Sunday, September 27, 2015

Don't Blame Yourself

Don't Blame Yourself
Sept 28, 2015
Genesis 3:12  "The man said, 'The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.'"

Adam and Eve were the first sinners.  It is interesting, when you think about it, that the very first people to sin were Adam and Eve.  They didn't have a bad parental role model so the negative influences in their lives were never there.  They didn't have a rough childhood, or were abused but trusted adults.  Growing up, other children never teased them.  They had the perfect, literally perfect, life.  They never experienced stress, feelings of depression or neglect, financial hardship, or jealous behavior.  They had a great start in life, the idyllic story that fairy tales are made from, yet they still sinned.  How could they be led astray and travel the path of sin?  Aside from having the ability to choose, they were never faced with the desire to sin.  But sin, they did; apparently it was inevitable.  When given the opportunity, they responded with poor judgment, despite being set up for success.

And when they did sin; what was Adam's first response?  His exact words to the Lord were, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."  He had the audacity to blame the Lord first, despite the Lord setting him up for success.  He also blamed his wife, the most influential person in his life at the time.  Man's first experience with sin was to blame everyone else and fail to take responsibility for his own actions.  This is what we do, too.  We blame the Lord for our circumstances and we blame the influential people around us, but seldom do we blame ourselves.  Adam had full control of his mind and body that day, yet made a bad decision.  Adam was equipped to make the perfect decision yet chose poorly.  This actually makes me feel a little better, if Adam and Eve (who had the perfect life) couldn't resist sin, then maybe I shouldn't have such high expectations of myself.  Nonetheless, the Lord expects us to make good decisions when it comes to sin.

Undoubtedly, you live in a constant weakened state.  Your life is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  Your parents were less than desirable at times, your childhood was full of antagonism, your financial situation has never been what you've needed it to be, and the current influential people in your life - well - they are actually sinners, too.  You were not set up perfectly in life, like Adam and Eve, yet you are expected to live your life according to the Lord's standards.  This creates emotional friction because your sinful nature will mix with your constant weakened state and then you will be tempted, which is a better recipe for sin than Adam and Eve had.  And then sin, you eventually will, whatever the situation. It is inevitable.  I'm not excusing it, but realizing it is going to happen.  But your response to your sin must be better than Adam's.

True, the Lord put you in this situation, even allowed it, but you cannot blame the Lord or your situation for your sin.  During whatever your trial, or weakened state, your ability to blame someone else is zero.  You don't get to blame your parents for the patterns they instilled in you and you don't get to blame your spouse for his or her bad influence.  The only person you may blame is yourself.  You have full and complete control over your actions, despite arguing your weakened state.  At some point, you get to become an adult and make the right decision despite your upbringing.  If you recognize your parents' poor direction and example, then you get to rise above that.  If your spouse isn't perfect, then you get to deal with that, too.  If your job and financial situation is stressful, then that gets knowingly added to your mix.  And this is the scenario in which you find yourself while being tempted.  And when you are tempted and when you sin, you don't get to blame the Lord and you don't get to blame the influences surrounding you.  You get to take full responsibility for your own actions.

While these seems unfair, you also get to take full reward someday in Heaven when you get it right.  No one else around you will be held accountable for your sin, and no one else around you will get rewarded for your good actions.  You get to blame you for the outcome.  It's time to start taking responsibility, despite all the negative influences you've had from the beginning.  There is power for living, however, and that requires submission to the Lord's Holy Spirit.  Want this Holy Spirit power for successful Christian living in a weakened state?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 3, 1 John 1:8, Eph 6:10-18

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Well Well Well

Well Well Well
September 21, 2015
John 4:14  ". . . but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The story of Jesus and the woman at the well is so famous it barely needs recounted.  We all get it.  Jesus met a woman out in public. He exposed her questionable lifestyle, offered her living water, she believed He was the messiah, and she went and told the whole city.  Seldom do we think the story applies to us because none of us have the same awkward life she lived.  I doubt many of you have had five spouses and are in a living arrangement with some you're not married to.  Jesus didn't discuss the woman's sin, though, and He didn't tell her to "go and sin no more," like He did the woman caught in adultery.  The point Jesus was trying to get across to the woman at the well was that her life was in search of something to satisfy her, yet she was never satisfied.

The woman had five failed marriages, so apparently she was jumping from unsatisfaction to unsatisfaction, in search of something to fill her up.  This is why Jesus told her that He could offer her living water, so she would never thirst again.  Any sin the woman faced was dwarfed in comparison to the reason WHY she wasn't living a righteous lifestyle.  She was in search of something that would satisfy her.  Jesus basically told her that nothing she did would ever satisfy the hunger and thirst inside.  She could go on the way she was living and always feel like there was something more, that maybe if she tried something new that this time would be different, this time she would feel whole and satisfied and complete.  Well, Jesus poked holes in that theory for her.  He knew she wanted a satisfaction for her thirst.  He didn't judge her because of her lifestyle; He offered her a solution to what would stop her from making such bad decisions in searching for satisfaction.  He offered her something that would be enough for once in her life.  She wouldn't have to keep jumping from unsatisfaction to unsatisfaction.  He offered her the fulfillment she was looking for.

But what if you are a Christian, you believe in Jesus as your Savior, but still feel unsatisfied?  If you are a believer and feel like you are still thirsty, then maybe you are missing something.  When Jesus talked about the living water He had to offer the woman at the well, the satisfaction that comes from Salvation, He was saying she had to drink from the cup to receive the living water.  He had the living water, but she couldn't have it unless She took it from Him and drank from it.  No, it wasn't actually magic water, but a metaphor of taking the gift of satisfaction FROM Jesus.  The metaphor of salvation being consumed from a cup started in Psalm 116, when the psalmist said there was a cup filled with salvation, from which he drank and then lifted up the empty cup to Heaven to show the Lord that what was in the cup had been completely consumed.

If you are a Christian, and still feel unsatisfied, I would ask if you've fully consumed what was in that cup.  You can't sip from it, and just taste it; you must fully drink it, emptying the cup.  Unless you are satisfying your wants and needs from that cup, with a deep and committed relationship with the Heavenly Father, then you will be left thirsty.  You will again turn to the things of this world to make you feel satisfied but will always end up feeling empty.  If your relationship with the Lord isn't enough to satisfy you inside, then you haven't fully experienced the wholeness of a full relationship with Him.  Maybe you've neglected your relationship and instead of coming back to Him for satisfaction you are attempting to fill it with things from this world.  If you do, you will be setting yourself on a path, the same exact path of the woman who was at the well.  That path will end in failed satisfaction which creates a bigger hole, more empty each time.

Notice the full words in they way Jesus described what was in His cup.  He said you would drink it and it would become a spring of water in you, welling up.....When was the last time you had a refreshing spring in you, welling up?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 116, John 4

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Missing Letters

Missing Letters
September 14, 2015
Matthew 5:18  "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Jesus said He had come to fulfill the law, not remove it.  Jesus promised that all of the pen strokes used to write the law would remain in effect until Heaven and Earth disappeared.  Since Earth is still beneath us, it stands to reason the Lord's laws remain in effect.  Those laws are the irrefutable instructions left to us by which we are to live our lives.  If you recount the law, though, what specifically are we required to follow?  The law started with the instructions the Lord gave through Moses, which included items like: don't commit murder, don't worship other gods, don't lie or steal, etc.  Then those laws were expanded to requiring sacrifices for our sins, bringing offerings to the temple, and not having physical relations with someone other than your spouse, especially close family members.  Since we don't sacrifice animals anymore, are there other rules we can put by the wayside?

True, we don't sacrifice animals anymore, but only because Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, which fulfilled that portion of the law, not abolished it.  So, are there other things we can factor out of the equation?  If you want to live like a sinner and still receive the reward of a saint, then you may certainly not remove anything from the Lord's requirements of you.  You have to obey the full letter of the law; Scripture says to a better extent than the Pharisees.  This sounds tough but Jesus said all the laws of the Lord could be summed up by loving the Lord your God with all your heart and by loving your neighbor as if you were loving yourself.  This sounds way easier but must be interpreted within light of the full scripture.  If loving yourself means you indulge in sin and promote your neighbor to do the same then you are missing some letters from the law.

Scripture says if you truly loved the Lord with all your heart, then your actions would prove it; you would do what He has asked of you, which includes taking care of the least important person among you as well as honoring the Lord with all you have.  Jesus said we would implement this lifestyle with the same fervor that the Pharisees implemented in following their rules.  I'm confident none of us loves his neighbor with the same fortitude that the Pharisees implemented when they counted how many steps they could take on the Sabbath day before it could be defined as working.  I say this to suggest you and I are probably missing some letters from our law.  I do not weigh all of my decisions against the two most important guidelines (loving the Lord with all my heart and loving my neighbor as myself), but I should.

If I am going to implement the Lord's instructions with more strength than the Pharisees, then I will naturally weigh everything against His guidelines.  You and I are free to do what we want, but must ask ourselves before we do something if it demonstrates love for the Father and love for our fellow man.  If it does, then we are free to participate.  If it does not, and we do it anyway, we are missing some letters from the law.  Marriages would be different if people thought this way when considering their own happiness--they would probably lay their pride down more often than not for the other person.  Your relationship with your employer would be different if you weighed everything against the two most important guidelines, too.

If you are going to follow the Lord, then it means obeying the full letter of the law, the law which Jesus summed up nicely.  But it takes great intent to apply it at all times.  Scripture says if you do, however, you will be known as the greatest in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 5:17-48, Matt 22:36-40

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What If, part II of II

What If, part II of II
September 7, 2015
Jeremiah 18:4  "But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

Since the Lord is the Master Potter and we are His clay, His workmanship, we must submit to Him forming us.  Scripture says that if and when the Lord is forming His clay, He may decide if it is marred and then begin again.  He may glance at His creation and make something else.  Many people think this is a complimentary statement, that the Lord will bring beauty from ashes, making a new creation out of His broken pottery.  This is not so, this could not be farther from the truth of what Scripture was saying.  Yes, the Lord can make beauty out of a broken situation; He can make an awful situation into a glorious one out of your life, but that is not what Scripture meant when it likened you and me to marred pottery.

If you read the  verses after the Bible discusses marred pottery being formed into another pot; it talks about evil, specifically disobedience.  As the Potter is forming His clay (you and me), we have the opportunity to submit to the purpose He intended for us.  This requires obedience.  But if the pot is disobedient, then the Potter has the right to re-purpose it.  The exact words are, "and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it."  This is akin to re-purposing His creations, not because of a poor decision but because of constant and willful disobedience.

Your job is to figure out what He has for you to do, not why He has created you, then do it.  He has for you to do the work in front of you, the task He has already put in front of your face.  There is no secret mystery as to what you are supposed to do; you are to be obedient in the place He has currently placed you.  Refuse to do this and He will reconsider the good He had intended for you.  There is more to the statement about the good the Lord intended for the pottery.  It isn't just limited to the good use He intended for its purpose.  It encompasses all the blessings the Lord intended for that person's life, as well, even eternity.  The Lord WANTS to bless you but cannot bless you when you live in a state of disobedience.  It is contrary to His nature.  When He is forming His creations, He has in mind all the good purposes intended for that person as well as all the blessings that go along with it.  He thought of these things with excitement when He was fashioning you in your mother's womb.  He was ecstatic when you were born, not just because you were born, but because of all the good work you would fulfill as well as all of the blessings you would receive in this life and the next.

If you are looking for a blessing in this life, then know that it must be preceded by obedience.  If you are looking for the Potter to use you for His glory, it must be preceded by obedience.  The two go hand-in-hand.  There cannot be blessing with disobedience.  There cannot be a future for you with disobedience.  The Lord wants to look down from Heaven and speak well over your life.  Don't force Him to re-purpose you and the good He intended for your life.  What if there was more for your life but you are missing it?  What if the Lord intended something completely different than the path you've allowed yourself to travel?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Is 29:16, Is 41:25, Is 45:9, Is 46:10, Is 64:8, Jer 18:1-10, Romans 9:6-21, Eph 1:11, Eph 2:10