Sin Keeps Us from Enjoying God

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:7-10)

Far too often, Christians do not enjoy God.  They believe in the Lord.  They are active in church.  In many cases, their life revolves around church.  But they do not enjoy God.  For too many Christians, the life of faith is cloudy and dismal, the duties are heavy and the rewards are light, and the Christian walk is more burden than blessing. We are afraid of God, afraid of messing up, afraid that we are a disappointment to God. We go through the motions of the Christian life. We approach our calling in Christ as if it were a job chart with no reward other than the fire escape at the end. Too many Christians have lost their joy in believing.

In order to understand this dynamic in the Christian life, I want to invite you back to the time in the history of the world when mankind first lost their joy in their walk with God. 

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Four Ways to Enjoy God

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The most important – and often the most neglected – emphasis of the Christian life is to enjoy God.  The ancients developed what has become a staple of practical Christianity:

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

To glorify God and to enjoy Him… But how many Christians ever think about enjoying God?  To many, the Christian life is all duty and discipline and doing.  We make sure we read our Bible every day.  But we don’t have time (or perhaps, we don’t take time) to enjoy God in what we read.

In a previous post, I pointed out that we relate to God the way one person relates to another – understanding, of course, that God as a Person is on an entirely different level than we are.  Still, it is possible for us to enjoy Him on a personal level because God is a Person.  If we would enjoy God, we must enjoy Him the way one person enjoys another.  That requires attentiveness and affection in our interaction with God.

God made us to enjoy Him.  Certainly then, He wants us to enjoy Him.  That is good, because it would be impossible for us as finite men to enjoy an infinite God otherwise.  God has made it possible for us to relate to Him and to be delighted by Him. 

We love him, because he first loved us. (I John 4:19)

In this, the initiative is not ours, but God’s.  Delight is our right response to God’s loving overtures.  God delights in us, and that is why we can delight in Him.  In fact, the Bible says more about God seeking us and desiring us than it does about us seeking God and desiring Him.  The entire gospel story is the story of God seeking His lost creation in order to restore us to fellowship with Himself.  The groundwork for fellowship with God is laid in Jesus Christ, and through His saving work on the cross it is possible for us to enjoy that fellowship.

I want to make four quick points from Psalm 27:4 that will show us how to enjoy God.

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What It Means to Enjoy God – And Why We Don’t Enjoy Him

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

If I were to describe what I see as the biggest struggle believers have in their Christian walk, near the top would be the struggle to enjoy God. 

This is certainly not our only struggle.  Christians struggle with many things – some common to us all, some unique to the individual.  We struggle with certain besetting sins.  We struggle to rest in the Lord. We struggle to live according to the instructions of God’s Word.  And we could list many other struggles.  But I see this one struggle as perhaps bigger than all the others – the struggle to enjoy God.  Christians may ask, why don’t I enjoy God? 

While many factors may explain why we don’t enjoy Him, our failure to enjoy God cripples our walk with Him. Too many Christians feel this dread of God that goes beyond the “fear of the Lord” taught in Scripture.  In our approach to God, we are plagued with doubts and fears.  Will he accept me?  Is He angry with me?  Some may even wonder, does God really love me? Does He love me as much as He loves someone else?  We know that God loves the world, but in a practical sense, we worry that God overlooks me, that He is displeased with me and disappointed with me.

Where do we begin to overcome our own doubts and fears?  We read our Bibles; we pray.  But for too many Christians, we don’t know how to walk with God beyond that.  To add to our dilemma, personal devotions can have a way of choking the life out of us, especially when they become a task on the to-do list.

More than a few Christians, if they could be completely honest, would say, “I really don’t enjoy God.”  Some don’t enjoy God and don’t want to.  They are angry with God or (more commonly) indifferent towards Him. 

Others don’t enjoy God but want to.  They might not know how to enjoy Him. Maybe they know how to enjoy Him but feel that they are currently hindered from enjoying Him. No doubt some are frustrated that they don’t enjoy Him, or that they don’t enjoy Him the way they once did, or the way they want to. And some Christians enjoy God just about every day. 

I do not write this as one who fits in that last category; I write as one who has had my own share of struggles with this.  In part, my own experience has motivated this topic: I haven’t always found this easy.  I wish it were.  I think it should be.  I wish I could lay aside my sinful nature and win this victory once for all.  But so long as I continue in my sinful flesh, I believe that I will struggle with it.

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Money Mistakes Pastors Make

As a pastor, I have learned firsthand the kind of quality men God has called to the ministry – some of the finest men in the world. I mean that – no tongue in cheek here. The world may think of pastors as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things, but I know too many good men, men who have committed their life to the gospel and the good of their fellowman to give any credence to that kind of thinking. From across America and around the world, I am blessed by the many pastors and assistant pastors, missionaries, church planters, and Christian school teachers who have committed their life to God’s work.  They love what they do. They don’t consider it a sacrifice. If they could live their lives over again, the men I know would choose the ministry over any other vocational calling.  I think if they had nine lifetimes and could choose any vocation to fill those lifetimes, they would choose the ministry.  The “burdens” are a small price to pay for the joy of serving God and His people full time.  Truly we can say of them that “the world was not worthy.”

One thing I have observed about nearly every pastor or missionary I know: they know what it means to give themselves.  I hope you will keep that in mind as I discuss money mistakes pastors make. Most of their mistakes are made on the side of self-sacrifice and a desire to maximize the Lord’s money.

What I intend to address here is not intended to promote greed or cause anyone to stumble into the love of money.  Too many pastors come to the end of their ministry and have little to fall back on.  After giving themselves to God and their people, they find that they are not in a position where they can retire comfortably and still provide for their wife.  And while I realize that many pastors have an aversion to the “R” word (retire), I also think that much of the discussion on that subject is unrealistic. 

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Why It Stinks to Be an Atheist

A man recently told me that what he dislikes about religion is all the absolutes.  “There are no absolutes; that’s just a fact.” 

I try to tamp down the baffled look on my face.  But I wonder what would happen if he ever listened to the sound it makes when his lung-air strums his vocal chords.  One atheist described laughter as diaphragm spasms.  Apparently, our brain sparks occasionally produce an arch, resulting in what some might describe as “rational thought,” though the ration is illusory and ultimately meaningless.  If you know what I mean.

Welcome to the hollow world of atheist thought.  Not that I question an atheist’s ability to be rational.  They manage quite well in certain areas.  I have even had conversations with atheists which they insisted were meaningful and coherent.  I don’t dispute it.  I just want to know how they explain it. 

Because if, as the atheist claims, all the world is a product of impersonal forces – the collision of matter and energy – or perhaps, lightning striking mud, then what we really have going on is this gigantic chemical reaction which members of the press somberly describe as “breaking news.”  Sometimes the chemicals fizz; sometimes they pop; sometimes they experience diaphragm spasms; sometimes they debate.  But the chemical activity from one beaker to the next really doesn’t matter because it isn’t really anything anyway.  Some brains spark rationally, and some quite irrationally, and that is what chemicals do given certain temperatures and atmospheric pressures. 

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Double Standards

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD. (Proverb 20:10)

God hates a double-standard — one standard applied to ourselves or our friends and allies, slanting things in our own favor, and another standard applied to our rivals or adversaries that slants things against them.  The idea of a double standard comes from these divers weights and divers measures spoken of in the proverb. The Hebrew reads “a stone and a stone, a measure and a measure.”  The idea is that you have a large weight and a small weight, a large measure and a small measure. Depending on the transaction, one set would be used for buying and the other for selling.

To this day, this kind of thing is a universal means of cheating your customer.  We do it with or without scales and weights.  When buying merchandise, we point out the flaws and talk the product down.  When selling, we ignore (or conceal) the flaws and talk the product up.  The age-old double standard still carries the freight.

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Why I’m Not Leaving Facebook. Yet.

I think we can apply the familiar maxim to Facebook: don’t take Facebook too seriously – Facebook already takes itself too seriously.  Over the past few months, I have given a lot of thought to my involvement with Facebook, and particularly to the question of whether I should stay or leave.  In frustration, I have threatened to leave and urged others to consider doing the same.  I have opened accounts with Parler and with MeWe.  I haven’t opened anything with Gaab, but that’s only because… well, I just haven’t. I have raged against the censorship, against the glaring double-standard, against the obvious bias of the medium.  I have chuckled wryly (that is a thing, you know) as I scrolled through old posts of mine to see shadow-ban screens covering select posts.  My favorite warning screen, which appears on several of my more recent posts, warns of inappropriate or explicit content.  I found myself trying to remember what it was I posted that Facebook might consider to be “partial nudity.”  If you are curious, just scroll through my old posts. You’ll be shocked to discover what passes for sexually explicit content these days. 

The big question is, do I stay or do I go. Ultimately, I have decided to stay for now.  And since I like to get a little mileage out of these decisions, I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you, the reading audience.  Notice that I said “reading” audience, not the “glancing” audience or the “skimming” audience.  How ‘bout we slow down that scrolling, swiping, and/or surfing for a minute so you can see for yourself.

Here are five reasons why I’m not leaving Facebook YET, followed by a few rules for my fellow rebels who stay with me.  I’m not leaving Facebook…

Because I don’t have to.

And you can’t make me.  Neener, neener, neener.  So there.

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Joy Restored

We have been discussing various hindrances to joy.  We discussed the way emotional pain from sorrow can disrupt our joy, and we gave some thoughts on dealing with depression and the various ways discouragement can affect our joy.  Then, we discussed the way physical pain and suffering can rob us of our joy, and we offered some suggestions for dealing with this in order to overcome it.

Throughout our lives, we will experience varying degrees of disruption to our joy from both sorrow and suffering.  These are a part of the human experience.  “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”

But the most common disruption to our joy will not be from depression or pain.  The most common disruption to our joy will come from our own sinful choices and behavior.  The pain of sin is the greatest interrupter of our joy. 

Pain and suffering piggybacked into our world on the sin of Adam. I do not say that God ever intended for our world to be a pain-free world.  Pain certainly serves a wise and good purpose.  But the suffering and sorrow we experience from pain is a direct result of sin. 

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Joy in Pain

Physical pain quickly becomes all-consuming to us. We become preoccupied with it. At the moment, intense physical pain chases away all thoughts of joy. But chronic pain, which lasts for years instead of days, can strip away our hope for recovery and rob us of our joy. We might wonder what to do about joy in the face of such crippling pain. Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on this challenge. God gives us the image of Job scraping at his boils with a potsherd.

Some Christians believe the answer to debilitating pain is stoicism. I read about a lady who lost a baby and later testified that God’s grace had been so all-sufficient that she had not shed a tear. I find that troubling. Circumstances may require us to set a firm jaw and soldier on. Still, we should keep a firm handle on the difference between firm resolve and a calloused heart.

God made us physical as well as emotional creatures. We are body, soul, and spirit. At various times, we may experience pain in different body parts – head, neck, back, knees, or elsewhere. Because of the connection between body and soul and spirit, pain in one part of your self can lead to pain in another part. God didn’t make you a block of wood. Those pesky little nerve endings are a part of your whole self. It isn’t unheard of that chronic pain would lead to depression, which can, in turn, cause a loss of joy.  

Because we treasure the gift of joy, we should consider when physical pain affects our joy. For this reason, I want to consider a few things towards a Christian approach to physical pain, especially chronic pain.  I say these things in hopes that if you suffer this way, you will be encouraged to battle your pain in the interest of preserving your joy. I trust that you will find these things helpful towards recovering the joy you might be missing due to debilitating pain.

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The Mormon Hope Podcast

A few weeks ago, Pastor Brandon Vaughn from Grace Baptist Church in Logan approached me about doing a podcast with him. His goal is to provide helpful materials to our LDS neighbors as well as apologetic information for our fellow believers who desire to evangelize their neighbors.

The Vaughn Family from Southern Logan

We get off to a rocking start (think rocking chairs) in this first episode. He does all the setup, editing, posting, and promotion, and I provide that wonderful voice of mine along with a few donated brain cells per session. Let me encourage you to listen to this when you have a chance. If you can’t sleep at night, go ahead and turn on our podcast – it is sure to make you sleep more soundly. I intend to share the weekly episodes on Facebook, so I probably won’t write about it much on my blog.

The leash is NOT for my wife

The first episode is available here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1645945

You can subscribe, according to buzzsprout, by copying and pasting the URL from the address bar (provided here) into the podcast app of your choice. https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1645945.rss

I’d offer more helpful advice, but I’m plumb out…