Why sin doesn’t work

2018-09-30
James 1:14 CEV

James writes: “Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. Don’t be fooled, my dear friends” (vv. 13-16 CEV). When you keep sinning and violating your values, you can reach a place where it’s hard to live comfortably in your own skin. Any appetite that’s overindulged can quickly become an addiction. What you wanted yesterday, you find yourself needing today. Then before you know it, you give yourself over to the thing that’s controlling your life because it’s the only way you can find temporary escape. Stop and ask: (1) “What about my life’s purpose?” What about the person God called you to be? Seeing the joy others have is a constant reminder of the joy you’ve lost, and what you’re missing out on. (2) “What happens when trouble hits my life or my family?” In such moments you wonder, “Is this happening because of me?” A thousand voices may tell you it’s not your fault, but deep down you are never sure. The only way to find real peace is to get right with God. And you can. Here’s His offer: “Turn to the Lord! He can still be found. Call out to God! He is near. Give up your crooked ways and your evil thoughts. Return to the Lord our God. He will be merciful and forgive your sins” (Isaiah 55:6-7 CEV).

Soul food: Heb 11:7; Gen 6:9-22; Gen 8:18-22

At peace

2018-09-14
Romans 12:18 NIV

‘Live at peace with everyone’ is overwhelmingly general when it’s taken out of context. However, Paul gives us a lot more advice on how to live that instruction out if we go back to Romans 12. He writes: ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord’ (Romans 12:17-19 NIV). What Paul is encouraging us to do is to take responsibility for our own actions. We can think of peaceful living as an idyllic world where everyone is happy and loving towards each other, but Paul makes it less about the world being lovely in general, and more about our responses. He seems to define living ‘at peace’ as having everything to do with how we respond to actions committed against us. That leads to a really interesting possibility. We can choose to live at peace with those who make life difficult for us, whether they regret their actions or not. That is how peace depends on us, and also how we can avoid the mentality that someone else’s wrongdoing can excuse our own if we’re putting them to rights. Romans 12 shows us that we are called to live to godly standards even when those around us don’t. We’re told ‘not be overcome by evil, but [to] overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21 NIV). And that is the key to spreading peace. Even when we’re faced with wrong, we can still forgive and live right.

Neh 1-4; Luke 21:12-24; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 23:26-28

What’s in a name? Everything! (5)

2018-09-07
Jeremiah 23:6 NLT

The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus the redeemer: “I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line…And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness'” (vv. 5-6 NLT). Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. “We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands…God has given us” (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT). We absolutely failed that righteousness test! But “The Lord our righteousness” became our solution. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV). Notice: It’s only “in Jesus” that we “become the righteousness of God”! You’re not to try to do right so you can feel righteous before God, or to generate a supply of good works to draw from when needed. You’re to draw continually from the “righteousness” deposited in your account by Christ. It’s useless to look within yourself for humility, patience, kindness, love, etc. They’re not there! You must take them by faith from the supply stored up for you in Jesus. Guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, anxious spirits can draw peace, and weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. You received salvation by faith alone. And in the same way you must draw righteousness, and everything else you need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for your use in Jesus, The Lord our righteousness!

Soul food: Josh 16:1-19:23; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 20; Prov 23:10-12

Fear (3)

2018-08-07
Philippians 4:6 NIV

When we feel fear, we might think we have failed as a Christian. After all, we are told so many times throughout the Bible not to be afraid. But it’s not the feeling of fear that’s bad, it’s our response to the fear that can cause us problems. When we let our fears stop us from doing things for God, they have overtaken our lives. But we can actually take our feelings of fear and use them to help us go forward. Most negative emotions can be converted into something positive to help us get further in life. If we are afraid of not having enough, we can convert it into a good work ethic. If we are afraid of insignificance, we can convert it to the service of others. We can turn our lives around by using our fear to do something worthwhile. However much we’d like a life with no fear at all, we probably won’t experience that. But we can choose how we respond to our fears. In Philippians it says: ‘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’ (vv.6-7 NIV). When we hand our fear over to God, He can replace it with peace. And when we are going through situations which are making us feel afraid, we can respond to the fear with faith because we know we have got a God who comforts, guides and never leaves us. So when we feel fear, let’s respond with faith, give the fears over to God, and convert the fear into something useful for God’s kingdom.

1 Chr 3:1-4:23; Luke 11:29-44; Ps 78:65-72; Prov 20:11-14

Being there (3)

2018-05-27
2 Corinthians 1:4 MGS

One way to help a friend in crisis is to help them identify important resources – spiritual, personal, and interpersonal. (1) Spiritual resources. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word illuminates the darkness and confusion. His Spirit is the source of all comfort – He gives “peace…which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 RSV). His presence addresses the loneliness, and His power enables the hurting heart to overcome feelings of helplessness. People in crisis are often disoriented, which causes them to forget what God has already given them. (2) Personal resources. Remind them of their unique strengths and skills. Help them recall past triumphs when they successfully navigated through tough times. Encourage a positive attitude that looks to the future rather than being paralyzed by present pain. Most importantly, strengthen their faith with prayer and truths from God’s Word. And last but not least, remind them of your support. (3) Interpersonal resources. Family members, friends, business associates, and neighbors are likely to be supportive, and community resources are also available for medical, financial, and material assistance. The local church is another network source. People in crisis are often too embarrassed to ask for help; they feel like they should be able to handle their own problems. Help them understand that you are blessed by giving, and that one day they too will have an opportunity to help “someone else who is going through hard times.”

Soul food: Gal 5:23; Isa 40:9-11; Isa 42:1-4; Ps 18:31-35