…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
A lot of dilemmas that people find themselves in stem from their own choices, actions and behaviors. Maybe they were sexually promiscuous for years, went down the path of sexual promiscuity since they were teenagers, neglected their marriage and treated their spouse horribly, committed adultery, got divorced, entered into a step-family situation…the list can go on. The source or cause of the current issues and problems can be interchangeable, but the same question comes forth. They want to know how they can fix it, undo it and “make it normal”.
Most people want some magic prayer or answer as to how they can make it like it never happened. In other words, how do I unscramble the eggs that I scrambled? They don’t like the consequences of the choices they made in the past and don’t want those consequences to impact the present or future. Here’s the hard truth: We reap what we sow. It’s in The Bible and apparently churches aren’t teaching this to their people outside of the financial context. Preachers will often use the concept in terms of money, yet fail to extrapolate it to the whole of life.
If you never pay attention to your spouse, if you have an affair, if you sleep with a dozen different people and get an STD, guess what? You reap the negative consequences. But, if you spend time with your spouse, stay faithful in your marriage, remain a virgin and live monogamously, you reap the positive consequences. Amazing how that works!
The world never talks about the ramifications of our choices. A point of fact, personal responsibility and understanding cause and effect is a rare thing in the culture of today. Hollywood makes it seem as if there are no consequences to amoral behavior and that as long as you are doing what feels good to you and makes you happy, everything will be fine. But that is a lie. What we do has a direct connection to what we get in life.
Just take a look at our financial condition in our country today.
Here is where many Christians get hung up. They may have done all sorts of things prior to coming to faith, or even as a practicing believer, and they understand the concept of sin and forgiveness. So they ask God to forgive them of their sins and then expect the consequences of those sins to be erased. They misunderstand what it means to be forgiven of sin.
Before God it is as if these things had never happened. He does forgive and remove the guilt of our transgressions and makes us pure in our standing before Him. But the consequences remain for us to deal with. Please hear what I’m saying…can God do anything? Yes! He can remove every memory you have, restore any relationship, heal your mind and body of disease, and every other thing under the sun that we can ask for or need.
And I certainly can give you my best advice on how to live in the situation, deal with your circumstances, cope with the outcomes, manage the consequences and still have a good life. What I can’t do is tell you how to take it all away and make the fallout of your choices disappear because the principle of sowing and reaping always applies.
Paul writes in Galatian 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived:God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
It’s an imperative teaching that churches must pass onto their people and parents must get into their children. Yet, even though Paul warns us, it seems many Christians are deceived.
They operate under the delusion that they can scramble the eggs and then God, or their pastor can unscramble them. People think they can sow poison and destruction in their lives and that somehow there is a magic prayer to say or a magic wand to wave so they reap blessings and goodness. They want to harvest what they did not plant and think that it’s not fair to get anything less than their greatest wishes and desires. Christians think this way because they fail to understand the biblical concept of sowing and reaping sin, and its consequences.
Just look at David, one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history, yet the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, were with him for the rest of his life on earth.
It’s as if they are now sitting with a plate of scrambled eggs and saying, “But I don’t want my eggs scrambled. I want fried eggs. I prayed and asked God to change them into fried. Pastor Mark, make these fried for me, will you?” And here’s the deal. You can’t unscramble them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the plate of eggs. You may prefer, fried. You may long for fried. You may look at the other people sitting at the table enjoying their fried eggs and wish that you could have what they are having. You may think it’s not fair that you get stuck with the scramble eggs. But the bottom line is they are still good eggs. You can eat them, live with them and enjoy them just the same.
It’s important to learn and teach our kids that if you want fried eggs, it’s best not to scramble them in the first place.
Make good choices in your life, and teach your children to do the same. Then you will reap the blessings all through this life.
Believers often find themselves living in contradiction to the world, and we should. The runaway anxiety and constant fear that grips so much of the world does not have the same hold on us—or at least, it shouldn’t. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at anxiety from a biblical perspective, and examining God’s care and provision for His people, and how that should free us from worry.
Today we’re bringing our Attacking Anxiety series to a close with part three of our discussion on Paul’s prayer that we would know and rest in God’s lasting peace and grace. The apostle wrote, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18).
A final characteristic of God’s peace is that it is not subject to circumstances. Paul’s prayer was that we might continually enjoy it “in every circumstance” (v. 16). This peace is not subject to anything that happens in the worldly realm. It is not built on any human relationship, and it’s not dependent on human feelings, decisions, or situations.
Rather, God’s peace is built on a divine plan and promise from an unfailing God who will secure you in Himself, and who will do everything for your good. This peace is a product of an unchanging divine relationship, and it is unbreakable, unassailable, and transcendent.
As we noted earlier, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He was saying, “There’s nothing to fear or be anxious about because I’m giving you a divine, lasting peace that cannot be fractured or damaged by the world.” We demonstrate that Jesus keeps His promises when, in the midst of worldly upheavals that would normally tear us up and trouble our lives, we remain calm.
Paul’s great desire was that we enjoy that kind of well-being, which is why he prayed toward that end. His parting wish was this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). He wanted every man and woman who would ever put his or her faith in Christ to experience the abiding presence of God’s grace.
Grace is God’s goodness or benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). It was in the person of God’s Son that “the grace of God has appeared,” making salvation available to all (Titus 2:11). Once we embrace this saving grace through faith in Christ, we are blessed with God’s grace, enabling us to withstand any difficulty that would tend to make us anxious. Paul described this grace while confessing to a difficulty that brought him great anxiety:
There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. . . . Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians12:7-10)
As believers, we also are blessed with the grace that equips us for divine service. Paul expressed his appreciation for this grace in saying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy . . . the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
Grace is what enables us to grow spiritually in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In the material realm, Paul appealed to God’s grace in encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous in giving to the Lord’s work: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it. And again, like God’s peace, the conditions for receiving it are trusting God, forsaking sin, enduring the refining process, doing good, and living by the Word. As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and grace. And that has a wonderful way of crowding out anxiety.
I want to close this series on a personal note. Just a few days after preaching a sermon on the peace and grace God bestows on His people, I had an unprecedented opportunity to apply it to my own life: I was notified that my wife and youngest daughter were in a serious auto accident, and that my wife, Patricia, would probably die. Everything seemed like a blur to me, the details frustratingly sketchy—I was afraid she was already dead. During my hour-long drive to the hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on the severity of the situation. Yet I experienced a deep and steeled peace simply because I knew God had not failed me—His grace was in complete control.
I am happy to report that God spared both their lives, and that Patricia recovered beautifully. If you too rely on God’s grace, He will see you through the most difficult trials.
We read so much today about physical healing and miracles that deal with the physical nature, and those are all well and good, but we will all eventually succumb to old age and the body will give out and the door of death is something that we will all have to walk through one day. To me, the greatest miracle of all is the miracle that lasts throughout eternity, the miracle of a changed Heart.
About four years ago my mother-in-law’s life was taken over by pancreatic cancer. It is a horrible cancer, as all cancers are. To just watch as a person’s life ebbs away and all you can do is try to make them as comfortable as possible.It’s a very emotional and trying time for everyone. I say this not for pity or sadness on my part, but for my wife Lori.
Lori and I met about eighteen years ago when life was throwing me a curve. Lori gave me hope and the spark that was so buried deep inside me. Oh, I tried to fight it and stay in my self-pity, but she did not give up. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. We got married and I will save the rest of that story for another blog, but what I really want to concentrate on is her current situation.
After Lori’s mom passed, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer also. She also passed from this world and went on to the next. To take two hits like that is hard enough for anyone, but there was more to come.
Lori also suffers from degenerative back decease. She walks around most of the time in pain, physical pain. There is also an emotional pain that she walks around with too. That pain is called her Father.
He made cancer seem like a walk in the park. No man that I have ever met can compare with the selfish, angry, hateful heart that this man possessed. This heart did not come from the emotional pain that he endured from the death of his wife. Her passing from this life to the next was an entrance, from the fifty five years of hell that this man, put her through, to a place of peace and rest, where there is no more crying…. She is finally free from all of that.
This all goes back to when he lost his sister, who was just seven years old at the time, to cancer also. Those pressures and emotional scares were deep and Bob carried them throughout his lifetime. It was the only way he knew how to live with his very hurting and troubled heart.
Now the incarceration of my wife begins. Bob was trying to do the same things to my wife, his daughter, that he did to his wife. The verbal abuse, the constant harassment of phone calls, and demands for her time were never ending.
The story went on, and Lori and I both continued to pray for Bob. We prayed that God would keep us strong. To help us see what is really going on inside him. What is making him act the way he does. He is hurting. He is so very angry. And God, what is our part in all this? Sometimes I wanted to wring his neck, and other times I felt sorry for him.
He was the one who was really in prison. He was the one that kept himself locked in, so afraid to come out, so afraid to face himself. But that is the only way he would ever be free. That is the only way any of us will ever be free. When we look in the mirror and see who we really are.
John 8:32;” And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Well that prison door was about to be opened. It all started when Bob joined our men’s bible study.
I want to talk now about the miracle God performed in Bob, my father-in-law’s life.
He joined the men’s bible study that I facilitated. He really loved getting out of the house and being one of the guys, ever since his wife died. We would talk about our sports teams and we always had something to say about our beloved, Detroit Lions. We would do our best to tell of how we would right the ship, if only we were the Head Coach of the Lions. Once we got all that out of our system, we really did open our bibles and get into a study of God’s word. We would drink our coffee, and eat our little munchies and share life with each other. It was a good time.
Bob would come over to my house and we would ride together to the church where the bible study was held. Sometimes he would get there two hours early. Since I only lived three minutes from the church, it left a lot of time for us to talk.
Sometimes we would go out to dinner or just sit in the kitchen and talk before it was time to go to the study. Bob was lonely, and all he wanted was someone to talk too. I know that I would complain sometimes, because he would come over so early, and I had things to do, but you know, I kind of didn’t mind. We would have some good talks, and looking back, God was letting me see inside into Bob’s heart, and I was seeing something start to happen. Bob was reading his bible every day. Even his next door neighbor said she saw him sitting on their back deck reading his bible.
God was doing something in Bob’s heart. He was changing this man from the inside. He didn’t seem so uptight about things like he used too. He was actually starting to be nice to people. People were starting to notice this as well as us.
The real proof came on Christmas. We had all of the family over our house for our yearly Christmas celebration. Food was out, and everyone was mingling and talking and just sharing the joy of the season. Normally Bob would sit at the table and not talk to anyone, unless he was spoken too. But this year was different. He was reaching out to the kids and talking to them, and saying hello to everyone. He even sat with his daughter-in-law and talked to her for about an hour. He gave her a hug and a kiss when she left to go home. Now this was something that everyone stood up and took notice of, because everyone knew that Bob did not like Debbie. In the past he would never have spoken with her, let alone give her a hug and a kiss good bye. Everyone saw this and took notice that this was not the Bob they all new.
When everyone left, Bob stayed. He stayed for about three hours. I could tell that he just wanted to talk to someone. So we sat down at the kitchen table… and we talked.
He told us about a time when his mother had come to live with them. This was way back when my wife was still living at home. He proceeded to tell us how his wife treated his mother,” like she was an angel,” he said. “She treated her like a queen”, he continued. But the most shocking thing came next. With watery eyes, and a difficult time getting the words out, he admittedly said,” but I treated her like a jerk. I was an idiot.”
It was a very emotional moment, but this man, maybe for the first time in his life, was admitting that he was wrong. He admitted that he was not the man that he portrayed himself to be, and he had definitely not lived the kind of life that God required of him. He told me; “I just want to get to heaven and be with my Vergie.” That was his nick name for his wife. She had died of pancreatic cancer about twenty months before all this. They had been together for fifty five years.
Through the prayers, love and friendship of so many people, and most of all, the intervening of God’s word in Bob’s life, this man was changing right before our eyes. You have heard of the miracles of people being cured of physical ailments. I think the greatest miracle of all is when God gives a person a new heart. One that can see and feel the world from the way God sees everything.
On January 12, 2009, Robert McMaster died of a massive heart attack. They said that he was dead before he hit the ground.
I believe with my whole heart, and not a doubt in my mind, that Bob has finally reached the place that he always wanted to be. He is in heaven, and he is with his Vergie.
If there was ever a person whom I thought was totally unreachable with the gospel of Jesus Christ, Bob would have been that person. I would have said that there was no way God could change Bob McMasters heart. I was so wrong.
God taught me that nothing is impossible with Him at the controls. Not only is Bob a great example of this, but my life as well.
The night that we went over to Bob’s house, after we got the call of his death, we found Bob’s bible opened to this verse.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3
Right now Bob and Vergie are in the place that God had been preparing for them. How about you? Have you examined your heart lately? Better yet, why not let God take a look at it. After all… He’s the one who wired it up. No one knows better how to fix it than He does. Just ask Him. He will do it.
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55: 8-11
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Through the years since the life of Jesus Christ on this earth, the gospel, or good news of God, has changed and evolved into different guides and peramiters that we have put it in.
Simply believe on Jesus and His shed blood on the cross, and you’re saved. Nothing more. It’s nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all true, but A man’s professed faith may be nothing more than mental assent to a well-known fact. Such intellectual agreement involves no commitment of the person, and does not produce a transformed life. It is not enough to believe in the existence of God. True, this is essential, but it is not sufficient. Even the demons believe in the existence of God and they shudder at the thought of their eventual punishment by Him. (James 2:19)
The word believe carries with it much more than just an intellectual accent to this existence of God. I think our human nature is always willing to give just what I have to to get by and no more.
Look at all the failed marriages in America today. People that believed and vowed their alligence to one person, until death due they part, but when life starts to crash against us, and spill it’s waves inside our boats, we look for the first way out. Where is our love and commitment when these storms arise?
There was the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the commandments, and he replied that he wholeheartedly has kept all of them. He had kept the law, the rules and regulations that the law required, he had done just enough, but what was Jesus reply?
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy.” Luke 18:22-23
Jesus told him that he still lacked something, and that was a real commitment from the heart, and he couldn’t do that because his money was filling that empty spot in his heart. Jesus said get rid of that money and I will fill that empty place in your heart with Me.
Jesus knew what he was thinking and told him, ” don’t worry because you will have treasure in heaven.” Sadly the rich young ruler couldn’t make a real commitment. He turned and walked away.
I’ll bet that rich young ruler looked real good in church on Sunday. Probably was the head of a men’s bible study, maybe even an elder in his church, and even helped people out with his money, but where was his heart really?
There is the story of the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37, who asks the same question of Jesus and this time Jesus goes further with His answer with a story of His own, about the good Samaritan. It is more then just doing what you have to do to get by, if you aren’t willing to live it, then you haven’t made a real commitment.
Peter also made such a commitment to Jesus. After Jesus told them of His death and how they would all scatter and leave Him alone., Peter turned to Jesus and vowed that even if everyone else ran off, he would never leave, as a matter of fact, he would even give his life for Jesus.
Peter meant what he said and Jesus knew that, and Peter’s life proved it, but he had it all wrong, it was Jesus who would lay His life down for him. Peter’s heart was in the right place, but Jesus knew that he was still going to have to go through more training. Remember what Jesus told him;
Luke 22:31 “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” Satan wanted to get at Peter because he was a leader and his heart was 100% sold out to Jesus.
Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether He was telling the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and follow Him or telling a crowd of people, who were only looking for the next miracle, that to do the work of God was to believe on Him, (John 6:28-29), He called for people to abandon their own agenda and trust Him radically. Radical trust calls for both believing and acting upon that belief.
Love is believing and committing, and always followed with action. Any other way is not real.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt. 16:24-25
We plan our wills, our finances, our health, and our vacations. When we are planning a vacation, we go through great lengths to plan and organize everything. Where stops will be, how long we’re going to be staying there, and what we’re going to wear….etc. The list is never-ending. When my wife and I go on a short weekend trip, she takes enough clothing for a month. When we plan a promoting scheme for our business, we leave no stone unturned. What about the biggest, and we are hoping, the most extended trip of your life? Your marriage.
I know this is just about a foreign word in our society today, but I’m from the Old School and I still think that a lifelong dedication to one partner brings with it some of the most overwhelming results you can never really explain, and that no amount of money can ever buy.
It also brings with it some twists and turns, bumps and bruises, talks and compromises, and that’s what makes it so great.
I love hockey, and when I used to play, I took plenty of bumps and bruises, twists and turns, compromises and talks, but boy was it fun.
Everyone would limp off the ice, get our gear and limp off to home and we were smiling and taking about what a great game we just played. It was fun! We played because we loved the game, irrespective of if we took a blow now and then. Do you love your spouse? Have you definitely made a game plan to make this commitment succeed?
Now you who are not married and just living together will never understand what I’m talking about. LOVE IS A COMMITMENT! You do not have a relationship that will feel what I just described, unless you’ve got a lifelong commitment. No running out the back door when things simply do not go your way. You work it out. If your marriage relationship does not have a destination, how can you know when you arrive? And why wait for love to materialize out of stardust, when you might select excitement and romance now?
There’s a straight forward yet surpassing plan for a marriage of depth, hot romance and excitement! A Plan, you ask? Exactly! Good marriages are no accident. The rules are easy enough; you only need an outline to follow. Hard times can strike any family relationship. But deciding to love, in the effective techniques outlined here, can result in relationships that are harder when the hard times come, and they can come.
Six elements to staying in Love:
I can go further into each one of those points on another post, but I am able to assure you, if you implement these into your marriage, you’ll see a major change happen. That change may take time and lot of persistence on your side, and don’t be stunned that the most wide-reaching change just could be in you.