Friday, May 29, 2015

 The Value of Christian Discipline

The value of living with Christ is indisputable. We know this from our personal experience. As the result of our devotion, the Lord embraces us with His love, grace, mercy and a place in His kingdom. God's grace is exhilarating. Our Lord rewards the faithful!

Why is Christian discipline valuable?

The biggest reason is eternal life. Heaven isn’t a theory. Christ death, resurrection and ascension are a fact and without accepting this God won’t open His door. 

Faith takes discipline for Satan uses the pleasures of the world to deny God’s truth. To trust Christ involves self-control because it’s easier to give in to temptation than to wait for His command.      

There is no greater effect on the way we live our lives than the one we discover with Christ. Everything we need to live holy is available from Jesus. We have to be active in pursuing God’s will. Failing to do so is an invitation for disaster.

Jesus’ impact is huge and gives life meaning and purpose. It’s not by accident our lives are transformed. By nature, we cannot transition ourselves from individuality into salvation. But through Christ we find the strength beyond our own to deny ourselves and become His servant. Here is where our Messiah provides us with courage unlike any other. 

The more we rely upon God, the better we become at self-control. Then we experience a life filled with unconditional love and selfless giving.

Without salvation, God’s gift of life is incomplete. In today’s society, many people live an unsaved life. Pick up any newspaper or watch newscasts and escaping the wickedness of evil is unavoidable. In this 21St Century, self-reliance is rewarded, and God’s truth is discarded. This lack of spiritual discipline is the reason the world is riddled with pride, anger, lust, and greed.

The Bible is filled with past generations who lived in the same web of disbelief. A prime example in the Old Testament is Noah’s story. Here God’s displeasure with mankind was at its peak, and He cleaned the slate. Another excellent illustration is the events of Holy Week found in the New Testament. On Palm Sunday, people praised Christ and crucified on Good Friday.

No matter how connected we are with Christ sometimes we lack discipline. It’s difficult to stay on the spiritual plain. God understands we aren’t perfect, but He expects us to give Him our best efforts.

I’m in a current predicament where my discipline is lacking. Cigarettes have been a part of my life for decades. Quitting smoking has been troublesome yet I’m not discouraged, because Christ always prevails. This doesn’t mean I am not bothered by my disobedience.

 In my recent devotions, God has made it obvious for me to quit. There had been other problems when God’s intuition showed me His command. Those other occasions were resolved through faith and trust. Willingness to keep trying has been the key in finding God’s solution. In God's eyes perseverance speaks volume. 

To walk in the Spirit is the best way to describe the value of Christian discipline. In Apostle Paul letters to the Galatians 5: 16-26 it gives testimony to the truth of God’s word. Those scriptures highlight the behaviors of both an unsaved soul and one filled with the Holy Spirit. This leaves no doubt the need for Christ’s intervention.

If you are struggling with, Christian discipline, don’t think you’re alone. No one is immune to the lack of self-control. God assures us through Christ, we find the road to redemption. There is always hope in Christ. Don’t give up keep trying and experience God’s grace.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Aimless Journey 

On my own and vacant from the Lord, I become the enemy. There is no godly direction for me to follow. My aimless journey always leads to impossible predicaments. Using my willpower to dig myself out of the hole makes matters worse.
There are consequences when I’m away from Christ. One of the most harmful is the destructive results that come when I use my will as the sole means of living. When I make life self-centered nothing good happens. Self-will always leads me to ruin.  

Without God’s guidance, I am defenseless against anger, fear, and impulsive decisions. Life becomes unmanageable and spirals out of control.    

Let me share with you an example from the past when I lived apart from God. 

In the summer of 1994 I met my ex-wife. She didn’t have a boyfriend. One day I asked her on a date and to my surprise she accepted.

We did the usual dating scene. Movies, candle light dinners and talking. Our time together helped us become friends. I proposed, and she said yes. We took the vow.

It was a challenge adjusting to each other’s likes and dislikes, but our love made it easy. Had great times together. One of the fondest a trip from Georgia to Moab Utah. We drove our automobile to Arches National Park. Spent two weeks on the journey and stunned at God’s spectacular views. The pictures we took are still enjoyed today.

Something changed. We developed serious trouble and drifted apart. Frequent arguments with no resolutions became normal. Marriage therapy, couple’s meetings and date nights got nowhere.

We tried to clean the slate, and this brought hope. Our future looked promising. I thought we moved past our indifferences. Boy was I wrong!

Then it happened. Out of the blue in the fall of 2003 someone knocked on the front door. I answered, and a sheriff deputy stood on the porch. He asked who I was and after my response, he handed me the divorce papers. When I signed for them, I understood the reality. My wife didn’t want me anymore. It devastated me.

Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but I gave her a fair and honest effort. No infidelity nor had I harmed her in a physical way. Considerate of her needs a priority. My love for her was strong. Now she threw in the towel. 

After the shock, depression took center stage. Full of self-pity feeling sorry for myself. I’m not sure how long I stayed in the depressive mindset. But a shift in the emotional scale came, and another negative response to this life saga emerged. Anger raised its ugly head leading the way to a series of wrong choices.

At this point in my life, anger wasn't a problem. I worked hard to change my bitter ways, and God had given me relief from its grip. Rage became non-existent. And several years had passed since I caused any physical harm or property damage.

Little by little this bitterness was eating me for lunch. My entire mind consumed with thoughts of plotting revenge for throwing me out. The resentment toward her erupted, spewing out hateful feelings.

The knot in my stomach became overbearing. Her repeated absence from court dates prolonged the divorce infuriated me. That was the last straw and brought me to the breaking point.

Instead of turning to God for relief from the pain I left Him out. This decision cost me favor with Him and brought me face to face with a darkness unlike any I had experienced.

I got drunk over this escapade and returned to active alcoholism. Eighteen years of sobriety tossed out. No matter how many bottles of booze I drank, the suffering never went away but worsened. Relentless emotional distress and sleepless nights kept me on the wagon. Every day it got darker and darker.

Alcohol always had its way with me. It took everything worthwhile away and turned me into an alcoholic. Even though it was unwise to drink again, I returned to its nightmare. Blackouts wrecked vehicles and brushes with police came back with a vengeance.

Over the next eight years there wasn't many sober days. Family and friends, distant themselves from me because my behavior was unpredictable. The pain I caused them from my drunkenness was too much and they stopped inviting me for the holidays get together. That made me mad.

During this drunken period of my life there was a particular incident that brought me to my knees. It was on my mother's 80th birthday. The family arranged a surprise party for her. My mother gave birth to nine and two of my siblings traveled hundreds of miles.  

I started out fine, but later that night so drunk I had to be restrained.  I was in a blackout from the alcohol unaware of my behavior. My brothers and sisters each gave me a piece of their minds telling me how disgusted they were with my drinking problem. I was ashamed, but unwilling to get sober.

Two years after that debacle, I faced homelessness. The sister I lived with had enough and she gave me an ultimatum. Either I get sober and stay sober or be kicked out. With no extra money to secure another place to live that meant living on the streets.

Here God’s mysterious hand was at work because one day I prayed. It had been years since I prayed. A few weeks after asking for His help I hit my bottom. On June 11, 2011 God showed mercy and freed me from alcohol.

By the grace of God, I am sober today. And when I get dazed and confused, I know the precise actions to take. I no longer have to reach the point of self-destruction. My hope in Christ is permanent. Problems are temporary and an opportunity to draw closer to His strength. God has healed my mental, physical and spiritual being.

Today my journey centered in Christ is eternal. No matter how bleak life becomes, Christ is the answer. The security blanket He provides is second to none. As I grow more in the image of Christ through relying upon Him in good and troublesome times keeps the demons from my past at bay. I’m grateful God is the key to life for I know my life is at risk living without His guidance.