Friday, October 11, 2019


The slogan, “Question Authority!” captured many young minds in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Its popularity rose with the Hippie Movement’s protest that political ties to business interests were fueling the Viet Nam War. Despite that logical suspicion, their historical gesture of turning their backs on society, through counter-cultural behaviors, did not make them truly independent. Symbolic autonomy cannot quench hunger and thirst or provide shelter and warmth. Even to “beg, steal or borrow” shows dependence and betrays the claim of autonomy. John Donne is still right: “No man is an island.”

This epic “Hippie” departure from the social status quo shouted another appeal: “Make love, not war!” But it was a new kind of love — a “Free Love” that questioned the authority of accepted moral standards and replaced them with those of “The Sexual Revolution.” Urged on by The New Morality’s denial of absolute moral truth, sexual promiscuity spread like wildfire and free love began changing modern Western thinking about human sexuality.

The voices proclaiming autonomy did include a qualifying addendum — “Do your own thing, as long as no one gets hurt.” But that tacked-on safety clause was generally ignored, as people pursued “sexual freedom” without restraint. Unwed pregnancies skyrocketed. Abortions and single parents multiplied. Unstable relationships became a norm. Many more children now grew up in homes without the balancing bond of couples committed to the challenging work of marital love.

The so-called “sexual revolution” only resuscitated the old morality of free lust. Real love is not free, nor is it just a good feeling. It’s a moral choice, a self-denying behavior, a lifestyle bound to others. To adopt this new idea of “free love,” people had to question and reject the authority of the Bible, which gave us love’s true definition: “God is love,” (1 John 4:8). But the ultimate authority of the Creator’s love was also qualified by another definition: “God is light,” (1 John 1:5). Divine Love’s caring creativity is simultaneous with divine Light’s perfect truth. Humans, made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), find their significance, purpose and direction only by following God’s lead in creative caring and truthful living. Our true identities — our authentic selves — must forever be subordinate to the life-giving Source of love and light, or we’re spiritually dead.

If we accept the Bible’s definition of God as “light” and “love,” we must also accept how it defines us. From the beginning, we were created to be servants. Bearing the image of our Maker, we were equipped to serve in a variety of ways: 1) reproducing and filling creation with more images of God (Genesis 1:28a); 2) serving as governing representatives for Him (Genesis 1:28b), 3) cultivating and protecting His creation (Genesis 2:15); 4) building a human knowledge-base by categorically naming what He had created (Genesis 2:19); and 5) doing these duties in the context of loving marital union (Genesis 2:24).

All these dimensions of being servants were to be performed in the context of a relationship with the Ultimate Servant, God Himself. After creating the universe, God continued serving as its ongoing Sustainer. That job required an even more energetic, personal involvement after His chosen human representatives failed in their leadership role by choosing the disaster of autonomy over the safety of His authority.

God’s servant nature of caring creativity united to enlightening truth bountifully expands forever, while the self-limiting attitudes and activities of human autonomy become ingrown: 1) parents raise children to image themselves rather than God; 2) servant leadership erodes into tyrannies of self-will and personal power; 3) caring for creation is lost in controlling and exploiting it; 4) pride enthrones knowledge as a god, making science its temple; and 5) marriage devolves from an organic union to a contract easily dissolved by changed feelings.

Painting by Albert Edelfelt
God demonstrated the full extent of Love’s willingness to serve by His personal commitment to repair the tragedy of human autonomy. When His Son became one of us, Jesus exemplified servant leadership by stripping down, as a slave would, to wash His disciples’ feet. He told them to do likewise (John 13:14-15). God made it unmistakably clear that His kind of love was not just in attitude or word but in deed. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45). How far did Love go in serving us? All the way to the Cross! Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13).

The Cross wasn’t the end of God’s incarnational strategy. Christ’s death and resurrection redeemed His failed human project. But now, the Leader of human servant leadership is God Himself. As the Father lived in Jesus, so Christ now indwells His followers. Instead of doing Kingdom work in one isolated body in Palestine, Jesus has been living and serving around the globe in multiple billions of human bodies. In Christ, God’s original plan for us — to image Him as a growing community of body-spirit beings, blessing creation with loving, God-directed service — has become our restored destiny.

Autonomy is a boring alley leading to a dead end. It’s also a self-deception. No one got here on their own. We rely on so many things we ourselves did not invent. We learn by standing on the shoulders of preceding generations, and the knowledge discovered on our own always seems to increase what is unknown. We don’t know the future, can’t agree on the past, and enjoy the present only through good health, which is often out of our control. We claim to know the facts, but they keep changing. We deceive ourselves by saying, “well, it’s true for me anyway,” when we’ve altered our “personal” truths a dozen times in the last decade. We claim to be truthful, loving people but regularly fail at honesty and compassion. If such a distinctive background allows us to say, “I’ve got this…. I can make the best decision for myself here,” then we’re fooling ourselves. Autonomy is worse than a bad joke! Don’t question divine authority! Question human autonomy!

While we don’t know with certainty all realities, all situations, all circumstances, with all their interactive relationships and contingently interwoven possibilities, God does. We don’t perfectly know others or even ourselves, but God does. We can’t get near loving ourselves as deeply as God loves us. So, which is more logical: to submit ourselves to the direction of perfect Love guided by omniscient Wisdom or to follow our own imperfect love, further handicapped by a limited human knowledge of everything? The logical reply is a no-brainer, yet often we trust and follow our own judgment, when God is pointing us in the opposite direction. This makes our confident autonomy a sad form of insanity!

Autonomy distrusts the idea that “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Here’s an even more accurate statement: “You are a wonderful part of God’s plan.” Why do I express it that way? It’s because God created you specifically. There’s no one who ever lived, is now living or will someday exist who was, is or will be exactly like you. You are unique, and so is everyone else that descended from the original union of Adam and Eve’s DNA. The fantastic diversity of personality and giftedness in all of human history was not canceled by the sinful failure of our first parents. They left Eden disconnected from God, but still retaining their nature as servants and still propagating offspring with individually unique abilities to serve.

"Come, Follow Me" by Brent Borup
Autonomy keeps that unique servant-leadership potential, inherent in all of us, from being fully realized. We can only find the fullness of our true servant selves in union with the Supreme Servant Who made us. Creation now, and “the new heavens and the new earth” yet to be (Isaiah 66:22), will be uniquely blessed by your special contribution of service… or not. If “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed,” (Genesis 1:31), then the potential for humanity’s entire future was all “very good.” But by allowing us to choose or reject His will for us, God put the ball in our court. Either we become the true serving selves He intended for His wonderful human plan, or we don’t. We can repent of our autonomous ways and surrender our autonomous selves to the saving work of Christ, or we can maintain the delusional, distracting, diabolical deception of human autonomy.

I pray that everyone reading this, who has not done so already, will stop doubting the divine authority of Perfect Love and Eternal Light and start questioning the illusion of autonomy. Finding and exploring our real identity as God’s servants, created to serve eternally alongside Him, is an endless journey of joy with ever-expanding horizons. The call of Jesus — our Servant God Who became our Human King — is authoritative and redemptive. The creative adventure of everlasting servant leadership begins with our obedient personal response to His call to us: “Follow Me.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


René Descartes (1596-1650)
In 1637, René Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” On hearing it in high school, I argued, “No one can think without first existing!” But now, seeing how his idea damaged modern culture, I reject it even more vigorously.

By placing the subjective realm above objective reality, Descartes echoed ancient Gnosticism, which exalted the spiritual soul while devaluing the material world, including the physical body. This error ignored the Creator’s “very good” evaluation of creation (Gen 1:31). Later, building on Descartes’ dictum, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) drove a philosophical wedge even further between soul and body. The results have been socially and morally disastrous.

A Christian adoption of this conceptual divide is exemplified in religious porno-prudery (a term I use to warn pastors that “a prudish view of the body is a pornographic one”[1]). That view leads us down a moral rabbit trail. By sexually objectifying human anatomy and treating the body as the stimulus of lust, porno-prudery shifts blame from where Jesus puts it: on the adulterous heart (Mat5:28). While God created our “being” as an integrated unity of both the material and the spiritual (Gen 2:7), this error affirms a Gnostic split in our body-soul nature. Beyond assuring pornography’s success, this false view has opened many doors of departure from healthy Biblical morality and from a human-friendly treatment of the body.[2]

While this divided self-understanding confuses the search for our true identity, Scripture comes to our rescue. In Exod 3:14, God told Moses His name: “I AM WHO I AM.” Earlier, in Gen 1: 26, God had said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” Since my Creator, I AM WHO I AM, made me in His “likeness,” I can confidently say, “I am who I am, too!” A human sense of being comes directly from God. If Descartes had acknowledged this Biblical fact, he might have more correctly written, “I am, therefore I think.” But even that expression falls short of describing how humans reflect the nature of the Great I AM. God is not just a thinking Mind but a Person Who acts.

Because “God is light” (1 John 1:5), the focus of His thought is truth. He thinks clearly, accurately, and perfectly about objective reality. Simultaneously, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Primarily, this describes Gods relational nature as a Trinity of Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—eternally in loving union. But this loving quality also extends to His personal interaction with creation, especially with us.

In the scroll at the side, someone parodied three ideas of being. Sinatra’s punchline is on target only if we reverse Descartes’ phrase, as previously suggested (“to be is to think”), and balance it with Camus’ existentialism (“to be is to do”). But without God’s “light” guiding thought and His “love” shaping action, any perceived balance will miss its true fulfillment. An integrated human sense of being requires authentically living in connection with I AM, our Maker. Activities of enlightened thinking and loving interactions with things and people must flow from a central, personal union with God. His indwelling presence enables us to sing the divine balance of “do, be, do, be, do.”

God’s plan for us to be reflections of His unity of “light” and “love” defines our true selves. But, if honest, we must confess that a unifying both-and relationship in our body-spirit nature has been disrupted by an either-or alienation. This disunity began in Eden, when humanity fell away from God’s presence by choosing moral independence. Today, personal disobedience to God affirms that original choice and confirms its ongoing disruption in our lives.

From cradle to grave, we live in a fallen world where this disobedience hurts us inside and out. Turning outward for relief can lead to a fruitless search for significance in materialism or in conformity to popular trends or attractive people. Turning inward for comfort can become a dead-end of meaningless fantasies or endless self-introspection. Bending our soul toward these internal and external distractions is a dysfunctional and damaging form of idolatry. It perpetuates disconnection from the God of truth and love. In such a world of false gods, people keep hurting themselves and others.

Inward and outward searching fails to retrieve a lost sense of being and provides no sense of well-being. In this disconnected state, we can miss authentic self-discovery by mistakenly listening to our inner disruption, as if its voice was our true self. It is not. We were created to listen to our Maker. Finding and becoming our true selves happens only by reuniting with God. He has graciously provided for that reunion through His Son. That’s the “Good News” of the New Testament.

By becoming human and dying in our place, Jesus invites us to receive forgiveness for our personal disobedience to God. But by His resurrection, He calls us to bury our old lives in His death and rise with Him to walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This “walk” is a progressive, step-by-step surrender of all remnants of moral independence from God. A new birth occurs in us by our initial decision of faith to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” (1 Thes 1:9). But experiencing our new and true selves involves a journey of growth, with Jesus Himself as both our divine Pattern and our daily Pathway. That journey, if seriously pursued, will uncover all lingering idols that we must also abandon and replace with the “true God.”

Recently, in preparation to attended a MPC[3] retreat, I began reviewing The Healing Presence by the late Leanne Payne,[4] whose scholarly insights from the works of C. S. Lewis were a major influence in her inner healing ministry. One morning I awoke with the words of a poem coming to me which I knew was meant to capture some of the major principles in her book. I immediately got up and spent the rest of the morning writing it:


Deep in the inner sanctum, where grace alone can bless,
roots of a tangled present from lower layers press,
pushing injury’s pressure—infected, tender, keen—
up to the naked surface where well-hid hurts are seen.

Down in neglected infants, fear’s toddling girls and boys,
childhood’s deprived upbringings, lost adolescent joys,
fester the wounds surviving within a buried past,
remembered but misshapen by passing pains that last.

Lovely tip of the iceberg, sculpted by wind and rain!
Dangerous, what lies under the tearful years of strain—
hurtful to nearby strangers, poison to wedded love,
fatal to life’s full meaning, if kept from God above.

Only His healing Presence governs the twin release:
giving and getting pardon that offers inner peace.
Letting go of the rancor, where memory is marred,
forgiveness starts the mending of what the trauma scarred.

Childlikeness echoes Heaven, but childish ways must go.
Our bitter, vengeful tantrums resist God’s healing flow.
From faith’s baptismal waters, where old life finds a grave,
We rise to live our true selves, whom Jesus came to save.

New birth refills our being with God’s love through His Son.
Our war beneath the surface, the Lord’s already won.
But we dispel the damage that entered us through sin
by coming home to wholeness from Christ Who dwells within.

— David L. Hatton, 3/23/2019

When we turn from our old life and invite Jesus into our heart, He takes up residence at the center of our being. This marks the beginning of our journey “in Christ” as “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). It is by living out of this central union with Christ that our true self will be manifested in daily life. Oswald Chambers wrote, “after the moral decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus invades every bit of my human nature.”[5] Our healing and self-discovery both need an invasion of Christ’s life into every facet of our conscious experience. The more aware we are of His presence, the more aware we will be of our new identity in Him.

In concluding these thoughts on finding and becoming our true selves, I want to suggest a helpful daily devotional, Jesus Calling, written some years ago by Sarah Young.[6] Her personalizing of Bible verses and Scriptural teachings by putting them into Christ’s voice has an edifying appeal. We all need daily reminders to listen to His life-changing truth with our rational minds and to enjoy His loving presence with our relational hearts. So, give Jesus Calling a try, to see if it helps you with a disciplined practice of listening to and obeying the Lord on your healing journey with Him.

1. See my articles, “Adopting God’s View of Bare Anatomy” and “Pornography in the Pulpit.”
2. Love Thy Body - Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, by evangelical apologist Nancy Pearcey, astutely examines the social and moral fallout from this philosophical divide between subjective mind and objective reality. Her book is a must-read for understanding how postmodernism’s morally confused thinking on abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality, homosexuality and transgenderism has taken over both secular and religious culture.
3. Ministries of Pastoral Care (MPC) holds a limited number of week-long conferences, carrying on a similar ministry as that of the late Leanne Payne’s Pastoral Care Ministry schools.
4. Amazon has a list of Leanne Payne’s books.
5. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 11 reading.
6. Used copies of Jesus Calling can often be found in thrift stores, for yourself or to give to others.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


No one knows what tomorrow may bring. The good that we would do must be done while we have the strength and the presence of mind to do it. Putting it off till later can easily become forgetting it altogether.

Such procrastination not only affects our own happiness but the ones we might potentially bless. Others might be sorely needing our kind words or kind deeds, which the Lord is prompting us to say and do. Not all urges to do good things may be His leading. But if we are listening to Him as He listened to His Father, we will probably hear Him saying more often than not, “Do it now.”

Write that letter or text now, make that phone call now, plan to visit a lonely person today. Don't wait for your bedtime prayers to pray for someone. When they come to mind, it may be Jesus letting you know they need your prayer of blessing right now.

Procrastinating actually assumes too much. The reality is that time is fleeting and stops for no one. Doing things we think of now is logically informed by the words in the above cartoon: “Today is seldom too early; tomorrow is usually too late.”

The following poem from my book Poems Between Here and Beyond tries to express the need to be aware of the good we can do while we have the time. It's a good way to wrap up these few thoughts on the exhortation to "do it now."

This world around us surges—
   duties vie
      for all our time,
      our energies,
      our care. 
But greater Duty urges,
   “Don’t pass by
      a hurting heart
      with burdens hard
      to bear!” 
Routine is not our master,
   nor is fear,
      or vanity,
      or trivia,
      or show.... 
Amid a day’s disaster,
   let’s live here
      to lighten loads
      and griefs, before
      we go. 
— David L. Hatton, 2/23/2016

"Do it now!" And the Lord bless you in it!

Friday, February 1, 2019

LIST of BLOG-ARTICLE TITLES from the start

(chronological list, with keywords and date posted - updated 2/1/2019)

(Incarnation, nakedness, nursing, pastor, poetry, theology, truth)

(art, artist, creativity, Creator, God’s image, seeing, theology)

(doubt, God, Holy Spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus, Trinity)

(belief, Gnosticism, human-friendly, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, Jesus, materialism, pantheism, resurrection)

(C. S. Lewis, free will, Hell, light, love)

(Bill Sears, body acceptance, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, creation, Jamie Lynne Grumet, nursing, pornography, prudery, truth)

(alternative medicine, bra, breast cancer, Creator, earthing, grace, grounding, healing, health, healthcare, Provider, sunbathing)

(body acceptance, creation, Creator, gender confusion, Gnosticism, God’s image, human-friendly, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, marriage, pornography, prudery, sexuality, Trinity, truth)

(atonement, C. S. Lewis, Christus Victor, God, Gospel, human-friendly, Incarnation, Jesus, Narnia, the Cross, theology)

(belief, free will, God, God’s sovereignty, human-friendly, humanity, predestination, theology, Trinity)

(Creator, evolution, evolutionism, faith, ID, Intelligent Design, science)

(body acceptance, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, immodesty, modesty, morality, porn addiction, pornography)

(Buddhism, desire, gratefulness, gratification, gratitude, thanksgiving)

(female, gay, gay activism, gay politics, gender, gender confusion, healing, homosexual, homosexuality, Leanne Payne, male, Mario Bergner, marriage, Ministries of Pastoral Care, same-sex attraction, sexuality, SSA)

(doubt, Francis Andersen, God’s love, God’s sovereignty, Job, questioning God, suffering, why the innocent suffer)

(nakedness, nudity, porn addiction, pornography, prudery)

(caring, creation, now, procrastination, sharing, time, today)

(C. S. Lewis, Calvinism, free will, George MacDonald, God’s sovereignty, grace, Hell, prevenient grace, Rob Bell)

(creation, Incarnation, poetry, resurrection)

(body shame, confession, deception, disobedience, fig leaves, forgiveness, healing., lost sheep, nakedness, questions, Satan, shepherd)

(atheism, faith, heaven and earth, Incarnation, magicians, materialism, the Second Adam)

(afterlife, ambition, Creator, death, desire, dream, evolution, survival instinct)

(art, artist, body acceptance, fig leaves, gender, gender confusion, God’s image, nakedness, nudity, porn addiction, pornography, prudery, Satan, sexuality)

(faith, healing, miracle, prayer, scepticism)

(God, health, love, psychology, relationship, responsibility, truth)

(choice, Christ, decision, Heaven, Hell, Jesus, poems, poetry, rhyming)

(Christ, darkness, God, Jesus, light, poems, poetry, rhyming)

(afterlife, Christ, death, decision, Jesus, life, poems, poetry, rhyming)

(afterlife, birth, Christ, Jesus, nakedness, poems, poetry, resurrection, rhyming)

(Apostles Creed, catholic, church, faith, Foxe’s Book, heresy, Huguenot, I will build my church, Inquisition, martyrs, Nicene Creed, on this rock, persecution, Peter’s chair, Romanism, Rome, Waldensian)

(body acceptance, body shame, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, modesty, nakedness, nudity, nursing, objectification, porn addiction, pornography, sex object, sexuality)

(abortion, evil, Satan)

(abortion, afterlife, gay activism, gender confusion, homosexuality, marriage, same-sex attraction, sexuality)

(baptism, body acceptance, body shame, nakedness, nudity, pornography, Satan)

(afterlife, birth, crib death, death, hope, perinatal loss, SIDS)

(blessing, caring, God, gratitude, healing, healing of memories, inner healing, kindness, love)

(body, death, DNA, Heaven, Jehovah’s Witnesses, NDEs, near-death experiences, resurrection, Seventh-day Adventists, soul, soul sleep, spirit)

(agnosticism, C. S. Lewis, Creator, God, illusion, pantheism, reality)

(art, body acceptance, Christ, Creator, Earth, healthcare, Holy Spirt, nakedness, nudity, Trinity)

(Christ, E. Stanley Jones, Gospel, Incarnation, love, religion, resurrection, the Cross)

(children, creativity, Creator, identity)

(afterlife, Christ, death, Gospel, Incarnation, life, poems, poetry, the Second Adam, theology)

(Christ, government, media, politics)

IS TRUMP ‘A Dark Horse’?
(dark horse, election, government, politics, prayer, Trump)

(Adam, Advent, body, Christ, embodiment, human, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, redemption, salvation, Trinity, Virgin Birth)

(Easter, empty tomb, faith, hope, Jesus Christ, resurrection)

(beauty, body acceptance, body image, body shame, cosmetics, makeup)

(Advent, atonement, death, God’s love, Incarnation, the Cross)

(humanity, humanness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, spirituality, the Cross, the Second Adam)

(baptism, Eucharist, foot washing, healing, Holy Communion, means of grace, the Lord’s Table)

(change, Christ, complacency, confession, contrition, conversion, conviction, Holy Spirit, repentance, spiritual growth, union life)

(guidance, prayer, spirituality)

(caring, compassion, love, procrastination, promptness)

(being, Christ, Gnosticism, Gospel, humanness, identity, Leanne Payne, self-discovery, union life)

(authority, autonomy, creation, creativity, Creator, leadership, light, love, salvation, servant, service, sin, surrender)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Spiritual disciplines can be valuable sheepdogs effectively nipping at the feet of our straying souls. At times, special periods of devotional activity—prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, confession, meditation, spiritual reading, self-denying service—may assist us in staying on the narrow path of spiritual health. Yet, it’s always better to have the Shepherd in sight, or at least in hearing distance, so we can hear His call, “Follow Me.” He is not only the true Lord of our Christian life but its primary Spiritual Director.

Christ’s presence in practicing these disciplines is essential, if they’re to remain a source of nurturing our spirituality. In fact, our whole life in Christ is best understood and lived in the same way Jesus Himself lived His earthly life: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).

For me, learning to acknowledge this pattern—myself in “in Christ” and “Christ in me”—is itself a new spiritual discipline, and not one easily mastered. Yet, as I described in a previous blog article, “Union Life’s Incarnational Spirituality,” this isn’t only the real secret of Christian living but the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation. God’s Son became human to purchase and wed a human Bride. He was after an eternally intimate union with us, but this intimacy already began the moment we were “born again” into His Body, the Church.

How does this fact of personal union with Christ relate to this article’s title? If Christ is present in us, living through us, even living as us, which is the bold proclamation of Gal 2:20, we ought to acknowledge this spiritual reality practically, especially in our conscious prayer life. Therefore, we need to explore the direction of our straying minds, which are in union with “the mind of Christ,” (1 Cor 2:16). Straying thoughts that seem to interrupt our intercessions and supplications may actually be a divine source of refocusing our attention. God has certain concerns related specifically to our unique individuality. There isn’t an aspect of our lives in which He is not interested and involved.

We know that God uses lists. He listed many laws in the Old Testament for His people to follow. But when Jesus reduced the Old Testament Law into two commandments—loving God and loving our neighbor (Mat 22:37-40)—He was expressing the ever-expanding motive within His very nature. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally a Triune Family of Love (1 John 4:8). That divine love cannot be packaged in a list of rules, nor can its reach be limited to our usually useful prayer lists.

So, how does this play out in experience? We try to make sure we get through our mental or written prayer list, but God already heard these requests when we listed them. Now we’re suddenly thinking about the gas dryer that needs to be replaced, or the fence that needs to be repaired, or the bill that needs to be paid, or the bad news in this morning’s paper or news report. Thoughts may be scurrying around all over the place. Why do we let them distract us, when they can be immediately, one-by-one, invited into our prayers? God may be so pleased that we’re finally paying attention to His direction for our prayers that He extends His guidance to deeper areas in our hearts, as long as we keep listening.

Speaking of deeper issues... how do we handle thoughts easily recognized as personal temptations? We may be thinking of an injustice recently done to us, or of a sale we missed or the latest gadget we wish we owned, or of a nagging worry about a situation we have no control over. What if even darker possibilities enter our minds? What do we do?

I believe this is where the discipline of acknowledging our union with Christ’s mind is an essential practice in prayer. In the presence of especially troublesome thoughts, Jesus is still Lord. He knows exactly where these straying thoughts come from. He may be leading us to include their source in our hearts as a prayer target. He may want us to intercede in special ways for the individuals involved in or connected to these thoughts. After these seemingly distractive thoughts are thoroughly bathed in prayer, He may say, “Now, go back to your prayer list. I'm also interested in those things, even more than you are.”

Friday, April 13, 2018


This article summarizes a sermon series about the elements of repentance which are essential for spiritual growth. The first time I learned that‭ ‬repentance‭ should be an ongoing activity in the Christian’s life was in‭ ‬a small book by‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Basilea Schlink.‭ ‬Here’s a meaningful quote from her about this concept:
Because my repentance at conversion did not continue as a daily experience,‭ ‬my love for Jesus grew lukewarm.‭ ‬Only penitent sinners—to whom forgiveness is given—are on fire with love for Jesus.‭ ‬So I can tell you that a life without daily repentance is spiritually poor.‭ ‬It has no joy or power and is totally lacking in fruit.‭ ‬Heaven is not‭ “‬at hand‭” ‬in such a life.‭ (‬REPENTANCE‭ ‬-‭ ‬The Joy-filled Life,‭ ‬Zondervan,‭ ‬1968,‭ ‬p.‭ ‬10‭)
In the New Testament,‭ ‬metanoia is the Greek word translated‭ “‬repentance.‭” ‬It means‭ “‬a change of mind.‭” ‬But repentance works as a dynamic process with several consecutive components that form a cycle.‭ ‬As Christians,‭ ‬our initial entry into this cycle culminates by inviting Jesus into our hearts.‭ ‬Afterwards,‭ ‬His‭ ‬indwelling presence makes this‭ ‬cycle of repentance‭ ‬an ongoing pathway for spiritual growth.

Our starting point in the cycle is our ongoing faith-commitment to fellowship with our living Lord Who dwells within us.‭ ‬Relational intimacy with Jesus is the momentum launching us into the changes facilitated by this cycle.‭ ‬After new birth in Christ,‭ ‬our proper attitude is‭ ‬not to stay the same,‭ ‬but to‭ ‬conform our‭ ‬thinking‭ ‬to His:‭ “‬Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,‭” ‬(Philippians‭ ‬2:5,‭ ‬NIV‭)‬.‭ ‬He is our internal standard for thought and behavior.‭ ‬External legalistic standards and uniform religious practices fall short of what our inner communion with Christ personally reveals.‭ ‬Union with Him automatically highlights the specific areas in our lives where we need further changes in how we think and how we live.

Our indwelling‭ ‬Lord won’t‭ ‬let us read Scripture merely‭ ‬for information.‭ ‬How‭ ‬Jesus lived and what He taught‭ ‬‬take on a new personal meaning.‭ ‬His life and His truth recorded in the written‭ ‬Word have now become the Life and‭ ‬the‭ ‬Truth‭ ‬inhabiting us as the Living Word.‭ ‬Worldly thinking and lazy living can lull us into spiritual lethargy.‭ ‬But our ongoing commitment to Christ within us motivates change and keeps us moving forward.‭ ‬In Ephesians‭ ‬4:22-24‭ (‬ESV‭)‬,‭ ‬Paul describes the direction of transformation:‭ ‬it’s‭ “‬to put off your old self,‭ ‬which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,‭ ‬and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,‭ ‬and to put on the new self,‭ ‬created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.‭” ‬This‭ “‬new self‭” ‬is really our‭ ‬true human self in the‭ “‬likeness of God.‭” ‬When our relational union with Christ confronts stagnation in our spiritual growth,‭ ‬the Holy Spirit takes over to complete the confrontation with His special work of conviction.

Jesus promised us help in‭ ‬John‭ ‬14:26‭ (‬KJV‭)‬,‭ “‬But the Comforter,‭ ‬which is the Holy Ghost,‭ ‬whom the Father will send in my name,‭ ‬he shall teach you all things,‭ ‬and bring all things to your remembrance,‭ ‬whatsoever I have said unto you.‭” ‬In His teaching ministry,‭ ‬the Holy Spirit‭ ‬doesn‭’‬t‭ ‬behave as‭ ‬a classroom instructor‭ ‬would,‭ ‬following a rigid,‭ ‬general curriculum.‭ ‬He is more like a personal Tutor,‭ ‬designing‭ ‬special lesson-plans for each individual believer.‭ ‬But‭ ‬a major focus in all‭ ‬the Holy Spirit‭’‬s teaching is‭ ‬to‭ ‬bring Jesus to our‭ “‬remembrance‭”‬ and‭ ‬to‭ ‬remind‭ ‬us of‭ ‬both‭ ‬what He‭ ‬has taught‭ ‬in the Gospels and what He has specifically‭ “‬said‭” ‬to us‭ ‬as individuals.‭ ‬This puts the ball in our court,‭ ‬allowing us to respond appropriately to‭ ‬the Comforter’s conviction.

The‭ “‬worldly sorrow‭” ‬from sin’s consequences is not the proper heart-response of true repentance.‭ “‬Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,‭ ‬but worldly sorrow brings death,‭” (‬2‭ ‬Corinthians‭ ‬7:10,‭ ‬NIV‭)‬.‭ ‬Confronted by Christ and convicted by the Holy Spirit,‭ ‬the conscience is led into‭ “‬godly sorrow,‭” ‬which is God’s own attitude toward sin and the basis of His‭ ‬wrath‭ ‬against it.‭ ‬God is‭ ‬broken up over our sin,‭ ‬and He wants us on the same page with Him.‭ “‬The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit‭; ‬a broken and contrite heart,‭ ‬O God,‭ ‬you will not despise,‭” (‬Psalm‭ ‬51:17,‭ ‬NIV‭)‬.‭ ‬In Hebrew,‭ ‬the word‭ “‬contrite‭” ‬literally means‭ ‬collapsed.‭ ‬The best portrait of God’s own contrition was displayed in Gethsemane.‭ ‬There,‭ ‬Jesus‭ ‬collapsed in His human spirit over what would soon be sin’s remedy.‭ “‬God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,‭ ‬so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,‭” (‬2‭ ‬Corinthians‭ ‬5:21,‭ ‬NIV‭)‬.‭ ‬By far the best way to gain‭ “‬a broken and contrite heart‭” ‬over our own moral failings is to meditate deeply on Christ’s struggle in facing the Cross and His anguish in becoming‭ “‬sin for us‭” ‬upon it.‭ ‬If our faith in Christ is authentic,‭ ‬that meditation will bring‭ “‬godly sorrow‭” ‬for anything in our lives displeasing to God. ‬But contrition is not an endpoint.‭ ‬It must be confessed with our lips.

One of the most‭ ‬gracious promises‭ ‬in the Bible for Christian growth is this:‭ “‬If we confess our sins,‭ ‬he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,‭” ‬(1‭ ‬John‭ ‬1:9,‭ ‬NIV‭)‬.‭ ‬In‭ ‬Hebrew, to‭ ‬confess ‭means‭ ‬to throw down,‭ ‬implying that what’s thrown down is in plain sight.‭ To make a true confession,‭ ‬we‭ ‬must‭ ‬speak about our sins‭ ‬the same way God‭ ‬sees them.‭ ‬This is‭ ‬pictured in Psalm‭ ‬90:8‭ (‬NIV‭)‬,‭ “‬You have set our iniquities before you,‭ ‬our secret sins in the light of your presence.‭” ‬The New Testament word‭ ‬to confess,‭ ‬which means‭ ‬to agree,‭ ‬or literally,‭ ‬to have the same reasoning,‭ ‬makes this‭ ‬need to be in agreement with God‭ ‬even more clear.‭ ‬But once we’ve‭ ‬thrown down our sins in His sight,‭ ‬we also need to confess our‭ ‬trust in God’s‭ “‬faithful‭” ‬character.‭ ‬If we are convinced of our sin but not convinced that He‭ “‬will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,‭” ‬we may sink emotionally into a bog of despair.‭ ‬Just as we fully trusted in God’s love and power to save us,‭ ‬when we called upon Jesus the first time,‭ ‬so we must fully believe that God‭ ‬will pardon and purify us when we‭ “‬confess our sins‭” committed in our Christian walks. ‬Stating our faith in what He has said about Himself and what He promises to do in us is crucial for proceeding to a complete change of mind and behavior.

The fact that Jesus told Peter in Luke‭ ‬22:32b‭ (‬KJV‭)‬,‭ “‬when thou art converted,‭ ‬strengthen thy brethren,‭” ‬shows that conversion is not just for unbelievers.‭ ‬In a few short hours,‭ ‬Peter denied faith in Jesus three times,‭ ‬but he did‭ ‬return to that faith.‭ ‬In both the Old and New Testaments,‭ ‬the word‭ ‬conversion means a‭ ‬turning again.‭ ‬Jeremiah exhorted God’s people in Lamentations‭ ‬3:40‭ (‬ESV‭)‬,‭ “‬Let us test and examine our ways,‭ ‬and return to the LORD‭!‬” The Christian life is lived by following Jesus.‭ ‬If we get out of step with Him,‭ ‬we must‭ “‬return to the LORD‭!‬” We do not have far to go,‭ ‬because He now indwells us.‭ ‬Similar to Jeremiah’s exhortation is Paul’s‭ ‬admonition‭ ‬in‭ ‬2‭ ‬Corinthians‭ ‬13:5‭ (‬NIV‭)‬,‭ “‬Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith‭; ‬test yourselves.‭ ‬Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬you fail the test‭?‬” The Scriptures give us many criteria for self-examination,‭ ‬but the return path always brings us back to‭ ‬Jesus within ‬Who never stops saying, “‬Follow Me.‭” ‬The complete‭ ‬turn around—the comprehensive conversion—is not a list of rules or token observances.‭ ‬It’s‭ ‬the transformed life that can only be found in our union with Christ. Paul ‬described its impact in Galatians‭ ‬2:20‭ (‬NIV‭)‬,‭ “‬I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,‭ ‬but Christ lives in me.‭ ‬The life I live in the body,‭ ‬I live by faith in the Son of God,‭ ‬who loved me and gave himself for me.‭”

When we have moved full circle through this cycle of repentance,‭ ‬we come back to where we started,‭ ‬although now at a new level of maturity in Christ.‭ ‬Yet our commitment to communion with‭ ‬our living,‭ ‬indwelling‭ ‬Savior will not allow us to‭ ‬stay there.‭ ‬As we move closer to Jesus,‭ ‬we will see other areas‭ ‬in our lives‭ ‬that need change.‭ ‬The attitude expressed by Paul in Philippians‭ ‬3:12-14‭ (‬NIV‭) ‬will help us maintain this ‬forward‭ ‬momentum:
Not that I have already obtained all this,‭ ‬or have already been made perfect,‭ ‬but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.‭ ‬Brothers,‭ ‬I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.‭ ‬But one thing I do:‭ ‬Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,‭ ‬I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
We must not linger in regret for former deficits and failures,‭ ‬which have been confessed and forgiven.‭ ‬Neither must we think we’ve finally arrived.‭ ‬But‭ “‬forgetting what is behind‭” ‬in both previous defeats and present victories,‭ ‬we must keep on keeping on,‭ ‬“press[ing‭] ‬toward the goal.‭” ‬Jesus is that goal‭! ‬He is our momentum‭! ‬This cycle of repentance revolves around Him,‭ ‬leading us ever closer in our union with Him,‭ “‬until‭” ‬as Paul says in Ephesians‭ ‬4:13‭ (‬NIV‭), “‬we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,‭ ‬attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

There is no real conclusion to this cycle of repentance during our earthly journeys, unless we stop growing in Christ. But I wrote a poem to be a concluding review of the cycle:


Complacency confronted by the Word
must meet the Comforter’s convicting weight.
If wooing from that Spirit’s Voice is heard,
the conscience and contrition soon will mate.
Convinced of sin, believing lips confess.
Convinced of grace, the same sing praise and bless.

Repentance (metanoia) means “to change”
our way of thinking, planning, how we talk.
We turn, transform, renew or rearrange,
converting comprehensively our walk
full circle in communion with the Son,
committed to the new life He’s begun.

— David L. Hatton, 3/19/2018


*(Outlines and recordings of the three sermons I preached in this series are available on my website’s sermon page near the bottom of the list:
66-03-02 - Exploring the Depths of Repentance - 02/11/2018-mp3
43-16-03 - The Comforter's Conviction - 02/25/2018-mp3
50-03-04 - Commitment to Communion - 03/25/2018-mp3)

Friday, March 9, 2018


(I’m on the pastoral team of My Chains Are Gone, a ministry for liberating the porn-addicted through the truth of “a godly, creational, incarnational view of the human body.” But some time ago, I wrote “Further Help for Healing from Porn Addiction,”[1] which is included in the anti-porn section of my book "Who Said You Were Naked?" -- Reflections on Body Acceptance. In the portion called “God’s Use of Various Means of Grace,” I mention several traditionally recognized “means of grace” that can help truth penetrate the heart, because only truth can set anyone free. But aside from helping to heal people caught up in porn addiction, what I discuss below are powerful means of grace for any believer who struggles with areas in their life that need God’s intervention. This edited version of that portion focusing on only two sub-sections.)

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When once passion takes part in the game, the human reason, unassisted by Grace, has about as much chance of retaining its hold on truths already gained as a snowflake has of retaining its consistency in the mouth of a blast furnace.
— C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) 

Time heals no wounds, but God can heal all wounds in time. He does this in various ways, as illustrated in Christ’s ministry. Jesus frequently ordered sicknesses to depart. Sometimes he just prayed. Often He used touch. Once He smeared mud made with His saliva on a blind man’s eyes and had him go wash it out. He straightened one woman’s back by casting out a demon. Another woman grabbed His outfit to get the healing she needed.

In theology, these diverse patterns of divine blessing are called means of grace, often connected to a physical action or item, as was the staff in the hand of Moses. To use means of grace as Jesus did, we must have His attitude: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise,” (John 5:19, ESV). We are never above Christ. Which means of grace to use, and how to use it, must come on a case-by-case basis through divine guidance, as it did with our Lord.

This concept will be a faith-stretch for some. Many believers are so mesmerized by modern materialism that they entrust all aspects of health to science, technology, and the pharmaceutical industry. But behind the material world is a spiritual one, and each affects the other. This is especially true for humans, who are body-spirit beings.

All creation—especially the human body—reflects God’s glory. God uses the physical spiritually, and the spiritual physically. He’s not bound by Greek philosophy’s dualistic separation between the material and the spiritual, which guides much modern thinking. Through a sacred, wholistic approach, the following ideas, instead of dividing body and spirit, assist with healing, based on their interrelationship.

Baptism and a Sacred Use of Water

Early church fathers considered removing clothes for the nude baptism ritual to be a symbolic divestment of worldly ways for entrance into the new life of God’s Kingdom. It was a complete water bath, a sacramental sign of sins being fully washed away (Acts 22:16; Heb 10:22). Just as we enter and leave this world naked, so new converts were stripped for baptismal burial with their nakedly crucified Savior. Coming out of the water naked, just as newborns exit the womb, signified not only new birth but resurrection with the risen Christ (Rom 6:3-4), who left His grave wrappings behind when He exited the tomb. This was some of the rich theological symbolism invested in the ancient practice of nude baptism.[2]

Christ being baptized naked by John in two ceiling mosaics in Ravenna, Italy:
1) Orthodox Baptistery, c.400 AD, and 2) Arian Baptistery, c.500.

But prudery infiltrated the church. The well-documented attitude of early monks toward the tempting sight of the opposite sex points to a major cause for the disappearance of this practice. As monastic values toward the body became more popular with church leaders, they eventually supplanted the early church’s officially prescribed nude baptism. This robbed baptism of much of its symbolism and meaning as a means of grace. Perhaps pornography wouldn’t be the problem it is today, if churches had maintained the heritage of body acceptance underlying nudity in the ancient baptismal ritual.

Despite the modern absence of its original nudity component, baptism still represents a sacred cleansing from sin and identifies the believer with a death to self and a new life in Christ. Any unbaptized believer who is still struggling with porn ought to follow Christ in baptism. By its very nature, baptism blesses the body. It’s a public statement of agreement that God’s plan of salvation is for “your whole spirit and soul and body,”(1 Thes 5:23).

If you were led to faith in Christ by someone who failed to encourage you to obey this command of Christ (Mat 28:19), don’t let that stop you from being obedient now. Baptism is still a burial and still a bath; use it as such. Approach baptism as a sacred death to your old way of believing and living. Use it as a symbol of cleansing from the stains of false, worldly thinking. Let your addiction to porn be buried with Christ. Then, rise up from the water clean and fresh and alive to the goodness and sacredness of not only your own body but that of everyone else. Wash away your porno-prudish mindset. Be clothed with the mind of Christ, and forever after begin to look at the bodies of others only through His eyes.
"Divine Servant" by Max Greiner, Jr. (bronze)

The Old Testament prescribed the use of sanctified water for ritually cleansing places, items and people (Num 19:17-18). Some faith communions still practice a sacred use of water in their prayers for spiritual cleansing. Houses, rooms, closets, computers, and other things and places—even though they are physical in nature—can become spiritually “unclean” through the presence or depiction of evil things, such as pornographic pictures and videos. These defiled locations may need cleansing prayer with the symbolic application of water ritually dedicated by prayer for this special use. Sacredly applying water on a person’s body can become a strategic symbol of spiritual cleansing similar to that pictured in baptism. I heard one evangelist instruct people receiving this kind of ministry to “let this holy water put you in mind of your baptism.”

Another ritual use of water is foot washing. Oddly, many Bible teachers and church communions ignore it as a spiritual means of grace, even though Jesus implied its need (John 13:10), exemplified its practice and clearly enjoined its perpetuation: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you,” (John 13:14-15, ESV). With some preparatory instruction, a foot washing ritual might be joined with cleansing prayer as a powerful, sanctified use of water.

The sacred application of water—in praying for houses, rooms, and people—has often proved an especially effective means of grace in confronting spiritual strongholds. If there is any indication of demonic activity in your porn addiction—as there might be, because of the way pornography perverts nature and truth—try using holy water in conjunction with your prayers.

Holy Communion

Early church fathers saw the Eucharist as a continuation of baptism. Baptism declared the death of our old life in the world and the birth of our new life in Christ. Holy Communion repeats this theme by inviting us to participate in the ongoing ministry of death and life through the Bread and the Cup, which represent the work of the Cross. It repeats baptism’s symbolism by reminding us that we died with Christ and are alive in Him (Gal 2:20). But, mystically, it also provides “a participation” (1 Cor 10:16) in His sacrificial death and bodily resurrection for our ongoing spiritual nurture. All Christians should meditate upon this, as they observe Communion. But they should also realize how effectively the Table can serve as a powerful means of grace for many spiritual needs.

First, we should bring to the Table and leave with our crucified Lord those things in our lives that need to die. Then, we are enabled by His grace to take from the Table the fruits of His Cross and Resurrection and to “feed upon Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving,” as the Book of Common Prayer exhorts. There’s still much of the world in us that needs death, and much in us that needs death to the world (Gal 6:14), to make room for more of Christ’s life. The Table invites us to a sacred rendezvous where God spiritually enables this ongoing death-and-life process to take place in us.

Holy Communion should never become a routine observance. It must always be a vital transaction of faith, where we bring more of ourselves to the Lord’s Table and take more of Christ’s life as we leave it. Eucharist is the transliterated Greek word for thanksgiving and comes from the root word charis, or “grace.” As a means of grace, how much closer to the Cross can we get than to the Body that hung there or to the Blood that was shed on it? Whether we theologically conceive of Christ’s presence as, by, with, in, or through the physical elements displayed, Jesus directly instructed us to feed upon Him (John 6:53-57), which we are to do by faith at each celebration of His Table.

The Communion Table represents Christ’s Cross quenching sin’s penalty and His Resurrection breaking through sin’s power. Together they divided historical time, ended the Old Covenant and began the New, answered the Law’s demands with grace, and drew an eternal line between death and life. Nothing gets past the Cross without death, and nothing rises up to life from that death without the power of Christ’s Resurrection.

This is why His Table—which sets before us Christ’s work on the Cross as a physical means of grace—is a place of divine deliverance and edification. Whatever has wounded your soul sexually can find healing here, even the self-inflicted damage of yielding your heart to pornographic lust.

Bring and leave on the Table all your years of porn addiction, then from the Table take Christ’s Body and Blood as spiritual nurture for your new life in Him. Leave on the Table any lie that resists the exorcism provided by rational truth, then from the Table feed upon Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Discard on the Table any defiled mental images from the past that haunt your memory, then from the Table feast upon “the express image of God” in the Body of His Son. As you approach this sacred Table, bring to it anything in you that needs to die. Then, with all your heart, feed upon “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Drink the Blood that Christ passionately poured out for the Church, His Bride, who—in the one-flesh relationship manifested by this Meal—is also called His Body (1 Cor 10:17). Don’t let theological fears or this Table’s mystery keep you mentally aloof from receiving its grace and power.

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1. “Further Help for Healing from Porn Addiction” is now part of my book “Who Said You Were Naked?” – Reflections on Body Acceptance but is also listed on my webpage “Ending Porn Addiction.”
2. Read “Hippolytus of Rome on Nude Baptism.”