The War Within

IMG_1394Have you seen the cartoon that shows a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? While these characters are fictional, there are very real forces warring within us. In Galatians 5 Paul teaches about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

As long as we live in an earthly body we will have to choose to serve self or to serve God. When we serve self we allow our flesh to rule our lives. In verses 19-21 Paul gives a list of practices that are evident in the life of someone allowing their sin nature to control them. He also gives a stern warning that those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

How then are we, as believers, to win this war within us and produce the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul describes in verses 22-23?

First, we must recognize that we are not justified by the law. We are justified by faith, through God’s unmerited favor in our lives (grace). Instead of relying on our strength we rely on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the flesh. The two are in constant opposition to each other.

Secondly, we must walk habitually in the Spirit. Seek Him and be responsive to His guidance. This is key to defeating the impulsive desires that seek to snare us into acting without regard for God and others.

Allow the Holy Spirit to become your accountability buddy. We CAN overcome our temptation(s) IF we will guard our heart and our mind. Impulse is your enemy. Pray, and the Lord will show you the way of escape. Most of the time the temptation will pass quickly if you do not continue to entertain the thought. Change your focus.

You will win this war, one battle at a time. If you blow it, repent with sincerity and God will forgive and restore you. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of His presence within you. Press in and press on! Victory has already been won for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformed

IMG_1391The life I live today is very different than the life I lived when I was younger. While I often focus on how far I have to go, occasionally God reminds me just how far I’ve come. There are many people in my life who know “the old me”, the BC ‘before Christ’ me. They are a witness to the transforming power of God in my life.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received was while sharing my story with someone who only knew the ‘after Christ’ me. After hearing some of the details of my past, she said, “I just can’t see you doing that.” 

God’s Word tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we become a NEW creation in Christ. Many times I struggle with the dead man of my past as I fight through the process of transformation. Some people are blessed with instantaneous deliverance. Most, I believe become a new creation through the renewing of the mind.

What does that mean? Paul,tells us in Romans 12:2, “don’t conform to the patterns of this world.” Patterns represent the values and customs of society. We cannot rely on culture to determine our standard of living. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on religion either. Even within the Christian faith there are many denominations. Sometimes your acceptance there is dependent on conforming to ‘their’ particular belief system or doctrine.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating abandoning the church. The church is not a denomination. It is a body, made up of those who follow Christ. As a body, we cannot function alone, we need each other. Our goal should be to be transformed into the image of Christ. He alone is our example. His Word sets the standard. We renew our mind by digging into God’s Word for ourselves and allowing His Word to transform us. Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Pray: Father, thank You for transforming me through the power of Your Word. Thank You for renewing my mind and molding me into the image of Your son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior. When I am confused by the values and customs of the world around me, remind me that Your Word is my standard. 

 

 

 

It’s Better There

I lost a dear friend this week. When I saw this verse, it gave me such comfort. The pain and hardship of this life are behind her now. She had a childlike awe of God. When we talked about Him, she would soak it up like a sponge, always hungry for more. I can imagine her running into the arms of Jesus squealing with delight. It’s better here! 

 My friend Steph was a giver. We were neighbors for twelve years, and friends for almost twenty. When I was still working Steph came over everyday and took my dogs out. She loved animals and they loved her. When I had a problem she was always there trying to step in and offer a solution. She often scolded me for being too independent to accept help. 

But, Steph lived a troubled life. She suffered from mental illness and a history of drug abuse. I’m not sure which contributed to which, but she was tortured by both.

Knowing Steph changed my perception of people struggling with these issues. It’s easy to judge someone for their shortcomings, but I promise you, no one wants that life. Steph felt deep sorrow over the pain her addiction caused those she loved the most, especially her daughter Natera and her grandchildren. She wanted so much to make them proud of her. But too often, her demons were stronger than her desire to change.

I’m thankful Jesus knows our hearts. He came to set us free and give us an abundant life. Unfortunately, Steph didn’t understand how to fight spiritually for what He had already given her. Her fight is over now. Rest In Peace sweet friend. Thank you for the difference you made in my life.

Don’t Give Up!

IMG_1374If you’ve ever planted a garden you know it’s hard work. It takes time and dedication. You can’t just throw some seeds on the ground and expect to reap a harvest. You have to cultivate the soil, plant your seeds (in the proper season), water, weed and feed your plants. Nature will do the rest. 

Sowing and reaping take time. Instead of learning the benefits of “delayed gratification” we have become a culture of “instant gratification”. Don’t lose your patience in the waiting. Good things DO come to those who wait.

It’s easy to become weary when we don’t see the fruit of our labor, be it physical or spiritual, but God has a perfect timetable. Some plants take longer to produce than others. God is not delaying your answer to prayer, He is growing it to perfection. Trust His timing.

Phillipians 1:6 tells us, “He who began a good work in You will bring it to completion.” I am thankful God is patient with me in the process. What if He gave up on us if we didn’t meet His expectations? None of us would survive. And yet, too often we are ready to give up on God’s promises to us, on our dreams, on the lost, because we don’t understand the waiting.

Your situation is NOT hopeless, no matter how desperate it seems. Do your best and trust the rest to The Father.

Pray: Lord, thank You for Your perfect timing. Forgive me when I grow weary. Remind me that I will reap a harvest IF I do not give up. Give me the motivation to see things to completion. Thank You for Your faithfulness. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Leads by Example

IMG_1373Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I am thankful God is a God of mercy and compassion, but what really stands out to me in this verse is how God leads by example. There is a lesson to be learned in everything He does. His leadership skills surpass all others.

I doubt God would approve of the old parental saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” God is not an abusive Father. He is not an authoritative tyrant. He is LOVE. Sometimes that’s difficult for people to understand in light of all the evil in the world. How many times have you heard someone ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” The simple answer is free will. God created us to be His children. A good parent leads and directs their child but ultimately the child must choose to accept or reject the guidance they are given. Many times the suffering in the world is the consequence of someone’s bad choice. But, that’s a lesson for another blog. The point here is, God teaches and leads through action. He doesn’t ask us to do what He is unwilling to do Himself.

I have met many people who discovered their life passion through hardship. Instead of using their pain as an excuse they turned it into a purpose.

When God comforts us, He is teaching us to comfort others. Allow God to use the life lessons you have learned to help others in their time of need.

PRAY: Father, thank You for teaching me to be merciful and compassionate by showing me mercy and comfort. I am so thankful You lead by example. Teach me Your ways Oh, Lord. Help me to always model what I have learned through You. 

Come On In!

IMG_1372I’ve always heard this verse as an invitation for salvation. Reading it in the NLT gave me a different perspective. There is something very intimate about sharing a meal together. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is looking for intimate friendship with us. How astounding is that? When was the last time you had dinner with a King?

Jesus wants to dine with you! He wants to sit down and converse with you. He wants to be your friend. The next time you sit down for a meal, imagine Him sitting across from you. Imagine Him sharing intimate details about His life that aren’t portrayed in scripture. What was He thinking and feeling during some of the events we know only from the perspective of the apostles? What was the atmosphere like in Heaven the day He stepped down from the throne to take on the form of human frailty?

I seriously doubt our list of prayer requests would even cross our mind during such an encounter. Our only focus would be on Him, and in that focus everything else dims in comparison.  

PRAY:
Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship with YOU. It is beyond my comprehension that You desire intimacy with me. What an honor and a privilege. Thank You that the gift of salvation is also a call to relationship. Yes, You are my LORD and SAVIOR, but You are also a friend who loves at all times. Lord, I give You an open invitation to the door of my life. Come in and dine with me, not occasionally, but daily. No need to knock, just come on in.

 

Freedom in Christ

IMG_1371“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”  ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭NLT

Paul wrote this passage to refute a false teaching that required Gentiles to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses. He reminds them that salvation is through Grace alone.

Jesus, the lamb of God, became the perfect sacrifice. He knew man could never obtain righteousness through performance. Our righteousness is in Christ. Jesus freed us from the curse of the law. 

In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul goes on to explain the results of giving in to the desires of the flesh. He erases any doubt that freedom in Christ is a license to sin. He gives a vivid metaphor of us hammering the passions and desires of our sin nature to the cross and crucifying them with Christ. 

We have a new law, the law of the Spirit. My freedom in Christ does not give me the right to sin against others. It gives me the freedom to serve them rather than myself. As the fruit of the Spirit matures within me, my desires should change from a focus on self to a focus on others, reflecting the nature of Christ. I should always consider how my actions will impact those around me. 

PRAY:
Lord, thank You for calling me to live in freedom. Thank you for replacing the “letter of the law”, which I could never uphold, with the law of the Spirit, which produces the fruit of the Spirit within me. 

Help me to always be mindful of how my attitudes and actions impact others. Let me be a reflection of Your love.

Your Word says all of the law can be summed up in the first and second commandments … Love God, love others.