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We have two choices, satisfy the flesh or satisfy the Spirit.  The flesh can be satisfied in many ways: eating, drinking, sleeping, fornication, exercising, etc. which in and of themselves are not bad as long as they are done within limits.  The problem is that the more we focus on fulfilling our desires of the flesh, we will make less restrictions and will end up constrained to do whatever we have to in order to meet our craving.  The more you satisfy the flesh, you will continue to expect more and better satisfactions out of habit.  The Spirit can only be satisfied one way and that is to be still with God.  When you begin to satisfy the Spirit, you will find contentment and joy with all that you have in the flesh and will want deeper satisfactions for the Spirit.  What will you plan to satisfy when you wake up?  What will you feed while you are awake?  How will you feel before going to sleep? 

Romans 5:20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6: “12 Do not let sin control the way you live;do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

Romans 8: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)…12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Hebrews 2:14 states, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”  In The Art of War, Sun Tzu states that:  “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  The truth is that life is filled with battles, the enemy is Satan and his greatest weapons are providing thoughts to human beings to satisfy their own desires.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  When we depend on our own strengths and fight alone, we will lose and die.  When we put our entire trust in Jesus Christ, we find mercy and with mercy we receive grace.  For further clarification, mercy means not getting what we do deserve (withheld punishment) and grace is getting what we do not deserve (unmerited favor).  When we depend on His mercy rather than our own goodness, we gain better understanding of our identity in Christ and are able to live out our lives each day having no fear and no worries of what lies ahead. 

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor who has made the following statements:  “What is to give light must first endure burning.”  “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  He reminds us that “true happiness in life depends not on conditions but on decisions.”  We read in Job 33:27-30, “I sinned and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.  He redeemed my soul from going down to the grave, and I will live to enjoy the light of life.  God does all these things to a man several times to turn back his soul from the grave, that the light of life may shine on him.”  Hebrews 4:16 instructs, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”  In the meantime, God is calling us out of mercy and into obedience.  Eventually it dawns on all of us that we cannot get away with unrepentant sin.  It’s as if God gradually withdraws his mercy after we have come to a knowledge of the truth.  God’s mercy has served its purpose, now it is time for obedience.  Romans 12:1 declares, “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.”

Galatians 5:16-26 (Message): “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?  It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.  This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.  But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.  Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”

John Wesley would frequently ask his congregation, “Have you availed yourself to the means of grace this week?”  I would like to go further and ask: will grace be the first thought that comes to your mind when you wake up?  Will grace be remembered and reflected towards others as you go through your day?  Will you go to sleep with a thankful heart because of the means of grace? 

Colossians 3:1-17 (Message):  “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.  Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.  And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.  Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.  So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”


Divine Renovation

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Have you ever had one of those times of feeling like you are wondering around in the darkness, lost in a valley, caught up in the storms of life?  You question why you are there and what you are doing there alone.  As for me, I had lost track of how long I have been focused on going through the daily motions and focusing on how I can accomplish my own goals.  I am reminded of the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13, “He said, Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”  This story is describing the calm after the storm that consists of the intense silence that comes after the unfathomable display of God’s glorious power.  It was the silence that got Elijah’s attention and caused him to leave the cave and get back to work, doing what God had called him to do.  It was only after the storm where he learned to rely on the promises of God and trust that the work is His to define and achieve.

It is imperative to be still and listen to know God intimately, not just His blessings that He has provided, but to become aware of His existence and character.  Romans 12:2 provides guidance by declaring, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Jesus has affirmed in Matthew 10:39 that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  I really like what the Life Application Study Bible had to say regarding that text:  “This verse is a positive and negative statement of the same truth: clinging to this life may cause us to forfeit the best from Christ in this world and in the next.  The more we love this life’s rewards (leisure, power, popularity, financial security), the more we will discover how empty they really are.  The best way to enjoy life, therefore, is to loosen our greedy grasp on earthly rewards so that we can be free to follow Christ.  In doing so, we will inherit eternal life and begin at once to experience the benefits of following Christ.  Real discipleship implies real commitment – pledging our whole existence to his service.  If we try to save our physical life from death, pain, or discomfort, we may risk losing our true eternal life.  If we protect ourselves from pain, we begin to die spiritually and emotionally.  Our lives turn inward, and we lose our intended purpose.  When we give our lives in service to Christ, however, we discover the real purpose of living.  When we don’t know Christ, we make choices as though this life were all we have.  In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity.  How we live this brief span, however, determines our eternal state.  What we accumulate on earth has no value in purchasing eternal life.  Even the highest social or civic honors cannot earn us entrance into heaven.  Evaluate all that happens from an eternal perspective, and you will find your values and decisions changing.”

We find in 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “Then Samuel said, Do you think all God wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show?  He wants you to listen to him!  Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production.  Not doing what God tells you is far worse than fooling around in the occult.  Getting self-important around God is far worse than making deals with your dead ancestors.  Because you said No to God’s command, he says No to your kingship.”  With that being said, we need to be sincere with our faith and serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We need to acknowledge the fact that Jesus completed the work at the cross and has given us a simple mission of spreading the good news of His victory over sin and death.  We study and meditate on the Bible to grow deeper in our faith and relationship with God and with other people.  We are a free, however, freedom can only come by a price and that is submission to authority.  The choice of who to submit to belongs to each individual.  We either submit to the authority of this world in which Satan has temporary influence in and cave in to peer pressure and do as we please that ultimately leads to death OR submit to our Creator, God who gives life and follow His commands that He put in place for our own protection and well-being.

Galatians 2:20 declares, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Furthermore in Romans 8:1-8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set youfree in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  I have learned the hard way that we can not live by the Spirit on our own.  Everybody needs each other, Jesus established Church so that those who believe in Him may become strengthened through meeting with other believers and everyone obtains accountability in order to live as we should.

I would like to conclude this blog with Psalm 119:25-32 from the Message translation.  I encourage you to let this be a guide for prayer for those times where you feel lost just as I have during this journey of life here on earth:

“I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
if you’ll just show me how.”