Dealing With the Flesh (Carnal Nature)

Every once in a while I am asked the question, “How do I break the grip of a certain unnamed sin?”  It could be any one of a number of sins but the answer is the same.  All you need to do is die.  No, I am not saying that you have to die physically but I am saying that you have to die to the control of the flesh demands.  You see there are two natures within the Christian, the lower nature called the flesh and the spiritual nature we call the spirit.  Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  There is a war going on all the time.  The flesh hates the things of God and the Spirit resists the things of the flesh.  If I decide to follow the cravings of the flesh, the Spirit will convict me, and if I decide to follow the Spirit, the flesh will cry out like a whining baby.  The more the flesh gets its way the more it will demand because the flesh is wholly and completely given to sin.  When the Spirit wins the battle, the flesh is subdued and the fallen nature will yield to the Spirit.

This fight is to the death.  You cannot hope to settle the conflict with a compromise or by trying to be fair because the flesh does not fight fair.  You cannot win by fighting with will power because that is governed by the flesh.  Trying harder is a recipe for failure.  Determination will not win either for that is the effort of the mind which is controlled by the flesh.  The truth is that no matter how hard you try and whatever method you use, you will not win this way because the your personal strength is not sufficient to break the bonds of sin.  There is only one way to win and that is to die to the strength of the flesh.  That includes any and all methods of self effort.  Since you cannot win by the flesh, you must be delivered from a power that is greater than the force that binds you.

Note what it says in the previous verse Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  The only way to be successful is to walk in the Spirit and He will guide you.  If you are going to trust the Spirit you cannot your own formula to it, though that is just what the flesh will try to get you to do.  Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  There it is, the answer that so often eludes the one caught in a repeating sin and cannot find their way out.  The old nature must die.

The death of the old man (nature) is imposed upon you by the work of God in bringing you to the point of distrust and despite of the old man.  Notice that this death is by crucifixion and not by suicide.  God will do the work of destroying the old nature while we trust Him and not ourselves.  The end result is the death of the old man which frees us from its grip and now we can serve God.  Ro 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Ga 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Ga 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.   1Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Preparation

When thinking about what goes into making a trip all it can be, I think that preparation is one of the most important things you can do.  It will enhance your trip in many ways; it will expand it, it will enrich it, it will extend it, it will enable it and it will preserve it.

In planning for my trip to China, I have already begun to experience it in many ways.  First, I have had to plan where and when I was going.  Since I am going with others there was the necessity of coordinating all our schedules and finding a time that would fit all of us.  Then there was the destination.  In this case, I will be traveling with the others for much of the journey, but then I will be separated from the others for several days and traveling alone to a place that I have never been.  That can be daunting to some and exhilarating to others.  In my case it is some of both.  Fortunately, I will be meeting with someone I know and He knows the place, customs, etc.  I will literally be in his hands.

Then there is the securing of my passport (which I already have), the visa (which came in last week, and the plane tickets which have been purchased.  These are extremely important as they allow access to this part of the world and determine a lot of your schedule.

Another thing I have done is read up on the places that you will visit and the customs and culture that you will be experiencing.  The more you know about your destination, the more that you will enrich the experience.  It was enlightening to discover some of the history and current activities where I will be going.  One highlight for me is that my destination grows some of the greatest produce in China.  Since I have a lot of experience in produce (both growing and eating which I love), this will be a treat for me to taste some of God’s treats that I have never had the opportunity to enjoy before.

Planning on what you will take with you is also important.  What you will wear will be affected by the climate you will be in and the customs of the people.  Things that you will need like medicine, personal items (make a list and update it regularly), and things that may not be available there that you have need of.  Preserving your experience is also important.  Your camera, pencil and paper, gifts, etc  Think it through and then rethink it again.  Don’t fret about it but your anticipation will enhance the actual experience.  It will also give you a sense of preparedness that will allow you to enjoy the trip to the fullest.

One of the things that I am looking forward to is the actual flight.  I will be flying nonstop to Seoul, Korea, then an hour and 10 minute layover, then another nonstop flight to Guangzhou, China (near Hong Kong), an overnight layover and then on to my final destination (another 5-6 hour flight).  Altogether it will be about 24 hours flight time plus layovers.  So who in his right mind would be looking forward to such a grueling flight.  Me, of course.  I have the choice to suffer through it or turn it into an experience that will be of benefit. I simple made the choice to not suffer but to allow myself to be stretched to the point that I will be able to contain the blessing God is giving me.  It is a choice, you know, so I plan to spend some time getting to know those with whom I travel with.  I plan to do some exercising on the plane so that my legs don’t develop problems that you get on long flights.  I also plan to watch the terrain and the people to notice the changes in the land we fly over and to pick up on anything that will help me once I get there.  I plan to do some writing while in flight and anything else that will keep my mind occupied.  When I have exhausted all other avenues, I may even get some sleep – though it is hard for me to sleep on a plane.

We all have a trip ahead of us that these thoughts could help us prepare for – from here to eternity.  We should secure the proper credentials (salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ).  The trip won’t take long (a moment, in the twinkling of an eye) so we won’t have to fill time because time will be no more.  There are some things that we will want to take, such as our works of faith, our testimony, our hope, our eternal body, etc. that we will need when we get home.  We should study the Word of God to teach us about our final destination to make our arrival even more enriching.  It will help us to understand what is happening.  We won’t need to pack because we will be given a robe of righteousness that will never wear out and everything will be ours to serve our Lord with.  There will be no more sorrow or tears and all will be glorious.  Don’t you want to meet me there?  All aboard!!!

 

 

When trials Come

It has been a few days since I last posted so I want to offer you an explanation.  My schedule ihas been quite full with the Senior Adult Bible Conference,just completed along with the upcoming events such as out of town guest coming, the visa application that I just got off on Saturday and a trip to North Carolina which I am currently at.  It is .5:05 AM on Tuesday.  The trip began on Sunday when we were scheduled to leave Dallas at 8:20 PM but never left until 9:00 PM.  The flight was good but there was a heavy thunderstorm when we got to Raleigh, NC and we had to circle for 45 minutes while waiting to find a time we could land.  Then after we landed we had to wait on the plane for another 45 minutes until  the lightening stopped so we could  d board and then wait some more for our luggage.  In short, we got to bed around 3:00 AM.  Then it was the day of figuring out how to tie in two roofs that were at odd angles to each other and at two different elevations.

Isn’t that just like life,  all our plans are frustrated and then we are pushed to our limits.  I am happy to report that we never let it control us so that we forgot who is in charge.  I am thinking of Jonah.  He was directed to go to Nineveh, but made plans to go the other direction and wound up in the belly of a whale for three days and nights.  Have you ever wondered what Jonah was thinking while he was there in the fish’s belly?  If he were in today’s world he might of thought, how did I get in such a mess.  There was no warning about the upcoming whether change that messed up the voyage.  Then there was that crew that tossed me into the sea.  You’d think they would have had more compassion for me and my needs.  And if that wasn’t enough, instead of my needs being met, I wound up being breakfast for this huge fish.  He must really be desperate, mixing me up with all of this sea weed.  You see, Jonah was thinking of himself instead of his responsibility and God’s plan.  Sometimes things go wrong because God is trying to turn us to the right direction.  That wasn’t the problem for us so why would it be so difficult.

Another reason that things can get messed up is that God is developing our faith.  That is an ongoing work of the Lord.  We need to know that no matter how impossible the circumstances become, our God is bigger than the problems are.  So much of the time, we slip into the thinking that this situation is too big for God.  We forget that He who made all that is, is the same one who reign over all that is and He has the power to change anything.  I am sure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednrgo gained a new perspective about God’s power.  God is greater than the laws of nature.  When you are walking with Him, even the laws of nature must bow to His authority.

A third reason that things may not go as planned is that God is using you to illustrate to others who are watching, how a Christian should act under pressure.  Sometimes we do a good job and sometimes we don’t.  In this situation I am not sure why the situation was so difficult but I am seeing some things.  On the first day of our work here, I have been impressed at how God has guided each thing we have attempted.  It seems that the ability to see through the complexity of the situation has been over powered by God and we have been able to make the very difficult cuts that established the beams, on which everything sets.  This reminds me to make sure the foundation because the superstructure works right, only if the foundation is right.  By following God’s plan, I have always found that anything and everything that was needed, has been provided.  Even to the extent of adequate rest.  I am amazed how well I have made it without adequate rest.  Then last night I just ran out of energy and was in bed by 8:30 but then awoke this morning at 4:05, rested and ready for the day.  Now I have time to meet with the Lord and even write this blog.

To sum this up:  sometimes things get messed up to get us in line with the Lord; sometimes they  become difficult as God is working on us; and sometimes trials are ours so that God can use us.  Really it is not so important that we see the why, as much as it is that we simply trust Him and know that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted  to Him:  and that is me.

Update – 8-3-18

Things are starting to happen with the mission trip to China.  The tickets are being purchased and it is starting to become a reality.  The date of departure is set for October 24, 2018.  Our first leg of the trip will be a non stop flight from DFW to Guangdong, China, which is near Hong Kong.  From there I will take another flight to northern China where I will meet Forest and Yan and spend a few days with them.

As soon as I get the tickets and full schedule, I can then continue with my visa application which should take about two weeks after it is sent in.

Forest reported that they are working hard on the translation of my book and hopes to have it completed and printed by the time I get there.  It will not be printed by a noted publisher but is will be something that I can bring back here and finalize it for our uses here.  Hopefully, I can then make it available to Christians here that speak and read Chinese.  This will be a milestone in the present ongoing work of the 4 language translations  that are underway.

The translation in Japan took a hit recently when a portion of the translation was lost in a flood in Japan.  I have 4 chapters that have been completed but it was a big loss of the work that had been done beyond that.  They are regrouping and pressing forward with that work there.

There has been significant progress on the Russian translation and chapter 4 has just been completed.  Joel has been more than faithful in his work and it is such a joy to see the Lord bless him through this process.  I think he really has little awareness as to how God may use it.  There are so many in this country who speak only Russian that it surprised me how needed it is.  I can see the Lord working on many fronts.

The Spanish translation is moving forward as well but at a much slower pace.  There have been much interference in family needs and prayer is needed there.  Still the translation is on chapter 3 and moving forward.

As always, I solicit your prayers for this ministry and the safety and guidance of those who are sharing in this work.of translating. Your prayers are more needed than you know.

Train Up A Child – Values or Principles

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

In today’s blog I will be addressing Values.  Another word for values is the word principles.  Values are the worth that we place on things, events, and people,.  Your values will be the deciders for all of your Choices.  I don’t know the origin of the quote, “I am the sum of all of my choices”, but it does reveal who we are in light of our value system.

When my wife and I were “training” our 7 children I tried to teach principles rather than rules.  Discipline was always accompanied with a class on the principles involved and some assurance of my love for them.  My kids learned to dread the instruction more than the discipline and one time my son said, Dad, just give me a spanking, but don’t give me a lecture on principles.  Another time, one of the kids came out with “Now the principle of principles is the principle thing, therefore, learn the principles.”  My point was that we should not try to follow laws or rules, but rather principles.  These principles are our values.  They are learned by repeated application, time and time again.   Isiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

So where does this value system come from.  It is built from our previous choices, and those choices were based on the values determined by our experiences and our training.  From a child who values food and comfort above all else, through adulthood where other values take on greater rolls, we build our value system.  If our training is on the level of the gratification of the body only, we become a selfish individual.  If our parental training.is appeasing the child for a moment of peace, then we are training the child that this is how to get what they want and their wanting will increase in its demands.  If we deny the child their request, then we train them to bottle their desires up and internalize them and create a problem of them not being able to give express themselves.  This can build to the level of exploding and then the results are not pretty because it will happen at an inopportune time and with unacceptable results.  Our training should contain a combination of building character, objective evaluation, consideration for others, patients, understanding, etc.  But, you say, that takes a lot of work.  Yes, it can be a lot of work if you look at it from the perspective of what it cost me now, or it can be a good investment on the greater reward that will come later.  Training the next generation will require a lot but it is not an option.  You are training all the time.  The question is not ‘if we train’ but ‘what we train’ them for.  They will establish some sense of value regardless of your effort.  They will establish their values, based on how they read your training.

It is important to note that you cannot fake it.  The saying, do as I say, not as I do, just doesn’t work.  A two year old knows what buttons to push to get what they want.  They can spot a hypocrite in a second.  If they are catching on that early, and I believe they do, then the training has already begun.  So we need to ask ourselves the question, What am I training them for?   Do I love them enough to give them my best?  Are they important enough to me to lay some of my values aside in order that they can develop into a healthy adult with great values?  Values are more caught than taught so we must be consistent.

What To Do?

Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?   29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

This is a fairly common question, both in the Bible and in the world today? Here it is stated, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ and in Mark 10:17 and Luke 1025, 18:18 the rich young ruler asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life’?  What am I supposed to do?  What does God want from me?  This is how it sounds in modern day language.  Though it may be stated in many ways it remains the same question.  It is based on our merit system mentality of earning the reward by some act or benefit forfeited.

In our Scripture today we find Jesus stating the answer as clearly as anywhere else in the Bible.  It has been a favorite couple of verses to me for most of my Christian life.  The answer is direct and to the point.  The only requirement is to believe on Him whom He hath sent.  It requires not deeds or sacrifice since that was paid by Jesus when He gave His own life for our sins.  Payment was made in full.  To attempt to pay for it yourself is an insult to God and ultimately says “God, your work was insufficient.”  Who would intentionally say such a thing?  Yet, when we attempt to pay for our own sin, that is exactly what we are saying.

This also begs the question, What then does it mean , to believe on Him whom He hath sent?  In the original language of the Bible (Konia Greek)  the word believe and the word faith are exactly the same root word and can be substituted one for the other.  Scriptural believing then is the same thing as trusting, relying on, dependence upon, etc.  The work that God requires of us is not doing mighty things but totally relying on Him to do for us what is impossible for us to do, righteous living.  It is impossible for us because of our merit system mentality and we find it impossible to to think any other way until He reveals it to us.  Believing in Him is the sum and the jist of our works that please Him.  Notice in Romans 14:23b for whatsoever is not of faith is sin and again in Hebrews 11:6a  But without faith it is impossible to please him:  that all else  beyond faith or believing is not only distasteful and an insult, but frustrates the grace of God.

I have gotten over trying to work for God and now I long for God to work on and for me.  Just think about that for a minute.  Who is in trouble here, God or me?  God doesn’t need help, but I do.  Anything God wants done, He can easily do.  He isn’t focused on accomplishing deeds, but He is very focused in finishing me.  I am not saying that I only work for myself but that my deeds are the outworking of what God has placed within me.  Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  These are just two powerful verses that expand on this truth that God is infinitely more concerned with what we are than what we do.  He will do the works if we will do the work of believing.

Living by Faith

Everyone lives by faith all the time, but it is not the faith referenced in the Bible.  To understand this truth, you must understand what faith is and what the faith of the Bible is.  Faith simply means to trust or rely on.  When you sit in a chair you are exercising your faith in the chair.  When you take medicine, you are relying on the doctors and those making the medicine to prescribe the correct dosage.  When you drive a car your are relying on the car to perform a certain way and that the other drivers will observe the laws.  On an on it goes as we place our lives on the line because we trust in the objects of our faith.  This type of faith is in material living but it is not the faith intended in the Bible.  The Bible restricts our faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is Spiritual in nature and is eternal in its scope.  The purpose of faith is not to provide some type of utopia for you but to direct you through this maze of traps and pitfalls we call life and to cooperate with the Lord in His transforming us into creatures of righteousness.  Because we are incapable of living righteously on our own because of our sin nature, the Lord has provided a way for us to live life on His level of righteousness and that is to obey the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t take will power, it takes faith and obedience.  It doesn’t take strength, it takes weakness.  It doesn’t take works or deeds, it takes a reliance on God for what we cannot do. Faith in the Lord is an equal opportunity plan.  Everyone has the capacity to meet the demands of God through faith in Him, without adding any righteousness on our own.  It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, educated or not, with or without wealth, or any other such contrast.  The one thing that is required is that you are trusting the Lord and not anything other than the Lord.

So how do you know that the Lord is directing you.  First of all He has given us His Word, the Bible.  Whatever direction you have should be measured against what the Bible says.  That is the only 100% safe written word.  Secondly, what is the witness of the Holy Spirit within you?  You do not have the Holy Spirit within you until you are born again.  If you have never been saved then you do not have the witness of the Spirit to direct you.  That does not mean that He is not working for you, it just means that you do not have the spiritual sensitivity to know His leading.  Thirdly, (assuming you are a Christian) does the direction contradict spiritual principles established through the ages of the church and your Christian experiences?  Fourthly, does it edify others, yourself and your witness?  Fifthly, does it magnify and honor the Lord?

2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

Baby Steps 4

The third translator came quite surprisingly.  A man I have been working with for over a quarter century, was having a struggle in knowing how the Lord wanted to use him.  He had studied Russian for several years and had made a couple trips to Russia.  He even had worked as a translator in the Russian language but because of a limitation he had, he had never been able to really find the work he fit into.  He was constantly second guessing God’s plan for him and as a result, was never able to settle on any one thing that God had made certain.

Knowing his background as well as his heart, I found myself giving him the same advice over and over again. Somehow he thought that he might miss something so he tried to add credence to everything that came along.  The result was that nothing was ever truly settled.  It is just as the Bible says,  Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

As I listened to him I found a common denominator which was that every conversation revolved around what he could do.  I then attempted to turn his attention  from himself to others.  It was not what he could do for God but how he could enrich the lives of others.  I also advised him that he needs to begin doing what was in his heart to do.  The thing he identified that was the greatest joy to do was Russian translation.  So then  I suggested to him that he simply begin to translate something for the practice to sharpen his skills again.  Lacking confidence, he wanted or needed something more specific so I suggested that he try my book, thinking that it would at least give him a start.  It seemed to be a mountain to him so I suggested that he begin with only one chapter.

Now he is growing more and more rapidly and moving at a faster pace continually.  He talks less of himself and more about others.  He has stated that the more he has translated, the easier it has become.  It is much easier to carry on a conversation with him now and his understanding grows every day.  One of the most outstanding  things that I see in him is his dedication to be precise and accurate in his work.  He is now finishing the third chapter and has every intention of finishing the book.  He has said several times that upon the completion of his work that it then needs to be examined by others for a more perfect translation.

Sometimes all of us needs a helping hand to lift us to a higher level of living.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 3

A second bond came from a pastor in Japan that I met on a trip to visit my son who was living and working in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son, Daniel, in Japan.  While we were there we determined that we wanted to visit a Christian church to have the experience and to aid us in our understanding of their culture.

We asked our daughter-in-law if she knew where on was and she put us in contact with a church.  The church then sent a car to pick us up as we didn’t know our way around the area.  We were so appreciative and wanted to thank them in the right way.  I knew that gifting was a big thing in Japan but we were on our way already so there wasn’t time to buy something.  Then I remembered that I had a copy of my book with me and determined to give that as a gift for their care for us.

Upon arrival, we were directed into the church and introduced to the pastor.  I then presented the pastor with my gift, not knowing if I was doing it right.  He hesitated for a moment and then he got misty and I thought he was going to cry.  I asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, No you don’t understand.  You see, I have been praying that the Lord would send me someone to encourage me and you are him.  Then I felt like crying.  Our bond was immediate as we both felt that this was a divine appointment.  I am not sure what he told the congregation but after the service we were surrounded by everyone and they all wanted to talk with us.  At one point I was talking to four people at the same time, trying to answer their questions and my wife was trying to talk to two more.  All the while the others were crowding around to listen.  This went on for the better part of an hour so we didn’t get any time to speak with the pastor.  He then requested for us to join him for lunch the next day.

Darla, wasn’t feeling well the next day so I went on alone.  I was met with the pastor, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law at a fine restaurant and enjoyed a great meal.  He shared that he had read my entire book and was so impressed that he asked permission to use it in his work and of course I agreed.  He then told me of a member of his church that was impressed by our visit that she had determined to read my book as well.  The pastor challenged her with the question, you don’t speak English nor do you read English, so how do you intend to do that.  She replied that she had considered it and had decided that she would get an English/Japanese dictionary and read it that way. (Note, so far she has read three chapters.)  My immediate thought was, Lord give us this kind of dedication.

Our bond was instantaneous and has continued to this day.  He became my second translator though I wasn’t  even looking for another translator.  He now calls me his mentor though I learn from him continually.  His heart is so big that it includes all of Japan and China.  He has made at least 9 trips to China to train the young pastors there. Because of his schedule, the translation has been going slow but recently the Lord sent him an assistant so the work will gather momentum.  His goal is for all of Japan to read the book and to put their trust in the Lord.

to be continued . . .