Would It Make A Difference?

I’d like to convince you to read your bible, but I am careful to not approach it loosely. Bible reading is a spiritual discipline. But that is who I want to appeal to in this post, your spiritual man.  Has it not been miserably unpredictable to fight without a Sword? This year has tried us and some of us found we weren’t gold but bramble. Our faith fled from beneath and left us on our faces crying, hoping we would just survive. Our faith was so fragile because our knowledge and belief was so limited. 2021 is coming and as a generation, we should learn from our mistakes, we should invest in reading our Bibles. Yet, at the heart, is it merely reading? Far from it actually, It is to have our hearts bowed, our minds engaged, our ears listening and our spiritual man feeding. Yes, we have tried Bible reading before, but what if we did that consistently? What if we mixed discipline, the Word and faith?  Would it make a difference?

I have always sought answers to rid myself of procrastination and selfish actions. Seeking also about my purpose, loving neighbor, serving my community, the ‘Christian’ stuff. But no matter the number of videos I watched, articles I read, or psychological tactics I followed, none of them worked. I was dealing with a state of rebellion and outright thirst for sin, that I couldn’t outrun even if I wanted to.

I often wonder if others aren’t extremely disturbed about the reality of evil in them. Evil that sleeps at our doors. No evil that decides it’s a permanent roommate. That in hearing the sermons and feeling the Spirit, it is not enough for the smell of stale vomit to draw us away. To find it pleasing, to pursue it, even at the expense of our conscience.

I ramble on in thought, what else do I need? What is the secret prayer or length of fasting? Maybe it is to detach from everyone, you know, no outside influences?  I dipped in the bagged candied Christian goodies and no quick fix helped. To live with a heart set on sinning and a mind that desires to please God is a torture that rips you apart from the inside. Subsequently, a friend reached out and asked that I joined them in studying a book of the Bible. This is what I found out:

  • Provides accountability
  • Awareness of Sin
  • Sharpened Sword for Battles
  • Deeper Understanding of God

Precious Thoughts’ passion is that we don’t sleep on the Word next year (Lord’s willing). We are labouring towards the freedom of youth everywhere, and we know it is by knowing truth that we experience liberty. His word is truth. We are completing next year (Lord’s willing), “90 Days New Testament Bible Challenge” that starts on January 1, 2021. Persons who sign up will receive email and WhatsApp (optional) daily reminders. They will have access to the plans (FREE), an opportunity for discussion on our social media platforms via Instagram and Facebook, community accountability and opportunity to inspire others with videos and other posts. The secret isn’t the 90 Day plan, the secret is the power of the Word hidden in a submitted heart. Our aim is not to birth a desire for scripture, that’s a spiritual endeavor, we want to strengthen that which is already present and help you get rid of distractions while we are at it. The beautiful thing is that we don’t have to wait until 2021. Our own pursuit of Christ (Truth), can start today. Choose a passage, book or theme you want from the bible, tell someone to keep you accountable and start reading!

I can make no further appeal than to those who are weary, thirsty, and heavy. To those of us who are restless of sinning and finding that you sinned for nothing. Those who experience pursuing the same old vomit, hoping it will taste good this one last time. No judgement here, I know the taste of revisited vomit too. But I don’t want that to be my bread anymore, I trust you don’t either. Click here for the sign-up form to receive plans via email. Despite how things may look, we believe in this generation!

Reconciling with the Past: Remembering

Precious Thoughts Press

We’ve been on a roll over the past years, it seems we are ‘canceling’ feelings. It’s interesting how they taught us how to tie our laces, brush our teeth, do homework, and yet no one taught us how to maneuver our emotions. Even the bible makes it a priority, it commands us to guard our hearts because it determines the course of our life. (Prov. 4:23 NLT) No matter how hard we try, we can’t outrun them, eventually they catch up. But what’s clear is whether or not feelings are immediately in our consciousness, they dictate our path. Whether that path is to run, to pause or to overcome them. We want to be a part of the ones to overcome them. To do that, we must start at our past.

Our lives are just like the universe, a preacher once said. Before God came and created it, we were without form, void, and darkness prevailed in our lives. Salvation restores our form/ foundation, fills our voids, and lets the light into our hearts. Our foundations before Christ were unstable, destructive. Our houses could have fallen at any time. Now, Christ has become the rock we are building upon. However, when saved, our past remained in our memories, forgiven and forgotten by God, yes, but not by us. The mistakes, the hurts, the pain, our offenders and the ones we offended take permanent residence in our minds, skewing our outlook and damaging our relationship to God and others. How do we get rid of them or even bound them, so they don’t always mess things up?

Christian author, Miroslav Volf, suggested a path to healing from our past, or in his words, memories. In his breakthrough book, “End of Memories”, the journey starts with remembering and not just that but remembering truthfully. Our first steps, a guardian holding us just after birth, the feeling of first touching the ground, the first time we saw a bird, or the sky, or the ocean, our first words, the first knee scrape and the first time we laughed, all important things, all things we have forgotten.  It is a fact memories fade, but some especially negative ones, we repress. I don’t blame you; I did the same thing too. Recalling negative experiences are uncomfortable, excruciating even. But avoidance has helped no one in history, not even the thinkers.

I know it’s absurd that I am asking you to do this, but friend, God can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge. It’s true He knows our hearts, but do you know yours? That’s why prayer is so important. It’s an exclusive session with the greatest counselor, comforter, and healer. I remember the first time I did this; it was sometime last year. People close to me often said I was closed off, guarded, cold, emotionless even. As a highly sensitive person, this was the farthest from the truth, I just didn’t know how to handle my emotions or express them. They made uncomfortable, made me feel weak and stupid. So, when they became overwhelming, I disappeared. I didn’t know it was okay to just feel. Apparently, I had bought into the idea that I had to always be okay. I needed to remember, to acknowledge, to name the thing or things.

The interesting part to this is not only will we sit in remembrance to God, but we will speak of it. I did not grow emotionally by myself; I had a community that was patient, loving and sober. Healing whilst more internal than any other process is never done alone. Paul didn’t just arrive after such a horrific past. He had the word, the Holy Spirit and a church family to encourage him. Remembering truthfully might seem easy especially for victims, but one needs to be careful. William James warned,

“The most frequent source of false memory is the accounts we give

to others of our experiences. Such accounts we almost always

make both more simple and more interesting than the truth. We

quote what we should have said or done rather than what we

really said or did; This is one great source of

the fallibility of testimony meant to be quite honest.”

In simple terms, find a prayer room, pour out to God then find a sober confidant, pour out to them fully and honestly. Don’t make yourself look any better or the offender any worst. Afterall, bearing false news is a sin too. Beware of assuming motives and opinions. There will be time for that later. Leave nothing for shame to have power over. You can do it the other way around if you choose too. If you killed someone say it, someone raped you? Say it. They neglected you when you were younger? Tell every detail. Perhaps you struggled with sexual immorality? Confess it. Someone broke your heart? Reveal it. The things I confessed started losing their power the moment they left my lips. Our shame feeds off the things we remain hidden. Let me just add too, it’s okay to feel ashamed too.

I journaled before speaking though; it helped me sort through my emotions to find out what was holding me back from being open and vulnerable. Then, after I sat down to write, I rose to talk to God and people.

Healing is a messy business, but staying broken and wounded is even messier. Your pain won’t just stay in a corner while you continue life, it insists on getting attention. Unhealed pain makes pebbles seem like boulders and streams like raging waters. If you received healing, you change the course of your life for the better. Let’s start with vulnerability. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone, slide into my DM on Instagram. I promise it’s a safe place. Next week we will tackle another part of the journey, condemning those wrong deeds. Remember, you are precious.

Recording: Shamoy

Thorns of Pleasure

Connecting with someone before they get whisked into a meeting is less than ideal when they reveal something you had been blind to.  She told me she was once as into ‘it’ as I am. That my expressions were once hers. Sadness played on her smile as she continued. Something pushed her away from it, from Him. It was a guilty pleasure, she said. She spoke with a conviction even I override now and then, “Presumptuous sinning is wrong, God charges you for it more than the ignorant, I can’t be in God’s face like that.” Yet here she was, not as ‘committed’ as I am. The thing is, I felt she was talking about me.

Crossing Boundaries

God and I disagree on what pleasures are acceptable, even if I don’t do the things myself. I ask things like, “What’s so wrong about having the last dumpling covered in curried chicken gravy even if I am full, or hitting the snooze button for the fourth time, or a glass of wine now and then, or masturbating, (that’s not technically fornication if it’s just one person), I add, or buying the 3rd outfit with no use for it, or binge watching a series that is ‘clean’ but says nothing about God or stalking celebrity pages that promote nothing I stand for or at worst, is fashionable pornography or watching an all-night funny cat video marathon? Come on! They are just cats!” If my conscience could be silent, I would get away without feeling guilty too. But there is something God wanted to teach me about the human desire.

“St. Thomas says [I-II, Q.34, a.4] that a man is good when his will takes joy in what is good, evil when his will takes joy in what is evil. He is virtuous when he finds happiness in a virtuous life, sinful when he takes pleasure in a sinful life. Hence the things that we love tell us what we are.”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude, Pg. 11


Pleasure Nerves

 I find pleasure in things that have nothing to do with God because they make me happy. I would go further to say, even more than the things that honor Him. But this is something I am far from comfortable with. Authors Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey shares about a pleasure/pain experiment:

“Then, somewhat characteristically, he recruited volunteers among the female students who agreed to let him stimulate the nerves of the clitoris electrically. To his surprise, he found no nerve ending that could be designated a “pleasure nerve.” In fact, the main feature of the erogenous landscape was an abundance of the free nerve endings normally associated with pain.

Weddell concluded that sexual pleasure, too, is more perception than sensation. Sensors of touch, temperature, and pain dutifully record the mechanical aspects of one body coming into con- tact with another. But pleasure involves an interpretation of those reports, a process heavily dependent on subjective factors such as anticipation, fear, memory, guilt, and love. Physiologically, sexual intercourse between two lovers and the ordeal of rape involves the same nerve endings—but one registers as beauty, the other as horror. Pleasure, even more than pain, emerges as a by-product of cooperation among many cells, mediated and interpreted by the higher brain. ”

Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants – Pg. 59-60

So, are they saying something I find pleasurable can turn into pain if I just changed my mind about it? Trust me, I’ve tried, don’t work. Or so I thought. I needed to see the end of my pleasures. Solomon ran ahead and did that. His conclusion was it was all meaningless, like chasing the wind. (Eccl. 2)

Real Pleasure Defined

How does prayer and study become more pleasurable and not painful or just mundane? Romans 12:1 shares the renewal that takes place. But how? Colossians 3:1 states it beautifully, it’s setting my heart/eyes/mind on things above so constant renewal can take place.

How then do I define these heavenward pleasures so I can submit to this process of renewal? The late Ravi Zacharias has defined this using these three biblical points:

  1. Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from your final goal is legitimate. (What is the ultimate goal of your life?)
  2. Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure
  3. Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite

Thorns

While sinful things feel good even fantastic at the moment, it is short-lived and harmful. Jesus said it best:

18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19 KJV

Imagine the thing that should cleanse our ways barren and dried up. The results of that are uncontrollable lusts that lead to sin and ultimately death. Perhaps we need to see ‘innocent’ pleasures as leaven.

God of the Happy

Despite what others say or our own thoughts, God is interested in our happiness, in us finding pleasure. It’s the source that has always been the problem.

“Being happy in God and living righteously tastes far better for far longer than sin does. When my hunger and thirst for joy is satisfied by Christ, sin becomes unattractive. I say no to immorality not because I hate pleasure but because I want the enduring pleasure found in Christ.”
― Randy Alcorn, Happiness

I am happiest with Jesus; I smile more; I overthink less, my fears are subdued by His grace, I find meaning for my life, motivation for purpose, I am more productive, and have peace down to the depths of my soul. Anything else and I become overwhelmed, flustered and depressed.

Heavenward Pleasures

What can we do starting today? Replace mindless scroll time to check up on a friend, or pray for them. Share meals at lunch to avoid overeating, give that money to somebody in need that you would have used to buy the extra outfit. Think about things that make you experience closeness to God. Do more of that. When you are overwhelmed and tempted to waste time on a series that adds no value to your life that you will end up regretting, find another one to watch! Just let it be God glorifying, I highly recommend The Chosen, they even have an app for better quality! And let’s not forget music, use the weapons of melody to redirect your thoughts.

Have extra time on your hands? Give yourself to volunteerism in the ministry and or shelters, hospitals, prisons, etc. It’s amazing how understanding someone else’s struggles reduces the delight in selfish pleasures. If you are tempted, at the moment, say it to a friend or leader, confession is POWERFUL. Ask them to pray for you. If you can change your environment do so. All of life’s war is choosing one thought over the other. Don’t let one sinful thought escape, they have a way of growing into monsters. Fight to the end. Remember, you are precious.

Recording: Abigail Barrett