Blessing from a Storm?
The words “storm” and “blessing” would not usually be found in the same sentence. Storms leave devastation, despair and even death in their wake. But meteorologists and geologists alike have concluded that thunderstorms, cyclones and hurricanes, although incredibly destructive, do in fact bring benefits.
The Growth-Enabling Effects of a Storm
Storms frequently provide desperately needed rain to areas stricken with drought. Also, lightning in storms can have a fertilizing effect on the soil. Nitrogen is one of fertilizer’s main ingredients. As it splits through the sky, lightning changes nitrogen gas in the air to nitrogen compounds, which fall to the ground and are added to the soil.1 Additionally, the wind of a hurricane just about to make landfall can blow spores and seeds further inland, bringing life to new areas.
The Lord often allows us to experience the storms of life, knowing that although they will bring pain and even sorrow, they also enable needed growth and fruit for our benefit and for the blessing of others.
The Purging Effects of a Storm
During the summer, haze, dust and other pollutants come together in the lower atmosphere. As the air rises, either in thunderstorms or cumulus clouds, these pollutants are spread higher up into the atmosphere and purged out of the air by the falling rain.2 Another purging effect of storms occurs as hurricanes and cyclones move across the ocean. Their winds and waves toss the contents of the water. This mixing breaks up patches of bacteria that lurk in the water.
Storms can often have a purging effect in a believer’s life as self-dependence is necessarily blown away and we find our refuge in God alone (Psa 46; Isa 25:4). During the trials of life, we may often say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psa 91:2 KJV).
The Balancing Effects of a Storm
One of a hurricane’s achievements is to provide a better balance of temperatures between the poles and earth’s equator. The equator receives more solar energy, called insolation, than any other latitude on a yearly average. This resulting insolation warms the ocean temperature, which in turn warms the air above it. The earth is always trying to balance this warmth around the world, and hurricanes are one of the ways this is done.3 Another balancing effect of storms takes place as lightning falls during a thunderstorm, allowing the earth to be recharged and to maintain its proper electrical balance.
There are times when our lives as believers become harmfully imbalanced, and the inevitable storms of life rearrange, with their winds, our priorities in a beneficial way. But to be clear, we may never know why some storms break upon us. Job was never told why a tsunami of suffering was sent his way. But because the sovereign Lord always allows a storm, we can be confident that there must be some blessing in it, for He will do no less for His people than He does for this earth.
The Internet – Engaged but not Enslaved
At last!” you exclaim. “Someone is finally going to tell us if the Internet is good or bad!” Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the Internet is actually amoral. “What?” “What about all the lewdness on there?” That’s true. Pornography is one of the largest industries that uses the Internet. However, the Internet itself is nothing more than a bunch of computers, cables, and some basic communication protocols that have been around for more than a decade. The reason why this is important is because it takes us away from the question, “Is the Internet (Facebook/Twitter/chatting/etc.) good or bad?” to “How should I as a believer use the Internet?”
In view of this, rather than dissecting the merits or demerits of various Internet sites and services, here are some guidelines for Internet use that are healthy spiritually, relationally, and emotionally.
Use it in Purity
Little did Job know that the promise he made to himself (Job 31:1) would one day become the motto for an Internet monitoring service (www.covenanteyes.com) to help protect against the vice of pornography. Pornography is likely the single greatest threat facing Christian young men and women in 2010 – 2011.
Matthew 5:28 makes it clear that lustful observation equates to adultery in the heart. The biochemical reactions in your mind and body are the same for pornography as they are for a real, legitimate relationship with your (future) marriage partner. Nevertheless, the significance of this is that the adultery in the heart means not only the sin against God and all that this means for the believer, but also that the repeated use of pornography with autoeroticism, forms neural pathways that become the basis for habitual sin. Thus, while you may remain chaste physically throughout your youth, you can secretly intoxicate your heart and mind with the forbidden women (Prov 5:3, 20) of the Internet and end up in a far worse situation than another Christian who might have “fallen” and been publicly disciplined for fornication. The devastating impact of a pornography habit should not be underestimated even if the consequences are not immediately apparent.
Moreover, the habitual perusal of this licentiousness also forms a sadly destructive way of life that will have you constantly spinning through an exhausting cycle of sin, shame, repentance, confession, and then sin again and back into shame and so on. Solomon knew the addictive quality of this sin when he warned that the fornicator would “be held fast in the cords of his sin” (Prov 5:23). Your relationship with the Lord will become both a source of relief as you confess and experience forgiveness and also of constant guilt as you struggle with this sin. It will affect your relationship with Him, your ability to worship, to share the gospel, and to speak genuinely about the freedom that salvation brings from sin. Relationships with your closest friends and family will be impacted and you may even have trouble looking at members of the opposite sex without seeing them as mere objects of physical desire. The impact is devastating; if you yield to the wrong master you may well find yourself in this repetitious tormenting cycle – daily, weekly, or monthly.
Do not be a pushover! You can choose which master you will yield yourself to in every moment in the face of each temptation. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16-18 ESV). The lesson is clear: What we yield ourselves to will rule in our heart. Each of us makes a hundred choices every day as to what we will click on and what we won’t. For those who have gone down this road, many will face a difficult journey out of it. For those who have not, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1Cor 10:12). A healthy relationship with your Savior, growing in the faith, and building strong, accountable relationships with other believers of the same sex are all strong antidotes against giving the wrong master a foothold in your life.
But purity is about more than just sexual holiness. It extends into other moral domains of Internet use such as integrity and lawfulness. Most of us will have some good ministry on our iPod—but what about the music you have? Did you pay for all the copyrighted songs you have along with the ministry on your portable music device? Hopefully, few Christians have ever stolen any physical property, but for many of us we have to confess that we have been, or are perhaps even presently, thieves of digital property (Eph 4:28). When purity is viewed as one aspect of holiness, the righteous claims of God speak in every part of our lives.
Use it Safely
The words of Proverbs 2:11 are most appropriate: “Discretion shall preserve thee.” Younger teens in particular need to be aware that there are predators on the Internet. This often begins in chat rooms and moves to IM’ing, E-mail, phone, and then into face-to-face meetings. These are skilled and pathological individuals, lending a sympathetic ear to the growing pains of adolescence, often pretending to be the same age or of the opposite sex in order to lure an innocent young person into compromising (and worse) situations. Do not communicate with strangers over the Internet, and, certainly, never arrange to meet an Internet acquaintance without a parent being present. Never give out your personal information (real name, phone number, address, family relationships, photos) to anyone you do not know. Make sure that your privacy settings on social media sites are set correctly and be sure to keep your parents in the loop about your online, as well as offline, relationships.
Use it Redemptively
Ephesians 5:16 is the text behind this heading: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” or as the ESV puts it, “Making the best use of the time.” Even respectable use of the Internet can result in many wasted hours. A recent piece of research showed that when 200 students were asked to abstain from all media use for 24 hours, they showed signs of withdrawal, craving, and anxiety. Internet addiction is a real problem – so much so that treatment centers for this are now appearing in some parts of the world. What is going on? With so much information and so much possibility for interaction, the Internet has become a huge time sink. It’s nice to share photos with our friends on Facebook and it is good to keep up with the news to some extent, but let’s get back to basics: how is God working in your life right now? Is your Internet use facilitating that or getting in the way?
Beyond just the profitable use of our time, have you considered how you can use the Internet for God? This generation is tech-savy; you are better equipped to initiate creative ways of bringing the gospel message to the unsaved. Seek the advice and direction of your overseers on this; they will be interested to see how the Internet can be used as a tool to reach people for Christ.
Use it Genuinely
One of the greatest appeals (and risks) of the Internet is that it can be used as a means to express to others an ideal version of our selves. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games and virtual worlds are saturated with millions of individuals who express an idealized version of themselves. Mind you, this is not unique to the Internet. Paul confronted the same issue when some accusers claimed that he was strong in his letters (think virtual identity), but weak and insignificant in person. What was his reply? “What we say by letter when absent, we do when present” (see 2Cor 10:11). There was a definite congruence between his presentation in absentia and his presentation when he was there in body.
“Oh, I don’t struggle with that at all,” you say. Really? Your profile picture on Facebook: did you Photoshop it at all? OK, maybe not—but how much time did you spend choosing the best picture of yourself? In real life we have to work hard to present the best version of self to others, but for those who know us best we might as well not even bother trying. Online, however, is a different story: we can (almost subconsciously) craft a very stylized and idealized version of who we are so that others think more highly of us.
What is at the root of all this? It is just sin. In our pride we want to always put our best face on things. But what has God called us to? He has called us not to put on our ideal self, but “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:24-25 ESV). This genuine living is marked by the absence of falsehood, even when we can pretend to be something, we are not to do so. Rather, we are to allow God to work in us to produce the divine characteristics of righteousness and holiness.
Use it Wisely
In the 1990s and prior, the Internet was more like traditional media where content was created by “them” and given to “us” to read. Now, with what is loosely called Web 2.0 and social media, the power to create Internet content has been given to the masses. In a few minutes, you can create a blog, tweet a group of followers, or update your profile status by adding pictures, videos, and other information. You can become the source, not just the consumer, of content.
We need to be cautious with this. The Internet is the new megaphone for narcissism. You could tweet the endless details of your day, but should anyone really care about that? “Be not wise in thine own eyes” (Prov 3:7) is a good cue for us as we use the Internet. The Biblical principles written to guide our speech are also most relevant to guide our contributions to online discussions, our tweeting, texting, IM’ing, status updates, and whatever other ways we might be posting content to the Internet. Our contributions are to be holy (Eph 5:3-4), gracious (Col 4:6), exempt from evil (Jas 4:11-12), void of slander or hostility (2Cor 12:20). Perhaps an Internet version of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians might read, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your keyboard, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the web surfers.”
May God give us wisdom in this new world. The Internet is not evil, but it is used for much evil. How can we use it for the glory of God? Can you encourage a distant friend with a message on Facebook? Can you tweet a thought you enjoyed about Christ? Would you text a friend a verse that God has laid on your heart? With wisdom and caution let us be engaged but not enslaved, following the counsel of 2 Peter 3:17-18. “Beware lest ye … fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The Believer and His Food
Strahan, David N. Ireland
Each of us needs food to survive. By eating a balanced diet, the body obtains the nourishment it requires in order to function normally. When it is starved of food, organs will start to shut down until finally, it succumbs to death. It is commonly said that, “You are what you eat,” and there is a very direct relationship to what we are and what we feed upon.
Spiritual food is as vital to our spiritual welfare as physical food is to the health of our physical bodies. Just as people who eat a wholesome diet enjoy better wellbeing, it is crucial to feed on the Word of God in order to “be strong in the Lord” (Eph 6:10, KJV). Similarly, as poor physical nutrition increases susceptibility to disease, impairs development and reduces productivity, so feeding my soul on junk food results in weakness, stunted growth, and spiritual poverty. In the words of C.H. Spurgeon: “Scripture reading is our spiritual meal-time.” God has given us a rich resource in His Word which we must use to feed our souls for our spiritual health and vitality. Paul, writing to Timothy, says, “Hold fast the form of sound (health-giving”) words (2Tim 1:13, KJV).
Are you feeding on the Word of God? Have you fed on it today? Or are you feeding on what can only be described as junk food? I cannot expect to be a strong believer, fit for the Master’s use, if I am starving myself of spiritual food.
In the Scriptures, the subject of food and feeding is a large one which cannot possibly be dealt with comprehensively within the confines of this article. We will devote the space here to considering the Word of God as that which is our spiritual food.
Description as Food
The Word of God is described as, or compared to, food in a fourfold way. It is likened to:
Milk to SUCCOUR: (1Peter 2:2, KJV) “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” It is important to remember that the milk mentioned in this verse is not by way of contrast to meat as in 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12-14 (see below), but “the sincere milk of the Word” is the spiritual food of all believers.
Meat to STRENGTHEN: (Hebrews 5:12, KJV) “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” The Hebrews were compared to infants who required milk and could not bear meat (solid food). This is the same thought found in 1 Corinthians 3:2 where spiritual immaturity is in view. It is a serious condition when any believer continues as an infant, able only to receive milk when they should be eating solid food.
Bread to SUSTAIN: (Matthew 4:4, KJV) “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’”
Honey to SWEETEN: The Psalmist David says that the Word of God is “More to be desired … than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Psa 19:10, KJV). His Words are priceless in their value and sweeter than honey to his taste: “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psa 19:10, KJV; see also Psalm 119:103).
Jeremiah describes the Word of God as that which he ate: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer 15:16, KJV). A well-fed believer is full of the joy of the Lord! Ensure you don’t limit your intake of food to a particular portion or aspect of the Word of God. Often believers have favorite portions or themes but the canon of scripture, in its entirety, is given for our spiritual development and is all necessary (2Tim 3:16-17).
Desire for Food
The Bible introduces the figure of a newborn babe to illustrate that every person who is born of God will have a desire for His Word. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2, KJV). The desire for milk in the infant is instinctive and continual. A child does not need to be taught to desire milk. So every believer should instinctively crave the sincere (or guileless, pure) milk of the Word of God.
The Word of God provides all the essential food required to live and grow spiritually, as a mother’s milk contains all the vital nutrients for the newborn babe. At the moment of conversion, we were “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1Peter 1:23, KJV). His Word brought us spiritual enlightenment at conversion, and it is by that same Word that we continue to be fed as Christians. However, while every child born of God has an instinctive desire for the Word, this must also be cultivated. The more we feed upon it, the more we will desire it.
Discipline of Feeding
Just as physical nourishment is an ongoing daily activity, we also need a daily diet of spiritual food for our spiritual progress. Job knew the importance of feeding on the Word of God: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12b, KJV). He esteemed spiritual food, “the words of His mouth,” as greater provision than the food he required for physical life. The word “esteemed” is often used for concealing or laying up treasures so that they are safe. The same word is used in Psalm 119:11; “Thy word have I hid in mine heart.” Although it is good to read the Word of God, it must also be hid in our hearts “that I might not sin against Thee” (Psa 119:11, KJV).
Can this be said of us? How long do you spend feeding your soul on the Word of God? If you spent the same time each day satisfying your physical appetite as you do feeding on the Scriptures, would you be losing or gaining weight?
In addition to needing the discipline of feeding on the Word on a regular and daily basis, the believer must also involve his or her entire self in this activity. Psalm 119 teaches us that feeding on the Word of God affects the complete person. The theme of this Psalm is the preciousness and purpose of the Word of God. In it we learn the value of the Word and the results of obeying it.
LIPS: “With my lips have I declared all the judgments of Thy mouth” (v13, KJV)
MIND: “I will meditate in Thy precepts” (v15, KJV)
MEMORY: “I will not forget Thy word” (v16, KJV)
MOUTH: “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth” (v43, KJV)
HANDS: “My hands also will I lift up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved” (v48, KJV)
HEART: “I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart” (v69, KJV)
FEET: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet” (v105, KJV)
EYES: “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in Thy word” (v148, KJV)
It is obvious in the natural realm that a child’s physical growth and development is related to the adequacy of their dietary intake. Feeding on the Word of God will inevitably lead to evidence of spiritual growth and development. This is the teaching of 1 Peter 2:2: “that ye may grow thereby” (KJV). Just as the face of Moses shone when he came down the mount (Exo 34:29) and just as Ruth carried the visible testimony of her gleaning with her into the city (Ruth 2:18), so spiritual development resulting from feeding on the Word of God will be visible to discerning and spiritual believers.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on.
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.
In the example of Job mentioned previously, we see that, beyond esteeming “the words of His mouth” (Job 23:12b, KJV), he also embraced the Word, and did not depart or turn aside from “the commandment of His lips” (Job 23:12a, KJV). This is the secret of spiritual growth – it is not only being hearers of His Word, but doers also (James 1:22). Often, the reason we do not make the spiritual progress that we should is not because we have not read – or that we do not know – the Word of God, but rather that we fail to obey it. When reading the Scriptures, it is good to cultivate a prayerful and humble spirit so that we might apply it to our lives. It was Peter’s desire that believers would “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Peter 3:18, KJV). The more we grow and develop as Christians, the more Christ-like we will become.
Calm in Thy secret presence, Lord,
I rest this weary soul of mine;
Feed on the fullness of Thy Word,
And die to all the things of time.
The food we consume for our physical bodies needs to be digested in order to benefit us. Often indigestion is caused by eating too fast, and the nourishment from the food is not properly broken down and absorbed to meet our body’s need. When it comes to the matter of feeding on the Word of God there is no “fast-food,” that is, there are no shortcuts and no quick answers. The Word must not only be read – that is important and good – but it should be meditated upon. To meditate means to ponder, muse and reflect upon what has been read. By meditating upon the Word, we learn what it says, what it means, and how we should apply it to our lives. It is crucial to take time to absorb and digest the Word. This involves uninterrupted time set aside on a daily basis, in a place free from distraction, to adequately feed my soul.
Some believers become preoccupied with the volume of their daily reading, but it is far more important to understand what we are reading than to focus exclusively on the quantity we have read. The issue is not necessarily the number of verses or chapters read, but the depth to which the Scriptures are understood and are allowed to speak to the heart. In this regard, C. H. Spurgeon once said: “Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than I would, as it were, rinse my hand in several chapters.”
Duty to Feed
Although it is the responsibility of every believer to ensure that they are feeding on the Word of God, there is also a responsibility placed on elders to ensure that the saints are fed. Writing in his first epistle, Peter exhorts the elders to “Feed the flock of God which is among you” (1Peter 5:2, KJV). Paul uses the same word, “feed,” when addressing the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. While this word means more than just the provision of food (it covers the whole thought of tending and shepherding), it encompasses the exhortation to nourish and feed. In the natural realm, it would be unthinkable that a shepherd would not provide food for his sheep. Elders are likewise required to ensure that the saints under their care have spiritual food to feed upon. That is why one of the requirements of the elder is that he must be “Apt to teach” (1Tim 3:2, KJV).
Delight in Feeding
Generally speaking, we eat foods we enjoy and we are satisfied. Feeding on the Word should not be approached as a task which needs to be done each day, but rather it should be “the joy and rejoicing” (Jer 15:16, KJV) of our hearts. As you feed on the Scriptures, may they delight and strengthen your soul. They have been given by the Lord Himself. “I have given them Thy word” (John 17:14, KJV). Look for Him on every page. May we ever be found feeding and drawing on the inexhaustible supply of the Word of God.