What Keeps Getting in the Way?

Dr. Neil Anderson illustrates a visual (copied below) of our journey towards Christ in his devotional dated 2/13/21 that is simple, straightforward, and powerful.  Read it, think about it, and ask the Lord in faith to remove what “keeps getting in the way.”  Do this in His power not yours. 

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.

How do evil spirits interfere with our lives? Let me answer with a simple illustration. Imagine that you are standing at one end of a long, narrow street lined on both sides with two-story row houses. At the other end of the street stands Jesus Christ, and your Christian life is the process of walking down that long street of maturity toward Him. There is absolutely nothing in the street which can keep you from reaching Jesus. So, when you receive Christ, you fix your eyes on Him and start walking.

But since this world is still under the dominion of Satan, the row houses on either side of you are inhabited by beings who are committed to keeping you from reaching your goal. They have no power or authority to block your path or even slow your step, so they hang out of the windows and call to you, hoping to turn your attention away from your goal and disrupt your progress by tempting you, accusing you and deceiving you.

What is the enemy’s goal in having his demons jeer you, taunt you, lure you, and question you from the windows and doorways along your path? He wants you to slow down, stop, sit down, and, if possible, give up your journey toward Christ. He wants to influence you to doubt your ability to believe and serve God. Remember: he has absolutely no power or authority to keep you from steadily progressing in your walk toward Christ. And he can never again own you; because you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and you are forever in Him (1 Peter 1:18, 19). But if he can get you to listen to the thoughts he plants in your mind, he can influence you. And if you allow him to influence you long enough through temptation, accusation, and deception, he can control you.

If I could influence you to believe a lie, could I control your life? Yes. Let’s “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

What keeps getting in the way?

The Bread of Life

In John 6 Jesus invites the disciples to fully ingest him and see him for who he is, the bread of life.  Real life, life eternal.

Like we so often do, the disciples miss the point, and are looking for the correct religious practice that will provide this for them.  But Jesus informs them that it is he who will provide, and they just must believe in him (6:27-29).

Then they look for his validation, a miracle like when their ancestors provided food in the desert.  And Jesus reminds them that the manna in the desert came from God, not their forefathers (6:32).

Again, he refers to himself saying:  “the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.   This is the bread that came down from heaven…he who feeds this bread will live forever”.  (my emphasis)

Twice Jesus refers to himself as “the bread of life” (6:35, 48).  And then goes into a visceral description of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (6:53-56).  Of course he is speaking of the full intimate ingestion of his being, the incorporation, the ingestion of him into us.  He enters into us and we into him.

This is the bread of life.  The ”ingestion” of Jesus into us as a unique “food” that gets digested and incorporated into our bodies allowing us to function giving us life both physical and spiritual.

Do we get this?  Do we fully incorporate Jesus into ourselves from head to toe?  This is what the Jesus freely gives us (6:27).  We don’t work or earn this food, it is given.

Let’s fully take into our bodies, into our beings the bread of life, let’s truly be nourished and accept this free bread and live for him, for eternity.   

A Pansy Is Not a Pansy

I don’t mind telling you, as a man, I enjoy the color of flowers.  I grew up with a very athletic, physically strong dad who loved planting beautiful full-of-color plants and flowers every year.  One of the colorful flowers was a pansy.  This flimsy looking little flower appears anything but durable, yet it is one of the very few flowers that can usually withstand the harsh, cold elements of winter.  As a kid, if one of my buddies did not appear to behave in a macho, strong manner, he was called a “pansy”.  After many years of life, I recognize that appearances often fool you.  “A pansy is usually not a pansy.”

When we see a very, muscular physically powerful looking man, we often say, “There goes a man.”  If he is unusually strong and forceful and performs well on an athletic field, we call these guys “a man’s man.”  Often, once you get to know these guys off the field of competition, you discover that appearances are deceiving.  Beyond the physical, they are not solid, strong people at all but are egotistical, self-serving, and immature.

Paul the Apostle understood this clearly.  In 1Timothy 3:2-7, as he describes what a good leader looks like, you will notice that he gages a man not by appearance but by character:

  • Now the overseer is to be above reproach”.  He lives a solid life, a man of character, that others can see as life is lived out.
  • “Faithful to his wife”, he is a man who cherishes one relationship above all others, his wife.
  • “Temperate”, self-restrained doing things in moderation never out of control.
  • “Respectable”, humble, courteous, considerate, and thoughtful.
  • Hospitable”, friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests.
  • Able to teach”, having the depth to be able to instruct others accurately from the Word of God.
  • “Not given to drunkenness,” controlled by the Holy Spirit not out of control, never an embarrassment to the Lord and His people.
  • Not violent but gentle”
  • Not quarrelsome”
  • “Not a lover of money”
  • Manages his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.”
  • ”Must be mature in his faith and walk, seasoned in his faith.”
  • Must also have a good reputation with outsiders.

The above is how the Bible describes “God’s man” not a “man’s man”.  A man of God focuses his life on character not appearance.

Ladies, it is the same for you.  Scripture clearly reveals that women should not get caught up in the world of appearance but Godliness and character.

We Need Some Joy!

Living in a harsh time physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually, we need some joy! 

St. Luke, a physician, recorded an unbelievable story about joy during harsh circumstances in Acts 16:16-34.  On a missionary journey Paul and Silas were unfairly and illegally brought by an out-of-control crowd 20 before civil magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Let me quickly recount what happened.  Paul and Silas were quickly tried and convicted falsely of crimes.  They were “severely flogged” meaning beaten unmercifully with rods usually 39 times battered viciously.  Their legs were bound so that they would have had to sit up because of the condition of their back.  They were thrust into the most secure cells with a max detail of guards.  What a horrific, unjust treatment for two innocent men.  They had every justifiable reason to be bitter towards God about their condition!  LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID!  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  Shut up!  You got to be kidding me!  The other prisoners were listening to them!”  Their faith in God empowered them to have the joy of the Lord in the worst of conditions.  Then, revival broke out in that prison with the villainous jailer saved and baptized along with his whole household. This jailer was “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. Even in severe suffering and guilt, joy prevailed.

Paul ended up writing a letter to these Philippians from an ugly, nasty prison!  Guess what the theme of that letter was?  JOY!  Philippians 4:4 exclaims, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Nine times in this brief four-chapter letter, he references JOY!  As you read this letter, Paul testifies “joy” is not personally manufactured.  It comes from submission to the Lord.  God produces the joy.  We worship the same Lord as Paul but try to live out life in our own power which often ends up in emotional and mental bankruptcy.  Paul instructs us what to do, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6&7). 

Let me leave you with a wonderful verse of encouragement from Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

You Can’t Change That

My wife and I were in high school through the 80’s and still love a lot of the music from that era. I didn’t become a Christian until I was an adult, so it is interesting to listen to some of the songs I loved back then. There are times when I am singing away and realize that the lyrics are no longer consistent with my current beliefs! We recently found the Ray Parker Jr. station on Pandora that plays a lot of the music we liked from back then. Again, juxtaposing a lot of his songs with Christian beliefs … the just don’t jive! But, I woke up the other morning with one of his songs playing in my head, “You Can’t Change That”! You just started singing it, didn’t you!!! LOL The words of that song played in my head, and to be honest I sang some of them! Thankfully, I was the only one home to hear that!!!

As I thought about the words of the song, I was reminded of a few things that I have been listening to and reading about the Lord.

  • Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Jesus and His love for us is not fickle like we are, but has been, is and will be true and present.
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Although we at times turn away from Him, He never will. I am just so amazed and love it when I am reminded that while I was sleeping and as soon as I open my eyes, the Lord is there with new mercies ready for the day ahead!
  • Ephesians 3:17-18 – so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. I truly do not believe that we will ever be able to fully understand how much God REALLY loves us! I tell my kids that even when they have done something contrary to how we raised them that I love them and that they will never understand how much I love them until they have kids of their own! Then I usually remind them that I don’t have any grandkids yet to help them understand this!!!

Some of the words to that Ray Parker Jr. song are:

  • There’s nothing you can do or say
    I thought about this for many a day
    And my mind’s made up to feel this way
    And you can’t change that
  • You can change your telephone number
    And you can change your address too
    But you can’t stop me from loving you
    No, you can’t change that, no, no
  • You can change the color of your hair
    And you can change the clothes you wear
    But you’ll never change the way I care
    No, you can’t change that

Now I have always heard that there will be no claw marks leading to the gates of Heaven … meaning God isn’t going to drag you … but, I believe he will pursue you and love you beyond anything we can measure! Quit running if you are and don’t worry that you have done too much to grieve Him.

God loves you … And You Can’t Change That!

What a Kick in the Teeth!

Currently, it is difficult for many Christians to “experience the abundant life” detailed in the Bible when they are living in a house with no heat, little light and many unable to bring in a paycheck.  Some are now facing major water damage in their homes resulting from cracked pipes from the current storm.  They find themselves in the long queue to deal with insurance companies. Where do they stay with an inhabitable home and hotels jampacked?  Facing all this, it is easy to become distraught. Things are bleak!  Compounded on top of this, numerous folks have loved ones who are fighting COVID-19, pneumonia, and the flu.  Often, these dear people are isolated having to suffer on their own.  To boot, this exacerbates mental illnesses that many of us are battling.  What a kick in the teeth!  So, what do we do?

Don’t do life by yourselves.  The New Testament repeatedly describes the Christian life as part of an “one another” community.  Paul the Apostle details what community should look like in Romans 12:5,9-19, “5 in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others… 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”

Are you a part of a Christian community expressed above?  If not, look for churches where the Word of God is ministered in a straightforward, graceful way and have transparent, authentic Life Groups, Re:Gen (individual recovery ministry), Re:Engage (marriage recovery ministry)/or active Marriage Mentoring, and Bible based-full of life-growth groups for your children.  For the more complicated ones of us, is there access to Godly professional counseling at a reduced rate?  Each of must be a part of a community that supports our spiritual life as we actively support them.  If you are embarrassed about your spiritual life and the life of your family, start your community journey by being more of a recipient than a giver.  If this is still too much for you, simply reach out to a Christian in an informal way.  That’s a start.  Once you do, your life and the life of your family will grow and be refreshed at your pace.  

There are no solo acts.  Life is meant to be shared in a community especially in these dark, confusing, depressing days.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I kissed my wife, Pam, for the first time 48 years ago yesterday.  Yes, this unromantic slob chose Valentine’s Day, which happens to be her birthday, to initiate our first kiss.  When I first met her, I was not overly impressed feeling she talked too much (“the pot calling the kettle black!” 😊).  Over the next six months, our relationship took a 180 degree turn around.  Pam and a friend of hers shared an apartment while the rest of us lived in dormitories.  We hung out at her place often (which Pam didn’t seem to mind it all).  While the other girls in our group seemed to focus on guys, Pam was hospitable and caring to all of us.  Personally, she gave me an open invitation to drop by for cheese grilled sandwiches!  With my lack of funds, this became frequent leading us to a closer friendship.  Those grilled cheese sandwiches gave us tons of time to talk.  Over winter break, we shared a ride 850 miles together to my hometown in Georgia laughing and enjoying each other.  There were no romantic feelings at that time.  My attention was focused on a date planned with a drop-dead gorgeous girl back home which I hoped would become a relationship. We did not hit it off at all, and I began to miss the free-flowing friendship that Pam and I shared.  Over the next months, I recognized the depth and maturity of Pam which led me to initiate our first kiss. We were married that year (1973) in December and began the journey together.

Pam and I learned that we needed help to enjoy and grow our relationship.  Ten painful years led us to turn our lives over to the Lord whose love transformed our marriage.  Jesus commands us in John 13:34, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  We discovered that it was impossible to manufacture the kind of love needed in marriage on our own. We were too selfish.  This kind of love came from submission to Him allowing Christ to love through us to each other.

The love of Jesus in action is described by Paul the Apostle in Philippians 2:1-4, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

  • Verses 1&2 share the source of sacrificial love does not come from us but “encouragement from being united with Christ…comforted by his love… common sharing in the Spirit… tenderness and compassion…being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”  Agape love emanates from the heart of Christ. It is generated by the Holy Spirit who is God living and loving in and thru us.
  • Verses 3&4 reveal our mindset must be like Jesus, “Doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility valuing others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the other.”

Forty-seven years later, the love shared between Pam and me continues to grow.  We give the glory to God.

This Is Not His 1st Rodeo

For years, I isolated myself buried in depression feeling like “my problems” were unique and different than any other person.  For hours, alone, I fought to work things out but discovered myself submerged deeper in darkness entangled in lies and deception.  My perceptions were that “me, myself, and I” was the only one who could figure things out.  Whether you are ensnared in addiction, trapped in an unhealthy relationship, dominated by unresolved bitterness, enslaved to porn, entangled in guilt, or hopeless, you might relate to me.  Do you feel your problems are unique? 

That is not what God’s Word says.  1 Corinthians 10:13 speaks to this, “No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (or tested), he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  Let’s analyze piece by piece what God is telling us here:

  • The problems that have “overtaken” us are “common to mankind”.  We are not unique.  Others can advise, support, and help us…we’re not alone.  Hence, a recovery group was essential to me and many others underpinning our walk out of darkness.
  • “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted or tested beyond what you can bear.”  There is hope!  God is faithfully with us always and much bigger than any of our problems. 
  • “God will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”…such wonderful hope!

Note the testimony and hope of the life of Jesus,” For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Let me assure you, the devil threw everything at Jesus “tempting and testing in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”  Our problems are not the 1st rodeo for JesusBeen there and done that!

The Bible gives us the basis of His victorious life on earth, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).  Our life must be saturated by the almighty power of God’s word.  Hebrews 4:12 describes God’s word, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Psalms 119:11 admonishes us to live our life in obedience to God’s word, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Time to rock n’ roll in your life.  This is not His 1st rodeo!

Deception

Deception comes in all forms. In the world we can be deceived by a spouse, a family member, or a friend.  We can even be deceived by a stranger knowing how to exploit money out of those that are trusting. We get bombarded daily with phone calls of deception from those wanting to get information from us, so that they can steal identities, and/or talk us into something we neither need or want. In the Christian circles we know that the devil is very good at deception. He deceived Eve at the beginning of our world. He still deceives and is the master deceiver of all times. Most of the time we view his deception as something sinister and we should be able to identify it before we are deceived, but I want you to listen to this story about Jesus when He was being questioned by some Sadducees: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaves his wife behind, and leaves no child, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and dying, left no offspring. The second also took her, and he died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven left no offspring. Last of all, the woman died too. In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be, since the seven had married her? Jesus told them, ‘Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the dead being raised – haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are badly deceived.” Mark 12: 19-27  It’s easy to be led astray by the adversary’s deception, when we want to believe something that is not true. And it starts within us. So the way to combat deception is to stay away from trying to formulate all that the word says, into what we want it to say, instead of taking it for what it is – God’s word, and not ours. If another tells us something, they might not even realize they are spreading deception, so all things should be weighed against what Scripture says, and what we are being told by the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus used Scripture to answer the deception. and we should also. So the next time you hear something that doesn’t quite sit well with your heart, search the Scriptures, pray about it, and if necessary seek out godly men and women you trust to get their opinion on it before you act on it or spread it as something true even though you have never heard about it before. Let’s not be deceived! There is too much deception already in the world without us being an innocent party to more, especially of the brotherhood. P. Andy

Have You Been to the Doctor Lately?

On December 28th of last year, my wife and I needed a doctor.  My temperature was spiking, and Pam was headed towards major chest congestion.  In both cases, it was COVID-19 attacking our bodies in different ways.  We knew we were weak and needed assistance.  

Christians are the same way. Each of us recognize our personal weaknesses and screw ups and need help getting our lives in order.  There is a realization that we are unable to heal ourselves because of problems bigger than our capabilities to get well.  We need a doctor. 

There is a great illustration of this found in Mark 2 when Jesus reaches out to Levi (also called Matthew, the author of the first New Testament book), a despised tax collector. “14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. 15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Jesus hung out with and associated with folks who were unscrupulous sinners and knew it.  Tax collectors were hated by the Jews.  They were hired and empowered by the Roman government to collect taxes.  Often, they invoiced much higher rates than should have been charged.  Jesus did not have to tell these guys that they were sinners.  These tax collectors knew what they were doing was wrong, but the money and trappings were worth it.   

There was another group involved in the above episode, “the scribes of the Pharisees”, who despised the tax collectors and their associates considering them to be reprobates.  They had created their own inflexible system of laws and customs that choked the joy out of life for the Jews.  These guys were hypocrites considering themselves without the need of help especially from this lowlife carpenter from Galilee named Jesus. Their pride was far above what the Great Physician offered.  These Pharisees judgmentally wanted to know, “Why is Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus assessed the two groups above succinctly, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  In their eyes, these self-righteous Pharisees did not need help.  On the other hand, many of the tax collectors and their associates were convinced Jesus was the son of God who could graciously and mercifully forgive them of their multiple sins, make them a new person, and show them a new way of life.  They were sinners who desperately needed help.

We must be like the tax collectors who knew they needed a doctor.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8&9).  Have you been to the Doctor lately?