Due to negative life experiences, most individuals can’t comprehend the concept of love. When the majority of acts you witness on earth are contrary to love, this quality becomes foreign, strange and rare. Thus, when few are actually emulating love, millions of inhabitants on this planet go through life without ever knowing what it means to love.
For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.
In her song Vanity and Rot, Lacey Sturm addresses what it means to love from a woman’s perspective. The lyrics of the song from the album Life Screams focuses on the internal battle of forgiveness. Sturm references the desire to believe what she learned as a child. Yet, forgiving someone who commits the same wrongful act over and over again is exhausting.
Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven! – Matthew 18:21-22.
One of Jesus’ own disciples struggled with what is means to love. When the concept of forgiveness arose, Peter asked Jesus if Christians should put a limit on forgiveness, using 7 as a starting number. Jesus’ response seems more like a math equation 70 X 7. However, the point of Jesus’ words here point to infinity. Just as God forgives sinners an infinite amount of times, what it means to love is forgiving others just as Jesus forgives you.
During a visit thirty miles south of Ephesus, the apostle Paul feels compelled to reach out to nearby church leaders. This desire pushed Paul to summon for elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. Apparently, the Holy Spirit informed Paul that this would be the last time he would see these individuals. Like a sense of duty, Paul does not hold anything back, compelled to give one more inspiration speech.
And now, compelled by the Spirit and obligated by my convictions, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, Acts 20:22.
In the passage above, Paul communicates the connection between being compelled by the Holy Spirit and obligated to follow biblical convictions. Keeping in the step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, requires a drive and urging from God. As the Spirit prompts you to seize the day, making the most of an open door, an opportunity to use your God given talents, your degree of conviction will make the difference. When conviction is lacking, souls will bypass the Holy Spirit to indulge their sinful nature. Thus, many discard, ignore or reject their obligation to follow God’s calling.
So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but not to our flesh [our human nature, our worldliness, our sinful capacity], to live according to the [impulses of the] flesh [our nature without the Holy Spirit]— 13 for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever, Romans 8:12-13.
In a letter to Christians at the church in Rome, Paul uses tough love to reinforce the importance of being compelled and obligated to Christ. Two chapters later, Romans 10:9-10, Paul eludes to those who have believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. For those who make this commitment, this public confession requires a transformation from giving into your flesh to living in the power of the Holy Spirit. As believers daily and habitually put to death their sinful deeds, the Holy Spirit compels souls to act via an obligation fueled by biblical convictions.
The definition of under the influence refers to the capacity or power of a substance to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, and language of individuals. This phrase is often used in the context of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Terms such as drunk, inebriated, intoxicated and tipsy are synonyms to describe someone who is under the influence of a foreign substance. If souls make a conscious decision to participate in this type of behavior, are there other spiritual forces that affect, burden or control minds?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:5.
If you are like me, you probably know someone who lives by the motto, “do what I say, not as I do.” The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not reflect is hypocrisy. These type of individuals can be annoying, ruining a school or work setting. However, what if you reach a point in your own life where you possess good intentions, but you never carry out your convictions. Unfortunately, I find myself in this very predicament, under the influence of hypocrisy. I have become that which I despise.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, 1 John 4:20.
One of Jesus’ disciples brings up a similar issue which began to occur during the first century. As new converts dedicated their lives from their past, sinful thoughts remained. Thus, while people could say they love God, many still harbored hate within their hearts, unable to forgive some people. In the initial portion of his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, Jesus gives tangible examples of how to live out the 10 Commandments. During a debate with religious leaders, Jesus simplified these rules into 2 simple goals, love God and love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22:37-40. This is the only way I know to be set free from being under the influence of hypocrisy. If you still can’t break free, rely on prayer to rescue your soul.
As a former youth pastor, I understand the challenge of getting the attention and gaining the respect of teenagers. Some experts have blamed the loss in attention span to video games, tuning out adults who aren’t interesting. As technological advances continue, this communicate gap will likely expand causing many teenagers to fall asleep spiritually.
Now on the first day of the week (Sunday), when we were gathered together to break bread (share communion), Paul began talking with them, intending to leave the next day; and he kept on with his message until midnight. 8 Now there were many lamps in the upper room where we were assembled, Acts 20:7-8.
A first centurion historian records an unusual event that occurs inside of a three story home, similar to a Cape Cod attic. According to Luke, Paul talked for several hours until midnight. A teenager named Eutychus struggled to stay awake, sitting next to an open window. While a steady breeze appears to keep Eutychus awake initially, at midnight this teenager fell asleep near the edge of the window. Gravity caused Eutychus to fall down and out, three stories to the ground, dead on arrival.
And there was a young man named Eutychus (“Lucky”) sitting on the window sill. He was sinking into a deep sleep, and as Paul kept on talking longer and longer, he was completely overcome by sleep and fell down from the third story; and he was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and threw himself on him and embraced him, and said [to those standing around him], “Do not be troubled, because]he is alive,” Acts 20:9-10.
In one of the strangest healing accounts in the Bible, the apostle Paul hugs Eutychus back to life. Since Luke is a doctor, this event appears to dumbfounded him, unable to give any type of logical explanation for how Eutychus is resuscitated. One valuable lesson from this true story is that most teenagers prefer a hug over a rebuke. A public scolding often results in bitterness and rebellion. Meanwhile, using tough love via a hug can diffuse a volatile situation. Thus, the next time you witness a teenager falling asleep spiritually, use a sincere embrace to bring them back to life.
According to Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24, a man named Demas appears to have been involved with Paul’s earthly ministry. Although the exact role served by this man is unclear, Demas devoted a portion of his life to serving God. Apparently, Demas’ passion for the mission field faded away, replaced by a love for pleasures of this world. Based upon the passage below, Demas may have been one of Paul’s converts from Thessalonica, returning home to pursue secular aspirations.
Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved [the pleasures of] this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, 2 Timothy 4:9-10.
When I first read this passage, I began to wonder why spiritual faith disappears. To a certain extent, our culture is partially responsible, giving modern Christians who leave ministry positions permission to finally get paid a decent wage. My first year as a High School Bible teacher I made a salary of $19,000. A decade later, my final year of teaching earned me just over $30K, which included two coaching positions. You can’t put a price on the spiritual benefits of serving God, but when you are living just above the poverty line, it’s no wonder that more and more individuals leave churches to start a professional career.
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who [are not financially ethical and] crave to get rich [with a compulsive, greedy longing for wealth] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction [leading to personal misery]. 10 For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows, 1 Timothy 6:8-10.
In the passage above, Paul unveils the mindset which sets the stage for faith to disappear. Perhaps, Paul is referring to Demas or others believers Paul met while on the mission field. Paul suggests that money can trap those who once trusted in the Lord for daily bread to be led astray by a craving for more. As people develop a love for money, faith is often left behind. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome, Romans 8:5-8, eluding to two mindsets, one that focuses on God and the other on worldly desires. Whenever individuals taste forbidden fruit, reaching beyond the line where the grass appears greener sets the stage for faith to disappear. Yet, before your mind becomes hostile to God, think twice before you act so you don’t follow in the footsteps of Demas.
by Jay Mankus
According to Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24, Demas assisted the apostle Paul in some capacity during his missionary journeys. While Demas isn’t considered a dear friend like Luke, this man is referred to as a fellow worker in fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:8. Yet, as some point Demas had second thoughts of devoting his life to the ministry.
Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved [the pleasures of] this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very helpful to me for the ministry, 2 Timothy 4:9-11.
Paul shares this disappointing news in a letter to a teenage pastor. Demas wasn’t the first Christian to abandon Paul on the mission field. Luke describes how Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark departed in Acts 15:38. Biblical scholars blame Mark’s decision on an illness or simply becoming homesick. Whenever believers leave the church to pursue secular aspirations, levels of commitment, faith and maturity are exposed.
But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content, 1 Timothy 6:6-8.
The difference between the first century and modern churches is the sense of urgency that existed. Many first century leaders lived their lives as if Jesus was going to return tomorrow. This mentality drove the apostle Paul to seize every opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, offering the promise of eternal life to all who would listen, 1 John 5:13. While some modern congregations possess a similar mindset, apathy has caused my faith to slowly disappear.
But those who [are not financially ethical and] crave to get rich [with a compulsive, greedy longing for wealth] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction [leading to personal misery]. 10 For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.
After spending fifteen years in churches, ten as a Bible teacher and five serving in local youth groups, I deserted the ministry. Living just above the poverty line for a decade was enough for me to pursue temporary pleasures as the apostle Paul suggests. The only trace of my remaining faith exists in this blog. While I am not proud of the person that I have become by living outside of the church, it is what it is for now. My only prayer is that I strive to become a modern day tentmaker, earning enough money to provide for my family while serving the Lord in some other capacity going forward.
If you enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix, then you will see how Hollywood screenwriters reveal a character’s past. As a film or series unfold, bad, evil or troubled souls have a flashback which unveil secret scars. Whether someone was abused, beaten, criticized, teased or verbally assaulted, behind the tears explains why someone has turned out to be the person that they have become. Although this new information provides some insight into behavior patterns, it doesn’t justify wrong actions.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them, Luke 7:37-38.
In the passage above, a first centurion woman had chosen to become a prostitute. Although Luke doesn’t share the details of why she chose this lifestyle, she doesn’t seem very happy or fulfilled. Based upon her tears, this erotic expression of love left a void in this woman’s heart. Perhaps, Jesus’ message of being saved from sin led this woman to crash a social party. While the whole room was judging her due to her tarnished reputation, Jesus enabled himself to be anointed by a well known harlot.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little,” Luke 7:44-47.
In 1992, an alternate praise group called the Violet Burning released the Song of the Harlot. Appearing on the Strength album, this song illuminates this passage in the Bible. The author places an interesting stanza within the lyrics “I’ve cried a million tears maybe more so many times I have been the whore.” Behind the tears, individuals try to grasp why sinful tendencies have become too overwhelming to control. While most do not choose the path of a harlot, other addictions often steal the joy for life. The only consolation for sinners enslaved by addiction is the promise of forgiveness proclaimed by Jesus.
When fairy tale stories come true, sometimes Hollywood is criticized for an unbelievable ending. Yet, what Nate Lashley accomplished last weekend can only be described as a win for the ages. Lashley’s wire to wire victory at the Rocket Mortgage PGA Tour event in Detroit, Michigan seemed surreal. Entering the final round with a six shot lead, commentators suggested that a collapse might come, causing Nate to fold under the pressure. Instead, a Tiger Woods esc domination ensued as Lashley finished 25 under par, breezing to win this PGA event. The context of what happened leading up to this victory makes Lashley’s accomplishment a real life Cinderella story and likely Disney movie in the making.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.
Fifteen years ago, Nate Lashley was a rising college star playing for the Arizona Wildcats. While competing in an NCAA qualifying tournament, his parents and girl-friend flew out to watch Nate play in the west regionals. On the return flight, the plane piloted by Nate’s father crashed during a storm killing all three aboard. This tragedy eventually caused Nate to leave golf, making a career as a real estate agent. When Nate’s love for golf returned, nagging injuries prevented Lashley for reaching his full potential. Playing on what is called a major medical exemption, Nate was running out of time to make enough money to keep his PGA tour card. Thus, Nate attempted to Monday qualify for 4 spots in the Rocket Mortgage Tournament. Lashley finished two shots out of a playoff, but a last second withdraw opened the door for Nate to become the last player in the field.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.
As a viewer of this amazing feat, Lashley’s rise to the top is a story of courage, faith and perseverance. In the back of any mind, doubts whisper “you’ll never amount to anything; you’re not good enough or you don’t have what it takes.” These inner demons prevent most people from fulfilling their dreams and purpose in life. Yet, Nate Lashley’s win for the ages inspires me to not give up hope on accomplishing my own dreams in life. Just as Jesus’ earthly brother writes about how trials strengthen faith, may God fill you will perseverance to fear any face and climb any mountain, no matter how high, in the future.