Is Your Spiritual Life in a Rut?

Because of a recent, week-end snow, many churches in the area canceled their Sunday activities. In our church, the decision was made Saturday to have one worship service at 1:00 pm Sunday, for those who could safely come to church.

That Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the snow glistened from the morning sun. It was a beautiful day. But the day was different from anything I had experienced for years. On a normal Sunday, my wife and I would attend the 10:50 am service. Since it would be lunch time when we got out of church, my wife and I would usually eat out after church.

The first thing we had to decide was what to do about lunch? Do we eat at home or go out and hope we are done eating in time for church? Most of the churches had cancelled services, so we really did not have to ‘beat the Baptists’ to the restaurant.

After we ate, we arrived at church a few minutes before the service was to start. We greeted our friends with “Good Morning” before realizing it was afternoon. We had the usual “congregation upset” where you greet the people around you. Again everyone was saying “good morning”.

We normally have two services on Sunday morning. We also have a lot of congregation participation in the service, so in some cases we had two different people to do the same thing, or we did not have anyone to do a given part of the service. But it was amazing. Everyone seemed to just step in and the service went smoothly.

The sequence of the service was the same as usual. However, I found myself a bit confused because it was afternoon and not morning. I had to think about what each part of the service meant to my worship that day. I realized that so many things we do have become so routine, that we miss the blessing God has for us.

As a society, we are moving at such a fast pace that our lives become routine. We do many things while we are thinking about the next thing we are going to do or say.

I ask you this question: “Is your spiritual life in a rut?” Are you going through the worship service thinking about what is next? Or, are you basking in an intimate relationship with God?

Hopefully your spiritual life is not bound up in just a church service. It should be obvious every minute of the day. Are we so wound up in following ‘our routine’ that we are unaware of God’s presence every moment of the day? Are we also unaware of the people around us that need a savior?

God made mankind so He would have someone with which to have a loving relationship. God loved us so much that he gave his only son so we could have a restored relationship with him. But we are so concerned about ourselves and what we are doing that we forget God.

The Apostle Peter says it best:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:11-17(NIV)

Enjoy the life that God gave you and do not let your routine activity destroy the relationship God wants with you.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Are you Being Controlled?

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16(NIV)

The Bible tells us a lot about control. However it is usually referring to ‘self-control’. We answer to God regarding our actions. We  are instructed to control our own behavior and not the behavior of others.

The difference between being controlled and being obedient is an act of the will. Obedience results when we willingly accept the instruction of the person we are serving. With obedience, we do what we are expected to do to meet the obligation of a contractual agreement, whether the agreement is written or spoken.

Obedience brings benefits to the person who is obedient. It may be a salary, vacation, bonus, health insurance, retirement income, etc. However when you are being controlled by another person, the benefits go to the person that is doing the controlling.

Being controlled by someone else is when you are coerced into a given behavior. Frequently we think of this as ‘being manipulated’. In Romans 6, Paul is referring to this as slavery. When someone controls our behavior, we become slaves to the person who is controlling us.

Why do people allow themselves to be controlled by others? It is usually because of fear.

For instance, in the marriage relationship, when one spouse attempts to control the other spouse, it usually results from the fear of losing the relationship. There is fear for both spouses. One spouse feels that if they do not their spouse, they will lose the marriage while the other spouse acts out of the same fear. In other words, they want the marriage to be the way they dreamed it would be and not the way their spouse dreamed it would be.

Another example is the parent that instills fear in their children by always threatening them with negative consequences every time they behave differently that the parent wants want it to be. Frequently, the parents are fearful that their children will act in a way that will cause the parents embarrassment or make them look less important than they want people to believe. The child fears the consequences of not doing what the parent wants them to do. The parents fears that people will find out that they are not as good as they want people to think. It is a fear that their deceptions will be uncovered.

Sometime we allow ourselves to be controlled because we are fearful of making a wrong decision. We do not have the confidence we need to make those decisions. We are afraid of what people will think of us if we make a mistake.

In our daily lives, we often hear about some type of bullying taking place. Bullying is a form of controlling another person’s behavior. Bullying is using a form of fear for coercing the bullied person to behave in a way acceptable to the bully. If that person failed to comply with the bully’s request, they will experience some type of pain or death.

What Paul is saying in his letter to the Romans is this: If we comply with a controller’s demands, we are a slave to that controller.

 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18(NIV)

If you are allowing someone to control your life you are living in fear and not in love.

“But you, Israel, my servant Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:8-10(NIV)

God was telling Jacob not to fear because God had chosen him. God would be with him, strengthen him and help him. If you have accepted God’s gift of salvation, God has chosen you. He wants you to be filled with love, not fear. He wants you to be obedient to him and to follow him out of love.

When someone else wants you to become their slave turn your situation over to God. He will supply all of your needs and do it with love, not fear.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19(NIV)

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog has been downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Forgive as God Forgave

Paul in 2 Corinthians 1-11, is talking about a person that has offended the church at Corinth.   Paul tells them that they have punished him enough so that Paul did not need to punish him. However, Paul does say that once the punishment has been delivered, the person needs to be forgiven.

“The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:6-11(NIV)

In Colossians 3, Paul also says this about the Christian and their responsibility to forgive.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14(NIV)

God has given us the perfect example of forgiveness when he forgave our sins. Paul did not say “forgive as the Lord forgave you, BUT…” There is only one sin that God does not forgive. That sin occurs when someone blasphemes the Holy Spirit.

 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.Matthew 12:30-32(NIV)

If God forgives anyone who sins against him, then we can forgive anyone who sins against us.

Jesus also talked about forgiving others when he taught his disciples to pray. In fact immediately after he gave them the prayer in Matthew 6, he said:

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15(NIV)

The choice to forgive is ours. However, if we chose not to forgive others, God will not forgive us.

Struggling with forgiveness has been shown in the Bible from the very beginning. In Matthew 28, Peter is struggling with forgiveness. He asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive a brother or sister who sins against him. Jesus replied seventy-seven times!

Then Jesus told a story of a servant who owed his master a large sum of money that he could not pay. After the servant begged his master to forgive his debt, the master agreed and forgave his debt.

Having his debt forgiven, the servant then went to another man who owed him money and demanded his money. Even though the man begged for forgiveness, the servant had him put into jail until he could pay the debt, which was the accepted penalty for failure to pay a debt.

When the master heard that the servant had not forgiven the man’s debt, he called the servant in and demanded immediate payment for his debt.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. Matthew 18:32-36(NIV)

God expects us to forgive others in the same way he forgave us. Jesus paid the price for all of our sins not just a few small ones.

When God forgives us, he no longer holds those sins against us. He does not hold them in our face and remind us of those sins. He does however; continue to love us and to treat us as though we have not sinned against him.

When we forgive others, do we keep a list of the thing that we have forgiven “just in case” we need them later?

One of the greatest problems in relationships today is the failure to forgive as God forgives. We are more concerned about ourselves than we are about forgiving others. We are concerned about being ‘used’ by someone. We are concerned that they may commit the same sin again. In fact, we may even attempt to catch them committing the same sin against us.

Have you ever asked God to forgive a sin, and then you repeat the same sin a few days later? Did God go back and reinstate the first sin because you failed again? No, when he forgives you, he does not hold that sin against you. God continues to love you and to encourage you to do what is right. Do we love and encourage those who’s sins we have forgiven?

We have often heard the expression: Forgive and forget. Forgiveness does not require forgetting. God doesn’t forget, he just refuses to look at that sin again. Sin has consequences that sometimes cannot be forgotten, but they can be still be forgiven. Forgiveness needs to come from the heart and not from our emotions.

Love does not dwell on the sins committed against us, it dwells on the forgiveness given for those sins. The good news of the gospel is not that we do not sin anymore. The good news of the gospel is that there is forgiveness when we do sin. When someone sins against you, they do not need to feel guilty, but they do need to feel forgiven and loved.

When we sin against God, does He hold us hostage until we pay the price of that sin? No, God has already paid the price for sin. Are you holding someone hostage because of a sin they have committed? When you see that person, do you rehearse in your mind the sin they committed against you or do you remember the good that they have done? God still loves them and has forgiven them. You can also forgive them with the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Release your hostages and forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

Note: All scripture used in this article were downloaded from www.biblegateway.com, January 7, 2016