Tag Archives: victory over sin

Your Faith

Isaiah 7

Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. (7:9b, NLT)

What are your thoughts? God said this to King Ahaz when the kingdom of Judah was in serious trouble from Syria and Israel. Those two nations were primed and ready to attack the Jews in Judah, and they had the manpower to do some damage.

Ahaz was understandably nervous about the situation. Maybe nervous isn’t a strong enough word. Terrified might be more accurate. The king and the people “trembled with fear like trees shaking in a storm.” (vs2b)

God saw the fear, but He also had a plan that was much bigger than the fear the people were experiencing. So He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to encourage him.

Don’t worry, Ahaz. God’s got this. You don’t need to “fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers.” Sure, they are plotting an attack, but it will never happen.”

Now you’d think those words from God Himself would alleviate any uncertainty Ahaz was having. He had been looking at his enemies as formidable foes, but God saw them as has-been, ineffective weaklings. Ahaz had been looking at his enemies, thinking he needed to face them in his own power. God told him they had no power!

God said this about the threatening kings:

Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. (vs 8)

Israel is not stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. (vs 9)

But then he said the words I quoted at the beginning of this post. The King James version says it like this:

If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Ahaz had a choice. He could trust God to come through like He’d promised. Or he could face his enemy in his own strength, and take his chances. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure it was.

In our present culture we celebrate self-reliance, don’t we? We admire people who have worked hard, who’ve overcome obstacles by sheer will, and who are self-made men. Yet I think that’s been true since the garden when Adam thought he didn’t need God, that he could make up his own set of rules and do just fine.

I read a post from a fellow-blogger, Darryl Dash (DashHouse.com), entitled “In Whom Do You Trust?). He said something that has me thinking:

“Whatever we trust in place of God will eventually turn on us and destroy us.”

Money? Popularity? Relationships? Power? Self? What is it you trust for your happiness and well-being? What is it you trust for your eternity?

Pastor Dash says, “Self-reliance is deadly.” I think Adam would agree.

If you read on in this chapter of Isaiah you’ll hear God say, instead of looking toward armies to protect you, look toward a child. A virgin will be with child…

There’s the crux of the matter. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, you’re putting your faith in burnt embers and has-been kings. If you are trusting anyone or anything other than Jesus, God cannot and will not make you strong.

But, my friend. If you let go of self and shut out all the other voices out there, if you put your faith in God alone, there is no battle you need to face alone. There is no enemy too strong for God to defeat. There need be no fear, because God’s got this.

I hope you’ll take a serious look at your faith today. You might say you have faith in God. In fact, I hope you do. But do you really have faith in God? Or do you have faith in God, plus something else. You know, just in case God doesn’t come through.

Can you have equal parts of faith in God and in yourself? What could be wrong with that?

Simply put, that’s not faith in God.

And unless your faith is firm, God cannot make you stand firm.

Why Is There So Much Evil In The World?

Proverbs 14:34

Our nation is reeling in the aftermath of pure evil, the vicious murder of innocent children and their teachers, the violent deaths of people in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, all since May 20. (Google recent mass shootings and see for yourself. I just included states where there were deaths. And I included each state only once, even though some states were attacked more during this time period. It’s truly awful).

It’s not just gun violence. How many innocent children were murdered by abortion in the same time period? We in this nation are facing food shortages as a result of attacks on our food supply (not just human attackers, but accidents as well). Families are finding it hard to afford the basics needed to care for their families. The price of gas is out of control.

And we ask, “Why? Who is to blame? It must be the guns. It must be the schools, the government, Putin, and probably Trump.”

Solomon gives us the “why” in just a few words:

Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

What is happening in our nation is a disgrace. But the cause of it, the people responsible for the rampant evil is you and me. It’s our godliness that can give us the ability to change the present course this nation is on. God will not bless a nation that turn its back on Him.

Unless you and I, unless the Church in America, make godliness our priority, we will continue to be a disgrace. And if you think it’s bad now…

(Psalms 3-4) Prayers Morning and Evening

A morning prayer from Psalm 3:

I have challenges today, Lord. Some people say I can’t win, that there is no hope for me. “Loser!” they cry. But they don’t realize that You are a shield around me. If my enemy plans an attack on me today, he has to go through You first. I can be confident knowing that I am in Your care. So God, defeat my enemy Satan today. Punch him in the face. Knock his teeth out. I can face today because my salvation comes from You!

An evening prayer from Psalm 4:

You did it, Lord! You heard my prayers and were gracious to me today. People around me follow lies, they love what is worthless, and condemn me because I don’t go along with them. They don’t understand that what I have with You is worth more than anything they consider valuable. Let them see the beauty in knowing You. I can go to sleep tonight in peace, trusting You. You are my safety and my joy.

(I Samuel 20-24) My Enemy, and Your’s

The whole Saul and David thing reminds me that I have an enemy, too. My enemy pursues me with the same determination Saul pursued David. My enemy wants to see me dead every bit as much as Saul wanted to see David dead.

My enemy is God’s enemy. My enemy hates me, simply for the fact I choose God. My enemy hates me because I love God, whom my enemy hates with a hate far greater than I know. My enemy’s hate for God is played out in my life with temptations, attacks, hardships, doubts, disease. My enemy is relentless, like Saul was relentless in his pursuit of David.

Whenever I read what David said to Abiathar, I hear God say to me:

“Stay with me. Don’t be afraid, for the one who wants to take my life wants to take your life. YOU WILL BE SAFE WITH ME.” ( 22:23, emphasis mine)

My enemy, and your’s, has no power over God. My enemy, and your’s, cannot touch us when we stay with God, when we become His children through the blood of Jesus, and choose to obey Him each and every day.

Stay with God, my friend. You will be safe with Him!

How To Read The Psalms (Psalm 17, 35, 54, 63)

I used to read the psalms where David talked about his enemies, how often he asked God to destroy them, and honestly I couldn’t relate. Now I understand that Saul was out to kill him and the king made David’s life miserable. But David said some pretty harsh things about Saul and his followers. I mean, I’ve had conflict with certain individuals over the years. But I wouldn’t describe them as enemies. And I certainly wouldn’t pray for God to destroy them liked David prayed about the people he  considered his enemies.

So for years, I’d read these psalms, check them off my reading list, and move on. I didn’t think there was anything in there that had anything to do with me. I shared my thoughts with a pastor who looked at me and said, “But you do have an enemy.”

What? I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was there someone in our congregation who had a vendetta against me that I didn’t know?

He must have seen the shocked and confused look on my face because he went on, “Your enemy isn’t flesh and blood. You have a much more dangerous enemy than any person on this earth. Your enemy is Satan. And believe me, he wants to see you suffer. He’s out to destroy you every bit as much as Saul wanted to destroy David. More.”

He told me I was wrong to believe the psalms didn’t relate to me. He challenged me to re-read every one and instead of picturing the conflict between Saul and David, or between me and someone I wasn’t getting along with at the time, and picture the conflict between Satan and me, the conflict between sin and holiness. He told me I would grow to love the psalms and realize that God not only understands my struggle with sin, He is the answer to my struggles.

I’ve been reading the psalms that way now for decades. When David talks about swords and arrows, I picture the temptations Satan throws at me. When I hear David say his enemy is out to get him, I know the devil is out to get me, too.

And when David in Psalm 63 says, “They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals,” I know Satan doesn’t stand a chance against me.

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I stay close to you; your right hand upholds me. (63:7-8)

I have a different attitude toward the psalms these days because I’ve learned to read them. And I can absolutely say every psalm applies to me in some way. I dare say they apply to you, too, if you learn to read them.

May 1; Regroup

2 Samuel 23:8-12, 21;19-22, 10:1-19, 11:1; I Chronicles 11:10-14, 20:1a, 5-8, 19:1-19; Psalm 33

Here’s what I believe Scripture tells us about our enemy. At those times when we can enjoy a victory in a battle for our souls, Satan doesn’t just give up. Our enemy is never one and done.

Like Israel’s enemies in 2 Samuel 10 and I Chronicles 19. When the Israeli army soundly defeated them, they “regrouped.” (2 Samuel 10:15). Our enemy doesn’t waste time licking his wounds, either. His arrows don’t stay sheathed very long. And, like the passages we read today, we end up fighting one battle after another.

I love that Psalm 33 is included in our reading today. Our hope is in the Lord, the Creator God whose eyes are always on those who fear Him. The truth is, God doesn’t always remove the threat before we go into battle. Sometimes we have to go through that difficulty, struggle with that sin.

Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But, as His children, we know the war itself is already won.

I am challenged today to learn something from the enemy. Instead of giving up when I find myself losing a battle with sin, when I commit a sin I’ve already confessed, when doubts and fears begin to take over, I need to regroup. I need to prepare to fight another day.

I need to get my Bible out, to get on my knees in prayer, to reach out to an ally to pray with me or fight alongside me. My hope is in the Lord, and He never fails.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in You.
(Psalm 33:20-22)

January 17; Putting Yourself in a Position to be Blessed

Job 40-42

The Lord continues to speak to Job in the storm. He continues to remind Job that there is one God, and it’s not Job. Job’s reaction is:

I am unworthy. I spoke out of turn. I thought I understood You, but now I really see who You are. I’m sorry.

This past Sunday the pastor spoke about putting ourselves in a position to be blessed by God. I think Job does that here. Job emptied himself, confessed his sin, and repented. Then God blessed him.

Yes, Job received material blessings after this. But please don’t make this about material things. The pastor reminded us that putting ourselves in a position to be blessed means humbling ourselves before our holy God, recognizing sin and repenting, allowing Jesus to do what He died to do.

Then God will lavish us with the greatest blessing of all. Himself.

He’ll forgive you. He’ll break the hold sin has over you. He will walk with you every minute of every day. And one day, He’ll welcome you home.

I believe Job knew how blessed he was when he said:

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5)

Have you seen God? I don’t mean have you face-timed Him. Have you recognized God for who He IS? Have you had the experience of total surrender to the One who died to save you? If you haven’t, I pray you will do that today. Put yourself in a position to be blessed. Get on your knees and ask Him to forgive you.

Then brace yourself. God in your life is a blessing like you’ve never experience before.

December 8 – Let’s Be Honest

Romans 4-7

Paul is talking about sin in these chapters and, somehow, the more he talks the more questions I had. On one hand, he teaches that we who are united with Christ are no longer slaves to sin, we are freed from sin, and sin cannot master us. Instead we become slaves to righteousness.

On the other hand, he confesses that he is “not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (7:15) He tells us sin actually dwells in him “for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (7:19)

Then he goes so far as to say this war within him between good and evil is making him a “prisoner of the law of sin.” So which is it, Paul? A slave to sin or a slave to righteousness?

Yes.

Thank you for making that clear, Paul. I mean that sincerely.

Sometimes we Christians believe that as those redeemed by the blood, we cannot sin. Then we do. So we beat ourselves up, or give up.

Sometimes we Christians find it hard to share our struggles and failures, our sins, with others because somehow we think other Christians are doing it right. I certainly don’t want them to think I’m the only one who isn’t.

I’m so glad Paul was honest. God’s gift of grace does not come with a bubble we live in where Satan’s arrows can’t penetrate. We are at war. And Satan is a powerful enemy. He knows exactly which temptations to throw my way, when to throw them, and how often. He’s never one and done.

And sometimes I am as weak as Paul was. I end up doing the thing I hate. And, if left unconfessed, I can become a slave to that sin.

But I can also have victory! God promises that. And I’ve experienced it over and over. There is forgiveness when we ask. There is strength when we walk close to our Lord. There is power over sin through the precious blood of Jesus.

Let’s be honest. Christians sin. The difference between us and the unredeemed is what we do with that sin. My prayer is that we all, including me, will be quick to confess, repent, and flee from the temptation. We don’t have to let that sin continue to the point where it controls us.

And may I suggest that we learn to be as honest as Paul was concerning his struggles. Someone might identify with your testimony, and be encouraged to claim their own victory over a sin in their life. May we be sensitive to God’s prompting to share with just the right people at just the right time.

I’m thinking if we are honest, we can help each other. I know Paul helped me today with his honesty.

October 5 -Temptation Isn’t Fun

Matthew 4; Luke 4-5; John 1:15-51

When Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, He wasn’t on vacation. He was out there with no food, being jerked around by Satan. Matthew and Luke share three of those temptations. Many have said they represent three things God hates: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (I John) I can see the correlation.

But today, I’m wondering how Jesus’ time in the wilderness effects me. Here are my thoughts:

Forty days is a long time to be exposed to the elements without food. We aren’t sure what those forty days were like for Jesus, but I have a suspicion Satan didn’t wait until day 37 to hit Jesus with the first of only three temptations. I think Satan probably hit Jesus with everything in his arsenal the moment he realize he could. Think of it. Forty days with unrelenting attacks on your soul. And I think Satan’s hard on me.

And, I imagine, as Jesus’ physical body became weaker, Satan’s attacks intensified. Because that’s how he is with me. If my body is weary, if my heart is heavy, Satan throws me a bone. “Compromise,” he says. “Things will get better.” And I am tempted.

Satan knew Jesus was here to win kingdoms for Himself. He knew the Lord had a job to do. So Satan told Jesus, “Here is a shortcut. Bow down to me just this once and I can get you what You’re after without having to go through all the grief.” Satan knows I have a job to do, too. I am commanded to share the Gospel. Now I don’t hear Satan asking me to worship him in those words, but I certainly hear him telling me to back off a bit, tolerate other viewpoints, let a person believe what he wants to believe. I hear that voice in my head almost every day. Tempting.

Then there are those times of doubt. I am not suggesting Jesus ever doubted His Father. I think at this point, as weak as He probably was, He might have been viewing Satan like a yappy little puppy nipping at His heels. He probably wanted to kick him to the curb. But Jesus endured this ridiculous attempt by Satan to get Him to sin, because He knew Satan wasn’t going to give up on me easily, either. Satan said, “You’ve got all those angels at your disposal, prove it.” And to me He says, “You claim to have God with you, why are you suffering?” And, “Go ahead and sin a bit, you’re forgiven, right? What’s the big deal?” I begin to consider giving in to the temptation.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness with Satan wasn’t to prepare Him for ministry. He did that for me. He wanted me to know that He gets me. He wants me to come to Him when I am tempted and weak, and know that He’s been there, too. Jesus’ time in the wilderness wasn’t about Him at all. It was about me because He loves me that much. He did this so I can know Hebrews 4:15 is true:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.

And I Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you expect what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Jesus was tempted. But He won. And He’s willing and able to give me the victory, too.

Thank You, Jesus.

 

 

April 22 – It’s A Great Day

Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

Reading these psalms this morning has my heart praising God for my salvation. Even when there is no good in me He loves me. He forgives even my secret sins. He has written His love letter to me, my owner’s manual, my guidebook.

He walks with me. He defeats my enemies, those things which would come between my God and me.

I rejoice in my salvation. How majestic is God in all the earth.

Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength; we will sing and praise Your power.” (21:13)

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your Presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (16:11)

It’s a great day to walk with my Savior!