Friday, November 30, 2012

Facing the Issues


Facing the Issues
James 1:8; 4:8
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 

Are you serious about breaking that sinful habit? Good! Since it is essential that you see your problem in view of God’s Word, let’s look at what God wants to accomplish in your life and focus on the issue that truly hinders you from being free from that sinful habit. James was quite accurate when he taught that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Sinful habits are usually a sign or an indication of a problem of unresolved conflicts. 

What Does God Want to Accomplish?

God has a purpose in wanting to show us our inner self, our sin. We too often hold on to the smaller purposes or issues because we desire freedom from sin to avoid embarrassment, be relieved of guilt, or to save face. The most critical issue we often avoid is our rebellion against God (Psalm 51:1-12).  We want to be relieved of our guilty conscience but we don’t want to repent. Those who confess their sins, intending to repeat the same action, are not truly repentant. In the Bible, the word repent means “to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19).  The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

God’s plan is to draw you beyond your repentance for sin to Himself. He wants to use your struggles to lead you into godly living. His will is not merely that you be free from sin but He wants to conform you to the image of His Son. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Delivering you from a sinful habit is only one step in the process. Washing the stains from your life is the beginning of the preparation into the Spirit-filled person God wants you to be.

Biblical change is not just turning away from sin; it is turning toward righteousness. The person who lies must speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25) and the one who steals must not only stop stealing, but he needs to work and give to others (verse 28). Do not just stop sinning--start doing what is right before God. The good habits you build will replace the sinful ones. Defeating a habit also requires changes in lifestyle. We are to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). The person who wants to stop smoking should throw away all his cigarettes and not buy any more; the person struggling with sexual sin should get rid of any suggestive materials in his possession. The person battling with substance abuse should avoid the company of those who have the same problem (I Corinthians 15:33), and avoid the places and circumstances which tempt them.

Be on guard when wrestling with a sinful habit–––there is a difference between temptation and sin. When you choose to pursue temptation it becomes sin, temptation itself isn’t. Even our Lord was tempted. When sinful thoughts enter your mind, without being invited, at that point you have not sinned. The crucial test is how will you respond to these suggestions? Will you pursue these thoughts, entertain them, and let them materialize in your mind? How many Christians think that victory over sin means that they will no longer be tempted?  Or, they think that God will change their nature so that they will no longer desire to do evil. This is wrong thinking. Temptation is not a sin: it is a call to battle. Since we will always be tempted, we need to learn to handle temptation God’s way. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Thought: We are responsible for our own sin--including those sins "which so easily beset us" (Hebrews 12:1). We must take personal responsibility for our own habits and not shrink from calling them sin. If you are struggling with a sinful habit in your life, don’t try to battle it alone. You need to find some mature Christians to help you through the hard times, to check up on you and encourage you to be honest with yourself and with your failures. You must trust God and His faithfulness to give you a way of escape that you will be able to endure such times when you are tempted. Preach the Gospel to yourself daily which is–––the forgiveness of sin, and the righteousness credited to you through Jesus Christ alone.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Broken Things


Broken Things

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Broken homes, broken hearts, broken bodies, broken hopes and dreams, broken health, broken vows, broken lives–––do you hear the pain in these words? When we say something is broken we are suggesting there has been an accident, a calamity or grave disappointment. We must know that all these tragedies are known to God and that He brings from the broken fragments of our lives, something far better than we may see.  God knows all things from the beginning to the end and nothing surprises Him or is a calamity to Him. God has planned that every broken piece in the life of His own dear children will fit into the portrait of His eternal will.

Are you broken or being broken through financial loss, upon a bed of illness or through the loss of a loved one? God knows all about it, He would not permit it if He did not see that in the end, somewhere, it would serve a purpose for which you do not know. If you are being broken, God is working with you. We think broken things are a loss, but God turns them to His gain. In nature, broken things are cast aside, but in grace, God will never use a man until he is broken but will use the broken man for His glory.

Let’s think about Christ in 1 Corinthians 11:24  when He said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” He left His home in glory to come to earth being fully God and fully man to be broken for us. He was despised and rejected, a friend of sinners, and went all the way to Calvary to die that we might live. Christ was broken, stripped, beaten, spit upon, bruised, mocked, and nailed to a cruel cross that we may not spend eternity in hell, suffering the pangs of the wrath of God, but that we might have eternal life in heaven with Him. This was no mere man but the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting in power at the right hand throne of God who was broken for us. 

We, as Christians, need to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word and know that the presence of broken things in our life does not necessarily mean broken without remedy with no hope of healing but broken before God as in Psalm 51:17, “a broken and a contrite heart, God, wilt not despise. Your brokenness may be the very thing that God will use in bringing about a  relationship of humility and a heart that recognizes the greatness of His grace which produces  tremendous blessing. The broken and contrite heart can be molded by God as He searches the core of your being and begins to mend or heal the pain of the broken things.

Thoughts: What’s broken in your life that you don’t think God even cares about? Has He not allowed everything in your life for His purpose and for His glory? Are you broken because of sin in your life or could it be because; this is the will of God concerning you? Take heart, dear Child of God, the Father makes no mistakes. He loves us more than we love Him and someday we shall understand what we cannot comprehend now. He is constantly working to make us who are His, ready for the day when we will praise and worship Him for all eternity. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (I Corinthians 13:12.) I am truly thankful for the “Broken Things” in my life that have caused me to examine myself that I might appreciate the inexhaustible love Christ has for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful


How Can We Not Be Thankful?
Psalm 92:1
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.


The giving of thanks is a good thing and is to be apart of our daily walk with Christ. I'm as guilty as anybody else in failing to thank God for all the things He has done for me. It seems a simple thing to do, to set a little time aside every day and just thank Him, but I forget.  I don't forget to ask Him for things I need, I only forget to thank Him for all that He has already done.

In Romans, Paul says in chapter 1 verse 8: "First, I thank my God." It is important to keep God first in our lives and first in the giving of thanks for all things. In nearly all the letters Paul has written, he expresses his gratitude to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and who are being enriched by His wonderful grace. The book of Galatians is one of the letters that Paul does not give thanks for the redeemed but rebukes them for their response to false doctrine and how quickly they deserted the truth to pursue legalism taught by false teachers. The believer’s relationship to God is so critical and Paul is exceptional in reminding Christians to be thankful   to God for all things.  Ephesians 5:20 ~ Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul encourages believers to be thankful for their salvation and the work that Christ has already begun in them. Philippians 1:6 ~ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: and  Philippians 2:13 ~ For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Scripture teaches us that angels spend time thanking God around the throne. Revelation 4:9: "And those living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him that is seated on the throne." Later on in the book of Revelation you find the angels doing it again. In the sixteenth and seventeenth verses of the eleventh chapter, you have the 24 elders apparently joining together with the angels and giving thanks. “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” If the angels are thankful to God for who He is, should we be any less thankful than they are for His great power, His immense mercy, and His matchless grace shown to us?

Even our Lord spent time thanking God for things He had done and did so often. The Lord Jesus was thankful to the Father at the graveside of Lazarus, in John 11:41, "'Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me."  Matthew 26:26 says: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body. He took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to them." There are many illustrations of giving thanks in the Bible some publicly as well as privately, but all picture a heart of true thankfulness to God for who He is and what He has done. This is fervently the pattern of the life of Christ, He thanked God openly and with great passion. It is the pattern of the angels in heaven to thank God.  The “giving of thanks” is commanded of us, therefore, we must be thankful to God for all things for we are the partakers of His rich inheritance. “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in Light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:12-14.)


Thought: In Revelation chapters four-eleven, the focus is on Christ taking back what is rightfully His––the world that has been overtaken by Satan. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15.)  Are we thankful that we are apart of the redeemed church of Christ and that He will come again to set up His kingdom? What a coronation day we will never forget!  If you are a Christian, you have much to be thankful for, most importantly, knowing the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords through all eternity.

Lord, I am thankful for my wonderful husband and his love for You and for me. I am thankful for my loving children, their life long mates and for my grandchildren, whom I love so dearly. I am thankful for all my family, whether here or far away and thankful for their servant’s heart and faithfulness in serving You, day after day.

Lord, I am thankful for, You, loving me and giving me hope when I was blind and couldn’t see. I am thankful for Heaven, where I’ll share a new life with You, for all eternity.

 Lord, thank you....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Captured by Grace


I Am Captured by His Grace
Ephesians 2:3-9
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The power that raises men and women out of darkness and makes them alive in Christ is in the  power of the Gospel (by grace are ye saved.) Salvation brings spiritual life to the dead. Before we can experience the grace of God, we have to see ourselves as the sinners we really are in the sight of a Holy God. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13-14; “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew the ugly scandal of his own past and included in his writings descriptive language expressing whom he was in Christ. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15b.)  In ( 1 Corinthians 15:9) he states, “I am the least of the apostles,” and in (Ephesians 3:8) explains, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

What is this gift of grace Paul so freely writes about? He says, it’s not of yourselves but that it is the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. No works are involved in God’s gift of grace for good works cannot produce salvation but are the evidence of His great work done in you. In all the world, there are only two religions that can be found. The first is by faith in Christ alone and the other, by works which men have done. You know and Paul made it known that human achievement is designed for failure and leads to a dead end. You might as well build yourself a ladder to heaven if you think that you can get there by any other means then by repentance and putting your faith and trust in a righteous God. His free gift of grace is His provision for your life with Him throughout eternity.

Have you been captured by His grace? John Newton, the great song writer and preacher of the gospel, wrote these words in his song, “Amazing Grace”–––“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” John Newton was a poor lost sinner, a wretch, as the song describes him, before the Lord captured his heart, on a storm tossed ship. The apostle Paul, who was first known as, “Saul of Tarsus,” was transformed on the road to Damascus when a light from heaven stopped him and he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:3-5.)  Has the Lord of Glory stopped you on your road to destruction? Have you cried out to Him, expressing your guilt of sin, calling upon Him to be merciful to you a sinner? Luke 18:13 ~ And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Can you see the apostle Paul, after all he has gone through in his life, leaning against a cold cell wall and singing to himself, Psalm 89:1? “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.”  Paul was captured by God’s wonderful saving grace. Picture John Newton’s experiences at sea, with the treacherous waves and frightening storms singing his–––Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed

                                 by John Newton


Thought: Beloved friend, the story of salvation begins at the foot of the cross, where grace covers all sin. Grace is a powerful force in the world and can save any sinner that will repent and put their faith and trust in Christ. May you begin now to partake of His wonderful grace with your whole heart and from this very moment know the Author of grace, Jesus Christ, the Rescuer of your soul.

I am thankful that I personally have been rescued from the road of destruction and been given life eternal through God’s gift of grace. I too, was lost in sin when Jesus found me, and now I am  no longer blinded by the world’s delights, for I am captured by the ultimate expression of His love, His Amazing Grace.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fearful


Why Are You So Fearful?

Mark 4:35-41
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Jesus was preaching before a large crowd and as other times before, got into a boat to teach because the crowd was so massive they pressed Him all the way to the water's edge. The only way He could get some space between Himself and the crowd and say what He wanted to say was to get in a boat and get off the shore into the water a little bit. We could probably assume that people had brought the sick and the needy to Him and there was healing going on as well as a challenging day of teaching. Christ, being exhausted by now, was most likely going over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee just to get a bit of a rest. There were many occasions when He did that, when He tried to escape the crushing crowd.  

As there arose a fierce wind and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up, Jesus, being in the stern of the boat, was now asleep on a pillow. The disciples awoke Him and said to Him, 'Master, do You not care that we are perishing? How can you sleep when we are going through this?’ They panicked, panic is a normal human response to that kind of situation. They knew Jesus had power over demons and over disease and that He had power over the natural world as well as the supernatural world but, could He save them in this circumstance? Could He deliver them from a storm?

Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still.' The wind died down and became perfectly calm. Jesus said to the men in the boat, 'Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?' They became exceedingly fearful and said to one another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? The water and the wind recognized the voice of their Creator, just as He would tell death to release Lazarus, He spoke and the wind and the waves obeyed His voice. 

The disciples were afraid during the storm and then feared exceedingly when the storm ceased. Why? The fear of a storm outside your boat is one thing but having the living God, the Creator and controller of all creation in your boat. That's enough to panic you and cause great anxiety and fear. You might ask, “What kind of a reaction is that?” It may be a reaction of someone who now understands that the Creator of this universe is in control of all living things even the wind and the waves and communicates His deity in the expression of power over any storm.

Why are we afraid of the storms of life when the Sovereign Creator of this world lives within us? How can we be fearful of any circumstance that comes into our life when Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, dwells in our mortal bodies? There are no obstacles which our Savior’s  love and power cannot overcome. No storm to fierce, no trial to hard, no mountain to high and no heartache to deep that we need be afraid. The strong winds of fear may invade our minds but, when Christ, “The Captain of Sea” speaks, may we surrender full command of the storm in our life to the One who can calm the raging sea and bring PEACE to our troubled soul.

Thought: In the allegory, “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” Much-Afraid is hindered by her Fearing relatives and goes with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear.” After much traveling, she reaches the shore of a great sea and the Shepherd reminders her that when ever she calls for him, he will come. He told her to believe what he said and practice it with joy. The Shepherd said to her, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me and when they are willing to obey me and follow the path of my choice, they will always be able to hear and recognize my voice.” 

Remember, it is always safe to obey, “The Master of the Sea,” even if He calls you to follow a path which looks impossible or asks you to enter a boat where the sea is unexpectedly stormy. You need not be fearful of the journey of His will because there is no fear in love, for perfect love casteth out fear (I John 4:18.)

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard