The Struggle

The Struggle 

July 24, 2021

“I decide one way, but then I act another” Romans 7:15 

The clever college professor got the attention of his class when he declared, “Whatever you do, do not think of a pink elephant”, knowing that it was now the one image dancing around in their minds. Our thoughts are powerful and sometimes controlling. Jesus addressed our thought life when he said, “everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thoughts are the stimulus of the pornography industry. Our fantasy lives are much stronger than our actual lives. 

The daily struggle we have as followers of Jesus is with our thoughts, as Paul explains in the Book of Romans: “I decide one way but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.” (Romans 7:15-16) 

Even though a law or command may seem to work on the outside, it’s the inner battle of our mind that acts as a rudder, controlling thoughts and, if not stopped, actions. Thus our constant struggle. Who will rescue us from this dilemma? Jesus is our rescuer and the blood of Jesus has taken every sin, every evil and despicable thought and washed them with His blood. We are forgiven and cleansed daily. Each day is a new day, a day of forgiveness and hope. God has provided the answer. 

Romans 7:17-25  “I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

How often do we describe our struggles with terms such as, “I can’t seem to quit”–”I’ve tried to stop”–”I just don’t have the strength”–”That’s what I have a problem believing!” Of course we cannot change ourselves. God, through Jesus, has forgiven our sins forever and then, because He knows we will always need reassurance, implanted His Holy Spirit deep within us. We are never alone and never expected to change ourselves. If we could make ourselves better then Jesus’ death would be a sham. 

Romans 8:1-2  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

  The rugged father took his young son out on their weekly camping trip but this trip would be different. This would be the time for his son to show what he had learned over the past few years. After hiking several miles into the forest, they set up camp, ate and climbed into sleeping bags to fall asleep under the stars. 

In the morning the son awoke alone. Beside him, leaning against his backpack was a note. It read, “Son. I’ve taught you everything you should need to know about hiking, camping and finding your way home. I’ve gone on ahead and will see you there later. I know you can make it. At least I hope you can. After all, you are nine years old! Love, Dad.” 

Far-fetched story isn’t it? A loving father would never leave his young child completely alone to face all the uncertainties of the forest. In a similar way, our Heavenly Father would never leave us alone to face a sin-riddled world. 

John 14:16-18  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

On my own, many things are impossible. With God nothing is impossible. 

Baptism

Baptism

July 17, 2021

“Many men and women were baptized”  Acts 8:12

Have you been baptized since you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you experienced the public profession of your faith by following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through baptism? The Bible clearly instructs us to take this step, to show all who may be watching that we are symbolically washed clean; are buried (in the water) and raised again, coming up out of that watery grave, arms raised to heaven with a smile from ear to ear.

And yet, there are those who have taken this simple act of obedience and turned it into “Jesus plus”. Jesus plus is any act or belief that says His death on the cross was the first step of forgiveness and eternal salvation. In the case of baptism, some have decided that if you are not baptized following your confession of faith, you are not actually saved. They have taken Peter’s words above to be inclusive, meaning “Repent and be baptized” are the requirements to be saved. Repentance is not enough. In essence, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross did not grant us full forgiveness. According to this belief, His resurrection from the dead still did not fully save us from death and grant us eternal life with Him. We must be baptized! Jesus plus.

“Twice baptism seems to be linked with forgiveness of sins. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (2:38). And later Ananias said to Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord…” (22:16). In both cases the instructions were given to Jews; no Gentile was ever told to be baptized for the remission of sins. In believer’s baptism a Jew publicly repudiated his connection with the nation that rejected and crucified its Messiah. The basis of his forgiveness was faith in the Lord Jesus. The purchase price of his forgiveness was the precious blood of the Lord. The way in which his forgiveness was administered was through water baptism, because his baptism publicly removed him from Jewish ground and put him on Christian ground.” ~William MacDonald’s Bible Commentary

Our salvation is based on our faith in what Jesus did for us, not on something we did. Jesus did not appear to His disciples after His resurrection and tell them something like, “Yes, it’s true, I suffered that incredible pain and suffering and then God raised me from the dead for your eternal life. But now you have to do one more thing. If you aren’t baptized, you won’t be saved!”

    Ephesians 2:8-9  You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.

    Acts 15:11 “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

    When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you the living water.” ~John 4:10. Notice that the Lord did not mention baptism. Jesus Himself never baptized anyone!

    John 14:6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    Romans 10:9-10  “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Notice that Paul does not add, ‘and is baptized.’”

    Acts 16:30-31  “…He said, ‘Sirs what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

    Nothing we do can add to our salvation. It is complete in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself to forgive our sins and grant us the beauty and majesty of eternal life with Him. If you’ve not been baptized, you should. It is a wonderful experience, a joyous celebration, and an important step in proclaiming our salvation to the world. However, our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, not the water of baptism!

Life After Death!

Life After Death

July 10, 2021

“Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” ~Jesus

Two men were discussing what happens after death.  One of them said that since they were both Christians, it was certain that they would not really die but pass from this life into the next, living forever with God. The second man, however expressed doubts about that, saying he sure hoped it was true. He had been a Christian for over 40 years!

Are you a Christian? Have you expressed faith in Jesus Christ? If so your sins are forgiven and the Bible promises that you will spend eternity with God. The following are Bible verses that give all Christians assurance of eternal life with God.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 3:36 “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”

1 Peter 1:3-5 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40 Jesus replied, “. . .This is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:47, 51 “I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life. . .I am that Living Bread that came down out of heaven.”

Romans 8:38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

John 3:16 “ God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

It is by faith that we are saved and our sins forgiven. It is by that same faith that we believe in eternal life with our Heavenly Father…without exception.

Who Do You Want To Please?

Who Do You Want To Please? 

June 30, 2021 

“We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4 

Most of us are brought up learning how to please certain people in our lives. First are usually our parents. We learn what it takes to make them happy if we want our lives to go smoothly. The behaviors that need refining are pointed out to us quickly by some sort of punishment. 

Then we learn to apply that method of getting along to our teachers, friends, relatives, bosses, pastors, policemen, spouse, team mates, and others with whom we interact in life. As life progresses, most people become fairly adept in getting along and pleasing others, trying not to offend. We look for that middle place that allows us to forge our way through life, getting along without ruffling too many feathers. We are considered successful if people think of us as nice, as pleasing. 

But what about God? Are we trying to please God? Does he even make the list of those we wish to please every day? If a survey was taken that asked the question: “Who is the most important person in your life?” how many of us would immediately say, Jesus or God? The Lord is our Savior and has a special place in our lives, we say. But really…is He our primary focus each day? Are we trying to please God? 

 Romans 14:17-18

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” 

Philippians 2:12-13 

“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 

Colossians 1:9-10 

“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

Hebrews 11:6 

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” 

1 Peter 2:19, 21

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 

Pleasing God opens the door for pleasing anyone else. It is the foundation upon which all worthwhile relationships are built. On our own, we often view relationships through the filter of self-gain and convenience. And yet, in our hearts, we desire to express the love of Christ to everyone, to see each other through the filter of God’s love, His selfless, servant-like love. Because of the Holy Spirit, that desire is made possible. Dear God, thank You for guiding our lives according to Your Holy Will.

He Gave Them Glory

“God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God” Romans 8:28

They were a tight-knit group of Christians who met for prayer weekly. In the beginning, they were uncertain about how to pray and what to say. But as time progressed, they became more confident, more certain of how and what to say. It seemed powerful and life-changing. There was, however, one problem, a serious one. This steadfast group had fallen in love with their ability to pray—it was as though they, through their powerful-sounding words, were causing things to happen or not happen.  They had forgotten about God’s Holy Spirit who intercedes for us as we pray. 

Additionally, they had forgotten about Romans 8 which says, in part, that all things work together for good for all believers. They were constantly praying that God would take away all problems and obstacles from people, as though God’s intention was for all believers to have a smooth-sailing life, coupled with a bit of prosperity. Good jobs, ample money and smooth-sounding prayers had jaded them to reshape God into a human; a powerful and generous one, but a human none-the-less. 

This went on for several years until one night, a newcomer quite innocently asked if she could read a section of Scripture that God had put on her heart. She read as follows: 

   Romans 8:28-39  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. 29 For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since He did not spare even his own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with Himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 As the Scriptures say, “For Your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Psalm 44:22) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Her reading brought tears of repentance and renewed joy to all in attendance. God took a simple request, blended with His living Word to remind this group of believers of their first love. 

   Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”  

   Psalms 12:6 “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace. . .purified seven times.” 

Engrave these words of God on your mind. Call upon them during times of fear, depression, anxiety, frustration, doubt and failure. God’s words never fail or lose their power. And remember that the Bible does not teach that God promises His followers smooth-sailing in this world. Quite the contrary, He assures we shall have conflict, suffering and problems. The equipment provided to navigate these troublesome waters is based on our faith and trust in God’s Son through His death and resurrection. Nothing escapes God. He is always with us and will never leave us. Powerful-sounding prayers are not really that. Simple, heart-felt prayers are actually more powerful. 

We Are His Masterpiece

“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life so he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views in his adult life.

After a life of half-hearted Christianity and secret sins, Mike began to wonder if he was really “saved”. He was walking in doubt, hoping he would be allowed into heaven but secretly doubting it. His feelings of failure and unworthiness grew each passing year because Mike was not working on his relationship with Christ. Mike had become lukewarm and no longer understood his total forgiveness and right standing in Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-10 “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness which is a lie from the enemy of our souls. Satan wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. Jesus wants us to repent of our sins, walking in the newness of life with Christ no matter what our situation.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

2 Timothy 1:9 “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility and promise from Jesus. The Bible reminds us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of Satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bed-ridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life. When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave His life to rescue us for all eternity. Is there nothing we would not do to show our gratitude?

Luke 10:19-20 “It is true that I have given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the enemy’s power—there is nothing at all that can do you any harm. Yet it is not your power over evil spirits which should give such joy, but the fact that your names are written in Heaven.”

How Can I Experience God’s Peace?

“ I forget what is behind” ~Philippians 3:13

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.

What about those times we can’t find the bliss of sleep, tossing and turning as we replay the day’s challenges or those just around the corner of tomorrow? As the infomercial salesman says, “But wait, I have a solution for that!” And God really does. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

Are you carrying unnecessary burdens around like a steamer trunk? Going to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to relieve you of these burdens; thanking Him for His grace, forgiveness and mercy and then, after your prayers, you pick up your heavy load and walk away?

Do you find yourself thinking these thoughts, “I know God has forgiven me but—” “His grace and mercy are so wonderful but—” “I know He wants me to stop worrying about life but—” Are you really a believer or are you but-ing yourself into sleepless nights and a stomach ulcer?

What is God’s promised peace? Is it tangible or spiritual and is it impervious to Satan’s attacks and worldly pressures? Finally, is His peace permanent? Answers to this question are found in the Bible.

John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus made these promises to his followers as they were under tyrannical Roman rule. Not only that but they had chosen to walk away from their religious leaders to follow Christ which  brought scorn, arrests, beatings, and death! 

If Jesus could promise his followers in such dire living conditions that he was giving them peace, how can we possibly doubt his promises today? Consequently, if I am not walking in the peace of Christ that passes human understanding, who is to blame?

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

Romans 8:1-2; 9 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Philippians 3:7-9  But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him.” 

Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (knowing Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. Additionally, His sacrifice blotted out our past sins as well. Our arch-enemy, Satan will attempt to rekindle our memories of past failures but the shield of faith prevents those fiery darts from hitting home. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day. . .guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

Obey The Government!

Obey the Government

March 27, 2021

“For God is the One who put it there” ~Romans 13:1

Phil, the church’s accountant, was stunned out of a sound sleep by the shrill ringing of his phone. Clearing the fog of sleep he answered and learned, to his consternation, that five of his congregants were in jail and needed him to post bond. The same frustrating five who willingly put themselves in opposition to the government, whether local or federal. As they saw it, the government is corrupt and needs someone to challenge it and they were those someones! But from Phil’s perspective, all these Christians did was stir the proverbial pot, bringing pain and problems, as well as wasting the churches money without any positive change. This morning, he took his time getting dressed.

An hour later, as they left the jail, Phil said, “I’ve got to say my piece here. When are you people going to stop causing all this trouble? You’re giving the church a bad name, not to mention Christians in general. Oh and people’s offerings too. Have you ever thought of that? Do you think the rest of us give tithe and offerings with the expectation of paying your bail?”

“Listen Phil, someone has to stand up for what’s right in our government. We can’t allow these corrupt people to just have their way, overtaxing us, forcing us to follow biased and wrong-spirited laws. We have to force the government to do what’s right!”

“Right according to who? You bunch? If you’re really concerned for the general welfare of your fellow citizens, run for office and really make a difference instead of acting like irresponsible teenagers; not to mention violating the Bible. Have you considered that?”

“What are you talking about, Phil. The last thing we would do is to violate God’s Word. God expects us to defend the downtrodden and those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

“Are you serious? What downtrodden are you helping? As for violating God’s Word, read the 13th chapter of Romans and see how you line up.”

“Well, what about in the Book of Acts when Peter and some others were arrested and they said they had to obey God rather than men.”

“Actually,” Phil replied, “ that happened because the apostles were preaching Jesus as well as performing miracles in His name. They were arrested but an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates, brought them out and told them to “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life.” and then they were re-arrested and that is when Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

By this time they had arrived at the church. “I want you to come inside and we’ll have some coffee and share a little more about God establishing governments and kingdoms,” Phil said.

By now everyone was looking forward to what they might learn from the Lord. “Let’s look at Daniel 2:21, “World events are under [God’s] control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence.” We must remember that God is all powerful and very involved in world events. He is the creator and has a plan for His creations.”

“Now, let’s look at Romans 13:1, “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.” During the Lord’s last three years on earth, did he ever say to his disciples that we must form groups and set about to overthrow this corrupt, evil government? Did Jesus confront any person of authority and demand better civil rights for everyone? Did he confront the Romans who were arresting, torturing, and killing His followers with demands they be released? Just the opposite.

One day Jesus called his disciples together and said, “Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him. But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like My own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

“So,” Phil began, “what should we do about injustice and social wrongs? Since we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we should always begin with the advice dispensed by the Book of James 1:5-8 “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and He will gladly tell you, for He is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask Him; He will not resent it. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to tell you for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way, and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.”

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but My Words remain forever.” Matthew 24:35

Since this is true, shouldn’t our focus be on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Imaginary Roadblocks

“God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness” ~2 Timothy 1:7

I’m 37 and not married. 

I’m married but can’t have children.

I don’t know who my mother/father is.

I am not clever or articulate.

I am short and  chubby.

I didn’t invest my money and now I am living on a minimal income. 

I made bad choices and I am a loser.

These are imaginary roadblocks and those who hold these ideas think they are losers, failures; they think life has passed them by and the Lord is not playing fair with them. They believe if these so-called problems were rectified, life would be so much better. They would be satisfied and content. Not true.

Many years ago I was at a conference led by a Catholic priest. During one of the classes he said, “You cannot listen to your feelings. We all have them but you cannot allow them to lead your life. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!”

At first I rejected his statement as ridiculous. But after a few hours of ruminating, I realized he was correct. Feelings are just that, feelings. Let’s go back to the list above. Each of these statements are tied in to feelings. For example, I’m 37 and not married. Possible feelings: “I am never going to find the right guy and enjoy family life. What is wrong with me?”

I don’t know who my father is. Possible feeling: “I am a loser not knowing who my father is. I have no sense of identity.” Another person may say, “I know who my father is and he was a terrible, mean-spirited, drunk who caused great sadness and fear in our family.”

If we focus on what we don’t have, we allow those pesky feelings to rule our lives. A man was overheard to say on the day of his college graduation, “I am so frustrated. I missed graduating with an A average by just a couple of grade points. I feel like the whole experience was a bust!

Another graduate who held a great celebration party just graduating college, cannot understand the other person’s attitude. They would think it strange to find disappointment in such success. Feelings can take you down.

2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.”

Pause a moment. God. The creator of everything says He has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and a sound mind! That is a promise. Do we believe it? Or do we allow our feelings to trample on this promise?

Fear sneaks in right behind doubt and we fall apart. The what-if’s come roaring in followed by I’m not worthy and we reach for our well-worn loser hat and slink down the road, muttering, “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Guess what we are actually saying? “God is a liar!” Shocking isn’t it. Of course we never utter those words but that is what we secretly believe. 

“I’d never call God a liar,” we shout pounding on the table. “That would be ridiculous and just wrong.” However, when we read 2 Timothy 1:7 and allow fear to tear life from our grasp, we are proclaiming loudly that it is not true. Faith in Christ brings new life, life built on the foundation of God’s love, grace and mercy. The unifying element which ties this all together is forgiveness, God’s and ours. Reading His Word, talking to him openly (known as prayer), brings God-given results in every situation, no matter how we feel!

We must resist our negative feelings and “rely on the power of God, who has saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 1 Timothy 1:8-9

God’s Gifts!

February 14, 2021

“It is the Holy Spirit who is the source of them all” ~1 Cor. 12:4

I remember it so well as though it happened recently. I attended a growing church and was a novice photographer. I wondered if I could capture the joy and exuberance of my fellow worshipers as they sang and praised the Lord. To accomplish this, I needed an additional zoom or telephoto lens. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me how to find such a lens within my budget. 

It was a week or two later that a man in the congregation stopped me after church and said, “I have a gift for you. The Lord put it on my heart to give you all my camera gear!” The following weekend I met him at his home and he gave me two cameras and four lenses. He told me that he was spending too much time with photography instead of with his family and God directed him to give it all to me. I received his gift with joy!

And what about our relationship with The Holy Spirit and His free gifts to us? Do we gladly receive them with eager expectation as I did with the camera gear? Or do we hem and haw, wondering what gift we may have or if we have a gift at all. This question is easily answered in 1 Corinthians 12. If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word then our question regarding Spiritual gifts is answered in Corinthians.

Verse 1: And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them.

Now we know the Holy Spirit gives each of us special abilities (gifts).

Verses 4-7: Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church (Body of Christ).

How wonderful, the Holy Spirit is the source of all of God’s Gifts and—He displays God’s power through us as a means of helping the entire Christian Church! How powerful and essential. Am I still a doubter? Or do I trust God. It’s all Him. There is no begging, no pleading on our knees night after night. God freely gives gift to benefit the Church.

Verses 8-11: To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. 9He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.

Contemplate these gifts: giving wise advice; studying and teaching; special faith; power to heal the sick; performing miracles; power to prophesy and preach; discerning evil spirits and God’s Spirit; speaking an unknown language; power to understand what the unknown language says.

These gifts are beyond our human efforts which is why the Holy Spirit “gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.” The key is, He gives us spiritual gifts. God is the originator and the Holy Spirit is the dispenser. 

When my friend said he was giving me all his camera gear, I was thrilled and filled with anticipation. Once I unwrapped the gift, so to speak, I put it into action quickly, becoming familiar with how it all worked; learning everything I could about each piece of equipment. So should we be concerning God’s gifts—filled with anticipation, walking in faith. Verse 7, above says, “The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church (Body of Christ).”