SPIRITUAL WARFARE

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5). Paul’s admonition to the follower of Christ in the conclusion of these verses is to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  It doesn’t take a man much effort to conclude that he can only entertain one individual thought at any given time. He may quickly rotate between a few different thoughts at a rapid pace, but only one thought can be on the “screen” of a man’s mind at any given time. The Scriptures further instruct us that how we think, and what we think about (our thoughts) are of paramount importance to the believer.   Proverbs 23:7 tells us “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”  Correct thinking results in correct living, and incorrect thinking results in incorrect living. Thus, any man, by a function of exerting his WILL, can control what he thinks about and successfully take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  The WILL controls the MIND and what thoughts we entertain.  A logical question is, how does a man do this?  Paul gives us some helpful instruction earlier in the passage. First, in verse 3 Paul brings to our attention that even though we walk “in the flesh” (the temporal), this is not where we...

Don’t Look Back

Jesus tells us “…..No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). This passage is commonly understood as referring to one who begins a work only to regret the decision, wishing to retreat from the work at hand.  He who does not count the cost and desires to take his hand off the plough (i.e. the work of God), forfeits his assurance that he belongs to the King. While this is a reasonable exegesis of the passage and holds true in its application, there is another understanding, rooted in the agricultural environment in which the writers of the gospel lived that also contains an additional weighty application. To a farmer, there is only one reason to look back once he puts his hand to the plough, and it isn’t to cease ploughing – it is to measure the quality and quantity of his work.  A farmer looks back to see if his rows are straight and how much of the field he’s ploughed.  Those of Jesus’ day would have immediately understood this given the agrarian nature of their society. Looking back creates a problem, however, as ploughing straight rows requires looking forward at all times.  Any time a farmer looks back, he has taken his eye off the target, which is the end of the row.  This results in a poorly ploughed field that produces an inferior crop. Along with this understanding, there are warnings here for the believer.  Who among us is not desirous to see the results of his efforts in the Kingdom?  We evangelize...

How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 3)

The attached is the concluding article of the 3 part series of the believer’s relationship to social media and smart phones.  If you missed parts 1 and 2, click on the authors section within this website and click on Scott Bangert.  It will take you to Part 1 and Part 2.  At the end of this Part 3 are some questions for your thinking as you consider the ramifications of Scott’s challenge. Part 3 of 3:  The Mind and Heart Conquered Comparison 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” According to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most basic rights of human beings is “the pursuit of happiness.” It is therefore not surprising that the desire to be happy is highly valued in the United States. What is surprising, however, is that psychologists believe that the more likely a person is to value being happy, the less likely he is to attain it. When the desire to be happy becomes extreme and inflexible, it leads to disordered emotional regulation and depression. I believe that I ought to be happy all the time, but I find that reality does not meet my expectations. As I compare my desired emotional state to reality, the gap between the two produces emotional strain. Hence, an extreme pursuit of happiness has the tendency to produce the opposite effect. Much attention has been focused on the link between smartphone use and depression, particularly among adolescents. This is probably multifactorial, and factors like sleep deprivation and addiction likely play a role. Cyber...

How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3:  The Mind and Heart Influenced Delayed Gratification James 5:7-8 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” James commends an unnatural habit to us: waiting for what we want. This is an example of what psychologists call delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the ability to resist an impulse for immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward later. This is very difficult for most of us. This is the reason why my kids have a hard time waiting until Christmas morning to open their presents (ok, I have a hard time waiting too). Given a choice, we would rather have a reward now rather than later. Psychologists call this delay discounting. The farther away a reward is, the less value it has to us. Hence, the saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It is better to take what you can get now than to risk trying for more in the uncertain future. Psychologists almost universally agree that delayed gratification is a key characteristic of successful people. As the English proverb says, “good things come to those who wait.” Psychologists also believe that while there are some innate differences in our tendencies toward delayed gratification, our ability to practice delayed gratification can be heavily shaped by our environment. It is a skill that can and should be learned. What is concerning...

How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 1)

The influence of social media and smart phones in our lives is top of mind for all of us.  Scott Bangert walks us through this relevant and concerning topic in 3 successive articles, commencing with today’s introduction. You’ll want to read and reflect on this helpful and thorough approach and then tune into articles 2 and 3 coming up in the following weeks.  Scott provides some in-depth thinking on the subject and covers areas such as addiction, concentration, sleep, predators, etc. for your consideration. Part 1 of 3:  The Mind and Heart Ensnared Solomon says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” While I believe he is correct, I have to admit to some wavering doubts when I think about how much life has changed since the first iPhone was released in 2007. I have friends who frequently talk about throwing their phone in a lake, and while I can understand their perspective, I can’t say that I can personally relate. I love my phone. I would part from it only for an upgrade. I definitely did not associate phones with anxiety and fear. That completely changed when my children started asking for phones of their own. When I was a kid, one of the biggest dangers I was warned about was guns, and my parents made me take a gun safety class before being allowed to handle one. Today, our kids face a different danger: we have to decide when to give our kids smart phones or allow them on social media. This certainly seems like a much less consequential decision, but despite their innocent appearance, I think...

Truth In the Inward Parts

I was recently the recipient of an incredibly painful truth about myself.  Specifically, God showed me with stark clarity how much I crave the approval of men rather than Him.  The way He revealed it to me left no room for argument; I was guilty as charged.  It was then, however, that I felt the desperation that comes with increased knowledge of ourselves. How was I to do anything about this?  It’s not as if I could simply will myself to be better – self reformation is always doomed to failure.  This sort of sin in particular is difficult to overcome as it is a hidden sin of the heart rather than one of action. I was fearful that there was nothing I could do or stop doing to change anything.  For half an hour I sat and prayed, completely undone by this revelation of my own dark soul.  I had always known I had this tendency, but I worked hard to convince myself it wasn’t severe.  It’s as if my entire walk with Christ led up to this moment of realization, and I had nowhere to go. It was at that moment, however, that the Spirit reached down into my heart and pulled out a memory verse I had learned years before from Psalm 51: (5) Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (6) Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (7) Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter...