How Do We Experience Victory?

victory

“And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:13

Many believers are not experiencing the victorious Christian life. One reason this is happening is because we still try to run our lives. We fail either by submitting to our flesh or by not yielding ourselves to the Master.

Our verse tells us how to walk in victory.

Present—we either present ourselves to sin or to God. It is the same word as in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Present yourself. The idea of the surrendered life or yielded life goes completely against our old nature. Our flesh never likes to yield. This is where progressive sanctification comes in. Every day we surrender to the will of the Holy Spirit.

But there is a problem.

A little girl fell out of bed one night and began to cry. Her mother ran into her room picked her up, put her back in bed and asked her little girl, “Honey, why did you fall out of bed?”

The little girl replied, “I think I stayed too close to the place where I got in.”

And that’s why too many fall, get stuck, or never walk in victory. We are staying to close to the world and yielding to our old nature.

Victory only comes when we walk as Jesus walked, completely surrendered, and yielded, presenting ourselves to God every day. Remember He wants us to experience victory.

What does God have for you today?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Why God Should Be Your First Focus

How often do we make excuses, promising God we will spend time with Him another day? We surmise our lives would be holier if we had a more comfortable life, a more spiritual spouse, more intellectual and obedient children, more fashionable clothes, or more time to relax all alone. We decide God can wait. After all, we have more important things to do.

Shopping galore.

Presents to buy.

And some holiday parties to attend.

However, when we reflect back on human history, we see a couple named Adam and Eve who had everything they needed. They lived the perfect life. And in the midst of Eden, which was abundantly good, they sinned and fell apart.

We do not sin because of irritable people or unexpected circumstances. We sin because we are inherently bad. Sin is not a by-product of what we have or do no have. Sin is an overflow of the condition of our heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

I have four children, ranging in age from four to nineteen. Crazy, I know. This past summer, our younger lil’ dude thoroughly enjoyed riding his bike around the neighborhood. He seemed ready to take the training wheels off and ride into the wind. From his outer appearance, he looked prepared. He was muscular, athletic, and strong. And so, we gave it a try.

Here has been my observation with all four of my children. We have been unsuccessful in teaching them how to ride a bike until they came to the decision on their own. They had to want it for themselves. They had to give up control and be willing to take a few tumbles. It was a deliberate act of their will saying, “I am ready to ride.” Otherwise, as parents, we epically failed. All of our bribing, prodding, encouraging, and pushing did not work until the moment they chose do to it alone.

In the same way, until we make a conscious and personal decision that we want to follow hard after God, we will be tossed around with the wind. We have to want to listen to the Holy Spirit, giving Him full control. Our culture surrounds us with distractions and makes a mockery out of God. We have to determine in our hearts whom we will serve. It is a daily decision. Moment by moment.

Will we say yes or no?

In Scripture we find a story of a man who was willing to stand all alone. He didn’t rhyme with the crowd or try to harmonize. He willingly beated to God’s drum. He didn’t get caught up in the circumstances surrounding him, nor become overwhelmed by his peers. He kept his eyes intently focused on God, and aligned his heart to the will of God.

When we surrender our hearts, passions, and dreams to our Father God above, it will blow us away what God will do. His plans are so much more than our petty little ideas. He dreams big and orchestrates details. He is worth living for!

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

The choice remains. It’s up to you. Who today will you serve?

Sue Allen

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Will Jesus Forgive All Our Sins?

Are you carrying your sins?

I have spent years of my life still carrying my sins. Like a rock filled backpack, I’ve lugged miles of guilt. Then I stumbled on this verse:

“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:14

There is someone who doesn’t want us to hear this story. An enemy of the truth wants to snatch it away from all of us. Rightly so, Jesus called him THE thief.

Two thieves hung on a cross on either side of Jesus. Both started in with the crowd and ridiculed the Christ according to Matthew 27:44. But then something happened. One of them shouted at the other thief to leave Jesus alone.

“Don’t you fear God when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done on thing wrong.” Luke 23:40

Hmm.

Not “one thing wrong.”

Like the thief I have done my share of wrong. Almost like a checklist that THE thief runs them through my mind occasionally. ALL the wrong I have ever done. My list is long.

How about yours?

You ever feel like your list of sins is longer than everyone else? Ever feel like there is no way you could ask for forgiveness again?

How could Jesus forgive us of all our ___________?

You could fill in the blank and so could I. But the point is it is _____________.

The thief called on Jesus that day. He couldn’t work in the church, stack chairs, wash dishes, bake 47 casseroles to feed the hungry, or change diapers in the nursery.

He had nothing to offer. But he looked at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42

That’s all we do. That’s it. We realize we have sinned and recognize the Savior.

Maybe you feel you have done too much sin. Maybe you feel like you can’t possibly come to Christ or church.

If so, you have been listening to THE thief.

Jesus called the devil THE thief and even: the “Father of lies.”

ALL of our sin record has been charged to the account of Jesus. He took them. He “nailed them to the cross.”

We are free. We are forgiven. Everyone who sees their sin and calls on the Savior.

No matter how long our lists are—Jesus canceled the record.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Which Pan Do You Choose?

Will you choose to be cleansed?

2 Peter 1:5-9

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

My husband, Danny, being the foremost cook in our household, has been gravitating toward cast iron pans in lieu of Teflon and stainless steel ones.  Mind you, this has not been a knee-jerk transformation; he has given the choice of pans much thought, and the changes to our kitchen hardware have gradually evolved over the last two years.

As the chief “bottle washer” in the “Orlando Cafe,” the name we fondly give our kitchen, any pan that doesn’t give me fits, i.e., overnight soaking or a strenuous scouring with Brillo to restore it to a healthy state of cleanliness and shine, is all right by me.

Our one remaining Teflon pan, the one I always default to when I’m frying bacon, is, by far, the easiest one to clean.  But if you’re thinking stainless steel is the next contestant in the ease department, think again!  Those rascals cling to residual oils and food particles as if they were hard-earned trophies from the culinary contests they have just been subjected to.  One time, I recall, a stainless pan is rendered so indelibly scarred by its encounter with cooking oil, two days of soaking and scrubbing fail to restore it.  Consequently, this most unfortunate of pans meets its demise in the yawning jaws of the trash bin.

Gun-shy me!  I think, when Danny brings the first cast iron pan into our house, the cleaning nightmare will continue.  Boy, do I have egg on my face!  (Thank goodness, I clean up pretty well.)  It’s utter simplicity!  Steaming hot water, a minimal effort with a Scotch-Brite scouring pad, rinse, towel-dry, and season with cooking oil:  I find my bliss!

In the Scripture cited above, Peter is urging and encouraging the followers of The Way to develop and maintain the qualities that will produce good fruit for Christ’s kingdom.

If we practice adding these things to our lives on a daily basis, we are like the Teflon or cast iron pans:  Easy to be set to rights should we go astray, because we are aware we have been cleansed of our past sins and know Jesus will be faithful to forgive us anew.  But those who choose not to nurture these qualities are like the stainless steel pans:  Clinging to the stained remnants of sin, which mar and disfigure our souls.  Nearsighted and blind, they fail to see that Christ’s forgiveness, once and for all, has washed and scrubbed us clean.

Hang on to the sullied past, or trust in the bright, sparking future Jesus promises us?

Which pan do you choose?

Martha Orlando

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She Had a Reputation

She Had A Reputation

She carries a burden, the burden of a reputation. You know, that kind of reputation. She spends her nights standing in darkened doorways, waiting for men to pass her way, men with jingling coins in their pockets.

This night, she puts on her best garment, wraps her favorite scarf around her neck, and drapes her hair seductively across her shoulders. She layers on the jewelry and dabs some color onto her cheeks. Because this is all she knows to do.

However, she has other plans tonight. She heard a certain man is in town. She’s met many men. Most of them speak to her in luring whispers. And jingle their coins. But this one…this one is curiously different.

This man, she heard, raises the dead back to life, opens the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind. Restores the skin of lepers and heals the lame. He knows the secret longings of a broken heart. And, most amazing of all, he forgives sins. Because he says he is the Son of God.

She’s tired, tired of living in sin. With a different man in her bed every night. She’s had enough of the cold stares and whispers of shame from the women. So, she’s going to see this man.

She heard he’ll be dining at the home of one of the Pharisees. So, she sneaks around the back alleys to get there, covering her face with her scarf so no one will notice her.

Arriving at the house of Simon the Pharisee, she stands in the doorway, eyeing those gathered around the tables. She searches the faces of those reclining. She longs to get close to the one who forgives all things.

While servers hustle back and forth with dishes of food and jugs of wine, she slips her way between them and finds the man named Jesus. She stands behind him, quietly, reverently.

So overwhelmed in his pure presence, she begins to weep. Wiping her eyes with her scarf, she drops to her knees at his feet. The tears of her past are many and stream down her face and onto his feet, washing them with her heartache.

She gently wipes his feet with her hair, no seduction left in it. She kisses his feet, as if to abolish her forbidden kisses, kisses that normally came with a price tag, now freely given away.

He turns to look at her, but not in the way other men do. He sees right through to her soul. She can almost feel his holiness and forgiveness embrace her. It takes her breath away. A love so pure. It rushes through every fiber of her body.

He doesn’t send her away. In her gratefulness, she opens the precious alabaster vessel of perfumed ointment she brought with her. She pours her gift over his feet, as the aroma infuses the air with its sweet fragrance.

One whiff of the scent causes Simon and the others to stop in mid sentence and mouthful. Simon mutters to himself, If this man were really a prophet, he’d know what kind of woman this is.

The others gasp and whisper to each other. Jesus, knowing what is going on, because he is a true prophet, says to Simon, “Simon, tell me your answer. Two men are indebted to a lender, one owing fifty denarii and the other owing five hundred denarii. But neither of them have enough money to pay him back. The lender forgives them both, cancelling their debts. Therefore, which one do you suppose loves the creditor more?”

“I suppose,” Simon ponders, “the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“Correct. Simon, when I entered your home, you gave me no water to wash the dust from my feet; yet, she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not greet me with a holy kiss; yet, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not show me hospitality by anointing my head with oil; yet, she has poured out her best ointment and anointed my feet.

“Therefore, her many sins are forgiven for she loves me much, but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”

Turning to the woman, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

More tears flow down her cheeks. No more standing in darkened doorways; she can now come out into the daylight. No more looking for love, for she has found the ultimate love of her life, the kind with eternal rewards. No more feeling shame; she has found forgiveness, full and free.

~With tears of repentance, I fall on my knees at the feet of Jesus and pour out my fragrant oil of gratefulness for God’s pure love and forgiveness. How about you?

***Note: this account is only in Luke 7:36-50. While it does not specifically state the woman was a prostitute, it is assumed by inference.

Lynn Mosher

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Here Comes The Bride

Let us rejoice and be glad; let us praise his greatness! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself for it. She has been given clean shining linen to wear.” (The linen is the good deeds of God’s people.)  

Revelation 19:7-8 TEV

The pastor’s hand was poised over the elegant white wedding dress. From a distance, the contents of the jar in his hand appeared dark purple. Probably grape juice, I thought. As he talked, he and the jar moved closer and closer to the dress, I cringed and leaned over to whisper to my daughter. “Oh no … he’s about to ruin that beautiful dress.”

We both watched in horror as the young pastor splashed the grape juice onto the shiny white material. He proceeded to paint something black on it, then finished it off with a bright red substance. A collective gasp went up from the congregation. Not only was the dress ruined, it stood in stark contrast with the identical dress on the opposite side of the stage.

As you can probably guess, the first dress was a vivid picture of a life stained with sin … the second, a life washed and made clean by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God.

It’s been a long time since I saw that poignant illustration, but this time of year always brings it to mind. Spring is a magical season in many ways. The harshness of winter passes and the days dissolve into warm reminders of summers past. Trees that stood naked of covering now proudly display their fullness, and it seems the whole earth bursts forth with life.

But flowers and trees are not the only thing in bloom. As they say, “love is in the air.” This is why May and June are the most popular months for weddings, especially in outdoor settings.

I attended a wedding recently and listened with heightened awareness as the bride and groom repeated the timeless words, “I do” and “I will.” The young couple made promises to each other and created a covenant meant to last a lifetime.

As I heard the vows being made, I thought about how we enter our relationship with Jesus—our Bridegroom—and it broke my heart to think how flippantly some people approach Him. It’s amazing how some want to flirt with the Lord or try him on like a pair of shoes. Others would rather be “roomies” and live with Him for a while before making a lasting commitment. Then the first time things don’t go as expected, they become discouraged and disillusioned and … out He goes. Evicted.

The truth is, our Lord is not looking for a girlfriend; He’s looking for a bride—a pure, spotless bride who is preparing herself for His return. He takes this relationship seriously and so must we. He paid the price for this marriage with His life and is creating a special place for us to dwell in His presence for all eternity.

For God so loved the world that He GAVE. His invitation to the wedding is, COME. It will be the most spectacular wedding celebration ever. Are you preparing yourself? Have you returned your RSVP? If not, do it today. This is one wedding you can’t afford to miss.

Andrea Merrell

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She Sinned

she sinned

2 “ … all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,
4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” …
9 “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst …”
“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:2-10

She sinned.

She is caught in the very act. Given the nature of her sin, she did not sin alone, yet she stands abandoned before the crowd in the temple. Is her “lover” in the crowd watching, caring, or cowering? Real love would not leave her to face the rocks alone. He had used her.

He isn’t the only one using her; the Scribes and Pharisees are guilty of the same crime. None of the men in her life are concerned about her sin or her character. She is a decoy, a sacrificial lamb to trap the Lamb of God. The Scribes and Pharisees are hoping to trick Jesus into contradicting the Law, that way they can have a two-for-one stoning. With rocks in hand, the Pharisees drag the woman to Jesus to see what He would say. Ironically, they interrogate the Law Giver by asking, “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

Why do Scribes and Pharisees think Jesus will give an answer other than stone her? Scripture clearly spells out her sentence. Stoning (Leviticus 20:27). Perhaps the fact Jesus ate dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes got around town. At any rate, the Pharisees are willing to sacrifice the woman in order to get Jesus. After all, she sinned. She’s guilty. Everyone knows it. Even Jesus knows it.

Jesus’ answer is brilliant.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The angry crowd falls silent.
Memories. Regret. Conviction.
Fingers fidget and a single stone hits the ground. Then another. Rocks drop one by one as fists unclench. A hailstorm of rocks pelts the dust.
Stones of judgment roll away from fingers as stones from an empty tomb.

The Rock of Ages offers grace to a broken woman. The One who is without sin, the only One who qualifies to throw a stone throws her a lifeline. From oldest to youngest her accusers leave, and she is left standing brazenly before the throne of grace. She sinned, but He forgives.

Her story starts with a man and ends with a Man, one a sinner and one a Savior. Grace comes and crushes her guilt, sin, and shame, and she is free. And she sinned no more.

True love wins.

From the adulterous woman, we learn three things we should do when we have sinned.

1. Take your sin to Jesus. Tell Him what you’ve done and accept His grace. Tell Him.

2. Talk to Jesus. Notice the only person the woman talked to in this altercation was Jesus. She did not fight, argue, or defend herself to the crowds. Like the woman caught in adultery, leave your accusers to Jesus.

3. Turn and sin no more. Whatever it takes … new friends … new job … new habits … sin no more. Change requires change. What will you change today to change your life tomorrow?

Mary Kane

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3 Necessities for Influencing Our Culture

man in a park

To say that we live in a “godless culture” is an understatement. It seems as though believers really are “pilgrims in a foreign land” unlike ever before in our great nation.

How should we function in this foreign land? I am glad that God has given us some incredible examples of this…none greater than Daniel. Daniel had 3 characteristics that we immediately see in Daniel chapter 1 that are necessary to have any impact in the world we live in today.

1.Daniel had convictions. Daniel and a few other strong Israelites who were good looking and influential were taken in by King Nebuchadnezzar after Nebuchadnezzar had led Babylon to take over Jerusalem as God’s judgement upon His people under the reign of Jehoiakim.

The Babylonians were a foreign people who didn’t worship the same God Daniel worshipped. Daniel was pulled aside to be groomed as a leader among the Israelites under the guidance of Nebuchadnezzar and his court.

If you know the story, Daniel eventually had incredible influence in this foreign land, and it all began with Daniel 1:8, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank”.

The King was offering Daniel the very best that the world had to offer, but Daniel had the conviction to stand for what God had planned for Him. He knew that the king’s food and wine had been used in sacrifices to false gods.

He made up his mind up his mind early that, no matter what the culture said was good, or even great, he would walk in righteousness with his words and actions and stand on the truth of God’s commands / God’s word.

2. Daniel had courage. After making up his mind (purposing in his heart), Daniel had the courage to seek a foreign official who had full authority over Daniel’s life and inform him that he did not desire to receive the very best the king had to offer because of his convictions to follow his God.

To influence our culture today we must have the courage to seek and to speak. Willing to seek opportunities to be a shining light for Christ in a dark and desperate world and to use our mouths to speak up and testify to the truth of God’s Word, God’s Love, and God’s Grace…even in the midst of those whom we are positive will not understand.

3. Daniel had compassion. When the commander of the officials didn’t understand Daniel’s request and feared that Daniel’s faithfulness to his God could drastically change the official’s life (he could lose his head if Daniel looked weaker than the rest because he didn’t eat the king’s protein) Daniel gave this incredible response…

…he said please.

In verse 12 Daniel said, “Please test your servants…” Where so many of us want to respond with aggression and anger Daniel responded with humility and love.

We must recognize that our message is clearly offensive. It threatens the way of life of everyone that it touches. It brings to light brokenness and sin. It squashes the pride that we Americans hold onto that says, “I can take care of myself.”

It tells people that they are deserving of, and heading towards, hell.
The Gospel is offensive, so we must coat it in lots of love. That’s what Jesus did! He transformed a Roman symbol of death and oppression into a worldwide symbol of love.

So , instead of trying to force the square peg that is our culture through the round hole that is our faith, why don’t we strive to be influencers, relying on the Grace of God to guide us and use us to point others towards His Son.

Stephen Fountain

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Why Does God Warn Us?

It took me several weeks to become acclimated to the buttons and functions of my new car. Most of the time, I could figure out fairly quickly where something was or what it meant. Except this one red light and beeping noise that seemed to go off at random with no rhyme or reason.

At various speeds, my car would beep 3 times and flash a warning that read FCW. The first few times, I questioned and wondered. The next few times I became agitated. Then I got to a point of ignoring. I’d accepted the fact that I didn’t understand it and likely wouldn’t.

Eventually, I did pull out the owners manual to attempt to solve the mystery.

FCW – forward crash warning. The car detected my speed and the distance of the cars around me to warn me of possible dangers. The car knew what I failed to see – danger was just ahead.

The frequency of the warnings and my lack of understanding tempted me to tune it out and proceed on. Once I understood I was in danger when I heard the annoying beeps, I sat a little straighter in my seat. I came back to attention and took note of what was happening around me.

I thought back to a time when my youngest son was about 4 years old. Prior to crossing the street, I instructed him to walk directly behind me. One step onto the crosswalk, and he darted full speed ahead of me. I could see what he was unable to see- a car speeding towards us with no intention of stopping for pedestrians.

I reached forward and pulled Andrew back by the collar of his shirt while the car missed him by mere inches. When we reached our car, I fell into tears, my hands shook at the thought of what almost happened. I thought of how I tried to warn him, and he failed to stay in the safety of my protection as I instructed him to.

I sensed God’s gentle voice pressing into my heart. I’m always here providing refuge for you. Stay close to me because I see what you are unable to see. I love you and desire the very best for your life.

God’s Word is full of warnings to help guide us through life. He warns us of temptations and areas of sin, He warns us against anything that becomes more important than our faith. He warns us of deceivers.

He warns us because He sees what we are unable to see. He desires to protect us in the shelter of His arms because He cares for us.

God doesn’t just shout out a warning and leave us stranded to find safety. He tells us to take refuge in Him.

We are wise to heed God’s warnings, knowing they are for our protection and care. May today we have eyes to see the warnings He presents to us and ears to hear Him at every we turn we make. May we seek wisdom and follow in the path God sets for us. May the warnings not become so commonplace, we are tempted to tune them out.

Today, I’m leaning into His protective embrace and resting in His strength and love.

Proverbs 22:3, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Renee Robinson