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Opinions, expressions, essays and devotions. 


Saturday
May262018

Don’t Let Money Destroy You 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Two typical patterns emerge in matters of money: Financial adversity.  After managing to survive financially for several years, a crisis occurs (loss of job, illness, etc.). Insecurity and fear develops about money. Peers prosper while your finances stagnate or worsen. Tithes and offerings seem impossible. You become obsessed with what you lack instead of what you have.  Envy, jealousy, and resentment torment you. Financial prosperity. Having come from an average or even poor financial background, things begin to go very well for you. Money opens up a new range of possibilities for you in purchasing power, leisure time and social status.  Possessions start claiming more and more of your time. Your new status puts you into a new peer group with new expectations of you. Their opinions begin to crowd out spiritual relationships and obligations.  Money becomes the answer to every problem. Giving to God loses its sacrificial meaning. Finally, God is no longer in first place. 

Money itself is not the problem.  It is the attitude towards money that warrants our concern. I Timothy 6:10. “For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  Money is much more than a medium of exchange.  It means independence.  It stands for success by establishing a high standard of living.  Money represents a way to fulfill our needs and wants.  It can be a measure of devotion, but it can also be an instrument of power. 

Jesus called money “mammon.”  Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” Luke 16:11. Mammon is a Syriac word for money, riches, property, worldly goods or profit, and possibly referred to a Syrian deity.  In other words, mammon is a power to which we surrender. Paul warned Timothy, But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10. 

Money elicits several driving forces, like fear of too little, anxiety of having too much, guilt if it was gained illegally, greed that motivates a desire for more, etc.  But you must understand that money is not an end in itself or that possessions do not measure your life.  The most important strategy you must use is to place your use of money into a moral context.  Are you getting, giving and using money for the glory of God?  Live according to God’s law of ownership. “The earth is the LORD’S, everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1.  Use, do not serve money.  Money is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use it!  

Since we earn our money through gainful employment, you need to develop practical attitudes about money and work.  Work is good and necessary.  You should shun work that destroys or corrupts.  Keep your boss/employee relationship ethical.  Refuse to take advantage of your neighbor.  Dedicate yourself to a personal giving program.  But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able … always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

Friday
May252018

You Can Beat Your Bitterness 

“Lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15

When a close relative or trusted friend does something to hurt you, repercussions happen.  Had it been someone more distant, you could have ignored it. Your first reaction is shock, “How could you?” To approach the person about the issue seems pointless or awkward. You may feel you would be lowering yourself to do so. You don’t even know if or how you would be received. Besides, since you were the one wronged, you think that any attempt at reconciliation should be initiated by the other person. The tension escalates, and soon the damage translates into a major set-back in life. The problem seems to come up in every conversation, and your whole life becomes one big reaction to the problem.  This is the bitterness trajectory, and few matters in life cause more injury or lead to worse health, both physical and spiritual. 

The Greek word for bitterness is “pikria,” meaning pointed, or sharp.  Its literal meaning is an “unpleasant taste.  In Greek literature, pikria referred more often to matters of the soul or spirit.  In the New Testament, Paul warned, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:19. Bitterness is intense animosity, cynicism, ill-will, and is very similar to resentment.  Bitterness motivated Cain to murder his brother Abel.  Characteristics of bitterness include a cantankerous or caustic spirit, along with a host of negative traits. Sometimes physical problems accompany bitterness, like: insomnia, psychosomatic illnesses, anger (often over insignificant matters) and vindictiveness. 

The “root” of bitterness calls attention to three things: 1) Roots grow from seeds.  A seed of truth always goes before bitterness.  The seed is often used to justify bitterness.  2) Roots draw strength from the soil.  The root of bitterness robs good roots from much needed nutrients. 3) Eventually, roots always spring up with a poisonous stem above the ground.  The unseen becomes visible to all. The only difference between bitterness and  MURDER is that one is hatred unfulfilled, while the other is hatred fulfilled.

Remember, you are responsible for your own spirit!  Blaming others for your own spiritual condition is counter-productive. Do not dismiss bitterness as irrelevant.  Bitterness is sin. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love… Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11. Love and forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. Bitterness makes you smaller, meaner, more cynical and less Christ-like, and will affect your entire life in many ways. 

Examine your conscience for bitterness. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.  Gauge your bitterness by these questions: What are your wishes for the other person? Can you pray for him or her? Do you talk openly against this person? 

Confess your bitterness to God, and, if necessary, to a spiritual leader. (1 John 1:9). Leave all judgment to God! Consider the Old Testament example of Joseph. The offense against him was blatant and clear-cut.  His life was completely altered. At the end, he had his brothers in his power. Instead of revenge, Joseph’s triumph over bitterness meant the salvation of Israel. “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:12-14.

Thursday
May242018

Crucify Your Flesh. 

“Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth.” Colossians 3:5. 

Your new birth experience elevated you into a God-relationship, but soon after, you were ambushed by the flesh. At first, you refused temptation effortlessly, like flicking a mosquito off your arm. Then life happened. Fleshly weaknesses surfaced. Instead of resisting these pressures, you yielded to them. You repented and recovered, but it kept happening. Condemnation set in until you lost your initial joy. Eventually, you felt trapped by your continual failure. Living for God now seems impossible. 

The Bible refers to the flesh as lusts, desires and the fallen human nature. “We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” Ephesians 2:3. Moreover, the flesh consists of our works or deeds.  Now the works of the flesh are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you… that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. This is a catalog of general corruption. 

Humans are entrapped by the Law of Sin. “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans. 6:13-14 NIV. We inherited this from Adam’s sinful nature. Romans 5:12-14. The flesh will always serve the Law of Sin, revealing the depth of Adam’s transgression.  “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” Romans 7:25 NIV.  The flesh cannot be saved and will not enter heaven.  Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:50. 

You must not coddle nor be permissive with sin. “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7. This is a life or death matter.  “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13. You cannot reason with your sinful nature any more than you can reason with a poisonous snake or spider. Only death will do.  

The Old Testament sacrifices symbolized the attitude of the penitent; crucifying the flesh is not emblematic, but actual.  It must happen every day.  Even the great Apostle Paul wrote, “I die daily.” 1 Corinthians 15:31.  Keeping it viable involves several approaches. 

  1. Continue to walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:1-9.
  2. Develop a hatred for the sinful flesh. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25.
  3. Remove every temptation you can.
  4. Maintain a continually repentant heart.
  5. Fall deeply in love with Jesus.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.

Wednesday
May232018

A Note about My Recent Posts

SOME OF THE REGULAR VISITORS to my blog may have noticed I have posted a piece every day for the last six months.  It’s been quite an undertaking. While a number of these posts were spontaneous, most of them were redo’s from my sermons and Bible studies from the past.  

My long-range goal is to compile all of these articles into at least two books (possible four) specifically designed to encourage, instruct and otherwise help Spirit-filled Christians progress in their discipleship. Each chapter will be stand-alone, short, targeted, and, I hope, inspirational.  Most busy people don’t have or won’t take the time to read a whole book, but they might read a short chapter of 1-2 pages when they wake up in the morning or before they go to sleep at night.

In order to maintain these parameters, I have sacrificed thoroughness for brevity. I would love to have exhausted each subject with more paragraphs to clarify, enhance, and maybe bloviate a little. If you feel I have given short shrift to a subject, or that I hastened to a conclusion too fast, you’re probably right.  Please forgive me and chalk it up to my insistence on holding to my purpose.  Today’s readers have much different habits and reasons for reading than those of yesterday. It would serve no purpose for me to write for a class of readers who no longer exist.  

I hope this explanation will help you understand what I have been doing.  If I can strengthen and encourage some struggling disciple, I will be very satisfied. 

Wednesday
May232018

Denying Self and Confronting Your Ego 

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 

You escaped Earth’s gravity and touched the stars. You never knew you could have such joy and excitement as you found in your initial salvation experience. Then, you floated back down to reality. It dawned on you that this is a life to be lived, not just an experience to be enjoyed. You must “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:1-2. 

But—surprise, surprise—you find that you cannot easily define yourself differently.  Maybe you’ve always been strongly independent.  You may be self-willful, proud, selfish, a maverick or even rebellious.  Suddenly, you realize that God is putting you through a series of trials to purge you of your ego-dominated life. It doesn’t go well. Unwilling to let go of your old definitions, your joy dissipates, and you grow miserable. Ultimately, you must decide: Christ or you? 

First, understand that God is not your enemy.  You are contending with your ego not with God.  It’s all based on why God saved you.  He is trying to develop you for his use. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9. 

It is important to respect yourself but beware of pop psychology.  What psychology calls self-esteem, the Bible calls sin.  Pride, lack of submission, rejection of spiritual authority, rebellion and egotism run counter to the will of God in your life.  “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16.  Dethrone yourself and enthrone Jesus Christ.  He is the summation of your purpose in life. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8.

You belong to God—body, soul and spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20. 

As a transformed person, you must now make your life’s decisions from the perspective of your Christian identity.  Career choice; move to another city, marriage, major purchases, everything that can affect your life are decisions that require Christ to be number one. Practice submission.  Submission equals discipleship.  In the clash of wills, God must win! Be alert to self-will.  Self-denial must now become your strategy for life.  Spiritual disciplines, including prayer, fasting, Bible reading, attending church and Christian fellowship, will keep you victorious. 

Always examine yourself (your heart, attitude, motives and affections) in the light of the Word of God. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you are disqualified?” 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Tuesday
May222018

You Can Defeat Your Doubt 

“Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6-8

You were not born to doubt.  Doubt develops progressively through a series of hurts, disappointments and failures.  The background of your walk with God consisted of gross negativity, and when you heard the gospel, God renewed faith in your heart.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  Since your salvation experience, however, you may have fallen back into a negative pattern of thinking.  You continually think about things you don’t like. You are too easily angered by things people do.  Nothing is right. A generally sour attitude characterizes your demeanor. 

In this atmosphere, Satan deliberately plants questions about God’s love and forgiveness. You may doubt whether you have or ever received the Holy Spirit.  You may dismiss the blessings of living for God as coincidental or superfluous. You may waver on other premises like whether you are “cut out” for a spiritual life, whether prayer really works, whether holiness is necessary, etc.  These mounting inner doubts put questions in your mind about others as well. Eventually, you became overwhelmed with a feeling of hypocrisy and phoniness.  Unchecked, skepticism turns into cynicism, and destines you to a total loss of purpose and direction in life. 

Doubt is disbelief, questioning the tenants of your faith.  Its insidious nature reveals itself in a false, expansive, inclusionary attitude by allowing all players to sit at your mental table. That simply allows for double-mindedness, vacillating between two opinions.  Doubt discourages bold action.  Instead, it causes hesitation and uncertainty.  Doubt may be a philosophical questioning of God himself as did the Athenian Greeks.  (Acts 17:16-21), or it may be a practical failure to believe God’s promise as did Eve in Genesis 3:1. 

Do not coddle doubt.  Boldly denounce it.  Abraham refused to doubt God in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Romans 4:13-25.  Thomas renounced his doubt when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the miracle. (John 20:24-29).  Recognize the appearance of doubt. Negative thoughts in your mind is not sin, but a temptation to sin.  Understand that doubt is negative, and if you yield to it, the result will be negative as well.  Doubt is like any other trait of the fleshly nature.  It is always there, but you must keep it in check. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16. Never base any spiritual decisions on doubt. God does not work through doubt. Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23. 

You can defeat your doubt by building up your faith. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:8-9.  You must also exercise your faith.  “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:14. Keep your experience with God current“That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:5.  Finally, when assailed by doubt, don’t go it alone.  Share your problems with a brother or sister and get prayer and support.  This is the wisdom of the church community.  We love one another.

Monday
May212018

Expelling Fear from Your Life 

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18.

Fear can hang over a person like a funeral shroud.  When we get saved, Christ relieves us of these fears and replaces them with joy and confidence.  Our spiritual life can lapse when Satan challenges us with old fears, however, and we often accept his deceptions.  If this happens to you, your life becomes dominated by worry and fear: fear that everything is falling apart, that terrible things are going to happen, that people are against you, that you are losing your mind, etc. You gear most of your praying and thinking toward your own sanity and survival.  

The New Testament uses two words for fear, delia which is cowardice or timidity; and phobos, defined as “a reaction to man’s encounter with force.” Kittle, N.T. Theological Dictionary. “A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.” Mayo Clinic.  Today, the sources of fear include

  1. Fear of people.  We are afraid of people with whom we compare ourselves unfavorably, or who make us feel in adequate or inferior;
  2. Fear of ourselves. We can be afraid of ourselves in terms of how we may react to certain people or situations. We may be afraid that we will yield to temptation;
  3. Fear of the future.  We may fear Calamity, Death, Disease, or Rejection;
  4. Fear of failure. We may be afraid of not measuring up to an ideal, or we may be controlled by perfectionism or be plagued by a poor self-image.  The only fear that is justified is the fear of God.  Oswald Chambers said, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.” 

Proper perception wins half the battle.  You must regard fear as a spiritual enemy.  It attacks the inward man (2 Corinthian 7:4-7) and it will enslave you in spiritual bondage.  (Hebrews 2:14-15).  But it’s even worse than that.  “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly (delois), unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:7-8. 

How should you map your strategy against fear?  The blood of Christ and the name of the Lord Jesus will triumph every time! “As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” Zechariah 9:11. And, because fear is not a tangible, physical enemy, deal with it as a matter of heart and soul.  Fear is a spiritual enemy, and the Bible is kryptonite for fear. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God judges fear. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4. Reject any fear that undermines the Word of God!  Challenge your fear with obedience to the Word of God.  Focus on God rather than on yourself. Abraham counted on God’s performance.  Paul relied on God’s power. Fear, anxiety, cowardice and timidity all meet their match in the Word of God!  “Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:8.

Sunday
May202018

Surviving Your Storm 

“And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.” Luke 8:23 

Storms.  Violent disturbances in the atmosphere. Add prefixes of electric-, thunder-, sand-, wind-, snow-, it makes no difference. We know they’re coming, yet we can’t stop them.  Science explains them as great changes of pressure, temperature, and humidity, but that does little to mitigate our dread.  Nor does it help to create whimsical names for them, like Katrina, Sandy, Ike, Sebastien or Joaquin.  They’re still ugly. 

But it’s the storms of life we fear the most, like disruption of relationships, incidents of violence, loss of job, financial crisis, tragedy of injury, disease or death.  They bring everything in life to a screeching halt.  Moreover, we must not minimize them.  The Holmes-Rahe Scale measures the impact of forty-three kinds of stressful events on, assigning a point value each of them from 100 points for the death of a spouse down to 11 points for a minor traffic violation.  A total of over 150 points at once can lead to a major illness or breakdown. Storms can alter the direction of our lives. 

It is amazing to our human state of mind, then, that Jesus slept through the storm in question.  The anxiety of his disciples, however, woke Him up.  “And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm.” Luke 8:24. The storm didn’t concern Jesus, but its effect on His disciples.  He calmed the wind and the waves for the disciple’s benefit, not His own.  He knew that the storm was not deadly or else he would not have charted the course to the other side of the sea that day.  When storms happen, don’t focus on the storm; instead, study your response to it.  

Some storms are God-ordained.  “Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples.” Luke 8:22. God puts us through tests and trials (1 Peter 1:1-7; 4:12-16), because storms perfect us and make us stronger. Storms sharpen our sailing skills.  Storms teach us to lean on Jesus. Storms deepen our walk with God. 

Some storms are caused by someone else.  When Paul’s ship encountered a storm, he warned the sailors not to leave the ship.  He was a prisoner on board.  He had to suffer the fate of everyone else on the ship.  (Acts 27:7-14).  If you had your way as a husband, wife, parent, you would have made a wide berth around the storm.  But when you are deeply involved with someone, you cannot cut them off.  You must go through the fire with them.  In the end, Paul became the salvation of the ship.  You may ultimately be the reason that your loved ones are saved. 

Storms, regardless of why they come, bolster your faith.  This storm gave the disciples a front row seat to Jesus’ command over the elements.  In the middle of the storm, it is not time to question why.  It makes no sense to react in anger, fear, bitterness, resentment or hatred.  It is time to cry out to the Master. And, always remember, that there are some things the storm can never affect.  They cannot abolish your sure foundation.  They cannot destroy the vessel with Christ on board.  Nothing will happen to you that God does not permit. 

It is folly to insist that God provide you with a perfect existence; a painless life, endless love from everyone, or a life free from disappointment.  You can, however, be taught an invaluable lesson, find peace in the eye of the storm, and the know the presence of God each mile of the way!