Finding Balance in a World of Extremes-Part 1

Finding Balance in a world of Extremes Part 2 Pastor's Corner

Focuses on maintaining balance in doctrinal differences and social issues
  1. Finding Balance in a world of Extremes Part 2
  2. Finding balance in a world of extremes
  3. Ecclesiastes 3 & 4: Seasons of Life
  4. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  5. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1

Throughout the past episodes of this study, we’ve dug deep into the Book of Ecclesiastes to discover what God recommends for us humans to have a good life. By a good life, God doesn’t mean one that is necessarily filled with love or trouble-free. What He means is a life that accomplishes its spiritual purpose while achieving a sense of natural fulfillment.

Image credit: SimplyPsychology.org

Just before going further, permit me for a moment to explain what I mean. In his book, Motivation and Personality, the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow taught that we humans have five levels of needs which govern many of our decisions. For those of you listening to this podcast, there’s a diagram of this hierarchy on the website: theLWBC.com.

At the top of the list is the need to reach your full potential as a person or, what Maslow called, self-actualization. I teach my students that it’s to be the best you that you can be.

Well, God was way ahead of Maslow. And in this book of wisdom, through Solomon, God teaches us principles such as finding fulfillment in life, work and relationships, understanding that life operates in seasons.

As we start to wind down our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, I’d like to draw one theme from chapters 5-8. It is finding balance and learning contentment.

Over the next two messages we’ll focus on the first aspect: finding balance in a world of extremes.

Now, before we get started, remember to pause throughout this study, read through the scriptures and pick up when you’re ready to move forward. There’s no rush and I’d like to make sure you’re getting all the benefit from this that you can because it is important for your life.

Why is this important?

We live in a world of extremes. Extreme pleasure, extreme pressure, incredible wealth—where some can launch themselves into space whenever they want— and crushing poverty.

Against the backdrop of these social contradictions, God is trying to get a Bride who is in the world yet not a part of the world (John 18:36). Honestly, that is one of the biggest challenges a pastor faces in modern times. Preaching so that the people can live successful lives in a world that becomes increasingly ungodly by the hour, yet helping them to live more like the Word “in this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12), is difficult at best. But we are not discouraged and our hope is in the Lord.

One of the keys to navigating this complex age of Laodicea while striving for your overcomer’s crown is to find and maintain a balanced approach to your Christianity. By no means am I encouraging people to be lukewarm—those of you who know me know that nothing could be further from the truth—but I am encouraging you to walk in wisdom as Col.4:5 urges us.

So, what is spiritual balance?

Charles Blondin is probably the world’s most famous tightrope walker. In case you’re not familiar with the idea of tightropewalking, I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’re crossing the Grand Canyon on a rope that is just two inches thick—without any belts or nets to catch you.

Blondin crossed Niagara Falls about 300 times on a tightrope and, on at least one occasion, he hauled a stove with him to the falls, lit a fire and cooked an omelet—all on a tightrope that was about 1,300 feet long and 2 inches thick.

I share this because that’s how I believe the Christian walks today. Hell is beneath us. The forces of evil are trying to push us from our Lifeline—the Word. Again, for a moment, just close your eyes and imagine a tightrope walker. Every move you make has to be balanced. Every step must be true.

To do anything else is to die.

Spiritual balance is the same thing. It is not letting yourself tilt toward the lukewarm, looseness of Satan’s Eden and neither is it allowing yourself to become overzealous and, ultimately, self-righteous. God warns Joshua of the same when He tells him not to go to the right hand or the left.

Just like with tightrope walking, it’s easy for us to sway to one side or the other. And so the Bible itself has advice for us.

Chapter 5 opens up with a warning to not be quick to promise God anything (Eccl. 5:1-7). Now this might seem strange as all who love the Lord should be happy to promise him anything—right? Well, not necessarily. The thing is, when you promise God something, He never forgets it and He holds you accountable for your words. Solomon shows us here that we must not let our love for the Lord get us into situations where we cannot keep what we promise. A balanced approach recognizes this and therefore focuses more on worship than making promises.

But balance goes beyond words into daily living. Let’s drill into this a little further. In this next section, I’d like to focus on keeping balance in our natural life and a few areas where the enemy tries or will try to get us off the straight path of the Word.

Natural balance

Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

As we interact with the world on a daily basis, let us keep focused on our mission: hate the sin but love the sinner. Stand for the Word without compromising but do not seek conflict unless you are definitively led of the Holy Spirit to do so.

There’s a good saying that we can be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. I recall a time when some married sisters didn’t want to make themselves attractive to their husbands because they were so given to living a holy life. Today, believers sometimes give off the idea that those who struggle with temptation are sinful when that is totally incorrect.

I’ve mentioned from behind the pulpit that we need to balance meeting our physical and emotional needs with bringing our body under subjection. There are times to give in to your body’s will and there are times to tell it a firm “no.” Now is a good time to bring this back to your remembrance while explaining a little further.

The Lord Jesus never focused on being too righteous—He focused simply on doing the Father’s will even though there were times that He was tempted to do what He wanted instead.

Christ showed us balance in all things. In terms of godly service, there were times when He pushed Himself the extra mile and there were times when He told His disciples to “Come aside and rest, (Mark 6:31).” At times He told the disciples to exclusively trust the Heavenly Father for protection (like Ezra of old in Ezra 8:22). But there came a time when He taught His disciples to sell their garments and buy swords (Luke 22:33-35). The gentle love Christ showed the lost was balanced by His fury when He beat the crowds out of the temple.

In like manner, we must accept that there are times we need to rely on the Spirit’s power and there are times we need to trust that the Spirit will work through our efforts. For example, there are times you must take medicine to get better and—when we appropriate the faith necessary—there are times when we won’t need medicine at all.

If you go to the extreme of always relying on medicine, your faith will be weak. But if you go to the other extreme of never taking it at all, without a solid revelation in your heart, you may die. Spiritual balance keeps our faith pure yet grounded in the realities of this world.

Let’s take another look at your life. You are called to be the Word but, like the Lord Jesus, you must balance that out with the fact that you are also human. Because of this, there will be times where we shake off the mental, emotional, sexual, and materialistic pressures of the age without much of a problem and there are times we will have to really do battle to overcome ourselves. And sometimes we’ll stumble and fall and need to cling to the cross to rise and do battle again.

I’m urging you to keep balanced in every area of your life as you look at yourself so you don’t get discouraged. On one hand you can go to the extreme of self-condemnation because you wonder why, as a child of God you’re struggling with ______X__________ (fill in the blank here). This is especially important if you’re going through a new phase in life and have never dealt with this kind of situation before. Think back to my message of Stages of Life. By condemning yourself, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up doubting Christ’s salvation in your life which means you’ll be doing the Devil’s job for him.

On the other hand, you can go like false Christians today and live without self-control, falsely claiming that the grace of God will atone for your lack of holiness and lack of faith. This leads to destruction. This is why the discernment of the Spirit and maturity that comes in Christ is something that all Christians must prioritize. As was well said, “we must lay in Christ’s presence and ripen.”

Jesus Himself maintained balance at all times.

On one hand, there were times that He gave into His body’s love for good food, so much so till the Pharisees criticized Him for being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). The critics thought Christ really couldn’t be serious about a holy life if He ate and drank so much—especially in the company of prostitutes (Hmm…). Why, the Pharisees knew the body had to be constantly mortified and fasting should be done twice a week as per the publican (Luke 18:12). How could this Man be the Messiah and give into the love of food?

But you see there was also another side to Jesus. The side that brought that same body into subjection and fasted for 40 days and nights then overcame the temptation to transform stones into bread.

Balance, my brothers and sisters.

Here is what I want you to remember: when the situation demands a certain reaction, we must choose the path that will allow us to be the best that we can be in our current reality.

The Lord Jesus wasn’t the only one to demonstrate the need for balance in our daily natural and spiritual walk. Let’s turn our eyes now to Paul. This great Apostle to the Gentiles believed in divine healing so much that a poisonous snake’s venom couldn’t harm him and yet he knew take a doctor with him wherever he went. He also advised Timothy to pursue a physical cure for his stomach sickness without making mention of prayer. Obviously Paul trusted in prayer but he knew when to pray and when to take medicine.

The point is that we Christians need to find that place where we know we’re living according to the Word without overdoing it. This way, we can be the voices of wisdom that give an accurate picture of who our God is and what His nature is like.

Balance in times of tough choices

We all love the mountain top experiences, those times where the will of God is so clear and the fire of God obliterates all doubt like it did on the Mount Carmel showdown that I spoke of this morning. But as we near the Rapture, we have to realize the BIble predicts that the age will be one that is dismal, a time in which it’s often difficult to discern what is the right thing to do in our day-to-day life (see Zechariah 14:7). Let us remember that it’s in this final age that the Bride of Christ is in her maturity and should be spiritually mature enough to know WHAT God wants done even if He doesn’t outright tell us what to do.

That’s one side of things. On the other hand, sometimes the choices we have to make may not be the choice that we want to make as Christians. I hope that doesn’t stumble you.

We as genes of God often want to achieve something for the Lord or change something in our life but we are “encompassed by infirmity” and cannot accomplish it—at least, not at that moment. We then have to do the best that we can and pray, struggle, and trust the grace of God to bring us through.

Here’s what Paul said:

 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:15-20

I love the Bible because it is so practical and doesn’t shy away from open, honest conversations that can help us all navigate a complex world.

Now, this scripture doesn’t mean that we don’t have to overcome but it does mean that we have to accept that there will be times we don’t get to have the clear-cut victory we’d like to have right away and sometimes ever in this life. There are some emotional and physical scars that linger even though God may forgive and we may have to struggle against them all our life. We’re designed this way so we can keep on our knees and always remember the grace that God has shown us.

I hope that’s clear. If not, write me a question and I’ll go into more detail.

The Balance between Christ’s strength and human weakness

There are Christians who try to live as though faith alone can solve all problems. That is not true. Faith must also be balanced by hope and love. In fact, love (which includes compassion) is greater than faith (see 1 Corinthians 13). And in every day living, faith must be balanced with wisdom. Brother Branham tells the story about a woman in midlife who’d been told by a minister that she had seven devils. Another minister told her she only had five. The poor woman almost went insane looking for devils in her stockings. Meanwhile, her home life was falling apart, her marriage was suffering. No doubt the ministers were sincere but faith without wisdom almost destroyed the woman and her family.

When God in His mercy began to reveal the woman’s condition, Brother Branham gave her some good advice.

34 I said, “Go home. Straighten up your house; cook your husband a nice, big, apple pie, about that thick. When he comes in tonight, throw both arms around him, kiss him, set down, and get on his lap, and tell him you love him, and live like a lady ought to.” That’s exactly. That’s all there is.

   55-0224 – Water From The Rock

You see the truth was that a natural stage of life—that every woman has to deal with in some way or another— was causing some emotional turmoil even though she was a Christian. And it is the truth that sets us free, not shouting, stomping, or even our prayer meetings. Deliverance comes from accepting the Word.

With that being said, it’s probably easy to understand how Romans 7:15-20 applies to us in a physical and spiritual sense, so let’s take an emotional example to look at this more closely.

Again, I’m going to reference a story Brother Branham told, this time about himself. He stated that he tried to commit suicide after losing his wife and child.

Now, suicide is something we might expect from a sinner, but Brother Branham was a Christian (filled with the Holy Ghost) at this point in his life. Not only was he a Christian but he was a minister. What did it? A lack of faith? Did he somehow lose the Holy Spirit?

Not at all. It was simply the strain of unrelenting grief. Christian or not, the mind can only take so much. Paul spoke about comforting the feeble-minded in the Body. He did not advise us to take the approach that they should “get over it.”

Now, I realize that I’m constantly challenging the beliefs you may have held, but again, my responsibility before the Lord is to teach the Word in such a way that you can navigate the complexities of this age. Laodicea is like no age that’s ever existed in human history. To overcome, you must be grounded in truth not tradition.

We say that the Holy Ghost is the keeping power but the Holy Ghost is to work through you and me. If we do not support other members of the body when they are tested, can we be surprised when they fall? On the other hand, if we are struggling and we let pride keep us from asking for help from the other members of the body, can we blame the church or the preacher when we find ourselves lost in sin? James 5:14 brings this out clearly.

By no means am I condoning suicide, but I am trying to help you understand the balance between what we should do as Christians and the choices we sometimes make. Suicide is flat out wrong, and is a sin in the eyes of the Lord for you “are the temple of the Lord (1 Cor. 3:16).” No one should destroy God’s temple.

But given that this body (and mind) is prone to weakness–especially in this age of stress and anxiety–it is important that we balance our faith with practical, healthy lifestyles, love for one another, and an awareness of our own human makeup so that we that limit Satan’s opportunities to attack us.

Let’s take another example just to drive this point home. Brother Branham later shares how his second wife, Sis. Meda, was really struggling with the ongoing demands of the ministry. People were camped out in the yard and running to the door claiming to have “Thus Saith the Lord” for her husband and family. Her house was a mess. Kids were screaming on the floor and dinner hadn’t been cooked.

Did that mean she wasn’t a Christian? Didn’t have the love of God?

No.

It was a perfectly normal human response. She snapped under the pressure and had a meltdown.

You see, it’s important that we balance our spiritual faith with a solid understanding of our makeup as humans and know what we can and cannot handle. Knowing your limits, while being willing to push them as you grow in Christ, will help you balance everything in this world.

As Christians, we need to be compassionate and recognize that we do need to support one another continuously with our words and prayer. There are cases where believers shy away from converts who are tattooed or struggle with temptations that came from their life in the world.

It is as though we know God has forgotten their past life in our minds but we who have never stood in their shoes can’t seem to move past it. This approach isn’t good and we must be careful lest we drive those who are trying to follow Christ back into the arms of Satan by our attitudes.

Let’s recap what we’ve discussed so far .

We’ve learned that:

  • The Book of Ecclesiastes is full of wisdom to help us live a good life
  • A good life is one that accomplishes God’s will while giving you a sense of fulfilment in your natural and spiritual life
  • One key element of a good life is maintaining spiritual and natural balance.
  • Like a tightrope walker, you must avoid going to the extreme of being lukewarm or the other extreme of being too zealous or self-righteous.
  • The Lord Jesus demonstrated perfect balance in His natural and spiritual life and Paul also gave a great picture of balance in his life.
  • Balance allows us to take the action that will allow us to be the best we can be in whatever scenario confronts us.
  • We must keep in mind the balance between Christian strength and human weakness.

Here’s a great spot to stop for today. Lord willing in our next message we want to look a little closer at this great topic and focus on maintaining our balance in our interactions with believers and those who don’t know Jesus Christ. . Until then, walk in the Spirit, love God and one other, and may God bless you.

The Mind War Part 2

Castle Hochosterwitz

Hochosterwitz castle is a fortress that rises over 2,000 feet above sea level in Austria. It’s first historical mention is in the year 860 AD. While there are, in my opinion, plenty of other castles in Europe that are grander and older, Burg Hochosterwitz is famous for the simple reason that, according to local tradition, NO ONE has ever captured this castle.
If you’re familiar with Europe’s history, you’ll understand why this is so remarkable. Paris was beseiged at least 5 times and our own city of Philadelphia was captured by the British in 1777.


Built on a limestone rock that rises about 500 feet above ground, this fortress is considered impregnable because of its design. It has 14 gates that an enemy must conquer one at a time to get to the heart of the castle compound. But the gates weren’t designed just to slow down the enemy—they were built with a second set of steps that allowed the castle’s defenders to attack the enemy on all sides.
With this kind of setup, after almost 1,200 years the castle’s reputation remains intact.


Our Tower


The Bible tells us that Christ’s Name is our Tower. I want you to think for a moment. If natural men could build a tower (or a fortress) so defensible how much stronger is the Tower of the Word?
Our Tower has been carefully crafted, word by word, just like Hochosterwitz castle was constructed stone by stone. Our fortress is impregnable. Untouchable. And no enemy is capable of reaching us, as long as we remain IN the Tower.


Our Choice


We Christians are in a unique position. We can either build up our Tower or tear it down. Now, I know we might resist that thought–after all, it’s hard to imagine deliberately tearing down the tower of Christ’s name. But remember, in order to sin, we must first deliberately lay aside the Word like Adam and Eve did when they tore down the fortress that was given them in the Garden of Eden.


You see, in order for our castle, or fortress to do its job, we need to build up its influence in our life. We must remind ourselves daily that it is more than sufficient to protect us from the fears and assaults of our enemy that confront on every side. Spend time building up the impact of the Word in your life. Do not let the enemy put the thought in your mind that it is insufficient.


If Satan can cause you to doubt the power of your Tower, you automatically tear a block out of your own defences. With enough blocks removed, he will invade and take over your mind. Once your mind is conquered, your emotions will be easy to manipulate.

And once Satan controls your emotions, you will do and say things that you never would have thought you could. You become Satan’s tool and will destroy the faith of many until Satan destroys you.
The choice is yours. Build up your Tower. Don’t tear it down.


Our conflict


I want you for a moment to imagine your mind as being the courtyard of Castle Hochosterwitz. Castle Hochosterwitz has 14 entrance points that ultimately lead to its courtyard but your mind only has five.
Satan will hammer at each gate: conscience (sense of right and wrong), reasoning (what seems logical), affections (your emotions/feelings), imagination, and memories. Now, as I said this morning, each gate must be guarded by the Word for that is the only thing strong enough to defeat him. Frankly, that is the very thing that the Tower itself (the Name of Jesus Christ) is made of.


But we all know that in daily life our defenses get battered. We get tired mentally and spiritually from the enemy’s onslaughts. And in those moments…he strikes his hardest!


That is why we must constantly reinforce the defence around our gates with prayer and the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Because Satan knows that the Christian’s Tower is indestructible, his greatest success comes by causing us to question its ability to protect us.

To make this plainer, if Satan can make you wonder if your inner man has the faith to rise above a circumstance, then your outer, carnal man (the flesh) will automatically win.


When you focus your attention on a negative situation—an emotional crisis or a temptation you face, for example—you are inadvertantly helping your enemy gain access to your mind (the courtyard).


Instead, cripple Satan’s assault by replacing your thoughts about the situation with God’s Word on the issue. Literally take a block of God’s Word and put it between you and the enemy. Do you understand?

An example


For example, Ruth in the Bible had to deal with the sudden loss of her husband and a spontaneous decision she made to go to a new land. Now, she’s grieving and, instead of getting a warm welcoming committe and the support of other believers in Naomi’s homeland, she faces a lot of suspicion and negativity. Remember, she’s a Moabite and–although they were related–Israel and Moab had a history of conflict.
Have you ever felt alone or that other people (believers or not) couldn’t understand what you were going through?

I’m sure Ruth experienced that. But, despite the trauma of losing her husband, leaving her family (because the Bible tells us her dad and mom were still alive) and getting the cold shoulder when she comes to this new land of supposed Christian charity, Ruth shifts her thoughts to the future, to whatever little she knows about God’s plan for her life.


I’m sure there were many nights when she questioned her decision. Times where her mind struggled to understand just why she had chosen this path. Remember, these people in the Bible were human and struggled like we do.
But she guarded her mind against the influx of reasoning and bitterness that would have destoryed her if left unchecked. And she showed us this when Naomi gave her some rather awkward advice.


Our action


“Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man (Boaz) until he has finished eating and drinking.”

Ruth 3:3


Now, remember that God has a great plan he’s working out—Ruth will bear David who will bring forth, ultimately, Christ. But Ruth doesn’t know this. All she knows is that she trusts Naomi.


So she listens to what Naomi says (think of yourself listening to God’s Word) and blocks her mind from everything that she knows which would keep her from the threshing floor (think everything that seems to be reasonable).
Ruth goes forth and bears the reproach, because, it was a really shameful thing for a woman to be out in the night on a threshing floor. I’m sure you understand.


While, under normal circumstances, it would have been right to avoid a “threshing floor” situation, here Ruth steps beyond the confines of social propriety and the result (1,000 years later) is the birth of the Messiah.


Now don’t misunderstand—I’m not advocating for people to act irresponsibly or immorally, God forbid.

My point is that we have to literally choose to put the Word in front of every gate of our life, no matter how strange it may seem to us. For Ruth, guarding her mind, even against what she might think to be right, was what let the plan of God roll forward.


Our victory


I told you that Castle Hochosterwitz has 14 gates through which an enemy must pass before gaining access to the courtyard. THe furthest an enemy has ever gotten is Gate 4.

Takeaway


The Name of Jesus Christ is your tower. But you must still defend the gates. Daily build up your Tower’s protective ability by reminding yourself of its power and by placing the Word at every gate in your life.

  • Suggested Reading:
  • Romans 7 (whole chapter)
  • Questions and Answers #4 08.30.1964
  • Here’s a quick video showing aerial footage of Hochosteriwtz castle.