Frustrated with yourself?

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.   

divided heartI find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”                  Romans 7:15, 22-23

 

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”                                                                                             James 4:7-8

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.”                                                     
Psalm 86:11

What is the answer to this universal human problem of a heart that is divided between heaven and earth?  Between the kingdoms of God and the Prince of This World?

  1.  Feed the new creation, and starve the old.  That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”       Ephesians 4:22-24     “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”    Romans 13:14

2.  Walk according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son . . . .  Do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”        Romans 8:2-4

3.  Let Christ live through you.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, butChrist lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”    Galatians 2:20

4.  Set your mind on the things above.  Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”                          Colossians 3:1-3

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Watch carefully for your rescue!

bailing boatPicture the scene of a man lost at sea in a little boat filling with water.  Hopefully, he is not so busy bailing out his boat that he does not see the search airplane passing overhead and miss his opportunity for rescue.  As we face temptation to sin, where we are looking for help is crucial to our successfully being removed from harm’s way.

For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.  [Jahaziel] said, “Listen, . . . thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”                                                                                               2 Chronicles 20:12, 15

Paul says, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:22-25)

We find resolution to the dire circumstances and temptations we face, not by looking intently at the problem, but in gazing trustingly to the Source of the deliverance that will come.

eyesBehold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God,  until He is gracious to us.  Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us.”                                 Psalm 123:2-3    (see also Psalm 13:5-6)

The surest victory in the temptations we face will not come from ourselves, from our white-knuckling, teeth-clenching discipline.  “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”           (2 Corinthians 3:5)  Our deliverance will come as we humbly admit our helplessness and our need for God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

 

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Replacing anxiety

Anxiety takes the joy out of our lives, replacing it with dread and fear and insecurity.  Jesus says to us,

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. . . So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.                      Matthew 6:31, 34

rough seaAnxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,
But a good word makes it glad.
”                      Proverbs 12:25

To replace anxiety, we are to trust God with all our cares, in prayer, and leave them there.  Look at the fruit of this act of trust:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:6-7

El CapitanThe rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.
”                                                Psalm 62:8

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
”                                     Psalm 94:19

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”                     1 Peter 1:6-7

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”                                                                     Acts 4:13

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Our Forever Attorney

Forever is an unfamiliar concept to our insecure, earthbound minds.  It is foreign to our worldview and experience of shame and disappointments.  Nothing seems forever.  Things we treasure are ripped from our hands or slip unexpectedly through our fingers.

galaxyIt is even hard for us to believe that our forgiven relationship with God is permanently ours to enjoy.  Everything else in life can be taken from us — our health, our loved ones, our financial resources, our home, our jobs.  Why not our salvation from sin, our right standing in God’s eyes?

But the security of His promise of forgiveness and eternal life is not based on our performance or circumstances of life, but on God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.  Which He does forever!lawyer:judge

“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness”       Romans 4:5

so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”                      Hebrews 6:18-20

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”                   Hebrews 7:25

“Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”                                                                               Romans 8:34-35

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Our loving Coach in temptation

As a schoolboy, I learned to water ski from my dad.  He gave me a few dry land lessons on the basics of balancing myself over the skis, staying crouched until the speed of the boat was sufficient to allow me to stand up on the skis, then rising to a standing posture, leaning back slightly.  Once I was actually in the water, he distracted me from the fear of sinking, the roar of the boat’s motor, and the pain of falling, by standing in the back of the boat, demonstrating how my posture should change as the boat accelerated.  My fears were partially alleviated by keeping my eyes on him and trying to imitate his visual cues.

nature lion south africa whitelion

Photo by Piet Bakker on Pexels.com

Facing temptation, we can feel like an easy breakfast for Satan, the Prowling Lion, who constantly looks for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)  With our eyes on the fierceness of the test or temptation, we feel defeated and hopeless before we even get into the fight.

It can change our whole perspective to turn our gaze from our enemy to our Companion who walks beside us.  When God was about to disclose Himself in a special way to Moses and give him his life mission, He revealed himself in a burning bush,  commanding him to remove his sandals, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.  In the midst of testing or temptation, our fear can be allayed and our courage bolstered by the realization that we are on holy ground, that God is up to something wonderful and intentional that will mature us and glorify Him.  And we are part of it.

Poor Job had no idea that he was part of a heavenly contest between God and Satan.  God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  For there is no one else like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8)  God “threw down the gauntlet” to Satan, in “showing off” one of His finest followers.  Job’s trusting performance would glorify God, to the shame and anger of his Accuser.

We can be sure that our performance in the midst of trials and temptations is at the heart of why God allows them to come into our lives.  We can welcome them as opportunities to grow spiritually stronger, as we learn to depend more fully on Him through difficulties.  This brings us into more intimate relationship with our Father who holds our hand as we pass through the fire.  coach:pitcherHe is like our loving Coach who wants us to succeed, never allowing testing greater than we can bear (with His help) (1 Corinthians 10:13), but seeing to it that the challenge is difficult enough that it will strengthen our “spiritual muscles” for future battles.  Maturing us, until we look more and more like Him.

On the proving grounds of God, our Coach, we can have joy in the midst of trouble (James 1:2-4), knowing that the outcome will show Him off to the world and to Satan.   “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”          1 Peter 1:6-7

As we see this behind-the-scenes reality, we are more likely to have a cheerful spirit, optimistic of success than if we enter it fearfully, in the dread of certain defeat.

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The Power of Habits

“For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”                         Hebrews 5:13-14    NASB

Habits can be leveraged for good or bad.  Anything we repeat enough becomes easier to do the next time.  We then will be more likely to do it.  It becomes the path of least resistance, since it is the most comfortable choice, the one that takes the least amount of energy.  It becomes like a well-worn path across a field.IMG_0004

Eventually, a habit is formed.  The athlete and soldier take advantage of this truth to prepare themselves for effective action.  We can do this as disciples of Jesus, each good choice bringing us closer to Him and strengthening our inner man, that we might more easily choose it again at the next similar crossroads.

“This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts
. ”                     Psalm 119:56. NIV

This same principle can also work against us, causing us untold damage.  Habitual sinful patterns of thinking lead to repeated harmful actions.  Repeated acts lead to habits.  Habits eventually define our character and our life’s outcome.  Such is the unfortunate phenomenon of addictions, such as pornography, alcoholism, habitual drug use, shoplifting, lying, and those with reputations for anger.

Lord, help us to use this principle of repetition to form habits in our character that will bring us closer to You, more like Jesus, and more effective for Your kingdom purposes.

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“I will hear from heaven.”

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”                                           2 Chronicles 7:14

Gratefully, our God is a God who hears — the very name given by God to Ishmael, to compensate for the harsh treatment of Hagar by the jealous Sarai — “because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.”  Hagar thankfully praised Him, “You are a God who sees.”                                                    Genesis 16:11, 13;  21:17

This same attentive Father-God who cares about the needs of His followers saw and heard and acted on behalf of His people during their suffering in Egypt:

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”                                                                               Exodus 3:7-8

He cares for us in the way, hearing our pleadings, as we groan under the trials of life.  The Good Shepherd is especially attentive to His sheep who are humble and aware of their brokenness, eager for their Maker to fix them.

““For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word
.”           Isaiah 66:2

Dear Father who cares for us, we thank You for hearing the crying of our hearts, for hurting with us, for seeing the troubles we face, and doing what is right and best for us.  We mentally throw the arms of our hearts around Your strong neck and cling tightly to  You for the strength we lack.

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