Monday, June 23, 2014

To Drink or Not to Drink...and Responding to Other Lusts of the Flesh (Modified)

I felt a need to modify to be fully disclosing and true. So the part I modified is colored blue.

Ok, let me begin by saying this is not a deposition on convincing you what is right or wrong or arguing a case for one way or the other about drinking, but rather a personal inspection of the Spirit within each of us as individuals and listening to it, especially when it is something that is not called out as a black and white sin in the Word. That said, just so you can see this is not an attack on those who drink in moderation, I do not believe drinking is forbidden in the Bible. I did a study a while back on the subject where I looked up every verse from the concordance that had to do with drinking, wine, drunkenness, etc. looking for whether it is right or wrong and I never found anything that forbid it. Drunkenness no question is spoken against several times, but even when Noah got drunk and was found in his nakedness I was surprised that it seemed God reprimanded his family's treatment of him more in scripture than Noah's act of getting drunk.

However, I am using drinking as an example because it has always been an area of contention for me. Please think on this substituting anything that may be a struggle for you. A quick background. I did the party thing in high school and college. I drank to get drunk and enjoyed it. Long story short, God took hold of my heart and truly changed me, I was humbled and ashamed of my behavior and totally enamored with God and grateful for the change He made in my life. I spent about a year completely abstaining from alcohol and I truly believe this was necessary for me in order to change.

I did start having a drink here and there but only in "safe" situations - only with family present or my husband, occasionally with a close girl friend. I have spent the past four or five years living that way and being very careful with drinking. The past year however there have been a few times when I felt guilty. And I'm not talking about guilt because I was completely hammered, just a nagging feeling that maybe it wasn't right for me. I dismissed it, even thinking on that scripture that says to put away the old self. I used to think that applied and meant to completely abstain, but then started to view it as how differently I approached alcohol. I truly wasn't my old self. I despised the thought of getting drunk. That's certainly a change from my old self. So I continued, even recently. But not with peace.

I look around and I see people enjoying having drinks in moderation and even now I truly do not think this is a sin. Yet the thought is on my mind a lot, and lately I've realized it is stealing my peace. I know a few things are true about me that makes me that makes moderation hard. I am highly habitual, with anything. For example, if I start eating a turkey sandwich for a few days at lunch, I will go months eating a turkey sandwich every day for lunch and enjoy it! I also struggle with indulgence. If I really like something, I want a lot of it! So I know these areas that I am prone to and know because of them that alcohol is potentially dangerous to me. And to be completely honest, while truly in these last few years I have maintained a level of control, I have had a couple times when I did have too much and felt terrible about it and also times when I felt I had made it too regular of a habit, even in moderation. So I know the nagging in my spirit was a warning that I should have given heed to.  

1 Peter 2:11-beginning of 12 - Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep you behavior excellent...

My purpose in this post is not really to visit specific sins or opinions about what is right and wrong, but to think  on the personal issues in life that steal our peace, even if it something that is not explicitly forbidden in scripture. If there is something in your life that steals your peace get rid of it! Wage war against it! My bible commentary on this verse says - "War - to carry on a military campaign. Fleshly lusts are personified as if they were an army of rebels or guerrillas who incessantly search out and try to destroy the Christian's joy, peace, and usefulness."

I agree with the commentary and add that fleshly lusts are not only personified in the verse but also very personal. What steals my peace may not be a problem for you at all. What you struggle with I may never even think twice about. We all need to look at what hinders us personally. If something is stealing our peace its not right for us. These things are war against our spirit and do destroy our peace and joy. When we should be free but instead are bound by questions and guilt, something needs to addressed. And I agree with the thought that these things steal our usefulness too. If we have something in our life that brings guilt, how much more likely we are to feel we are not fit for service. We need to know we are redeemed and fully equipped by God to run full speed in service to Him, but when we are pulled down by guilt or questions about our behavior, we will be more likely to hesitate or separate ourselves from His kingdom work.

And the scripture says abstain from these things, not toy with them.

Let's live life free. Regardless of what anyone says, if it doesn't line up with what God wants in our life, if it causes guilt and questions, I encourage us to at least try abstaining and see if it doesn't bring a freedom and and increase joy and peace in our lives. God is a very personal God. He has plans for you and I individually in His grand scheme. Let us keep our hearts free so He can fill them.

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore, those who also suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Who better to entrust our souls to than our very Creator? Is He asking you to do something right today? Trust Him, even if it is hard or makes you a have a little different viewpoint than most He will honor your obedience and bring a freedom and joy that is truly worth it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Not Insignificant

I was reading in 1 Samuel 17 about David and Goliath and was so impressed by David's refusal to let what others think discourage him. In verses 28-30 David's has a typical brotherly conversation where he was asking about Goliath, seeming interested in taking him on and wondering why no Israelite had taken the challenge yet. His brother basically told him to go on, that he was just there to see the battle and dismissed his questions. David responds like the little brother would and goes on to ask the crowd what he had done wrong and their perspective about his questioning. They agreed with his brother....David was insignificant against the giant and was just talking foolishly, perhaps even arrogantly. Their doubt did not deter him though, and David goes on to slay the giant and later to become one of the greatest kings of Israel.

How many times if faced with discouragement and doubt do we in turn doubt ourselves as well? Or, if we don't doubt our own ability we get frustrated with others lack of belief or support and walk away, leaving them to fend for themselves when we had the ability to overcome the situation. David relied on God, which is something we cannot overlook, he didn't run out there alone but he kept his faith and did what God asked unaffected by what the others thought of him or the size of the giant. When we face our own "Goliaths" we need to remember to keep our heads up and keep pushing forward if we know God is with us, no matter what kind of doubt from others or feeling of insignificance we might face.

 28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger burned against David and he said, "Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle." 29 But David said, "What have I done now? Was it not just a question ?" 30 Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before .

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Don't Give Up

I was reading in 2 Samuel 6 this morning when David decided to bring back the ark of God. The first time he went to get it he did not follow the guidelines the Lord had set about how to handle the ark. Although he retrieved it and the people with him (30,000 men) celebrated greatly before the Lord, the Lord was angered that he did not do as the Lord said. When one in his company, Uzzah, reached out to steady it on their way back, the Lord's anger burned against him for his irreverence and he struck him down right there.

The Lord's judgement angered David initially. Then he was fearful and he left the ark behind with a Gittite named Obed-edom. It stayed there three months until David heard how blessed the household of Obed-edom had been. So he went back to get it, this time in full reverence and obedience to God's way. He was successful this time, and he celebrated greatly before the Lord.

I realized this morning how much my attitude mimics this sometimes. Especially when I am hurt or offended. I can be quick in my anger or fear to decide I will have nothing to do with the person or the situation going forward. I can over-react pretty easily and decide to shut out certain things or people who may actually be a great blessing to me if I would approach them or it correctly.

Just to clarify what I'm trying to say here are some examples:

- Disengaging from the church or an organization that shares our beliefs because of a disagreement or idea/thought that doesn't align with our opinion instead of finding a way to stay involved or working with the people who differ to come to a compromise.

- Giving up completely on a friendship because of a hurt or annoyance instead of giving grace or confronting if necessary.

- Quitting a job because of a difficulty instead of working through it.

- Giving up on a dream or goal because of a failure instead of hanging in and improving or finding a different approach.

- Giving up on growing in Christ because our plan didn't work the way we thought or because the sin we are trying to overcome crept back in.

David initially gave up on what he knew would be a tremendous blessing. Once he heard of what a blessing it was actually being though, he went back for it with complete dedication and resolve. Let us realize this and live this out in our lives. Don't give up on something just because the first attempt failed. Follow God's word completely, not half halfheartedly, and go after the goal 100%! We can chase after the right thing in the wrong way, so let's be open to look at where we may need to change or adjust our attitude or approach in order to be successful.