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Posts tagged ‘obedience’

Our God of Second Chances (In Marriage)

SOURCE:  Cheryl Scruggs (Author of: I Do Again)

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse, and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

A godly marriage is one of deep abundance, peace and joy. This does not mean it is free from tough issues or without problems, as there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

How do we make Jesus the focal point? We begin with recognizing that marriage was God’s idea. He had the plan for it. We often act like marriage is only about our happiness, but marriage is designed to glorify God.

In the New Testament, Ephesians 5: 21- 31 gives us direction and guidance on how to submit to Christ and one another. It explains how husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and love them like they love their own bodies. It also addresses how a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, thus the two be united into one unit. Lastly, this passage talks about how a wife must respect her husband.

This is a tall order for all of us! What stands out is that, ultimately, we are each to submit to Christ out of obedience, submit to each other, and pray to have a servant’s heart in our marriage.

Trouble is, our culture lacks an accurate concept of what serving means. Husbands, how is God calling you to serve your wife in Ephesians 5? It points out that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Was Christ not the greatest servant of all? He is our protector, our provider, our covering. Men, He is your example! Jesus shows us how to serve.

Jeff and I often share with couples this analogy: What kind of marriage do you think you would have if the two of you were competing to “out-serve” each other?

During our first marriage, Jeff and I had no idea how to serve one another. We fought infrequently and were polite to each other, but there was no real attempt to understand true servanthood. We both ended up selfish and self-focused, each waiting on the other to come to our service.

Yet God gave us a second chance! This time our marriage is different. We now wholeheartedly seek to learn how to better love God and each other. We made so many mistakes in our first marriage, but now have the opportunity to do it His way. Even after 10 years back together, we remain so very grateful for the opportunity.

Our goal is to live out Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV):

But I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is not law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

So how can we serve each other practically in the different aspects of a relationship: spiritually, physically, and emotionally?

Scripture calls us to serve each other spiritually by learning and following what it means to take on the character traits of Jesus and living these out. We also serve each other spiritually by being obedient to God and seeking His ways through His Word.

Scripture calls us to serve each other physically by being gentle, kind, patient, and displaying self-control. The Bible also calls us to serve each other sexually: “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Finally, God calls us to serve each other emotionally through a loving nature, by pursuing peace in the marriage, and by being joyful in our relationship. 2 Corinthians 2:3 (ESV) gives us a great example of how our joy can benefit others: “Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful”.

God is trying to teach you many things through your marriage. He desires to mold and shape you into what he wants you to be. Our focus in marriage, this time around, is on serving God and each other, rather than focusing on ourselves.

HOW L-O-N-G, LORD?

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Transformational Thought

Have you ever said those words, “How long?” As in, “How long, Lord, until my prayer is answered? How long until life gets better? How long do You want me to do this without seeing results? How long do You want me to suffer? How long do I have to ‘just hang in there?’ How long ’til my kids get along? How long ’til my loved one stops drinking?”

When Joseph was sold into slavery and later spent years in prison, he must have asked, “How long, Lord?” When Moses led the Israelites around and around in the wilderness, he surely thought, “How long, Lord?” When Noah was ridiculed for 100 years while he built an ark on dry land, he must have wondered, “How long, Lord?” The Israelites have been wondering for centuries, “How long until the Messiah comes?” But each one of these trusted God. They respected Him enough to continue obeying Him even when it seemed that all hope was gone.

Perhaps you are involved in a ministry that seems to go nowhere. Yet, you know the Lord wants you there. Maybe you have been praying for an unsaved loved one for many years. Or perhaps you have a business that just doesn’t come together, but the Lord has led you to continue. Be encouraged to revere God by continuing to obey him, even though you may wonder, “How long, Lord?”

Our nature is to want our agenda now. No waiting. Nobody else calls the shots. We avoid discomfort and demand what we want when we want it. My kingdom come; my will be done. But waiting and patience are powerful teachers of many truths. This is how character and many psychological skills are developed. God knows the right timing. Bend to His timeline and your peace and growth will be unbelievable.

Today, be confident that God loves you. Examine your life to see what situation or area makes you impatient … frustrated … irritable. Make sure you are doing a good job with your part of the issue. Then accept that God has a different timeline than you do. Learn the lesson He is teaching. The situation is in your life to grow you … that is God’s purpose for all that comes into your life. He has a perfect plan for us. We (and others) just keep messing it up. His timing is always perfect because it is His timing. As Noah did, keep on “doing all that God commands.”

Prayer

Oh Father, Lord, help me honor You by trusting You and being willing to wait on You. Even though I get discouraged at times, help me remember that You are in control and that Your way is the best way. Your timing is the best timing. Help me be patient so I can show the world I am willing to wait on You, Lord. Thy kingdom come, not my kingdom come. I really don’t want to take over responsibility for the whole world, even though sometimes I act like it. I pray this and all prayers for the one who demonstrated perfect timing, Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

The Truth

I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the LORD God.

Psalm 40:1-3

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

35 Reasons Not to Sin

by Jim Elliff

  1. Because a little sin leads to more sin
  2. Because my sin invites the discipline of God.
  3. Because the time spent in sin is forever wasted.
  4. Because my sin never pleases but always grieves God who loves me.
  5. Because my sin places a greater burden on my spiritual leaders.
  6. Because in time my sin always brings heaviness to my heart.
  7. Because I am doing what I do not have to do.
  8. Because my sin always makes me less than what I could be.
  9. Because others, including my family, suffer consequences due to my sin.
  10. Because my sin saddens the godly.
  11. Because my sin makes the enemies of God rejoice.
  12. Because sin deceives me into believing I have gained when in reality I have lost.
  13. Because sin may keep me from qualifying for spiritual leadership.
  14. Because the supposed benefits of my sin will never outweigh the consequences of disobedience.
  15. Because repenting of my sin is such a painful process, yet I must repent.
  16. Because sin is a very brief pleasure for an eternal loss.
  17. Because my sin may influence others to sin.
  18. Because my sin may keep others from knowing Christ.
  19. Because sin makes light of the cross, upon which Christ died for the very purpose of taking away my sin.
  20. Because it is impossible to sin and follow the Spirit at the same time.
  21. Because God chooses not to respect the prayers of those who cherish their sin.
  22. Because sin steals my reputation and robs me of my testimony.
  23. Because others once more earnest than I have been destroyed by just such sins.
  24. Because the inhabitants of heaven and hell would all testify to the foolishness of this sin.
  25. Because sin and guilt may harm both mind and body.
  26. Because sins mixed with service make the things of God tasteless.
  27. Because suffering for sin has no joy or reward, though suffering for righteousness has both.
  28. Because my sin is adultery with the world.
  29. Because I will review this very sin at the Judgment Seat where loss and gain of eternal rewards are applied.
  30. Because I can never really know ahead of time just how severe the discipline for my sin might be.
  31. Because my sin may be an indication of a lost condition.
  32. Because to sin is not to love Christ.
  33. Because my unwillingness to reject this sin now grants it an authority over me greater than I wish to  believe.
  34. Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it, never because it is worth anything on its own.
  35. Because I promised God He would be Lord of my life.

 

Relinquish Your Rights – Reject the Sin – Renew the Mind – Rely on God

 

 

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

God’s Boundaries (for us)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.

They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.” (Psalm 19:7-11 NLT)

 Walking with God means agreeing with his boundaries . . . and staying within them.

 In the Bible are many commandments and instructions.

They set boundaries for us.

We may respond to those boundaries in several negative ways. Surely that doesn’t apply to this situation. . . . It won’t hurt to step outside that line this once. . . . That just doesn’t seem fair. . . . I know God wants me to do it this way but I just don’t think I can. . . . I really don’t care. I want to do this.

Been there?

But walking with God means agreeing with him and all his commandments.   Agreeing means obeying.

Why so many boundaries? Just to see if we will obey?

The above scripture makes it clear that those boundaries are for our good. God set them out of love for us. Read back through the passage. His commands are perfect, trustworthy, right clear, true, fair, desirable, sweet, and a warning.

When we follow his commands our soul will be revived . . . we will gain wisdom . . . we will receive joy and insight for living. And we will receive a great reward.

He has even promised to help us obey.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

Father, I thank you for the Bible. I thank you for the blessing and protection of your commands. Help me to obey. Help me to always agree with you . . . obey you . . . and walk with you. In Jesus’ name . . .

————————————————————————————————————————————-

These thoughts were drawn from …


Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program
by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

“BUT”

SOURCE:  Tim Clinton/AACC

“You face your greatest opposition when you’re closest to your biggest miracle.” Bishop T. D. Jakes

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” G. K. Chesterton

Often, the most powerful, life-changing miracles seem to happen in the “buts” of life.

Consider the story of Naaman. 2 Kings 5:1 describes him with glowing accolades.

Commander of the army of the king of Syria.

A great man with his master.

High favor.

A mighty man of valor.

Then out of nowhere – life-altering words.

But…he was a leper.

Think about that. Leprosy. The most dreaded disease of his day. A visible outward malady that in reality defined who he was. Putrefying infected sores that in time caused loss of fingers, toes, nose. Everyone who came in contact with him saw the miserable condition he carried with him everywhere he went. There was no hiding it.

Many Christ followers understand this reality in their own journey. No doubt, many of you are living there right now.

You love God, and you really do believe that God loves you. You read the Word, pray, give your tithes and offerings, attend worship services, desiring to obey and walk in His Spirit.

But…

The doctor gave you terminal news.

But…

Your spouse left, and the hole in your heart grows deeper and wider by the hour.

But…

Your position at work was eliminated, as was your pay check, and you find yourself in the unemployment line.

But…

A son or a daughter rejected a lifetime of nurture and admonition and the relationship is strained, broken and seemingly destroyed.

“Buts” that now seem to define who you are. “Buts” that perhaps even cause you to question God and His plan, much less His goodness. “Buts” that understandably cause you to ask “Where are you God?”

Let’s look again at the well-known Bible story of Naaman. At the recommendation of a young slave girl, he travels to find the prophet Elisha. Elisha sends a servant out to instruct Naaman to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. Albeit reluctantly, and even with quite a bit of raging about how irrational the command is, he obeys.

I wonder how Naaman felt after he dunked himself the first time. No change. The second time. No change. Third time. No change. After number six, he might have been thinking that this was a horrible joke and a waste of time. The anger he had initially felt was returning. Someone was going to pay for this public act of embarrassment.

Have you been there? Faith…trust…obedience…and seemingly no change. You find yourself confused, distraught, and perhaps even a bit angry at God.

Then Naaman dipped the seventh time and “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” 2 Kings 5:14 ESV

He went back to the “man of God,” stood before him and declared, (now) “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel…” 2 Kings 5:15  ESV

God was in the midst of his pain. Faithfully at work in the “but” of Naaman’s life. Steadfast in His in plan in Naaman’s journey, which ultimately brought Him glory.

And God is in the midst of your pain also. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He is faithfully working in the plan of your life, and He will ultimately get glory by taking your storyand making it His story.

Don’t be defined by the “but” in your pilgrimage. Don’t give up. Keep believing that He is God, and that He is good.

Your miracle could be just one more “dip in the Jordan” away.

A miracle that will turn your life around.

Not Just Knowing What Is Right — Doing It!

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Family Life 

A. W. Tozer said, “The word of God was not given to us to make us intelligent sinners, but obedient and authentic saints.”

 Obey God 

Our lives are made up of choices—difficult forks in the road where we must decide to choose God’s way or to pursue our own. And as Moses said to the children of Israel, the choice is really not between right and wrong but between life and death (see Deuteronomy 30:15-16). The prophet Amos said it very succinctly: “Seek the LORD that you may live” (Amos 5:6). Truly, the only sure path to life is found in obedience to God and His Word.

So when you don’t feel like loving your spouse, obey God.
When you’re tempted to steal or to compromise your integrity, obey God.
When your boss asks you to do something you shouldn’t, obey God.
When your lusts and passions are telling you to give in, obey God.
When you’re suffering and feel like quitting, obey God.
When the easiest thing to do is nothing, obey God.
When you feel like being lazy, obey God.
Whatever choice you may be facing, obey God . . . and live!

Thomas Carlisle wrote, “Conviction, be it ever so excellent, is worthless until it converts itself into conduct.”

It is not enough just to know what’s right.

Ask God to give you the strength and conviction to be not just His children but also His obedient children.

Don’t Look Back

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.” Hebrews 11:8-10 CEV

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God called Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him and enter a world of the unknown.

Abraham obeyed without hesitation.  He set out, leaving relatives and friends, leaving the security of his home, leaving his culture and religion . . .… and followed God.

And he didn’t look back.

Abraham could have spent his days complaining or grieving over all he had left behind. He could have rebelled against being taken out of his comfort zone. But he didn’t. Why? He believed God. He believed God’s promises. And he set his eyes on “the eternal city that God had planned and built.”

The apostle Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him yet. He had made many mistakes in the past, but he forgot the past and looked forward to what lay ahead, pressing on to the eternal prize. 

He didn’t look back.

Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you have already stepped out of your comfort zone but really want to do an “about face.”

In every situation we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. If we look back and dwell on what was, we can’t be effective in the here and now. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do today and press on to what he has promised us for tomorrow.

Father, help me to put the past behind and focus on what you want me to do today. Help me to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and not look back. In Jesus’ name . . . …

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

“How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Tim Clinton/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Doing What He Says

Too often, the thought that echoes through the corridors of our minds is, “How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

You can know.

God has given us three wonderful gifts in this “following Christ” journey:

His Word.

The Psalmist declares that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV) The Bible will clearly guide you as you “resolve” to do all that Jesus asks. Even Jesus, when faced with temptation, responded with “It is written…”

Spend some time in the gospels – in the “red letters” – the very words of Jesus. Soak in everything He spoke about grace…about forgiveness…about facing challenges…about a relationship with God the Father.

As those words take root in your heart and soul, resolve to follow His guidance, and whatever He says to you, do it.

Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit – our Helper – and promised that “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV) In chapter 16 Jesus added “He (Holy Spirit) will guide you into all the truth” (vs. 13).

Listen and hear what Jesus says to do through the whispers of His Spirit.

Other Believers.

The great Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9 ESV) Again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul admonishes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (ESV)

You are who you spend time with.

Each one of us need spiritual leaders and “coaches” in our lives from whom we hear and see and learn and receive guidance in doing what Jesus says.

10 Poor Excuses (about doing/not doing what God says)

SOURCE:  Susan Nikaido/Discipleship Journal

We’ve all done it—thought of reasons why doing the opposite of what we know God says is OK … this time.

Here are some common excuses for disobedience, and why they won’t fool the Father.

Excuses For Not Doing What God Tells You To Do

Excuse 1 “I’ll Do It Later.”

When God prompts you to do it now—tell a friend about Him, deal with a persistent sin, send an encouraging note, spend time with Him—telling Him “later” is the same as saying no. “Later” may be too late for the good that God intended when He urged you to act.

Excuse 2 “It’s Too Difficult—I Would Fail.”

Jeremiah tried this one. When God told him He was calling him as a prophet, Jeremiah replied, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jer. 1:6). God’s response to Jeremiah is His response to us: “Don’t make excuses; just obey. Don’t be afraid, because I will be with you in everything I ask you to do.”

Excuse 3 “I’m Too Busy Doing Important Things.”

What can be more important than what God is instructing you to do? Claiming, “I’m too busy” is putting your agenda ahead of God’s.

Excuses For Doing What God Says Not To Do

Excuse 4 “It Won’t Hurt Anything.”

God told the Israelites that His commands were “for your own good” (Dt. 10:13). Only He knows the chain of results our disobedience will set in motion. We need to trust His judgment, not our own.

Excuse 5 “No One Will Find Out.”

God will know. Every sin damages both our relationship with Him and our own conscience.

Excuse 6 “I’ll Do It Just This Once.”

God never said sin was OK if you only do it once. Besides, submitting to the flesh rather than to the Spirit strengthens the wrong forces in your life, making it more likely that you will do it again.

Excuse 7 “God Let Me Down.”

When we’re disappointed with our lives, we can begin to think, God didn’t come through for me, so why should I come through for Him? We may stop doing the things we know He wants us to do, and not worry too much about breaking His commandments.

God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5); He will always remain faithful to us (2 Tim. 2:13); and His plan for us is for our good (Jer. 29: 11). We need to acknowledge that our perspective is limited and that our painful circumstances and unanswered prayers are part of a larger, grander plan. Learning to trust His Word when it contradicts our perceptions, feelings, and experiences can keep us from excusing our disobedience by blaming Him.

Excuse 8 “I Deserve A Break/Reward.”

When we’ve been working hard on the job or in ministry, it can be tempting to justify taking something that’s not rightfully ours—whether it’s money, goods, or time that belongs to our employer but is spent on personal projects. Or, we blow off something God prompts us to do because we’ve “paid our dues.”

In 2 Kings 5, the prophet Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, figured he was entitled to a little reward for ministry. His master had turned down a gift from a wealthy warrior, but Gehazi returned, behind Elisha’s back, and requested a few “perks” from the man. God struck Gehazi with leprosy.

God never “rewards” obedience by allowing disobedience.

Excuse 9 “At Least I’m Not As Bad As _____.”

Sometimes we try to make ourselves feel better about our sin by comparing it to someone else’s. “I may flirt with my secretary, but at least I’m not sleeping with her.” “I may ‘fudge’ a little on my taxes, but I would never embezzle money.”

Jesus tells the story of a Pharisee who compared himself to others. The religious man prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers.” Yet Jesus commended instead the tax collector who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:9, 14). Repentance is the only attitude toward sin that God accepts.

Excuse 10 “Everyone Else Is Doing It.”

It’s tempting to violate our consciences, to give in a little on our convictions, when we see others doing things we feel uneasy about. It’s especially tempting when “others” are believers we respect. Yet what is right and wrong is never determined by popular vote—”It is the Lord who judges” (1 Cor. 4:4). We must listen to the inner voices that tell us what is right and wrong, not the outer ones.

Warding Off Worry

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Learn to trust God when anxiety strikes.

“If you ever get caught in an avalanche, dig up!” Mom instructed me whenever I went skiing with my friends.

If I was packing my beach bag for a trip to the ocean, she would remind me, “If you get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore!”

And when I went hiking, it was always, “If you see a mountain lion, wave your arms up and down so you look bigger than you are!”

Whether it was winter, spring, summer, or fall, whether my destination was the mall or the mountains, Mom—with her caring heart—worried about the worst possible thing that could happen to me.

In my family, worry was often an automatic response to whatever we faced—whether it was a new noise in the car engine or what we would serve our guests for dinner. Thus, I had always excused my own tendency to worry as hereditary. What could I do about my genes?

Nature, Nurture, or Sin?

Though I had always accepted my anxiety as a natural part of my makeup, God’s Word challenged me to see that worry has no place in the lives of His children. “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6). “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not fret” (Psalm 37:8). “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34).

I began to see that God does not merely suggest we should not worry; He commands it. But are we as vigilant about not worrying as we are about other things He commands us not to do, such as stealing, getting drunk, or committing adultery? Though I wanted to justify worry as an issue of temperament, Scripture is clear that it’s an issue of obedience. Failure to obey His explicit commands is sin.

Calling worry a sin may sound harsh, but it actually brings great freedom. I no longer see my anxiety as a hereditary trait I cannot control. Rather, I see it as a sin I can choose to resist. Because sin does not have mastery over me (Romans 6:14), I can be set free from slavery to worry.

No Smoke without a Fire

Because my mind so easily gravitates toward worry, I’m not always aware when it begins to take over. A tense back and racing thoughts clearly indicate anxiety, but other signs are more subtle. A lack of joy and lightheartedness, impatience with myself and others, taking myself too seriously, forgetting to thank God for His blessings, difficulty praising Him—all of these signs point to the presence of smoldering coals of worry in my heart. Like a smoke detector warning of impending danger, they alert me to the asphyxiating smoke of worry.

Rather than trying to extinguish the individual fires of worry that encircle us, we must identify the source of the flame. Anxiety is most often sparked by unbelief or doubt in God’s character. When we worry, we’ve unthinkingly questioned His wisdom (that He knows what is best), His love and goodness (that He cares for us and wants what is best), and His sovereignty (that He is able to do what is best).

Worry reveals not only our distrustful thoughts about God but also an unrealistic view of ourselves: that we are ultimately in control; that we are responsible for other people’s happiness (our spouse, children, parents, boss, friends); that we can determine better than God what we or others need.

One morning as I fretted about an important decision in my life, I took a walk to clear my head and talk with God. Across a park lawn, I saw a beautiful golden retriever frolicking alongside his loving master. Oh, I mused, to be as carefree as that dog, to play and run freely, knowing that your master will provide for all your needs.

Even as I thought this, my words convicted me. I sensed God’s gentle voice respond to my heart. “Oh, My precious child, do you not know that I am your faithful Master? Don’t you believe that I care for you more than any earthly master could ever care for his dog? That you, too, can run free of worry? I am thegood Master. Trust in Me.”

Then I recalled a cowering stray dog a friend of mine had found. Even after she adopted it, the dog trembled each time someone reached to pet it. My friend believes the dog was probably abused by its former owner. Likewise, when I allow my heart to tremble in anxiety, what am I telling others about my Master? Most likely I’m communicating that He is uncaring and unfaithful.

Not only is God my Master, but He’s my heavenly Father as well. How much more than a good master does a loving father care for his precious children?

Matthew records Jesus saying:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

—Matthew 7:9–11

Just as a child’s carefree spirit is a testimony of caring parents, so a joyful, trusting attitude testifies to our loving Father.

Extinguishing Anxiety

God wants us to experience release from the grip of worry. He longs for us to rest in His wonderful care for us (Matthew 11:28–30). Here are some ways to douse the fire of worry and stoke the flame of trust.

Take stock of your thought life. Our feelings are often the fruit of the thoughts we sow. If you’re anxious, review what you’ve been thinking about. What thoughts have you been listening to? What have you believed about your circumstances and God’s ability to meet your needs?

When I was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness, a wave of worries flooded my mind. What about all the plans I had? How could I ever support myself with these health limitations? What about my dreams for my future? My anxiety revealed my belief that this illness had somehow slipped by God’s watchful eye.

But the Father’s still, small voice addressed my fears, reminding me of His perspective: “Yes, this illness does change your plans, but not Mine. It in no way changes My will for you.” Though my health had changed, God’s sovereignty over my life had not.

Focus on the truth. After we’ve identified any distorted beliefs, we must respond to them by looking intently at the truth of Scripture. We’re engaged in a battle against a very crafty spiritual enemy who continually attempts to saturate our minds with doubts about the Father’s character. Satan knows worry distracts us from what God has for us, so he drives us to work things out our way and steals our joy in the Father. We must use the armor of God—especially the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephes. 6:13–17)—to cut through the web of lies that can entangle our souls.

James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Repent of surrendering to worry, submit your mind to God, and resist any spirit of anxiety. Ask God to protect you from worry, to guard your heart and mind with His peace (Phil. 4:7). In faith, claim this promise Paul gave his youthful protégé Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have also found it helpful to “act in the opposite spirit” when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me. For example, if worry drives me to hurry, then I purposely slow down. If worry tempts me to complain, then I intentionally thank God for what He is doing.

When I was looking for an apartment in the tight San Francisco housing market, I gave in to complaining and fretting after weeks of viewing undersized, overpriced units. Recognizing my doubt, I started thanking God for the place He was preparing for me in His perfect timing. I now write from a wonderful home He handpicked for me.

Practice Scripture meditation. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Keeping our mind steadfastly fixed upon God is critical when we’re tempted to worry. Meditate upon the passages of Scripture that describe God’s character: His loving-kindness, power, faithfulness, goodness. Meditate also upon verses about peace and rest.

Picture yourself putting your worries in a little gift box (or a big box, in my case!), tying it with a bow, and presenting it to God at the foot of the cross, an offering of faith to Him. Let these words of Jesus settle into your soul: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

No matter how unceasingly worries may assail you, choose to listen to His Spirit of peace and not to a spirit of anxiety. Think of worry as a ringing phone—and don’t answer it. Allowing peace to rule instead of fear is a daily, sometimes hourly, choice we must make.

Dwell on what you know. Most worries revolve around dwelling on what we don’t know: “How will I have enough money to pay for car repairs? What will I do if I’m laid off? How will I find an affordable house in such a tight market?” Instead of fixating on anxiety-producing unknowns, we can use the same energy to focus on what we do know: “God will meet all [my] needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). “God is . . .[my] ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted [including all that I deem precious] to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

After the man I dated for four years ended our relationship, my mind whirled with fears of the unknown. I had to stop and remind myself what I knew about God.

Though I do not know if we will ever be reunited, though I do not know if I will ever be married, I do know that God is good. I do know that He is faithful. He knows the desires of my heart, and I know His plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Cast your cares on God. David wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Recently, when I faced a problem that tempted me to worry, an image flashed into my mind. I pictured myself sitting on one side of a perfectly balanced seesaw. As a load of worry came my way, I could receive it, allowing it to pin me to the ground. Or I could cast it on God, who sits on the other end of the seesaw. As I chose the latter, God took upon Himself the weight of my worry, and I was lifted up.

As I rest in my Father’s tender love for me, I can more readily cast my cares upon Him. If He is gracious and compassionate toward His children, if He knows when even a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), if His thoughts of me are as numerous as the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17–18), surely He cares for my concerns even more than I do! When I reflect upon how perfectly He loves me, His perfect love casts out my fears (1 John 4:18).

God wants us to live free of worry. He liberates us from worry as we entrust control to Him, consider His character, and choose to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thes. 3:16).

Making Peace: Q&A

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 148.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there
remember that your brother has something against you, leave
your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to
your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24

If you learn that someone has something against you, God wants you to take the initiative in seeking peace — even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong.

Food for Thought

Q: What if I had no idea that I had offended Jim?

A: If you had no idea, then you’re not responsible. But if you learn or overhear or even get a vague sense that things aren’t quite right between you and Jim, then you are responsible.

Q: So I’m responsible to do what? Talk with Jim? Confront him? What?

A: We must remember that taking the initiative always has a goal — seeking peace. Peacemaking may begin with conversation and progress to confrontation. Then again, it may involve extending kind words or clarifying hurt feelings. There are many different facets, but the gem is called making peace. And the first step is to “go.”

Q: But what if I haven’t done anything wrong to Jim? To take the initiative seems so counter-intuitive.

A: It’s all a matter of obedience. The heart of the matter is not, “Were you right or wrong?” but “Will you be obedient?” God asks you to take the initiative in seeking peace. In this way, you are imitating God himself, who took the initiative to seek peace with you. Yes, it may feel counter-intuitive, but the ways that seem right to us oftentimes lead to death. God’s ways lead to life. It’s not just because He said so. It’s because He loves us so.

Taking the Initiative Against Depression

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

 Arise and eat—1 Kings 19:5

The angel in this passage did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable. He simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing, that is, to get up and eat.

If we were never depressed, we would not be alive—only material things don’t suffer depression. If human beings were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation. There are things in life that are designed to depress us; for example, things that are associated with death. Whenever you examine yourself, always take into account your capacity for depression.

When the Spirit of God comes to us, He does not give us glorious visions, but He tells us to do the most ordinary things imaginable.

Depression tends to turn us away from the everyday things of God’s creation. But whenever God steps in, His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things-things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find Him there.

The inspiration that comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression.

But we must take the first step and do it in the inspiration of God. If, however, we do something simply to overcome our depression, we will only deepen it. But when the Spirit of God leads us instinctively to do something, the moment we do it, the depression is gone. As soon as we arise and obey, we enter a higher plane of life.

30 Life Principles

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Dr. Stanley’s 30 Life Principles

1. Our intimacy with God – His highest priority for our lives – determines the impact of our lives.
More about Our Intimacy with God

2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
More about A Life of Obedience

3. God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.
More about Our Anchor in Times of Storm

4. The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.
More about Energized by His Presence

5. God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable.
More about The Unreasonable Will of God

6. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
More about The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

7. The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
More about The Dark Moments in our Life

8. Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.
More about Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

9. Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
More about The Thrill of Trusting God

10. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.
More about God Will Show You His Will

11. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.
More about His Promise to Provide

12. Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.
More about The Key to Continued Peace

13. Listening to God is essential to walking with God.
More about Listening to God – Walking with God

14. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
More about God Acts on our Behalf

15. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.
More about God’s Pathway of Brokenness

16. Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.
More about When Plans Turn to Ashes

17. We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.
More about Standing Tall and Strong Through Prayer

18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
More about Victim or Victor?

19. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.
More about Holding Too Tightly

20. Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.
More about Overcoming Discouragement

21. Obedience always brings blessing.
More about Obedience Always Brings Blessings

22. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
More about Walking In The Holy Spirit

23. You can never outgive God.
More about You Can Never Outgive God

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
More about The Key to the Christian Life

25. God blesses us so that we might bless others.
More about Passing on God’s Blessing

26. Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
More about Burden or Bridge

27. Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.
More about Prayer: Our Time-Saver

28. No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
More about Together In the Christian Life

29. We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.
More about The Valley Experiences In Our Life

30. An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.
More about Anticipating The Lord’s Return

Diagnosis: Worry; Cure: Perspective

SOURCE:  Taken from – Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry Network

A pretty interesting book was written about ten years ago titled The Knowing-Doing Gap. It highlighted an everyday phenomenon we see all around us and even in our own lives. The bottom line is, in general, we all know what we should and should not do, but there is a huge gap between knowing it and actually doing it. We shouldn’t smoke…but we do. We shouldn’t overeat…but we do. We shouldn’t worry…but we do.

At Lighthouse Network, we call this our Intellectual Creed vs. our Behavioral Creed. Our Intellectual Creed is what we know we should do, or more exactly, what we know the Bible teaches us to do. Our Behavioral Creed is what we actually do in a given situation.

Maturity, growth, and transformation are measured by how much our Behavioral Creed becomes more and more like our Intellectual Creed.

Our Intellectual Creed: we shouldn’t worry, no matter what the adversity because God is sovereign and in control of all things.

Our Behavioral Creed: we end up worrying about events or the opinions of others, or many other things that are out of our control. But they aren’t out of God’s control. Worrying really interferes with everything in our life from our relationship with God, our interactions with our self and others, and even injures our brain chemistry. In fact, for many, trying not to worry is like trying not to think about something; the more we try, the more anxious we become. So, we even begin to worry about worrying. Trying to fight this battle alone gets to be so counterproductive.

Perspective…how we view ourselves, God, and the circumstances He allows in our lives…is the key to good decision-making. Decision-making is knowing what the right thing to do is, then actually doing it. Will you have God’s perspective or your own? Big difference. Sometimes it is hard to have God’s perspective, but the more time you spend with Him, getting to know Him, the clearer His perspective becomes to you. Stop focusing on worry and put your energy into communicating with God. This strategy will help you achieve freedom from all sorts of negative behavior, including worrying. The idea is simple: replace hurtful, self-defeating tendencies with something wonderfully positive – communicating with your Creator and Savior.

Today, don’t just talk to God…listen to Him as well. He speaks to you through His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, through other believers, and constantly through the circumstances He allows in your life. As you give yourself over more and more to communicating with Him, you will find your worry-time evaporates and the knowing-doing gap closes. Your Behavioral Creed will match your Intellectual Creed.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I come to You in prayer with a thankful and penitent heart. I confess that I struggle to find the time to communicate with You…yet I seem to always find the time to worry about so many things that are out of my control. I have battled this worry-beast for years and have made little progress. Help me, Father, to focus more on You and less on worrying. Help me both speak and listen to You. I pray in the name of the One whose Intellectual Creed was His Behavioral Creed, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

Luke 12:25-26

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5

Has Life Knocked the Song Out of You?

Source:  Adapted from an article by Dr. Robert Kellemen

[Recently], our pastor shared the apparently true story of Chirpy the parakeet. Chirpy is the stuff with which legends are made.

Chirpy the Parakeet

A lonely woman bought Chirpy, and he brought song and beauty into her life. One day, while vacuuming, she thought, “Chirpy’s cage is dirty. I think I’ll vacuum it.”

Then the phone rang. As she reached for the phone, she inadvertently lifted the vacuum hose, and it sucked Chirpy inside, all the way down the tube and into the bag.

The woman tore open the bag and dug and dug till finally she found Chirpy! Alive, but a mess! So she jammed him under a faucet and ran water all over him. But then he was wet, so she turned a blow dryer on him!

Surviving, but Not Thriving

A reporter asked later, “How’s Chirpy doing?”

The woman replied, “Well, he doesn’t sing anymore! He just sits on his perch and stares straight ahead.”

Sucked in, washed up, and blown over!? That’s enough to steal the song from even the stoutest heart!

Can you relate? Has life sucked you into a black hole and sucked the song out of your soul? Are you stunned, sitting, and staring? Surviving but not thriving?

Who Puts the Song in Your Soul?

Our pastor shared Chirpy’s story as an introduction to a message on Ephesians 5:18-20.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Work your way backwards in this paragraph to learn how to move from just surviving to thriving.

We’re told to always give thanks for everything to God the Father.

We’re further told to sing and make music in our hearts.

We’re further told to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

These words are written by Paul, for whom this was not pie-in-the-sky dribble but real life reality—he could sing while jailed, sing while persecuted, sing while deserted by everyone.

By the way, this does not mean in Paul’s life, or in ours, that we can’t feel and express the pain. For this same Paul said:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

From Surviving to Thriving

How did Paul, how can we, sing when the vacuum cleaner of life seeks to vacuum out our joy?

Let’s keep tracking our way back through the passages.

Be filled with the Spirit.

In self alone, at best we survive. In self alone, in our hearts we feel the sentence of death, we despair of life, when life puts us under great pressure far beyond our own ability to endure.

But as we cling to, depend upon, and are filled with the Spirit, we learn not to rely upon ourselves but to rely upon God who raises the dead. It is God our Father through the Holy Spirit who resurrects the song in our soul, who empowers us to move from surviving to thriving.

God’s Plans Often Defy (My) Logic

 The Value of Obedience

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/InTouch Ministries

Proverbs 2:1-6

Despite Peter’s vast fishing experience, he returned from a night’s work with nothing to show for his efforts. It’s quite possible that the Lord’s request to let the nets down one more time struck him as unreasonable—after all, Peter and his partners were the professionals. Nevertheless, the fisherman complied, and his obedience blessed many.

Scripture demonstrates that divine plans often defy human logic.

For instance, who would design a battle  strategy that involved only marching and shouting? God told Joshua to conquer Jericho that way, and doing so proved successful (Josh. 6:1-5).

Moses is another example.

When he felt unsure about his leadership potential, the Lord gave reassurance in an unusual way—by telling him to throw down his walking stick. When Moses obeyed, God powerfully confirmed His choice of leader (Ex. 4:1-3).

Our Father may ask us to do something that seems illogical—perhaps to accept more responsibility when we were hoping to reduce our workload, to leave a position that He provided just recently, or to take on an assignment for which we feel ill-equipped. His plan might feel unrealistic in view of our age, stage of life, or health concerns.

We must press forward in obedience, regardless of how impractical the request may appear.

To grasp the importance of obeying, think about children receiving instructions from parents or teachers. Careful listening is needed for the task to be done safely and properly. Some steps may seem pointless, but the rationale often becomes clear later.

Always make obeying God your priority.

Puritan Advice on Discovering God’s Will

SOURCE:  Jonathan Parnell based on the work by John Flavel

If therefore in doubtful cases you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by the following rules:

  1. Get the true fear of God upon your hearts. Be really afraid of offending him. God will not hide his mind from such a soul. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14).
  2. Study the Word more, and the concerns and interests of the world less. The Word is light to your feet (Psalm 119:105), that is, it has a discovering and directing usefulness as to all duties to be done and dangers to be avoided. . .
  3. Reduce what you know into practice, and you shall know what is your duty to practice. “If any man do his will he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
  4. Pray for illumination and direction in the way that you should go. Beg the Lord to guide you in straits and that he would not permit you to fall into sin. . .
  5. And this being done, follow Providence so far as it agrees with the Word and no further. There is no use to be made of Providence against the Word, but in subservience to it.

John Flavel (1627–1691) was an English Presbyterian clergyman and author.

The Mystery of Providence, 1678, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 188-9, emphasis mine.

The Field Guide to Forgiveness

SOURCE:  James Cain/In Touch Ministries

Betrayal. Rejection. Condemnation. No one requests such treatment, yet few escape life without a wound or two. The circumstances that call for forgiveness aren’t usually in our plans. But to follow Jesus faithfully, we must learn to say, “I forgive you.”

The following “field guide” isn’t exhaustive. But the tips, quotes, and stories collected here will provide guidance about fulfilling the Lord’s challenging command to forgive, regardless of the offense.

More Than Words

The Work of Forgiveness 

While I watched my boys play in a community park one morning, a curious drama unfolded nearby. Two women sat facing each other, their sons standing between them.

One woman held her son’s hand. The other woman, more agitated, grasped her son’s elbow. Both boys were frowning, chins out and hands deep in pockets.

“He said he was sorry,” the second mother said. “Now you say, ‘I forgive you,’ and you guys shake hands.” Neither boy would meet the other’s eye. During the silence, the frustrated mom began alternately cajoling and threatening until her son grunted a word or two. Relieved, she sent them back onto the playground and then commiserated with her friend about the difficulty of getting at their sons’ hearts. “I know he needs to do it,” she sighed, “but if his heart’s not in it, what’s the point?”

It was a fair question. After all, her boy’s grumbled “Forgive you” was about as heartfelt as the grunted “Sorry” it answered. The incident reminded me that knowing we should forgive isn’t the hard part; the actual forgiving is. The point, after all, is reconciliation—restored communion and healed brokenness—that results from practicing this discipline. In the end, forgiveness changes the one forgiving more than the one being pardoned.

This is true because forgiveness forces us to admit our powerlessness and trust God for justice. The boy who was reluctant to forgive knew instinctively that weakness is not generally considered a virtue. Pursuing vengeance makes us feel strong, empowered. Forgiving, on the other hand, acknowledges that we may not receive the “justice” we thought we deserved.

Change also happens because forgiveness creates space for restored fellowship. Giving up our claim against the offender moves us from weakness to strength, as we invite the peace of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and neighbor. Denying forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks fellowship not only with our adversary, but also with our Father (Mark 11:25).

A while later, as I walked with my own children to our car, I turned to see the boys back at play. They smiled and laughed as if nothing had happened. Though the process doesn’t always go that easily or well, forgiving—and receiving forgiveness—had made room for their friendship.

Most people will experience wounds far deeper than the playground mishap I witnessed. The obstacles to forgiving will be far greater, the cost of forgiving, far higher. But the point remains the same: When we forgive, we make renewed relationship possible, if not with the person we forgive, then with the Person who has forgiven us.


Word Power

Forgive
Merriam-Webster—1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for  b : to grant relief from payment of    2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
Synonyms: pardon, excuse 
Phrases: bury the hatchet, wipe the slate clean, let go


Tip #1: Forgive and Remember

We usually put the words “forgive” and “forget” together, but to forgive authentically, we have to remember. The apostle Paul suggests that our duty to forgive others depends on recalling the pardon we received from God. “As the Lord forgave you,” he writes, “you do also” (Col. 3:13). Not only should we remember that God forgives us; we should also imitate how He does it: graciously, freely, and completely.

We might be tempted to keep a “record of wrongs,” but love precludes that (1 Cor. 13:5). The unbelieving world tends to nurse grudges against whoever has wronged them, but as followers of Jesus, we forgive freely, without expecting anything in return.

Application

Forgive completely, wiping the slate clean for a fresh start. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the offense. You are human, after all, and cannot truly forget. More importantly, pretending the wrong never happened prevents the work of healing from being done. When you remember the sin against you, see it as opportunity to remember God’s grace, toward yourself and through you to the offender.

Tip # 2: Don’t just say the words

From a Christian perspective, forgiveness requires far more from us than a few brief words. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson gave a surprising answer to the question,What is forgiveness? He wrote, “[We forgive] when we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” In other words, forgiveness requires gracious inward action before we can pursue gracious outward action (see Tip #4). Much of this internal work can be done without the offender’s knowledge.

Watson’s phrase “strive against” acknowledges how strenuous forgiveness can be, requiring us to actively and energetically oppose the natural inclination toward assaulting the other person, physically or verbally, or withdrawing from relationship with him. Either approach is a way of withholding forgiveness and will impede the healing process for both people.

Application

Avoid assaulting or withdrawing from others by looking for opportunities to celebrate your offender’s successes. Do not rejoice when he suffers, but grieve along with him. Prayerfully seek to “relieve” the person, and seek the right moment for reconciliation. All this heart work will enable you, when the time comes, to offer authentic forgiveness.


The Lost Discipline

In the Lord’s Prayer, as Matthew 6:9-13 is popularly known, Jesus presents forgiveness as a “hinge” for Christian life: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12) reveals that God’s pardon of us is contingent on our own forgiving behavior (see also Mark 11:25).

That verse makes us uncomfortable, as it should. After all, our pardon depends on the finished work of Christ, not our own works. Author Richard Foster explains the paradox as a condition of the created order: to receive, I must give, and I cannot receive what I am unable to give.


Tip #3: Start small

Application

Practice secretly forgiving others for small offenses, such as being cut off in traffic or receiving an unintended insult, throughout each day. Doing so will slowly transform your heart over time, making it possible to forgive others when bigger, more serious conflicts occur.

Tip #4: Head off resentment

We might be tempted to dismiss sin against us it by taking full or partial responsibility. Phrases like “I probably deserved it,” or “It takes two to tango,” can mask real feelings.  This false path seems like wisdom, but burying pain plants seeds that grow into bitterness.

Application

When you are wronged, look for opportunities to work for the wrongdoer’s good. Prayer for the perpetrator is a good place to start. Doing the work of love and mercy before it comes easily can uproot resentment.

“I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
—William Blake

Tip #5: See (and seek) mercy more than justice

In our culture, which celebrates vengeance rather than mercy, the idea of biblical justice escapes many, including Christians. Some use phrases like “the punishment should fit the crime” and falsely conclude that justice and mercy cannot coexist. Such people ignore the intended close connection between the two, as Scripture illustrates through expressions of profound forgiveness when “justice” could have been meted out with violence.

Just consider Joseph (see Gen. 37, 39–47). Imagine his story retold in today’s cultural standards. Instead of forgiving his brothers, Joseph would exact his long-awaited revenge through vicious reprisal or a long legal battle. This might sound laughable to our ears, but movies and books (the “bibles” of today’s world) tell similar tales all the time. How much greater and more poignant is the story of the real Joseph. He chose to offer mercy when no one would have denied him revenge.

Application

Doesn’t your life offer similar chances to forgive? A coworker pads his accomplishments, gaining a promotion that should have been yours. An acquaintance betrays your trust, costing you a friend. A spouse lies, jeopardizing marriage and family. However impossible any case may seem, choose to let God reveal the manner in which mercy and justice should meet.

Tip #6: Forgive your enemies

On the morning of October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Just over a half-hour later, five girls were dead, five more were injured, and the community’s peace was shattered forever.

Except it wasn’t. The same day, while bodies remained unburied, an Amish grandfather was heard telling his young relatives, “We must not think evil of this man.” Roberts had taken his own life during the crisis, and in the days that followed, the community reached out in mercy and forgiveness to his family, astonishing the world with their graciousness.

The Amish response of mercy and forgiveness was remarkable because of its uniqueness in a world fascinated by justice. One of the authors of Amish Grace, Donald Kraybill, found the response not surprising but natural. He says forgiveness is woven into Amish culture. Their communal life requires a forgiving spirit, so they practice it as a way of life, working at it, as Scripture seems to require.

Not everyone has an enemy—that is, someone who has wronged you repeatedly, maliciously, without regard for your well-being. If you have one, the work of forgiveness begins with a prayer to remember God’s grace toward you. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He alone can bring about the change of heart necessary to see your own sin, to recognize Christ’s righteousness, and to see that judgment belongs to God alone.

Application

Most of us have no enemies, but we should prepare our hearts for the hard work of forgiving as the Amish do, working forgiveness into the corners of our life. Take the initiative when someone wrongs you. Ask God to show you your sin and remind you of His grace. Sooner rather than later, seek the person out, and, mindful of your own faults, ask for and extend forgiveness. Pray for the well-being of the wrongdoer—not just that he’d see the error of his ways, but that God would protect and prosper him.

Offer mercy quickly, leave justice to God, and make sure you don’t allow resentment to find fertile soil.

Letting Go of Lust

Why willpower alone is not enough

SOURCE:   Adam R. Holz/Discipleship Journal

The young man looks at the pile of work on his desk and takes a deep breath. With dread, he thinks about the deadline that looms on Friday. The pressing tyranny of so many things to do day after day has begun to wear on him.

As he heads to the kitchenette for another cup of coffee, a coworker steps out of her cubicle in front of him. He notices her clothes, or more specifically, how they fit her. In an instant, his thoughts race into forbidden territory as his glance sweeps over Marcia’s body.

“Morning, Sam,” Marcia says with a friendly smile.

“Morning, Marcia,” Sam replies according to script, unable to look her in the eyes.

Sam and Marcia discuss the morning’s non-news, the mundane stuff of casual conversations between coworkers. Almost unconsciously he watches her as she turns to leave the kitchenette.

As soon as she disappears around the corner, Sam realizes he’s fallen again. Despite his pleas to God and his vows to try harder, to do better, still his eyes wander. Like Peter after the cock crowed, Sam is filled with remorse. Back at his desk, he quietly pleads, “Forgive me, Lord.” But he neither feels forgiven nor has much time to think about it as he picks up the next invoice to record in the ledger.

Anatomy of Lust

Many sincere followers of Christ struggle with lust. What, exactly, is lust? Webster’s defines it as an “unusually intense or unbridled sexual desire.” In Ephesians, Paul says that lust characterizes those without Christ:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.—Eph. 4:18–19

Paul also wrote, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3).

These passages paint a dark picture of the person trapped in lust. Though Paul was talking about unbelievers, when believers give in to lust regularly, our souls are similarly darkened. We grow insensitive to sin and increasingly pursue fleshly gratification. Lust promises satisfaction but never delivers. Instead, we’re left with a driving hunger for more.

People who struggle with lust may be tempted to wonder, Is obedience in this area of my life really possible? This has been a pressing question for me. I’ve had seasons of consistent obedience as well as failure. I wish I could say that I have “arrived” when it comes to defeating this demon. But I have not discovered the silver bullet that will permanently vanquish lust from my heart, mind, and eyes.

However, I have begun to see that dealing with lust demands a deeper examination of the core beliefs from which our sinful choices spring. We can make important behavioral changes—such as memorizing Scripture and seeking accountability—but still fail to look carefully at what’s really going on in our hearts. To experience lasting change, we must recognize that sexual sin springs from wrong beliefs about God, about others, and about what will ultimately satisfy our longing.

Unmasking Unbelief

What drives us to choose something that so consistently fails to satisfy, something that heaps debilitating shame upon our lives? God has created us with a natural desire to experience intimacy. Lust is a debased form of this desire to connect with others. We want other people to understand what’s going on inside us. Lust, however, mistakenly elevates the sexual component of intimacy. It twists and warps our hearts into the tragic belief that sexuality—and fantasy—is the chief means to that end.

Lust also reveals a stunted belief in God’s goodness and His ability to meet our needs. Throughout the Bible, God has promised to fill, satisfy, and sustain us. Isaiah 51:12 says, “I, even I, am he who comforts you.” Zephaniah 3:17 describes God’s passion for us in poetic terms: “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” David spoke of God’s love for him: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you . . . My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Ps. 63:3, 5). In Ps. 16:11, David also said, “You will fill me with joy in your presence.” Finally, Isaiah wrote about how God has designed our relationship with Him to quench our deepest thirsts. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3).

The New Testament echoes the Old in the ways it describes God’s promise to satisfy us. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14). Paul wrote, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19, NRSV). Paul repeatedly described believers as heirs to the inexhaustible riches of a Father God who loves us passionately. We are children of the King!

And yet we sometimes choose to live as paupers, rooting around desperately in the trash instead of dining on the rich fare He offers His children at His table. If we capitulate to the siren song of the flesh, distortions and lies creep into our thinking in subtle ways. Enticing but life-sapping alternatives to His goodness always crouch in the shadows of the soul, seeking to seduce our heart’s attention. Whether we realize it or not, we begin to rationalize our sin.

We may think, I’ve sought to serve Him with all my heart for many years, but still He hasn’t brought me a life partner. It doesn’t matter if I indulge this lustful thought a bit. God knows I’m a sexual being. I deserve a bit of comfort. Instead of recognizing our sin for what it is, we come to see it as a right. We squint at God, viewing Him as a stingy miser who has established unreasonable laws to keep us from what we think will satisfy us. Lust is born the moment we choose to meet our needs our way instead of trusting God to be true to what He’s promised.

Maybe we don’t vocalize those thoughts. But when we choose lust, our actions uncover what we believe. We have essentially said to God, “I really don’t believe You can satisfy my deepest needs, and I’m tired of waiting. I am going to have what I want, on my terms, right now, and I’m not willing to wait for You to fulfill my desires in Your time.” Lust, then, is the wicked child of unbelief.

That’s why willpower alone can never be the ultimate solution to the battles we wage against the lusts of our flesh. I may vow, “I’m never going to do that again.” But that momentary intention does not get at the root of the problem: my unbelief in God’s goodness.

Instead, I must recognize that one key to resisting lust’s lies is learning to go to the Father and praying in faith, “Lord, You have said that You delight in me, that You love me, that You want to comfort and fill me with Yourself. You have said that You alone are life and that Your love is better than anything we might experience in this life, including sex and my fantasies about it. Father, help me to trust You in this moment of temptation. I believe in Your ability to fill and satisfy me.”

Peter said that if we take God at His word, we will experience freedom from the shackles of sin and we will know Him intimately. “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet. 1:4).

Seeing Better

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, a once proud and noble king slowly goes insane, slipping into deep paranoia about those close to him. One of Lear’s friends admonishes him, “See better, Lear.” Like the senile Lear, we, too, need to see better. Not only does lust reveal unbelief, but it also demonstrates that I see others only as objects of gratification, not as individuals whom God has lovingly created in His image.

How can we begin to see people as God sees them? By allowing Scripture to saturate our hearts. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word will transform our perspective. As we read and meditate upon it, we see what He values and discover how He wants us to relate to others. He uses His Word to rewire our perspective on reality, giving us new eyes to “see better.”

All of Scripture pours forth God’s love for each individual. A couple of passages, however, stand out regarding the way we see people. One important thing to reflect upon is that every person has been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). David describes God’s craftsmanship in Ps. 139:13–16:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful . . . My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

Every person has tremendous dignity and worth simply by virtue of being created lovingly by God. We can begin to combat lust by asking God to help us remember and believe, deep in our hearts, that each individual is a unique and wondrous creation who bears His image. When I lust after a woman, I do violence to her dignity by failing to see her as a whole person and respect her as an image bearer of our God. Over the last couple of years, this truth has significantly changed the way I see people.

Another passage is one of the most familiar commands in the Bible: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). As a man, I’ve rarely been on the receiving end of lustful glances. However, one experience showed me how ugly, how selfish, how disgusting my lust is.

On a weekend trip to Santa Fe with one of my best friends and his wife, we discovered a club that featured a different kind of music every night. We enjoyed a delightful evening of jazz and returned the next night to see what else was on tap.

When we walked in, I noticed that everyone sitting at the bar was male. My friend whispered to me, “This feels weird.” He was right. Several male couples openly expressed their affection for one another on the dance floor. Recognition dawned: It was gay night.

By the time my friend and I turned to leave, three men at the bar were openly sizing us up. No veil of shame or embarrassment cloaked their hungry eyes. I remember how disgusting it felt to be seen as a steak on a platter. Almost immediately, however, a familiar voice said, “Adam, how often do you do the same thing?”

I try to remember that sense of violation. I try to remember because it’s not the way I want to be treated, nor is it the way I want to regard any woman. By God’s help and power, I am learning to see better.

Intimacy and Community

Earlier I commented that lust is a misguided attempt to meet our legitimate needs for intimacy. We may think the key to escaping lust’s tenacious grip is paying more attention to private spiritual disciplines. While this is important, I believe another crucial component is often overlooked. Those who struggle with lust must experience wholesome intimacy within the context of a loving community. We need to be with others who love us deeply, yet not sexually. We need to receive their affirmation, their affection, their love, and their touch.

Genuine community is built upon a willingness to take off our masks in front of others. Though we need to be careful to do this in appropriate settings, such as in a small group or even with one other person, it’s critically important that someone knows who we really are.

Moving toward that kind of honesty is never easy, even if someone else has taken the risk first. But often, we will have to be the one who steps forward, takes the risk, and talks openly about our sin.

Proverbs 28:13 describes the healing process that takes place when we confess our struggles to an accepting community of believing friends: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” I’ve sometimes failed to live up to the standards of purity God commands of us. Each time, I experience a tortuous descent into self-loathing, a crippling burden to bear alone.

Even after I’ve confessed my sin to God, I can only find complete freedom from my shame by confessing the whole truth about my choices to several men I trust. In doing so, I’ve never failed to experience the mercy about which the writer of Proverbs speaks.

The freedom and healing in confession come from knowing that others have glimpsed the dark places in our hearts yet accept and love us anyway. God graciously uses other believers as vessels of His mercy and grace, reminding us through them that forgiveness is real, that it is our birthright as His sons and daughters.

Hope for the Battle

When we find ourselves giving in again to lust, we need to look beyond the behavior itself to what’s going on in our hearts. Lust is a clue that something about the way we’re approaching life is not right.

If you’re wrestling with this sin, consider how you’re seeing God and others. Do you believe God is capable of meeting your needs? Are you carving out time to know Him in increasing intimacy through His Word and prayer? How are you looking at other people? Are you seeing them as image bearers of God or treating them as objects? Are you sharing your heart with others, letting them see your struggle, and receiving the gift of their prayers and willingness to listen? Or are you in hiding?

Paul’s promises about God’s work in my life give me hope for this ongoing battle. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). By His grace, I recognize His tremendous Father-love for me more each day. As I do so, His eyes become mine, and I see other people from His redemptive, life-giving perspective, instead of viewing them through the warped lenses of lust.

Do I Say to Jesus: “Yes— But…!”

Lord, I will follow You, but . . . —Luke 9:61

Source:  Oswald Chambers

Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do?

Will you hold back?

If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender.

Yet we tend to say, “Yes, but— suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about . . . ?” Or we say, “Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn’t go against my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.”

Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark.

In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God. Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.

A Wife: A Great Asset OR A Great Liability?

SOURCE:  COUNSELING SOLUTIONS/Rick Thomas

A wife can be a husband’s greatest asset or his greatest liability.

Here’s the question for you dear wife:

How are you using your gifts, strengths, skills, or talents to help your husband to be a better leader?

Here’s the argument:

Why does he need me to help him to do what he is supposed to be doing? Why should I help him lead? Why are you putting the weight of his failures in my lap?

Back to the Gospel

This has nothing to do with putting his failures in your lap. It also has nothing to do with letting him off the hook for his failures. That is wrongheaded and missing the point entirely.

It’s not about who is at fault or who is the most guilty. It is about the Gospel.

One of the most profound demonstrations and motivating examples of the Gospel in a marriage is when a wife will set aside her desires because she is motivated to serve her husband so he can become a better leader.

Isn’t this what the Savior did for us?

Take a look a Philippians 2:5-11

  1. Though he was in the form of God … [He] made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
  2. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
  3. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name

Jesus Christ set aside the life He enjoyed with His Father in order to come to earth to help us become what we couldn’t become on our own. Now we are being called to model what the Savior modeled. Paul is appealing to us to set aside our preferences for the greater good of others:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

In time, Christ was highly exalted to His former position. However, there was a big difference: He is now able to enjoy His former exalted state with millions of worshippers whom He gave His life for.

Sometimes a wife can get so out-of-focus regarding her marriage that she misses this practical Gospel application to her marriage. Instead of working toward maturing the marriage through her humility, her own desires stand in the way of what God could do through her.

I realize that what I have presented here is not the total solution to marriage problems. Marriage problems can be complex and there are many things that both partners need to do and change. My point is not to bring a total solution to all marriage problems.

My goal here is to highlight one negative aspect of a marriage that can tear away at the fabric of the marriage.

Wife, are you more focused on what your marriage is not giving you, or are you regularly stepping up to the plate in order to help your husband to be a better leader? Do you know how to serve your husband this way?

God has used my wife’s strengths repeatedly through the years to help me to be a better husband. This is not the “air beneath my wings” pop culture sentimentality that is so pervasive today.

This is the Gospel.

My wife has been a remarkable practical example of what I see Christ doing in Philippians chapter two. He temporarily set aside His comfort for the betterment of you and me. My wife has set aside, on many occasions, her preferences in order to “lead” me to a greater understanding of Christ.

This has motivated me to serve her all the more while glorifying God more effectively.

QUOTATIONS ON FAITH

SOURCE:  Keiki Hendrix

A FAITH that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted.
– Adrian Rogers

FAITH, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.
 A. W. Tozer

FAITH is different from proof; the latter is human, the former is a Gift from God.
– Blaise Pascal

A FAITH to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.
– Bob Harrington

FAITH is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
– C. S. Lewis

Obedience is the fruit of FAITH.
– Christina Rossetti

FAITH is building on what you know is here, so you can reach what you know is there.
 Cullen Hightower

FAITH is the refusal to panic.
 David Martyn Lloyd-Jones

FAITH makes all things possible… love makes all things easy.
– Dwight L. Moody

The key to FAITH is what we are willing to sacrifice to obtain it.
– Elder Cloward

If you desire FAITH, then you have FAITH enough.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning

FAITH is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.
 Elton Trueblood

Flatter not thyself in thy FAITH in God if thou hast not charity for thy neighbour.
– Francis Quarles

There are no miracles for those that have no FAITH in them.
 French Proverb

The beginning of anxiety is the end of FAITH, and the beginning of true FAITH is the end of anxiety.
– George E. Mueller

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. FAITH means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

FAITH is a higher faculty than reason.
 Henry Christopher Bailey

The smallest seed of FAITH is better than the largest fruit of happiness.
– Henry David Thoreau

FAITHless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.
– J. R. R. Tolkien

Patience in the present, FAITH in the future, and joy in the doing.
– George Perera

The greatest act of FAITH is when a man understands he is not God.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

FAITH has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.
– Saint Thomas Acquinas

FAITH is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this FAITH is to see what we believe.
 St. Augustine

Vision looks inwards and becomes duty. Vision looks outwards and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upwards and becomes FAITH.
– Stephen S. Wise

You can judge the quality of their FAITH from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.
– Tertullian

The errors of FAITH are better than the best thoughts of unbelief.
– Thomas Russell

Painting is a FAITH, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.
– Vincent Van Gogh

It’s not dying for FAITH that’s so hard, it’s living up to it.
– William M. Thackeray

When you put FAITH, hope and love together, you can raise positive kids in a negative world.
 Zig Ziglar

Slaves To Sin, Free From Christ – OR – Slaves To Christ, Free From Sin?

SOURCE:  John MacArthur/Grace To You

As much as we’d like to abolish slavery in practice, and even from our memories, the Bible demands that we remember. Slavery has everything to do with our relationship to Christ. We are His slaves, and our slavery to Him is the guarantee of our eternal security.

Historically, nearly every society on earth has practiced human slavery. In the Roman Empire, during the time the New Testament was written, slaves accounted for roughly one-fifth of the population. Slaves were of all ages, ethnicities, and both men and women. Some slaves engaged in hard labor, while others had an easier, domestic existence, serving in a household.

No matter what kind of slave labor they performed, every slave was owned by a master. Slaves did not have personal rights. They had to obey their master. Disobedience guaranteed severe punishment; more serious offenses could result in death.

Slaves from Birth

Not many today know what it’s like to be treated as a piece of property, forced to serve a human master. But the Bible tells us in Romans 6:17, “we were slaves to sin.” The verse before that says “we obeyed sin.” Sin was our master and we had no choice but to obey.

John MacArthur, in his recent book appropriately entitled Slave (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), gives us a picture of sin as a domineering master,

Sin is a cruel tyrant. It is the most devastating and degenerating power ever to afflict the human race, such that the entire creation “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:22). It corrupts the entire person – infecting the soul, polluting the mind, defiling the conscience, contaminating the affections, and poisoning the will. It is the life-destroying, soul-condemning cancer that festers and grows in every unredeemed human heart like an incurable gangrene. (pp. 120-21)

The Bible tells us the truth: we were not only infected by sin, it owned us. Sin was our master and we had no choice but to serve.

But we didn’t think of ourselves as “enslaved to sin,” did we? No, we thought we were free! And in a warped, twisted, perverted sense, we really were free: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Romans 6:20). But our pride deceived us about our true condition, making us think we were free when we were wrapped in the chains of our depravity.

We had no resources to free ourselves, just as a human slave can’t buy freedom from his human master. The only hope we had was if someone would purchase our freedom.

Redeemed by Christ

And that’s the good news: Jesus redeemed us from the slave market of sin—that’s the doctrine of redemption. Redemption is Jesus Christ paying a price we could never pay to deliver us from our bondage to sin through His death on the cross.

Redemption has its roots in the Book of Exodus where we read of God liberating His people, Israel, from their bondage as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 6:615:13). The picture of redemption became clearer, more specific, and more profound when Christ came to die on our behalf. His death ransomed us, purchasing us from the slave market of sin so that now we are slaves to Him (Romans 6:1822). When He died, we died too, which is what Romans 6 tells us: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (vv. 6, 7).

Paid in Full

When we consider Romans 6, (along with other passages in the NT), the truth of our redemption will not only fill our hearts with joy that we have been ransomed from sin, but also strengthen the confidence in our eternal security.

Our redemption has a divine origin. God is the one who initiated our redemption. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). We did nothing to earn it. We could no more contribute anything to our redemption by God than an impoverished slave could contribute to his purchase by a human master.

Our redemption delivered us. Paul writes in Galatians 1:4 that we are “delivered from this evil world” and in Colossians 1:13, “He delivered us from the power of darkness.” Before we were Christians we were slaves to sin, free from Christ; now we are slaves to Christ, free from sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

Our redemption is complete and certain. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:1819: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible [or perishable] things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

God did not purchase our freedom with gold or silver, the typical currency for buying human slaves, but with the blood of His beloved Son. Christ paid full price to secure our ransom from slavery to sin, to seal our salvation. He paid the price of His own precious blood, which is incorruptible.

Christ’s redemption signals an eternal change in our relationship to Him.

  • God did it, so it can’t be undone.
  • Christ delivered us—we are under a new Master now, and our old master can’t get us back.
  • God paid the full price of the precious blood of His Son. There’s no person, there’s nothing in existence that can pay a higher price to buy us back.

He bought us with His life. We are His slaves. He is our Lord.

Jesus Christ, Lord of All

Let me draw this to a conclusion by delivering what I promised. How does slavery to Christ guarantee the security of our salvation? Historically, slaves didn’t leave their human masters at will—if they tried, they were hunted down, captured, severely punished, or killed. Likewise we don’t have the liberty to walk away from our masters in the spiritual realm. It requires the power of God to part us from slave-master Sin, and once His redemption is accomplished and applied, there is no power that can break the hold our Master has over us. We belong to Christ. We are His slaves, His precious possessions forever.

Unlike the slave-owners throughout human history—from the cruel to the benevolent, and everyone in between—Jesus Christ is the greatest, most tender Master. Here are His words to all who would surrender to His lordship: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Jesus Christ is the only Master worthy of our devotion. It is He who cements the connection between slavery, redemption, and eternal security. His redemption is perfect, final, and forever, and those who are His slaves, though they be prone to wander, can never walk away.

5 Myths About Suffering: See Your Pain From God’s Perspective

SOURCE:  Stacy Padrick/Discipleship Journal – NavPress

“Your blood pressure is fine,” said the nurse, leaving me to wait for the doctor.

“Oh, Lord,” I prayed, “please help the doctor find out what is wrong with my body.”

After leaving numerous doctors’ offices with no answers over the course of 18 months, I was desperately seeking a cure for the mysterious virus that often confined me to home and bed. I longed to reclaim my active lifestyle, resume working full time, and eventually return to the mission field.

“Hello, Stacey,” the doctor’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “How are you feeling?” As I began describing my symptoms, she nodded as if already suspecting the answer. When lab results confirmed her diagnosis, my hope of simply “getting over it” vanished, leaving me to live with the daily limitations of an incurable disease. As a previously energetic and ambitious 27 year old, I watched in fear as this illness crept into every area of my life, threatening my work, my ministry, my finances, my dreams, my relationship with the man I loved, and even my walk with God. I cried out to Him, groping to know His presence in the midst of my pain.

Suffering. Just hearing that word can make us cringe. Under the influence of a society that abhors even the thought of suffering, we seek to escape the reality of pain in our lives any way we can—television, busyness, entertainment, drugs. Suffering doesn’t fit with the world’s notion of success or with the theology of God’s goodness and victorious living in Christ we often espouse. Never mind that Jesus often spoke about suffering. Like Peter and the disciples to whom Christ revealed His imminent suffering and death, we, too, are tempted to respond, “Oh, that will never happen to you!” (see Mt. 16:22).

Yet is it possible that our view of suffering has been colored by pervasive myths we have unthinkingly accepted? As I’ve faced pain in my own life and turned to God’s Word for consolation, I’ve identified five myths that tempt us to shrink back, doubt God, or experience despair during times of suffering.

Myth 1: Suffering is negative and to be avoided at all costs.

How often do we pray to know Christ better? Quite often, most of us would say. How often do we pray to know Him better through suffering? If you are like me, seldom, if ever! Shortly after my diagnosis, I read Paul’s words in Phil. 3:10: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” I passionately prayed, “Yes, Lord, I want to know You better!” But as I came to the words that followed—”and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”—my tongue froze. The idea of praying for suffering made me shudder! Why would Paul pray for fellowship in Christ’s sufferings? I began to wonder if he knew something we unknowingly miss in our rush to avoid or “get through” suffering.

Scripture clearly teaches that affliction and tribulation work to make us complete and mature. James wrote,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

—Jas. 1:2–4

For the believer, suffering works on the seeds of faith in the same way manure works as a fertilizer. We abhor the stench of manure and, similarly, the agony of pain. Yet though it seems like waste material, suffering nourishes and feeds the growing fruits of faith and maturity in the garden of our lives. God does not waste any experience in our lives when we willingly surrender it to Him. Even Jesus, although He was God’s Son, learned obedience from the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8).

Truth: The spiritual fruit for which we often pray is fertilized by adversity.

Myth 2: We can only experience joy and peace when we are not experiencing pain.

Knowing that suffering develops character only partially comforted me at times. Though I tried to “consider it pure joy” as James advised, my emotions often swayed from peace to anxiety when my body battled unpredictable symptoms. How could I experience joy when I was losing my health, my independence, my dreams of returning to the mission field, and a love relationship?

The psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6). When God gave me the seeds of sadness and brokenness, I wanted to cast them aside and implore Him to give me seeds of joy and peace instead. But then it struck me that joy and peace are fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), fruit which is often mysteriously born from seeds of suffering. Only as we willingly accept these uncomely seeds and allow Him to sow them in our lives will the lasting fruit of joy and peace bloom.

In 1873, Horatio Spafford, a prominent American businessman, waved good-bye to his wife and four daughters as they boarded a ship for Europe, where he was soon to join them. Days later, he received the shattering news that the ship had collided with another, and his four daughters had drowned in the Atlantic. Journeying to Europe to meet his wife, his ship sailed over the waters where his daughters had perished. As his tears poured forth, he returned to his cabin, committed his immense sorrow to God, and wrote the following: “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: It is well. It is well with my soul.”

Not only did he experience God’s peace for himself, but with the seeds of his suffering, he sowed a five-stanza hymn that has brought comfort and peace to countless people in pain for more than a century.

Truth: Suffering and sorrow, when willingly accepted, become the seeds of joy and peace in our lives.

Myth 3: Suffering is a sign of God’s displeasure or judgment.

As months passed and God did not answer the many prayers of friends and family for my healing, I began to wonder, Did I do something to invite this? Is this a sign of God’s judgment of me? Then the enemy, prowling about for an opportunity to attack when my spirit and body had grown weary, tempted me to believe that God had condemned me or, at best, overlooked me. Yet turning again to Scripture, I found truth in Paul’s words: “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29, NASB).

Rather than a sign of God’s disapproval or neglect, adversity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. My pastor once said, “In God’s economy, sometimes the measure of our hurt is the measure of our success.” Why? Because suffering makes us more like the Author of our salvation. Allowing us to suffer is actually a sign of His grace! He cares so deeply for us that He will do whatever is necessary for us to know Him better and to become more like Him. God does not test us, as the enemy would have us believe, simply to see how much we can stand. Earlier in this century, an anonymous writer penned these words:

The very fact of trial proves that there is something in us very precious to our Lord; else He would not spend so much pains and time on us. Christ would not test us if He did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces us through the fiery ordeal.

Truth: Affliction allowed by God is a sign of His grace in our lives and His love for us.

Myth 4: Only voluntary suffering “for the sake of Christ” has spiritual value in the kingdom of God.

To sustain my spirit during the most difficult times, I meditated on Scripture about tribulation and claimed the promises and hope they offered. Initially, I found comfort in Peter’s words:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.

—1 Pet. 4:12–13

However, the enemy soon began tempting me with thoughts such as, These verses don’t apply to you! They are for those who suffer voluntarily for the sake of the gospel. Your affliction just happened; it isn’t a result of your obedience to God. As I read verse 14—”If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”—I had to concur that I was not being reviled for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the deceiver was right, and my affliction lacked real spiritual value.

Yet one night as I anguished over the apparent lack of purpose in my hardships, I stumbled upon a statement in C. S. Lewis’ Letters to an American Lady that challenged my narrow definition of suffering for Christ. Responding to a letter from a woman who laments about her many ailments and trials (from toothaches to budget problems), Lewis wrote: “Always remember that poverty and every other ill, lovingly accepted, has all the spiritual value of voluntary poverty or penance” (emphasis mine). What comfort these simple words brought!

As I committed my illness to God and asked Him to accomplish His will through it, my struggles no longer seemed in vain. Thomas À Kempis wrote, “Do not despair or be discouraged but accept God’s will calmly, bearing all that befalls you for the glory of Christ.” My disease, as frustrating and limiting as it was, could still be used for God’s glory.

Truth: All suffering can be used for God’s glory when we willingly accept and surrender our hardships to Him.

Myth 5: If God were truly good, He would remove this suffering from me.

As another year ended, I prayed once again, “Lord, may this new year be one of healing.” Even knowing the maturing benefits of affliction, I grew weary of the struggles. “Enough, Lord!” I wanted to say. “Haven’t I been pruned enough for a while?” How desperately I longed for Him to deliver me from the trials and bring restoration of the losses I had endured. If God was God, He could do that, right? If He were loving, He would do that, right? How tempted I was to believe that if God truly cared about me, if He were all powerful, He would take away the pain.

Yet as I continued praying, I stumbled upon a treasure I would have easily missed had I looked to healing as the only sign of His love. More often than not, God does not remove our suffering. He does something better: He enters into our suffering. The Lord Jesus enters into the fullness of our pain and bears it with us. He is the God who is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

I finally understood why Paul prayed to know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. The path upon which we come to know Him better winds through the valley of suffering. If we seek a detour around the valley, we forfeit a chance to walk alongside the Suffering Servant. To know Christ more intimately, to more fully identify with Him, I must share in His sufferings by experiencing it myself. Whatever the nature of our affliction, sharing our pain with Him forges a deeper bond of intimacy. Nothing—not healing, not restoration, not success—compares with the comfort and sweetness of this fellowship.

The jewels of suffering abound: maturing faith, growing obedience, increased fruit. Yet the greatest treasure I have found is deepened intimacy with Christ as I fellowship with Him in the midst of my suffering.

Truth: Suffering helps us identify with the Lord Jesus more fully and deepens our intimacy with Him.

The Mythmaker

Where do these myths originate? I believe they come from none other than the father of lies. The tempter has thoroughly duped us into believing that suffering is negative, a sign of God’s neglect or of our own failure. Why would Satan be so determined to tempt us to avoid suffering (and sadly, sometimes to avoid those we know who are suffering)? Because he knows that suffering is one of the greatest means to draw us closer to Jesus and teach us increasing dependence upon Him. Thus, he will do whatever it takes to entice us to run from it  . . . until God, in His grace, allows suffering from which we cannot run.

When Peter refused to accept Jesus’ imminent suffering and death, He responded, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23). In the midst of our pain, we must refuse to accept Satan’s lies about suffering. When we believe that God loves us perfectly and that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), we need no longer submit to the fear of suffering.

We live in a fallen world where the prince of darkness rules. Trials, hardships, and adversity are more normal in this life than abnormal. If this life were absent of suffering, we might begin to mistake it for the real thing. Suffering makes us hunger for heaven, our real home, where God will wipe away every tear. Though we may never fully understand our suffering, we can rest in the hope that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Ro. 8:18).

Honor and Obey: The Dividing Line for Adult Children

SOURCE:  Sarah Bubar

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” – Ephesians 6:1

Last month during the first annual Global Action Awards, Miley Cyrus accepted an award for being an “inspiration” to young viewers. Her acceptance speech, however, left very little to be inspired about. She pled with her generation to do what makes them happy, and to “not listen to what our parents want.” No doubt this was brought on by recent interviews of Mr. Miley Cyrus (Billy Ray) talking about the erosion Hannah Montana has caused on his family.

The idea of disobeying our parents, however, has not been far from the mind of every girl in every part of the world at some moment in her life. If we are truly honest with ourselves, obeying our parents can be an active struggle, a mundane, pointless task, and even be the last thing we want to do. So why was Miley Cyrus’ plea such an outrage? What’s the big deal? Is it really that important to obey our parents?

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

I still recite this verse with a sing-song tone rolling my eyes at the memories it brings to my mind. My mother had us memorize this verse (she also had us memorize Eph 6:32 if that gives you an idea of the kind of children we were) and recite it during our moments of discipline. “Children, obey your parents…..(exhaustive sigh)….in the Lord….(shifting hips, rolling eyes)….for this is right.” Now that I am an adult child who at younger times “pushed the boundaries” my parents set, I see the biblical precedence and the reason behind it. As a growing child, it is important to obey your parents. But when we get older and move from childhood to womanhood, do we still have to obey? As a grown woman, at what point can I stop listening to my parents? Is there a difference between honoring & obeying?

YES. There is.

Defining Obedience

Obedience carries with it the idea of absolute submission resulting from absolute trust. Webster defines obey as meaning “to conform or comply with; to follow the commands or guidance of.” It has with it implications of completely falling under the authority and jurisdiction of another person so that this individual is now responsible for you and the things that you do. In Scripture, it is most often used in reference to a child learning something from a parent (Prov.1:8; 23:22; Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1; Lev. 19:3, 32), or Israel learning something from Yahweh.

Defining Honor
Honoring, on the other hand, means “showing esteem and respect to a person of superior standing; evidence or symbol of distinction.” In Hebrew, it also means “to weigh” or “to make heavy.” In other words, when placing the opinion of your parents on a balancing scale opposite the opinion of your friends, your parent’s opinion is going to weigh more because you honor them.

In Scripture, honor is linked to humility (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12; 22:4; 29:23), kindness (Proverbs 21:21), and grace (Proverbs 11:16). In the New Testament, a person of honor was given the best seat in the house (Mark 12:39). Deuteronomy 5:16 shows how honoring our parents brings longevity and prosperity to our lives.

No longer little girls, we have become women who are not under the direct authority of our parents any longer. They are not responsible for us anymore. We give account for our own actions now. Yet there is still a biblical mandate to honor our parents as adults. How do we flesh this out? With humility, kindness and grace, we esteem our parents as people of superior standing, taking their advice and counsel heavier than others. That is how we honor them. For example, if I wanted to buy a new car, would I need my parent’s permission as an adult? Unless my father is my banker, no, I wouldn’t. But would I seek their counsel on the subject? Yes, and I would weigh their counsel more heavily than my friends who may just want to see me in a new flashy ride.

“But what if my parents are crazy?” I had a friend ask me this not too long ago, and for viable reasons. Her parents can seem a little to the left of certifiable. But honoring them doesn’t change simply because their mental health fluctuates. There is still a biblical call to honor them (Exodus 20:12) with kindness, humility, and grace. When looking to honor a parent who may not be emotionally stable, always approach them with respect for they are still your parent. I know this one girl whose parent continually elevates her into positions of parenting her other siblings, and it’s a real challenge for her. But I have seen her time and time again approach this parent with respect and dignity, without giving in and usurping that authority in her sisters’ lives. It’s a balancing act, but it can be done. It may mean stepping away from the situation to collect your thoughts in prayer and counsel before readdressing the matter at hand. It may mean going out of your way on special occasions to show them the care you have for them. Whatever tangible way you show it, your admiration for them should be apparent.

“But what if my parents are lost?” This can be difficult when parents are less than godly or unsaved altogether, because it requires leaning more heavily on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to fulfill that task. But in that situation, keep in mind you are not responsible for their actions, you are only responsible for your reactions. Don’t get angry and lash out, in doing so you dishonor the status that God has given them in your life. Instead, speak with kindness to your aging parents. Show them grace – even when what they say offends. Humbly ask the Lord for His help. In doing so, you honor the work they did as parents in raising you.

“But what if my biological parents didn’t raise me, do I still have to respect them?” This, too, can be difficult because so often strained relationships are in play from the very start. Paul addresses a similar topic in Romans 12: 16 – 18 when he writes “Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Whether it’s your birth mom, or the crazy aunt in your family, Paul is saying to make every effort to be a peacemaker, to be kind, to allow God to work, and give grace. This rule applies when it comes to those who may not have played the role as parent, but we should still honor, regardless. After all, if it weren’t for them, you would not be here. For that reason alone, gratitude can be found.

So, why do you think God puts so much stress on honoring and obeying our parents? Is it just so all the chores get done in a home and peace can be cultivated? Or is there a bigger picture, an over-arching factor in play?

Obeying and honoring our parents develops a habit of obedience and a respect for authority in our lives; characteristics that are greatly lacking in our society as a whole.

It is vastly important to learn obedience as a child. I remember growing up, my father would tell me that if I could learn to obey him, I would learn to obey God. This made obedience more serious than chores or homework; it made it about my life and the choices I would make while I lived it. Put it this way: if, as young children we find it easy to say “no” to our parents, as adults, it will be no struggle to say “no” to God. And in doing so, we are missing out on the best He has to offer us; we, also, are welcoming his wrath and judgment into our lives.

God relates to us in terms of the family unit.

It is not by accident that God calls Himself Father and Christ his Son. It was the plan and purpose of God from creation (Gen 2:24) to establish the family unit. It is through the lens of family that God chooses to reveal his character to us. As a Father, He protects, He guides, He chastens, He provides, He nurtures, He admonishes, and He loves unconditionally. We are forever His daughters, joint-heirs with His Son. Understanding our role as children in our earthly family enables us to better understand our role in our heavenly family.

Honor & Obey. As adult children, there is a dividing line on what God expects us to do. As grown women no longer under our parent’s authority, we don’t necessarily have to do everything they tell us. We do, however, always, always have to honor them.

(Sarah Bubar is a regular contributor to Unlocking Femininity, the blog on which this post first appeared)

Relationship or Obedience: What’s Important To Jesus?

SOURCE:  Based on an article by  Charles Stanley

Read | Revelation 2:1-7

Ephesus was the home of a tremendous ministry. Despite harsh persecution, the church planted by Paul endured opposition, spread the gospel, and was quick to challenge false prophets. But 30 years after the apostle left, John’s revelation included a stern warning for those believers.

Imagine how the words of Revelation 2 must have struck the Ephesians when they read them. After complimenting their service to the gospel, Christ said, “But I have this against you . . .” That phrase was no doubt extremely disconcerting. The Lord warned them that they had left their first love. In other words, all of their work was being done with wrong motives.

Christ called the Ephesians to remember their love for Him and their delight in His salvation. Service is no substitute for an intimate relationship, but modern believers continue to fall into this subtle trap. The commendable things that we do count for nothing unless they stem from a vibrant personal connection with God. Our work can’t be effective or fruitful unless He is in it.

In fact, God is more interested in you and your personal relationship with Him than in a thousand lifetimes of good works. He desires to be the satisfaction and delight of His children so that their service is a result of loving devotion.

There are plenty of wrong reasons to labor for the kingdom. However, God is satisfied only with service motivated by love for Him. He wants those with selfish intentions to return to their first love. In that way, hearts and minds can be renewed, and service to the Lord will be more fruitful.

Parenting Techniques: Loving and Effective

SOURCE:  Bill Bellican

Children hold a very special place in the heart and plan of God.  The concepts of marriage, family, and parenting were originally (and still are) God’s idea as the way children are to be loved, taught, and prepared for life.  In fact, God looks upon us all as his children, and He continues to train us our entire lives to be able to be the individuals He intends for us to be (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:16; 1John 3:1).  It makes sense that God desires we attend to this important task of parenting with excellence.

As with most important pursuits in life, skills are required to accomplish it well.  We can’t imagine doing some things without training and skill development at some level.  We must learn to drive, take lessons to play musical instruments, and be trained in our profession.  There are many important endeavors of life that would be unthinkable to undertake without training.  However, with one of the most important life pursuits we are called to do—parenting—we “wing” it, do the best we can, or repeat what has been modeled for us in our family of origin.

Among the many resources available to us today to help us learn necessary parenting skills is one in particular.  This is a book by Dr. William J. Richardson titled, Loving Obedience: Child Training Techniques That Work (Northfield Publishing: Chicago, 2000).

Using Biblically-based and research supported principles, Richardson defines parenting as “a two-fold task:  meeting children’s needs and teaching them to meet their own needs.”  To do this, parents need to be skilled in the areas of meeting needs and teaching as well as helping children learn to behave in new ways through effective discipline.

Included within these techniques are:

  1. Acknowledging Assets – instead of finding faults, we look for characteristics in our children we treasure.
  2. Catch Them Doing Good – we look for and call out good rather than just bad behavior.
  3. Touching The Heart – we let good, wholesome, healthy touch communicate what words cannot.
  4. Having Fun – we intentionally have fun with our children to communicate strong relationship messages.
  5. Acknowledge Effort – to see and to appreciate effort in the face of imperfect accomplishment or even failure signals powerful love.
  6. Acknowledge Improvements – we see even slight improvements instead of focusing on disapproval.
  7. Acknowledge Contributions – look for contributions children bring to the home and life and acknowledge the contributions out loud.
  8. Remove The Benefit Of Bad Behavior – when we identify and remove a benefit or positive consequence that reinforces bad behavior, the bad behavior tends to stop.
  9. Wisely And Lovingly Use Corporal Punishment – for cases of dangerous or knowingly disobedient behavior, wise and loving application of age-appropriate spanking can suppress these behaviors. It is important to note that, although it helps to get rid of certain behaviors, it is not a tool for teaching new behaviors.
  10. Utilizing Logical Consequences – these are noncorporal negative consequences that suppress undesirable behaviors that are logically connected to those behaviors.
  11. Understanding And Using Reward – positive, desirable behaviors followed by a positive consequence or reward are strengthened and will tend to be repeated.

By prayerfully learning and faithfully employing these techniques, two things happen.  Parents will be employing more effective skills, and children will change their behavior.

Other resources for learning parenting skills:

Focus on the Family – www.fotf.org;

Family Life Ministries – http://www.familylife.com/;

Smart Step Families – http://www.successfulstepfamilies.com/

A Spiritual Mismatch In Marriage–and the God Who Sees

Adapted from an article by:  Janel Breitenstein/Familly Life Today

A Long, Slow Obedience —-

A few weeks ago I found myself with my forehead on my bedroom wall, portable phone to my ear. It was one of those brow-creasing, gut-wrenching, I need wisdom please, Lord! conversations with a friend whose voice was breaking from the yoke of stress.

For nearly a decade now, she had braved a marital rollercoaster. Her husband did acknowledge Jesus. But from the sound of it, his desire for Christ collided with significant dysfunctions from his past and present. He ultimately had a hard time transferring his faith into his marriage. She knew she wasn’t guiltless; we chatted at length about her own contributions to the tense, complicated situation. But it seemed that for her husband, the responsibility of cherishing and nourishing his wife like Christ does His bride–the church–wasn’t on his radar screen yet.

As I stood there, now hand to forehead, praying out loud for her into the receiver, my thoughts became consumed with the magnitude of her daily burden. Yet I was transfixed by her staggering opportunity. She wielded the chance to constantly showcase the gospel to her husband, to her kids, to a watching world, and to a Father who sees what is done in secret (Matthew 6:4,6). In her I was reminded of the God who ardently watches and cares for her, as He did for a discarded Hagar in the Canaanite wilderness.

I began to digest what the gospel in this particular pair of jeans looked like. I thought of the choices she would be making over and over in the nitty-gritty moments of life: when she was asking about his day, for example. Or disciplining their boys. Or folding his socks again. Or agreeing on a movie. Or assembling dinner. Or when one of them had a bad day.

In a thousand decisions, she’d be resolving to love her husband as God has loved her. While she (and I) were still His adversary, God loved us–chose our lives in place of His own. He set aside His rights, status, all the love and honor He deserved, and wrapped himself in every reality of serving us … to the point of death.

My friend remembered well the fractured home she’d come from. And for the sake of her young boys and their future marriages, for the love of her husband, and for sheer obedience to God, she’s going to rise every day to shed what was easy (if divorce can be truthfully so named) for what is eternally and presently better.

She may well not be able to thrive in the harmony of teamwork with her husband, and she may be infrequently respected and appreciated. Her needs and longings may not be met, and her dreams may not unfold to reality. She will be offering her body to a person with whom she doesn’t feel wholly connected or known.

Unless God chooses to change the heart of her spouse, she’s looking at a long, slow obedience.

But I trust it won’t stop there. I’m praying that she’ll love this man with her heart, not out of sheer compulsion. Because that’s how we were loved by God. I’m praying God will saturate her with devotion to the husband He’s given her. That she will look out for her husband’s needs, bear his sorrows, hail his triumphs. I’m asking God that just as Jesus served us because “God so loved“–her husband will be served; be so loved.

Any marriage offers occasions on an everyday basis to say, “I choose you. I set aside what I need–or want or deserve–for you.” But I think God must have a unique, filling love and strength for those who, day following day, immerse themselves and their wills in less-than-loving marriages.

He knows intimately their spiritual singleness in the middle of marriage. He witnesses–and intervenes–in the challenges of single parenting of the spiritual sort. He grasps the loss of well-kept hopes for true marital partnership: collaborating for a higher purpose, honing one another in a race toward the Cross.

I trust that in the cavities created by my friend’s marriage, God will be her more-than-sufficient husband, loving her. Buoying her. Empowering her. He’s been where she is, and He drew her with His relentless kindness.

HEALING, HELP, AND HOLINESS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

A lot happens in life in the present moment.  Anything (good or bad) can happen at any given moment.  What’s even more real (and amazing) is how God desires that we grow in our ability to engage with Him about all things in all moments.  In other words, He desires to have a vibrant, interactive, moment-by-moment fellowship with each of us in each present moment of our lives.

Concerning the more painful side of life, God constantly invites us to commune with Him, to discuss with Him the hard realities of life as we are affected by and experience these realities, and to depend upon Him more.  As we do these things, we learn how to wait on and watch for His wise and loving involvement in all our life needs and situations.

Among the hard realities of life are that we are responsible for and experience the consequences of our own personal sins, we suffer at the hands of others who sin against us, and we live in a fallen and broken world that sometimes comes crashing down on us.  As a result, we encounter hurts, wounds, engage our own unhealthy coping behaviors, are subject to the attacks of Satan, and find ourselves constrained by various strongholds of negative thoughts and emotional responses. This all makes life, at times, exceedingly miserable and difficult.  Furthermore, any unhealthy or dysfunctional responses we make to these hard realities hinder our progress toward holiness and being made Christ-like which is God’s will for us.

As we learn to take full advantage of our present relationship with God and invite His involvement in every present detail of life we encounter, we learn how to talk with Him more deeply, intimately, and honestly and to trust in His good and loving ways to deal rightly and compassionately in our lives and makeus into the person He intends us to be.

The following are just some examples of various interactions I have with God in the present moment as I bring before Him my genuine needs for healing, help, and holiness in my life:

— I ask the Holy Spirit to help me acknowledge to the Lord any specific strongholds of thoughts — things that “feel” true to me in an unhealthy, negative sense.  I offer these strongholds up to the Lord  trusting Him to begin displacing them with His truths.

— I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies or untruth unknown to my conscious mind that I am believing in the present moment.  Then I choose to bring this lie-based thinking into the healing presence of Jesus for Him to renew my mind.

— I ask the Lord for His Lordship over any specific behavioral strongholds (i.e., destructive coping behaviors and habits) that affect me.  I request He demolish the strongholds as I faithfully look only to Him to do what I am powerless to do.

— I ask the Lord to make it possible for me to hear and sense only His truth that I might receive it in place of lies and distorted thinking.  I willingly choose to dedicate my all (i.e, everything good and bad about myself) to the Lord, and I reaffirm my current situation/thinking/feelings belong to Him along with my desire to be enslaved only to Him.

— I confess to the Lord any aspect of actual sin or compromise on my part that occurs to me including my awareness of and regret about my fallenness and potential to sin.

— I realistically share with the Lord the hurt, wounds, pain, bitterness, and unforgiveness I feel as a result of what others have done to me.  I request His Power to release to Him these wounds/hurts trusting Him to take them away and deal with them as He will.  I ask for the ability to trust that He will right every wrong done to me in His way and timing.  I also ask to receive His ability to forgive and release others for what they have done to me. I even boldly tell Him about any anger or hurts I have toward Him and ask for His perspective about these while trusting He will lovingly carry my distorted perspectives away as He cleanses me.

— I recall who I am to and in Christ and ask that the Holy Spirit remind me about my God-given position, rights, and privileges as a member of the family of God that I might proclaim and experience the reality of these truths.

— I choose to proclaim (in the Name of Jesus) that I resist Satan, his demons, their influence, and all lies as I obediently seek the Holy Spirit’s filling/control and the empowerment to put on the spiritual armor  of God.

— I choose to rebuke (in the Name of Jesus) Satan, his demons, and their lies, and I ask the Lord to rebuke these, also.  I reaffirm that God chose me as His own forever.

— I proclaim to the Lord how I choose to rejoice in Him (with His enablement) regardless of what my circumstances, struggles, failures, feelings are, since Who He is and What He allows are rooted in His Goodness toward me.

— I ask the Lord to show me what obedience to Him looks like, to train me in obedience, and to motivate me to obedience as a way of expressing my love for and faith in Him as He demolishes strongholds in my life along with the unhealthy thoughts, emotional responses, and behaviors attached to these strongholds.

— I praise God for Who He is,  because of His total involvement and interest in every minute detail of my life, and for His indescribable love for me as He works within these details.

May these be of help to you as the triune God — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — engages you in a deeper, more intimate, real, more constant communion with Him in the present moment as He brings to you: healing, help, and holiness.

Scriptural References:  Pr 23:7;  Zec 3:1-2;  John 8:32, 36;  Ro 8:29, 12:2;  2 Co 10:3-5;  Php 4:8; 1Th 3:13, 4:3;   Jude 9

ARE YOU LISTENING TO GOD?

SOURCE: MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST/OSWALD CHAMBERS

They said to Moses, ’You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ `—Exodus 20:19

We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.

“You speak with us, . . . but let not God speak with us . . . .” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”

Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.

Quotations of BILLY SUNDAY

SOURCE –  Adapted From:  Keiki Hendrix

Brief Biography
Billy Sunday (1862-1935), was a professional baseball player from 1883 to 1891 for Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia teams.

He was converted through the street preaching of Harry Monroe of the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.

He left a $5,000 a year salary as a baseball player for a $75 a month for the previously evangelistic YMCA. From 1893 to 1895 was associated with J. Wilbur Chapman.

He was an evangelist from 1893 to 1935. It is estimated that over 300,000 people walked the “sawdust trail” to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. (Adapted from “The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church,” page 387, Elgin S. Moyer, 1982, ©Moody Press, Chicago, IL)

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–


+Let’s quit fiddling with religion and do something to bring the world to Christ.

+If you want to drive the devil out of the world, hit him with a cradle instead of a crutch.

+I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as   I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!

+Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper.

+The Lord is not compelled to use theologians. He can take snakes, sticks or anything else, and use them for the advancement of his cause.

+I believe that a long step toward public morality will have been taken when sins are called by their right names.

+Your reputation is what people say about you. Your character is what God and your wife know about you.

+If you took no more care of yourself physically than spiritually, you’d be just as dried up physically as you are spiritually.

+If you live wrong you can’t die right.

+Look into the preaching Jesus did and you will find it was aimed straight at the big sinners on the front seats.

+If good preaching could save the world, it would have been done long ago.

+Churches don’t need new members half so much as they need the old bunch made over.

+There wouldn’t be so many non-church goers if there were not so many non-going churches.

+There are some so-called Christian homes today with books on the shelves of the library that have no more business there than a rattler crawling about on the floor, or a poison within the child’s reach.

+Too many churches are little more than four walls and a roof.

+Home is the place we love best and grumble the most.

+I don’t believe there are devils enough in hell to pull a boy out of the arms of a godly mother.

+There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.

+To train a boy in the way he should go you must go that way yourself.

+Don’t stop with telling your boy to do right. Show him how.

+Be careful, father, or while you are taking one lap around the devil’s track your boy will make six.

+If you would have your children turn out well, don’t turn your home into a lunch counter and lodging house.

+Not to walk in the straight and narrow way yourself, is to give the devil the biggest kind of a chance to get our children.

+Some homes need a hickory switch a good deal more than they do a piano.

+Better die an old maid, sister, than marry the wrong man.

+Whiskey is all right in its place — but its place is hell.

+The normal way to get rid of drunkards is to quit raising drunkards — to put the business that makes drunkards out of business.

+Riches have never yet given anybody either peace or rest.

+It won’t save your soul if your wife is a Christian. You have got to be something more than a brother-in-law to the Church.

+You can’t raise the standard of women’s morals by raising their pay envelope. It lies deeper than that.

+The reason you don’t like the Bible, you old sinner, is because it knows all about you.

+Going to church doesn’t make a man a Christian, any more than going to a garage makes him an automobile.

+The difference between God’s side and the devil’s is the difference between heaven and hell.

+God keeps no half-way house. It’s either heaven or hell for you and me.

+A man can slip into hell with his hand on the door-knob of heaven.

+The Bible will always be full of things you cannot understand, as long as you will not live according to those you can understand.

+The inconsistency is not in the Bible, but in your life.

+God likes a little humor, as is evidence by the fact that he made the monkeys, the parrot — and some of you people.

+Yank some of the groans out of your prayers, and shove in some shouts.

+If you are strangers to prayer you are strangers to power.

+What have you given the world it never possessed before you came?

+The Bible says forgive your debtors; the world says “sue them for their dough.”

+Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.

+I am not the author of the plan of salvation, but I am responsible for the way I preach it.

+I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world’s heart for two thousand years.

+When I hit the devil square in the face some people go away as mad as if I had slapped them in the mouth.

+The backslider likes the preaching that wouldn’t hit the side of a house, while the real disciple is delighted when the truth brings him to his knees.

+To discover a flaw in our makeup is a chance to get rid of it, and add a new line of beauty to our life.

+It is not necessary to be in a big place to do big things.

“Mutual” Submission In Marriage

(Adapted from the MacArthur Study Bible notes)

Husbands & Wives – Submission (Ephesians 5:22-33)

In Ephesians 5, Paul presupposes that spouses will seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 18) and, consequently, will desire to submit to each other (v. 21).  The filling of the Spirit is not a once-for-all experience.  Repeatedly, as the occasion requires, the Spirit empowers for service and testimony.  One can be under an influence that affects him, whether of wine or of the Spirit.   Paul desires that believers be under God’s control which leads to a happy, mutual encouragement to praise God and a healthy, mutual relationship with people, including our spouses.  In general, each partner can have a conciliatory attitude that will help the overall relationship.

As an aspect of the mutual submission taught in v.21, wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (v.22).  To submit means to yield one’s own rights.  The wife is not told to “obey” her husband, and Scripture does not put a woman’s husband in the place of the Lord.  Rather Scripture shows that a woman ought to submit to her husband as an act of submission to the Lord.  The submission is not the husband’s to command, but for the wife to willingly and lovingly offer.  She submits to the man she intimately possesses as her own.  She is to lovingly submit as an act of obedience to the Lord who has given this command as His will for her, regardless of her husband’s personal worthiness or spiritual condition.

As applied to husbands, this is not a one-sided submission, but a reciprocal relationship.  Ephesians 5:25 indicates this is not only the expression of our Lord’s love, but also an example of how the husband ought to devote himself to his wife’s good.  To give oneself up to death for the beloved is a more extreme expression of devotion than the wife is called on to make.

As the Lord delivered His church from the dangers of sin, death, and Hell, so the husband provides for, protects, preserves, and loves his wife.  Christ gave everything He had for the Church, including His life, and that is the standard of sacrifice for husbands.  A Christian husband should not be able to bear the thought of anything sinful in the life of his wife.  His desire is that she become perfectly conformed to Christ.  A husband will bring great blessing to himself by loving his wife this way.  He provides for her needs to help her grow mature in Christ and to provide warm and tender affection to give her comfort and security.

Obedience: Created to Become Like Christ

(Adapted from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – chapter 22)

You were created to become like Christ. Like God, we are spiritual beings – our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies; we are intellectual – we can think, reason, and solve problems; like God, we are relational – we can give and receive real love; and we have a moral consciousness – we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.

The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God. But the image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So God sent Jesus on a mission to restore the full image that we have lost. The Bible says, “You were created to be like God, truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:24).

Many religions and New Age philosophies still promote the old lie of Satan that we are divine or can become gods. This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and people around us. God doesn’t want us to become a god; he wants you to become godly – taking on His values, attitudes, and character (see Eph. 4:22).

God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?” One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven!

Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the “abundant life” to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. They expect heaven on earth. This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment.

Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa. God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to produce Christ-like character in you (see 2 Cor. 3:18b). You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives (see Phil. 2:13). Most of the time the Holy Spirit’s power is released in your life in quiet, unassuming ways that you aren’t even aware of or can’t feel. He often nudges us with “a gentle whisper.”

We must allow Christ to live through us. How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do it. Since God’s Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.

We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith. Obedience unlocks God’s power. God waits for you to act first. Don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of you fears and feelings. This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit. While effort has nothing to do with your salvation, it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus. You don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.

According to Ephesians 4:22-24 we have three responsibilities in becoming like Christ. First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. Second, we must change the way we think. The Bible says we are “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). We must allow God to direct our thoughts. We are changed from the inside out. Third, we must “put on” the character of Christ by developing new, godly habits.

Many people assume all that is needed for spiritual growth is Bible study and prayer. But some issues in life will never be changed by Bible study or prayer alone. God uses people. He usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship. He wants us to grow together.

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.

Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building your character than He is anything else. God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like Himself before He takes us to heaven.

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