What Cloud Are You Under?

 

A watercolor painting of cloud over camp of Israelites in the wilderness

When God brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt into the wilderness, He led them in a rather unconventional way. “…the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). One pillar provided shelter from the hot sun, and the other illuminated the darkness—both of which were a visible expression of God’s presence, since no human being can physically see God Himself and live.

Wherever the cloud went, the people were to pack up and follow it.

“And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed” (Numbers 9:21-22).

Notice that the cloud remained ahead of the people; they did not move on past it into unsafe and uncharted territory.

Only once, when they were being pursued by the Egyptian army, did God arrange for it to be behind them as protection. “…the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:19-20).

As children of God today, we likewise need to pursue after God’s presence.

He wants to continually dwell among us now spiritually, just as He did physically, in a sense, among the Israelites. But sadly, we often follow the wrong cloud. This kind begins as a small cluster, but develops quickly as it feeds on our unbelief and worry. The more we focus on it, the more it grows, filling with all kinds of sin, such as lust, adultery, pride, greed, envy, hate, murder, etc. It does not just linger over us; it envelopes us as well.  If we continue on after it, we will eventually be overtaken to the point of death. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord desires our obedience to His Word and our continual fellowship with Him, not with the cares or pleasures of this sinful world.

It is when we take our eyes off Him that we no longer know if He has moved on. It is not that He actually leaves us behind, but that we become distracted and end up not moving, or we drift away in another direction. This is when that dark mass of evil and sin starts to form like a cloud over us, which ends up restricting the view we can see around us, and, unlike God’s presence, it will not illuminate the night. In fact, it is the very darkness that only He can dispel.

What cloud are you following today? Is it the one of His presence and life, or of unbelief, sin and death? There are all kinds of clouds—yet only one is His.

Your life will never be secure and at peace with God if you are under one of the other kinds of cloud.

Too many in this world today have the wrong cloud covering over them. As a result, they continually wander in the desert, vulnerable to the enemy. God made a way for us to know where He is, day or night. Look upon His cloud and be led by Him, and you’ll be safe and sheltered from all harm.

 

[Image credit: J.J. Derghi, 1866. Wellcome Collection. CC BY]

“Physicians of No Value”

Graphic image of doctors and nurses in operating room

Imagine going to a medical facility, and after multiple doctors and nurses stare at you and ask a lot of general, unrelated questions, they immediately come to a conclusion about what your ailment must be. They have taken no tests, and never made any specific diagnosis of your body, externally or internally. No inquiry was made about your past to help them better determine the cause or nature of your ailment. Not one overall evaluation of your symptoms was ever completed. In other words—they do not really know much at all about what is wrong with you! They applied their personal judgment, based primarily on what little they have seen of you, and then prescribed treatment for a condition that may or may not be your actual problem.  In addition, they insisted that you follow their plan, in spite of your defense concerning your situation, since they are sure that they are more knowledgeable about this than you are.

This scenario resembles, in essence, what happened to Job (rhymes with “robe”) in the Bible. Job was trying to be as righteous before God as he could be. But when sudden calamity struck his life, his friends gathered around him and condemned him, saying that it must have happened because of sin in his life. But Jesus said, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven [by God]” (Luke 6:37). Are we quick to declare someone else guilty for wrongs they may or may not have committed, instead of taking a careful look at our own sins?

As children of God, we can be just as guilty as Job’s friends when we pronounce condemnation on another. The book of Job serves as a good example for the follower of Christ to study with all sincerity.

One situation in this book we should take particular note of is the way Job’s ‘friends’ counseled him. They were fully convinced that Job had to have done something wrong to cause the suffering and downfall that he was experiencing. They believed that there was some kind of sin in his life that he refused to admit or let go of. Their form of ‘help and compassion’ were an added burden for Job more than a benefit. The Bible says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). What authority did these friends of Job have to judge him, when the very Son of God would not even do so? No matter what defense Job gave in response to their accusations, they would counter it with their self-righteous advice. Job did not yet know that God was behind his adversity, but he still strongly believed that he had not brought in on himself by sin.

Artwork of Job and his wife with his friends pointing in accusation

By the time we reach the thirteenth chapter, we realize that Job had finally had enough of their counsel. What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you. Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God” (Job 13:2-3). Job tells them here that they are not superior to him, for he certainly knows as much about himself, if not more, than they do. He would rather take this matter up directly with God. Then he stated that they are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value” (Job 13:4).  He declared that they would be considered wiser if they did not say anything at all! We should pay attention to Job’s statement here, because, too often, we are guilty of doing the same thing. God never called us to condemn one another. He has reserved the carrying out of judgment for Himself, not us.

Most people find it easier to point out what they consider wrong in someone else’s life, instead of reflecting on what may be wrong in their own life.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye [give out], it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the [speck or splinter] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the [speck or splinter] out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-4). The situation was even worse in Job’s case, because these friends were set on the idea that Job had sinned—even though they knew nothing of his true standing with God.

These ‘friends’ of Job thought they had him all figured out, while they themselves were guilty of being self-righteous.

It should be obvious that there is a bigger picture in the lives of all men that others will never see totally. We should study more of Job’s life and learn from how he responded, how his friends responded, and how God intervened in the whole matter. Instead of being “physicians of no value” in our attempts to help those we meet who are suffering like Job, let’s lift them up to God in prayer. He knows how to handle their situation better than any counsel we could offer. And let’s pray that our friends will do the same for us!

 

[Image credits:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay; William Blake [Public domain]]

Some Examples on How to Fail God

White stone statue of man holding hand over face

The only place we should look when we want to know how to succeed is the Bible. But do you know that it also gives many instances concerning how to fail? It’s true! God actually wants us to understand how to fail. Look at the following examples.

Right at the beginning of the human race, we find one of the first failures. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—a simple command to follow. Don’t eat the tree’s fruit, and their relationship with God would remain in good standing. But sadly, it didn’t work out that way. After Eve was deceived by a serpent, she took a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual failure. The remainder came when she then gave the fruit to Adam. At this point, he could have refused her kind gesture and rebuked her for yielding to the deception.

Instead, he willfully took the fruit and ate of it himself. He failed when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Their relationship with God was broken as a result, and sin entered the picture.

Now all humanity from that point forward would also inherit a sin nature. This meant that we are born inclined toward sinning, rather than against it—and it was all due to Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God.

In another example God told Saul, one king of the Israelites, to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites had previously hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites back when they left Egypt through the wilderness.

Saul dutifully followed God’s command by mustering up thousands of soldiers and heading to Amalek. He was even kind enough to warn the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region so they would not be killed too. They had been helpful to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites. When Saul reached Amalek, “he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). The failure was Saul not fully obeying what God had ordered. Verse nine says, “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly”.

He let their king live and kept the best livestock, thereby acting upon own his best interests, not what God had required of him.

Not only did Samuel fail to obey God, but he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (verse 20). In very next verse, we find him playing the victim and shifting the blame for his failure to obey God to the people: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel was able to see through all of this. He told Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then He solemnly declared: “…rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (verse 23).

Saul failed by wanting to do what suited him, rather than what suited God. So, God rejected him as king.

Look now at a New Testament example. Here we find failure in one of the Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not a bashful individual, to say the least. He had little problem though with speaking his mind, as we find later on, when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Yet, in the first case, Peter did believe he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus stood. His downfall came when he took his eyes, his focus, off Jesus, and onto the conditions around him. We see in verse 32 of Matthew 14 that the winds were still rough until “…they were come into the ship, [and then] the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when he gave doubt room to work in his heart. He no longer trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness, but slipped back into believing in himself.

That was the point when he grew fearful and began sinking. “There is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter’s relationship with Jesus was not yet strong enough for him to completely let go and trust Him.

Throughout the Bible we read that failure comes about when God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow something or someone other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him.

Over and over, the Word of God demonstrates that failure is the product of disobedience.

God does not want us to fail Him. Yet we find so many places of man’s failure in His Word. He wants us to learn that when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right instead, we will ultimately fail. He wants us to read and study His Word, and then to obey and follow it. If we do, we will learn from the failure of others and keep from becoming another example of failure ourselves.

A Plan Where Preconditions Are Accepted

graphic showing a doctor at counter with laptop and papers

Today, health insurance coverage is the rage among individuals and governments alike. Many believe that they need it so that they can receive treatment of whatever condition or malady that may occur in their life without having the enormous financial burden that would follow. Since healthcare costs continue to rise, the demand for insurance continues to increase even more. In order to make insurance that people desire available, companies have instituted various requirements for the applicant, one of which is whether or not the individual has any preconditions.

If there is some disease or malady like cancer present, the insurer will often deny coverage—and not for the just the stated condition, but for everything else, too.

So why won’t the insurance companies readily supply the coverage to treat these disclosed illnesses? The answer commonly lies in the cost of treatment. The providers know that if they accept a significant number of people who are already experiencing some kind of expensive or long-term illness, they will not have enough to pay for the recipient’s future care and maintain their own business financial needs as well. In other words, they won’t take the risk for fear that they will go broke.

Red 'denied' inside of retangular box stamped on white surface

Are you aware that we all have a precondition that prevents us from being right with God, from going to heaven, or from having any eternal rewards? It is called sin and it was precipitated, ever since we were formed in the womb, by something called the “sin nature” (the inclination to sin). The Bible flatly states that “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Now, like any physical ailment, we can do all kinds to things to try to eliminate the symptoms and byproducts of sin. Yet the sin itself will always remain, because it is a spiritual problem that we are only able to treat unsuccessfully with physical methods.

God cannot tolerate any sin, anywhere, anytime. He is holy, righteous and completely pure. To allow sin—even the smallest possible amount—would invalidate His very existence and bring everything into complete chaos.

Yet there is someone who will accept us, regardless of our past problems and sin. In fact, He welcomes them. And who will give us the coverage that we need anytime and anywhere? It is Jesus. When He came to this earth, He fulfilled all of the laws and requirements God set forth in the Bible. Due to our sins, we could not possibly satisfy them ourselves. When He sacrificed His life on the cross, He sealed and finalized this fulfillment. He made it possible for everyone—past, present and future—to be made free from sin, through Him. He paid the price for our sins for us.

Red approved stamped on white surface

By opening our hearts, asking Him for forgiveness for our sins, and allowing Him to work through us, we can have access to God through Him, and the door to eternal life becomes open for us to walk through. Jesus washes our sins away, removing them completely from God’s sight, through the shed blood of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus has a plan greater than any insurance company on this earth could ever offer. Any preconditions that you have are freely accepted.

He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If you will believe in and accept Him, you will not be refused or denied, and your coverage begins immediately. As long as you obey His Word, the coverage He offers is complete and guaranteed for all eternity. Tomorrow may never come; won’t you consider receiving Him today?

If you are interested in knowing more about this plan that God has for your life then please click here.

 

[Image credits:Mohamed Hasan/Pixabay,tswedensky/Pixabay,Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Is Your Sorrow over Sin Leading to Death or Life?

woman sitting on edge of bed with head in hands looking down out open window

At any given moment, there is someone who has done something wrong throughout the world. Whether the offense was a minor or major one, if that person was caught, or the error was exposed, he or she experienced some kind of sorrow. For most people, feelings of anguish only arise when the byproducts of their dishonest actions lay heavily on their mind and soul. Grief may come to them as a gnawing feeling occurring deep within them while they pace around a room. Or maybe the grief happened while traveling, or while sitting in a prison cell. Then there are some whose only real regret was that they were caught and are now unable to do even more evil deeds. All these kinds of sorrow the Apostle Paul called “the sorrow of the world.”

Look at that phrase in context: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The “sorrow of the world” is what comes naturally in almost all of us. It is the sense of feeling sorry at the moment of our wrongdoing, but not sorry to the level that we will never do it again. We knew we were wrong, and if there is a means to apologize or otherwise resolve the situation, we will pursue it—but that is as far as we will go. Even if we follow through by some form of restitution, or submit to a required discipline or punishment, we are very likely to turn back to our sinful ways later on. This sense of regret we felt came as the result of the sin of the first man, Adam. All sin or wrongdoing eventually leads to death if we do not stop doing it.

On the other hand, what the Lord expects of us is a godly kind of sorrow. This is the kind where we stop our wrongdoing at the first occurrence, earnestly ask God for forgiveness, and then repent and completely go in the opposite direction of our sin. But the more we linger in our disobedience to His Word, the faster we will travel on the path of death for eternity. On the other hand, He said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

God loves us more than we can fathom. That is why He, through the death of His Son on the cross, made it possible for us to be free from eternal death—the ultimate penalty for sin.

And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). It hurts Him greatly to see us willfully harboring transgressions against Him. And it is even worse when He is forced to send us to everlasting punishment because we have refused to let go of our transgressions and return to Him.

Why are you sorry? Were you caught in a sinful act which you have no intention of ending? Or is it from committing something wrong that you know has hurt the Lord?

God has provided a means for forgiveness and repentance; it is up to you to make use of it. As long as you continue to hold on to your sin, you will live in sorrow, leading ultimately to death. But if you are willing to give your sin over to Him to handle, to seek His forgiveness and go totally the other way, then your future will be an abundant, eternal life. Where is your sorrow over sin leading you? The choice is yours.

 

[Image credit:Dương Nhân/Pexels]

He Will Never Do It Again

graphic displaying Jesus and Simon the Cyrene carrying cross up hill with a red 'no' circle overlay on top of picture

Many years ago, I heard a song that said, “If He had to do it all again, He’d do it all again.” The song’s overall message tells how great the love of Jesus is. It is true that He loved us so much that, even though there was nothing in us to deserve it, He came to Earth to take away our sins and give us a new life by dying on the cross for us. This song implied (with no expectation of it actually happening) that Jesus’ love for us is so great that He would willingly come and die on the cross again to redeem us. But, in reality, though this never can or will happen. Jesus became fully man when He came to Earth to die for us.

No man can die more than once, including Him. It is therefore impossible for Jesus to return again to die again to redeem us from the curse of sin and death.

When Jesus was on the cross, He made a statement in His final hours that completed God’s plan for the salvation and victory for everyone in the world, past, present and future, who will believe Him. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up [His spirit]” (John 19:30 emphasis added). He fulfilled all of God’s requirements found in the Old Testament. Throughout His time here on Earth, He satisfied every expectation His Father deemed necessary, in order to re-establish the relationship with Him that man lost due to sin.

Before all that God’s Son accomplished on the cross, sin could be covered only temporarily by the sacrifice of an animal in our place. Therefore, people had to continually go before a priest, who would take the item a person brought to be sacrificed and present it before God on his behalf. There was no real means for someone to go freely before God by himself. A priest and a physical sacrifice had to go before him.

Now Jesus’ finished work on the cross enables us to freely come before God through Jesus as our Great High Priest.

He fulfilled the role of the priest, and He also gave His life as the final and ultimate sacrifice. There is no longer a need for us to offer up an animal, as was previously required.

This is the reason that it is impossible for Jesus “to do it all again.” What He did for us on the cross was final. If He had “to do it all again,” it would mean that the first time was incomplete. It also suggests that when He declared “it is finished,” everything was not accomplished after all, and therefore Jesus made a mistake. To carry this train of thought out even further, for Jesus to be in error would mean that His heavenly Father is wrong as well, since Jesus is always fully obedient to what His Father tells Him. This would contradict the nature and existence of God therefore, resulting in total chaos!

When Jesus came in person to this world to provide the way of deliverance from the curse of sin and death, it was once and for all.

The love of God and His Son for man is so immense, perfect, and infinite that there is no need whatsoever for a ‘repeat performance.’ On the contrary, we need to accept His finished work at the cross as our own, based solely on the first and only time He did it. Jesus is coming back to this Earth again. This time, though, it will not be for another attempt at redeeming man, but rather in judgment for those who have rejected His initial offer of salvation and deliverance, when He died on the cross on their behalf to free them from the power of sin. Everything man needed to come to God was completely provided for then. There is no point in standing around waiting to see if Jesus will ‘do it all again.’ We need to yield our heart to Him now, based on what He has already done on our behalf, while we still can!

If you want more information on how to accept this finished work Jesus made possible during His time here on the Earth for yourself and receive external life, please click here.

 

[Graphic credit (without red slash and circle): raphael/Pixabay]

Connecting to the Right Outlet

Rockwell is a pretty smart guy, except when it comes to non-technical things. Sure, he knows that a car can’t run without gas or oil, and that refrigerators, microwave ovens, and light bulbs all need electricity to operate. But ask him how they function, and he will struggle to give an explanation.

This is why, one cold morning in early March, Rockwell could not get his electric space heater to operate. He plugged it into an outlet in the living room and turned it on. After ten minutes, nothing had happened. He removed the plug and inserted it into the socket underneath, but still no power or heat.

He picked up the heater, shook it vigorously several times and placed it back on the floor. There it sat with no lights, no noise, and certainly no warmth. 

With friends coming for lunch, he knew he had to do something to get the place warm. He went to the basement and brought up another heater—smaller but still adequate. He inserted its plug into the same receptacle, turned the unit on, and waited. It, too, just sat there—cold, dark, and quiet.

Rockwell decided that this was too technical for him to bother with at the moment. So he returned to fixing breakfast. Meanwhile, his neighbor stopped by for a brief visit.  He noticed right off that the house had almost no warmth, but he figured that Rockwell was already aware of this, so he kept silent and sat at the breakfast table. After they chatted a while, the temperature grew colder, and his neighbor could not remain quiet any longer. “Rocky, my boy, are you running absent-minded this morning, or did your heater give out on you?”

“Well, I plugged it in and tried all kinds of things to make it work. I even hooked up another one I got downstairs. I figured if I wait long enough, one might eventually turn on one way or another.”

His neighbor went over, checked both heaters, then the outlet.  Then he took a desk lamp, connected it to the same outlet, and got the same results: nothing. Finally he took one heater and plugged it into another electrical socket across the room. Voila! It came alive immediately and began to warm the room.

“Well, there’s your problem,” his neighbor remarked. “They were plugged into a dead outlet. For some reason, there was no power available there. They have to be connected to the right outlet if they are going to heat the room. All of your efforts earlier were useless.”

Now, how many of us today are living a cold life? Not a physical cold, where we need socks, sweaters, and heaters to get and stay warm, but spiritually, in our hearts. No matter what good method we try, we can’t seem to find the solution. We accepted Jesus Christ in our heart, yet we are still in a constant struggle to be free of some bondage in our life. Whether it is smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, immorality, lying, stealing, or a whole host of other sinful habits, we just cannot rid ourselves of their control.

So we turn to the medical world, psychology, self-help programs, religion, government assistance, pastors, churches, neighbors, and family members. We pray, go to church, read the Bible and consult other Christians, yet we still struggle with these problems. They frequently make us ashamed, depressed, confused, and overwhelmed.

We vow at the beginning of each day or week that we will not give in, but we still end up succumbing to the same sinful actions. 

As a Christian, why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we be free and victorious? Why do we have to be in this bondage? The answers lie in our understanding of Jesus Christ and the cross. By putting our faith in something else, we will always be under the control of sin. God does not want us to be in this state any more than we do, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled all of the requirements of His Father that we could never accomplish, and paid a debt that we are unable to repay. 

The problem is that, when we accepted His Son into our hearts and made Him Lord of our life, we did not totally yield to Him. Instead, we continued to fight these battles with sin (a spiritual problem) in our own strength and effort (a non-spiritual answer).

Look at this another way. We are attempting to remove the coldness (sin) from our heart by connecting to a dead outlet (the world and its hopeless solutions). But when we plug into a live outlet (Jesus Christ and His victory on the cross), we allow power (His Spirit) to flow freely in our life. He is now able to remove the control all of these sinful habits mentioned earlier have on us, and our heart begins to warm up.

But, as long as we keep trying to clean up our sins by our self, we remain connected to a dead outlet and receive no connection to the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The “law of the Spirit of life” refers to when we connect into the live outlet. By plugging into a dead outlet, we are walking after the flesh, meaning the ways of this sinful world, which will always be followed by “the law of sin and death,” or bondage. 

Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The only way to be free of the sin habit that perpetually plagues us is to accept the victory of the finished work of Jesus on the cross as our own victory. Stop plugging into a dead outlet of our own futile works, thereby cancelling out all Christ has done for us. Connect to the right outlet and we, as children of God, will find freedom from the control sin has had in our heart and life.

 

[Image credit:Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Don’t Blame God For Your Problems

a graphic showing Adam and Eve behind bushes with a tree, snake, dark clouds and sun in background

After having moved furniture for their boss in a large old truck since five in the morning, the two young men were now exhausted. The one driving turns to the other and says, “Let’s finish this last delivery and quit for today. I’m beat!” His partner agrees without any hesitation. The driver starts up the truck and eases it into gear. The engine roars loudly with a lot of creaking and groaning; everything shudders, but nothing happens. He backs off of the accelerator, shakes his head, puts the old truck into reverse, and tries again. Still, the truck doesn’t move.

Tired and frustrated, the driver puts the transmission back into neutral and shuts the truck off. He slides out of the cab and manages to get up onto the front bumper.

“Man, I’m fed up with the junk our boss keeps giving us to haul with. Every time I try to go somewhere, this old thing acts up. If I had a mind to do something, I’d…”

He then interrupts himself with a series of loud clunks and opens the hood of the vehicle. After looking around the engine and then grumbling some more, he jumps back down to the ground.

Once again he gets into the cab and starts the engine. He tries several times to rock the vehicle by pushing the transmission into gear, accelerating, then quickly shifting into reverse and stepping on the accelerator again. Now thoroughly exasperated, the driver crawls up on the front of the truck, slams the hood down and starts jumping up and down on it. Yet nothing has changed and the truck is still in the same place as before.

Practically admitting defeat after an hour of trying, the man crawls back into the driver’s seat and slumps over the steering wheel. His partner glances over at him from the other side of the cab and mumbles, “Did you pull the chocks out from under the wheels?”

The driver, still resting over the steering wheel, opens his eyes without turning his head and replies, “What?”

Now with more of a weary drawl, his partner responds a little louder, “I said, Did you pull the chocks out from under the back wheels?” The driver bursts out of the vehicle and disappears around to the backside. After a somewhat muted scream, a large pair of wheel chocks goes flying over the front of the truck, followed by immense laughter from his helper still in the front seat.

While humorous in itself, this anecdote provides a good example of how we are often quick to blame someone else for a problem or oversight of our own creation.

In Genesis 3, we find the first instance of blame, and this time it involved God also. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:6, 7, 11-13).

In the same sense as the moving truck driver, Adam and Eve created a situation that they could not overcome as it stood. In their case, they disobeyed God by allowing themselves to be persuaded by the devil, via a serpent, and they ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then, following their own futile wisdom and efforts, Adam and Eve tried to correct or hide their sin (a spiritual concern) with fig leaves (a natural or non-spiritual solution).

When God confronted them, Adam resorted to blaming Him and Eve, while she blamed the serpent—yet neither one mentioned that that they were at fault.

We, as children of God, often fall into disobedience by doing the same thing.  Not only do we criticize Him, we are also determined to resolve the situation in our own strength, without even a thought of asking Him for assistance. Oftentimes we will practically knock ourselves out trying to correct the problem, when the source is, figuratively speaking, right under our nose. Of course, God is not going to rush in and take care of everything for us. He will patiently wait until we reach that place where we finally give up and call out to Him for forgiveness and help. Sadly, it usually takes most of our life before we finally reach that particular point and surrender to Him, if we ever do at all.

As our loving Heavenly Father, God will never put a problem before us that we cannot overcome. We are the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, create an insurmountable situation for ourselves. When the issues that arise in our circumstances get us down, let’s not fall into the ‘blaming God’ trap that the devil often sets before us. Instead of getting upset with God over the difficult situation at hand that we have created ourselves, why not seek Him in prayer first, and then allow Him to lead us to the solution.

 

[Image credit:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay]

New Year, Same Sin

At the beginning of each new year, it is the same old thing: a large majority of us want to improve some area of our life. Almost everywhere we look, from gyms to retail stores and restaurants, even to financial institutions, like banks, investment firms, and tax preparers, there are promotions of some kind regarding a new outlook on life. Churches and ministries are now getting in on the trend with various programs to revitalize and enhance us physically and spiritually. Most follow the tagline of ‘New Year, New You’ or some other variant. Yet, with all of these means in place to assist us, why do we still need them all over again next year and each successive year thereafter?

The key lies with something that each and every one of us has to deal with all of the time. It is called sin. No matter what effort we take to hide or overcome it, sin will always be there. In essence, sin is disobedience to God’s Word. It is also something that keeps us from entering into God’s Kingdom. God cannot tolerate any sin, even the tiniest amount.

Sin brings us into a period of pleasure while we are committing it, and then leaves us in a state of emptiness, despair, and disappointment afterward.

Therefore, we are never satisfied with just one act of sin. We continually seek more and greater ways to sin in order to reach a point of gratification.

Sin escalates while, at the same time, it degrades. Sin is never isolated to just the one who is sinning. Many feel that as long as it is hidden, then everything will be fine. Yet, whether the results are seen or not, our sin impacts some thing or someone else. From the rocks to the animals to the oceans to the sky, and everybody in between, the whole earth is ultimately affected by our sins. Since the time of Adam and Eve to the present time, the world has been steadily in decline. Every attempt throughout history to save this world from destruction has been nullified by our continual sin.

Nothing in our own efforts will solve the sin problem in our life or anyone else’s. While not all of our ills are directly caused by our sin, we are still impacted by it. Sin is like quicksand—the more you try to escape, the deeper you sink into it. It may not have hurt when you slipped in, and may not be painful while you are in it, but you still are descending slowly to your death.

The only solution to the sin problem is to turn to someone who is greater than sin itself.

We can’t get out of the quicksand through some self-help program or a fitness or dietary regime. No amount of financial planning or seminars will help. We might be able to stay afloat for an extended period of time, but it is not until we grab hold of a lifeline, like someone’s hand or the equivalent, that our rescue is possible.

That ultimate help is Jesus Christ. He is the only one qualified to deliver us from the hold and finality of sin. He willingly left His place in Heaven and came to this sinful earth to rescue us. He took all of the sins of the world – past, present and future – upon Himself and was crucified on a cross so to pay for them so that we could be free. He paid a penalty that was impossible for us to pay on our own. He gave us the means to come before God through Him. When we acknowledge and accept the sacrifice He made for us as our own, ask for forgiveness of our sins, and allow Him to live in our heart and life, then He will pull us out of the grip of sin. His blood shed for us will cover our sins, never more to be seen by God.

Not only are our sins removed, but we are given a whole new nature—one that is no longer bent toward sinning and desiring the sinful ways of this world.

Instead of trying to make ourselves better each year by our own strength and efforts, we just need to yield to Jesus and turn our concerns over to Him, “casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Only He can bring about real success and change in our life—when we let Him. Won’t you do it today?

For more direction on how to let God remove the sin in your life click here.

Dirtied Jewels


picture of smokey quartz crystals

Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0

The children were extremely bored, so they wandered around the house in a futile attempt to entertain themselves. Their mother was next door preoccupied with the neighbor’s new baby. Their father was stuck at an airport heavily entrenched in snow. Then an ugly scenario began to unfold after the children discovered a box containing mother’s jewelry collection.

“Open it! Open it!” the children cried in unison, while one of the older boys pried unsuccessfully, first at the gap in the lid, and then under the lock. After several minutes, their disappointment turned into mild anger as some of the children begin to push and pull at each other. Then the bureau was jarred. Suddenly the jewelry box crashed to the floor, bursting apart at the hinges. Precious jewels scattered everywhere and glee was the result. The room filled with awe and squeals of joy as necklaces with diamonds, earrings with rubies, and bracelets made of emeralds were passed around like candy. It wasn’t long before the whole group was in the backyard strutting around in a manner that would leave a fashion diva aghast.

Given their fleeting attention span, the children (mainly the boys) soon lost interest in the jewelry debacle. One boy then made the challenge to the others that jewels will still shine even if they have become dirty. Naturally, a handful of children jumped at the opportunity and started churning some jewelry through a muddy patch in the yard. But their escapades did not stop there. One discovered a small bin nearby of odd lawnmower parts with lots of oil and grease in the bottom. If there ever was a possible point of stopping their progress and restoring everything to its original state, they had long since passed it. The jewels they smothered in mud, grease, and grime were now virtually unrecognizable. Then one girl taunted the others, “OK, let’s see all that shine you boasted about!”

Sadly, there was now absolutely no shine, no glimmer, or anything good left to remark about. When they held the jewels up, they were nothing but a collection of black blobs. Another boy took a clean rag from the shed. After a great deal of scrubbing, he tried his best to get them to at least hint at sparkling again. But, to his great dismay, the jewels refused to gleam. In fact, they would not even come close to being clean. Then he tried dipping some jewels into a heavy-duty cleaning solution full strength. Yet, after a lot of soaking and wiping, they still were only about seventy-five percent clean. The rest of the children peered over his shoulder with great concern.

“What’s Mom going to say when she sees these?” one girl inquired. A boy retorted in exasperation, “She won’t see them! Quick, take all the other jewelry and put it back in the case.” He then ordered one of his brothers to repair the broken hinges and lid. “Maybe,” he muttered softly to himself, “just maybe, she won’t even notice.”

To the relief of all the children, days passed into weeks without a single mention of the jewelry case. One older boy scrubbed and scrubbed, but the film and dirt that remained kept the beauty of the jewels from reappearing. He knew their mother would not overlook the grimy residue, so he continued holding on to the jewels, hoping to figure out something he could use to get them totally clean again. But he got no opportunity to try again.

“OK, who has been in my jewelry box?” their mother yelled down the stairs. “Where are my precious jewels?”

“Uh-oh,” the boy who had tried cleaning them muttered loudly to himself. He knew that it was hopeless at this point to try to hide or escape. He grabbed the jewels and ran to his mother instead. “Mom, it’s all our fault. I mean, actually, it’s my fault,” he blurted out, as he began to sob. “I made a challenge to everyone that the jewels would still shine when they are dirty.” Now he was crying. “I tried and tried to get them clean, but they just won’t look pretty anymore.”

His mother reached over and gave him a big hug. She told him how she appreciated his honesty and willingness to come forward. “But why did you hide this from me?” she gently inquired.

“Because I was afraid of what you and Dad would do to us if you saw how dirty these are.”

“My son, your father and I greatly love you all. You still need punishment for what was done, but that does not mean that we hate you or want to hurt you. Besides, I have methods to clean these jewels you don’t know about. You should have come to me in the first place. You never could have solved this in your own efforts; in fact, you might have ruined them permanently.”

picture of clear gemstone

Do you realize that God sees each one of us as a perfect, sparkling, precious jewel? We usually see ourselves as dirty and blemished, like the jewels mentioned here, and are constantly trying in our own strength to make ourselves shine. And, like the boy trying his best to get the jewels clean, we go through all kinds of programs and rituals, yet in the end, we are still just as soiled as before—if not worse. We try so often to make ourselves pure and right, but we usually cause even greater damage to our hearts and lives instead. The devil wants to keep us believing the lie that we are too polluted and have to keep working at getting our life straight before we come to God. So we hide from Him, hoping He will never notice what we have done. This only causes our relationship with Him to suffer. “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22).

Only God can cleanse us so that the true beauty and purity He alone sees in us will shine forth. The key is that we must yield our self to Him and let Him do the work. The more effort we do, the more we remain mottled and murky. But if we actually could cleanse our heart and life ourselves, then it would just lead to boasting and pride—making us dirty all over again. “Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:9). Therefore, we need to stop trying to clean up our heart and life by our own efforts, and yield our self to Jesus instead. He wants to make us into the bright polished precious jewel that He sees, not the muddy, imperfect, unclean one that we see. He is the only One who can do it.