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God’s ‘Safety Valves’

14 Oct

Passing by the primate area one day, a zoo attendant happened to notice a chimpanzee sitting on a rock with an open book in each hand. He looked first at one book and then the other.

Upon closer examination, the attendant identified the books:  the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Curious, the attendant asked the chip, “What’s with the books?”

The chimp replied, “I’m trying to decide whether I’m my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.” * LOL!

With some choices there’s not much difference ~ like choosing between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a matter of taste. But other times, choices are as clearly different as those two books in the chimps hands. Some choices can change the direction of our lives.

Can you think back to a crucial decision that took you down a different path? Maybe it was a foolish choice. You didn’t anticipate the consequences. Looking back now, you wonder how you ever could have missed the signs, the clues that your choice was destructive or hurtful. It’s a choice you now regret.

Or maybe you made a wise choice that helped you grow, led to success or opened up more opportunities. You’re so glad you made that choice!

What was the difference? Was it just the choices before you? We have options to choose every day, all day long. The choices just are. Just like temptations. You might face one temptation and it’s like water off a duck’s back; face another kind of temptation and you fall head first! What makes the difference is our response. Temptations have no power unless we act on them.

1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us how to respond to temptation:“… God is faithful and he will not let you

A Safety Valve

be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape….” The same is true when faced with a wrong or foolish choice. We can always look for God’s “way of escape.” It is a safety valve that helps us when the pressure to sin or be unwise gets strong.

The way of escape may actually be proactive. All sin starts in the heart and mind, when we want something that is not good for us, something God has declared “off limits” or destructive.  We need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and mind. We need to be careful what we allow into our thoughts through the media, especially, because they can become a constant source of temptation. God provides mercy when we repent of and forsake any “ways” that are contrary to His ways (Isaiah 55:6-7) ~ wrong desires in our hearts, wrong habits and behaviors.

The way of escape comes when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us (Galatians 5:16-25). It is not by our might or power, but by God’s spirit that we accomplish anything (Zechariah 4:6). The Spirit makes us overcomers! (1 John 4:4)

The way of escape also comes as we renew our mind (Romans 12:1-2). What we feed our mind will eventually come out, but we can change the direction of our thinking and refresh “the spirit of our mind” in Christ (Galatians 6:8a; Ephesians 4:17-24) and the Word of God. We study, meditate on, and apply the principles of scripture that help us stand strong against temptations and make wise choices.

The way of escape comes in our commitment to glorify God in purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). While will power can only take us so far (which is why we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit), we can resolve to say “no” to temptations. We can purpose to make choices that lead to holiness.

The way of escape also comes through accountability. The Bible encourages us to exhort (encourage) one another and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We can ask Christian friends to help us fight temptation. We can seek God together for wisdom to make wise choices.

Are you facing some tough choices? Is temptation knocking at your door? God wants to give wisdom, and He offers safety valves ~ His way of escape in many forms. How will you respond?

* from CyberSaltDigest.com, 7-7-11

– Dawn

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Wearing Clean Clothes?

2 Sep

While waiting for my husband to try on some clothes at Macy’s the other day, I remembered a joke someone told me:

A man sat in the “husband chairs” as his wife tried on clothes in a fancy store.

After almost an hour of watching his wife parade outfit after outfit for his “approval,” the poor man had definitely had it!

So the next time his wife came out of the changing room, he exclaimed, “Wow, Babe. That’s a knockout! Why don’t you buy that one?”

His wife frowned. “Oh, right,” she said, “This is what I was wearing when we CAME IN!”  

LOL … and hold that thought.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I had a spiritual revelation when I heard that joke.

I heard this little voice ask me, “Are you wearing what you had on when you came in?”

Let me explain.

I thought about the day I came to Christ ~ that wonderful garment of holiness I received when I became a Christ-follower. I remember how clean and pure I felt when I first gave my life to Him.

But I get my spiritual “clothes” so soiled sometimes. Don’t you? That’s why the writer of Hebrews urges us to “Make every effort… to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14). It takes effort!  Yes, it’s true that when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9), we are clean through the blood of the Lamb ~ but the scriptures tell us some things to “put off” and other things to “put on” (Ephesians 4:22-24). When we do, our spiritual garments stay fresh and clean.

The apostle Paul uses the words “put off” to illustrate that we need to “divest” ourselves of some things … to strip them off just as we would some dirty clothes. We need to do this daily, because the corruption in the world tends to cling to us.

What kinds of things do we “put off”? We put off anything that belongs to the corrupted old self. Things that we repent over and leave behind. Various lusts within and influences without make our spiritual garments spotty and smelly!

I read recently that harmful bacteria can linger on clothes we think are clean. In the same way, we may think we are “clean” before the Lord … but it’s good to ask Him if there is “something else” lingering in our lives ~ a “hint” of the unclean (see Ephesians 5:3), or perhaps something we need to see from God’s  perspective.

After we “put off” the unclean things, there are things that we “put on”… things that relate to the new self. It’s not a matter of us trying to “launder” our soiled clothes, but rather to strip them off and allow the Lord to give us fresh, pure garments as He transforms us from within. We are a new creation in Christ … created for true righteousness and holiness. And God’s Word lists many ways that we can put on the pure character of Christ. 

This is not an exhaustive list* by any means, but simply some suggestions for consideration:

Can you imagine how exciting and effective your life would be if you Put Off and Put On all of those things? Wow!

The important thing is that we realize we have the opportunity every day to wear clean spiritual garments, just as when we first came to Christ.

His grace, mercy and forgiveness are powerful, and our Father God is working to transform us every day into the image of Christ. And ONE DAY, we will receive a spotless garment ~ “fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:14) for all eternity! Praise God!

* There are many such lists on the internet… here is one.

– Dawn

Creatures of Habit

29 Jul

OOPS!

This post appeared earlier today (unfinished)! Sorry about that, if you wondered. I was planning it for September, but accidentally clicked on the wrong button, so I guess I’ll send it out today! (I’m a creature of habit … which really makes this funny, with the title.)

Anyway, before we get started …

My friend Janet Baker, a secretary for her church Bible study in Georgia, sends out a simple newsletter each week with reminders about the upcoming study session. She said at the end of almost every email, she adds a LOL from the LOL with God book to brighten the ladies’ week. Thank you, Janet! That’s being creative as well as encouraging.

And now for our LOL …

The driver screamed! He lost control of the taxi, nearly hitting a bus. He drove up the sidewalk and crashed into a store window.

After a few seconds of total silence, the driver yelled at his passenger.

” You scared me half to death!” he said.

The stunned passenger apologized and said he didn’t realize a little tap on the shoulder could scare him so much.

“You’re right,” the driver replied. “I’m sorry. It’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. I’ve been driving a hearse for 25 years.”

That driver was responding out of his experiences over many, many years. We do that too. We are creatures of habit.

The good thing about habits is that we can leave some things to our subconscious. Patterned grooves in our brain allow us to remember important things like phone numbers, our locker combination at the gym, our spouse’s birthday, etc.

The bad thing about habits is that we can succumb to nasty stuff just because we always have.

Psychologists tell us we need to get precise (very specific) when we want to change a habit. We need to think about the specific habit we want to change. Then we need to expect that it’s going to be difficult. After all, there’s that groove in the brain thing. And finally, we need to plan what we’ll do when we get tired of making positive changes, because changing habits are hard and everything in us will resist change.  We need to figure out what we’ll do when we feel most vulnerable.

We face our habits in many ways. We might rationalize our behavior. We might not really want to change. Or we might be trying and failing.

The truth is, it takes proactive choices to change habits. It takes positive replacement (Romans 12:1-2). We might temporarily change a habit, but more often than not, it takes more than will power; it takes the power of God.

Romans 8:2 explains that the struggle with bad habits (sinful or hindering habits) that captivate us (Romans 7:22-23) can only be conquered by the power of the Holy Spirit within us … the law of the Spirit working in us to overcome the law of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).

Have I arrived? Have I conquered all of my bad habits. Certainly not. But I’ll tell you … there’s been some real breakthroughs! And I’m glad, because God didn’t rescue and redeem my life so I could live a “normal” life. He changed me so I can live a supernatural life.

Here are some things that are helping me get rid of bad habits in my life:

1. I’m getting in the habit of yielding my life (every part of it) in prayer to God’s control, and asking Him for guidance and strength (Romans 6:1-14).

2. I’m getting in the habit of recognizing and confessing every detour (sin) into areas where God doesn’t’ want me to live (1 John 1:9).

3. I’m getting in the habit of thanking the Lord for the power of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

4. I’m getting in the habit of praising God for every victory ~ a God-ward focus (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Peter 2:9).

5. I’m getting in the habit of believing God for not only the ultimate victory (never experiencing the presence of sin in heaven), but many powerful-right-now victories as He conforms me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Think about your habits today. What characterizes your life? What do you do on a regular basis? What are you known for?

You ARE a creature of habit ~ either habits that pull you away from holiness and pleasing God, or habits that make you a better Kingdom Servant, bringing joy to the One who loves you.

May we all be godly creatures of habit … living out the life the Creator designed for us.

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