How to Have Power at Work

By Joe Henriques, @MBCTysons Campus Pastor

All I wanted at the pet store were a couple of snails for my small aquarium. I got a bonus deal: Snails plus a mini-workshop on labor relations.

“So, how’s it going today?” I asked the young man who was putting my tiny purchases in water-filled bags.?“Not so good,” he responded.?“Some days are like that for all of us,” I offered, as a way of solidarity.?“Yeah, that’s true,” he replied, but then quickly added, “But, I love my job.”?I looked at him with amazement and exclaimed, “Not a whole lot of people can say that! What makes you love your job?”?“My boss,” he smiled. “She’s always positive, always encouraging me, helps me to do things the right way. She’s awesome.” ?“You’re really blessed,” I affirmed.?“Yes, I am!” he said in hearty agreement.

For this employee, loving his job trumped the hassle of his “not so good” days. He didn’t say he loved his job because of the salary or benefits, or the great customers, or tropical fish and snails that he sold. He loved his job because of the way that he was appreciated and treated by his boss.

“Big deal,” some might say. “Who wouldn’t love their job with a boss like that? What if he had a boss like mine who makes you feel abused, misused, disregarded, harassed and unappreciated?”

If that’s your story, you’re not alone. You’re in the same boat with thousands of others, and you feel powerless to change anything. You can’t even leave. You need the money. You’re stuck!

Well, I’ve got good news. You have power to change the one thing that matters the most in your job: You.

Let’s do an eye exam. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? The eye of your mind probably sees how you think others see you. When you look at your work, what value do you see? You probably see the same value that others tell you they see.

If that’s how you see things, through the eyes of others, that’s a problem. A really big one. God wants you to see as He sees. Seeing and accepting as true what God sees is not a distortion of reality. No one can truly live with freedom in a man-made house of mirrors.

Consider this: If Christian slaves in the Roman Empire could change the vision they had of themselves and the work that they did, so can you. Let’s step into their world a few hundred years ago….

In their homelands, before they were conquered by Rome and were torn away by soldiers to be sold as slaves in foreign lands, most were known as successful, prosperous people in their trades and lives. Almost overnight, they slipped from that life to a nightmare, working for owners who cared nothing for them, and as slaves doing work they cared nothing about.

Did the slaves of Rome have reason to be angry, resentful and bitter? I think so. Over time, dehumanization conditioned slaves to see themselves in dark mirrors: Worthless nobodies with meaningless lives until the day they died. They endured dead end jobs and the daily humiliation of doing the dumb, dirty or dangerous work. And, if you couldn’t do your work, you were dumped, discarded as trash. Hordes of other slaves were ready to take your place.

Just as God sent Moses with a message of deliverance to his Hebrew children who were slaves in the Egyptian dynasty, God sent Paul with a message of freedom to his children who were slaves in the Roman Empire. [1] Paul’s message hit the slave world with the force of a spiritual tsunami, shattering in one single wave the mirrors of distortion in which they had been seeing themselves. [2]

“Did you hear?” they exclaimed in amazement to each other, “Paul, the Apostle, the ‘legend’ himself, sent a message to us! He wrote to us from his prison cell in Rome!”[3]

I can imagine Christian slaves meeting secretly to talk in hushed voices about the message that came to them.

One slave starts with, “Paul said, ‘Brothers and sisters, you’re not a slave of men, doing work that has no meaning; you are servants of the Lord Christ himself, doing his work for him, even with him!’”

Another slave chimes in, And, he said that nothing and no one has the power to change who you are, a child of God who has created you for a life of good works. You belong to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. No matter what anyone does to you or where they send you, there you are a servant of Christ who has set you free from all sin and its effects. If you have lousy pay, Christ will reward you.”[4]

There was silence for a moment and a third slave says, “Really? Is this how God really sees us?”[5]

That’s exactly how God saw them, and that’s exactly how God sees you. Why not personalize the truth that set slaves free in the spirit of their minds, so that, like them, you can really do your work with the power of gladness?

I am a child of Almighty God, my Father, and a personal servant of Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord of the universe. For Him and with Him, I am doing the work He has given me to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

You will experience power at work that you never thought possible. It’s all in what you see.

Footnotes:

[1] Paul’s message to the slaves was in his letters to the churches in the prominent cities of Ephesus and Colossae.

[2] This is not to say that all slave owners treated their slaves in this way. A minority of slaves had positions of responsibility in the family business or the household.

[3] Paul was not writing from some posh office as a philosopher with an esoteric, mystic theory or promoting a feel-good pop psychology. He was a brilliant theologian, a devoted activist for Christ who took his faith to the streets and, because of his faith, jailed in a Roman prison. He learned from hard experience that “No person or life situation can take from me the dignity and honor that I have from God. Christ, the hope of glory lives in me!”

[4] To the slaves in Colossae: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24, NLT)

To the slaves in Ephesus“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8, NKJV)

[5] We need to remember that while Paul gave specific instructions to slaves, they were also recipients of the truths of his entire letter to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae. They, like any “free” Christian were given the full benefits of the knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ, as described by Paul in the entirety of the letters.

Faith in the Real World

By Joe Kelty, MBC Tysons Director of Men’s Discipleship

In today’s morally relativistic culture, can we really be expected to share our faith in the “real world”? Let me give you a couple real world examples of a “rookie” Christian sharing his faith.

When I was a younger man, my wife and I had only been married for two years when we were blessed with our first child, a precious little girl. I was working in downtown DC at a firm with several young men in the 20-30 age group. One of the VPs had established a tradition of taking men out to lunch for their birthday. Somehow that tradition devolved into a group of rowdy men going to a gentlemen’s club in DC to celebrate a man’s birthday.

As a Christian and new father of a little girl, I decided that I could not participate in such things anymore. So when the next birthday outing was gathering, I stood up and announced that I would not be going. The group of men unleashed a barrage of peer pressure and insults on me. But I stood firm. I explained that “it just wasn’t right” for me as a Christian man, and as the father of a little girl. The insults continued. So, I offered to help pay for the birthday boy’s lunch, and sulked back to my office. The group of men left. Then about 10 minutes later, one of the men returned and came to my office. He said, “That took guts.” I smiled. He said that he also had a young daughter, and that maybe it was a good time for him to start taking the family to their neighborhood church every Sunday. Looking back on this memory, I realize that I had successfully shared my faith in the real world—and it helped someone take a step closer to Christ.

Years later, I was the VP at a different organization. Our company had teams of IT consultants working at various large clients in the DC area. One of the clients announced that they would have to cancel our contract, effective immediately, because the government had cut funding to the entire project. The client apologized, but without funding, they could not pay us. This meant that I would suddenly have several consultants sitting idle, and not earning profits for my company. I looked at the contract terms for this client, and realized that there was a clause that prevented termination of my team without one month’s notice. I could essentially force the client to keep paying for an additional month, even though they were not being funded by the government. Not my problem, so I thought. I informed my boss and my team that we would be forcing the issue, and that our profits would still look good for the month. But all that night my conscience kept convicting me. I prayed about the  situation. The next day I decided to change my mind, and let the client off the hook. Then I had to go tell my boss, and announce this to my team. In front of everyone, the team leader asked me why I had changed my mind. I told them that I was a Christian, and that I have been striving to live my life accordingly. It would not be a godly decision to sacrifice my personal integrity in exchange for profits. I apologized to all of them, and promised to be a better leader and a man of stronger Christian character. Later that day, a few of the team members came up to me individually. They each encouraged me, and thanked me for making this decision. One of them even asked about attending my Bible study. We had a tough month in profits, but ended up with a record year, financially.

Don’t become overwhelmed by the challenges you face because you are a Christian. Remain faithful and cling to your Christian integrity. Be intentional about telling people why you believe in the Lord Jesus. They will respect you for it—they may even find salvation because of it. And one day the Lord will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Dissolving Reluctance, Resolving to Pray

By Julie Stoll, MBC Tysons Attendee

Remember Jonah the reluctant prophet? God shared His heart of compassion for the people of Nineveh, and told Jonah to go make a difference there. But Jonah went in the opposite direction, intentionally refusing to join God’s plan. Why? What prompted Jonah’s reluctance and emboldened him into rebellion?

Perhaps Jonah had bought into the cultural perspective of his nation. The Jews at that time had a nasty history with the Ninevites and viewed them as despicable. Why be involved with anything good directed toward a “bad” group who chose to be that way? I can relate to that in my prayer life. I am reluctant to pray for people I don’t understand or who don’t have direct influence on me. Only my favorites—those who deserve betterment—get face time. I sadly see my resemblance to Jonah; I am a reluctant pray-er.

Modern day Nineveh is Mosel, Iraq. The ancient ruins of Nineveh still stand on the eastern side of the Tigris River, which could remind all of God’s compassion at the time of Jonah. But instead we see it frequently on the newsa hotbed of warring Islamic factions—and chalk it up to someplace remote where God isn’t. But today I am challenged that God is indeed active.

He is actually sovereign over all peoples and cares about their well-being, just as he cared about the Ninevites so long ago. Even when it seems that injustice is the rule of the day, where oppression and violence abound, God still desires His people to be messengers of hope, of His offer of redemption. Yet I find myself comfortable in my reluctance. It is startling to think that I may be acting on deep prejudice or, at best, intentional avoidance of “those” people who sadly suffer by their own choice of where to be born. Really?

The news stories of Christian refugees in Northern Iraq challenge me to pray. At the very least to pray for justice and safety for my brothers and sisters in Christ within warring Northern Iraq and now as refugees in Turkey. With Christian backgrounds, they are in positions today where God sovereignly placed them (Acts 17: 26-27). But can Christian Iraqis be embedded messengers of hope in that region without their broader global Christian community praying for the strength and wisdom they need to stand firm?

I am told to pray for workers in the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). To pray for God’s plan to get His message to all the “Ninevites”. Whether I am prejudiced against them or not. He is going to act and my choice is whether to join Him in His work or just hear about how it was accomplished in the sweet by-and-by. I am more aware than ever of my own reluctance to engage in something that costs me so little—prayer. And that is for my brothers and sisters in Christ. That is not even to consider the majority population—people Jesus died for!

So here are five things I have decided to pray for this week as I try and dissolve my reluctance and resolve to pray:

  1. Pray for God’s gracious justice and peace to be present in the area surrounding Mosel. I think I will actually Google map the city and visualize it as I pray.
  2. Pray for laborers to be effective in the harvest fields of Northern Iraq and in the refugee camps in bordering countries. For me, I will pray for efforts of Samaritan’s Purse.
  3. Pray for Iraqi believers to be strong and effective in evangelism and planting seeds of hope among the culturally Christian Iraqi people.
  4. Pray that God’s offer of redemption be heard through brothers and sisters there (Colossians 4:3).
  5. Pray for my own heart to be renewed toward His purposes that includes a dissolving of my reluctance to pray for His work.

When Discipling Isn’t as Easy as 1-2-3

By Jaclyn Hoffman, Operations Manager for Biblical Training @MBCTysons

Growing up, Catie went to church on and off with my friend Stephanie and her family, but when Catie reached high school, she stopped attending. About two months ago, Stephanie’s mom asked if I would meet Catie for coffee because she was interested in going back to church. We met and immediately became friends. We started hanging out and playing basketball, and I invited her to start coming to my small group. She also came to church with me.

One night, before small group, she came over because she had questions about her life and the Lord. She’d been dealing with anxiety and depression, so we talked about her thought life and how her emotions and feelings seemed to fluctuate so frequently.

She was only happy when her circumstances were good.We discussed how to find hope and the only true joy in Jesus Christ despite our circumstances. I told her that believers have something to live for that gives life meaning and purpose. She said she wanted to have that purpose and more peace in her life. At the end of our conversation I asked, “Do you want to ask Jesus to be your personal Savior?” She prayed to receive Christ that night.

I had always thought that after leading someone to Christ, I would take her to Christianity 101, go through a book, and poof—she’s a  disciple! But that’s not how it’s been. She doesn’t want to go through a curriculum, and she’s not used to hanging out with Christians yet. She’s not following my neat little plan! What she wants is to live life with me, to see my messy life and realize that just because I’m a Christian, that doesn’t mean I have everything together.

I’ve learned that as we strive to be bold and share our faith, if we have the incredible blessing of seeing people come to know Christ, we can’t be disappointed if the new believers don’t seem to want to do what we think they should do. We must accept that the process may be messy.

Don’t force anything. Trust the Lord.He is now their Father too, and He will take care of them. He’s simply going to use us in His process.

Sienna’s Offering

By Kalina Kwok, MBC Bethesda Attendee

Our MBC Bethesda missions team hosted a free dinner and “Toy Story” movie night recently. It was the first project we had to do together, and by God’s grace, the event was a success. We received lots of notes of encouragement and prayers from supporters as we prepared for our trip to the Philippines.

SienneOnce the movie was over, a little girl named Sienna asked us if she could donate money to the missions trip. Of course, we welcomed the thought. She opened a handmade zebra print piggy bank decorated with smiley face stickers and poured out all of its contents into the box. Based on the large amount of money for someone of her age, it was clear she was a saver. To see her sacrifice all of her money for our trip was overwhelming. It reminded me of Luke 21:1-4.

The Widow’s Offering
And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

Faith Like a Child
Jesus was touched by the widow’s offering because it was given out of her poverty. Those two small copper coins were all she had. For little Sienna, all she had was the money in her piggy bank, a collection of gifts and probably well-earned rewards from chores. I’m not sure if she had other plans or dreams for her money, but if she did, she was willing to let them go for God’s purposes: To reach the unreached and to glorify His Name. It’s no wonder that Jesus constantly reminded the disciples—and us today—to have faith like a child, faith like Sienna, to trust in Him with everything and to pour out offerings of sacrifice because He is Worthy.

The team left for the Philippines Saturday, Aug. 16 and returned Aug. 24. Please pray for their encounters with those that did not yet know Jesus and the encouragement of those that did.

The Wonder of Talking with Jesus

By Joe Henriques, Campus Pastor @MBCTysons

One nice part of being a child is that awesome things are still a wonder. I’m guessing that you’ve experienced children in your own family jumping up and down like grasshoppers with incredible energy and excitement, as they drag you along to see the smallest of things that adults don’t notice or think amazing anymore. We say, “Oh, yeah, that’s nice.” Kids exclaim, “Wow! Look! That’s so cool!”

Do you and I still think of the statement below as an awesome, amazing wonder?

“God intently listens to me when I speak to him,
and he personally answers my prayers
as he sees best, because he delights in me.”

Why not take a walk today and ponder that thought? Prayer for the work of the Lord, we naturally do. But, I’m slowly getting it that prayer is the work.

Imagine sitting across the table from Jesus and having a personal talk about your life, work, and ministry and asking him to provide this or that. Imagine that your meeting with him is literally the direct cause for every effect—everything that happens. Imagine it, because it’s true.

Thankfully, Jesus—the Sovereign Lord, Ruler of the Cosmos, and our Personal Savior—has his own agenda and makes sure that the universe, earth, and our personal lives move on per the counsel of his own will and for his good pleasure, all without us even thinking about it. Part of the mystery of how things work on earth, however, is that he makes much room in his plan to accommodate the “fervent prayers” of his followers, listening and answering every day. Surely, this qualifies as a wonder.

Getting to the Heart, Part 5

By Mike Kelsey, Campus Pastor @MBCSilverSpring

The Heart Is Always Trusting Something
In addition to our desires, we are also motivated by our beliefs. In fact, our beliefs usually dictate how we handle our desires. This is clearly seen in the account of the Fall in Genesis 3. Eve desired the nourishment, beauty and divine wisdom that would come from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:6). But she didn’t eat it until she believed the serpent’s proposal to be more reliable than God’s promises (Genesis 3:1-5).

The same dynamic is at work in our hearts. Our minds are filled with thoughts that have been accumulated from and influenced by different sources: media we’ve consumed, advice we’ve received, stories we’ve heard, classes we’ve taken, experiences we’ve had, sermons we’ve listened to, etc. In the midst of these swirling thoughts is a constant battle for our hearts—a battle for what we will believe, a battle for who or what we will ultimately trust.

This battle is so important to understand because the biblical picture is one in which we are much more vulnerable and susceptible to deception than we often realize.

Deception is Satan’s primary strategy for influencing us (Genesis 3:13; John 8:44). The supposed “wisdom” of people around us can deceive us (Ephesians 4:14). And, because of our sin nature, even our own hearts and desires can deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:22). Practically speaking, we need to become adept at evaluating the beliefs that drive us. Where did a belief come from, and is it true? Even if it is true, does it reflect the whole truth given in God’s Word? What do we believe about ourselves? What do we believe about the things we desire? What do we believe or fail to believe about God? As we begin to ask those questions, we will see that our behavior is an expression of what we really desire and what we really believe.

Here’s one example. A man begins drinking alcohol excessively [behavior] because he is depressed about his prolonged unemployment [circumstance]. What is happening in his heart? Well, we know that he desires a job. But his desire for a job is likely a mixture of more fundamental desires like financial security and self-worth, etc. Let’s go with his desire for financial security, which is partly a desire for peace. He doesn’t want to worry about whether he’ll be able to meet his needs. What might he believe? One possible belief is that without a job, the most reliable way to have peace is to get drunk. Is this true? No. Rather than trusting God for peace (Philippians 4:6-8) and obeying Him (Ephesians 5:18), he trusts alcohol.

God’s Word is always the most reliable source of truth. In every circumstance, God wants us to trust Him by relying on what He has revealed to be true. That means the time we spend reading, memorizing and hearing God’s Word preached is not just religious routine. Our minds need to be constantly saturated with the wonderful truths of God’s Word so that those truths become the predominate influences in our hearts.

Fighting The Darkness with The Light

By Angel Turbeville, Director of Small Groups @MBCBethesda

As I look around at the world we live in, some days it feels like it is totally falling apart. One of the most devastating losses is death due to suicide. Can there be enough hope to break through to those souls struggling to hold onto life itself? I believe there is. I think the church needs to understand a little more, and I hope taking my mask off might help. Depression and the overwhelming darkness and despair that it brings strikes those who claim their salvation in God, just as hard, maybe even harder, as those who do not profess faith in Christ. I know that many in the church want to help, but they do not understand the complexity of how to be in transformational community with those who battle depression. Here’s my take from a heart that knows.

In many ways, I believe the battlefield of the physical darkness of the mind, is compounded for the Christian. Satan knows that if he can make us lose hope, we are rendered powerless from God’s kingdom. Depression is not foreign to me. I have watched many I love battle and even more devastating, stop fighting. I battle. I am a believer. I KNOW Christ. I know His love. I know the power of the cross. I minister to others. I share His hope. I speak truth even on the days when my heart is dark with despair. In the past, I’ve battled waves of anxiety and panic attacks. Thankfully, those have lessened. Because of the devastating depth of how broken my heart is, my past has even included begging God to take me to heaven. I’ve let a few close to me know the level of my pain, but for the most part, I’ve painted on the face I know I’m supposed to have and soldier on. Healing has occurred, but I still have days/weeks of struggles. In those times, eventually God’s light does break through. I’ll go from a heavy cloud of oppression to a realization of the hope that is at work within me. However, despite my constant prayer, God has not totally healed me.

God, in His gentle sovereign way, has taught me how to fight this darkness. I have taken practical steps—I have been in counseling for six years. I have tried medication, but unfortunately for me, aside from helping me through crisis points, this has not been a good ongoing solution. I know the battle is easier if I manage my diet, exercise and sleep. I try to do that.

Spiritual transformation has happened in the light of community. The few who know my battle are the dear friends who consistently love me through the dark. In the past couple of years the most healing has happened because of those within the church that I have been able to trust. They are the ones who persist. They know my patterns. They recognize when I am going into hiding or not being honest about my heart. They call me out. They sit in the despair with me and pray. They check in with me, text me verses, email me and are not afraid of my dark. Some of them have their own struggle and those who know deep pain have been able to penetrate to places that others can’t. However, the friends that most amaze me are those who don’t share this or a similar battle, but still schlep into the dark completely relying on God to navigate the right words or actions.

What are some practical actions you can take if you have people in your life who are battling depression, or for that matter, any pain that you have no idea how to relate to?

1. Be there
Be a consistent presence in their lives. This does not mean lecturing them on how to change their thoughts or refocusing them on “positive” thinking. It does mean pointing them to Scripture that affirms the despair of their hearts. Wrestling through where they are with God and praying with them and for them. My deepest “knowing God” moments have been the times when I have been able to apply the truth of His character to the depravity of my heart.

2. Persevere
In the worst times of despair, we disconnect. The pain drives us into hiding because “no one understands.” We believe many lies including that we are “totally alone” and “no one cares.” Even as believers, these thought patterns creep in. Outside of crisis points, have honest conversations to find out what is helpful when this level of despair hits. Open yourself up to be available via text or phone—anytime day or night. Does this level of care scare you? It shouldn’t. For the believer who is truly battling and seeking God’s work of redemption in their lives, this will not turn into co-dependence. It will be a mark of authentic community and the bearing up of one another’s burdens.

3. Be willing to ask the hard questions 
Understand specifically the trigger points that ignite moments of despair. For those you are in close community with, make sure they are keeping safeguards in place to manage their reactions.

4. Affirm and love
At our deepest levels, God created us for intimate relationship. We need to be free to let go of shame and be embraced by love. Shame comes with this struggle. Satan is whispering the lies of “where is your God right now?”, “you are serving Him and ministering to others, look at the fraud you are right now” and any other lie he can think of in attempt to disable God’s redemptive work. Do not add to the shame with a spirit of condemnation. Identify the lies and answer them with Truth from God’s Word.

5. Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit
Those who deeply struggle with depression and mental illness have needs and thirsts that are insatiable. We can only be redeemed through His Living Water. Our community must be built with those who will not retreat in hurt, but will strive to understand and love through the power of the cross.

6. Recognize when practical help is needed in addition to spiritual
For those who battle this deeply, there is a need for professional counseling and other resources. However, even in those cases, the five points above STILL apply. A counselor is not community for the Christian.

The body of Christ MUST take steps to understand how to engage with one another so that we are living the Gospel victoriously. 1 Thessalonians 5 is a beautiful picture of what the church should be doing. We need to realize that we have not been lost in the darkness of this world, and we need to encourage each other to live as children of light. In vs. 14 the command is given to comfort the “feebleminded”. The word actually means “small-souled” and in context indicates one who is despondent. Are we in close enough community with each other to know the size of our souls?

Are our lives prioritized around our agendas or knowing and loving others in a way that is transformational and exhibits a taste of the love we have received through Christ on the cross. Let’s get there. Let’s be patient, know each other at the soul-level, and love deeply as Christ has loved us. Simple statements that call for bold living.

Getting to the Heart, Part 4

By Mike Kelsey, Campus Pastor @MBCSilverSpring

The Heart Is Always Seeking Something

For the most part, our behavior is our attempt to attain what our hearts desire.[1] Christian counselor and author David Powlison explains, “My daily behavior is my attempt to get what is important to me in various situations and relationships. My choices and actions always reveal the desires that rule my heart.” These can sometimes be inherently sinful desires, but usually even those can be traced to legitimate desires that are not necessarily sinful but that can begin to take the rightful place of God (approval, companionship, success, respect, etc.). In fact, this is what the writers of the New Testament mean when they use the word “lust.” Lust is often used in reference to sexual desire in particular (which is how we most commonly use the term today), but throughout the New Testament, the term “lust” is a generic term that basically means any “controlling desire” (James 1:14-15). It is almost as if these desires become mini-kings (or in religious terms, mini-gods) that demand our attention and obedience. For example, the Apostle Peter writes about conforming to our lusts (1 Peter 1:14), and the Apostle Paul mentions being enslaved to and obeying our lusts (Titus 3:3; Romans 6:12; also “appetites” in Romans 16:18). These controlling desires have profound significance because as the 19th century Puritan preacher David Clarkson said, “Every reigning lust is an idol.”

“Every reigning lust is an idol.”

So how do we know when we have allowed a desire to take the rightful place of God? How do we know when natural desires have become sinful desires?

We can usually tell that a desire has taken control in one of two ways:

  1. When we are willing to sin in order to get it.
    (In order to get approval, I gossip. It feels great to be the one “in the know.”)
  2. When we sin in response to not getting what we want.
    (When I feel I’m not getting the respect I deserve, I retaliate with harsh words.)

However, outward and obvious sins are not the only places where sinful and controlling desires lurk. Sometimes, these subtle desires can also be found underneath our seemingly righteous behaviors. We must be careful that our good deeds are being done with holy motivations. Jesus was very critical of Jewish religious leaders who were doing “good” things in public but were motivated by impressing people rather than serving God and people (Matthew 6:1-18). In other words, they were using religious piety as a way to attain what their hearts truly desired, which was praise and admiration. That is not true piety in God’s eyes. True piety is doing the right thing with the right motives. It is ironic and yet true that idolatry can motivate our Christianity. God doesn’t just want us to do good things; He wants to be the true ruler and treasure of our hearts.

Practically speaking, we have to understand that our choices, attitudes, words and behaviors are being driven by the reality that our hearts are seeking something. Our deepest and most controlling desire should be to please God and enjoy His presence. This is what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:29-30). In His love for us, He created things for us to enjoy, but those things become idols, God-replacements, when we desire them more than we desire God (Romans 1:25).

Read @MikeKelsey‘s first, second, and third posts from this series!


[1] Desire includes what you value, crave, treasure, long for, set your heart on, hope in, cherish, worship, love or seek.

Truth Literally Saved My Life

By Stephanie Green, MBC Staff Applications Analyst & MBC Tysons Attendee

In a recent discussion with a close friend, I realized why I get so concerned about “relational sanctification” (as I would label it). I’ve found that relationships I’m in now can have a way of resurrecting the past, and all of the hurts that have been hiding under its webs. Previously in my life, these flashbacks have been so painful that I didn’t know how to deal with or face the reality of the hurt. For example, in high school, after being stood up on the day of my boyfriend’s prom, I began cutting. Several years later, while in a disastrous relationship with a college boyfriend, I tried to take my life.

These acts of brokenness were fueled by my deeply rooted insecurities. My dad left me waiting a lot, and my mom made me believe that God was going to send a replacement father who wouldn’t abandon me. I was raised by three orphans, two of whom had deep fears of abandonment. My own fears of relational pain and abandonment grew deeper, and my ability to trust faded away.

God is Different
God is faithful to keep His promises and says in His Word that He will never leave me nor forsake me. I’ve been to Christian therapy, and it has helped greatly, but there is nothing else on this earth (or beyond) that can fulfill the promise of God’s eternal love. When I first heard that God’s love was unconditional and everlasting, I was drawn to this message of hope.

Prior to committing my life to the Lord, I heard truth from His Word, but it wasn’t until my last suicide attempt (shortly after leaving college) that I surrendered my life completely to God. I didn’t feel comfortable trusting or believing anyone at that point, but I knew I needed help and prayed: “God if you are real, please help me.”

God Heard Me
He did help me. God brought me away from all that I clung to in order to teach me to trust and know Him as my Heavenly Father.

I wasted a lot of time focusing on Satan’s lies such as “you’re not good enough,” “you have no value or purpose,” etc. But I was literally rescued by Truth. If I breathed my last breath today, and I had to give my final words of advice, with no doubt I would say: “Cling to the Truth of His Word—God is faithful. Believe in the Lord Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He literally saved my life.”

The Truth Will Save You, Too
Not all of us have traumatic life stories, but we all face the same battle of believing lies from Satan and being deceived. Fight strong, not by trying to control circumstance but by clinging to Truth—God’s amazing truth found in His Word.

If you or someone you know is struggling with similar emotional pain and would like to speak with someone, please call The MBC Counseling Center at 703-770-8670 or the reception desk at McLean Bible Church at 703-639-2000 and ask to speak to the “Staff of the Day,” Mondays-Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm.