Overcome Evil With Good

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

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When Jesus was on the earth, He promised that His church would prevail against the gates of hell. “…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18b) Through the centuries Satan has perpetrated attack after attack against the kingdom of God, attempting to destroy the body of Christ, His Holy Church. The latest attempt last Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina, was another defeat snatched from satanic jaws of victory.

Nine people, all followers of Jesus Christ, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were murdered in church. It looked like a sure win for the enemy. Nine believers were dead at the hands of a confused young man who had said he wanted to start a race war. But just as Satan thought he’d won when Jesus died on the cross, it was no win but in fact was a great defeat. Just as Jesus took the first victory from him by rising from the dead, the church body at Emanuel AME has taken this victory from him. The families of the nine murder victims won by forgiving the young man used in this heinous act. Love trumps hate every time.

Satan thought he’d strike a winning blow against the church by inciting division in the body – black against white and white against black. Wrong again! Churches of all denominations, of all races and cultures have united in support of Emanuel AME Church. The devil fails to understand that when one part of the body of Christ is hurt, the rest of the body gathers around to support, to pray and to comfort. Churches across the nation are praying for their brothers and sisters in Charleston SC. My home church, Grace Outreach Center in Plano, was one of many that sent donations to show them our love and support.

I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans about how believers are to act toward one another and toward outsiders. I’ve seen this passage in action the last five days by the families of the murder victims, other members of that church and by believers across the nation.

Romans 12:9-21
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

What’s That Smell?

“God, create a pure heart in me. Give me a new spirit that is faithful to you.”  Psalm 51:10 (NIRV)Image

          A few days ago I noticed a slight odor in the refrigerator when I was getting my morning yogurt. I was getting ready to go to work so I noted to myself that I needed to clean out the refrigerator when I got home from work that day. By the time I got home, I was too tired and decided it could wait until the next day which was Saturday. Saturday morning I went to younger grandson’s baseball game, ran some errands on the way home and by the time I got home, I had other things on my mind and forgot about it. Since hubby was out of town, that evening I went out to dinner with a friend from work and didn’t open the fridge again until Sunday morning. Ugh! It was worse, but no time to do anything about it. Went to church that morning and since it was Mother’s Day I met my daughter and her family for a special lunch. By Monday I didn’t even have to open the door to smell the odor coming from the refrigerator. Good thing I’m off work this week, because there was no more putting it off. It had to be cleaned out now!  
             I emptied the contents of the fridge, checking expiration dates on every bottle and container. Finally I found the culprit – a plastic container of leftovers that had gotten pushed to the back and forgotten. As I was wiping down the inside walls and shelves of the fridge, God began speaking to me about how just as those rotten leftovers created a bad odor in the refrigerator and finally the kitchen, that is what unconfessed sin does in our lives.
           We go to church, pay our tithes and keep the Ten Commandments. Everything is good, right? Ok, what about that little white lie we told to get out of doing something we’d promised to do but really didn’t want to do? Cover it up and push to the back the fridge. What about that word muttered at the driver who cut who cut us off in traffic? Wrap it up and put it on the bottom shelf. There they’ll stay and grow mold. Any sin, even ones we consider small are an affront to our God because He is holy and He calls us to be holy. “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:44a (NKJV)
           John the Apostle writes in I John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”    We all sin, even after we are born again we all say or do things we know are not what we’re supposed to do. And we fail to do things we know God has told us to do.  Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this. “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans 7:19
            So what is the answer? Paul continues on to tell us – Jesus. Jesus has made the way.  “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24,25a
Then John continues his message in First John. “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:1, 2
            We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  All we have to do is confess and Jesus will cleanse us.
            Just as I not only had to clean the refrigerator interior with baking soda to eradicate the smell, I also had to throw out the leftover food that was causing the odor.  Jesus cleanses us of all unrighteousness the moment we confess, but we have to remove it from our lives. Stop doing whatever that sin was. If it’s a bad habit, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He abides within you once you are born again and He is called to help us and to guide us. If you have unforgiveness towards someone who offended you, start praying for them. It’s hard to hold a grudge against someone you’re praying for!

Father, thank You for cleansing me of all unrighteousness. I pray that my life will be holy, a sweet aroma to You. In Jesus Name, Amen

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

 

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Copyright © 1996, 1998 by Biblica

 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Disappointment 101

“My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.” Mark 14:34

How do you handle disappointments? People don’t always behave the way we expect or need them to behave. Even our closest friends or family members let us down. Things happen that we have no control over cause us pain and disappointment. What are we supposed to do with those feelings? Who can we turn to in those times?

Jesus suffered disappointment in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took Peter, James and John, the inner circle of the twelve men He’d called to follow Him, His closest friends, into the Garden to watch and pray with Him. One of the twelve had already deserted Him and was going to betray Him.

“Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and distressed. He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.’” Mark 14:32-35

“Remain here and stay alert” Jesus asked them, but when He returned they had fallen asleep, not once, but three times. When He needed them the most, they were sleeping. (See Mark 14:32-42)

David wrote in Psalm 31:7 “I will be happy and rejoice in Your faithfulness because You are aware of how distressed I am.”

God notices our pain, emotional as well as physical. He is aware of our disappointments. But He does more than just notice and be aware. David goes on to say, “But I trust in you, O Lord! I declare, ‘You are my God!’ You determine my destiny!” (31:14, 15a)

Keep trusting God. He knows what happens in your life, and He has a plan for you. Other people do not have final say in your life – God does!

Verse 19 says, “How great is your favor, which you store up for your loyal followers! In plain sight of everyone you bestow it on those who take shelter in you.”

When your friend lets you down, when your spouse disappoints you, when you get passed over at work, pull into Jesus. He knows your hurts and He understands them as no one else can.

“Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus suffered disappointment without letting it cause Him to sin. He forgave and continued to love those who had let Him down. He held to the plan that after His resurrection, those eleven men would be the leaders and take the gospel to the world. Forgive without being asked, keep loving those who hurt you and hold fast to Jesus.

David closes Psalm 31 saying, “Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the Lord!”
Be strong. Be confident. Wait on the Lord.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

References: New English Translation (NET)
Mark 14:32-42
Psalm 31
Hebrews 4:14-16

Getting Past Our Past

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (New King James Version)

“Me teach a Bible study? I can’t do that. I’m not worthy. Lord, You know my past. You know the sins I was involved in. I’m not suitable to lead a Bible study.”
“Daughter, did you repent and ask Me to forgive you? And did you turn away from those sins?”
“Well, yes. I did. And it no longer has a place in my life.”
“Do you believe I’ve forgiven you? Cleansed you?”
“Yes, You promised in Your Word that if I confessed my sin You would forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.”
“Do you believe you are now righteousness?”
“Uh, I’m not so sure about that. I don’t always feel righteous.”
“Daughter, do you know what I see when I look at you? I see the Blood of my Son Jesus. I see My righteousness which I have given you in place of your unrighteousness. I see you as worthy because I have made you worthy.”
“Yes, Father. I believe You have given me Your righteousness. Thank You Father for forgiving me not only of my past, but also for not believing Your righteousness has been given to me. Thank You Father for forgiving me, healing me, and giving me a new life in You. And I will do any task You ask me to do. Even leading a Bible study when I don’t feel worthy. Because I know in You I am worthy.”

Have you ever had a conversation like that? Knowing that God has called you to do something, yet not feeling like you’re worthy of the call?
Too many times as Christians we allow fear, doubt, or shame over our past keep us from fulfilling a call from God. We allow the enemy to come in and condemn us for things God has already forgiven and cleansed us of. When satan brings these thoughts, that is not the time to turn from God; that would be falling into satan’s trap to lure us back into sin. Rather that is the time when we need most to run to God, to go to the Word and meditate on the fact that we have been made the righteousness of God.

“God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (New International Version)

Some may say, ‘but I was already a Christian when I sinned. I knew better but I did it anyway. How can I be the righteousness of God?’ The same way we’re saved to start with – by faith, believing the Word of God, by believing God can and will do what He said He would do.
1 John 2:1 was written to Christians. “My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father–[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].” (The Amplified Bible) We have an Advocate – One who pleads our case before the Father and makes sure we’re forgiven.

God instructed me once to major on righteousness because when we become more aware and understand that we are the righteousness of God, sin begins to lose its hold on us. And the more we know of righteousness, the less it has control over us. We have to lose, give up, get rid of and deny its right that old religious idea “we’re just poor ol’ sinners saved by grace and can’t help ourselves but to sin”. As long as we hold on to that attitude, we’ll continue to be subject to sin.

It’s time to move on. Time to get past our past. The Apostle Paul said that he was forgetting his past – the position he’d attained as a devout Jew, his persecution of the Christians, all of it, and was moving on with Jesus toward the goal of being like Him. (See Philippians 3:13, 14)

We can’t change our past, neither the past before or since we received Jesus as Savior. But we can change our present. We can learn to walk in the righteousness Jesus has provided for us. We can grow into it. Like a child grows into a suit of clothes or a pair of shoes that are too big, we can grow into the image of Jesus Christ.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

FORGIVE MY IMPERFECTION, PLEASE

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:48 (The Amplified Bible)

That’s a pretty strong command from our Lord Jesus. But do any of us ever reach it? Just about the time I think I have a particular sin conquered, along comes something else I have to overcome.
I’m reminded frequently that none of us in this life seem to ever reach that goal. If we place too high a standard with others, they will disappoint us. Sometimes repeatedly. But that’s where grace and the love of God comes in. God’s love in and for us allows us to forgive others and ourselves.

“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].” I Peter 4:8 (The Amplified Bible)

Love forgives and disregards the offenses of others. Praise God for his love and grace which He pours over us without measure.
King Jehoshaphat was king of Judah and the Bible says the Lord was with him because he walked in the ways of his ancestor David and “… sought and yearned with all his desire for the Lord, the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not after the ways of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor.” 2 Chron. 17: 4, 5
Jehoshaphat sent leaders to teach in all the cities of Judah the Book of the Law, God’s written word, so that the people would know and fear the Lord.
But even Jehoshaphat made wrong decisions and bad alliances. He allied with Ahab, the king of the southern tribes, Israel, who was not following after God. Jehoshaphat agreed to go into battle with King Ahab even thought God’s prophet warned it would end badly. (See 2 Chron. 8:15-17.)
When the enemy’s army came against him, Jehoshaphat called out to God “…and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.” 2 Chron. 8:31b
Jehoshaphat was not a perfect man as none of us are, but he was God’s man. At the end of his life it was said of him “And he walked in the ways of Asa his father and departed not from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord.” 2 Chron. 20:32
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when the end of our time comes they could say about us that we had walked in the ways of God and did what was right in the sight of the Lord. And is it not comforting to know even when we make bad decisions, God will not hold it against us but will help us if we call out.

“MY LITTLE children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father–[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].” 1 John 2:1 (The Amplified Bible)

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

When You Get It Wrong – Again

“For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.” Romans 7:18, 19 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)


Do you ever wonder why you did something you said you’d never do again? Or failed to do something you promised yourself you would do? That’s me all the time. I swear I’ll get up early and walk, but then stay in bed too long, or start doing something else and forget about it. I promise myself I won’t get upset over trivial things, but catch myself getting irritated or angry over minor issues. Sometimes it’s not just little failures we suffer, but real sin catches us unaware and before we know it we’re right back in the midst of it, again.

The Apostle Paul certainly knew about it. Even he felt there was nothing good in himself. Wow! You mean the man who wrote most of the New Testament struggled with sin? Yes, even Paul. There was only One who never sinned, Jesus,  and even He faced temptation.  (Read Matthew 4:1-11.)

One of the many things I love about the Bible, it shows us that the men and women God used in the past were just like us. They sometimes got things wrong over and over, yet God was able to pick them up, clean them up and use them. Just like He picks us up, cleans us up, and desires to use us today.

Gideon questioned God, not once, but three times. But God still used him to deliver Israel. (Read Chapter 6, 7 and 8 of Judges.)

David was an adulterer and a murderer. But because he desired to be made clean and repented, God was able to call him a man after His own heart.

Moses lost his temper and disobeyed God, but the Bible says, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend”. (Exodus 33:11a)

Jonah was angry at God because He didn’t destroy the city of Nineveh after the people repented when Jonah preached to them. And remember it took a whale to get him there. Think about that. He finally obeys God, goes to preach in one of the most wicked cities of the era, the entire city repents, including the King, and Jonah is angry because God did not destroy them. How many preachers can say they went to a city and the entire city, including the Mayor got saved? Not that many.

Peter denied Jesus three times. But after the resurrection Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for him. “Lord, You know I love You” and Jesus replied “Feed My sheep.”


The Apostle Paul says “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord! So then indeed I, of myself with the mind and heart, serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24, 25 (Amplified Bible) In other words, it is through Jesus Christ we can overcome and we can be free from sin.

When we do fail, praise God, He’s made the way for our restoration. The very next verse says God will not condemn us, but He will set us free. “THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1, 2 (Amplified Bible)
Matthew Henry says in his Concise Commentary on the Bible, “Believers may be chastened of the Lord, but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured.”

So, the next time you know you’ve gotten something wrong, the next time you feel unworthy of God, or doubt your usefulness to Him, remember you are not alone. We’re all there one time or another, and some of us on a regular basis. And God knew your weaknesses when He called you, but He chose you anyway. Pick yourself up, repent, and start over.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ to you all,
Dee

Lessons of Michal

“Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31, 32, The Amplified Bible)


Over and over in the New Testament we are warned against allowing bitterness into our lives. In the passage above, the Apostle Paul says to let it “…be banished from you”. That’s pretty strong. The key to doing that is found in the following verse:  “… forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”  When we hold on to unforgiveness, bitterness is allowed to take root in our hearts and from there grows resentment, anger and ill will.

We justify ourselves by focusing on what was done to us by someone one else. “You just don’t know what he said to me” or “You don’t know what she did”. But God didn’t say “forgive them if they deserve it”. He only instructed us to forgive and to banish all bitterness from us. When we allow unforgiveness and bitterness to remain in our hearts, we are the ones who bear the consequences.

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) When we wallow in self-pity, we wallow alone.

One example in the Old Testament is the story of David and Michal. Theirs was a love story turned bad. (You can read their entire story in 1 Samuel chapters 18, 19 and 25, and 2 Samuel chapters 3 and 6.)

Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul, the sister of Jonathan, and she was David’s first wife. First Samuel 18:20 says she loved David and after they were married, she defied her father and helped David escape when Saul was trying to kill him. (1 Samuel 9:11-19) Years passed, and she was abandoned by David. Her father gave her to another man in marriage and David took other wives. After Saul died, David finally decided to send for her. By this time he has six sons, all by different wives. Michal is not coming home to a husband whose has been lonely and yearning for her.  And she is forced to leave a husband who probably loves her. 2 Samuel 3:16 says “But her husband went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim.” We don’t have any details of their reunion, but I suspect it probably was not the joyous reunion of long lost lovers.

The next detail of their story we have in Scripture, takes place when King David brings the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem and he danced “with all his might” before the Lord. It was a great time of celebrating. David made burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. He blessed all the people with cakes and meats – it was a party. The Scripture says he returned to bless his household and Michal came out to meet him.  Nothing can throw a wet blanket on a good time like an angry, bitter woman. She accosted David and tried to shame him about his behavior. Michal had let her anger and bitterness turn to hatred.

David was not moved by her tirade. His heart was right with the Lord at that moment and he knew what he had done was approved by God. He let her know he would continue to worship the Lord who had chosen him to be king.

The sad end to the story just says “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” (2 Samuel 6:23) Years of hurt, anger and bitterness had finally bubbled out and she bore the consequences. To be without a child in that day was a sign of God’s displeasure.  No doubt it was a continued source of pain for her to the end of her life.

Michal had a right to be hurt by David actions – he’d abandoned her, taken other women and then forced her back with him. Sometimes we have the right to be hurt by others actions or words, but we must not allow that hurt to fester into bitterness and anger. It’s for our own good that we must forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.”
(Hebrews 12:14-16, The Message)

By choosing to hold on to her anger, bitterness and hurt, Michal missed all the blessings that could have been hers. She was left out of David’s generosity. She could have joined the party and received the blessing David wanted to share with his household. She could possibly even had a child.

What blessings are we missing by holding on to things from the past? If we want the Holy Spirit to heal our past hurts, we must first chose to forgive and chose to let go of any bitterness we may be holding on to.  Sometimes we don’t feel like we can forgive but we’re not called to do it on our own power. We can’t. We may not even want to. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give us the grace to forgive if we make the decision and chose to forgive. And with forgiveness comes peace. With forgiveness comes the joy of knowing we’re walking in obedience to God.

Peace and blessings to you all from our Lord Jesus Christ
Dee