“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1

Mike and Chenelle teaching the first class of the Spring Semester of the International College of Christian Ministry

Running track in college and high school, it was always interesting to see those who quit early on. The workouts would destroy them, stopping in the middle of the runs and possibly throwing up. The strength wasn’t available (whether physically or mentally) to continue. You had to be strong mentally and strong physically to be able to have the endurance to win a race. The same is true of our Christian walk, we must have an inner strength to handle the training that comes in our discipleship. Paul tells the younger evangelist he discipled Timothy to be strong in the grace. Later, he would remind him that the scriptures are to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Unfortunately, the training can crush a Christian who is not strong in the grace just as much as a track practice would crush someone who is not strong in their cardio. Paul understood that Timothy had to have an inner strength and security that only came in Christ Jesus and we need to grasp this as well.

Disciples of Jesus who are not strong in the grace often experience worldly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-11) instead of Godly sorrow when they fail. Negative self-talk fills their minds. This vicious form of selfishness turns your own soul into a victim and away from the grace of God. Discipling from mature brothers and sisters makes the worldly soul feel not good enough, threatened, criticized, or even suspicious of the discipling. An over-sensitivity plays out in the soul as they feel personally attacked. Certainly, athletes could choose to respond this way to a good coach admonishing and pushing them. Is something wrong with the coaching or the discipling? No! It is a foundational issue- the soul is not secure and strong in the grace. Paul would tell Timothy to join with him in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3-4)! A soldier has duties, expectations, and commands he must obey. Yet before Paul would tell Timothy any of this, he said be strong in the grace! There are three keys to becoming internally strong in God’s grace that is in Christ Jesus based on Ephesians 3:16-19:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

I. In Your Hearts Through Faith

The apostle Paul prays that his church may be strengthened in their inner being. This is done by allowing Christ to dwell and to be king of your heart. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. Faith is the conviction and assurance of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith is the anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19). Before becoming Christians, our hearts were broken by our own sins and the sins of others. So many grow up without one of their parents not receiving the love intended from their families to create wholeness inside. For me personally, my biological father took his life when I was seven and I never personally knew him. My adoptive father and mother eventually divorced and being in a military family coupled with the divorce I moved many times as a kid. The constant insecurity of my home life created a deep insecurity inside of me. Even after becoming a Christian it was easy to transpose this on my church family. After becoming Christians, we quickly find out that even in the church we will sin against each other. What we need is assurance, security, and conviction. Praise God, he is the perfect father and leader of the church. Faith is believing the unseen even against how we feel. Over time I had to learn to believe God was my rock, a name used for God many times in the Psalms representing security and immovability. Faith sees the sovereignty of God; everything that happens either God makes happen or allows to happen. We can trust because of God’s word that Christ is dwelling in our hearts and have assurance that in all things God is working for us (Romans 8:28). Strength and security comes from an assurance of God’s ever-present hand in all life’s situations. Decide to believe Christ dwells in you and is always working for the good of those who love him.

II. Rooted and Established in Love

Only God has unfailing love while man’s love often fails us because of sin. The Bible says that what man desires is unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22). In the world we looked for this in approval at work, grades in school, affirmation in relationships, living up to family expectations, sex and drugs, etc. These left us desperately empty leading us to the love of Christ. His unfailing love wooed us into his amazing kingdom. Once a seed is planted and starts to grow, it isn’t automatically deeply rooted in the ground. It must continue to grow its roots. After becoming a disciple, we must continue to grow deeper in our knowledge of God’s love for us. This takes faith since our God is normally unseen. If we look for this love to be met primarily in the church, you are once again looking for a group of people who still have sin to meet a need that only God can meet. Therefore, when your discipler challenges you in your character it can be crushing. You are looking for assurance from man and not from God. In fact, biblical love often involves a hardline rebuke. Jesus told the church in Laodicea, Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline (Revelation 3:19). A deep conviction that God loves you is needed to be trained through discipleship to experience God’s plan for our lives. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t expect each other to love as Christ loves (John 13:34-35) but we need to understand we are all working on becoming more like Jesus every day. We need to fundamentally trust one another as love always trust, believe in one another as love always hopes, and that those who are training us have our best interest as love always protects. And where their love is imperfect or not communicated the right way, we have a heavenly father we can rest secure in that is totally in control and passionately loves us.

III. Together With All the Lord’s Holy People

After deciding by faith that Christ dwells in the heart and growing in our understanding of how much God loves us; a power is unlocked where together with all of God’s people we can experience the fullness of Christ! The glue of our relationships is love. People who don’t feel loved don’t treat themselves or others right. I am convinced that those who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography really have a very low view of themselves. They need God’s redeeming love. When we receive God’s love we can show it to others in a powerful way. Imagine a church were everyone was grasping the love of God! What would the discipling be like? What would the fellowship be like? Paul is on his knees praying for the church (Ephesians 3:15) to grasp who wide and long the love of God is. He is together with all the Lord’s people. Do you pray for your brothers and sisters? Do you get on your knees for them begging God to strengthen their inner being? Paul understood how essential this was. Without it, we can never move forward in Christianity. We need to strive to be together seeking to understand God’s love. There is power in the church to strengthen you in God’s grace. When we are together, we can rest secure that our relationships are not based on our performance but on the blood of Jesus which we all desperately need daily. Then we can push each other in our performance to be our best for Christ but there is a security knowing that God has our back and as family we have each other’s back when we fail. Two of my favorite track coaches were Coach Hunt and Coach Rankins. They helped me excel in track and I wanted to do my best to make them proud along with my dad. Coach Hunt let me use his classroom for my high school Bible Talk and Coach Rankins was my middle school history teacher, track coach, and in high school my summer track coach. He also was a disciple in the church!  I share this to say, that I was secure and trusted they had my best interest because of what they did for me. This allowed me to receive the coaching, the demanding work outs, and to be pushed beyond what I thought I could do. Together with God’s people we must do this spiritually for one-another.

Will you decide today through faith to believe Christ is in your heart, to be rooted in God’s love, and together with God’s people to allow the Spirit to strengthen your inner being? Ask God for help today and practice receiving and even seeking out discipling trusting that God is working for your good.

“Spiritual Apathy: Falling Out of Love”Bible-Study

The church in the past defined this as acedia.

Acedia (/əˈsiːdiə/; also accidie or accedie /ˈæksɨdi/, from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, “negligence”) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but arguably distinct from depression.

2 Corinthians 7:10- Worldly sorrow was seen as acedia by Thomas Aquinas, it is where you are sorrowful to the point of not caring anymore, even about one’s own life in its ultimate expression.

SIGNS OF ACEDIA:

  • Sleepiness
  • Sickness
  • Lack of attention
  • Overall dissatisfaction with life
  • Boredom
  • General laziness
  • State of restlessness
  • Not living in the present
  • Seeing the future as overwhelming
  • Lack of caring
  • Unfeeling
  • Lacking commitment
  • Hopelessness

Kip wrote- “The word “acedia” has been lost to the modern English language and is the forgotten of the original “Seven Deadly Sins.” Though acedia is not explicitly named on the many lists of sins in the Bible) a monk named Evagrius Ponticus (345 – 399AD), one of the most gifted intellects of his day, compiled in Greek from Scripture his list of the “Eight Evil Thoughts.” In this order Ponticus included: gluttony (gastrimargia), fornication (porneia), avarice (philargyria) extreme greed, hubris (hyperephania) excessive pride, sadness – sadness at another’s good fortune (lype), wrath (orge), boasting (kenodoxia), and acedia (akedia). Acedia is listed last because Ponticus considered it “the most troublesome of all.”

A short time later, another celebrated monk John Cassian (360 – 435AD), translates Ponticus’ list into Latin but with slight variances of meanings. Cassian’s “Eight Evil Thoughts List” is: gluttony (gula), fornication (fornicatio), avarice (avaritia), pride (superbia), despair (tristitia), wrath (ira), vainglory (vaingloria), and acedia (acedia).

Then almost 200 years later, Gregorius Anicius (540 – 604AD) – the pope known as “Gregory the Great” and called by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin “the last good pope” – compiles a list of sins derived from Cassian’s list which Anicius calls “The Seven Deadlies.” In every day terms, Anicius combines pride and vainglory as well as despair and acedia, and then adds envy. Interestingly, he “changes” fornicatio (fornication) to “luxuria” – which expands the meaning from illicit sex to intense desire… lust! In Anicius’ mind, this could be lust for power, food, drink, knowledge, money, and/or fame. Therefore, in English, the very first list of “The Seven Deadly Sins” is: lust, gluttony, greed, acedia, wrath, envy and pride. Later acedia was changed to sloth. This does injustice as it is a spiritual lethargic.

Acedia is not responding to God’s love. It is a refusal to enjoy the goodness of God or love him with all your heart. When we talk about Acedia we are talking about the study of falling out of love. Many with Acedia seek to cure it by doing something new, or trying to go to the next thing but they carry it with them. That is why there are affairs, many called it the noon-day demon.

In early Christian thought, the lack of joy was regarded as a willful refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world God created.”

What is this Biblically speaking? What causes this? Do you have the symptoms?

THE MONKS WERE HARDLINE, IF THEY SAW SYMPTOMS, THEY GO YOU NEED TO DEAL WITH THIS! I have two points today…

  1. The Stages that Lead to Acedia
  2. A FAILURE TO REMEMBER THE DEATH OF JESUS

1 Corinthians 11:23-32

  • Many were weak, sick, and had fallen asleep. To be spiritually sick you can’t enjoy the goodness of God. (SHARE: Gym- lack the strength)
  • Before you take communion you must examine yourself. The ancient church had a conviction on this! We must pay attention to the condition of our souls.
  • When you are sick physically you can’t enjoy the goodness of life no matter what happens. You are stuffed up, usually in bed, you are contagious to others.
  1. A HOPE DEFERRED

Proverbs 13:12- A hope deferred makes the heart sick. Have you hoped for something and it didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to? We have to have our hope in God and not in the things of this world. It is no wonder the church connected the idea to “SLOTH” since when you are sick you are lethargic.

SHARE: I’ll never forget in the church I put my hope in relationships and the ministry- not God. My heart got sick. I couldn’t enjoy a baptism, I couldn’t enjoy the good news sharing, I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful weather, I couldn’t enjoy spending time with the brothers, I enjoyed sleep in my bed. I felt paralyzed.

  • The sicker you get, the harder it is to serve others. The same spiritually. If you find it increasingly hard to motivate yourself to serve others you might have acedia.
  1. REFUSAL TO BE MOVED BY LOVE

2 Corinthians 5:14

  • Christ love compels us to live for Him. God’s love has a claim over us so we read our Bibles and pray. We serve our fellow man.
  • The less we feel moved by love, the more discouraged and feelings of unhappiness come. It is usually here that we become increasingly negative about our circumstances.
  1. A WILLFULL FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE

Philippians 2:14-18

  • Notice the command to not grumble/complain or argue. We then shine like stars, doesn’t sound like Acedia to me!
  • Paul had the idea of holding firmly to the word, and pouring oneself out is how to shine like a star. Not focusing on the negative. (Philippians 4:8-9). You have to fight this sin in your thinking! You must decide to pour yourself out!
  1. A REFUSAL TO SEE GOD AS GOOD

Psalm 88:13-18

  • This brother was suffering from acedia. A refusal to enjoy God’s goodness. Darkness was his closest friend.
  • The less we feel loved, the more intense our feelings of darkness become and we distrust even those close to us.
  • We get a weird since of comfort from depression, darkness becomes a companion.
  • If this point keeps going, even the things we look to for hope such as reading the Bible and praying seem pointless and we give up on them. We believe God has given up on us and look to other sins to fulfill us.
  1. BITTERNESS TOWARDS MAN AND GOD

Hebrews 12:7-11

  • I believe the ultimate cause of Acedia is bitterness in one’s soul.
  • We must recognize that we serve a sovereign God. Everything that happens either he makes happen or allows to happen.
  • Hebrews 12:14-15- You see when hardship comes YOU HAVE A CHOICE- get bitter or better! Hardship comes because what we hoped for didn’t happen, one gets down and depressed, so you get sick spiritually (acedia). This is bitterness! It is refusing to accept the discipline and goodness of God. You fight the harvest he wants to produce in your life.
  • Jesus must be enough for us even when we go through times of emptiness or feel numb.
  • Having to face something hard is not a sign of God’s disapproval with us.
  • The scars Jesus had from his crucifixion were a sign of victory not God’s displeasure.
  • Have you refused God’s goodness? Do you have a conviction it is willful?
    • Refuse to enjoy a Bible study
    • Refuse to enjoy meetings of the body (HIT: Commitment of a Disciple/ ALL CONGREG.)
    • Refuse to enjoy creation (when your bored, something spiritual is going on)
    • Refuse to enjoy material blessings
    • Refusal to accept encouragement from others
    • Refusal to enjoy prayer
    • Refuse to enjoy the relationships in the body (HIT: Over the break, still enjoying fellowship- Acts 2:42-47)
    • Refusal to enjoy sharing your faith
    • Refusal to enjoy our spouse
  • ACEDIA IS JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS:

THE MOTIONS by Matthew West

This might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything,
Instead of going through the motions?

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go)
Take me all the way (through the motions)
Take me all the way

I don’t wanna go through the motions

  • What is the cure for acedia?

 

  1. The Cure for Acedia

Genesis 4:1-8

  • This is the first case of acedia in the Bible! (well maybe second if you count Adam and Eve)
  • The Holy Spirit makes a point to show that Cain was “very angry” and “downcast”. Cain was bitter and it lead to acedia.
  • Why was God displeased with Cain’s sacrifice? I believe if we look at Genesis 3:21- God taught Adam and Eve that he required a blood sacrifice, of course Hebrews 11:4 shows us that Abel offered in faith!
  • Notice v.3 “in the course of time”- You see Cain became apathetic towards God. He did not enjoy the goodness of God so he didn’t give in faith (his heart wasn’t into it anymore). There was no costly sacrifice, now a cheap one.
  • V6- if you do what is right won’t you be accepted?
  1. DO WHAT IS RIGHT
  • Do the right thing! Many of us get down, bitter towards our spouse, bitter towards the church, bitter towards our roommates AND YOU ARE IN MAJOR SIN! Cain was the one in sin but he was blind by his acedia.
  • Cain was deceived that God didn’t love him anymore. Sin by nature deceives us. Acedia is deceptive.
  • You must master your sin. (SHARE: It is sad, b/c many times it is the people in excessive impurity that are the most bitter and deceived) WAKE UP! YOU’RE SPIRITUALLY SICK AND NEED TO PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD!
  • Start doing the things you know are right.
  • SHARE: I wouldn’t pray for long periods of time, no matter how much I was challenged on it, no matter how many d-times, no matter how many periods of fruitlessness, I wouldn’t. I refused to enjoy communion with God. I had to just start doing the right thing despite my feelings and motivation. Since I decided that God has turned the church around!
  • If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted?
  1. ENGAGE IN THE PRESENT
  • Luke 10:38-42- Martha refused to enjoy the goodness of the presence of the Son of God!
  • Doing the right thing is not enough, you must engage in the right things. Mary was busy doing things that needed to and yet refused to engage in the moment enjoying Jesus.
  • Mary chose to enjoy Jesus and it wouldn’t be taken away from her.
  • Do you recognize timing? Are you aware of your surroundings? Or are you distracted?
  • SHARE: I found myself sometimes not being engaged with people talking to me
  • This is part of defeating the selfish element that fuels acedia.
  1. WALK AFTER THE SPIRT
  • Mark 14:32-41
  • Jesus could have given into acedia here, his guys certainly were. No longer were they fired up and consumed with zeal, but now sadness, depression, and sleepiness. Jesus felt the same way but took a different course of action, one of the Spirit!
  • He prayed and engaged with God. “The spirit is willing and the flesh is weak”. He wrestled with God- his feeling was not to go to the Cross “take this cup from me” but he prayed to surrender his heart to God- to see the goodness of God’s plan.
  • This takes an incredible amount of spiritual discipline that has to come from within.
  • When you are depressed instead of giving into the flesh and eating ice cream, sleeping, indulging in video games, DO YOU PRAY?
  • Galatians 5:16-18,22-23- doesn’t sound like acedia! Maybe you are visiting and you have never experienced God’s Holy Spirit, without it there is no hope for acedia.
  • Galatians 3:26-27- Clothing yourself with Christ happens at baptism! MANY WHO ARE STUDYING HAVE ACEDIA AND WON”T FEEL OR DEAL!!!
  • During the summerit is so easy to get into sins like sloth, gluttony, and acedia. We need to do the right thing to be accepted by God, engage in the present, and walk by the Spirit!

CALL: LET’S GO AFTER REPENTING OF SPIRITUAL APATHY AND EMBRACE GOD’S AWESOME LOVE!!!

biblestarsOpening Ice Breaker: Share your name out loud with the group and have the first person who shares whisper something into the next persons ear. Every person that shares has to whisper what was said. Have the last person who says their name say outloud what was whispered (Telephone game).

Q: How come with so few people, it is still challenging to find out what was originally whispered? (perception, not understanding language, etc.)

Q: What could have helped us make sure what was whispered was not changed as it traveled from one person to another? (write it down and pass a paper around)

Q: What are some common myths you have heard about the Bible?

Today we are going to look at Peter’s understanding of scripture. Peter was one of the closest apostles to Jesus Christ. He writes 2 Peter some 37 years after he had walked with Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:16-18

Q: How is Peter defending the faith in this verse? (claims he was there, heard the voice of God)

Q: Is eyewitness testimony reliable? Why or why not?

Q: In what ways does our society value eyewitness testimony? (justice system)

Q: Is there a double standard when it comes to the Bible? Why would this be if so?

Q: What does it take to make up a cleverly devised story?

Q: Could the apostles and early followers of Jesus done this? Why or why not? (1 Cor. 15- over 500 witness to the resurrection, most the apostles died a martyres death- do you die for a lie?,historical evidence of Jesus, etc.)

Q: Peter claims they heard the voice of God on the Mountain of Transfiguration, how many of you would love to hear the audible voice of God? What would be your “ideal” way for God to prove himself to you?

This is still all just eyewitness testimony and telephone in a sense, but at least it is written down. Let’s see if there is something more reliable for us.

2 Peter 2:19-21

Q: What did Peter see as compeltely reliable (some translations made more certain)? (Peter saw the scripture as more reliable than the voice of God from heaven!)

Q: How would the Bible be more reliable than a voice from heaven?

Q: Peter says, “Above all”- what does he above all, want us to understand? (That scripture was authored by God using men as vessels.)

Q: Is there such thing as interpretation according to the Bible? (not private interpretation)

Q: How do we get rid of interpretation? Don’t we all interpret? (It isn’t about getting rid of interpretation, but learning to interpret the right way. God had a specific message and it isn’t going to mean something different today than it meant to the original hearers).

FACTS:

  • Bible is 66 books
  • Written by 40 different authors (some kings, tax collectors, poor people, etc.)
  • Written on 3 different continents
  • Written in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Greek, some Aramaic)
  • All in 1500-2000 years

This is amazing as there are no contradictions and the Bible tells one story about one God. It would be like if we all witnessd a crime, chances are when we write the police report there may be descrepancies and yet in the Bible with many authors who weren’t contemparies we don’t find those descrepancies!

2 Peter 2:1-2

Q: Why do false teachers introduce destructive heresies?

Q: What is the consequence of following false teaching?

2 Peter 3:14-18

Q: What is Peter most concerned about in some of his last words before he would be beheaded by Nero? (make sure to not fall into error or false teaching!)

Q: Can the Bible be hard to understand? (yes, even in this time people were distorting Paul’s letters to say what they wanted it to say- this leads to their destruction spiritually)

Q: What would it look like to make every effort to be found at peace with God (v14)?

It has been an amazing Bible discussion today. Consider, do you know the scriptures?

Challenge: Study the Bible with the person who brought you to make sure you understand God’s will for your life.

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“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Love is in the air at the Boston International Christian Church! Congratulations to our newest married couple Joe and Amelia Mack! Also to our engaged couples Peter Markarian and Jessica Polum and Andre Carreo and Mara Eagen! Finally, congratulations to the newest dating couples in the church Jackie Gomes and Aradhna Masih and Gianni DiFusco and Skyla Eastman. Do you feel the love?

 

joeamelia

Joe proposes to Amelia at church!

 

With so many new dating, engaged, and now a married couple, it could be tempting as a single to ask “when is it going to be my turn?!” Certainly, disciples of Jesus have the conviction that disciples date and marry only disciples (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Yet even in the church, we can struggle on how to spiritually go about pursuing an interest in someone we like and desire a dating relationship with. Satan can even take things further when we allow feelings of jealousy, impatience, and lust fill our hearts. The scripture above shows that God wants to give us the desires of our hearts. The condition is that we delight in the LORD! God needs to be first. God must be our ultimate desire. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25). God must be our great reward (Genesis 15:1). Jesus commanded us to become like children to enter the kingdom of God. When you come into the kingdom, you must put away old worldly ways of dating and be completely humble to learn to date in a way that glorifies God. How do you begin a dating relationship in God’s kingdom? Here are a few biblical principles.

  1. Patience

“Love is patient…” 1 Corinthians 13:4

“So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” Genesis 29:20

Biblical love is long-suffering, willing to wait, and patient. Patience is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When someone is impatient, they are not qualified to date in God’s kingdom. Unspiritual impatience shows itself in many ways. It is not submissive to advice or input. Idolatry of dating itself or of the person is the root of impatience. The impatient brother or sister wants what they want right away. They are not at peace if someone tries to get in their way or encourages them to slow down. The question must be asked, why would someone not be willing to wait if advised to? The phrase “wait on the Lord” is used so many times in the Bible. Time allows what is in the heart to be revealed so that a proper foundation can be built. Are you willing to wait on God to make clear to you when it is time to start pursuing the brother or sister that you have an interest in dating? How does God do this?

  1. Advice and Community

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

 

jackiearadna

Jackie & Aradhna start dating in God’s kingdom!

In Biblical times when someone desired to marry, they sought the blessing of the community. Usually, a bride price was paid. In 1 Samuel 18:24-29, Saul (God’s anointed and yet evil king at this point) conspires to get David killed by sending him out to fight the Philistines. He tells David he will give him his daughter Michal if he brings back 100 Philistine foreskins. David trusted his God was bigger than men’s motives and submitted to God’s anointed leader. He came back with 200 foreskins and married Michal! David could submit to Saul’s direction (though ill-motivated) because he was submitted to God. The story of Jacob serving fourteen years under Laban who lies to him and takes advantage of him serves as another example of this principle (Genesis 29). The point is, you cannot stop God’s plans. If God desires you to be with someone it will happen, but you must remain submitted to leadership (Hebrews 13:17) and seek tons of advice. In the church, we strive to follow the biblical principle of seeking the blessing of the community. Everyone has a discipling partner as commanded by Jesus (Matthew 28:20) and we should seek tons of advice when it comes to making moves in pursuing a dating relationship. This helps guard hearts (Proverbs 4:23). Can you make your own decisions without seeking and submitting to advice? Absolutely! Will God bless it? Probably not. Remember, the way of a fool seems right to him. What stops someone from getting advice? Pride, and we know pride always comes before the fall. Consider these verses if you need to gain deeper convictions on seeking advice: Proverbs 12:15, 13:10, 19:20,  and 20:18. Decide today to seek the blessing of the community by seeking advice and submitting to leadership (Ephesians 5:21).

 

  1. Absolute Purity

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Ephesians 5:3

 

andremara

Andre proposes to Mara!

 

The Bible teaches that we should treat our relationships as we would our own physical family, with absolute purity. If you are single in the congregation, do you in your interactions, physical touch, and in your heart, treat the opposite sex as your own physical sibling? I am very grateful to God that my first kiss and intimacy was with Chenelle (and in my life ever since I was baptized at 13 as a teen) when I was married! Maybe you can’t say that, but I want to encourage you; if you are in Christ, God sees you as a pure virgin! Chenelle’s white dress meant something since we strove for purity in our dating relationship and prior to dating. There were many shortcomings we had and times we were too close emotionally and physically but we would quickly confess and not allow it to go that far. It is complete foolishness to think you can handle being alone with the opposite sex. Paul admonished the church to make sure there is no hint of impurity. It doesn’t even have to be the act, but if it just smells or looks like it, it is a sin in God’s eyes. In the church, we encourage everyone to go on double dates. Singles should never be alone with the opposite sex to fulfill these verses. It isn’t about whether we trust each other or not, it is that we don’t trust Satan! He is a schemer and wants to take you out of the kingdom. More people fall away from God because of sexual sin. Emotional impurity can also be a huge challenge. Late night texting, flirting, talking about marriage, or spending undue amounts of time with someone does not produce a pure heart. We need to welcome correction and accountability in this area. Paul expected the church to hold each other to God’s standard of purity. Do you have absolute purity in your relationships with the opposite sex? God will only give his daughters and brothers to men or women of God he trusts.

  1. Date Often

“See to it, brothers and sisters that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12-13

One of the most exciting parts of our church culture is “Kingdom Dates”. The Bible tells us that we need encouragement to prevent our hearts from becoming hardened by sin’s deceitfulness and eventually unbelieving! The brothers in the church are constantly tempted with the immodesty of the world and our sexualized culture. The sisters constantly get hit on and flirted with by men in the world. As brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to encourage and protect one another. Kingdom dates are Saturday evening (or another convenient evening) where two brothers will ask two sisters on a date (or vice versa) and go out on a fun double date to encourage one another. There is nothing romantic about it or it doesn’t even mean there is a mutual romantic interest. The goal is to have an encouraging time and get to know the brothers and sisters in a pure environment. Christians need to learn to develop spiritual relationships with the opposite sex and unlearn the ways the world taught us to build relationships. Maybe you found a sister or brother that you want to start dating. Be patient, seek advice, be pure, and finally date often! That may seem strange if you like someone specifically, but love is totally selfless. Dating different brothers and sisters show you are concerned with all of God’s family being encouraged. I personally do not encourage my blessing to start dating in the church if the brother takes the same sister out that he likes every week. This shows a selfish heart which will hurt him later if things progress to marriage. If you have not wanted to go on kingdom dates with different brothers and sisters. I want to challenge you to repent and love your brothers and sisters. This also allows you to grow spiritually and see different qualities in different people to make a wise decision on who you want to date.

 

Gianni & Skyla started dating in the kingdom and powerfully lead our AMS ministry!

These are all just principles to delight in the LORD so that he will give you the desires of your heart. At the end of the day, you can make your own decisions and don’t need the blessing of the church to date if you take the unspiritual rout, but as the old saying goes, you will have to make your bed and sleep in it. After counseling many relationships and seeing the devastation that comes from not following these biblical principles, I encourage you to really consider the way you are going about pursuing a relationship in God’s kingdom. Talk to your discipler today and seek tons of advice and watch God give you the desire of your heart.  To God be the glory!

 

In Christ,

Mike Patterson

 

From Jeffery Schwartz book "Brain Lock"

From Jeffery Schwartz book “Brain Lock”

In January of this year I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This helped explain symptoms I had exhibited for a while that became so strong I felt maybe it was demonic and that is very possible. Most think of hand-washers or hoarders from pop-culture on TV when they think of OCD. My symptoms aren’t as obvious; intrusive inappropriate thoughts (not desires or even temptations), constant doubts on if I had done something wrong, doubting events in my past, false feelings portraying themselves as memories almost, etc. The compulsion was to confess any thought that came in my mind or to reanalyze situations for days, weeks, or months to see if I did something wrong and just missed it. I would analyze words to make sure I didn’t tell a lie and re-record voicemails over and over again.  The doubts would be so strong that I would feel strong anxiety to confess to things I know I never did or would even desire to do. I looked for reassurance from people to confirm I didn’t do certain things. These obsessions, intrusive thoughts, and compulsions began to affect my marriage, faith, and I was very confused. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? I thought so! As I studied out the symptoms it became clear I probably had OCD and that was confirmed when I was diagnosed officially with it after going to see someone.

Before coming back to God in July of 2011, I use to be someone who never learned from his mistakes. I was a compulsive liar, pornography/impurity addict, and would hide many of my sins from those who could help me. God delivered me from these demons as I confessed all known sins in my past (1 John 1:9) to the men God put into my life that would guide me to through the scriptures (James 5:16). As time went on I got married to the love of my life, got back into the full-time ministry, and was even recently appointed an evangelist in God’s church one of my life dreams! Although, God put my life back together and broke my bondage to habitual sin another torment came into my life immediately after my reunion with God…OCD.

1097977_10201210285355375_87842229_nMy dreams of being in the ministry with the woman I love had been given to me and here I was outside the place we were staying still newly married crying to God not understanding why I felt guilt, doubts, for things I didn’t even do but felt strong feelings I did. Someone with OCD for example might run over a pot hole while driving. They fear maybe they ran over a kid as they dwell on it. The mind races for days as they reanalyze the event. Did they actually see a kid? Didn’t the driver in the car next to them look at them funny thus maybe they saw them run over the kid!? They can even start creating memories of doing so. In some extreme cases I have heard people have actually turned themselves in for things they didn’t even do. They could even go back to check to see if they hit someone. I’m not ready to divulge all the details of how my symptoms work at this point, but it is very similar to the example above.  I wrestled with whether OCD was a physical issue or a spiritual one. I still do believe it could be a demon or demonic. Yet as I studied the scriptures I have found most things to be both physical and spiritual. OCD is physical as the part of the frontal orbital cortex of the brain that warns us of danger and deals with feelings is overactive in people with OCD. Yet the Bible says Satan and demons can put thoughts in our heads and teach us lessons (1 Timothy 4:1-2). They become sin when we listen to them. For example, Satan put the thought in David’s head to take a census and he sinned against God (1 Chronicles 21:1-3). David sinned because he attributed a false message that Satan put in his brain to himself and acted on the thought. If he would have just ignored it and focused on ruling Israel in righteousness this event never would have happened. God is sovereign and either makes things happen or allows them for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

The scripture above helped me come to a deep conviction. God could take this OCD away from me but has allowed it for a reason. Maybe after all the years of lying and indulgence in sin and rebellion towards God these are now the consequences. He forgave me and restored me but wants me to learn some things in his love. God is saying to me if I was to put his words down, “Mike, I’ll give you your dreams you are my son whom I love, but to keep you from becoming conceited again this thorn OCD will be given to you so it will be impossible for you to hide even the things that aren’t sin! You will feel the guilt you should have felt for sinning about things that aren’t even sin or your sin! This will teach you son that I am enough for you, my grace is sufficient for you. That true power comes in boasting about your weaknesses.” In effect God allowed this in my life to humble me and teach me to be open about weaknesses. To date I have been able to overcome many of the symptoms by God’s powerful grace and this huge revelation.

Maybe you have OCD or are wrestling with issues of the mind. These steps and scriptures have helped me in this battle:

1) Acceptance (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Meditate on the above passage. It is hard at times but I see my OCD as a grace of God. It causes me to run to Him more for strength. The more you try to fight OCD thoughts the bigger they will get. If I tell you to stop thinking about a red shoe, you immediately are thinking about a red shoe! You must allow the intrusive thoughts to be there identifying that it is not you, it is your OCD/brain disorder/Satan/etc. I recommend a book called “Brain Locke” by Jeffery Schwartz that helped me with this step. Jesus teaches evil thoughts are sin (Mark 7:21). Yet with OCD the intrusive thoughts are the result of a brain disorder or demons not your own thoughts. For example, someone who with OCD may constantly have thoughts about stabbing their family members with knives (a common form of OCD) or even worse doing something sexually inappropriate to them. Their compulsions may be dwelling on the thoughts, hiding knives, or staying away from their family out of fear.  It has been shown with OCD, these thoughts are not desires of them at all, in fact they are so morally disturbed by them that these thoughts don’t bring any sort of comfort to the person with OCD. OCD uses the very things you find morally wrong against you. These people are actually some of the safest people.  So these aren’t “evil thoughts” but misfires of the brain or evil spirits. Let me be clear, sinful desires/thoughts must be confessed and repented of. OCD is unwanted thoughts/desires that plague the person. It is important for my audience to understand the difference between an intrusive thought and an evil thought. Intrusive you don’t want it to be there so you will do whatever compulsion to make it go away but the compulsion just makes the intrusive thoughts stronger. With evil thoughts you desire the things you are thinking. Homosexual thoughts for example would be evil thoughts if the person is homosexual or aroused by such thinking. Some who have OCD are straight, happily married, attracted to the opposite sex, and yet they are tormented by doubts thoughts of if they are gay. Their compulsions may take the form of checking to see if they were aroused by the same-sex and looking into bodily reactions. This is a real form of OCD I have read about. Schwarts in his book says when they come to say “It’s not me, it’s my OCD”. This will help retrain your brain to normal. Accepting the anxiety that comes with OCD and paying no attention to the thoughts lessens their power.

2) Take Every Thought Captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

The Bible teaches us we can control our thoughts. Having OCD myself, this has been hard for me at times to believe but this scripture contains the key to doing so! Notice we are called to demolish arguments that set itself up against the knowledge of God!  The brain of someone with OCD uses find sounding arguments to convince them to doubt or give into a compulsion. Did you really lock the door? Are you sure? Can you really remember doing it? When these doubts come we must demolish OCD’s arguments by the knowledge of God. This means bringing truth into the situation. As baptized disciples of Jesus we are God’s children blessed with every spiritual blessing. Just accept the thoughts as being there, and focus on who God says you are. Remember, with OCD thoughts this is not “trying to push the thoughts out of your head”, they will get bigger because you are still focused on them. Taking them captive is acceptance of the thorn and remembering the knowledge of God. In time this will demolish them!

3) Engage in the Present (Philippians 3:12-15)

Matt Sullivan who is my disciple (mentor) discipled me on something that was very key in helping me overcome OCD thinking. He noticed that sometimes I was not fully engaged in what I was doing at the moment but was in another world in my head. People with OCD give too much thought to their thoughts. Listen, the bible says the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9) so you are never going to figure it out by being mega introspective. Paul says in the verse above to forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead. I believe we do this by focusing on the mission Christ gave us and what we can do now to strain towards that. When intrusive thoughts attack or your OCD is strong; accept the thoughts, remember who you are in Christ if you’re a baptized disciple, and fully engage into what you are doing in the moment mind, soul, heart, and strength. My wife suggested I download a game on my phone that I can play when the thoughts come. Remember, you aren’t trying to stop the thoughts, just engaging in something else. You will find in time you will renew your mind (Romans 12:1-3) and the OCD will continually get weaker. Some have said that there is no cure, but we know that through God all things are possible for him who believes.

OTHER SUGGESTED SCRIPTURES FOR STUDY:

Colossians 3:1-2 (We have power to choose what we set our thoughts on)

Proverbs 16:32 KJV (Must learn to rule our thoughts, not let them rule us)

1 Chronicles 28:9 (God knows what OCD is and what is your thoughts)

James 5:16-17 (Find someone who understands OCD and you can be open with about)

My prayer is that this article will encourage someone who felt as I did last year, alone, scared, and looking for answers. I pray it will help disciples of Jesus be equipped and understand those who may have brain disorders and feel out of control of their thought life. God has transformed me and I am now grateful as this continues to bring me closer to Him. To God is the glory.

My wife and I were very honored to be appointed Evangelist and Women’s Ministry Leader by Matt and Helen Sullivan on August 5th at this years Global Leadership Conference. We also received our bachelor’s degree (my second one) in ministry on August 4th being apart of the first graduating class of the ICCM (International College of Christian Ministry). Below are some pictures from this incredible milestone in our lives and a couple from us preaching.

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