one unintended and profoundly unpleasant consequence- and cake makes us fat.  

 This reality plays out in the spiritual realm as well.

 Spiritual growth and the blessings that go with it can only be achieved through an oftentimes-painful surrendering of our very selves. Forgiving others brings freedom but at the cost of forfeiting the basic right most of us feel we should have: the right to seek revenge on the jerks that hurt us. The fall even affected our feelings about right and wrong and our perception of reality. Wrong typically feels right and is usually the path of least resistance. Right is always the harder road to traverse.

 Even the grace of God has a sad side to it. Grace, that thing we rejoice in, venerate and write songs about is only necessary because of sin, sin ruined literally everything and sin breaks the heart of God.

 Gloomy, I know.

Grace is necessary because human beings blew it and were powerless to stop blowing it for even a single minute. God is relentlessly generous, so when it became appallingly obvious that there was no way any of us could be good on our own God stepped in. He sent His son to die for us and gave us the grace we needed.

 This realization was almost too much to bear. I was done in.

 Mostly because I have come to believe that our generation has a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of grace and our lack of understanding is keeping us from becoming the people God has ordained us to be. We tend to view grace as nothing more than a massive bucket of forgiveness we can dip into anytime we have a sin that needs forgiving. We treat forgiveness like a magic concoction we apply to sin to make it acceptable, rather than an essential concession to our sinfulness.

 Thankfully, grace is much more than just a big bucket of forgiveness.

 Grace is power that frees us from the oppression of sin. The grace of God does more than simply forgive our transgressions. The grace of God gives us the power to overcome the sin nature that plagues us all (Titus 2:10-12). When we make the choice to live a holy life (Colossians 3:5-14, 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8, 2nd Peter 1:3-11) God dispenses the grace we need when we need it. That grace empowers us embrace the behaviors we need to embrace and let go of the behaviors we need to let go of so that we can be like Jesus.