Monday, March 31, 2014

Avoiding Temptation

Submitted by Lara Cook

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I recently saw a Peanuts poster with Charlie Brown saying Most things in life are easier to get into than to get out of.  I only glanced at it as I was quickly walking out the door but it has stuck in my mind.  This statement is so true, especially with bad situations, relationships that are wrong, jobs, or any number of examples of things we find ourselves locked into with no easy way out.  For example it is so much easier to gain weight than to lose it.  It is way more satisfying in the moment to eat chips, ice cream, and cookies than it is to exercise and eat healthy foods and the pounds certainly go on a lot easier than they come off.

Let’s face it, most things that are bad for us are pleasurable in the moment.  Drugs, sex outside of marriage, yummy food, etc.  We all know people, or at least know of people, who are living lives full of sinful behavior yet it seems they have no problems and their life is perfect.  I recently saw the movie “God’s Not Dead”.  There was a quote from the movie that was very compelling and goes right along with the trap of sin that we can find ourselves in.  I can’t remember it word for word, but it went something like this: “Satan allows us to live in sin problem free.  He allows us to go along and doesn’t bother us because he knows that we may turn to God when things get hard and the consequences of our sin start to break down our lives.  He does not want us to turn to God or need Him.  But living in sin, even problem free, is like living in a jail cell.  God leaves the door wide open so we can choose to leave, get out at any time, but we don’t. We wait and then the door slams shut and then it is too late.  We are locked in the jail cell of sin.”  At that point, it is really hard to get out, but it is possible. 

Like the scripture above says, Satan is watching and waiting to catch us with our guard down.  We may even find ourselves in situations we never thought we would be a part of.  People get involved with drugs and the wrong people associated with drugs.  They may at some point decide they are going to quit and get their life together, but addictions are much easier to get into than to break the habit.  It is easy to have a drink or take the drugs your friends are offering, thinking you are rock solid and can partake once or twice and be ok.  But that is often not the case.  Satan may get his foot in the door with that one time and he begins to chip away at your life.  The addiction consumes you, the “friends” control your life and when you try to get away it can even be dangerous. 

The same goes for many other situations.  It is easy to succumb to temptation in the moment and have to pay consequences for a long time.  Sometimes you are not the only one affected by the situation.  Other people get hurt in the crossfire.  God knew how easy it would be for us to fall to temptation and that is why He gave us these words.  He wants us to be alert and of sober mind always, using extreme caution and discernment before getting involved in something we shouldn’t’ be a part of.  Think before you act because Satan is cunning and clever.  He can trick us.  He knows our weakness and he wants us to fail.  Before you blink you can be right where he wants you.  

There are many things we can do as Christians to protect ourselves.

·      Read the bible and pray – of course the number one defense is to have a relationship with God.  Praying and reading your bible to help you grow and to bathe your life in God’s word will certainly be helpful when you are going down a path you don’t need to be on. 

·      Associate with the right people – Go to church, worship and fellowship with other Christians.  We need this connection in our lives.  Surround yourself and spend time with people who help you do good things, not people who entice you to do anything that goes against God’s word.  There may be other Christians who cause you to stumble, pressure you into some form of sin.  They can twist God’s truth and the reality about the sin to try to make you feel like it is not wrong.  But just think of what the Bible says.  It is pretty black and white.  God’s word is always true and needs to be our ultimate resource in life. 
Note – yes, we are to love people who are sinners and try to reach them but that does not mean that we have to hang out with them and take part in what they are involved in.
Guard your heart – In Proverbs it tells us to guard our heart, for everything flows from it.  We have to be vigilant.  Satan knows that he has already been defeated at the cross and that his time is running out.  He is desperate.  He has tried and true strategies for luring us into temptation and he wants to do everything he can to turn us away from Christ and the truth that He is the only way, truth, and life. 

Satan does have his schemes to trick us but he cannot make us do anything.  He is clever but not all powerful.  Only God is all powerful.  He owns the power over Satan, sin, life and death.  We have to be alert and sober of mind, careful.  He is prowling and he does rejoice in every believer he can trick. 

Scripture to claim:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.  Proverbs 4:23

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dealing with Discouragement

Exodus 15: 22-27
Every individual will, at some time, face discouragement. One of Satan’s greatest tools in stopping the work of the God in a church or a believer is not envy, jealousy, hate, or greed. It is discouragement! 
Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. William Ward

There must be an expectation for there to be disappointment.

Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.

Circumstances do not cause discouragement for some will face those same situations with courage and find opportunity.

Momentary disappointment must never be allowed to stay long enough to conquer our spirit

A Conquering Spirit comes from our Faith in God.  

Our KNOWLEDGE of God determines the level of our FAITH.
The reality of faith brings us HOPE.
The presence of hope changes discouragement to courage

Deal with discouragement by remembering these things:
  1. The Greatest Successes Of Life Are Often Followed By
  2. The Greatest Services Of Life Are Often Followed By Forgetfulness. v.1-21,24
  3. The Greatest Shortages In Life Are Always Followed By Fullness. v.27
What's The Cure for Discouragement?

  1. Rest Your Body
  2. Resist the Discouragement 
  3. Reevaluate Your Life
  4. Reorganize Your Life 
  5. Remember God Will Help You   Psalms 27:14

Friday, March 28, 2014

Family Resemblance

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God: and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  — 1 John 4:7, NIV

Who really knows God?  We know that the only people who truly know God are those who have become Christians.  They want to know Him so they seek a relationship with Him.  Some of you might say that the people who truly know God are the people who have received the Lord Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and have made Him the center of their lives, or words to that effect.  Others of you might add either baptism, or church affiliation, or adherence to apostolic tradition, or holy living as an additional criterion, reasoning that sentiment, however pious, must find some concrete expression to be genuine. I’m sure there are many other views.

Who is Like God?
John reminds us that children bear a family resemblance to their parents.  If we are truly the children of the God of love, then we will also bear the marks of love.  Our first reaction to each other will be concern and support, our first reaction to sinners will be compassion and help, and our first reaction to strangers will be as to long-lost friends.  Maybe our doctrine isn’t complex enough to explain every case, but people who bear a strong family resemblance to God must bear a resemblance to each other as well.  We must allow God to be greater than our theology.

Human Reaction
Most people even think of Christianity as a means of obtaining things such as love, comfort, and freedom from pain; but it does not work that way.  Christianity offers all the benefits up front as a gift, which anyone with faith may have just for the asking.  Christian living is not a means for attaining something, but a means of thanking God for what we’ve already received.  We do not live a Christian life as if by doing so we could make God love us; we live a Christian life because we are grateful that He loved us first. 

At one point or the other in our childhood, we all witnessed a situation in which one kid hit another, the victim retaliated, and friends got involved until there was a general melee that an adult had to break up.  They were “taking up an offense.”  We do it as adults, too, but with insulting words and spiteful acts instead of fisticuffs, until we become paranoid and dread our neighbors.  Now imagine it the other way around: someone does a good deed, the beneficiary, not knowing who did it, retaliates by doing a good deed for someone else, then before long everyone gets involved until we are all living in a community of love and goodwill.  Shouldn’t we as regenerate Christians seek to be part of the second kind of chain reaction, which Jesus began at the cross? Or through our lack of participation, have we let Jesus die in vain?

A Godly Reaction
As Christians, we live our entire lives in grateful reaction to God’s love.  We have compassion for sinners, because God had compassion on us when we were sinners.  We sacrifice ourselves for others, because He sacrificed Himself for us.  We feed others and give them drink, because He fed us and gave us Living Water.  We give good gifts to the undeserving, because while we were undeserving, He gave us the greatest gift of all.  Our deeds earn us nothing because there is no way through our conduct that we could ever exceed the goodness that He has given us.

I remember as a kid when you moved to a new neighborhood and started attending a different school, you fell in with new friends.  Before long, you started to like the foods they ate, the television shows they watched, and the music they listened to—even if initially you didn’t like those things.  It is true: if you like someone, you grow to like everything about them and all the things they like.

And so it is with God. If you really are great friends with Jesus, you’ll gradually start hanging out with His crowd, and you’ll develop a taste for the things He likes.  If you truly love Jesus and hang out with Him a lot, shouldn’t this sacrificial love and all-encompassing compassion rub off on you at least a little bit?  If you like someone, you will become like that person.  If you love God, you will become like God.  If God loves the people around you, you will grow to love them too. You won’t be any more finicky than God about who you associate with, either.  As a child of the God of love, maybe we should make it our goal to strive to bear a resemblance to our Heavenly Father.

Scripture to Claim:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Thursday, March 27, 2014

There Is A Conflict Experienced By A Christian

…in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.  For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.  Philippians 1:28-30

Paul had a heart for the Philippians.  He had a desire in his heart to see them grow spiritually, to progress in their faith and confidence in the Lord.  In Philippians 1:27-30 he gave them some principles on how a Christian should be a Christian.  The first and second principles are:
           There Is A Conduct Expected Of A Christian
           There Is A Co-Operation Exhibited As A Christian

The third principle Paul gave the Philippians is:
·      There Is A Conflict Experienced By A Christian - For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,  experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. 

Paul’s words are very interesting for he declares that there is a certain Christian behavior to be seen in the conflicts of life.  It is one thing to behave as a Christian a certain way when things are going well.  It is another thing to behave as a Christian when things are going bad.  Some will shout on the mountain but pout in the valley.

Paul said that we should not be "alarmed" by our adversaries. The word means "to be intimidated." The word was used of a high-strung horse that shies at every strange movement and sound.  He is describing a specific kind of behavior that ought to be manifested on our part when we face adversity in life.  He tells us there is a reason for Christian behavior in such times.

There Is A Public Revealing Of Our Faith.  Paul says that how we behave when under fire is a "sign."  The words mean "proof." If a Christian behaves as a Christian when things are tough it is proof of 3 things:

1.    First is proof that our faith is real.  Paul said it was an "evident token of perdition." (KJV)  The word "perdition" speaks of those that are lost.  Our behavior reveals to the lost that our faith is more than a form of life, it is a force in life.  It says that Christianity is real! Lastly, it shows that our God is real. Paul added, "and that too, from God." The secret to Christian behavior in the fire and under fire is a God that equips and enables. It says that God is a God of power and provision.

2.    Secondly, it is proof that we are real. Paul said "but of salvation for you."  It shows that we have the real thing.  The indication is that if one does not have the real thing, they will not behave in the fire and under fire as a Christian.  It shows that we have more than a profession. We have a possession.
3.    Lastly, it shows that our God is real.  Paul added, "and that too, from God."  The secret to Christian behavior in the fire and under fire is a God that equips and enables.  It says that God is a God of power and provision.

This world will never believe what we say until they see what we believe.  Nothing catches the world's attention any faster than to see someone in the hour of adversity behave in a valiant and virtuous manner. It tells them that it is real!

There Is A Personal Rewarding Of Our Faith -  Notice verse 1:29, " For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake;"

Paul tells us that adversity is "granted" to us on the behalf of Christ.  It is a gift of God.  It puts us in unique company…the Lord Jesus.  In the fire we not only have the privilege of believing on Christ, but suffering with Christ.  If we looked at all our adversity in this light, it would change the way we behave in it.  We would no longer view it as a problem over which to grumble, but a privilege in which to glory.

We can apply these principles to our lives – to strive to be Christian in our conduct - co-operation -conflict.  We will still stumble and sometimes even fall down.  Living a Christian lifestyle will not make things easier or guarantee us no pain and hardships.  In fact, sometimes it will be much harder but the reward is great.  First, to be an example to all watching you, and second, to know that you have done your very best to live a life that glorifies God and says to the world I am a Christian!

Scripture to Claim:
…but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:5-6

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

There Is A Co-Operation Exhibited As A Christian

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  Philippians 1:27

Paul had a heart for the Philippians.  He had a desire in his heart to see them grow spiritually, to progress in their faith and confidence in the Lord.  In Philippians 1:27-30 he gave them some principles on how a Christian should be a Christian.  The first principle from yesterday was:
·      There Is A Conduct Expected Of A Christian

The second principle Paul gave them was:
·      There Is A Co-Operation Exhibited As A Christian - I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

Paul speaks of a unity that is important to the Christian body. This unity is to be exhibited and shown as a Christian. 

There Is An Undivided People - Christians are to stand fast in one spirit and with one mind. Christians are not to be characterized by division and disunity.

In the Priestly prayer of Jesus, He prayed in John 17: 21, " that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.."

Legendary New York Yankees and Mets manager Casey Stengel once gave what he believed was the secret to managing a ball team. He said, "The secret of managing a club is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five who are undecided."  Christians should not have to be kept apart, but should be pulled together.  They should be in one spirit and one mind.

There Is A United Purpose - Christians should not only stand together, but also strive together. Paul said, "striving together for the faith of the gospel."  He said we have a common goal - the same purpose and cause and we should be united around that goal - the faith of the gospel.

The word "strive" is an athletic term that describes a team.  It is like a football team consisting of 11 men.  It is not 11 men doing their own thing, but 11 men working together as a team.  One man may be an all-star, but he'll not win the game alone.  He needs the other 10 men to block and pass.

One of Aesop's fables is about a father who had seven sons.  To each son he gave a stick.  Each was asked to break his stick, which was easily done.  Then the father took seven other sticks and bound them together.  He then asks the seven sons to break the sticks.  Not one of the sons could break the sticks that had been bound together as one.

Herman Ostry's barn floor was under twenty-nine inches of water because of a rising creek.  The Bruno, Nebraska, farmer invited a few friends to a barn raising.  He needed to move his entire 17,000-pound barn to a new foundation more than 143 feet away.  His son Mike devised a lattice work of steel tubing, and nailed, bolted, and welded it on the inside and the outside of the barn. Hundreds of handles were attached.  After one practice lift, 344 volunteers slowly walked the barn up a slight incline, each supporting less than fifty pounds.  In just three minutes, the barn was on its new foundation.

The strength of our work is our unity as a people and our being united around a purpose.  We should be drawn together and bound together around a common purpose.  In doing so we find strength.  The body of Christ can accomplish great things when we work together.  As Christians we should be a team and not a one man show.

Scripture to Claim:
…so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Colossian 1:10

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