Posts Tagged ‘rebellion’

Are You Making a Cross for Yourself?

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” Luke 22:42

A cross is composed of two pieces of wood. The shorter piece represents your will–and the longer piece represents God’s will. Lay the two pieces side by side–and there is no cross; but lay the shorter piece across the longer one–and you have a cross.

Just so, whenever our will falls across God’s will–there is a cross in our life. We make a cross for ourselves . . .
— every time we do not accept Christ’s way,
— every time we murmur at anything He sends,
— every time we will not do what He commands.

But when we quietly accept what He gives, when we yield in sweet acquiescence to His will, though it shatters our fairest hopes, when we let our will lie alongside His–there are no crosses in our life, and we have found the peace of Christ.

“My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it–may Your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

I delight to do Your will, O my God!” Psalm 40:8

“It doesn’t hurt anyone else so it is OK.”

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

It is very easy for me to get swept up with the crowd, do what everyone else is doing, agree with what everyone else is saying. I think this has its roots in my people pleasing and codependent tendencies. But because I am a child of God I know in my heart of hearts that following the crowd rarely leads to anything good. People are just lemmings heading over the cliff.

God has provided me with His Standard and it is found in Scripture. He makes it quite clear what his direction is and what His desires for me are. It is up to me to continue to be aware of His directions and to apply His desires to my life.

It is easy to become desensitized. The news media keeps telling us smoking pot is harmless. Homosexuality is “normal.” It is OK to bend the rules. Situational ethics are what matter, not what God says. It is OK to steal just as long as you are not caught.

How often have we heard “This doesn’t hurt anyone else so it is OK.”

WRONG!

It does affect me (if I am doing the wrong thing). It affects my loved ones when they see me doing the wrong thing. It affects my relationship with God. So I have to work at remaining very sensitive to what God says — and desensitizing myself to what the world says.

If someone says something loud enough and often enough it can start sounding like the truth. But there is only one Truth. I have to remember that.

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  John 8:31-32

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Copyright by S. O. Brennan.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
S.O. Brennan is the Director of
Christians in Recovery and Alcoholics Victorious

Do We Make Obedience Something Jesus Doesn’t Intend?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

A group of skeptical faces inspired today’s word-of-the-week…

PRINCIPLES

“Jesus doesn’t care about rules.”

I could see the skepticism…another anything-goes liberal. When you’re speaking to a group, a controversial statement is a good way to galvanize attention, but you’d better be prepared to follow up with revolution prevention material.

What do you think? Does Jesus care about rules?

Rules are part of a game. They’re man-made, they’re arbitrary, they’re situational, and they change.

None of those describes anything about Jesus. He talked about simple, timeless principles and condemned the “religious experts” whose sole concern was obedience to man-made rules.

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (Luke 11:46)

The problem, of course, is that we all create rules in circumstances that matter a lot to us. We usually do this with the best intentions, but a rule, once created, often becomes more important than individuals. Entire layers develop devoted strictly to enforce the rules, often simply because they’re the rules.

This week I suggest that we consider Jesus’ way… principles rather than rules.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Could it be that we make obedience something He doesn’t intend?

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Do You Toy with Sin?

Monday, August 25th, 2014

“If we play around the viper’s hole–it no wonder that we are bitten!”

An old proverb advises us not to play with sharp-edged tools, lest we cut our fingers.

It is a sin to trifle with sin! If we must play, we had better find harmless toys! That evil which caused Christ a bloody death, is no fit theme for any man’s sport.

Playing with wickedness is a hazardous game! Sooner or later, we will pluck the lion of sin by the beard, and we shall be torn in pieces!

This is true of indulgence in strong drink: “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake, and poisons like a viper!”

This is equally true of all other forms of evil, especially of the lusts of the flesh. Lewd words, soon lead to foul deeds. Yet such is the folly of men, that they run dreadful risks in sheer wantonness, as though vipers and cobras were fine playmates, and devils were merry-makers!

“Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Do not let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.” Psalm 19:13

Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

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Are You Afraid To Listen?

Friday, August 8th, 2014

facing fearThe guy at the retreat answered a question about fear in a brutally honest manner. “I’m afraid if I really listen to God, He might tell me to do something I don’t really want to do.”

Lots of folks grumble that God never speaks to them. What if the real problem is that we’re afraid to listen? What if we intentionally keep God at a distance to avoid disrupting our self-created illusion of security?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I.
Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Most of the guys around the fire that night agreed. We seek to serve—when it’s convenient, when it fits into the schedule. We’d love to serve or do a mission trip, but that vacation gets in the way. We want to finish well—but we need to guard the 401(k).

What if we want to follow—on our terms?

What if we’re not-so-secretly afraid that Jesus was serious when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

What if our efforts to follow Jesus in a safe, sanitary manner actually cause us to avoid God because we’re afraid of what He might say?

Are you ever afraid God might ask you to do something you don’t want to do or give up something you really want to hang on to? What are those times/things for you?

What are some of the excuses we use for not listening?

How do you know if it’s God’s voice or your own wishes?

Often we think of “being sent” in terms of big stuff like going to Africa (or doing a bike tour). What are some more everyday circumstances where God might send us if we’d listen a bit more closely?

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

The Truth Shall Make You Free, part 4

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

John 8:31 is certainly not the only verse where Jesus speaks to what the character of a disciple of His ought to be. He addresses this character in many parts of the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament “fleshes out” what He taught. Naturally, the character of a Christian is the main “sermon fodder” in our Churches. Much is expected of us. We are saved by the free gift of His grace. We did nothing to earn that grace (Ephesians 2:8,9). But, the next step, which some call sanctification, takes up the rest of our lives.

Jesus tells these new “converts” who believe in Him: “If you continue in My word, then you will be disciples of Mine.” (John 8:31).

I looked up the word “continue” in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Some of you know this book. It is on the Internet, I believe. It basically cross references every verse in the Bible. If you go through all of these links, you might discover how the Bible can comment on itself.

Consider one of these links: the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23). My Ryrie study Bible interprets these four people this way: “There would be four different responses to the Word: no response; emotional response; worldly response and fruitful response.” I think that Matthew 8:20-21 is an example of not continuing in the word. A person hears the word and responds to it with great joy (emotion). But, he has no firm root in himself. Soon he falls away. Maybe that could be some of those Jews who came to believe in Jesus: they responded emotionally and it did not “stick.” Also see Luke 8:13.

To continue in His word is to abide in His word. Jesus describes Himself as the Vine. We, the branches, abide in Him (John 15:5-7). If we are rooted in Jesus, we will know that His love will fill us (Ephesians 3:17-19). Jesus has caused a reconciliation in our relationship with God if we continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast (Colossians 1:22-23).

We are told in Colossians 2:6,7: Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude .

In many respects, that verse sums up what is expected of us. Normally we view expectations as “work.” This is true here. Sanctification is hard work. It is never an easy path. One reason is that God intervenes in that path with life lessons. It is almost as if “school” is in session in our lives every day. A day that goes by without having learned something is a wasted day, I believe. God would certainly view this to be true in terms of the learning tree called sanctification.

Sometimes people can hear the word but because that hearing was not united in faith by the hearer, it did not profit them (Hebrews 4:2). Perhaps this might describe some of the people Jesus spoke to in John 8:31.

To continue in His word is to live in it, abide in it, imbibe it, seek it, spend time with it, and to let it become us. I firmly believe that when you open His word, you see yourself. I see myself in Adam, Jacob, David, Jonah, and Peter. That is just for starters. Often when I read His word I wonder how the heck He ever knew that was me he was talking about. Reading His word can be pretty disconcerting at times. It forces you to look at yourself.

So, we need to continue in His word, and if we do, we will become disciples of His, and we will know the truth and the truth will make us free.

So, what is this “truth that will make us free.” This is pretty much going to be the “meat” of what Dr. Stanley taught in that sermon set I mentioned.

But, before I do that, I want to explore, in the fifth installment, my own impressions of His Word — Scripture.

I am Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

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Copyright Michael the Penguin and Christians in Recovery. All rights reserved.

Truth Shall Set You Free _ Part 3:

Monday, July 21st, 2014

In the second installment, I testified how God’s Word – His Truth – set me on the road to freedom…not just freedom from alcohol, but also freedom to become the man God wants me to be.

Presumably the story could have ended there. After all, I had hit rock bottom, knew despair and loneliness, hated the person I really was, and all of this ended by the intervention of my Lord Jesus. Not only did He intervene but He showed me truth in His word, and that truth set me free.

End of story. Let the violins swell up to a crescendo while you see me disappearing into a beautiful landscape of life wonderful.

No. The story begins there. That landscape is beautiful at times, but a lot of the times it is a rocky difficult terrain and it has almost sucked me dry while I navigate through it. These have been some good 12 sober years, but at the same time, they have sometimes been downright awful. Why? I did not always continue in His word. Often I would ignore His word and would go my own way, and when I did boy was it terrible. I also think that I was not discerning enough to see that in some of that rocky terrain maybe God was trying to teach me something. If so, then I flunked the class. So, these 12 years have been “up and down.”

Look at these versions of John 8:31,32:

Then Jesus turned to the Jews who claimed to believe in Him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (The Message)

So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, if you abide in My word [hold fast to My Teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free (The Amplified Bible).

Jesus said to them, ‘You are truly my disciples if you live as I tell you to and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (The Living Bible).

What is happening here? First, as many of you know, the gospel of John is different from the other three in that it emphasizes more of what Jesus says as compared to what Jesus does. In Chapter Eight all we know is that He is at the Temple talking with those have followed along with Him. These public discourses dominate John’s gospel up through chapter 12. From then on, His statements are to a smaller audience, mainly the Twelve and other followers.

So, the words in John 8:31,32 were for public consumption at a place revered by the Jews: the Temple. Jesus, being a good Jew, worshiped there. He also taught there. Apparently He was confronted with opposition to His teaching. But, when He spoke the words you see in John 8:28,29 many apparently came to believe in Him.

So, what does He do? He speaks directly to those people who came to believe in Him: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Isn’t that impressive? Those who came to believe in Him got His attention and He spoke to them. I still think that is true today. In my early days as a Christian, He was there with me, teaching me through His Word, and through the lives of other Christians. This immediate attention often will separate the wheat from the chaff. In John 8:31 He lays out for them what the character of a true disciple of His ought to be: to continue in His word.

Unfortunately, not all of those who “came to believe in Him” actually did so. Perhaps some of them had an emotional reaction that did not last. You can see that in their reactions and statements from verse 33 on. The exchange of words between these people and Jesus get pretty confrontational. Chapter Eight ends with the people trying to stone Him! But, He hides and eventually gets away and out of the Temple.

What does it mean to continue in His word? Here are some possible meanings from Webster: “to maintain without interruption a condition, course or action.” To continue is to endure, stay, keep up, prolong, last, abide, and persist. One word that works is: abide. I like the way Matthew Henry put it:

“It is to dwell in Christ’s word, as a man does at home, which is his center, and rest, and refuge.”

I like that. As I write this, I am safe inside my home while an ice storm is raging outside. I hear the clicking of the sleet against the screens of my windows. Yet here I am in my home, my center, my refuge, safe, warm, and secure. That is what it is like to abide in His word.

Next time I want to take one more look at John 8:31.

My name is Michael the Penguin, and I am a Christian in recovery.

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Copyright by Penguin. All rights reserved.

The Truth Shall Set You Free, Part 2

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

We all want to be free. The desire to be free is part of our make-up, and that means God/ gave us that desire. In my case, I want to be free to be the man God wants me to be. I have always wanted that. Wanting and achieving are two different things, however.

I have fears. These fears weigh me down. What caused them? I have ideas, theories, and sometimes even valid reasons why these fears exist. But, what matters is how I have handled these fears. Some people grow out of them. I didn’t. I took them with me into adulthood. And, in doing that I thought maybe I could use them in my favor. The best thing to do was to plan, anticipate, scheme, and prepare. The overall plan for the day was to control, control, control. That took a lot of thought. In the process I became an insomniac.

And, over time, I became an alcoholic.

Why? Because as life happened, it got more complex and there were too many loose ends. The pain of seeing these dangling ends was too much. Alcohol took care of that and, in an odd way, it helped. I could sit up at night and plan, anticipate, scheme, and prepare and be energized by the alcohol.

Eventually all of this came to a head: my world imploded, and my biology crashed. Suddenly there I was totally alone being a person I hated.

Trouble was, I really was that person.

So, what was I to do? In fact, I did not do anything. It was Jesus who did something. He confronted me. He got into my face. He tried a variety of ways to intervene which I, of course, either could not see or perhaps was too self-absorbed to see.

When you hit bottom, you are so alone. All of you who read this know that. I had failed myself and others, and others had failed me. I was desperately alone. I was so alone I was physically ill.

There I sat ill, on a glorious sunny Saturday, 21 October, 1994, in the midst of beautiful Colonial Williamsburg, surrounded by happy tourists, and there I was, slowly dying inside. That was when He spoke. There was no audible sound. He spoke in my spirit: “Michael, the reason you are in bad health is because of your drinking. Once you stop the drinking, your health will improve and everything will be all right.”

Jesus was using the word “health” in two ways. The first applied to the disease of alcoholism. The second applied to the deeper spiritual disease or malaise which I knew would force me to address long hidden issues out of my entire life. Frankly, it was the second disease that I feared the most.

So, where did I need to start?

I started through His Word. Scripture. Later that day, as I was sinking into withdrawal (I had not had any alcohol in 12 hours )I asked Him how. — How was I ever going to stop drinking? And, on top of that, what was I to do with myself once I stopped? Horrible fear overtook me — the fear that I would be so exposed and helpless for all to see with no place to hide, being a person even I did not like. It was terrible. I saw no way out.

He gave me two verses: Proverbs 3:5 and Philippians 4:13. I took out the Gideon bible in our motel room and found them:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13).

Suddenly the fear was gone. Thea “edge” of alcoholic withdrawal was taken away, and I felt human, real — and I even felt safe in the knowledge that I was there, in Him, and comfortable being who I really was. I claim this as a divine intervention in my life, and in many respects, the next day, 22 October, was really the first day of the rest of my life: a life that had to be grounded in God, not in my fears and need for control.

So, it was His Word that was put me on the road to freedom. I am not there yet. I was not instantly healed. I will be seeking good health in both of these areas for the rest of my life. Probably I will never quite get to the end of the road, but by then I will be in His arms and then it will be glorious.

Until then, I have His Word, and I want to continue in His Word in order to know truth and through that truth, have freedom.

In the next installment, I want to give some thought to the word “continue” as Jesus used that word.

My name is Michael the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

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Copyright Penguin and Christians in Recovery. All rights reserved.

Can Our Rights Be Wrong?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

bill of rights“I have the right to ______.”

You fill in the blank—the possibilities are nearly endless. We’re all about defending and demanding our rights.

A few days ago I read an article about human trafficking in which the author cited compelling data linking prostitution, pornography, and the meteoric increase in internet trafficking of minors. In a comment, one guy angrily defended his constitutional right to view pornography, affirmed by THE SUPREME COURT! (his caps.) He went on to express his anger at “self-righteous Christians” trying to take away his right to do whatever he wanted in his private life.

Personally, I’ve no interest in limiting anyone’s rights. Passing a law might make us feel better, but it’s actually an extremely ineffective way to change “moral” behavior. Want examples?

  • Prostitution is illegal in every state. Does anyone believe those laws stop paid sexual activity or its horrible side effects
  • Slavery and human trafficking are illegal in every country. Nearly 30 million people live in modern-day slavery, and human trafficking is the second largest worldwide organized crime activity (behind drugs).
  • Illegal street drugs proliferate in every community despite massive law enforcement campaigns and billions of dollars wasted on a virtual revolving door of incarceration involving a huge portion of our population.

Jesus refused to deploy power or fear to control behavior. Paul frequently deferred his rights as a Roman citizen, accepting illegal beatings and imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. He wasn’t interested in his rights, but in God’s notion of what’s right.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

Just wondering how different things would look if every follower of Jesus surrendered our “right” to judge those who disagree. What if we gave up our right to fight back, to shout for our political beliefs, to edit the truth to fit our version of reality?

What if knowing Jesus mattered more than getting our way? What if loving our enemies was really more important than winning? Would things look any different?

Do you think we could change the world if justice—setting things right, from God’s perspective—was more important to us than our rights?

Jesus gave His life for that principle.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Whose Plan are You Following?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

,I think sometimes we forget that only the Potter knows how to fashion us to suit His purposes. We think we know our purposes here on this earth, and what we need to fulfill them. But the Lord says in Jeremiah “I know the plans I have for you” (emphasis on the “I”) (Jer 29:11).

Or maybe we get some great ideas and plans, run off to implement them, and then ask God to bless them. But Corinthians says that the thoughts of the wise are futile (1 Cor 3:20).

Or perhaps God has revealed some of His plans for us, and we think we know how to bring them to fruition. But He says in Isaiah His ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55:9).

I think that we rarely know what God is up to. Only He knows the intimate details of the plans, the step by step journey that He has planned for us. Only He knows the upcoming battles we will face. Only He knows the current state of our heart, and His desired state of our heart. Only He knows what equipping will be required.

He loves us so much, He is so fiercely protective of us, He will not send us into battle unprepared. The battle is the Lord’s, and His plan is victory. Our equipping is critical if we want to partner with Him in victory.

Does it frustrate you, or bring you comfort, that God is the only omniscient One who knows how to shape us to fit the plan?

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Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.