Separated Life

At a recent Youth Retreat many youth responded for prayer. The first person I went to pray for was one of the young men. I immediately sensed a strong impression that he was called to a “Separated Life”. I sensed that he was called to such high and holy things that God wanted him to avoid all contamination that could spoil his future destiny.

I prayed with him and encouraged him to receive my exhortation as from the Lord that he was to protect his heart and mind from grimy things of this world that would spoil the high destiny on his life.

As I stepped to pray for the next young man in line I had exactly the same impression. He too was to protect his life from contamination and from things that would take from him the glory and wonder of what God had for him.

At that point I realised that this was not only a message for individual lives, but a calling across a generation of young men and women, called by God to live a separated life and distance themselves from the tacky and dishonouring things of this world in the life they would otherwise be drawn into.

Nazarite Vow

Living a ‘separated life’ was so much a part of God’s chosen people in history that Moses made provision for a vow to be taken by a person to live for a time under special restraint, set aside to seek God and worship Him. This was the Nazarite vow.

The Nazarite vow meant that no alcohol was to be consumed and the hair was not to be cut for the duration of the vow. After the time set aside for special devotion was completed the person could cut their hair and drink wine and eat grapes again.

Samson and John

Two famous Nazarites in the Bible are Samson and John the Baptist. Both were set apart for God before they were born. They lived their whole life under the Nazarite vow. Their whole lives were separated for God’s purposes.

When Samson’s parents were visited by an angel and told they would have a son the mother was warned not even to eat grapes, let alone drink wine while she was carrying the baby. Not only was the boy to be separated from wine and grapes, he was even to be protected from them while in his mother’s womb.

John the Baptist’s birth was also announced before he was conceived and he was dedicated for God’s calling from that very moment.

Crumpled Lives

Several years ago I hosted a series of Impartation meetings in which a ministry team prayed for those who waiting on the Lord. The ministry team members sought to hear from God and share a personal word of encouragement or Biblical truth that would be beneficial to those on the prayer line.

One church I visited I had never ministered in before, so all of those who responded were unknown to me. As I stood before a young woman who would have been in her high school years I had a fleeting impression of a beautiful flower meant to bloom for the Prince. The image had a fairy tale quality of a Prince riding his horse through the forest and coming across the beautiful blossom and choosing it for himself.

However in that fleeting moment I also sensed that there was a bear nearby in the forest who was simply stomping around and messing things up. My heart went out to the young lady that the Lord wanted to protect that which was beautiful and precious in her life from the ignorant and selfish bear that would simply crush and mangle her.

I prayed earnestly for her protection.

Many at Risk

What troubled me that night was that as I went on to pray for the mixed crowd of men and women, I found that each time I came to pray for one of the young ladies I had the same sense of their danger. I spoke with my wife about it later, sensing that there was a high level of moral danger for today’s youth. They were in danger of being trampled on and having all that is precious in them crumpled.

The Prince was not going to find their beauty and be delighted with them once they had been trodden under foot by the careless bear.

I became concerned for those Christian youth who consume the world’s messages about who they are and what they are to expect in life. They are being lied to so they can be trampled on and miss out on the blessedness which God has for them.

Separation

There are many reasons to live a ‘separated life’ and one of them is to be protected. Dads and mums don’t have the same sense for protecting their children and youth today as we saw in past generations. Family break-up contributes to that, but so too does the intimidation pushed at parents who want to hold to healthy standards and who believe they have a responsibility to protect and guide their children into adulthood.

There is a calling on today’s youth. God intends to do amazing things in the earth in the coming decades and young Christians today will be at the vanguard of that awesome work. However, those who have become entangled, broken, polluted, distracted and mired by the world will not be in the place of mighty men and women of God when the time comes for them.

Call To Separation

It has never been easier to be entangled and damaged. The internet, mobile phones, social networks, ubiquitous media messages, self-serving people in every place you turn, and the lax social norms of today combine with the evil in man’s hearts to make it tough for those who don’t take care.

Unless you are choosing to live a separated life you will almost certainly be damaged by compromise and much more.

So hear the Word of the Lord to your heart. Come out from among them and be separate. Don’t do it because you think you’re special. Do it because Jesus IS special. God’s call on your life and the destiny He has for you in His kingdom are far more precious than all the trinkets and shallow amusements that will tempt you this way and that.

I don’t promise you any special joy and spiritual experience. It’s not about you and what you get from doing this or that. It’s all about Him. It’s about God being God in your life. It’s about you humbling yourself and submitting to God.

Your part in the years ahead may be hard and unrewarding in human terms. This is no calling to a party or a glory ride. I call you to set yourself apart for the Master’s use as something dedicated to Him. It’s an act of worship. It’s your reasonable service.

And it’s the best thing you can possibly do with your life.

Spirit of the World

How is it that a Christian upbringing doesn’t protect some children from taking up the world’s values and abandoning the faith they were raised to?

This is a perplexing problem for many families and churches. I believe that part of the problem is the “Spirit of the World”. I expect there are many homes where the spirit of the world is given room to work and where that spirit is even given rights over the children. Let me explain.

Toxic World

We are warned that everything in the world is contrary to God. “All that is in the world” – that’s “everything that is in the world” – is not of God’s character.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1John 2:15.16

The world and God the Father are so separate that there is nothing in this world that is consistent with who and what the Father is. So, for us to walk with God we need to have no connection with the “world” and its value systems.

The world is toxic to our spiritual life. We are “in” the world, but we are not “of” the world, and the world will hate us, because we are separated from it in spirit.

“I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” John 17:14

Pied Piper

The “world system” is ruled by satan. He is called “the prince of this world”.

“Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me.” John 14:30

He seeks to get people entangled with the processes of the world. He wants them tied up in the cares of this life and the affairs of this world. So, like a Pied Piper, he plays the world’s tunes to seduce the hearts and minds of men and women, boys and girls.

The devil’s key strategies involve catching us up in the things of the world, and specifically “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”. He wants you living by your natural appetites and impulses, the stimulation of what you see and desire, and your pride in yourself.

The “spirit of the world” asks you to buy in to the world’s values in your heart. No matter what you appear to be on the outside, the devil wants you lusting after the world in your heart. That way you become an idol worshipper and the devil has spiritual rights over you and your children.

How it Works

About 100 years ago the western culture was heavily influenced by Bible teaching and Christian values. People were taught to fear God and to accept responsibility, thinking of others rather than self. That did not make the whole culture Christian, but it did make the culture basically safe and the people basically responsible.

But in each successive generation the devil tried to lure people away from faith in God and the fear of God. He knew that his greatest ally was the weakness of the human heart. Just as Eve was easily seduced away from obeying God, each generation is seduced away from God’s holy standards.

In a god-fearing culture, the devil could not get everyone living in open lust and immorality, but that is what he wanted them to do. So, he settled for asking one generation to give in to the “spirit of the world”.

The devil asked people to build an altar in their heart for the worship of worldly pleasure. That pleasure was fairly harmless and safe, held in place by the morality of the culture. But by getting people to “give place to the devil” in their heart, the devil had rights over their lives and their children.

Queen

Spiritual Slavery

Jesus warned that what we give in to gains power over us. The things we worship, lust after or even secretly serve become our masters. We become spiritual slaves to those things.

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I tell you, Who ever commits sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34

The Apostle Paul explained it this way …

“Don’t you know that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Romans 6:16

People who are simply going along with the world are actually servants of satan.

“In time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” Ephesians 2:2

Next Generation

What the parents did in moderation the children were encouraged to do in greater measure. Mum enjoyed listening to the latest music in her day, and so her daughter listened to the latest music in the daughter’s day. However, instead of the popular songs being about innocent themes, the new generation listened to songs with immoral messages. The process was effectively the same, but the moral content had changed.

When the parents tried to caution their children those kids ignored the warning. The parents had done the same thing in their day, so those parents did not have the authority to stop their kids from doing the “same” thing in this new generation. But the stakes had been raised by the spirit of the world. Now the relatively “innocent” activities had become more morally dangerous.

The Pied Piper had the parents and the children trapped in his strategy. Neither could break from the direction he was leading them.

On It Goes

The grandchildren did what their grandparents and parents had done. They followed the cultural standards. Just as grandpa and mum had kept up with the fashion, fads and standards of the world in their day the kids now kept up with the fashion, fads and standards in their new day.

The problem is that the standards had slipped to a level shocking to the grandparent’s generation. Grandma didn’t think that sleeping around was fine. She didn’t think that defying parental instructions was OK. She didn’t want her grandchildren to be destroyed by immoral and godless living.

All she wanted to do was enjoy the “world” as it was offered to her in her day. It was “innocent” fun. It was the best the world had to offer. She gave her heart and soul to it and it seemed to do her no harm.

A Sinister Spirit

When a person gives in to the Spirit of the World they give themselves and their generations to that spirit. It will continue to lead each successive generation into open rebellion against God, gross immorality and complete abandonment of all that is holy and righteous.

And that’s where we are right now. The kids who are sleeping around, taking drugs, doing whatever they want to, when and how they want to do it, are simply fitting in with what the “spirit of the world” tells them to do.

When their parents try to caution or stop them, the parents have no ability to intervene. That’s because the parents were just as much under the power of the same spirit themselves. The parents cannot resist the devil’s work while they are still perfectly happy about their own course in following the spirit of the world in their day.

Two Spirits in the Home

Many Christian homes worship the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world. While the parents try to promote godly values and Christian lifestyle, another spirit has full right to work in the hearts of the children. That other spirit is the spirit of the world.

The parents are oblivious to this unseen subversive spirit, because all their Christian friends also have dual worship in their homes. It seems normal and innocuous to chase the world’s values, entertainment, values, objectives, processes and the like. Science, education, fashion, technology, lifestyle, popular culture, ambitions, morality, and everything else, are seen as normal things to love and pursue, just like all the other people in the “world”.

The spirit of the world is backed up by television, movies, magazines, music, radio, newspapers, the education system, western culture, popular fads, secular role models, universal value systems, and the lusts in the heart of each child.

So, which spirit do you think is likely to win out in the home?

God’s spirit is much more powerful, but the devil has “legal ground” in the heart of the children, due to the parents’ willing worship of the world. He also has the family’s total attention and heart commitment.

Renounce the World

The only way to deliver your home from the spirit of the world and the all pervasive seduction of your children is for you to repent of your commitment to the world and its values. You need to repent and renounce the worldly values which you hold dear. You have to stop loving the world.

If you do not break your affection for the world you will have a wide open door for the devil to walk into your home and to lead your children out into the worst worldly values available.

It is time for you and your family to develop a new lifestyle, such as Paul had when he declared, “For me to live is Christ!”

Not Easy But Desperately Important

I don’t think it will be easy for some families to break from the spirit of the world. I’m not telling you to do this because it’s easy. I’m telling you about this because it’s desperately important.

As you “turn your heart” toward your children you must face the challenge of dealing with the place the world has taken in your heart and in your home. You ignore this challenge at your peril and at the price of your future generations!

Emotional Stability

A young lady fell into depression in her late teenage years and spent a decade of her life buried in murky feelings that consumed her life. Yet today, despite her temptation to revisit those unhappy feelings, she is able to get on with life.

Something changed for her. And what changed involves a lesson that everyone needs to learn along the way. So, whether you are given to emotional instability or depression, or not, this discussion may be very important for your overall wellbeing.

I Feel Bad

One of the challenges of adolescence is the awakening of our emotional faculties. In our younger years emotions are dormant and we face life with its good and bad with the ability to be practical about what comes our way. We shed our tears, feel our upsets and face our challenges, in the matter-of-fact way that children can.

However, during our teenage years emotions begin to stir within us. We begin to encounter feelings which can sweep with the force of ocean tides over our life. We discover that we can feel bad, for no apparent reason. We can feel euphoric, for as little good reason. We are able to rise to new heights and plumb new depths, like never before.

It Feels So Real

Our challenge, during this new season of our lives, is to discern what is really going on. If we do not have adult counsel from people who have been there and done that and worked out what is going on, we can be quite confused and destabilized by these emotional surges.

Our new-found feelings “feel so real” to us. They demand our attention and present themselves as tangible expressions of something of substance.

When people “feel” something, that feeling is completely real to them. It may be irrational and unreasonable, but it will be “real” to the one feeling those emotions.

Controlled By Vapour

Feelings have the capacity to activate just about any kind of sensation at whim. We can be having a perfectly happy time and then suddenly “feel” sad, or lonely, or unresolved. We can be in the middle of a serious situation and suddenly “feel” irrationally happy.

Those feelings are vaporous. They are not the product of real experiences and they may not reflect the correct response to the present set of circumstances. They can be completely irrational and persist in the face of hard evidence that they are out of place.

Thus, if we allow our feelings to control us we will be controlled by vapour. But to us the vaporous feelings will “feel so real”. And that is where we can end up bogged in an emotional quagmire.

Emotions Out of Control

If we do not realise what is happening we will be inclined to believe our feelings. Since they “feel so real” we could assume that they are a clue to what is really going on. We might think, “I feel really bad, so something must be wrong.” We might then go looking for some justification for our feelings.

If we wake up one day feeling as if no-one loves us or cares about us, we can then look for evidence to explain why we think and feel that way. Since we have all been neglected to some degree, a person could assume that their feelings genuinely spring from the treatment they have experienced.

Rather than control their emotions, seeing them as a faculty that needs to be tamed, many people allow the wild emotions to run freely, assuming they are some genuine response to the real world.

In such situations it is possible for a person to step into adulthood, with their emotions out of control. Thus, their life becomes “out of control” too. They will be controlled by the vaporous feelings which “feel so real”. They may never question those feelings or recognise that they are being fooled by their emotions.

Break-In The Bronco

Each new colt has to be broken in. All the energy, strength and majesty of a powerful steed must be brought under control if ever the horse is going to be useful and successful. And that’s how it is with our emotions. They must be broken in.

If you allow a horse to run wild, the process of breaking it in will be much more difficult. And so it is with our emotions. If we allow them free reign in our lives, it will be much more difficult to bring them under control when we need to.

Emotional Maturity

Part of emotional maturity is to achieve the place where emotions are our “servant” not our “master”. When we can tell our emotions to stop interfering with our life we can live a much more stable life, but also call upon our emotions in appropriate ways.

Professionals must learn to harness their emotions and put them out of the equation, so they can do what they have to do consistently and without inappropriate reaction. Doctors, police, emergency services, officials, ministers and many others are required to have emotional maturity. If they “lose it”, getting upset, venting their frustrations, acting on prejudice, or the like, they will be disciplined and may lose their job.

Emotional Journey

The young lady I mentioned in the opening paragraph has been on an emotional journey. In her younger years her emotions swamped her. Feelings of depression commandeered her life and cut short her studies and her career aspirations. Her health, physique, personal disciplines, relationships, self-worth, hopes and dreams, friendships, and more were damaged by her emotional spiral.

Since her emotions were out of control she could not bring herself back to normal. She burned most of the bridges in her life and became increasingly depressed. She abandoned the values she was raised to respect.

She is now moving out of that mess. I credit her recovery to her dad, who is praying for her on a daily basis, although she doesn’t know he is doing so.

Somehow she has come to her senses. She is not free of the tendency to be depressed. She still faces most of the challenges which have grown around her over the years. Yet she has changed her attitude.

Can’t Afford to Be Depressed

She recently told her parents, “I can’t afford to be depressed!” The bills don’t go away just because she is having a bad day. The problems don’t get solved by her having a pity-party.

Now, despite the fact that her emotions are just as real, her resolve has changed. Rather than indulging her emotions, she is resisting them. Instead of going with the flow of her feelings she is telling her feelings to “Shut Up!” She thinks her feelings are real, but she has become pragmatic enough to realise she can’t afford to indulge them.

Maturity Emerging

What is happening in her life is that maturity is emerging. She is gaining emotional maturity, not by giving in to her emotions, but by resisting them. She is finally learning to do what she could have done as a young teenager.

And that process is just as real for you. Your emotions will present themselves to you, as “real”. They will demand that you serve them. But you must learn to put them in their place and get on with life. If you give in to them they will rule you. If you resist them, they will serve you.

My Princess Be Valuable

Sweetheart, you need to make a clear distinction between being “beautiful” and “valuable”. I want you to be extremely valuable. Let me tell you why.

God created you to be protected, and as your daddy, it is my responsibility to guide you in paths that will keep you safe, even once you’ve grown into adult life. That’s why I want to explain the difference between being ‘beautiful’ and ‘valuable’.

Women Have Value

God created women to be highly valued. Women have great value and a godly woman is highly prized. The worth of a “virtuous woman” is more than precious jewels (Proverbs 31:10).

The objective of every young woman should be to rise to her highest value. I want you to be so highly valued that everyone recognises that you are among the most special women in the world. It is up to you to create and to maintain that value, so your husband, your children and all you come in contact with will know that you are a rare and most valuable person.

Beauty Cheapens Women

It sounds wrong to say that beauty cheapens women, but it proves to be true for many. Natural beauty, while it is a wonderful thing to have, causes a woman to be looked upon wrongly. A woman can have natural beauty, but also have an evil heart, a cruel tongue, a selfish attitude, an enslaved life and an unhappy future.

Yet if a woman has beauty others will give her credit for having character and worth, even if she does not have them. Lustful men will pay her attentions which will flatter her heart and give her power to manipulate others.

Beauty, on its own makes no guarantee of happiness, success, godly character, fulfilment or true value. That’s why I want you to focus on your value, not your beauty.

Proverbs warns us that “beauty is vain”, which means it does not guarantee anything. It has no lasting value in itself.

“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she will be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Beauty must be a secondary consideration, not a primary focus or distraction.

Character Before Beauty

If a woman has beauty, but not godly character, she will be tempted to become vain about herself, thinking she has value which she does not have. Some women seek to make themselves look alluring to men, as a way to give themselves value. They think that if men look at them or lust after them their value as a woman is confirmed.

King Solomon makes it clear that a beautiful woman who does not have character does not have value, but destroys the potential value she should have developed.

“As a jewel of gold in a pig’s snout so is a beautiful woman with no discretion.” Proverbs 11:22

Ugly Duckling

You will remember from the delightful play, “Ugly Duckling”, by AA Milne, that the princess was thought to be plain to all except the one who was to be her prince. This is a very good situation to be in.

The Princess had been under a spell by a caring godmother, to look plain until her wedding day. This was done because the godmother “didn’t want me to grow up spoilt and wilful and vain, as I should have done if everybody had always been saying how beautiful I was.” “The best thing in the world was be quite sure of yourself, but not to expect admiration from other people.”

By being thought of as the Ugly Duckling, even though she was really quite beautiful, the princess was able to explore life without distracting concerns about her beauty, or of having to deal with shallow attentions from those who only saw her beauty.

The Prince saw both her beauty and the delight of who she was as a person. That’s an ideal situation.

Remember, you will only have one husband. He is the only one who need think of you as beautiful. If everyone else pays you no attention for your beauty you will be spared the process of being cheapened by the cheap self-interested attentions of shallow men.

Find Your Value

Girls who fear that they may not have real value will easily become sidetracked by their attempts to look attractive. They will focus on their external appearance rather than their internal worth.They will compare themselves with other women only in terms of appearance, not in terms of character.I don’t want you to do that. I want you to find your full value and live it to the full.

Find your value by being a woman of God. Be a virtuous woman, for there are too few of them. There are so few of them that all who fit that description gain the highest value.

If you find your heart being drawn away to thoughts of your own beauty or your power to attract  attention from men, then you are in danger of losing your true value.

Be a woman who fears God.

I have more to say about this topic, but I’ll save that until next time.

Note: These “My Princess” posts are for all those young ladies who are preparing for their adult future. I am writing them with my own daughter in mind, so they come from my heart and contain matters that I consider very important. Dads are welcome to use these articles with their own family, and young ladies are welcome to look for them to receive godly counsel they might not find elsewhere.

Youth Violence from Websites and Media

We all know that what we see influences us, yet many people defend violence in the media and in computer games. Opinions reflect each person’s bias on the matter, so it’s always helpful when research clarifies the facts. Sadly we have such a high level of scorn toward some truths that we need empirical evidence to confirm what any sensible person knows intuitively to be true.

Websites Linked to Violent Behaviour

This is the headline for a Reuters report from November 6 this year, quoting the results of research from Dr. Michele L. Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids. Dr Ybarra’s investigations support the claim that many other studies have already underscored, that young people exposed to violent media are more likely to lash out violently themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already come to the conclusion from evidence already on hand, that because media violence contributes so much to child violent behaviour it is “the single most easily remediable contributing factor” to youth violence.

Media Influencing Teens

Ybarra’s study into media influencing violence is consistent with research into the media’s influence on the sexual behaviour of adolescents. The Journal of Adolescent Health reported in 2006 that “The mass media are an important context for adolescents’ sexual behaviour”.

The report by L’Engle, Brown and Kenneavy confirms that increased exposure to sexual content through television, music, movies and magazines correlates with a higher level of sexual activity and an increased intent to engage in sexual activity.

Encouraging Violence

The Ybarra study looked at the influence of violent websites on the violent behaviour of 10 to 15 year olds. They specifically looked at “seriously violent behaviour”, defined as shooting or stabbing, robbery, committing aggravated assault, or sexual assault.

Of the 1,500 people surveyed (48% female) 38% reported that they had visited at least one type of violent website. 5% reported having engaged in one of the seriously violent behaviours in the past year.

Children who reported having visited more than one type of violent website in the past year were 50% more likely to engage in a seriously violent behaviour. Those who indicated that most of the websites they visited showed “real people fighting, shooting or killing” were five times more likely than their peers to engage in seriously violent behaviour.

The Web Has the Power

A key insight from the Ybarra study is that violence on television, movies, cartoons, games and music was less likely to correlate to higher levels of violent behaviour than internet violence involving real people.

We all knew instinctively that the cartoon violence of a Foghorn Leghorn character beating up a dog has negligible impact compared to realistic images of real people engaged in violence. Now the research confirms that realistic violence depicted on violent websites has potency above the other violent media depictions available to young people.

A Supply Problem

Some argue that such things as internet violence or media sexual messages do not inherently change people’s behaviour, but they attract those already committed to the course of action. I disagree, and assert, as the L’Engle study in to sexual behaviour indicates, that increased supply of harmful influences results in an increase in the bad outcomes.

I believe the presence of harmful influences is causative in increasing the level of harmful behaviours.

However, even if I am wrong on that point, the problem is still one of ‘supply’. If people are inclined to wrong behaviour and readily addict themselves to and respond to negative influences, then the very supply of those influences is a problem. We have a Supply Problem. Not an undersupply but an oversupply of the wrong influences.

During the Prohibition Era there was a direct correlation between the supply of alcohol and the number of men who were alcoholics. Whatever the underlying predisposition of the drunkard, limiting the supply kept many men and their families from the degradation of alcoholism.

Curb the Supply to Protect our Society

The solution to the problem is in reducing the supply of these harmful influences. Violent realism on websites, sexually arousing images in the media and ready availability of alcohol have all been proven to increase the incidence of people’s harmful behaviour.

Remember the quote earlier from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says of youth violence that media violence is “the single most easily remediable contributing factor”. If we remove media violence we will reduce youth violence. Curb the supply and you reduce the bad behaviour, thus protecting the society.

Fathers Protect the Vulnerable

One of the roles of fathers is to protect the vulnerable people in their care. That is why parents monitor, limit and regulate the influences that reach their children. That is also why fathers of our society, those who are in positions of responsibility to protect us all, must also monitor and regulate the harmful influences that impact our society.

Sadly there are people who use their demand for free speech to overturn all attempts to regulate the harmful influences already taking a serious toll in our society. Until we have true ‘fathers’ in our societies we will continue to unprotected and harmful influences will continue to invade homes and communities.

At the domestic level, parents can set healthy standards for their children and teach those children to understand the dangers. Informed children who have developed healthy self-control can avoid the evil influences that may abound around them. Sadly there are not many parents who understand the problem, let alone feel empowered to act effectively to protect their own children.

Pray that things change for the better.