Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spiritual Alignment

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:31-34

Driving down a city road I was suddenly aware that the car to my left did not see me and was coming over into my lane.  In order to avoid a collision I turned the car toward an open driveway for a local business.  I avoided the other car but slammed my tire into the curb on the other side of the drive.  I expected to hear the tire blowout but somehow it remained inflated.  However, it did not take long to realize I had knocked the front end out of alignment.

Have you ever driven a car that had an alignment problem?  You would know it if you have because you have to fight the steering to keep a straight course.  Poor alignment causes the car to pull to the left or right constantly regardless of the road conditions.  Driving for long with this problem will wear you out!  As I drove down the road I looked at the position of my steering wheel and realized I needed to get my car to a repair shop for alignment.

Not only does the car not handle properly but a faulty alignment wears out the tires and other parts on a car much faster than they would normally be worn down.  The longer you run the car without repair, the higher the cost will be to fix the damage.  I needed to do this quickly to avoid further damage.

Interestingly, I began to consider how the lack of proper alignment in my life can cause me some problems as well.  When things get out of order life is harder to manage and the course of my life is more difficult to navigate.  Not only that, when things are out of proper alignment it seems more things break down.

When I was a child, a Sunday School teacher taught us the order of things in life with the word JOYJesus first, Others second and You third.  I’m not sure whether that stands theological scrutiny but it does establish a beginning point to help keep things in proper alignment.  Life never works well with a “me first” mentality.

On a personal level, it’s also easy to get my spirit, soul and body out of alignment.  When the body is in control we find ourselves feeding addiction demands.  When the soul is in control we are trapped by our emotions.  Only when the spirit is in control can I know the peace, purpose and power that God wants me to experience on my lie journey. 

I’m pretty quick to respond to mechanical problems in order to keep from having a breakdown.  I don’t know that I am quite as quick to recognize and respond to spiritual or life problems with the same dispatch.  It’s pretty easy just to keep fighting our way along and not deal with the issues that are making life difficult to navigate.  The result is feeling worn out from the effort.  Maybe it’s time to check your alignment today.

Scripture to Claim:
Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:1-4 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Snakes in our paths

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Snakes in our paths
As I was leaving for work this morning I was surprised by a Copperhead that slithered up on the driveway underneath my car right in my path.  It unnerved me so terribly that I froze.  I finally realized I could get in my car because he was closer to the other side of the car and then I could run over it.  I jumped in my car, all the while thinking that this snake was going to race over and attack my ankles.  I started the car, backed up and tried three times to flatten him like a pancake but to my utter dismay, he slithered off the other side of the driveway and into the tall grass, right by our trash can – and the bag of trash I had tossed outside so I could put it in the trashcan when I left.  Needless to say, the trash bag is still lying outside and will probably be covered with ants when I get home.  But I was not going anywhere near it.  My skin is still crawling and my whole day has been knocked off kilter. 
This experience made me stop and think about snakes and their representation of Satan.  Snakes are just so creepy. They are sly and sneaky. If you aren’t paying attention, you might not see them before they strike.  You have to be mindful and always looking closely where you step.  The snake that was in the garden with Eve has been connected with Satan and it was very sly, cunning and tricky.  He knew exactly how to captivate Eve.  After all, snakes are not supposed to talk.  He laid it all out for her in the most appealing way and that is exactly how Satan still works on us today.  He knows how to captivate us, distract us from God, and he tells us exactly what we want to hear.  He is sneaky, sly, cunning and waiting to strike.  Even when he crosses our paths it can shake us up and throw us off just like the snake did to me this morning. 
Be Vigilant
When you know the snakes are there, you have to be vigilant and you cannot let your guard down.  Earlier this spring we killed another copperhead on our front porch.  Right after that happened, I was extremely vigilant, always looking where I was stepping and all around the territory.  Then after a while, I didn’t see any more snakes and I stopped being so careful.  I let my guard down and then today I was taken off guard.  I was lucky.   I could have been bitten by that snake easily.  I was in a rush, not paying attention and talking on the phone. 
We have to be the same way about snakes in our spiritual life.  Satan likes for us to let our guard down so he can take us by surprise.  Sometimes we expect an attack from him and we are ready but the dangerous moments in our lives are when we are caught unaware.  The verse above says the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  He is waiting and watching for our weak moments so he can attack. He could also show up when we have had a really great event or victory in our life and we are celebrating.  He can also use our thoughts or get inside our heads and hearts if we are not careful to keep him out. 
Satan not only wants to cause us to stumble, but he wants to do anything possible to cause us to be ineffective for the kingdom of God.  If we are hurting others and making choices that do not glorify God, not only are we are ineffective for God’s kingdom, but we are helping Satan and his cause.  Satan is cunning and crafty.  He is a relentless adversary and not to be taken lightly.  We must not bury our heads in the sand and wish him and all his demons away.  He is real and he is on the move and he is dauntless enough to even test the Son of God himself.  Be vigilant in everything you do.

Scripture to Claim:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   James 4:7

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Steps to Recovery from Failure (Part 2)

Galatians 6:1-2; Psalm 51
Any addicted or dysfunctional individual may need an INTERVENTION to face their problem. This Psalm shows the healthy response to an intervention. David had heard the words of the prophet Nathan, "Thou art the man!" and judged himself guilty of adultery and murder. How did he respond and begin his recovery?
What was involved in David's "Recovery Program"?
I. A Plea for Forgiveness v.1-2 
A. Three words used for sin demonstrate (What I Am):
1. Transgression – open rebellion against God
2. Iniquity – a twisted state of heart because of sin
3. Sin – missing the mark of God's purpose for our lives
B. Three words used for forgiveness demonstrate complete cleansing:
1. Blot out – erase the record - forget what I did
2. Wash – – hard and deep accountability
3. Cleanse – Holy, inner cleansing
II. An Honest Confession v.3-6  (What  I  Must Do)
A. Rationalizing would not satisfy v.3
Unforgettable does not mean unforgivable.
B. Recognition of sin as being against God. v.4
Sin is a vertical phenomenon. What makes sin sin is its Godwardness.
The world doesn't understand how serious hell is because they don't understand how serious sin is.
C. Repentance was necessary to change a wayward heart.  v.5-6
Why we sin is never an excuse for sin.
An apology is not repentance. An apology speaks to the past while repentance speaks to the future.
III. A Holy Cleansing v.7-12  (What God Does)
A. Rejoicing in Heart and Removal of Guilt  v.8
B. Remission of Sin  v.9
C. Re-creation of desires  v.10
D. Renewal of Relationship  v.11
E. Restoration of Joy  v.12
IV. A Sacred Vow - v.13-15  (What I Will Do)
"Use me" is the natural response of the delivered.
V. God's Requirements - v.16-17  (What I Learn)
To be right with God, I must:
A. Recognize I am guilty  v.16-17a
B. Humble myself before God  v.17b

C. Receive God's gift of forgiveness  v.17c

Friday, September 26, 2014

Finding Rest – Part 5

Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  Acts 15:10-11
Grace Not Works!
The “yoke of the Pharisees” was the burdensome yoke of self-righteousness and legalistic law-keeping.  They believed that only keeping the law would bridge the gap between their sinfulness and God’s holiness.  Jesus’ yoke is light.  He knows that no amount of law-keeping will bridge this chasm.  Romans 3:20 tells us through the prophet Isaiah that no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law.  The good news is that Jesus promises to all who come to Him that He will give them rest from the heavy burden of trying to earn our way into heaven and rest from the oppressive yoke of self-righteousness and trying to earn our way through works.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart ... For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Matthew 11:29-30
yoke (yk)
1. a. A crossbar with two U-shaped pieces that encircle the necks of a pair of oxen or other draft animals working together.
b. pl. yoke or yokes - A pair of draft animals, such as oxen, joined by a yoke.
2. A frame designed to be carried across a person's shoulders with equal loads suspended from each end.
The illustration of a yoke here is symbolic of Jesus helping to carry our load.  Most often a yoke was used between two oxen.  The two yoked together would lighten the burden and usually, a young inexperienced ox was paired with an older more experienced ox that knew what to do.  This is similar to Jesus helping us.  He knows just what to do and He will help carry our load. 

There's a great story I would like to share with you from Mrs. Lettie Cowman's wonderful book, Springs in the Valley. In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Coolies had been engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.  Then Mrs. Cowman concludes with this penetrating exhortation: "This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what that first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: they knew what they needed to restore life's balance; too often we do not." 

Waiting on the soul to catch up with the body...think about it.  Living without meaning (soul) brings weariness.  Only when we stop and reflect on what has happened do we truly experience life.  When we are rushing through life, all the things we are doing we fail to experience.

Jesus encourages those who are “heavy laden” to take His yoke upon them and in so doing they will find rest for their souls. The yoke of Jesus is light and easy to carry.  You can rest in His spirit.  Let Him help you with your load.  He is waiting to ease the burden and bring you rest.

Scripture to Claim

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

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