Romans: Make War

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 It is once again reiterated in this verse of Romans 8 that living in the flesh means death and living in the Spirit means life.  You have to ask yourself then; how can I make sure I’m living in the Spirit?

The Apostle Paul uses an interesting phrase here by saying “put to death the deeds of the body” and you will live.  How can we put the deeds of our own bodies to death?  How can we cease to live according to the flesh, which is such so easy to find ourselves doing?  We can’t just say we’re living for God, we have to walk in His ways.  It’s not a one time choice, it’s a daily matter of picking up our cross and following Him.

Contrary to popular view, the Christian life is not promised to be easy or painless.  In fact, it can be more painful than living in sin.  Each and every day of a Christian’s life, he or she must choose to make war against the nature of the human.  To live according to the Spirit is a choice that results in help and guidance from the Lord, but it also must mean we consciously make war against the sinful flesh we live in.  We want to do this, but we should do that.  We shouldn’t do this, but we’re inclined to do just that.  It’s a fight, but it’s not one we wage alone.

God is on our side.  Nothing else can come up against us and win.  Make war on the flesh.  Choose to live according to the Spirit.

Rule Number One: Trust, Rule Number Two: Obey

Sometimes following the simplest rules is just too hard.

Exodus 16:1-4 Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.

2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. 3 “If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow My instructions.

Exodus 16:19-20 Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” 20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.

Exodus 16:26-28 You may gather the food for six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath. There will be no food on the ground that day.” 27 Some of the people went out anyway on the seventh day, but they found no food. 28 The LORD asked Moses, “How long will these people refuse to obey My commands and instructions?

The whole nation begins to complain to Moses about the lack of food on this journey they haven’t passed a Popeye’s Chicken or even a 7-11 store, they are thinking about all the good food that was available to them back in Egypt. It seems that nobody is remembering the fact that the Lord destroyed all the livestock and the crops during the plagues that came as a result of Pharaoh’s lack of interest in letting the Israelites go.

The Lord has mercy on his people and gives them a food source that could only have happened because it was from a supernatural source. Every day except the Sabbath day their food was waiting for them in the morning.

All that was required was some simple obedience to some simple rules, but just like all of us, we are all tempted to take care of ourselves and provide for our own well being and security by bending the rules that God has given us. We are wired to take care of our security and we are easily led astray by the temptation to handle our own well being by any means available, but God wants us to obey, if he says that he will supply our “daily bread” on a daily basis then we need to act in faith and allow God to provide, how else will we see the miracle?

Obedience is commanded (Deut 13:4) and it is said to be better than sacrifice (1Sam 15:22) Therefore it is extremely important, we have a direct order from God to submit to his authority and he tells us that it is far more important than the sacrifices that God ordained as an atonement for sin, that says that obedience is a big deal and must be taken seriously.

I must trust God for my daily resources, knowing that he will supply all that I need for another day on this earth or he will furnish me with all that I need for eternity with him.

Forgive me Lord for all the times that I have tried to provide for myself instead of relying on you. I should never compromise on obedience in order to take care of things myself.

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

Sometimes I take on projects that I know are well beyond my capacity, that are well beyond my own ability. Sometimes I just sit here in this chair and I’ll stare, my look perhaps a little hazy but my mind intensely focused, wondering how I’m going to go about doing this, tracing and retracing my thoughts even as I find I am unable to think about anything else.

There are moments when I just sort of let out this half laugh. You know the one? It almost sounds like a sigh but there is this chuckle that tries to find humor in it as you find yourself a little bit on the frustrated side. When I do, the prevalent thought that runs through my head seems to be I have no business pushing myself like this, testing the limits of what I can and can’t do, knowing full well just how far it is beyond my skill, talent and ability.

Yet I still try, pushing myself a little harder day by day. Maybe, in a sense, there are the times when I know that I am going to wind up disappointed. It doesn’t quite turn out the way that I wanted to. It could be that every step of the way I am going to end up frustrated, silently cursing what I am doing for turning out so bad, and myself for letting it. Invariably I know those moments may come and that, for as much as you warn yourself about it, telling yourself not to be disappointed if they do, nothing really prepares you for the reality of them if and when they do actually hit, do they?

But then, during these times, during these moments, we have to remind ourselves that though a wise man knows their limitations, it is a great man who not only knows them but does everything that he can do to push himself past them. Life is about understanding the boundaries that our limits have put up, and pushing ourselves past them with strength, vigor and courage in a hope, faith and trust that all things will work out as they must.

Faith is about a journey to the borderland of our boundaries, testing the limits of who we are and what we can do. Consider the words of the Lord to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) This is a testimony of a God who does not believe in limitations, a God who, looks to us, and, in the knowledge that all things are possible through Him (Matthew 19:26) sets us apart in the wondrous and boundless nature of His love that all things may be made possible through Him who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)

Without a doubt there will be frustrations, there are going to be challenges that meet us along the way. There are going to be moments in our lives when we feel like throwing up our hands, thinking to ourselves why do we even bother trying? Why do we even bother when it all seems to slip away from us, and it just seems so hard? What we have to remember, during those times, is that we are created in a divine and holy image, in the glorious image of a God who loves us and sets us apart to be more than conquerors in Christ. (Romans 8:37) What we may believe is too hard for us, that we may believe is too difficult for us God has other ideas for. We just need to cast our cares, our worries, our frustrations, our self-doubt aside and look to a wondrous future, and a hope filled plan for our lives.

I have no illusions that I am a great man. Maybe someday I might be better than I am today in the belief that today I am better than I was yesterday. What I know is that if I keep pushing my boundaries, if I keep trying harder to do make what seems like it would be impossible for me to do possible then the best is yet to come for my life in the trust that God will always be there to help me along the way, to help me become more than what I am, perfecting me in His grace and love.

Look to your own life, consider your journey, and the borders it takes you to of your own perceptions of your capacity to grow and to be, to think and to do. God is ready with a divine design for your life to take you beyond. Trust in Him and He will carry you to new heights beyond anything you ever dreamed of before.

Romans: We are not debtors to the flesh

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

It may seem, as we read Romans 8, that Paul drones on a bit about the same thing.  You’re not dead in your sin anymore once you’re in Christ.  If the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you’re not dead any more, but alive in Christ. Flesh is death, Christ is life.

Yet, even as the chapter goes on, Paul digs in even more on the issue – it must be important.  The new life that begins with salvation means the end of the old life.  We often agree with that intellectually, but don’t embrace it in reality.  Paul probably faced the same thing with his original audience and he emphasized once again that in your new life you’re not a slave to sin.  It doesn’t own you anymore.

Christian, get it.  You don’t have to give in to all the things that call your name.  You don’t belong to them, you belong to the King of Kings.  Yes, of course we’ll all still sin because we’re flawed and broken.  But that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to live like we did before we became a new creation.  You don’t owe anything to your old life.  Leave it in the past and put on Christ.

 

Romans: Life to your mortal bodies

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Let’s recap: Every single one of us has sinned.  We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection. But there’s a hero to this story.  There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us.  We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.

The work of Jesus Christ on the cross accomplished what you and I could never achieved for ourselves.  Under the Law, we could never reach the expectations of a holy God who requires perfection.  The Law is restrictive, Christ is freeing. We’ve been freed from sin and empowered to obey, but we’ll still never make it to the perfection the Law requires.  We’re still human.  God knew we would never live up to the Law.  It’s why He sent His Son to fulfill the Law that we might be freed from it’s bondage.  Now it serves as a reminder that we need Him every single day.

We all have that choice to make.  Just because we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean we live effective lives.  We have to choose each day to listen to God’s voice as He directs us. The only way to truly be effective for God’s purposes is to set aside the many pleasures this world has to offer for the sake of doing what we’re called to do. Love.  You want to please God? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.

Submission to God means seeking first what He wants. The truth that isn’t always communicated in the church environment is that following Jesus is hard.  It’s not all about how you can get what you want and live like there’s not a care in the world.  There are struggles and battles to be faced.  The good news is, He knows better than we do what’s good for us anyway.

God’s children live differently than the rest of the world.  We’re not concerned with the things that burden the lost.  We’re able to walk in a godly confidence because we know that the Lord is all-powerful and He is good.  When you surrender your life over to Jesus Christ.  God takes what was once dead and makes it alive (Ephesians 2:5). If you are His, He’s brought you to life because now it’s no longer you who live, but Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).

In case it hasn’t been clear: It’s only God who gives life to our mortal bodies.  We’re incapable of living on our own.  Without Him we’re the walking dead, going through the motions but not really living.  With Him there’s no end to the possibilities.

God’s Mercy Is Hard To Imitate

Jesus teaches us to defy human reason and take on a lifestyle of love.

Luke 6:27-36  “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.

31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.

35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Jesus came to our world with some radical new ideas, since the beginning of time there had never been much kindness in the world, this new teaching was very different.Jesus walked into a very harsh world and said that we should love everybody without exception and even if you are having a hard time loving them he still wants you to treat them very well. Do good to them and allow them to get away with taking from you and mistreating you. This is a very different teaching that meant taking love to the next level and showing mercy in the same way that God did. After all Jesus was on our planet because of God’s great mercy.

Have you thought about the idea of showing mercy to the extent that your Father in heaven showed mercy to you? That seems ridiculous to those that are not a Christ follower but those of us that have experienced God’s mercy have not been given any other option.

I need to remember that this world isn’t all about me, God did not design it for my personal satisfaction, he did not promise me that everybody would like me. I will be mistreated and I will be misunderstood but I still need to show mercy without restraint, I need to be full of mercy regardless of how I feel or what I think that I have a right to. God loved me without standing up for his rights and he wants me to do the same.

Thank you Lord for showing me mercy instead of being a score keeper.

Lessons of Faith (Two): Patience


As we are instructed through faith, so we ought to live. After all, there is no lesson in our lives that that can’t be taught to us if we take the time to understand the deeper meaning that the gift of grace that has been given to us through the power of the Spirit and the hold that it has on each of us.

It begins with trust, a trust that comes through letting go and letting God lead us. In a sense, it is both simple and yet hard for us to do. After all, when we are called to the new life that comes through the redemption of Christ, we come to put our hope in our Heavenly Father through the precious blood of the Lamb. Yet, for as much as we may rest on that blessed eternity, it’s the hardest thing for us to let go of our daily lives as we find ourselves faced with challenges: toiling, worrying, struggling as we reach towards who we want to be, who we need to be, knowing we have the capacity to do it but finding that it is just out of our reach.

Only when we remember that our God is the Lord of the great and the small, and put it all in His hand — that’s when we realize the fullness of our potential. But then, for as much as we need to trust, it is nothing if we do not heed the second great lesson of faith that comes to bear in our lives and our plans. This is patience.

Patience is perhaps the biggest stumbling block to trust, isn’t it? A fruit of faith, (Galatians 5:22-23) we know, we understand that it’s important, yet it is the difference between the head and the heart. But then life is short, something we are often times so painfully aware of. (Psalm 89:47) We want what we want right now, because we don’t want to waste the preciousness of that wondrous gift God has given us when He breathed life into us.

What we often times forget is that we aren’t always ready, we aren’t always prepared for everything. Like the Prodigal (Luke 11:15-32) we are so eager to go out and see everything, to feel everything. Perhaps our ambitions and our view of the wider world isn’t as selfish or as self centered as his was. It could be that we want it because we know all the good we can do, all the good that is possible for us and from us if we are just given the chance to be more. Yet when we allow for our impatience to take over, we go out unprepared for what the world has to offer and the resistance it may possibly put up against us.

Remember that God not only tells us, but He warns us as well that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) if we are wise enough to be patient in it. God gives to us, He is gracious on to us, and the promise of His love is the same promise He makes over and over to you: He will not fail you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5) as He shows that His time is perfect if we rest it in His hands. (Psalm 31:15) Just because we want it right now doesn’t mean an unchanging God, a God who, in that nature, protects us from all we are not ready or prepared for, (Malachi 3:6) is suddenly going to change.

Faith involves patience just as assuredly as it involves trust. After all, the saints who rested in blessed faith did so patiently waiting for the hour of the Savior’s arrival that the blemishes of their sins might be washed away. They were saved because they looked, and they waited to the appointed hour of God’s anointed one. Even now, in faith, we wait for the second coming of that same Savior that will usher in the final hours of the Lord. If we can wait patiently, if we can look towards these things, trusting in God as we do, knowing the greater importance that they have in our lives, for our spirits and our souls, then why can’t we let go and be patient with Him, trusting in the promises that He has made to us?

Your time and your hour is coming if you just realize it is going to happen when God is ready for it to happen, Then the fullness of His design, the wonders of His plan will be revealed to you in the most significant of ways. He isn’t going to leave you without enough time to do what He intends for you to do even if time is short and our days our numbered. It’s just a matter of having faith in that, learning what it is that He is trying to teach you so you can be who you need to be. When that does happen you will see your faith is rewarded in the most significant of blessings and the most wondrous of miracles.

Be strong, dear disciples; be strong and be courageous, but most importantly be patient. Your hour is near. Just let God show it to you.

Lessons of Faith (One): Trust


The greatest lessons we can learn come from the deeper meaning that faith has in our lives. As we are it teaches us as we ought to be, as we desire to be, so it instructs us as we need to be. The only questions that then remain are what does God require of us so we can live up to His potential and what gifts has He given us so we can?

In the stress of life’s journey we sometimes forget that, don’t we? It’s hard to keep focus on, especially in our times of trouble and hardship we pray for our Heavenly Father to reveal His plan for us as we battle with our deeper sense of purpose and meaning. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s just that we can’t see it when the times get rough and the world around us seems slightly blurred. We want to do more, to be more but we can’t entirely see how we are supposed to do it. We look for the answers but, in the end, they seem far removed and far distant from us as we do.

The thing about it is that it’s never quite as complicated as we make it. Granted none of us can see the future, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next in our lives. God, on the other hand does, and He has a purpose in it. (Isaiah 46:10) For everything we can’t see, and that we can’t understand or yet comprehend, the Lord, our God, can and does and in this, He creates, through us, something of the divine with miraculous wonder. (Romans 8:29) Perhaps we may not always fully grasp what that is or what that means but it doesn’t make His presence any less amazing and wonderful as He guides us according to His amazing plan.

It’s here that we must come to realize that the first and the foremost lesson of faith is a lesson of trust.

On a grander scale we perhaps already know that. After all, we are saved by grace through faith and not of our works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Understanding that our blessed Savior is the way, the truth and the light, we know we come to God through Him, (John 14:6) washed clean through His precious blood. (Isaiah 1:18) We trust God, we trust His plan with the most important parts of ourselves, with the greatest portion of our being, our hearts and our souls and our spirits. Yet, we still find it hard to let go of the smaller things, and why? Maybe because, though that gift of grace transforms us, it deals with all that is unseen, with all that we don’t necessarily confront on a day to day basis. The smaller things, they wage there own little wars on us day by day, moment by moment, chipping away at us, taking more and more from us to the point were we suddenly think that we have to take it all into our hands.

The truth is, until we learn to let go of the small, until we learn to let go of the daily troubles we have, putting them into God’s hands as we leave the burdens we have at the feet of Christ, whatever they may be, (Matthew 11:28-30) there is no rest, there is no peace for us, just worries and struggles that seem to overwhelm and overpower us. Simply put, trust in God is letting go and letting Him lead. It is realizing there are things that we cannot and will not ever be able to change, so, instead of spending our time worrying about them, we need to let Him worry about them for us as we travel down the path of our life. It’s a matter of finally allowing yourself the comfort of knowing that the God of the large is the God of the small, and He is going to care for you regardless of what you may be facing. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Yes, it may be that God is going to lead you to make some hard choices and perhaps some tough decisions, He is perhaps going to tell you that the road you are going to have to travel down isn’t going to be easy. Yet, in that first lesson of faith comes the realization that every challenge you face is not a challenge that you and you alone have faced, that only you have known. God has seen it all through the lives of His saints and He has provided a way forward so they have been able to reach the promises through the hope He offers. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just remember, He is going to take you down a path, when you put You trust in Him, that you might not have thought of, that might make you question but that is ultimately going to work wonders through you.

So what are you holding on to? What is it that you are continuing to hold on to? Release it. Release it to God and take His hand, it is reaching out to you. Whatever you think or whatever you feel like you know or don’t know, give it over to God. He is there to take it from you. Sure, God can work with you even if you refuse to let go and let Him lead, but it’s just going to end up creating a lot more hardship and pain as you wrestle not just with your problems or with your plans, but with Him too.

Find strength in faith, find strength in trust, for when you do a whole new world will be opened to you in ways you little thought possible in the wonders of God’s plan that works through the great and the small. Then, with that lesson, will you take the first steps towards learning what you need to know at the Masters feet as He directs you in the wonders of His love for you.

Romans: Christ in you is life

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

 There is a stark difference between those who have Christ living in them and those who do not.  There is only life in those who are in the Spirit.  While it may seem that people are alive because they’re walking around and doing things people do, inside those who don’t have Christ are dead.  They’re the walking dead.

Something spectacular happens when you surrender your life over to Jesus Christ.  God takes what was once dead and makes it alive (Ephesians 2:5). If you are His, He’s brought you to life because now it’s no longer you who live, but Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).  Your body is just a vessel to hold the Spirit that lives in you and through you (2 Corinthians 4:7).  It’s not your power or mine that do great things; it’s the power of God working.

You see, we can’t live holy and sinless lives that would enable us to have such power.  That’s why it’s evident that it’s the righteousness of Christ that makes it possible.  It’s Him that lived a perfect life, and He is the one who purchased our ransom.  He is able to do far more than we could ever even think or begin to imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and He does it through us, the living.

Romans: You are not in the flesh

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If you’re God’s, you’re God’s.  If you’re not, you’re not.  There is no in-between.  There is no such thing as a part-time Christian.  You are either in the flesh or in the spirit.

We’re all born once into the flesh.  Our mothers carry us for 9 months and give birth to us, little tiny human infants.  But to be of the Spirit requires a rebirth (John 3:6).  When you claim the promises of God by being saved through faith in Jesus, you are born into the Spirit.  Then, and only then, do you become part of God’s family.

It’s common to hear someone spoken of as a “child of God” and this is true in some regard.  God did create every person who walks the earth, but they are not all His children.  Only those who have been adopted are His.  And those who are His are His forever.  Are you His?  Is the inheritance He’s promised yours to claim?  Do you know Him as your Father?

God’s children live differently than the rest of the world.  We’re not concerned with the things that burden the lost.  We’re able to walk in a godly confidence because we know that the Lord is all-powerful and He is good.  We’ve got what the world is looking for in all the wrong places.  But there’s always more room in God’s family for another.