Winter at White Rocks

The other day, after we had a bit of snow, I went to a nearby park and spent the afternoon shooting some video. A little snow can sure add beauty to the winter scenery!

 

Happy New Year!

Greetings from A Radical for Jesus! It’s a brand new year, a great time for reflection, new beginnings, and changes.

As I think about this blog in the new year, I feel that it’s time I make a small change in my focus and content. On my “About” page (the most-viewed post last year, incidentally), I’ve had the following quote:

The purpose of this blog is not to amuse you, to update you on the mundane things of my life or to flap my jaws about whatever I’m thinking about. My purpose is to challenge you to a deeper walk with Christ, obeying Him and giving Him your all. I desire to help those who really want to serve Christ.

I feel that it’s time to change that a bit. You see, when I wrote those words, seven years ago, I felt that, if something was fun, with no other purpose, then it wasn’t really worth doing. In other words, if there was no obvious eternal value to an activity, then you should probably find something better to do. Obviously, working a job to make money to support yourself was a necessary evil to keep you from entering eternity prematurely.

But that philosophy is a recipe for burnout and depression. We need some downtime, some fun times, to rest, relax, and recharge. If you want to add some spiritual reasoning behind it, we have to rest, relax, and recharge sometimes so that we have the mental and emotional capacity to carry out God’s purpose for us.

I realize that there are many people who seem to have lots of time for fun, but little time for God. I don’t want to endorse that behavior at all. I’m not speaking to them.

So, in the future, I am going to give myself the freedom to be normal. A normal radical for Jesus. 🙂

In other words, while I will still focus on the spiritual side of life, I may post some things that are not necessarily overtly spiritual.

Joel HorstBecause, in the end, when we follow Jesus, we cannot neatly divide our lives into little boxes of “spiritual” and “secular”. He lives in us, whatever we do. Whether we’re preaching or working, praying or playing, Jesus is present. He touches everything that we do–or at least, He should.

Happy New Year!

(And, yes, I took the picture of the chicken!)

The Significance of Christmas

It’s Christmas Day. We’re celebrating the coming of Jesus. The King of Kings who, though He was equal with God, and was God, laid aside His Heavenly splendor—even His very maturity—and came to earth, not even as a man, but as a helpless baby.

Imagine that for a moment. Imagine being a king who owned the entire world and everything in it, and then imagine shrinking down to almost nothingness again, to be implanted in the womb of a young woman.

But not only that. For all your prior existence, you have been served like no one else. You have been waited on by millions of angels. And now, you have to serve. You become a small child who must submit to his parents. Few people do anything for you.

And not only that. You have come with a mission. You are going to love these people. Teach them the truth. Heal their sicknesses and diseases. Gain a huge following. And then be condemned and killed in one of the most barbaric methods possible.

And in that death, you will carry something that no one can imagine: the sins of the whole world. Your loving Father will forsake you. You will die an agonizing death under the weight of your cruel burden—a burden so great that you will agonize for hours beforehand at the prospect, and die of a literal broken heart.

But you will not only carry the sins of the world to that cross. You will also carry something else: their pain. Their hurts. Their griefs. Their sorrows. And you will nail it to that cross and kill that pain, that grief—on your shoulders.

This, of course, after you suffer your own share of woe and sorrow. You will start your ministry and your own family won’t believe. You will be led by your father to the wilderness to be tempted by your worst enemy for over a month, surrounded by wild beasts. You will heal many people and attract great crowds—only to have them leave you when you say some things that they don’t like. You’ll be betrayed by someone who you hand-picked to be part of your ministry, denied by one of your staunchest disciples, and forsaken by the rest in your darkest hour.

But then, when you return to your heavenly palace, yet in an indescribable way remain with those you love, you can say: “I know exactly how you feel. I have been there too.”

“I, too, suffered the pain of being forsaken by all who I loved.”

“I, too, experienced the hurt of being rejected by my own family.”

“I, too, was homeless and hungry.”

“I, too, was strongly tempted to sin by the Devil himself.”

“I, too, was misunderstood and reacted against by those who should have understood.”

“I, too, was stripped of my clothes, and I was hung up for everyone to gawk at.”

“I, too, was beaten and suffered abuse.”

“I, too, was a human, exactly like you. I can totally identify with how you feel.”

And that, brothers and sisters, is the significance of Christmas. It’s the story of a loving God who came, not merely as a human, but as a human baby, that He might experience everything that a human experiences. That He could be, not only like us, but one of us. Sinless, yes. Divine, yes. But still one of us.

And not only one of us, but one with us, that when He judges the world, He can say:

“What you did to this person, who is my brother or sister—you did it to Me.”

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise to thee.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I, and the children which God hath given me.”

Since, then, the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

Therefore in all things it behooved him to be made like his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted.

(Hebrews 2:9-18)

Merry Christmas!

 

5 Myths About Christmas [Reblog]

My brother Nathan just posted the results of his research into the origins of Christmas. Whatever your beliefs about celebrating Christmas, I highly recommend that you check out his article!

For years I have heard various arguments for and against celebrating Christmas. I finally decided to take an objective look at both sides, do my own research, and find out what is truth. I found that there are a number of myths about Christmas being perpetuated by, I presume, people with good intentions. Here are a number of the more popular ones and what I have learned about them in my studies.

Read more…

FREE Christmas Music!

I’m happy to announce that my family’s free Christmas recording, “The Gift of His Love”, is now available!

The music is also available as a free download at CDBaby; as a CD on Amazon; at music download sites such as Google Play and iTunes; and on music streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.

Merry Christmas!

When a Head Covering Becomes a Lucky Charm

When I was 16 years old, I wrote an article entitled, “Is the Headcovering for Today?” I laid out the case from 1 Corinthians 11 that a woman ought to cover her head. And I still believe that a woman should cover her head when she prays or prophesies, just as God has instructed.

However, one thing that I taught in this article was that a headcovering gave protection to a woman and her family—that demons had to leave her alone if her head was covered. After all, the Bible said that “a woman ought to have power on her head, because of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:10), and the best explanation I had heard was that this meant that the bad angels would leave her alone, and the good angels would protect her.

But recently, I was talking with God about headcovering, and He showed me that, for some people, the headcovering had become a lucky charm.

Worse yet, I myself had perpetuated the mentality that turns a headcovering into a lucky charm, and I had to repent. The article is no longer available.

But how does a head covering become a lucky charm?

Think a moment: what do we call an object that is supposed to protect the wearer from evil spirits and bad luck? It’s quite common in some cultures and religions. We have a name for it: a lucky charm.

I said in my article that the headcovering was not a lucky charm, but I actually, in the end, did believe and teach that it was a lucky charm that would protect the woman and her family. When we say that a head covering is supposed to bring protection to the wearer, we turn it into a lucky charm that supposedly:

  • Protects her from physical harm
  • Protects her from evil spirits
  • Helps her prayers be answered better
  • Signals to the world that she is a Christian

Folks, that is not Scriptural. I don’t care what testimonies you’ve heard. I don’t care what experiences you have had. It is wrong to adopt the mentality of the heathen and tell women (or imply) that the headcovering is a “scarf of hidden power” when God has not said so.

A Muslim lady with a headcovering and a smartphone
Will God protect this Muslim lady because she has her head covered?

God never actually said that a headcovering would bring any type of protection. He just said that a woman should have power on her head because of the angels. It never says anything about protection. After all, God never said what a headcovering would look like. What if a woman didn’t wear the right type? Or what if an ungodly woman covered her head? Would the angels protect her just because she had something on her head?

The purpose of head covering (and uncovering, for the men) is to bring glory and honor to God, not to protect the wearer.

Ignore the testimonies

I am well aware that there are testimonies out there about how the headcovering brought protection to its wearer. However, of what I can remember, in many cases, there was not a clear correlation between the headcovering and the incident of protection.

In other words, if a headcovered woman is approached by a robber, but he suddenly doubles over with pain and runs off, we can’t give credit to the headcovering. In the end, it was God who protected her. We don’t know from this testimony whether God would have still protected her if she had been bareheaded.

In addition, you probably won’t hear the testimonies of women like Katie Landry, a conservative Mennonite lady who was raped multiple times by her boss while wearing a headcovering.

When a headcovering is not a lucky charm

I want to be clear: just because a woman covers her head at all times, she is not necessarily viewing the headcovering as a lucky charm. It is when the piece of fabric itself is supposed to bring protection and spiritual power to the wearer and her family that it becomes a good luck charm.

It’s time for repentance

If you have fallen prey to the “lucky headcovering” mentality, I urge you to repent of it. God does not want us to dabble in witchcraft by hanging lucky charms on ourselves. It’s not that you must repent of covering your head, or telling your wife that she should. What you need is a heart change from believing that a woman gains special spiritual power from a piece of cloth on her head.

I also urge you to ask God to show you His view on 1 Corinthians 11 and head covering. What is it really all about? What is the purpose? When must we observe it?

10 Myths About Lust

Myth #1: Looking at an immodest woman is lust

There is a big misunderstanding about what “lust” is. The English word “lust” is translated, in the New Testament from a Greek word that means “to set the heart upon, that is, long for (rightfully or otherwise)” (Strong’s Dictionary). It is translated, in the King James Version, “covet, desire, would fain, lust (after).”

It is the same Greek word used by Jesus in this verse: “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). This verse could have been translated, “With lust I have lusted”, except that the context is not about lust. This is also why we read, “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) But wait! God said “Do not covet”! Well, this could also be translated “But earnestly desire the best gifts…”

In Romans 7:7, Paul explains, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” This is because “lust” and “covet” come from the same Greek word.

So what is lust? Lust is desiring evil—something that God does not want us to desire. It has the connotation of not merely having a fleeting thought about it, but longing for that which is forbidden.

With this understanding, we turn to Matthew 5:27-28 and read, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Note that first of all, the lust is not in the look. Rather, the man gazes on the woman because of his lust. He looks at the woman with evil desire. For example, David gazed at Bathsheba and lusted after her. She was not his wife, and he was not her husband. He had no right to desire her, but he coveted her anyway.

There are various ways that a man could lust after a woman. A married man could look at a woman, married or unmarried, and desire to have her as his wife. An unmarried man could look at another man’s wife and covet her to be his own wife, or desire to commit fornication with his girlfriend. A man, married or unmarried, could look upon a woman and desire to rape her. All of these are examples of lust.

However, it is not sin for a man to look at a woman and think that she is pretty or attractive. Nor has God said that a woman is responsible to dress in such a way that men will not lust after her. It is not a sin for a man to look at any woman, regardless of how she is dressed (or not dressed). And God has never said that looking at certain women will tempt men to lust.

Throughout the rest of this article, the “lust” I will be referring to is specifically the lust Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:27-28. One can lust for many things other than a woman—for example, a fancy house, a fancy car, money, a better job, etc. At the end of this article, I will explain how God tells us to deal with lust—and it applies to any kind of lust, not just sexual lusts.

Myth #2: Seeing/looking at certain body parts is lust or will cause a man to lust

I read one woman’s story about causing her cousin to “stumble”. She leaned forward in front of him and happened to see his eyes dart toward her chest. She realized that the neckline of her blouse was low enough that he had been able to see her breasts when she leaned forward, and she felt very guilty for having caused him to stumble. She had not realized that her neckline was that low.

I don’t know what happened within that boy’s head when he saw cleavage. He was only ten years old. But this much I know: she did not cause him to sin.

This particular myth goes with the previous one: a misunderstanding about what lust really is. The myth says to women, “If men see any cleavage, undergarment, or maybe even shoulder, they will lust after you!” It says to men, “If you look at any part of a woman between her neck and her knees, you have lusted after her.”

Think about this: there are some parts of the world where the people wear very little clothing or none at all. If it were a sin to see someone else who is naked or partially naked, we would have to let those people go to Hell. But God has never said that it is a sin to see certain parts of the body.

It is not appropriate for men to go around staring at women’s bodies. Women hate it—even women with cleavage showing. But just seeing—or even looking at—breasts, thighs, belly buttons, shoulders, whatever, is not lust.

Myth #3: Sexual attraction is lust

I want to tread carefully here, because sexual attraction and lust can be related. However, sexual attraction, by itself, is not lust. It is given by God to ensure the propagation of the human race.

This is especially true between single people. When a single person is sexually attracted to a member of the opposite sex, there is nothing wrong with that attraction. After all, think of it in this context: should an engaged couple be sexually attracted to each other? Should they be looking forward to the wedding night? Of course! Should they allow their sexual attraction to turn to lust and end in pre-marital sex? Of course not.

And there is the difference between sexual attraction and lust. Sexual attraction, used properly, helps to draw a man and woman together into a lifelong, intimate union where each cares for the other and gives up their own desires to please their spouse. Lust, on the other hand, results in each party seeking to have their own desires fulfilled—a sure recipe for divorce (if they ever make it to the marriage in the first place).

Myth #4: Sexual desires, feelings, and thoughts are lustful

This myth goes along with the previous one. However, it is a little different, but it forms the basis for the previous myth.

The modesty/purity culture in which I grew up implied, and sometimes outright stated, that sexual desires, thoughts, and feelings were wicked, dirty, or improper. Nobody said, flat out: “If you desire sex, that is lust!” But the overall impression that I got was that my sexual drives and desires were bad.

Again, sexual desires can turn into lust. A man’s sexual desires, for example, can lead him to rape a woman. But the innate desire for sexual gratification is not a sinful desire—because God never said it was! God condemns lustful sexual desires—desiring to commit sexual sin—but He has never said that sexual desire is sinful. On the contrary, sexual desire is a God-given desire, to help us follow the instructions He gave Adam and Eve at the beginning of the world: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Myth #5: It is normal for men to lust after women

Sin is not normal. Sin is common, but it is not how God intends for us to live.

If we are talking about unsaved men, then, yes, it is probably normal for them to lust after women. They are walking in the flesh and following Satan. They do not have the grace of God to prevent them from lusting. They can try to control their thoughts—and there is no excuse for criminal sexual activity—but without the power of the Holy Spirit, they will probably fall prey to lust.

For the Christian man, however, sin is not normal. Will he be perfect? No. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses…”, indicating that we will repeatedly have to come to God and ask for forgiveness for our sinful mistakes. But brothers in Christ, if you struggle with lust, that is not how God wants you to live! You are not condemned to stay there! What’s the answer? Read on.

Myth #6: Lusting after the opposite sex is something that only men do because they are visually stimulated

After all, Jesus never specifically said that women should not look on men to lust after them. And it is true that men seem to be the ones who have the biggest problem with porn.

However, statistically, this assumption is wrong. A survey by Cosmopolitan magazine found that about 29% of women said they watched porn “daily” or “once every few days”. Closer to home for some of my readers, a survey by the conservative Mennonite blog Radi-Call found that 23% of female respondents were or had been addicted to porn.

What this means is that, in many homes where the mom has been placed in charge of the Internet filter, the fox is guarding the henhouse. It also shows that women can be visually aroused, not just men.

Lust is not just a male problem.

Myth #7: If a man lusts after a woman, it is her fault

When Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman to lust after her, he commits adultery, He gave no corresponding statement to the women: “And ye, women, see to it that ye do not tempt men to lust after you.” He placed the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the men.

Guys, I don’t care if a woman strips in front of you and tries to entice you to have sex. It is still your responsibility not to lust. Be a man and don’t blame the women for your own sin.

Myth #8: A woman’s dress can cause a man to lust after her

If this myth were true, Jesus would have been putting men under a horrible burden in Matthew 5:27-28. If they didn’t stay away from “immodest” women, they might be forced into committing mental adultery. How awful of Jesus not to have given the women some responsibility!

Nobody ever says that a woman can force a man to lust after her. Yet, I have repeatedly read articles stating that immodest dress can cause men to “stumble” (i.e., lust). The term “cause” essentially means “force” or at least “make”. In other words, when you boil it down, what is being claimed is that a woman can force a man to lust after her—that if a woman dresses a certain way, men will lust after her.

Guys, here’s the truth: no one can force you to lust. No one can “cause” you to commit mental adultery.

Ladies, you do not need to worry that if you happen to dress the wrong way, you will unknowingly “cause” some man to lust after you. Seek your Heavenly Father’s will in how you are to dress, and you will glorify Him.

Myth#9: By dressing modestly, women can help men not to lust

There are no statistics to back up this claim. (At least, not that I can find.) Unfortunately, in fact, the opposite is true: modesty does not help to prevent lust, and possibly increases the chances of lust. (My references? My dad’s upcoming book, The Failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment. I’ll let you see the whole package when the book comes out.)

In addition, modesty standards inadvertently emphasize to men how sexy women’s bodies are, and tell them that not only are bikini girls and nude models something to fantasize about—women in long sundresses or tank tops and shorts are as well.

This myth has been perpetuated far and wide. It is supported by claimed anecdotal evidence, but the hard factual evidence says otherwise. If it were true, the Arabic countries with high modesty standards should be good, moral places. Instead, the evidence points to an incredible amount of rape and other sexual crimes in these countries.

Myth #10: Lust can be conquered by “trying harder” and following spiritual disciplines

Brothers, let me assure you of something: if “trying harder” can enable you to stop lusting, Jesus didn’t need to die. By yourself, you will never attain complete victory over lust.

God tells us, “For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I thought that I could change my ways and be a better man on my own. It wasn’t until God brought me face-to-face with my inability to make the necessary changes on my own, that I turned to Him for help and began receiving His grace to be the man He wanted me to be.

Don’t think for a moment that by following someone’s formula, such as fasting, praying, Bible reading, Scripture memorization and meditation, church attendance, accountability groups—in short, any “spiritual discipline” that does not require the power of the Holy Spirit to do—you will never gain spiritual victory. Even an atheist can memorize Scripture and participate in accountability groups.

You may feel too dirty to come to God for help. You may feel that you’ve gone too far, that God doesn’t care about you. Maybe you became a Christian at some point and have backslidden to the point that you think Jesus wouldn’t want to take you back.

These are all lies. The Good Shepherd is still pursuing you in love, seeking to bring you back to the fold again. You are not beyond repair. God will meet you where you are and redeem you if you will turn to Him. He assures us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) ALL unrighteousness. A-L-L.

Your transformation may not be immediate. It may take time as God lovingly works with you to throw out the bad and bring in the good. But this I can assure you from personal experience: it does work. God will cleanse you from unrighteousness and heal your wounded spirit if you will turn to Him, confess your sins, surrender your life to Him, and seek to know Him and follow His will. If you still lack complete victory, keep on asking Him for it. Ask Him to give you complete victory over lust—or whatever sin you are fighting.

One point is worth mentioning here: make sure that you are actually trying to gain victory over true sin and not merely a man-made “sin” that God has not called sin. God will help you to overcome sin, but He will not give you victory over non-sin.

 

 

Have you fallen prey to any of these myths? I certainly did. Ask God to reprogram your mind and your heart to His way of thinking, so that you can follow Him, and Him alone.

Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)