Cut the Ballast!

balloon gondola

It was a beautiful, mild Spring morning when Mr. Henry took off in the brightly colored hot air balloon with his new assistant, Cardone Stevens. It was just a routine training session, so the two ascended with little fanfare. In fact, the only other individuals around were an older man and his wife walking their dogs. Mr. Henry had performed these training sessions hundreds of times in the past with very few incidents, so he had no reason to be concerned about this one either. Cardone, on the other hand, was both fascinated and terrified from the moment he severed the anchoring ropes. He had only rode as a casual participant in two flights with another seasoned balloonist prior to this one.

The ascent went smoothly and much more quickly than he had expected, but Mr. Henry wanted to go to a much higher altitude. This pleased Cardone, since his prior flights were always kept somewhat low, due to his inexperience.

“Cardone, please cut some of the ballast,” ordered Mr. Henry. Cardone took the knife given to him for this purpose, reached over the side, and systematically cut off a few of the small bags of sand. He had never really seen these bags up close before, and their size and appearance intrigued him. He just couldn’t bear to drop the bags, so he decided to just to quietly stow them on the floor beside his feet. After a few moments, Cardone wondered why the balloon was not climbing higher. As it began to drift and sink a little, Mr. Henry ordered Cardone to cut more of the ballast. Again, in obedience to Mr. Henry’s orders, he proceeded to cut some more of the little bags of sand from the side of the gondola. He let one drop, but just wasn’t able to let the others go. “They might hurt something below,” he thought, so he again placed the bags on the floor a short distance from himself.

Thirty minutes went by. The balloon had only ascended a few dozen feet. By now, Mr. Henry’s patience had grown thin.

“Mr. Stevens!” he barked, “Did you cut the ballast like I asked?”

Cardone replied sheepishly, “Uh, well, sort of.”

“Sort of!” Mr. Henry shouted incredulously. “How did you “sort of” cut them?”

“Well,” Cardone began, “I just couldn’t let them go. I kind of grew fond of them, so I carefully placed them by my feet. Besides, I didn’t want anyone below to be injured.” He felt justified with this last response.

“I think I’ve heard it all now,” Mr. Henry grumbled. “Just how did you expect to go higher if you didn’t get rid of the ballast?”

Cardone knew that it was necessary to get rid of the ballast. He read all about these things in his textbooks. He just could not bring himself to do it in real life. He wanted to go higher, but how could he if he did not get rid of the ballast? Past experience had led Mr. Henry to believe that Cardone really did want to go higher, but also that he was afraid to do anything to make it happen. After fifteen more minutes of wrangling with Cardone, he reached over and cut almost all of the remaining ballast. With some cries of agony, Cardone reluctantly took up cutting where Mr. Henry let off. Now, with the ballast actually dropped from the gondola, the balloon began to ascend rapidly.

multi-colored balloon floating in sky

“Wow!” Cardone responded in amazement. “We are rising higher than I’ve ever been before.”

“Hrmph!” Mr. Henry replied gruffly in disgust. “Want to go even higher?”

“Oh, that would be great!” Cardone replied eagerly.

“Then get rid of those sandbags you put on the floor!” Mr. Henry hollered.

“Must I?” Cardone responded with anguish. “They are dear to me. I just can’t let them go!”

“Here we go again,” Mr. Henry muttered.

While this narrative might sound a little silly, the truth of the matter is that we as children of God do this with Him all the time. We have these bags of “ballast” in our own life called “the flesh.” It is the part of us that desires the sinful pleasures of this physical life that we have not yet completely removed since we surrendered our heart to the Lord. The more ballast we have in our life, the lower or more shallow our walk and relationship will be with the Lord. As long as we cling to the flesh, our intimacy with Him suffers. Therefore, God does not want any of this flesh to remain in our lives.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Jesus said this, He did not intend for us to literally haul a wooden beam around all day and follow Him. The essence of this verse is that we are to daily die to our self or flesh. We need to give sinful and unproductive desires of the flesh over to Him. Just like the balloon, we need to cut off and discard all that weighs us down spiritually. Naturally, we won’t always know what we need to surrender. This is why God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we seek God in prayer and really want to commune with Him more, His Spirit will reveal to us the works of the flesh that we need to cut off.

Notice that Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily” (emphasis mine). No one-time house-cleaning or ingesting some magic pill can make us totally clean and perfect.

This process is continual. God expects us to make the choice to let go of a part of our flesh, the same way He expected us to make the choice to surrender our life over to Him. He did not make a planet of robots with no choice or free will. If He was to do everything and we do nothing, then we would become like spoiled children—taking His work for us for granted, with no real gratitude or love for Him in return.

God desires for us to fellowship with Him and be a part of His family so much that He went to efforts beyond our comprehension to make a way for us to be with Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In return, He wants us to give up these hurdles or impediments of the flesh in our life that spiritually hinder our walk with Him. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [subdue, kill, or permanently eliminate] the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12,13).

The longer we hold onto these works of the flesh, the more that we separate ourselves from God—until our relationship with Him is dead. At the same time, if we continue to keep the flesh, we demonstrate to God that we have little interest in Him.

Therefore, like a balloon, let’s cut the ballast of our flesh, and let Him bring us higher in our relationship with Him.

Let’s desire more intimacy with our Lord and less with our old self. Remember, if we don’t cut this ballast, we will only cause ourselves to sink lower and lower, until we are no longer in the air at all, but back on the ground of this sinful world.

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No Cutting Corners With God

shortcutting prohibited sign

Next time you pass by a site where the ground is being broken and a foundation is about to be laid for a house or other building, try asking the workers to cut some corners and skip the foundation. Can’t find a building in this early stage? Then try to find one lacking a roof, and ask the builders to skip the roof and just lay the roofing material down without it. Better yet, see if some builders will just put the windows up without bothering with the outside walls. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Will they accept these recommendations? Suppose no plumbing or electric wires were installed, or not even an empty place for them in the future. How about a twenty-story building built with absolutely no windows—just empty holes with plastic stretched across them? None of these means of cutting corners are permitted in an architect’s plan.

Yet there are individuals professing to be true followers of Jesus Christ who do something like this all the time. They feel they can cut some corners in God’s plan for their lives without taking any thought of the consequences. Many think they don’t have to follow every detail or directive of Christ, that only the majority of them really matter. Others find it too painful to obey some of the commands given, so they just skip them for now (or forever). They may also feel that it is just too hard to do everything, but God will accept them regardless. Some have been deceived into believing that not everything Jesus said is to be obeyed, that some areas are just symbolic.

Sadly though, none of this is true. There can be no cutting corners in God’s plan for our lives. Every time we cut a corner in an attempt to get ahead more quickly, or to shorten the trial and tribulation that God is bringing us through, we only push ourselves farther back in our walk with Him instead. If we think we can bypass a portion of our allotted journey, then He will lead us back through it again later, with more difficulty. A structure can’t stand without a solid foundation, and we can’t establish a solid relationship with God unless Jesus Christ and His Word are our foundation.

men climbing over fence
[photo by Government of Moscow shared under a Creative Commons Intl. (CC-BY) license (modified by author)]

Many years ago, an allegorical story was written of a young believer’s journey to Heaven. In one chapter, two men climbed over a wall that went beside the path along the way that the young believer was traveling. When questioned about this, they claimed that they didn’t need to go through all of the troubles and distance that the young believer had to go through. They felt justified in such actions, and merrily hurried on ahead of the young but maturing believer, smug in their accomplishments. No sooner had they gone out of sight when a significant commotion arose from the direction they had just traveled. It wasn’t long before one of them returned in hasty retreat, fleeing home in terror. In passing, he frightfully warned of the horrible danger ahead and that his companion did not make it. But the young believer continued on, wary but not fearful. Why? Because he had not cut corners along the way. He had been continually prepared for such trials to come along the whole pathway that he had been told to take. The others tried to take a shortcut and therefore never received a proper beginning or solid foundation. They were not prepared for the trials ahead and, as a consequence, suffered dreadfully.

When we cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Christ, we only set ourselves up for later disappointment or even danger. We make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy by not going through the proper training and instruction first. Imagine the disaster that would unfold if we decided to cut corners and skip the lesson on how to properly use the brakes on our vehicle or bike!

When God gives us instruction, guidance, or correction, it is not optional; He expects our obedience. We can’t pick and choose whatever we feel works best for us and just leave the rest. God has a specific plan for each of us that He knows will work for our good—as long as we follow it. Like a house, God is building us from the ground up. He wants us to yield to His efforts during the time of construction. If He does not cut corners in developing us, why do we think we can cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Him? We need to be devoted to His will and obedient to His word, not to what we think is right.

Powered by The Light

Electricity created from light is an amazing source of energy. If we were to stop and think about what causes this to happen, it just doesn’t seem logically possible that a light source, such as the sun, or even something as simple as a desk lamp, could recharge a phone, operate a calculator, or cause a small motor to spin. On a much larger scale, light from the sun can generate enough electricity to provide power for a single home all the way up to a small city, and even more. In fact, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to find something that does not have light as a power source.

While solar power is a rather cost-effective energy source, it lacks the large volume of power that more conventional sources of power (such as coal, gas, or hydroelectric) could generate for the same amount of physical space. Since the output of a solar or “photovoltaic” cell (the component that converts light into electricity) is not powerful enough, it cannot be directly connected to the device that needs power. A common method to accommodate this shortfall is to use a battery. The battery becomes the actual power source while the solar cell recharges the battery. This allows the device to continue operating for a limited period of time when there is no light source.

car battery

A similarity exists between solar cells, batteries, and true believers in Jesus Christ. When we yield to Him and allow Him to work in our life, He becomes the light source that recharges us spiritually, by means of the Holy Spirit. As long as we desire to be in His presence and do the will of our Heavenly Father, we are made strong spiritually. But when we do our own will, and manage in a way that we feel is best, we then move out of His light and into darkness. The more we are in darkness, the more that we are working in our own strength and power. Furthermore, we are not able to generate or produce enough of our own light to keep ourselves charged.

The result?—we soon run out of power and become spiritually dead.

The solution?—stay in The Light.

The means?—through prayer, reading and dwelling on God’s Word (the Bible), and by being obedient to it.

Therefore it is imperative for us to yield to Christ in a real relationship. The more we yield our self to Him, the more we are able to walk in His light. This will, in turn, keep us fully charged with His power and will enable us to carry out God’s will. A solar cell must be in a good source of light to generate electricity. In a similar manner, we must remain consistently in His Light for the Holy Spirit to work through us. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Let us walk in His light and keep ourselves out of the darkness.

Ritual or Relationship?

 

Do you ever felt like you are making great efforts to do all of the right things (or at least what you were told were the right things) to please God, yet He still seems distant or unreachable to you? Do you feel like a sense of guilt comes over you if you don’t pray or read the Bible? Or have you stopped praying and reading the Bible because you can’t seem to get anywhere, and everything you did read seemed so confusing and dull? Maybe you go to church because this is what you were told do, but you have never felt any real enthusiasm in being there. Or, are you doing as much as you can for your church, yet you still don’t seem to have any reward from God—or even worse—you just feel used by your church? Have you often asked yourself, just where is the fulfillment, the satisfaction and the real joy in following Jesus that others have told you about?

On the other hand, maybe you are one who really does find excitement and satisfaction with God and what He has done for you, but only after you attend church or various religious events and entertainment, thereby necessitating repeat visits to maintain this enthusiasm. All of these are common ploys of Satan to prevent you from having true intimacy with God. He tries to keep you in a mindset where you feel that you have to continually do works to be right with, or accepted by, God. When you left Satan’s domain and entered the domain of Jesus by getting saved, it certainly did not go unnoticed by Satan. And, in revenge for leaving him, he will persist in trying to keep you from having complete peace in Jesus. His goal is to turn your focus off of Jesus Christ and onto yourself (and ultimately onto him alone).

He wants you to wear yourself out in trying to be right with God on your own, to the point where you become bitter or discouraged and turn back to him. Actually, Satan would really like for you to hate God just like he does, and to never want to even try to follow the Lord again.

Since he has had thousands of years to observe others like you, he knows just what technique works to keep you from truly following Jesus.

What Satan tries to do here is to turn all of these ‘good’ efforts into a ritual. Jesus does not want rituals or your ‘works’; He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants yourcross worship trust and faith in Him alone. Religions have rituals, but they add up to nothing in God’s view. When Jesus died on the cross on your behalf, it was a complete work. There are no works, no rituals—there is nothing that you can do to improve on this or make yourself more acceptable to God on your own. Every time you try to do something to make yourself more holy before God, you are, in essence, canceling out the sacrifice that His Son made on your behalf. He already did everything necessary to make you acceptable to God.

You may now be thinking that reading the Bible, praying, or attending church are wrong. Each of these in themselves is right, and God expects them of you. But when doing them becomes your motive behind being accepted or becoming right before God, then doing them becomes just as wrong as worshiping idols. And you also enter the area of self-righteousness, which is just as sinful before God as idolatry or any other sin.

couple on bench

When you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, you are entering into a personal relationship with Him. In our human relationships, one person does not work to make the other accept him or her; instead, each accepts the other for who he or she is, by faith in him or her. They no longer have to prove themselves; they now have established trust between them.

If you have just become married, and you constantly do things to make your spouse love you, then you have entered into marriage for all of the wrong motives (and your spouse will really begin to wonder about you).

Your marriage partner should love you for who you are, not so much for what you do. What you do is a by-product of love, a way of expressing it.

Similarly, Jesus wants you to have trust, and simple, child-like faith in Him. He never set up a complicated set of rules and requirements that you must follow to improve your standing with woman worshipingHim. These only lead to things like favoritism, jealousy, regression, and failure. If you yield your self (or will) to Him in a loving personal relationship, you will soon find that you will want to pray, you will want to read His Word, and you will want to be in a fellowship of other believers who also want to do the same thing. You will also find that that all of these efforts to please Him before will now be the by-product of a relationship with Him now. It is only in a true relationship, not in a ritual, that will you find real peace in God.

You Can’t Drown by Just Falling into Water

flickr photo by odonata98 (Kimberly Reinhart) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Did you know that if you were to fall into a large body of water, such as a pond or lake, you wouldn’t drown? It’s true; you could fall into significant depths of water and still be alive. (Of course, I’m talking about ordinary liquid water, not solid frozen or near-freezing water.) The drowning occurs when you stay underwater. The longer you stay, the sooner you will drown. No matter how much you train or prepare for such a dive, if you don’t get out of the water, you will drown. Even if you keep your head above the surface, if you continue to float, you will eventually succumb from fatigue and drown.

The same is true with sin. Your relationship with God won’t permanently end when you fall into sin. It’s when you remain in sin that your relationship suffers. God is holy and can never have sin in His presence. When you continue to sin, or live in sin, then your relationship and fellowship with Him eventually ceases. Just as with water, it is easy to fall into sin, but getting out takes significantly more effort, and the longer you remain living in sin, the harder it is to get out of it.

Due to the sin of Adam (the first man), mankind has always had an inclination to sin (commonly called the “sin nature.”) Therefore, sin will always be present with you, but you don’t have to be controlled or overcome by it. When Jesus died on the cross, He won the victory over sin and death.

Since He fought the battle over sin and won, you no longer need to fight this battle yourself. In fact, you can’t fight this battle on your own and win.

The answer is to repent (turn completely in the opposite direction) of your sins and sinful ways, surrendering your will and life over to Him. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).

lambs and sheep

When a sheep falls into a ditch, it doesn’t just lie there. It does its best to get up out of the ditch onto more stable ground. When you fall into sin, don’t just stay there and continue to sin; repent and get up to better ground.

An even better solution is to put your focus on Jesus, and your trust in the victory He made possible through His sacrifice on the cross. It’s when you take your eyes off of Him and place them on your self and your problems that the ease in which you fall into sin becomes greater and greater.

The greatest tool you have against your sin nature is Jesus.

When you take your eyes off of Him and fall into sin, you need to turn your eyes back to Him, repent and flee from that sin, and seek forgiveness from God your Heavenly Father. Then “…the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19b). Sin only keeps you in despair, fear and depression (among many other things) due to your separation from God. So why continue in it when it is only going to prevent you from having real peace with God?

You May Know Jesus, But Does He Really Know You?

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [wickedness or wrongdoing]” (Matthew 7:20-23).

Numerous polls and surveys taken frequently throughout the U.S. report a high number of respondents declaring themselves to be Christians. Inquire at a local church on a Sunday morning and the results will likely be that they all consider themselves to be Christians (perhaps with some indignation that such an inquiry was even made!). Or go to a baseball game or soccer match and ask the fans. A fair percentage will very likely again state that they are Christians.

Yet how many of these professing Christians have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and are following through in a relationship with Him? How many of them really know Jesus? How many know of God, but He does not know them? When someone claims to be a Christian, yet shows little to no fruit (results), then he is obviously not allowing Jesus to work within or through him to enable him to produce fruit. Suppose you had apple, peach or orange trees in your yard, and during the whole time you managed your trees, practically no fruit appeared. You would know something was wrong. You might not know what was happening internally, but you would know by their fruit, or lack thereof, that they were not living up to their name of fruit-bearing trees. Similarly, while only God truly knows the heart within a person, the product of the heart will show externally.

Far too many people believe that they are Christians just because they stay around others that claim to be one. It is like saying that you will become a car or truck if you just hang around inside a parking garage long enough. Many believe that they are Christians because they say a prayer or two and follow the requirements laid down by a certain church or religious organization. Many other religions in the world follow this same type of pattern, yet their members are not Christians, nor do they even claim to be. Some believe (or are even taught) that if they do enough good works to make themselves right with God, or clean themselves up before they approach God, they will then be Christians. Sadly, all such works, no matter how good they might seem to be in our eyes, are actually worthless in pleasing God. He does not want our ‘works’ He wants us. He wants our obedience to Him.

God wants us to be in a personal relationship with Him. If one person in a relationship does not really know the other, how can there be a true relationship between them? It is all one-sided.

God desires for us to be dependent upon Him for all of our needs. He does not want to be treated like He is dependent on us, or like He needs us to do His work for Him. Many do things that make it appear that they really know God. Yet appearances can be greatly deceiving, especially in the era that we now live in. Satan is the master of deceit. If he can get someone to believe that they are doing God’s will, that they really know God (and that He knows them), when actually they don’t, then he has succeeded in deceiving them and keeping them from a real relationship with God.

brick facade

If Jesus is not the center of your life, then your life is really just a façade, a shell, with no substance to it. Think of it like a person claiming he lives in a castle, when actually he is just standing under a carport covered in sheets with large stone blocks and windows printed on them. Right now, as you are reading this, you may be struggling inside with some particular sin. Or you may be living your life with no hope, while on the outside, you continue to appear to be doing fine. Maybe you are in a leadership role in a church, but you can’t lead your own life. You might be quite knowledgeable in the Bible, but find that now it no longer makes sense to you. Perhaps you thought you knew Jesus, and that He knew you, but now you are not quite so sure. Or maybe you do know Him personally, and have been trying with all of your own strength to do what is right, but you continue to fail.

There is nothing you can do that will bring victory over your repeated failures, problems and sins except to believe in faith that Jesus accomplished this victory through His sacrifice on the cross. He paid a price for you that you could never pay.

It is impossible for your inherently sinful self to do something that only a sinless being (which God required) could do. You must yield to Jesus and turn all of your sins and problems over to Him and not pick them up again.

You cannot have true intimacy with God until you surrender your life totally to Him. There is only one way to truly know God, and for Him to know you—through His Son, Jesus Christ, and what He did on the cross of Calvary. Only when you fully yield your life to Him will you achieve real satisfaction and victory over sin in your life.

If you persist in claiming that you are a Christian, yet have little or no fruit to show for it, or if you are trying to please God with the abundance of your religiosity and good works, then Jesus will have no choice in the end but to say to you, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [wickedness or wrongdoing].” God is a holy God that can never accept any amount of sin or wrongdoing. When you are living with sin in your life and won’t surrender it to Him, then there is no possibility that He will welcome you into a real relationship with Him. Don’t continue living your life without Him, under the guise that you are living with Him. Give your heart fully over to Jesus and let Him truly know you.

For more information on how you can know Jesus and He can know you click here.

I Love Bread

baguette

I love bread—whether it is toasted or untoasted, broiled or grilled, or freshly baked (my favorite)—I’ll eat it! It could be white bread (but not the cheap, factory-baked kind), rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, focaccia, naan, boule, rice, or even potato bread. But I have never had a fondness for almost all kinds of whole wheat bread. Now, if you were to slather a big slab of butter on a slice, I just might be inclined to eat it! There are many flavored breads that I also enjoy, such as tomato and basil, three-cheese, and cinnamon and raisin (especially with a big smear of butter!).

I found myself thinking about the yeast used in bread recently. It is a key ingredient in many popular types of bread because it is essential to make them rise. Without yeast in bread of this kind, you would have a thick and rather tough lump of baked dough. Or, depending on the recipe used, and if the dough was spread out flat over a baking pan, you would end up with just a very large cracker!

sliced bread

I would help out around the house while my parents were working when I was young. One thing I helped with was baking bread. We would buy loaves of frozen bread dough from the store and bake our own bread at home. When baking bread that has yeast as its leavening source, you need to puncture the rising dough slightly to release the gas that has built up inside the dough, since the baking process hardens the exterior and the dough is unable to free the excess gas on its own. One time, I neglected to do any kind of puncturing of the rising loaf. As a result, I baked one of the largest loaves of bread we had ever seen! I was quite amazed myself, and rather proud of my achievement. But disappointment quickly surfaced when my Dad started to slice this mammoth loaf of bread and it suddenly collapsed—due to the fact that the upper part of the loaf contained only one huge hole. In other words, I had succeeded in baking a very large bread balloon!

When kept under control, yeast can be beneficial. But it can also be quite detrimental when left totally unattended. It is actually a living organism that likes to eat, and when it eats, it grows. The more it grows, the more it eats, until eventually the host that it is eating is destroyed. Yeast will feed on starchy foods, but the top item yeast prefers to feed on is sugar and other sweeteners. Give it something nice and sweet, and it will flourish abundantly. This is why most yeast breads require some type of sweetener for the yeast to eat and release carbon dioxide, which, in turn, will cause the loaf of bread to rise, as well as giving it a lighter texture. After baking, the yeast dies off and you end up with a nice loaf of fresh baked yeast bread.

There are also some types of yeast organisms in your body. When kept in the right balance, they are basically harmless. But when they get out of control, they leave you in a very crippled state and could eventually kill you. Just like the yeast in bread, these organisms love simple sugars, but when they are starved, they will resort to eating most anything with even a hint of sweetener. They will even eat the lining in your digestive system, which then allows them to enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc throughout your body, ultimately bringing on death if the yeast is not destroyed.

yeast form

Sin (disobedience to God’s Word) is a lot like this kind of yeast. The difference is that sin can never be simply controlled; it must be defeated and destroyed. Sin usually starts off as a simple, innocent act, and then continues, until it permeates the whole body—both the soul, where our conscience lives, and the physical body. The yeast organisms in bread are never satisfied with just a little bit of sugar, and sin is not content with just a little bit of you. It never is satisfied with just a one-time act; it wants the whole production.

When you willfully disobey God’s Word (the Bible), you are feeding sin and giving ground for it to grow in. Sin is never just accidental. It is always preconceived in some way. You don’t just go walking along and then suddenly begin sinning. It is something you plan for in advance, whether for a moment, or for months before the actual act occurs. When you stop allowing God to operate in your life, or have never allowed Him to work there in the first place, you are giving sin the means to grow in your heart. Essentially, when you run your life without God, or refuse to accept the sacrifice of His Son at the cross for your sins as applying to you, you are creating fertile ground for sin to grow in. As a result, sin becomes easier and more commonplace, since there is little to stop it.

candida yeast

When those yeast organisms begin to really multiply, they don’t just sit on the surface of your intestines. They begin to take root into the intestinal walls and won’t easily leave. It is the same way with sin. It doesn’t just sit there inside of you; it roots into your spirit or heart, and becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Like yeast organisms, it wants more and more of you, until it eventually destroys you.

Actually, sin is worse than yeast organisms, because it not only impacts your life, it also affects other lives around you, and you are not able to stop it or kill it on your own. It takes someone greater than you to defeat it. And that someone is Jesus Christ. He willfully came to the earth as a human being, just like us (only without any sin), to fulfill the requirements to defeat sin and death. This resulted in Him willfully sacrificing His own life on the cross for us. He paid all of the requirements for every man, woman and child, even though He did not owe anything Himself. There is no other way to overcome sin. Have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for all of your sins as if it was your own sacrifice for your sins. You can’t overcome sin by going to a multi-step program. You can’t tie yourself up and cover your eyes and ears to keep from sinning or from allowing sin to enter. Only Jesus can successfully overcome sin for you.

Sin is a spiritual and moral problem that eventually manifests as a physical problem.

When harmful yeast organisms become fully active in your body, they can cause all kinds of external reactions (such as flu-like sicknesses, rashes, fungal outbreaks, etc.), many of which can’t easily be directly attributed to the organisms themselves. By comparison, when we allow something as simple as a few lies, or a lustful glance at a man or woman, to go unchecked within us, over a period time these simple acts of sin subtly grow and grow. Eventually we become desensitized to what is really the truth or a lie. We may have adulterous affairs and become unable to establish a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Ultimately, we become so far removed from the originating sins, that we go on to commit totally unrelated sins. Because of sin, every living being on the whole planet (even those still in the womb) is in a degraded state.

The only solution to the sin problem is Jesus. You must accept Him into your heart and surrender full control of your life to Him. You need to ask Him to forgive you of your sins against Him and to repent of these sins. You need to develop a relationship with Him, no longer with the individuals or things that are causing or leading you to sin. This relationship with Him becomes possible when you go before God in sincere prayer, as well as when you read and meditate (think deeply and contemplate) on His Word, the Bible.

Don’t continue to try to control sin on your own. As with yeast, whether it is in a loaf of bread or given free rein in your body, if you continue to feed it and keep it concealed or masked, it will overtake you and eventually lead to death eternally in Hell. Your goal should be to give it all over to God while you still can. Sin may be pleasurable for the moment, but it will never give you real satisfaction; you will always thirst for more. Jesus gives you real satisfaction continually.

“…whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

To learn more on how to quench this continual desire for sin click here.

–James Pangburn

Changing Your Destiny

divided roadway

Our ultimate destiny in life depends on only one thing. It is not determined according to how well we have served mankind or how productive we may have been. Nor is it determined by whom we know or how much we have owned. The one thing our destiny depends on is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? You may know Him by name. You may know a lot of facts about Him. But do you know Him? Do you know Him personally? What happens to you after you die all depends on your relationship with Jesus before you die. If you know Him as a wonderful man, or a great teacher, or a prophet sent by God, that is not enough. He did not come to earth primarily for any of those reasons. If you think He came here to be a good example for us to follow, that is still not His primary reason for coming here.

Jesus came to earth to rescue every man, woman and child from the bondage of sin. We did not become sinners after we were born—we already were that way even from the day of our conception. We inherited the disposition toward sin from our fathers and mothers.

Our destiny without Jesus could therefore only be death, because death is the wages of sin, and then to spend eternity in hell. It is not that we chose that destiny, but that it was the only one available by default—because the human race was sold out to the devil.

Jesus came down from heaven and became a man, so that He could save us from this horrible destiny. Jesus permitted man, whom He created, to turn against Him and beat Him almost to death, then to nail Him to a cross to hang there until He died—a horrible death ordinarily assigned to a runaway slave. He went as far as anyone possibly could, to do what needed to be done to give each of us a chance to escape our destiny in hell—in order to spend eternity with God in heaven. He made it possible for you to have a brand new life and a new family—the family of God. You can change your destiny by giving your life to Him. After all, He gave His very life for you.

Death is the destiny each of us should have had. We should have been executed in order to pay for our sin of rebelling against God, who is the King of the universe. But Jesus was sent to earth to take our place instead. Only a perfect man could die the death that a sinner deserves and then be resurrected by a holy God. And there is only one Perfect Man who ever lived. Therefore there was only one Man who was qualified to take our place and die for us. That Man is Jesus.

It is the desire of Jesus Christ to know each one of us personally. He did not die simply for the mass of humanity. He died on the cross for each and every individual human being. He loves each one of us so much that He would go to that extreme to rescue us and set us free, to be with Him forever, even if only one person responded. What greater love could there be than this?

What will your destiny be? With it be death and then eternity without God, like most other people will receive? Or will you be the one who stands out from the crowd and follows Jesus, giving your whole life and future unreservedly to Him? Do you know Jesus personally? Get to know Him while you can. Now is the time to determine what your destiny will be, while you still have time.Click here for more information.

–Alana Pangburn

Was It Worth It?

By Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561) - München, StB, cod. lat. 23638, fol. 10v, Public Domain, Link

By Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561) – München, StB, cod. lat. 23638, fol. 10v, Public Domain, Link

As a young girl growing up, I faithfully attended Sunday School at my church as often as I had a way to go. When I was about 11 years old, I was also able to attend a Vacation Bible School program that summer. A neighbor girl my age invited me to go with her. A few years later, I was invited to an AWANA Bible study group at the church of another girl my age who lived down the street. We attended there about a year or so.

An adult neighbor on the next street invited me to her family’s vacation cottage in the mountains a few hours away, to join with her daughter and other girls near our age for a weekend visit. We all roamed around together near the cabin with shared flashlights in the pitch darkness on the mountain. Then we went inside to roast marshmallows in the huge stone fireplace and we talked about the things of God, as much as young girls understand such things. Thinking back on these events brings back yet another memory of a young married couple who had no children yet. They each drove a car packed with young teen girls to an event hours away, just so we could have a chance to hear more about God.

The well-known “Chrysler Imperials” singing group came to make a presentation and perform some music at my school one evening when I was in Junior High. Don Grady of the My Three Sons TV show was one of the speakers. He told us how he had given his life to Christ and what it had meant to him. Then an invitation was made for all who wanted to be “saved,” like he had been.

Something inside me wanted to jump up and go forward as others started to do. But I held back, wondering, What does ‘saved’ mean? What are they talking about? I had never heard anyone use that word at any of the church groups I was part of. Since I had this question and others I could not answer, I held back from responding to their invitation that evening.

I met the man who was to become my husband a few years later, in the last year of Junior High. We married a year after we graduated from High School, and our son was born the year after that. Nine more years passed before I finally came to understand that God wanted to save me from sin, and I answered His invitation by giving up control of my life and giving it to Him quietly at home alone.

So much time has passed since then, that I can no longer remember the names of the majority of the people who taught me a little more about God each time. Most have passed from this life by now. None of them knew what happened to me in my personal encounter with God years later. They did not get to see the results of all their hard effort. A lot of them, maybe all of them, had jobs or demanding roles as housewives and mothers, and it was a hardship on them to take extra time to deal with a bunch of giggly little girls and teenagers in addition to all their other responsibilities. But (praise God!), they did it anyway. I will forever be grateful to all of them and to God for putting them in my life. I wish it was still possible for me to tell them so. I cannot now count just how many people planted seeds in my life so that I could learn more about God and having a personal relationship with Him.

There is no one person that I can say was the one who “got me saved.” It was a process, obviously over many years. Each one contributed a little more to my understanding in one way or another. Some did it by what they said, and some by what they did, in giving of themselves. Each one reassured me that there were some people who did care enough to go beyond their daily grind to reach out to a girl who didn’t seem to respond. Were their efforts in vain because I did not go forward at a meeting or in a church to give my life to Jesus where they could see me do it?

Is it worth it to plant these kinds of seeds in the life of someone else, when you don’t get to see any results? Is it worth it to do it over and over, not knowing if your efforts have had any effect at all? God thinks so, and so do I! Where would I be now if no one had bothered to tell a shy little girl that Jesus loves her? if no one had told her that there is a life beyond this one with Jesus in Heaven for all eternity? I am indebted to all who gave of themselves to help someone else they hardly knew. I am working on ‘repaying’ that debt by doing the same for others. Would I even be able to write this to you right now if these people had not bothered to tell me?

What about you? Are you reaching out to others to tell them about Jesus and what He did for them? Few of the people I mentioned had biblical training. Some could play a musical instrument; some couldn’t carry a tune. Some could only contribute driving skills. Some only made cupcakes. And some taught us the craft of making poodles out of blue plastic dry cleaning bags! It did not matter to me. I was glad just to be invited, and that someone arranged for me to get to the meeting. I did not know when I was so young what they were trying to do. But looking back, my heart overflows with gratitude for all these ordinary people who gave of themselves. Are you willing to keep planting seeds in young lives until they finally take root, whether you are there to see them grow and mature or not?

–Alana Pangburn

Prayer Pump

 

“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11a)

Nowadays, in a developed society, it is very easy to get water when we need it. We can just buy a bottle at the store, or all we have to do is turn on a faucet (provided, of course, that the water line is working) and out flows a stream of water. It doesn’t matter whether we are at home, in a factory, or in a store. If we want to wash our clothes, take a shower, or irrigate the farm, the water is there. Yet it was not always this easy. There was a time when water had to be brought to the place of need by hand. During the 1800s, rural U.S. homes relied on hand pumps to bring water to the surface. While it wasn’t extraordinarily difficult to operate, there was a bit of effort involved, and it could become quite tedious, especially when a lot of water was needed.

red hand pump

The typical hand pump of the day consisted of just a few components. First, there was the main housing where the water entered and was pushed out. Then there was the plunger, the shaft, and the handle that operated the plunger. Finally, there were the various valves, O-rings, nuts, bolts, and the connecting pipe for the water to enter the pump. The operation was pretty simple:

  1. The handle was firmly pushed down, raising the plunger inside the pump’s housing.
  2. Water was drawn up the pipe from the well (or similar water source) below, and flowed through a valve into the area inside the housing beneath the plunger.
  3. The handle was then lifted up and the plunger went down as the valve closed and the water was retained in the lower part of the housing.
  4. As the plunger continued to go down, a valve in the plunger itself opened and the water entered the upper part of the housing above the plunger.
  5. Finishing this procedure, the handle was pushed down again, the valve in the plunger closed, and the water in the upper part was forced out the pump’s spout.

If you wanted more water, you simply followed the previous steps all over again. If you used the pump frequently, it wouldn’t take much for the water to start flowing again, as the water level was high.

But if you didn’t use the pump very much, the water level would be low, and much effort would be needed for the water to flow freely.

Sometimes, especially if the pump was hardly used, the area inside the pump housing would be dry and the pump would need to be primed. This means that some water would have to be added to the inside of the pump, especially around the plunger’s O-ring (the rubber ring that fills the space between the plunger and the housing) so that some suction was created to pull the water below up to the pump.

This narrative gives us a good example of the value of constant prayer or communication with God in our lives. We need to be in frequent communication with God. A brief prayer over a meal or the occasional prayer once a week, or even once a month, is not nearly enough. The pump is running dry; the water level is getting low. We have got to be much more frequent in using that pump and keeping that water level high. The natural tendency of our flesh (our earthly ‘self’) is not to pray at all, unless our flesh is getting the glory or recognition through a lofty prideful prayer that God never hears or acknowledges. Due to this tendency, we must make an extra effort to ensure that we are spending time with God. That means time must be taken from another area in our daily activities and given over to Him in prayer.

The most common complaint is, that we can’t find enough time to really pray. We feel that maybe we could cut a little time off of an activity, or speed up in our traveling, to get an extra ten to twenty minutes. We may think that if we pray extra on our day off, that will cover the rest of the week. Try looking at it this way: if you apply those excuses for communicating with your closest friend, your spouse, your children, or your parents, you will most likely have a very poor relationship with them!

If every day is given to us from God our Heavenly Father, shouldn’t we be giving back a portion of it to Him in prayer? If we can cheerfully give Him a portion of what He has given us, whether it is income or goods, why aren’t we giving that same portion or more to Him in fellowship through prayer?

Our time seems very valuable when it comes to watching television or movies, browsing the web, texting, using social media, etc. Yet we are very quick to respond that time for God is nonexistent! We tend to shy away from prayer as if it is very difficult to do, or very hard to begin (or some similar reason). Remember from the pump example that when the water level is low, pumping becomes a real chore. You have got to spend more time in prayer to keep the water level high and the pumping easier. Oh, how much easier the pump is to use when it is well-oiled and used frequently!

I used to be among those who had many excuses for not praying. I never really enjoyed praying; it was just rote or ritual for me. Years and years went by without much effort given to communication with God. During Bible college, I took a class on prayer (required for graduation) and still struggled with making time and effort to pray. As part of the course, we were required to maintain a prayer journal. (I was equally not fond of writing my thoughts in a journal). You might have guessed that my journal was almost totally empty. Needless to say, my grade was barely passable, yet this or any other attempt to increase my time in prayer did not help. It wasn’t until over two decades later that I began to really understand the need and began to make an effort to take time away to spend it with Him.

While the desire not to pray still existed, I found that the less I prayed, the emptier I felt inside.

Over time, I discovered for myself that the pump really does flow easier when used more often, and how difficult the pump becomes to operate when used less and less.

If you want to be victorious in your walk with God, you must spend time talking with Him. If it takes great effort or is a real bore, then you are not praying and your relationship with God is suffering. Start simply and expand from there; let His Spirit formulate or compose the thoughts and desires of your heart. You are not training in an oratory school; you are expressing your heart to God.

If you find your mind wandering or journeying into some distant land while praying, rein it back in! If you are daydreaming in the middle of a conversation with a very close friend, how does that benefit them?

In your prayer time, don’t let yourself be clouded, or distracted with a focus on your ‘self.’ Prayer is to be the time that we align ourselves with God’s will and not our will, or the will of others. Don’t ask God to change others for your sake; ask Him to change you! Spend more in prayer and keep the pump moving freely!

–James Pangburn