Archive for the ‘in Christ’ category

Get Ahold of Hope

May 23, 2013

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There really is something worse than being poor, sick or in jail. It is living without hope. We need to get ahold of hope. The Israelite nation was delivered out of slavery in Egypt. They saw God perform great miracles, even parting the Red Sea. Yet, when they came up to the border of the Promised Land, they faltered. They had not grasped the vision of their possessing the land.

I am not going to spend my life talking about the Promised Land; I am going to go in and possess it. I have decided…

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Foundation Stones

March 16, 2013

Jesus is our hope. Hope says that my life doesn’t have to stay the same, tomorrow can be better than yesterday. Hope lifts us up and propels us forward to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

The world sees a future without hope and hopelessness breeds helplessness. We feel stuck. We think, “Nothing is going to change. Whatever I do won’t matter. I’ve tried before to no avail.” God doesn’t speak about me that way. God says I am made in His image (Genesis 1:27); I have dominion (Genesis 1:28); I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). That’s what makes us as Christians different from the world.

Romans 12:2 says don’t be conformed to the world. The world’s view is I am a victim, helpless and hopeless. Recognize that losers think a certain way; champions think a certain way. What makes the difference? Primarily what I am letting in. Is my choice of radio station: KLUV vs. KFunk? What books am I reading: trash or growth focused? Is my TV time saturated with Oprah, Day of Our Lives and The Simpsons? Mark 4:24 (Amplified) warns: “Be careful what you are hearing. [The measure] [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you–and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.”

Change a thought, change your future. I might battle addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography, fast food, or negativity. Only if I change a thought can I change direction. Repentance isn’t about feeling sorry. It isn’t about feelings at all. Repentance is above all a change in the way I think.

Why do I think the way I think? Is it because of the way I was brought up? Something Uncle Joe said? What I heard on Dr. Phil? Or is it based on the Word of God?

The devil is probably whispering, “It doesn’t matter. It won’t work.” How do we counter that? We need the right foundation. Construction of a skyscraper starts with digging a proper foundation. The higher the building, the deeper the foundation must be. In the construction of the Empire State Building, they first dug down 55 feet to bedrock. The Sears Tower in Chicago required a foundation 100 feet deep. Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, has a foundation that goes down 164 feet! Matthew 7:24-27 tells us we must build on the rock of God’s truth.

Here are a few key foundation stones you might want to apply to your life:

1. Identity: Do I know and believe who I am in Christ? 2Cor 5:16-17 says I am a new creation, the old things have passed away and everything about my life, my future is brand new. I am valuable, loved and chosen. I am what the Bible says I am. Perhaps someone has told you, “You’re stupid.” or “You were just an accident.” We often blame ourselves for actions of others, whether that be divorce of our parents, physical abuse or sexual abuse. I can prevent God’s power from working in my life by my negative identity. Ever heard the saying, “God don’t make no junk.” It’s true! I am not defined by the flesh: black, white, brown, young, old, handsome or ugly (Don’t point at the person next to you). Think about a newborn baby. (Our 10th grandchild was just born and our first great-grandchild is due in a few weeks). All they can do is eat, sleep and poop but we call them precious. How much more valuable are you? Luke 12:7 (GNT) declares, “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” Psalm 8:4-5 declares, “What is Gill, that You think of him? The son of man, that You care for him? For You have made Gill a little lower than God, and crowned Gill with glory and honor.” I am valuable to God.

2. Destiny: Phil 3:12-14 encourages us to press toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I have a purpose from God. Am I just trying to pay the bills? To get a new truck? To just make it to the next paycheck? No, that is not my God-given purpose. What is that prize? It is to impact the lives of others, to call them into a relationship with the living God. Others are watching. How are you influencing others? Is it drawing them closer to God?

3. Strength through faith: Romans 6:10 challenges us to “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” My strength is not from Red Bull, Rock Star, protein shakes or steroids. My strength comes from my spirit being connected to God. In Mark 9:23, Jesus says, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The more I build my faith, the stronger I will be when I face life’s challenges. I can do anything I choose with my time. I can choose to watch hours of football on TV, sleep in on Sunday morning instead of attending church or fill my afternoons with soap operas. Joshua 24:15 is the verse quoted at our front door: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” I choose to build up my spirit by reading my Bible, prayer and going to church. The economy may go up and down, but Psalm 121:2 says, “My help comes from the Lord.” He is the source of my strength for living.

What motivates you, what is your passion? Is it prestige, possessions, peer pressure, power? In Matthew 9:36 we are told Jesus was motivated by God’s love, He was moved with compassion. 1Cor 13, the “love” chapter ends in verse13 with, “But now remain faith, hope, and love: these three. The greatest of these is love.” When this world fades away, what will be left? Our faith in God, our hope in His promises and the love we have shared with others. Love is not a feeling but a choice. What will you choose?

The Best Gift I Can Give Myself

February 14, 2013

A quote from an unknown source reads: “Forgive your enemies. It’ll drive them crazy.” We are going to focus on one of the most important subjects of our Christian walk: forgiveness.

I will not let the past determine my future. How I handle hurt determines how I will move forward. I may have had a friend who wronged me, a parent who abused me, or a mate who betrayed me. The key is forgiveness: nothing is more difficult, nothing is more essential.

What is God’s attitude toward us? Romans 8:1 says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. 1John 1:9 promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is all about reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness. Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Colossians 2:13-14 from The Message puts it this way: “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.” I remember the day we paid off the loan on our house and received the mortgage back stamped: Paid in full. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” The payment was complete.

If God has forgiven me how can I not forgive others? In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), Jesus instructs us to pray, “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors.” God, forgive me to the extent I am willing to forgive others. Don’t like that? Maybe you want to tear that out of your Bible. You will have to tear out quite a bit. Jesus says the same thing in five places in the Gospels: Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Matthew 18:35, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37 and Luke 11:4.

Let’s look at the signs of unforgiveness. To do that we will look at the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. If you are not familiar with the full story, you can read it in Luke 15:25-30.

  • Unforgiveness keeps score. The older brother whines, “All these years I’ve served you.” Peter was doing that in Matthew 18:21, “How many times must I forgive? Seven time?” Jesus corrected him, “Seventy times seven times.”  1Cor 13:5 warns, “Love doesn’t keep count.” Our flesh wants to keep dragging things up from the past and the result is the list of offenses gets longer and longer, the bondage stronger and stronger.
  • Unforgiveness has a superior attitude. “I’ve never transgressed your command.” The older brother is saying, “I’m good and he’s bad.”
  • Unforgiveness is a complainer. “You never did anything for me.” In unforgiveness we see only negative, not positive.
  • Unforgiveness has a martyr complex. “I did all the work.” This is an exaggeration, of course, but the hurt and bitterness blinds us.
  • Unforgiveness brings division. The older brother doesn’t refer to “my brother” but rather “your son.” Unforgiveness      causes us to withdraw and see the world as “them” against “me”.

“But they never asked for forgiveness!” That doesn’t matter. I once had a boss who said glowing things about me to my face and then cut me down behind my back. The result was I lost my job. Several years later I was walking into the grocery store just as he was walking out. I said, “Hi” and continued into the store. Once inside the Lord stopped me and said, “You haven’t forgiven him, have you?” “Darn right I haven’t!” (pause) “Well?” (longer pause) Finally through clenched teeth I said, “I forgive him.” “Again.” “I forgive him.” It took a few times but eventually it took root in my spirit. A few years later I saw him again in a restaurant and I could go up to him and say, “It’s good to see you. I hope all is going well for you.” And I meant it. There was no sign of repentance on his part but now I was free.

When we choose unforgiveness, we choose bitterness. Our son and his fiancé were killed by a drunk driver. At that time we faced the opportunity to adopt a victim mentality. We went to Ephesians 4:31-32 where we are told we must forgive one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to see to it that no one misses the grace of God, that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble defiling many. We can miss God’s grace through unforgiveness. That root can go down deep. The longer I hold on, the deeper it goes. It affects every aspect of my life: relationships, job, and spiritual walk. Ultimately it will defile those around me.

OK, sure. We know we need to forgive. But there is a difference between knowing and doing. Here are six things to keep in mind in order to step into forgiveness:

  1. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12tells us, “For Gill’s wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Don’t give Satan an open door through unforgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. We will always remember the death of our son, but we can still choose to forgive. Healing cannot occur until forgiveness takes place. Until then Satan has the advantage.
  3. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Without forgiveness I am still hooked to them, still chained to the past. Do I keep a doll up on a shelf to remind me of that person and take it down periodically to beat on it? Who is that hurting?  “You don’t understand how much so-and-so hurt me.” And they continue to hurt you until you let go. I don’t forgive for their sake but for mine. I will live with the consequences of their actions. It is my choice whether I will live in bitterness or freedom.
  4. Change the channel. When thoughts of unforgiveness and bitterness come in, don’t grab the popcorn and settle back in your recliner. With that approach, is there any wonder you are bitter and depressed? 2Corinthians 10:5 warns us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”. Choose where your thoughts will focus.
  5. Forgiveness does not necessarily entail reconciliation. It is a good thing but not always possible. An abused wife can forgive but not reconcile to her husband. Reconciliation requires reestablishing trust through repentance, rehabilitation and restitution by the offending party. (That is an important process to remember when we are the offender: repentance,      rehabilitation and restitution.) Unforgiveness by the offended party only keeps them bound to that hurt. Unforgiveness is a prison. Let God be the debt collector so you can get on with your life.
  6. Don’t wait for them. Jesus didn’t wait for you. Romans 5:8 says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. When we choose to forgive, Satan loses his power in that area. At the cross, Jesus defeated Satan’s power. Let’s not give it back through unforgiveness. Rom 12:21 commands,  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Here is the challenge: Take the time to recall each of those who have hurt you. It might be father, mother, brother or sister. Perhaps a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse. We may have to forgive God if we have felt He didn’t come through in a way that we wanted. Most certainly we need to forgive ourselves for poor choices that have brought unwanted consequences. Now, pray this prayer: “Lord, I forgive each of those who have hurt me. I choose not to hold any of these things against them any longer. I thank you for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness. I ask You to bless each of them with the fullness of your love in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Maybe you felt a burden lift as you said that prayer; maybe you felt a warmth flood over you; maybe you felt nothing. The feeling is not the important thing, the decision is. Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust death camps, wrote, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was me.” Don’t live in bondage to that hurt any longer. Do yourself a favor, step into freedom. The best gift you can give yourself is to forgive.

Welcome Aboard

January 29, 2013

We are going to start this study with a word game. I am thinking of a word and I’ll give you hints to guess it:

• This might be the most important word in the Bible: ‘Jesus’, ‘love’, ‘salvation’?
• It applies to every human being: ‘sin’, ‘redemption’, ‘mercy’?
• It determines our eternal destiny: ‘the Cross’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘grace’?
• Final clue, its only two letters: Did you guess it? ‘in’.

When I was born, I was in Adam; when I was born again, I became in Christ. In Adam, I shared in his past defeat, his present defeat and his future defeat. In Christ, I share in His past, present and future victory. Here is the entire Gospel in two words: “In Christ”. To me that is exciting, amazing and humbling. I was a Christian for over 10 years before I started to understand my identity. When I did, it changed my life.

Hebrews 2:15 says Jesus “came to destroy him who had the power of death.” At the cross, the devil was defeated and rendered powerless. Through sin, Adam surrendered authority on the earth to Satan, but Jesus paid the price to take back that authority.

Through the cross Jesus brought us into a new creation reality. 2Corinthians 5:17 is key: “Therefore if Gill is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” I am no longer tied to an old past, I have new life! Romans 8:29 in The Message says: “The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him.” My true identity is not what the devil says about me. My identity is “in Christ”.

As a new creation, I am qualified for an inheritance. Colossians 1:12-14 declares, “Gill may give thanks to the Father, who made Gill fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered Gill out of the power of darkness, and translated him into the kingdom of the Son of His love; in whom Gill has his redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of his sins.” I have been removed out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the defeat, the fear, the oppression, the hopelessness. We were all there at one time, but we don’t have to live there now.

Salvation is more than a ticket to heaven. It is living in my inheritance as a son of God here and now. The devil doesn’t want us to understand our identity. When we do, his defeat is complete.

What aspect of your Identity do you struggle most to believe?

• I Am Forgiven: Romans 3:24, Romans 8:1, Ephesians 1:7-8
• I Am Valuable: 1Cor. 3:16, Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 2:10
• I Am Loved: John 3:15-16, Romans 8:38-39, Hebrews 4:16
• I Am Victorious: Romans 8:37, Philippians 4:13, 1John 5:4-5
• I Am Complete: 2Cor. 5:17, 2Cor. 5:21, Colossians 2:10
• I Am Chosen: 2Cor. 5:19-20, Ephesians 1:4, 1Peter 2:9

Matthew 7:21-23 is one of the scariest verses in the Bible: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but Gill if he does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will tell Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who work iniquity.’”

The Lord recently woke me up at 3:00 AM to a vision I want to share with you. (This was NOT a pizza dream, although I suppose it might have been a brownie sundae dream.) I was in the boarding area of our local airport. I saw the details of the TSA station, the gate seating and the boarding podium. All was normal until I looked out the window and saw lined up on the tarmac fiery chariots. It was then that I knew this was the place for souls to be taken to their eternal reward. The man just in front of me in line stepped to the boarding podium and announced, “I am Jonathan P. Quigley, III. I have given millions to charity, I was a deacon in my church, I was chairman of the building committee. I was…” The boarding agent interrupted, “Excuse me Mr. Quigley. Please step over here to the side.” Once he did, the agent read from her book, “It is recorded here, ‘I never knew you.’” With that a trap door opened and he disappeared from view. I was next, gulp! I was just ready to hand my ID to the agent when I looked at it. To my horror, the picture on my ID was not mine. I stammered to the agent, “I.. I don’t know what happened. My picture is not on my ID.” She took it and looked at it with a frown that quickly turned into a smile. “That’s right. It’s not your picture. It is Jesus. You are in Christ. Welcome aboard!”

When the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my failures, my sin, my past. He sees Jesus. Romans 5:1 promises: “Therefore being justified by faith, Gill has peace with God through his Lord Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, “Gill having therefore boldness to enter into the Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He dedicated for Gill, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” The Father opens His arms to everyone who is in Christ: “Welcome aboard.”

The Voice of Truth

January 5, 2013

“God is in control.” — Really? Too often we use that statement as a cop-out to keep from taking responsibility for our decisions. Our role is not passive.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says, “Finally, Gill is to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Gill is to put on the whole armor of God that he may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For Gill’s wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, Gill should put on the whole armor of God, that he may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Gill must stand therefore, having the belt of truth buckled around his waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted his feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which Gill will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And Gill must take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

“Be strong” “Put on” “Stand firm” “Take up” “Resist”: those are all words that show we are actively involved. These verses are not about a belt, they are about truth; they are not about a shield, they are about faith. When we put on the armor we are putting on Christ’s character. In so doing, we take ourselves out of the realm of the flesh where we are vulnerable to attack and place ourselves within the dominion of Christ where the evil one cannot touch us (1John 5:18).

Donning the armor of God is each believer’s individual responsibility. I can pray for you, encourage you and support you, but if you go into the battle without your armor on, you will get hurt. What makes up the armor?

  1. Belt of truth: If Satan can deceive me into believing a lie, he can control my life in that area. John 8:32 promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We love to talk about “the truth will make you free” but let’s not miss that it is the truth that you know that will make you free. That takes being a disciple, studying the Word and making it an integral part of your life.
  2. Breastplate of righteousness: 1Corinthians 1:30 in The Message says, “Everything that we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.” My life is not based on my righteousness, but on Christ’s. We need to recognize that our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). We must acknowledge our dependence on Christ. According to 2Corinthians 5:21, “For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on Gill’s behalf; so that in Him Gill might become the righteousness of God.”
  3. Feet shod with the Gospel of peace: Colossians 3:15-16 tells us the peace of Christ must rule in our hearts. I must choose to walk in that peace daily and refuse to listen to guilt, shame or condemnation when it knocks on the door of my heart. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  4. Shield of faith: Satan’s fiery darts are lies, accusations and temptations bombarding our minds. Our shield is faith in the Word of God, His promises and His provision which counters those darts. I must have that shield ready to stand against Satan’s attack.
  5. Helmet of salvation: The mind is where spiritual battles are fought. Romans 8:35 declares that nothing can separate me from the love of God. Satan may disrupt my daily victory, but he can do nothing to disrupt my position in Christ. “How can you call yourself a Christian?” Will I choose his thoughts or the truth of the Word? Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think on what is pure, lovely, admirable.
  6. Sword of the Spirit: I need to be speaking aloud God’s truths, to declare what God says about me. Joshua 1:8 tells us to meditate on His Word day and night. This is not eastern religion meditation to empty your mind. This is filling your mind with the Word. Did you know that worry is meditation, filling my mind with the negative? That is why a daily devotional is so important so that I focus my thoughts on the right things.

I have all the resources and protection I need to live a victorious life in Christ every day. If I am not, it’s my choice based on what I have chosen to believe and the actions I have taken based on those beliefs. When I leave a door open for the evil one by not resisting temptation, accusation and deception, he will come in.

My eternal destiny is secure but I am still vulnerable to Satan’s lies. 2Corinthians 10:5 commands me to take every thought captive. That means choosing truth in the face of every lie. Why does a lion roar? To paralyze its prey with fear. Peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace. Psalms 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I am the biggest, meanest son of a gun in the valley.” No, that only works until a bigger, meaner son of a gun show up; then you are in deep trouble. Instead the truth is: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because You are with me.”

The essence of temptation is the enticement to have legitimate human needs met through the resources of the world and the flesh instead of through God and His ways. Philippians 4:19 promises, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Every temptation is an invitation to live independently of God. Push something beyond the boundary of God’s will and it becomes sin.

  1. Lust of the flesh: Food is a necessary part of life but pushed beyond boundaries it becomes gluttony; rest taken to excess becomes laziness; sex out of bounds becomes perversion.
  2. Lust of the eyes: This comes in the form of greed, jealousy, envy, etc. I must choose if I will believe what I see or believe God’s Word. 2Corinthians 5:7 says we must walk by faith not by sight.
  3. Pride of life: Pride tells me I must direct my own destiny, but that attitude destroys obedience. The arrogance of “I know what is best.” is destructive. I need submission and humility before God because without Him I can do nothing (John 15:5).

On a daily basis I face the decision to walk by the flesh or walk by the Spirit. Let’s compare Judas and Peter: for Judas condemnation led to death, for Peter conviction led to repentance, restoration and life. If I see myself as a worthless nobody, I will live as a worthless nobody. I can’t model perfection, I can only model growth. As I begin to learn the truth of my identity in Christ I become free of the bondage of Satan’s lies. 2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if Gill is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” That’s where I’m going to live.

Casting Crowns has a powerful song, The Voice of Truth. Here is a portion of the lyrics:
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again “Boy, you’ll never win!
You’ll never win”
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

What is the giant in your life? We all have at least one. It might be fear, depression, addiction, pride. What is the “voice of truth” to counter the giant’s voice you are facing in your life? What voice will you choose to listen and believe?

Escape from the Pound

December 12, 2012

Recently our daughter’s dog, Edgar, got loose and wandered off. After she posted signs in the neighborhood, she got a call from a man several blocks away who had found the dog earlier that day and taken him to the pound. The two younger grandkids were napping, so I picked up the two older ones and headed over to rescue Edgar. While the woman at the counter was filling out paperwork, her phone rang. She answered and said, “I can’t talk right now. I am in the middle of a redemption.” I stood at the counter and tears came to my eyes as I was struck by the parallel to what Christ has done for us. Just as those dogs were “redeemed” from the confines of their kennel, we are freed from the bondage of our past choices, released from all condemnation and guilt. Just as I paid a price to bring Edgar out of the dog pound, Jesus paid a price in His blood for our freedom.

Ephesians 1:7 “In Him (Jesus) Gill has his redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of Gill’s trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” The idea of redemption that Paul was referencing is far different than what we think about today. In today’s culture, redemption is using a coupon to get $.25 off my box of Cheerios at the grocery store. Paul was speaking of the slave market. Imagine yourself next to the auction block, knowing you are destined for an oar on a war ship or the unending darkness of a distant mine, a beast of burden to be bought and sold, helpless, hopeless. Suddenly the auction master comes up and releases your chains saying, “Your redemption price has been paid. The buyer says you are free to go.” Jesus paid the redemption price for you and me. When I really understand that, I’m going to talk differently, I’m going to live differently.

I remember going out to lunch with friends several years ago. I reviewed the menu, gave my order to the waiter and handed him my menu. About that time my friend across from me said, “Oh, by the way, lunch is on me today.” I grabbed the menu back and said, “In that case, I’ll change my order.” I didn’t actually change it but I thought about ordering a higher priced entree. The key thing to remember is that Jesus has already picked up the tab for our past. God does not need to punish me for my wrong choices because someone else was already punished for them: Jesus.

Romans 5:8 says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. When I had turned my back on God, when all I wanted to do was go my own way, still Jesus had paid the price for my redemption. Any man worth his MacGyver merit badge knows that duct tape can solve any problem. The shortcoming is that duct tape really only masks the problem temporarily but does not get to the root. Leviticus 16 describes the ceremony of the scapegoat. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the nation of Israel came together and the priests placed their hands on a goat ceremonially transferring the sin of the nation to that goat. It was then led into the wilderness to die as a sacrifice for the nation’s sin. The problem was, just like the duct tape, it did not get to the root problem: our sin nature.

In John 1:29 John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Catch a revelation of this. Jesus doesn’t just cover over the sin. He gets to the root and takes away the sin. 1John 3:8 says Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He is not just covering the sin but He eradicates its hold. I was on a greased pole to hell, hopeless, until God reached out His hand to me. I recognized I couldn’t save myself so I took his hand. Psalm 40:2: “He brought Gill up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set Gill’s feet on a rock, and gave him a firm place to stand.”

Religion is about being good so God will accept me; Christianity is about recognizing what Jesus has done and allowing that to change me. 2Corinthians 5:21 says, “For Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on Gill’s behalf; so that in Him Gill might become the righteousness of God.” Allow me to paraphrase that: the Father placed on Jesus my sin nature to take to the cross in my place so that I can have right standing before God in Christ. If you need a new beginning, you need Christ.

I don’t have to earn right standing, it’s a free gift. I only have to decide to put it on. If I am going to work on my car, change the oil or replace the spark plugs, I’m not going to wear a nice dress shirt. I will wear an old ratty one. But when my wife calls me in to dinner, she will say, “Dinner’s ready. Better change your shirt and clean up.” “What? Don’t you love me just the way I am?” “Yes, I love you. Now go change your shirt.” Eph 4:22-24 says “that Gill put away, as concerning his former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that Gill be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and put on the new man, that like God has been created in true righteousness and holiness.” That is like changing my shirt.

Before I can put on the new man, I must first put off the old man. Before I can take on the new way of thinking, I must first take off the old thinking. Some translations say, “Strip off.” That’s aggressive, something I do on purpose. When I got dressed this morning, I didn’t stand in front of the closet and a clean shirt jump out and onto my body. I had to take the action of putting it on.

The interesting thing about that new man is that it is too big for me when I first put it on. I have to grow into it. 2Corinthians 3:18 says we are “transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” I am not going to stay at the same level. I am going to grow to a certain level of “glory” but I can’t rest there. God is calling me still higher. Life is a journey.

That journey cannot be directed by what I want or feel. In Luke 5:1-7 Peter is on the shore mending and putting away his fishing nets after a long, fruitless night. Then Jesus comes along and tells him to put out his nets again. I’m sure he didn’t feel like going out again. He was tired and discouraged. Now here was a carpenter telling a professional fisherman how to fish. That would be like me telling a mechanic how to fix my car. His reaction is likely to be, “You stick to your preaching; let me take care of the car.” Peter’s first words were, “We’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.” That was his feeling statement. Then he said, “At your word, we will let down the nets.” That was his obedience.

When I wake up in the morning do I think about everything that is wrong, or do I think about the truth that God lives in me. Proverbs 23:7 warns, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Where my mind goes, my life will follow. Am I just waiting for my feelings? I can’t afford to let my feelings control me. I should not let my feelings vote. I choose to do what God says. In Joshua 3, the Israelite nation stood across the Jordan River from Jericho. The problem was the river was in flood stage. God told the priests to take up the Arc and step into the river and the waters would part. Now those priests could have stood up on the bank and said, “OK, God. We’re ready. Go ahead and part the water.” But they would have stood there for a long time. It wasn’t until the feet of the priests touched the water that the water parted. They needed to act despite their feelings, despite the circumstances.

As I walked down the aisle at the pound, I saw dogs who were aggressive and angry, some that were scared and cowering, others were depressed and lethargic and of course there were those who were friendly and eager, tail wagging and jumping with excitement. Every individual reacts differently to God’s gift of redemption: anger, indifference or openness. How will we react? I encourage you to live in the fullness of His love. God has His hand out to you today. Reach out and accept it.

The Devil’s Favorite Letter

December 1, 2012

Are you ready to have a little fun? What is the Devil’s favorite letter? I’ll give you a hint: what is the first letter of his name? The Devil’s path is that of: Drama, Distraction, Division, Discord, Distance, Doubt, Denial and Deceit. It is a path that leads to Destruction, Death and ultimately Damnation.

In contrast what is God’s favorite letter? Again, I’ll give you a hint: what is the first letter of Divinity? God’s path is that of: Devotion, Discipline, Diligence, Dying to self and becoming Dead to sin. That path produces Deliverance, Direction and Dependability. Following His path produces a Dream that takes me to my Destiny.

OK, let’s talk Defense. How can I counter the Devil’s purposes for my life while staying on course for God’s purposes? Let’s look at each aspect above in more detail. If I follow the Devil, I will experience:

Drama: This is the state of constant agitation, negativity and problems. Let’s counter that by meditating on Psalm 23:1-3, “The Lord is Gill’s shepherd: Gill shall lack nothing. He makes Gill lie down in green pastures. He leads him beside the still waters. He restores Gill’s soul. He guides Gill in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Or how about Psalm 91:1-2, “If Gill dwells in the secret place of the Most High, Gill will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Gill will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in whom I trust.”

Distraction: We become distracted by the busy-ness of living, preoccupied with everyday life and sucked into the world’s way of living. Matthew 7:13-14 warns that we must enter by the narrow gate. Broad is the way and easy is the road that leads to destruction. Narrow is the road, difficult is the way that leads to eternal life. In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:22) the seed that falls among thorns represents the cares and distractions of life.

Division and Discord: Matthew 6:24 warns that we cannot serve two masters. Who does the devil want you to serve? Proverbs 6:19 warns that the Lord hates discord.

Distance: When the prodigal son in Luke 15 left home, he was putting distance between himself and his father. My sin distances me from God. Psalm 138:8 says that God gives grace to the humble but He knows the proud from afar. My pride puts distance from myself and God. The good news is found in Romans 8:35: Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Doubt and Denial: It started in the Garden of Eden when the Devil tempted Eve with doubt and, when the door of doubt is opened, in steps denial. In Genesis 3:1 the Devil questions Eve, “Did God really say…?” When she doesn’t shut that down, he follows in Genesis 3:4 with “You will not surely die.” If I am to withstand his planting of doubt, his denial of God’s truth, I must have a strong foundation on God’s Word.

Deceit: Proverbs 14:12 warns there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. Would anyone start using drugs if they saw the end result? The Devil never shows the final picture.

Following the Devils’ path inevitably leads to:

Destruction: John 10:10 says the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. Don’t get mad at the Devil when he tries to steal from you; it’s his job description.

Death, Damnation: Romans 6:23 warns the wages of sin is death. We have the Good News, of course. John 3:16 “For God so loved Gill, that He gave His one and only Son, that Gill, believing in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Discernment is needed. 2Corinthians 2:11 tells us we are not unaware of the Devil’s devices. Who is the Devil? Read Isaiah 14:12-17. The Wizard of Oz is a film classic. At one point, Dorothy and her friends come into the throne room of the Wizard. There is loud crashed, bright lights, smoke and the head of the Wizard speaking from the curtain. All very intimidating until someone peaks behind the curtain. The Wizard turns out to be a short, very unimpressive old man who uses trickery to influence others. That to me is a picture of the Devil. To paraphrase Isaiah 14:16, someday we will look at the Devil and say, “Is that all there was? This is what had us so scared?”

There is a better way. God has good things for you. He has dreams, purpose and destiny for you. Pursue God’s path through:

Devotion: Devotion is defined as ardent, selfless dedication. That is what God expects. Matthew 6:33 commands us to seek first the kingdom of God. God desires my devotion. God deserves my devotion. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands, “Gill shall love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might.” Give it all you’ve got.

Discipline: Proverbs 12:1 tells us, “If Gill loves correction, he loves knowledge, but if Gill hates reproof, he is stupid.” Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline may be unpleasant but “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.”

Diligence: Galatians 6:9 encourages us, “Do not grow weary in well doing.” Hang in there. I often go back to Philippians 3:13-14: “Gill doesn’t regard himself as yet having taken hold, but one thing Gill does. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are ahead, Gill presses on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Press!

Die to self, Dead to sin: Romans 6:11 tells us we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and therefore dead to pride, selfishness, unforgiveness and all of the ways the Devil tries to keep us bound. Dying to self is part of being born again; the old self dies and the new self comes to life. Only then can I experience the reality of 2Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if Gillis in Christ, heis a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.”

The product of that new life in God is:

Deliverance: Colossians 1:13 promises, “(The Father) delivered Gill out of the power of darkness, and translated him into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” It is in the Son that we receive redemption and forgiveness. It is in the Son that bondage to addiction, fear, anger and pride are broken. It is in the Son that we have abundant life (John 10:10).

Direction: Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Gill is to trust in the Lord with all his heart, and he is not to lean on his own understanding. In all his ways Gill is to acknowledge Him, and He will direct Gill’s paths.” I don’t have to live in fear of the future or in doubt of the purpose of my life. He gives me direction; He gives me purpose.

Dependability: Another word for it is character, the ability to stand strong in any circumstances. But that doesn’t come all at once. We must develop that through trials and perseverance. Romans 5:3-4 promises, “Not only this, but Gill also rejoices in his sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”

Dreams Determine Destiny. Read that again and again until you get ahold of it. Our dreams, our vision give our lives direction. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Without hope, without dreams, faith has nothing to grab onto and carry you forward. Our 22 year old son and his fiancé were killed by a drunk driver. Is that the end of the story? Absolutely not! We carry on his memory through the Personal Promise Bible and we hold strong to the hope of heaven. We will see him again. Ephesians 2:12 warns that to be without God is to be without hope. We all see this in friends, family, neighbors. Dreams Determine Destiny.

Anyone who wanders from God’s path becomes Discouraged, Despondent, Depressed. Look at 1Kings 18:1 through 19:4 Elijah had a great victory on Mt. Carmel. After demonstrating God’s power, he slew 450 prophets of Baal. Then he prayed and ended over 3 years of drought that had gripped the land. Then he hitched up his robe and outran a chariot. Wow, what a day! But Jezebel threatened to kill him and he ran. The Bible is the Book of Hope. In Jeremiah 29:11 God promises a future full of hope.

It is Decision time: the Devil’s way or God’s way. The time is over when we can straddle the fence. We have a doormat at our front door that quotes Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” What will you choose?

Let’s look at two young men in the Bible (both with names starting with D of course). The first is Demas. He is mentioned in Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24 and finally in 2Timothy 4:10 where Paul says Demas had left him because he “loved this present world”. Here is a young man who was mentored by the greatest leader of church history short of Jesus Himself. Yet he chose the world’s path instead.

In contrast, look at Daniel (Daniel 1). Here is a young man who saw the defeat of Jerusalem, the temple destroyed and most of his family and neighbors killed. He had every reason to turn his back on God, yet he remained faithful.

Again, what will you choose? We have to go one way or the other. James 1:8 warns that the Double minded man is unstable in all his ways. To stand strong with trials come, we must Develop our spiritual muscle. Galatians 5:10-19 describes the armor of God. This is not something God puts on us; we must put it on. Only then will we be a Doer of the Word as commanded in James 1:22.

Finally we must Dare to be Different. Romans 12:2 exhorts, “Gill is not to be conformed to this world, but is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, so that Gill may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” If I think like the world thinks, I will get what the world gets. I am called to a higher level. I am called to transformation, a new way of thinking, a new hope, a new Destiny.

Miserable Christianity

November 21, 2012

You have heard of oxymorons, two words that just don’t go together. Some of my favorites are: boneless ribs, awfully good, pretty ugly, and my all time favorite Jumbo shrimp. Here’s an oxymoron for you: miserable Christian. Those are two words that should never go together. I can have salvation, be on my way to heaven but if I have no peace or joy, I will not be an influence on others for God. Sinners are talking loud, telling everyone about their sin. Let’s talk louder about what God is doing.

In Genesis 11:31 Terah, the father of Abraham, left Ur of Chaldees to go to Canaan, but when they reached Haran, they settled there instead. But – that was where he gave up, that was the place of defeat, that was where he missed his destiny. Some will press through regardless, others will be wimpy and whiney. What will make you give up? What are the “potholes” that have caught you in the past and gotten you off track? Recognize them, plan for them or they will take you out again.

Romans 8:29 says we are destined to be molded into the image of Jesus. Everyday I am changing, looking more and more like Jesus. Isaiah 64:8 tells us God is the Potter and we are the clay. When that clay is put on the potter’s wheel and spun, pressed, squeezed, and reshaped, it is not pleasant for the clay, but it is necessary if the clay is to become what the potter wants. It may not be comfortable to change but it is necessary. I will never be happy outside of God’s will. What attitudes or behaviors have to go in my life? Unforgiveness, selfishness, pride? Change will cost me something. Am I willing to pay the price? Luke 14:28 warns us to count the cost. What will it cost to keep that behavior? What will it cost to let it go?

1John 3:8 says, “To this end the Son of God was revealed, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” I can choose the pain of change or the pain of regret. I can go through the struggle of change today or I can look back a year from now and experience the regret of missing what God has for me. I must be mentally prepared for the struggle. If I expect life to be smooth and easy because I follow God, I will be sorely disappointed.

Colossians 3:1-4 commands, “If then, Gill was raised together with Christ, he should seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Gill is to set his mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For Gill died, and his life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Gill’s life, is revealed, then Gill will also be revealed with Him in glory.” I must keep the right perspective, the right focus.

The Israelite nation was stuck in the wilderness, doing the same thing over and over. Finally in Deuteronomy 2:3 God tells them, “You’ve gone around this mountain long enough.” Israel was stopped not by their enemies but by their attitude. My complaining just opens the door to the enemy.

Ever feel stuck in the middle: don’t want to go back but not sure you can make it to the finish line? Walking with God is OK until it costs something. It makes us uncomfortable because it calls for sacrifice and rejection. Holy Spirit came so I would have the power to go all the way.

2Corinthians 5:20 tells me I am a representative of God’s kingdom, an ambassador. When people look at me they should see Christ. In 1Cor 11:1 Paul makes a remarkable statement: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” In other words, “Do you want to know what it is to be Christ-like? Look at me.” I’m not sure I’m ready to make that claim, but I want to be headed there.

When we go through a time of trial, our emotions can tend to pull us down. In those times, what I speak will lift me up or pull me further down. Deut. 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against Gill this day, that I have set before him life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore Gill should choose life, that he may live, he and his seed.” Every day I face a choice between life and death, particularly in my words. I need to speak truth even in difficult times. Truth is that wrong words bring destruction.

Do I sound saved?

  • “My back is killing me.” When did back pain become a fatal disease?
  • “I love you to death.” I would much rather you love me to life.
  • “You drive me crazy.” I may be crazy but I didn’t need your help to get there, thank you very much.

And we wonder why we have problems! Proverbs 18:21 warns, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” I can hurt or help my future through my words.

I don’t do the right thing in order to get something from God but because it is the right thing. Then I can trust God that He will bring the right result at the right time. I was thinking about the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. They had been witnessing for the Lord when they were arrested, beaten and thrown into the darkest, dirtiest, smelliest part of the prison. The Bible tells us at midnight they were singing and praising God when an earthquake hit, opening the doors and loosing the chains. Do you really think Paul had leaned over to Silas and said, “Come on. If we sing loud enough, God will get us out of here!” Paul didn’t have the New Testament to read; he didn’t know how that night would turn out. All he knew was it was the right thing.

1Thes 5:18 says, “In all things give thanks, this is God’s will for those who are in Christ.” That doesn’t say when I feel like it or when life is going good. No, in all things! 2Chronicles 20:22 is a remarkable story. King Jehoshaphat and the city of Jerusalem were in a hopeless situation: the city was surrounded by three massive armies. But God gave Jehoshaphat a plan, he opened the city gates and sent out singers ahead of the army. The result: the enemy was thrown into confusion, they began killing each other and Jerusalem won the victory. When David faced Goliath, he used his words before he used his sling. Goliath said, “What am I, a dog that you send a boy with a stick against me?” But David was not moved. He said, “This day I will feed your carcass to the birds of the air.”

Godly character is built in hard times. Philippians 2:14 commands, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” How do I live that out? Pay bills without grumbling or arguing. Take out the garbage without grumbling or arguing. Show up for work on Monday without grumbling or arguing.

God will work something good if I keep a good attitude. Look at Joseph in the Old Testament: sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of rape by his owner, thrown into prison to rot. His situation was hopeless but he kept his hope in God and He lifted him up.

Christians were not meant to live small, miserable lives. We are to shine in a dark world. We can be different. We must be different.

Relentless

October 5, 2012

As a teenager, I wanted to go fast. My problem was my ride was a ‘61 VW bug: top speed 68 mph. When I was on the freeway it was always pedal to the metal. I still remember the day I caught a tail wind and saw the speedometer reach 72! Recently I saw a book title by John Bevere: Relentless. That is how we are to pursue God: Relentless. Regardless of the distractions of the world, I will be relentless. Regardless of the lies of the enemy, I will be relentless. Regardless of how many times I fall and have to drag myself back up, I will be relentless. Mark 9:23 promises, “All things are possible to Gill if he believes.” By God’s strength and grace, the impossible becomes possible. There is not one demon spirit who has power or authority over those who are in Christ. How am I going to live? Pedal to the metal! Relentless!

What does grace mean to you? Is it just forgiveness of your sins and a ticket to heaven? That view leads to a life of mediocrity, so far short of our potential. The underlying meaning that is lost today is grace is God’s power working in my life. I can never save myself by my own effort. That’s religion that tries to earn salvation through our good works. 2Cor 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for Gill, for My power is made perfect in Gill’s weakness.”

Grace = empowerment. When you read grace, think empowerment. When you read Scripture and see the word grace, substitute empowerment and it takes on a new depth of meaning. When the situation is beyond my ability to handle, that is when God’s grace/ empowerment steps in. That empowerment enables me to live as Jesus lived. Redemption took away my sin. Now I need to live out what I freely received. My sin has not just been covered over; by grace I can live a new life.

I can have repentance but no grace. Maybe you have experienced that. I have a desire to change but without grace, I don’t have the ability to change. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin will not have dominion over Gill. For he is not under law, but under grace.” As I walk in grace, as I experience God’s empowerment, I don’t go back over and over to the same behavior. I make new choices and step into the freedom that is only possible in Him.

Under law I am powerless to live free from sin, but under grace I have the empowerment I need. Eph 3:20 tells us, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that Gill can ask or think, according to the power that works in Gill.” God is able to do exceedingly abundantly only to the extent that I allow His power/ grace to work in me.

2Kings 4:1-7 tells the story of Elisha and the widow’s oil. The widow was told to collect as many jars as she could. Once she had them gathered in her home, she started pouring oil from her small flask. The oil continued to flow until there were no more jars. Her miracle was limited by the size of her faith. How much power am I allowing to work in my life? In what way am I limiting God?

Eph 1:18-21: “Having the eyes of his heart enlightened, that Gill may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of Hisinheritance in Gill, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward Gill because he believes, according to the working of the strength of His might which He worked in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” We sing a chorus from Hillsong in church: “The same power that conquered the grave lives in me.” Wow! I’ll take it.

Faith is the pipeline for grace. It is through faith that I experience grace and empowerment in my life.  In Hebrews 4:2 we are told the Israelite nation did not enter into God’s rest because the Word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith. For the Word to be effective in my life, I must exercise faith.

I must expect opposition to my walk of faith. In Matthew 4 Jesus went into the wilderness filled with the Holy Spirit. After successfully standing against the temptations of the devil, He returned in power. I will come out of a battle better and stronger than when I went in if I allow God to work in and through me and don’t try to handle the temptation in my own strength.  Faith is what gives me access to the grace/power I need to triumph. Romans 5:2 says, “Through whom (Jesus), Gill also has access by faith into this grace in which he stands.”  

Bartimaeus was a blind beggar (Mark 10: 46-52) sitting beside the road in Jericho. He hears a commotion and asks what is going on. When he is told Jesus is passing by, he begins to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Those nearby told him to quiet down, but he was not going to let his blessing pass him by. Despite the opposition, he cried all the louder. His healing came because he pressed through. Phil 3:13-14 commands us to press toward the goal. The world will try to shut us up, the devil will try to distract us, but if we press through, God’s grace and power will be there for us.  

Hebrews 12:1 tells me to strip off the weight that slows me down. How do I do that? The answer is in 1Peter 5:7: “Casting all his worries on Him, because He cares for Gill.” Mat 11:28-30 is one of my favorite passages: “Come to Me, Gill, when you labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, Gill, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy, Gill, and My burden is light.”

Jubilee is our little silkshire terrier. She is so excited and full of energy when we take her for a walk that she constantly pulls and fights her harness. It is so bad that for the next couple of days she will be limping from a sore hip and paws. Yet when she settles down and walks next to us she doesn’t experience that discomfort. I want to experience His yoke being easy but that requires my obedience.

I cannot afford to bypass the training process. The trials I face today are preparation for the victories of tomorrow. Ignore the devil and he’ll eventually go away? Fat chance! 1Peter 5:8-9 warns that I must be sober and vigilant, for the devil goes about like a roaring lion. I’m not going to ask God to remove the devil. I am going to submit to God and then resist the devil. That is exercising my authority in Christ. That is walking in His grace/empowerment.

Speaking the Word is my weapon against evil forces. The devil only has lies and intimidation. Isaiah 54:17 promises, “No weapon that is formed against Gill will prevail; and Gill will condemn every tongue that rises against him in judgment.” My determination to be free from bondage must be greater than my adversary’s determination to enslave me. I must be relentless in holding fast to what I have received.

The important thing is not how I start, but how I finish. What does quitting look like? Disobedience, compromise, apathy, religious externals, etc. Hebrews 12:1 commands me to run my race with endurance. In the Message translation of Hebrews 12:1 it says “Never quit.” Professional athletes go through rigorous training so they can win a prize. Isn’t our prize more valuable? Shouldn’t I be willing to do whatever it takes. Pedal to the metal. Relentless.

Dealing with Anger

August 23, 2012

I want to look today at the sin of anger. Oh wait, anger is not a sin, it’s what I do as a result. Anger is an inevitable part of life. It cannot be avoided so we better learn to deal with it. Actually anger is a very helpful warning light on the “dashboard” of life. Ever driven a car when it overheats and the “idiot light” comes on warning you of a problem. Anger is like that. It is not a sin but it is a warning of a deeper problem. It shows that something is out of balance in our life.

 When anger controls me, I am headed for trouble. To “vent” on another person, to use anger to manipulate is destructive. James 1:20 tells us, “Gill’s anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God.” 1Cor 13:5 says love is not easily angered. According to James 1:19, we are to be slow to speak and slow to anger. On the other side, “stuffing” our feelings is also destructive. Paul said in Eph 4:26-27 “Gill, be angry, and don’t sin. Gill must not let the sun go down on his wrath, neither is he to give place to the devil.” Deal with it right away so the devil doesn’t get a foothold. I read about a long distance trucker in Indiana. He was at a rest area coffee shop when three bikers came in and sat down at his table. As one ate the trucker’s burger, another helped himself to his fries and the third downed his soda. The trucker didn’t say a word but got up, paid his check and left. One biker commented to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man!” Her reply, “He’s not much of driver either. He ran over three motorcycles leaving the parking lot.” Now that may not have been the healthiest way for him to deal with his anger but at least he didn’t stuff it. Think of anger as jumping into a powerful sports car only to discover the brakes don’t work. You better be careful where it takes you and how the ride will end.

 Anger shows up early in the Bible. In Genesis 4, Cain became angry when Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and his isn’t. He didn’t deal with that anger properly and the result was murder. Jesus showed righteous anger with the vendors in the temple (Mark 11) and also with the religious leaders when He healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3). If my anger is projected at injustice and oppression it is healthy. If it revolves around self-interest, it will be unhealthy. Anger arises from impatience, abuse, jealousy, or unmet needs. All of those sources are focused on self; they are all rooted in pride.

Perhaps role models in our lives have taught us to react in anger. Most often this can be our fathers. But it is time to break that generational curse. Prov 4:27 warns us, “Gill must not turn to the right hand nor to the left, but he must remove his foot from evil.” In other words we are to live in balance. Vent or stuff: neither is healthy. The correct choice is “Trust”: trust in God and turn the situation over to Him. To achieve this requires me to guard my heart (Prov 4:23). Anger results from a mindset that life is all about me: my rights, my feelings, my pleasure. I heard about a woman who contracted rabies from a dog bite. The doctor broke the news to her that she was terminal and should get her worldly affairs in order. She took a piece of paper and began writing furiously. The doctor asked, “Is that your will?” “No,” she replied, “It’s all the people I want to bite.” Not a balanced reaction.

 The key to balance is to live restrained and controlled:

  1. Choose to walk in self-control. Gal 5:22-23 lists the fruit of Holy Spirit which includes self-control. Have you found yourself venting at your wife in a way you would never do with your boss? We can exercise the same self-control in all circumstances because the Holy Spirit resides in us. Phil 4:13 promises, “Gill can do all things through Christ, who strengthens him.”  Thomas Jefferson advised, “When angry count to 10; when very angry count to 100.” Mark Twain rephrased it to: “When angry count to 10; when very angry cuss.” You will have to decide which choice you will make.
  2. Deal with the small things. Otherwise they build into an explosion. The earlier I deal with the feelings of anger, the less damage they will do.
  3. Retrain your thoughts, your words, and your actions. Go back to those thoughts because they produce everything else. 2Cor 10:5 tells us we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

 Jesus offers an invitation to a higher way of life. He does not try to accommodate the existing belief system of the world but turns those beliefs upside down (Acts 17:6). Our spiritual walk is not about getting by, but rather transformation. Rom 12:2 says, “Gill is not to be conformed to this world, but is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, so that Gill may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Too often we spend our lives dealing with the bad fruit of our behavior and never dig deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Are you willing to go through whatever it takes to be free or do you want to stay in the mess you’re in for the rest of your life?

 How can I resolve feelings of anger? The key is through forgiveness:

  1. Extend and seek forgiveness of others.
  2. Forgive yourself.
  3. Be an agent of forgiveness.

 2Cor 5:17 Therefore if Gillis in Christ, heis a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” I don’t have to live in bondage to my past. I have stepped into a new future that is not determined by my past. In Rev. 21:5, Jesus declares, “Behold, I am making all things new.” We don’t have to continue to live under the curse of anger. Have the courage to stand on the Word, not your feelings. Vent/ Stuff/ Trust. Only one road leads to life and peace. Which will you choose?


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