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04/29/16

Permalink 08:15:44 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 342 words   English (US)

The "If Only's"

"If only my children would do what I tell them, I wouldn't yell at them." "If only my wife would be reasonable, I wouldn't be so grumpy." "If only women would dress modestly, I wouldn't have these impure thoughts." "If only I was stronger, I could deal with all these temptations." "If only God would take these temptations away, I could be good."

Does this sound familiar? Is it true that what we really need is deliverance from the problems of this life? If so, then why did James say, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4 ). Listen to what Paul says about the "if onlys": "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." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). If these words of Scripture are true, then maybe we need to look for a different cause of our behaviors that bring us (and others) pain...

Could it be that it is more important how we handle temptation, than what we are being tempted by? Could it also be true that temptations could actually be a tool to strengthen our moral character, if they are handled appropriately? And, is it true that God really does prevent us from being tempted beyond what we are able to deal with, when we surrender our will to Him? Based on Scripture, and my own personal experience, I believe the answers to all these questions to be true.

Without a Higher Power to help us, we have no chance of fully dealing with our issues. But, as we learn to cooperate with the loving God of creation, we can become the kind of persons that He created us to be. I totally agree with Paul, when he said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ). In the moment of temptation, when I realize my powerlessness, accept His all-powerfulness, and surrender to Him, asking, Lord what would you have me to do (Acts 9:6 ), He really does deliver me from evil, in the presence of my "enemies" (Psalms 23:1-6 ). And, I believe, He strengthens my character, in that process.

So, what about counting it all joy when we're tempted (James 1:2-4 )? I'm not quite there but, I'm getting closer... How about you?

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

01/22/16

Permalink 08:37:26 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 306 words   English (US)

The Paradox of Control

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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." (Philippians 4:6,7 ).

It's relatively easy to say that I choose to turn my will and life over to the care of God. But, in a practical sense, what does that really mean? My tendency is to want to control people, situations, things, and myself. The paradox is that, the more I try to be in control, the more out-of-control I feel. I become anxious and irritable. I lose the peace of God and I lose control over more and more of my life.

Conversely, when I let go of the control that I desire, turning it over to God, trusting that He really does have my best interest at heart, things begin to change -- for the better. I become less anxious for the future, less worried, and less irritable (Philippians 4:6 ). I feel less inclined to try to control people and situations. Through all of this, I actually gain more control over my own life, by cooperating with God -- choosing to be led by Him. Then, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ) returns.

I wonder if maybe this is the experience that the apostle Paul was referring to when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 ).

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 )

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

10/30/15

Permalink 09:20:38 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 02 "God can...", 03 "I will co-operate...", 345 words   English (US)

The Secret of Death

The apostle Paul said, "... I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31 ) and, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 ).

Death to self is counter-intuitive in the me-centered world we live in today. Death to self is counter-intuitive to me because I want to be the center of my world. However, I am finding that I am unable to see into the future in order to make the best decisions for today. In fact, I can do nothing without God. Why would I think that? Look at the words of Jesus: "The Son can do nothing of Himself... I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19,30 ) and "... without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5 ). So, who am I to think I can do what Jesus said He can't do?

Look at what Isaiah said, "The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body. You will be like a garden that has enough water, like a well of water that never dries up" (Isaiah 58:11 ).

A wise person once said, "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." (Ministry of Healing 479). and, "... this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." (Colossians 1:37 )

As I consider this evidence and my own anecdotal experiences of God's leading in the past, I can't help but choose to continually invite God/Christ/the Holy Spirit to live in me. I choose death to self that I may experience the secret of death: Christ in me, the hope of glory for the future, peace in the present, with acceptance and forgiveness for my past failure.

What about you?

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

08/07/15

Permalink 07:44:39 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 194 words   English (US)

Abiding with the Good Shepherd

Jesus, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25 )

As a sinner, I stray away from the Good Shepherd, seeking to do my own thing in my own way. But because He is the Good Shepherd He never stops pursuing me, continually seeking to lead me back to His fold of safety.

Without Him I am powerless and can never find my way back (John 15:5 ). But, because He pursues me, I am able to choose to follow Him. It's that "choosing" that's the hardest part because when temptation comes, it tries to lure me away from the safety of the fold. That "fold" is the place where I trust and obey. It's the place where I choose to follow Him, not knowing what the outcome will be. It's the place where I "die" to my own ideas of how to deal with problems and live with my life hid in Christ -- the Shepherd and Overseer (Bishop) of my life.

The beauty of the "fold" is in its safety and power, because as I choose to do the good that I am unable to do, the Good Shepherd wraps His loving arms around me and gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 ). "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3 ).

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

05/15/15

Permalink 08:23:39 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 597 words   English (US)

Why Surrender to a God Who Lets Bad Things Happen?

The Bible teaches that all things work together for good for those who follow God (Romans 8:28 ). It also says that we should glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3 ). So, how does that work when a loved one is murdered? How does a person, who was molested daily as a child for years, glory in that kind of tribulation? When a person is raped, how does that work together for good? Is God sadistic, or what?

It appears to me that there is a lot of anger towards God in a lot of people, for seemingly good reasons. In Christians, this anger is often hidden -- stuffed down deep inside. It's just not cool to be angry with God, when you're a Christian. But whenever we stuff things that are troubling us, rather than dealing with them, it's like cancer. Those hidden malignant cells grow and grow until we are no longer able to function normally. Eventually, it becomes excruciatingly painful.

We don't want to deal with it, because it's painful to talk about it. But the pain of not dealing with it will eventually overwhelm us. So, why not talk about it? Why not be honest about our relationship with God? My God is big enough to handle being yelled at. When we talk things out with each other, and pray for one another, we come out of isolation. The enemy hates it when that happens because that's when he begins to lose his fiendish grip on us (James 5:16 ).

So, what about a God who lets bad things happen? Why is that? Why doesn't He just zap those murderers, rapists, and pedophiles? Those people are soooo sinful!! What about a God who lets sin happen? Why doesn't He just zap all those sinners? Why doesn't He give them all (Romans 3:23 ) (including you and me) what they deserve -- death -- right now?! (Romans 6:23 ). Why did Jesus humble Himself to become flesh and bones in this sinful world -- forever giving up some of His Divine attributes? Why did He risk His eternal life and die the second death to pay the penalty for my sins, instead of giving me the eternal death that I deserve? Why did He allow sin to raise its ugly head in the first place? And, why, when the great controversy is ended, will sin NEVER EVER raise its ugly head again?

May I suggest that the answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word? IMHO, the reason is "LOVE". God loves us so much that He values our freedom of choice more than He values His own life.

It is freedom of choice that that allows the rapist, murder, and pedophile to do all their dastardly deeds. It is freedom of choice that has brought all pain and suffering into this world. But, when tribulations come, and God's will is restricted by the evil will of humans and fallen angels, we can be assured that God is suffering right along with us (Matthew 25:40 ). We can be assured that God will do everything He can to bring us out of that tribulation. We can be assured that, if we allow Him, He will deliver us from those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ). Let us never forget that it is freedom of choice that can bring us out of this world and into Heavenly places. That, my friend, is why I choose to surrender my will to a God who lets bad things happen. My God not only loves, but His character is what defines love. That's my God!!

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

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