BREAKING THE POWER OF SIN IN MY LIFE…

ROMANS 6:10-11: “For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Am I winning the battle against sin? Is my life a growing story of victory, or am I caught on the Ferris wheel of temptation, failure, and guilt? If I am now under God’s grace, why do I still struggle with sin and temptation?

The struggle against sin and temptation is an ongoing struggle for the believer. When one accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, this struggle is not automatically over. We are forgiven, fully pardoned, released from the penalty of sin, and given the blessed assurance of eternal life. Yet, the struggle continues. And there is no one, including preachers and evangelists, that escape this struggle.

So is there hope, or do we just throw our hands down in defeat and give up? Do we become comfortable with our sin knowing that we are under God’s grace. Let’s listen to what Paul has to say about this.

  • “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it. (Romans 6:1-2, CSB)

Let me put that another way. I know God loves me. I know that I am a Christian. However, I just can’t overcome ….. (fill in the blank). Since I am saved by grace, and I know God loves me, I will just lean on this grace and not worry about my behavior or actions. Unfortunately, this is what some are teaching today. This is what Paul was being accused of teaching. Yet, if we take this position and attitude it does nothing to overcome the continued guilt and shame we experience when we give into sin.

I don’t like Ferris wheels. My wife is nostalgic about them because her father used to take her on one when she was a child. When we lived in Texas, they boasted the claim of having the largest Ferris wheel – the Texas Star. Of course, we had to go on it. And every rotation, every stop, I just wanted to get off. Yet, it seemed like they let everyone off except me. This is the way it can feel when we have areas in our life that we cannot seem to overcome. Will someone please stop the wheel from turning and let me off?!

This is what Paul is addressing in the entire chapter of Romans 6. In verses 10-11 he says,

  • “For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The word “consider” is translated “reckon” in the old King James Bible. In the Greek it has the connotation of an accounting term. It is a calculation based on a fact. Jesus Christ died to sin once, then He rose from the dead, never more to die. We have been united with Christ, in His death to sin, through faith, as expressed in water baptism. When we arise out of the baptismal waters we are being united in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We now have the freedom to live, fully forgiven, fully pardoned, by the wonderful and powerful grace of God. So, each day, we have to make an accounting of this truth in our hearts and lives. Even though we struggle with sin, the reality is we have been released from the power of sin. Each day our checkbook reads – “Paid in Full.”

Yet, this accounting needs to be followed by action. This is where we get stuck on the Ferris wheel. We pray, receive forgiveness, walk in victory for a while, and then fall in the same sin all over again. We hesitate to share this with other people because we don’t want to be judged, and we have heard too many times it is because we simply do not have enough faith. And, all the while we are stuck on the Ferris wheel of sin, rotation after rotation, wanting desperately to get off. What is the answer? What can I do?

  • “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.” Romans 6:12-14 CSB

First, we need to address the lie of sin. Sin says we are defeated. It tries to convince us that we just have to live with our brokenness. We cling desperately to God’s grace and mercy. Yet, we need to realize the truth. Sin no longer has power over our lives. Our union with Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin. “For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). This is the truth, even though it may not be my current reality.

What am I missing?

I have a choice each day, each moment, with what I am going to do with my life. Paul exhorts us – “Don’t offer any parts of it (our physical and emotional members) to sin as weapons of unrighteousness.” Temptation and sin usually begin with a thought. I can entertain that thought, and then offer my eyes, my mind, my mouth, my body, to fulfill that thought – or I can take that though captive in obedience to Christ. When I offer any part of my body or mind to temptation I weaponize the power of sin. I give it the power to once again enslave me. I put myself on the Ferris wheel once again.

Here is a practical example. There was an individual in my life who deeply wounded me and betrayed a feigned friendship. The wound was so deep it was festering in my heart and turning to bitterness. This bitterness was breeding hatred, and it was controlling my thoughts and emotions. I was on the Ferris wheel – unable to get off. I cried out to the Lord for help, and I did not like His answer. The Lord asked me to begin to pray for this person’s salvation and blessing. To be honest, I would have liked one of those strong words from Psalms, not the Sermon on the Mount! Yet, I had a choice of what I was going to do with my thoughts and my mouth.

The choice would either enslave me or set me free.

I began to pray out of obedience and faith. I did not feel it at all. I wondered if following this course would even make a difference. Yet, what I did not realize, I was refusing to give myself to the attitudes and desires of my flesh, and in obedience I was yielding these members to the Lord. I was weaponizing righteousness!

I kept on in obedience. And then something happened. I cannot really recall the moment or the day, but suddenly I was free from my bitterness and hatred. Even though I was never reconciled with this person, their actions no longer had a hold on me. And I found out that I truly did want them to be saved and blessed by the goodness of God!

When I yielded my thoughts and actions in obedience to God, through the power of His grace, the reality of the power of sin being broken became my reality. I found that I truly was dead indeed unto sin and alive unto Jesus Christ my Lord. I began to follow this same understanding and obedience in other areas of my life. And, one by one, the Lord began to help me find His victory and freedom over the power of sin in my life.

This did not remove the struggle. It simply showed me the pathway of victory in the struggle.

Each day the enemy, and the weakness of my flesh, try to pull me back toward the power of sin and failure. Yet, each day I have the choice to consider, reckon, calculate, the truth of Romans 6 in my life. I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live! The power of sin has been broken in my life. I have been given the freedom and ability to present my body as a living sacrifice and use all of my members as an instrument of righteousness through the power of God’s grace.

I am no longer stuck on the Ferris wheel!

Lord, please help me to stand in this truth today. Also, please help anyone who is stuck on the Ferris wheel of sin and failure to run to Your grace and mercy, receive a revelation of this truth, and begin to experience the freedom and power of Your grace overcoming the power of sin in their life.

In Jesus Name!

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GOD’S UNBELIEVABLE CREDIT PLAN!

ROMANS 4:20-25: “He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What does faith have to do with credit? In God’s economy, how do we establish a good credit rating? What is the benefit of God’s credit system?

Turn on the television and you will be greeted with the question – “What’s in your wallet?” Every bank claims to have the best credit card with the best benefits. Some will put you on a plane to a tropical island, while others will put money back in your pocket. All you have to do is use the card and these benefits magically appear. The only problem is, you have to pay them back – with interest!

My wife and I were only 20 something, we were just married, and involved in the new adventure of building our lives together. We both worked and set up separate accounts to manage our money. Then my wife asked if she could get a credit card. It sounded like a good idea to me, as we needed to build our credit rating. So the application was in the mail. With anticipation she waited for her new card.

When the card arrived she was excited to put it to use. To be honest, I got one too! There was a sense of freedom to be able to go and buy something with a little piece of plastic. No one objected. They simply swiped your card, you signed a piece of paper, and they put your purchase in a bag. The first month with our new cards was a joyful experience.

Then the first bill came. My wife was paying for her card and I was paying for mine. I received my bill, wrote the check, and put my payment in the mail. My wife came to me and asked what this bill was for. I explained to her how the credit card worked. She was a bit disappointed to have received a bill (as we all are), but set out to make her payment. Both payments were mailed. However, in a couple of weeks my wife’s payment came back, with a late notice, and a late fee!

I asked her what happened. She really didn’t know. She had written the check, put it in the envelope, and mailed the payment. She then noted that it was nice that they had put a check with the bill to make the payment easy. She tried to pay her credit account with credit. In other words, she tried to pay her bill with something she did not earn. When we think about this story we laugh now. But at the time it happened it was no laughing matter.

What economy allows you to pay your credit account with credit? It is only in God’s economy that our debt is paid by something we did not earn. In fact, faith is like the check that my wife used to try and pay her credit card debt. Faith is something we do not earn, it is given to us by God. And when we believe God, responding to His gift of faith, He credits our life with righteousness. Our sins are forgiven, we are fully pardoned, our account is wiped clean by God Himself!

The gift of faith given to Abraham is extended to all through the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have a huge bill on our account due to our sin. There is no way we can pay it. We are destined for punishment and eternal separation from God. And when we get the bill – there is a check inside! It is the invitation to believe God, to receive His sacrifice, to trust Him for our forgiveness and salvation. It is God’s credit system!

  • “Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

I don’t know anyone who would not take advantage of an offer like this if it was made available for our monetary debts. However, there are those who turn away from God’s free gift of salvation. Why? Because they stumble over the simple gift of faith. They either do not want to let go of their sin, or they think it is too simple and cannot envision a transaction that could occur without their own human effort. Yet, that is exactly what salvation is. It is a transaction of faith. A free gift of God’s grace. And, it is available to all who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Lord, may Your Holy Spirit open the eyes of men and women to truly discover and believe…

  • “HE WAS DELIVERED UP FOR OUR TRESPASSES AND RAISED FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION!”

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN THE MIRACLE ENDS…

I KINGS 17:13-16: “Then Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.’” So she proceeded to do according to the word of Elijah. Then the woman, Elijah, and her household ate for many days. The flour jar did not become empty, and the oil jug did not run dry, according to the word of the Lord he had spoken through Elijah.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What do we do when the miracle ends? Everyone wants a miracle in their life. And, it is a wonderful thing when a miracle comes our way. But, what do we do when the miracle ends?

I was struck with this thought when I read the story of the widow and Elijah. God had stopped the rain in the land according to the word of Elijah. This was a judgment against Israel’s King Ahab. Yet, this judgment also touched innocent people. And one of these individuals was the Zarephath widow and her young son. It also touched Elijah himself!

Elijah had been commanded by God to go to the Wadi Cherith during this drought. He was to drink from the wadi and ravens would bring him food in the morning and the evening. This was a miraculous provision. Yet, even for Elijah, this miraculous provision came to an end. Then God directed him to go to the Zarephath widow for water and food.

When Elijah came to the widow he asked for a drink of water. As she was going to draw some water, Elijah then asked for some bread. The widow explained that she had only enough to make a small cake for her and her son. She was going to do this so she and her son could go off to die. What a tragic situation. And how did Elijah respond? He responded with a request and a promise!

  • “Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.

Talk about miraculous provision! Can you imagine the wonder in the widow’s heart each time she drew flour and oil to make bread? Just as Elijah had spoken, the flour and oil did not run out according to the word of Elijah. However, this miracle did not last forever. It lasted until the day the Lord sent rain on the surface of the land. There was a beginning and an end to the miracle in the widow’s life.

There was also a beginning and an end to the miraculous provision of manna for the Children of Israel. For 40 years they would gather manna every morning for their daily provision. And on Friday they would gather enough for two days so they did not have to work on the Sabbath. Then, when they had entered into the Promised Land – the manna ceased. There was a beginning and an end to their miracle.

What do you do when the miracle ends? We all would rather live in the miracle. However, this is neither possible or realistic. Peter, James, and John wanted to build tabernacles on the mount of transfiguration when they saw Jesus in all of His glory. Yet, they too had to go down from the mountain. God graciously brings miraculous provision into our lives at certain times of need. Yet, this is not the norm. The norm is the norm.

So how do we live when we find ourselves in the norm again? What was the widow to do when the rain came and the flour and oil stopped multiplying? What were the Children of Israel to do when the manna stopped in the Promised Land? They were to do something that God intends us all to do. They were to walk by faith – and work!

  • “Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:12-18 CSB

There is a difference between works righteousness, the attempt to earn our salvation, and the works OF righteousness. The works OF righteousness are the acts of obedience that flow from the heart of faith. It is the robust embracing of life and responsibility in the calling and station we find ourselves in life. It is putting our hand to the plow without looking back. It is realizing that miracles do happen, but we cannot live in them. We live by faith. And our faith calls us to work, to obey, to employ all the gifts that God has given us.

There have been many times that I have waited for the miracle of God. I have thought – “When the miracle comes, then I will be able to do this.” Yet, Elijah did not ask the widow to make him a cake from the oil and flour that God would provide. Rather, Elijah asked the widow to make him a cake from the oil and flour she had. The widow did not obey when the miracle came. She obeyed solely upon the word from the Lord’s anointed. She obeyed in faith!

So, when the miracle stops, we obey in faith. When the miracle happens, we obey in faith. The just live by faith – regardless of the circumstance. When the manna ceased, by faith, the Children of Israel planted crops and worked the land. It took faith to gather the manna and it took faith to plant the seeds. When the miracle stops, we obey in faith!

Lord, forgive me for the times that I have waited for the miracle before obeying You. Forgive me for the times when I have wanted to build a tabernacle and linger in the past of the miracle rather than embracing the present and the future in faith. Grant me the grace to embrace today and all that You are calling me to do. When the miracle stops – help me to continue in faith!

In Jesus Name!

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WE ALL HAVE BLIND SPOTS!

I KINGS 12:8: “But he rejected the advice of the elders who had advised him and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and attended him.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Who am I looking to for counsel and advice? The Book of Proverbs clearly instructs us -“Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” (Proverbs 11:14 CSB). However, if the story of Rehoboam teaches us anything, it is the importance of choosing the right counselors.

Rehoboam had just been established as King in place of his father Solomon. The future was before him. Jeroboam, who had been prophesied to become king over 10 tribes of Israel, returned from Egypt where he had fled after Solomon tried to kill him, and approached Rehoboam with his demands.

  • “Your father made our yoke harsh. You, therefore, lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kings 12:4 CSB

Rehoboam asked for three days to consider this request and seek advice. First, he sought the advice of his father’s counselors. They advised him to follow the request of Jeroboam and solidify the kingdom. Then Rehoboam asked advice from his peers, the young men he had grown up with. They advised him to increase the burden upon the 10 tribes of Israel. Rehoboam listened to the young men and the kingdom was torn away from Rehoboam, except for the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

This story brings home an important point. We all need advice, we all need counsel. However, it is important to be discerning as to who we get this counsel from. There are two important prerequisites to good advice. The first is a godly character. The second is life experience. In a culture that seems to worship youth and inexperience, this story speaks volumes.

Now there is nothing wrong with youth. We are either young now, or we all were young once. Yet, when we are young we do have blind spots. These blind spots are our inexperience. It is a natural pitfall of youth to think that they know better than their seniors. If you want to meet someone who knows everything just talk to a 16 year old. I was one of those young men who thought they knew everything.

I will never forget the day I took my driving test. It was the day of my 16th birthday. The plan was to get my license and then drive my friend to Disneyland to celebrate. I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. I was ready and I knew how to drive! We had just finished a family vacation. My Dad hurt his foot and I drove most of the way home from Michigan to California. I was ready! If anyone knew how to drive it was me.

I remember that my Dad said to be careful and follow what the instructor said. I blew that off. I knew how to drive! I fastened my seat belt and turned on the radio as the instructor sat beside me. I whizzed through the driving test with ease. My turns were smooth, my attitude assured, and Disneyland was almost just a drive away. And then it happened – he flunked me! I blew my driving test. And on my 16th birthday I had to have my parents drive me and my friend to Disneyland as we sat in the back seat.

I should have listened to my Dad!

The wise counselors that had served Solomon were seasoned leaders. They were also godly leaders. Yet, Rehoboam dismissed their advice because he found others who would simply rubber stamp what he really wanted to do. We can always find those who will tell us what we want to hear. However, what we really need are people who will speak the truth into our life – even when it hurts! We need the faithful wounds of a friend!

  • “Better an open reprimand than concealed love. The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” Proverbs 27:5-6 CSB

In life we all have blind spots. It doesn’t matter how young or old we are. It is true when we drive and it is true in life. We cannot see everything clearly. We need godly counsel in our lives. And we need to seek this counsel from those who will be honest, even if it means hurting our feelings. We also must seek this counsel from those who have walked through similar issues in their own life. If we wanted to build a block wall we wouldn’t ask an accountant what materials we should use. We would ask a brick layer! The same is true in our spiritual lives.

And here is one more important aspect to asking for and receiving, godly counsel. We need to pray over the counsel we receive. We need to seek the confirmation of the Lord through His Word and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Godly counsel will not be offended if we test it. Godly counsel welcomes and asks us to test it. Beware of any counsel that clothes itself in “Thus saith the Lord.” Godly counsel will always be open handed and will always join you in praying for God’s will to be revealed and confirmed in your life.

The next chapter in I Kings tells a story about a prophet who rebuked Jeroboam for the idols and high places he had set up. God told him not to eat any bread or drink any water until he fulfilled his mission and returned to his home. On his way home he met an old prophet that invited him to his home to eat and be refreshed. The prophet said he could not, noting God’s instructions to him. However, the old prophet said that he had received a word from an angel and that it was ok for him to accompany the old prophet to his home and eat.

The younger prophet took the word of the older prophet, went to his home and ate, and on his journey back to his home he was killed by a lion because he had disobeyed God’s command. This reminds us that we cannot simply take advice from someone simply because they are older and seem godly. The younger prophet forgot to test the word of the older prophet. He did not pray and seek the Lord. He blindly followed his advice – to his demise.

There is wonderful instruction in the book of Colossians that gives us some balance.

  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17 CSB

These verses remind us to look to the condition of our heart. We are called to walk in love and forgiveness, to abide in God’s word, and to live a life of thankfulness, giving glory to the Lord in everything we do. And as we do, as we admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (godly counsel and edification), the peace of Christ will rule our hearts. The word “rule” in the Greek literally means “umpire.” The presence of the Holy Spirit will guide us through the peace of God into His perfect will. It is through prayer, God’s word, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we will confirm the godly counsel that we receive in our lives.

Lord, we all need godly counsel in our lives. This morning I know that I have blind spots in my life. You have been gracious to surround me with wonderful godly counselors. Help me to seek their counsel, and to weigh their counsel as I wait upon You in prayer, as I ponder their counsel through Your word, and as I allow Your peace to be the umpire in my heart through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus Name!

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THE BIBLE…and…CLIMATE CHANGE

Psalms 65:9-13: “You visit the earth and water it abundantly, enriching it greatly. God’s stream is filled with water, for you prepare the earth in this way, providing people with grain. You soften it with showers and bless its growth, soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges. You crown the year with your goodness; your carts overflow with plenty. The wilderness pastures overflow, and the hills are robed with joy. The pastures are clothed with flocks and the valleys covered with grain. They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Should a Christian be concerned with Climate Change? If you listen to the pundits today, this is the greatest challenge that faces mankind. One young politician is even predicting that we have only 12 years to survive unless radical changes are made in our lifestyles.

To be honest, all the predictions that are thrown around can be downright scary. My heart feels a tug when I see a lonely polar bear floating on a small piece of ice wondering where his home will be. And to make matters worse, if you even stop to question the claims of Climate Change, you are deemed as one who is ignorant and scientifically challenged. Where should a believer stand in all of this?

I am not a scientist. However, I am a student of life and the Scriptures. I want to share some Biblical insight into these questions, along with a little old common sense. Extreme positions rarely prove to be true. They do a lot in scaring us, even motivating us toward a position. However, they do little in changing the course of the world that is ultimately held in God’s hands.

First, I want to share an example from a Christian extreme position. In the early 1970’s there were many Bible teachers who were predicting, according to their interpretation of Bible prophecy, that the world was coming to an end. Some prominent Bible teachers even predicted the date and time (even though the Bible tells us not to). I was a teenager, laying on the edge of the diving board of my pool, my transistor radio in hand, listening to the countdown of the end of the world. Well, you can guess what happened.

Next, I remember being at the grocery store checkout line. They always have magazines at the checkout line. The headlines caught my eyes and made we wonder what the world was coming to. “WE ARE HEADED TOWARD ANOTHER ICE AGE!” There it was. The world was going to come to an end. We were all going to freeze! We were almost out of gas, waiting in long lines to get fuel. The price of everything was skyrocketing. And now – we were going to freeze! Or were we?

Fast forward to Global Warming. The earth is going to melt! The ice caps will melt and the world as we know it will be flooded and destroyed. And to make it worse – we did this! We are the ones who are destroying the planet by driving our cars and eating beef (producing methane gas). And when the temperatures seemed to be reversing, and harsh winters increased, we renamed it Climate Change. Yet, the outcome is still the same. The world will be destroyed by massive flooding because of man’s misuse of the planet.

What does the Bible have to say about all of this? In all of the examples above, if one was truly listening to the pages of Scripture, none of these extreme positions would have been taken. In the verses from Psalm 65 we find God’s care and provision of the earth for mankind’s sake.

  • “God’s stream is filled with water, for you prepare the earth in this way, providing people with grain. You soften it with showers and bless its growth, soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges.”

The world was destroyed once by water. This was not because of man’s misuse of the earth, but because of man’s great sinfulness. And when this judgment was finished the Lord made a covenant with mankind. He put the rainbow in the sky as a sign of His covenant. And God never breaks His covenants!

  • “Then God spoke to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you, your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out all the living creatures that are with you — birds, livestock, those that crawl on the earth — and they will spread over the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth…Then Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of every kind of clean animal and every kind of clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” Genesis 8:15-17, 20-22 CSB

This is God’s covenant – “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” God’s faithfulness toward mankind has survived the predictions of false prophets and the overreaching predictions of scientists. There is no need to fear the predictions of the dooms day sayers, be they from the pulpit, the laboratory, or the halls of Congress.

One more word of balance is needed. Jesus Christ is coming back, and there will be an end of the age. The Book of Revelation clearly describes this. And, until that time, as believers we are called to be wise stewards of our environment. This means that we should care about the use and management of this world’s resources. Yet, in all of these things we must look to the Scriptures and exercise some common sense. I am sure glad that I did not buy that dog team and sled while I lived in Southern California!

Lord, You are the keeper of the Universe! You hold the world in Your hands. Until Jesus returns, the earth will endure. Seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will not cease. Give me faith to trust You with my daily provision. And give me wisdom in being a good steward of all the gifts you have placed in my hand.

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT DO I WANT OUT OF LIFE?

I KINGS 3:4-5: “The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there because it was the most famous high place. He offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” CSB

OBSERVATION: What do I want out of life? Solomon was faced with this question. However, the question that the Lord posed to Solomon was quite unique. It was open ended. The Lord commanded Solomon – “Ask, What should I give you?” What would I answer if the Lord of all creation asked me this question?

It is amazing how our desires in life change with the times. When I was a boy I can remember that the only thing in life I needed or wanted was a five speed bicycle. All my friends had bikes with speeds, and I was still stuck riding a single speed bike. Then Christmas came and under the tree was a wonderful Schwinn five speed bike. My dreams had come true. I would never want anything else in my life…that is, until I discovered the ten speed bike!

This is the problem when we set our goals in life on temporal things. We think that they will make us happy, until they are quickly replaced by the next great thing. I remember when I got my first iPhone. It was a thing of beauty to hold in my hand. It could do so much, for about 6 months, until the promise of the next iPhone was released. Suddenly, what I held in my hand was only second best. And to be honest, it did have a couple of scratches to boot!

Solomon could have asked for riches and honor, kingdoms and lands, or fame and power. Yet, he did not ask for any of these.

  • “And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. “ Lord my God, you have now made your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among your people you have chosen, a people too many to be numbered or counted. So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:6-9 CSB

Solomon asked for the intangibles that he knew he did not possess, and that time and trends could not take away. Solomon asked for a discerning heart and wisdom to lead God’s people. Solomon’s request was directed more for the benefit of others than it was for himself. Overwhelmed with his responsibility of being King, Solomon knew that he did not have the capacity to govern God’s people. He needed God’s wisdom, strength, and discernment. It is in this request that we discover something wonderful about the heart of God.

Our God is the exceedingly, abundantly, above all we are able to ask or think God. He delights in blessing His children. Yet, He cannot bless a selfish or proud heart. The Lord blesses a humble heart, a repentant heart, a heart that looks to the needs of others more than to its own needs. This was the heart of Solomon when he made this request. And God’s response to Solomon’s humble and unselfish heart released the exceedingly, abundantly heart of the Father!

  • “Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. So God said to him, “Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to administer justice, I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no king will be your equal during your entire life. If you walk in my ways and keep my statutes and commands just as your father David did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:10-14 CSB

Now, before you dismiss this as just an isolated story about Solomon, with no personal application for our lives, consider this. When the rich young ruler left Jesus sorrowful because he was unwilling to part with his riches and follow Jesus, Peter posed a question to Jesus.

  • “Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:28-31 CSB

I think I could write a book on the times the Lord has surprised me with His exceedingly, abundantly nature in response to the cry of my heart in humility and prayer. I have learned that seeking first the Kingdom of God is the key to living the abundant life. The blessings of God are not always tangible, but they are always abundant. When I put the Kingdom within above the world without, wonderful things happen. Exceedingly, abundantly things happen. God truly delights in blessing His children when they are willing to lay everything at the foot of the cross for Him!

Lord, this morning I am not seeking a ten speed bike. I don’t need another “thing” to add to my collection. This morning, I humble myself before You and seek You. I seek Your face and not Your hand. I seek Your heart and not Your provision. Like Solomon, I seek a discerning heart and wisdom to live an obedient life that gives glory to You!

In Jesus Name!

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DO YOU EVER TALK TO YOURSELF?

PSALM 62:5-8: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge. Selah”. CSB

OBSERVATION: Do you ever talk to yourself? David did. He frequently spoke to his soul. And, he also answered himself too! Why did David do this?

David knew the weakness of his own flesh. He had experienced great victories in his life and great defeats. He had learned from experience the pitfall of pride and how easy it was for his mind to stray from God’s will. So David would constantly remind himself of the important things in life.

  • “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him.”

David speaks to his own soul. He reminds himself that his help comes only from the Lord. He then goes on to affirm his faith in God.

  • He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold. I will not be shaken.
  • May salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
  • My refuge is in God.

How many times do I need to remind myself of these truths? As Jesus said to His disciples, “…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We are called to renew our minds. We do this by meditating upon the Word of God. We also do this by speaking the truth of God’s Word directly to our own soul.

There is something powerful that happens when we do this. Speaking to our soul is a wonderful cure for double mindedness. The spirit is always willing, but it is the soul (mind, will, and emotions) that is weak. When we are double minded our thoughts are in disagreement with our spirit. In our heart we believe one thing, but our mind begins to dwell on doubts and insecurities. Yet, when we speak to our soul, we engage the mind in agreement with our spirit. And in doing so, we overcome double mindedness through faith.

  • “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.” James 1:5-8 CSB

David knew that God was always ready to give him wisdom and help in his time of need. So, when David struggled with doubt and insecurity, with loneliness and despair, with temptation and difficulty – David spoke to his soul!

  • “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalms 42:5 CSB

David was so convinced of the efficacy of speaking to his own soul that he exhorts God’s people to do the same!

  • “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.”

When we pour out our hearts before God, when we speak to our soul words of faith and promise, we are ushered into the very presence of God by grace through faith. It is in this secret place that we encounter the wonderful provision of His overflowing grace in our lives.

Lord, the next time I am facing overwhelming odds, a great challenge that I cannot overcome, or deep sorrow and despondency – remind me to talk to myself. Remind me to speak to my soul!

  • “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken.”

In Jesus Name!

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