TODAY’S POEM: “In The Early Hours” by Deborah Ann Belka
VERSE: 1 Corinthians 7:6-9: “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (Commentary from Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
QUOTE: “I must take time to come into God’s presence, to feel my weakness and my need, and to renew my fellowship with Him.” –Andrew Murray
TOPIC: God, Sex, and Prayer: Don’t Be So Heavenly-minded that You’re No Earthly Good
We talked yesterday about how some people feel that in order for them to be spiritual, in order for them to pray and maintain a relationship with God, they cannot engage in the everyday things of life. That kind of spirit is nothing new.
In ancient times, there were groups of people known as ascetics who had a similiar mentality. An “ascetic” is “a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention.” According to the New Advent Dictionary, “Early Christians adopted it to signify the practice of spiritual things, or spiritual exercises performed for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue.” People who chose the lifestyle of asceticism withdrew from worldly pleasures in order to pursue religious and spiritual goals.
The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed the ascetic practices of the ancient Jewish sect of Essenes who took vows of abstinence to prepare for holy war. An emphasis on an ascetic religious life was evident in early Christian writings and practices. In fact, according to Margins of Solitude by Marina Miladinov, the deserts of the middle-east were at one time inhabited by thousands of hermits.
Sexual abstinence was one aspect of ascetic renunciation. These ancient monks and nuns also tried to gain the virtues of humility, compassion, discernment, patience, not judging others, prayer, hospitality and almsgiving. Some even reduced their intake of food as an aspect of their asceticism. These people thought that by moving away from society, living a solitary life, and committing themselves to wholly “spiritual” things, they were getting closer to God and living a more righteous life than others.
A modern version of this lifestyle is the Catholic church with its priests and nuns who must take vows of celibacy. Somehow, they have come to think that abstaining from marriage and sexual intimacy makes them more fit for service to God. However, there is nothing in the Bible which implies this. Now, in I Corinthians 7, Paul does tell us that if we can remain single like he was, we will have more time and energy for the Lord’s work. He said, “I would that all men were even as I myself (that is, unmarried). But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”
Looking at the Catholic church — with priests sexually abusing little children — obviously, some of them cannot “contain.” The vow of celibacy, which is not found in Scripture, has led to no small amount of confusion and abominable activity in the Catholic church.
God wants us to pray to Him wherever we are, no matter what we are doing. Praying in the desert or in the church building is no more spiritual than praying while you are on the treadmill, or washing dishes, or on the job. If you are looking for the perfect circumstances to pray, you will never find them. The devil will make sure that you are always doing something in order to keep you from praying.
DEVOTIONAL: “Ask of Me (Part 1)” from E.M. Bounds
Pray, Think, Do! God Bless You!
MUSIC: “What if His People Prayed?” by Casting Crowns