Friday, November 30, 2012

I Am Not My Own

        As you go through each day, you will notice that, more times than not, you are at the top of your list. You wake up in the morning and think of all the things you need to accomplish that day. You make sure you choose the right outfit in accordance with what the weather will be like. If you’re in college, right when classes are over you will do one of two things – begin working on the mounds of homework you have for the next day, or… sleep. You may not think of it in this way, but the fact still holds true that we have the human desire to please self.

        There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. However, when you allow your own desires to interfere with God’s plan for your life there is a problem. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Read the following words to the song “Lord, Take My Life”, and think about ways you can apply these ideas to your own life:

Lord, take my life,
Make it Your home;
Lord, live through me,
For I am not my own.
But with a price,
The blood of Your Son
Nothing I’ve earned,
But by Your grace I come.

Lord, take my heart,
Make it Your throne;
Lord, reign in me,
For I am not my own.

Lord reign in me,
For I am not my own.

        I noticed two things that I personally need to work on in my Christian walk. First, I need to allow God to use my life for His glory. As the verse and song state, “I am not my own.” By dying on the cross for my sins, the Lord purchased me, and therefore I have absolutely no excuse as to why I should be allowed to live for myself. The Lord has the right to do with my life as He pleases, and I need to hand over my own desires in exchange for His. This is not an easy task to do, because we are innately selfish human beings with our own wants. Some of these wants may include how we dress, what music we listen to, or how we react to various situations. You will not receive fulfillment or satisfaction in these areas or others until your focus is shifted from “This is what I want” to “This is what God wants.”

        Second, I want Christ to be Master of my life. So many people or even things can take over my life, and it can become overwhelming. The reason? Humans are fallible and will make mistakes that can become stumbling blocks or cause me to struggle. Things in this world are finite, and will not bring ultimate joy into my life. So why allow people and things to rule your life when all you need to do is let the God you asked into your heart the moment you sought out salvation be your Master! You have already asked Him into your life, so why not turn over your entire life to Him? This includes your actions, thoughts, deeds, choices, everything. He wants to have reign of your life and heart.

So who are you living for? 

- S.D.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Letter to Satan

Enough is enough. You do not control me anymore. I am not under your ownership anymore. There was a time when you controlled me. I used to do everything you wanted me to do. I did not know any better, though! I did not know that I had another option. Then, one day, I saw the light. I am free; I have a choice! Yet, for some reason I still do what you want. I see the two options in front of me, and instead of taking the clean path, I take the path leading to pain and hurt. I do not want to anymore. Today is the day I say no. Today is the day I make the covenant with myself, my family, my friends, and my God that I will serve NO ONE except for the true God and savior of my soul. You no longer control me and I will not allow you to even influence me. I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ Jesus. Why waste that blood on you?

 1. My mind is Christ’s. I will think on right things. (Philippians 4:8-9)

2. As a Christian, I need to show my faith to those I encounter, friend or acquaintance. (Matt. 5:14-16)

 3. Love will be the driving force of my actions. (1 Corinthians 13)

 4. I will understand I can do nothing without Christ, and will humbly come before Him. (1 Thess. 5:17)

 5. I will not gripe or complain, especially to my friends, but rather I will be thankful for the situations God brings me into and allow Him to work through them. (1 Thess. 5:18)

6. I will not be passive in my search for Christ, but will daily throw myself into the search for His truth. (Proverbs 2:1-6) 

 This is my letter to Satan. These are a few things that I want to be held accountable to. I would encourage anyone who reads this to make your own. Your life is too precious to take lightly. 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Who Has The Control?

ControlEveryone desires to have control in certain areas or of other people. Some may see a friend making an unwise decision and want to tell them how to do things the right way instead of letting that friend figure it out on his own. Others may be in a group project and want to be the one in charge of how things go. Maybe you can relate to one of these types of people. Right now I want to bring out another kind of control, that of your own situations.
        I once saw this quote, “He is not surprised by the events and He is not unsure how He is going to take care of his children. We are just as safe putting our trust in Him when things are going great as when it looks like everything is falling around us.” It is natural for you to want to take control of things going on in your own life. Doing so sometimes makes you feel more secure, as though being in charge of your own person will make things alright in the end. The thing is that you as a human are fallible, that is, you will make mistakes.
So why would you want to be the one making the decisions for your future on your own when you can simply give up the control to the One who is infallible and will never make a mistake? The reason – because it is hard. You do not want to give up the control because that may seem like you are giving up and admitting to defeat. Do not believe that!
Giving your situations to God to handle is showing that you have the faith to trust Him to direct your life in the way He sees best. You may think you know what you want a particular outcome to be, but think about this with me. Do you not think that the One who created you in the beginning knows about your life far better than you do? Looking back at Philippians 4 you can see that God is going to take care of your needs. You do not need to be afraid that He will let you down or forget about you the second you give that control over to Him. Many times we apply the same human tendencies to God as we do to those around us. For you, those people may be your family or friends. They have disappointed you and you feel you are not able to go to them with your problems, so instead you try to handle them on your own. God is not like that. Matthew 10:29-31 talks about how much more God cares for us than the sparrow. He knows the very number of hairs on your head. If He knows these minute details about you, He is far more capable of handling your life than you could imagine. Try giving control to God, because He cares enough to handle your life in His perfect way!

- S.D.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Psalm 3

           Look around you. Can you sympathize with the psalmist? For me, it seems everywhere I look, there is someone opposing me. The Christian life is a fight; our enemy is powerful. One of their foremost attacks is discouragement. Are you discouraged? Do you feel alone? Do you feel as though not even God can help
you? Are you falling into the lies of the world?
           Then stop and think. Who is God? I mean, really. Who is God? Is God some nebulous being who you talk to occasionally? Is He some aloof force who controls aspects of creation, but has no impact on your life? Or is He more? As Christians, we have far more, but we overlook our blessings.
Look at what David wrote about who God was to him. First, He was a shield, a vital instrument in battle. A shield is used for protection; God was David’s protection against his powerful and cumbersome enemies. Second, God was his glory. This word can be understood as “the one in whom I glory.” When we receive a gift of exceptional magnitude, we glory in it; we rejoice in it. David rejoiced in God, despite his enemies attacks. Third, God was the lifter of David’s head. God encouraged David. He lifted his spirits. Next, God is the one who answers our prayers. David cried to God and God answered. Fifth, He is sustainment. David did not worry about not waking up in the morning, even though he literally had people following him to kill him. God was there. God was taking care of him. After stating all of the things God is, David makes an audacious claim in verse 6: “10,000 enemies? Ha! I’m not afraid of you! I have God on my side. Bring it on, world.” (Modern vernacular, of course)
Verses 7 – 8 give the final encouragement for a discouraged Christian. These verses are a call of sure victory. Looking back at verses one and two, we see a complete transformation in the attitude of David concerning his enemies. Why? In the first 2 verses, who was David focused on? (I’ll give you a hint: it was himself) Once his focus shifted to what kind of God he served though, he was encouraged! Don’t be discouraged today. Your enemies may have the power of Satan on their side, but you have the power of God. Check and mate.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Psalm 2:1-5

Wicked people are just plain silly. According to verse one, they “plot in vain”. Directly from the onset, I can tell that they will not succeed. Their work is in vain. In verse 2, they band together, with unwise counsel of course, and plot against God. The verse says LORD. This is a particular use because it is referring to Yahweh Himself. Christians have transliterated this word into Jehovah. This name refers to God’s power. These wicked men are plotting against the creator of the universe, the one who controls everything. Furthermore, they are plotting against the person God has put in charge. In the Hebrew, this word would be used in reference to the Messiah, but because of the modern reference to Christ, the Scripture uses the term anointed. Ok, so let’s review. Wicked people are dumb. Directly from the onset their plot is vain. Why is that? The person they are plotting against is the almighty, all powerful creator of all and His Anointed.
Then, in the next verses, we have the response of God. The first response is laughter. Have you ever watched someone do something so dumb that you could not help but laugh? That is exactly what God’s response to the wicked is. Next, He “holds them in derision.” Derision means “contemptuous ridicule or mockery.”1 Third, speaks to them in wrath causing terror. What He says is that the one they are plotting against, the Anointed has been placed in his position by God.
The passage goes on, but I want to focus on this section. This is not a theological journal; what I am writing is my thoughts on the passage, so do not judge me too harshly. We, as Christians, have been chosen by God. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ, thus making us precious. Imagine this: I have a solid bar of gold. I trade that gold for a pillow. Now, from a completely logical standpoint, that trade was dumb. Why would I give up the riches of that bar of gold for a silly pillow? Because to me, the pillow was worth more than the gold bar. God deemed you worthy of His son’s blood. That thought is incredible. Yet, the world around us is plotting against us. Every day we struggle with thoughts, temptations, lusts, and a plethora of other issues. But, from this passage, we know that they are “plotting” against us in vain! We have no only complete access to God himself, but we have sin defeated by Christ, and the Holy Spirit within us. Take that world! No matter what struggle you may be dealing with today, it is nothing compared to the God we serve. So, why do we not go to Him? 1 Peter 5:6-7 my friends. He cares for you. If you ask Him to help you and willingly allow Him to work, you WILL succeed. So go out there and start kicking some of the world’s butt!

1 Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Sexual Lusts - Winning the Battle

        Why do we give into our sexual lusts? As humans, we are naturally focused on ourselves. When our vision becomes skewed, we lose sight of God and forget Him. We start to see what we believe is good for us. We start to look outside of God for happiness. That decision results in our ultimate demise. “Purity is always smart; Impurity is always stupid” (16). The punishment we receive from God is not always Him directly intervening in the situation. God always punishes sin, but many times the punishment for our sin is only the result of the sin. “The punishment is built into the sin” (16). The commands from the Scripture are commands but that does not mean we have to obey them; we do have to live with the consequences though. Many times when we sin we subconsciously ask the question: “Should I obey God or please myself.” Sadly, too often we fail to see that obeying God will ALWAYS result in me being happy. Should I steer clear of sin because I am afraid of the consequences? Yes, a result of consequences is to keep up from making wrong choices, but we need to avoid sin because it does not honor God! Our life needs to model Jesus’ example. When we sin, we do not exemplify Him; rather, we exemplify the Evil One. Satan loves to see us fall. Every sin is a reflection of Him. Every sin we commit is a thorn in the head, a nail in the wrist, and a deep sense of rejection for our Lord. A life devoid of the world’s pleasures is a life abundant with true joy. The act of fulfilling your desire does not happen  “out of the blue”, but is a result of a polluted mind. The battle for sexual purity begins in our minds. “Actions, habits, character, and destiny all start with a thought, and thoughts are fostered by what we choose to take into our minds. That’s why your most important sex organ is your brain” (42). “It’s difficult to delete bad files in our brain’s hard drive, but we can restrict the number of new bad files” (46). Having intentions and prayers are not enough. They are a good start, but they are not sufficient if we truly desire to cast off our sin. We must make deliberate strategic choices and have clear goals if we wish to have victory. “It is always easier to avoid temptation than to resist it” (55). It is not enough to simply manage our sin. Sometimes we find that it is enough to hide the sin away, but we are missing what we truly need: “divine transformation and enablement to live righteously” (56). Memorize and quote scripture. It is not enough to only have it memorized if we do not use it as ammo. Many excuses come up in regards to temptation, namely that the temptation is too strong. James 4:7 tells us to resist the devil and he WILL flee from us! We have this promise from Scripture, so why do we not believe it? Many people set the goal of a life of purity. Honestly, that is ridiculous! Why not focus on the here and now?
        If you can defeat Satan each moment of your life, you will eventually live a life of purity. How radical are you in your search for a pure life? How serious are you? What kind of music do you listen to? What kind of shows and movies do you watch? What kind of sites do you visit on the internet? Sure, these sites and shows may not be explicitly sexual, but are they encouraging you to remain pure, or do they even slightly allude to sensual issues? How about video stores or magazine aisles in stores; do they cause you to stumble? If so, you ought to not even be tempted! Do not make excuses! That is you wanting your lust, and you know it! Figure out where you struggle and make changes where necessary! 

Quotes from "The Purity Principle" by Randy Alcorn

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1 Peter 5:6-7

1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.


            At the time Peter was writing this letter, the ruler was either Nero or Domitian. Under the reign of both of these wicked men, numbers of people were violently persecuted, including Christians. The original audience, therefore, understood suffering; they experienced it daily. This letter was written as both a challenge and an encouragement in the midst of trials. What does this mean for you today? How is this passage an encouragement during your trial?

            The passage starts out with the phrase ‘humble yourselves.’ In the Greek, this phrase is passive, meaning the action is done to the subject by an outside source. These people knew what being humbled felt like. Often, they were forcefully humbled by their governing authorities. So, is Peter telling the people to be humbled to the secular government? In this passage, the response is no. Who, then, is the source that is humbling the audience of 1 Peter? The answer comes in the next phase: ‘under the mighty hand of God.’ What does Peter mean when he says to be humbled by the mighty hand of God, though? What does that humbling look like? Donelson answers this question clearly: “To ‘be humbled’ is to cast one’s future into the hand of God.”[1] Another possible explanation of this idea is that “Christians are to submit themselves to persecution, knowing that God’s will is being carried out through it.”[2] During your trial, are you giving your future to Him; are you submitting yourself to the trial, knowing God is sovereignty in control? Too often, we fight against the pricks, despite our complete lack of control. What is the purpose of our humbling? Once more, Peter gives a clear answer in the following phrase, ‘so that at the proper time he may exalt you?’ What does Peter mean by that statement?
            The command ‘be humbled’ is not for the sake of humility itself, but so God can eventually lift His children up. What does it mean that He will exalt us? To exalt means to “praise or regard highly; [to] raise to a higher rank or position; [to] make noble in character; [to] dignify.”[3] As Christians, we are joint heirs with Christ. God desires you to be blessed, and promises to give to you a higher rank than you currently have. When will God exalt us? According to the verse, God will exact in the ‘proper time’. The ‘proper time’ that Peter is referring to is the Second Advent, or second coming of Christ. It is at that time when Christ will lift those who have been faithful to everlasting glory. “The day of humiliation is limited to this world, but the . . . [faithful] will be lifted on high by God’s grace forever.”[4] This promise is both an encouragement, as well as a challenge. We do not know when Christ will come back, so we need to constantly strive to obey Him; we do know He is coming back, though. Praise the Lord that it is not in our time, but in God’s wisely appointed time.[5]
            Finally, we get to verse seven. Previously, we discussed the fact that we are not being humbled for the purpose of humility alone, but so God can ultimately exalt us. In addition, as Donelson mentioned, the act of our being humbled by God requires us to cast our future into the hands of God. The word ‘casting’, here in verse seven, is a participle explaining the process of our continual humbling. The process of humiliation that every Christian must endure is not a one-time occasion. This process must occur daily, just as we are commanded to daily take of the old man and put on the new man. There is a logical relationship between the two verses: “believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. Conversely, if believers continue to worry, then they are caving into pride.”[6] Have you ever considered that reality? The times when you do not go to God with your concerns, who are you trusting in? Truly, you are not giving everything to the Lord. At that point in time, you, whether knowingly or subconsciously, believe that you are more suited to deal with your dilemma than God is able. When we reflect on that thought, it should cause you to examine yourself. How often do you fail to go before God? How often do you trust yourself more than you trust God? Many of you will try to refute what was just said, by stating that you are not prideful, but rather worrisome. Worry is a form of pride. When we are filled with angst, we are strongly convinced that we must solve our problems in our own strength.
            So what are we to cast on God? Peter tells us that we are to cast all our anxieties. What are anxieties? “The term μέριμνα may refer to either unnecessary worry or legitimate concern.”[7] While many times we worry over things which have no reasonable cause for our worry, there are situations that cause severe discomfort and confusion. In these times, the natural human response is to worry. What this verse is telling us to do is give God our worries and concerns. How many of our concerns should we give God? According to the verse, we are to give God all of them! To hold back even one worry from the Lord is to continue to trust our own strength over the strength of God.
            The final phase of the passage gives us the most encouragement. In the concluding phrase, Peter tells us why we are able to give our concerns to God: He cares for us! The form of this word indicates an ongoing, unending care. We know who we are. We know the thoughts that are in our heads and the desires of our hearts. Often, it is hard to love ourselves. At times, we get in slumps and frankly feel bad for ourselves. God knows who you are, yet he chooses to love you ever day. In the times when you cannot even love yourself, God loves you! Knowing of the bountiful love of God should cause us to fall to our knees every day.
            The process, which Paul talks about, is a daily cycle. Each day we need to allow God to humble us and then give our concerns to Him! At the times when we think we have no one, we need to understand that our loving Lord cares for us and wants us to come to Him. Will you do that, today? Will you allow yourself to be humbled by God during your current situation and trust on God to help you through your trial?

Review and Application

Are you focused on yourself today? Yes, trials are hard and suffering is not fun, but does that give us the allowance to turn our gaze from God?  The clear and obvious answer is an adamant no, but we do not live that way. God puts situations in our lives for specific reasons. Are you allowing God to crush you, or are you fighting against His humbling hand? Remember, there is a reason he is humbling you: exaltation. When does that exaltation occur? We will be blessed eternally with God. In lieu of that fact, your present situation seems trivial, does it not? So what can you do today during your trial? You need to consistently cast your care on Him. Give him all of your concerns and worries. Allow Him to care for you. Do not continue to fight off God! He cares for you!  

                [1] Lewis R. Donelson, I & II Peter and Jude: a Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 149.
                [2] I. Howard Marshall, 1 Peter (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 1991), 169.
                [3] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
                [4] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Reference, 2003), 240.
                [5] Robert Leighton, Commentary On First Peter. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1972), 482.
                [6] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Reference, 2003), 240.
                [7] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 312.