It’s all or nothing

Christianity is an interesting thing. There are those that see it as a religion. Some see it as a set of rules or moral code. Some take it further to be a “way of life”. Then there are those of us that see it primarily as a relationship. An active, living relationship with an intimate, very real deity.

Across all this cross-section of viewpoints, however, there is also a mixed approach to exactly how this Christianity is to be lived out. Whether you look at it as a code, a way, or even a relationship, what EXACTLY you do day to day depends mostly on what you believe about the Word of God, the Bible.

An unremarkable life, a useless religion

You may go all your life and never have a serious crisis that shakes you up and causes you to examine your faith more closely. You may go all your life from crisis to crisis and decide to keep your religion, because it’s comforting to believe that somehow you’ll get through the hard times and somehow it all has greater meaning.

But as far as I’m concerned, that’s a totally USELESS religion.

What’s your breaking point?

I’ve had my share of life turning points. Not as dramatic as some, but enough to place me face to face with this question. What do I believe? And does it even matter?

I faced the allure of suicide. I faced my desire for homosexual relationships. I faced the escape route of divorce. I faced the misery of overwhelmingly negative emotions. I faced the roller coaster of the manic-depressive cycle. I faced the temptation of self-validation through ever-greater achievements. I’m facing health issues that have gone on as long as I can remember. And some that have started more recently. There’s more. Plenty more.

But it’s not the list of problems that matters. They could be ANYTHING.

Anything can be an excuse to quit. Quit your job, quit your schooling, quit a friendship, quit a church, quit a marriage, quit your life. Everybody is different, so everyone has a different natural response to these challenges. Some are naturally resistant to destructive choices. Others naturally tend to spiral downhill fast. Some hang on with great apparent courage and stubbornness while harboring a deep flaw that causes them to snap into utter failure at some undetermined point along the way.

The reasons for failure are endless. And they’re different for each person.

The universal moment of truth

For any problem we face, whether internal or external, there is one universal moment of truth. This applies to EVERYONE in EVERY situation.

The one thing that determines your destiny (immediate and eternal) is your CHOICE of RESPONSE.

Why do some people come through a WWII concentration camp with their faith in God and their joy in life intact? Why do some snap into utter mental and emotional breakdown at a casual comment? Even on a purely human level, this boils down to a choice. What will you believe?

The reason a straw can “break the camel’s back” in a relationship is because of a continued choice to believe the negative. At some point, these accumulated choices have created such a fortress of the negative within the soul of a person that it may be something very small that is “the last straw”. Something that they were able to handle 10 times over in the past, but which is devastating after enough negative choices have established a stronghold inside them.

We have an an enemy

You may never have thought much about it, but we have a real, living enemy. The devil is called the adversary or “Satan”, because he is the enemy. Jesus called him a thief (John 10:10) and said that his ONLY purpose in life is to steal, kill and destroy. He never stops looking for someone he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).

There are spirits all around us that are constantly trying to influence us toward the negative. And what is this negative? The primary message is, “God is a liar.” First they try to keep people in ignorance. Best if folks never even know the truth. But once we’ve found the truth, there’s only one way they can snare us.

They try to convince Christians to believe that whatever God said isn’t true. They do this best when circumstances seem difficult, when our defenses are down, when we’re already questioning what God said. Then they swoop in with, “Believe THIS instead…”

We have a Savior and King

But before you start freaking out that there’s this evil force against you, let’s make something clear.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

May the eyes of your mind be opened so you can see the exceeding greatness of His power towards us — the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21) Doesn’t that sound like it pretty much covers it ALL?

And where are we in all this?

“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

We are IN HIM, we are His body, and therefore all things that are under HIS feet are under OUR feet! Praise God!

We have effective weapons for both attack and defense

There are a lot of places we can look for encouragement in facing our challenges. Every person’s personality is different. Some are best encouraged by warm and fuzzy assurances of God’s love. Others like to hear that God is always with them. That’s all good stuff, I agree. I’ve always been motivated by a good military analogy, though.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

What God gives us is enough. It is MORE than enough.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Your sake we are killed all day long;We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”(Psalm 44:22) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

We have, ultimately, a choice

Circumstances and emotions and pressures and conflicting thoughts can flood into our lives and overwhelm us. It can seem confusing and difficult to see the way through.

Allow this thought to penetrate your mind, and it will help: There is only ONE question.

Who … will … you … believe?

Will you believe the recorded Word of God, the Bible? The Holy Spirit will help you understand what it is saying to you for your specific situation. God never leaves us without the answers we need, if we just ask Him in faith (see James 1).

Or, will you believe what the world tells you? Will you soften the instructions of God’s Word? Yield to the pressure of the pain, or the pull of the temptation? There is an infinite list of things you could do besides believe and walk in the way God tells you. But none of those other options will take you on that straight, narrow, upward path of heavenly, eternal life.

You get the choice. It really is that black and white. Believe God, and choose life. Believe anything else, and you are choosing death. It might be a small step in that direction, or the final leap that ends your life on this earth.

Change your breaking point

There’s one thing that stands in the way of every attack of the enemy, every pull of temptation, every pressure of my life’s circumstances. That one thing is the Word of God.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

How awesome is that? Jesus is the Word made flesh. Not just the living example of God’s Word and ways, but truly somehow everything in the Word of God was and is in Jesus Himself. When I call on Jesus, I am calling on God’s Word. When I say the Word of God and stand on its truth, I am trusting in Jesus. When I read the Word of God and gain wisdom or understanding, I am communicating with Jesus! Too cool!

“As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Psalm 18:30)

Every word of God proves true. He defends all who come to him for protection.” (Isaiah 30:5 NLT)

The whole of Psalm 119 is like a love song to God’s Word and all the truth of His ways. It’s full of inspiration about how the Word of God teaches, helps, strengthens and makes better the human soul and condition. For further inspiration, open the Book itself!

When I’m tempted to lose patience with my children, it is the word of God that reminds me, “she opens her mouth with wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26)

When I’m in emotional pain and tired of being neglected or stomped on or unappreciated, I declare the Word of God in prayer, “YOU are my shield and my exceeding great reward. I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living!” (Genesis 15:1, Psalm 27:13)

Either this God is real and He’s awesome and He’s MORE THAN ENOUGH for me — or He’s worth nothing at all and no God of mine.

And to put it more respectfully and orthodoxically (is that a word?), either I am fully committed and totally surrendered, or I am a hypocrite, a lawless liar, and no child of His.

Choose to trust!

I choose to believe God. He is awesome. I am His and He is mine. No circumstance — whether pain or pleasure — will move me away from my CHOICE to follow 100% of what He’s shown me in His Word.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s downright impossible. But my God does the impossible, and with Him I can do the impossible, too (Matthew 17:20, 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37, 18:27). I choose to trust His work in me, to yield to His direction and trust that the reward is as good as He says it is.

Like Horton the elephant, our God meant what He said and said what He meant — and He is faithful one hundred percent. (Yes, I was watching “Horton Hears a Who” the other day, sorry…)

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

May you be encouraged and blessed — and give God your ALL!

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Last Seven Words of Christ bible study

Enjoying a good Easter season bible study by local Rocklin pastor, Ralph Wilson. It’s called “The Last Seven Words of Christ from the Cross.”

It’s amazing how much you can milk out of just a few words, by taking the time to slow down and really consider them. I like his use of classical Christian art along with the study. Works well as a visual aid for pondering what it was like for Jesus, even though I’m always keenly aware that it’s an artist’s interpretation and imagination more than “real”.

Good stuff.

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God of this City – by Blue Tree

I love it when KLOVE plays prophetic songs. Get the sound out! Put over the radio waves the shout of the KING! Hallelujah! (yes, I get excited about these things)

Really enjoying this one lately: God of This City by Bluetree, a band from Belfast, Ireland.

They were in Pattaya, Thailand, a place called the capital of the world’s sex trade, and this song came out. Chris Tomlin heard it later and realized that it was a call to go out over EVERY city, and not only put it on his album, Hello Love, but it’s been a part of the Passion world tour, as well. May the voice and words of the Lord’s people call forth His will from heaven to earth!

And may we see GREATER THINGS in our lives, in our families, in our churches, in our cities and in our nations!

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