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Spare Change - September 2021

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Life can get pretty rough at times.  Sometimes we feel like we are making good progress in our spiritual growth, while other times we seem to be falling further behind.  What do you do when you find yourself spinning your spiritual wheels?  Do you lean into your faith and seek the Lord or do you press on by yourself?  One thing we often do, but should try to avoid at all costs, is run back to the sin that we have been freed from.  I know there are sins that, with the help of the Lord, you have conquered but when we feel weak, tired, and defeated, that is when Satan can do a lot of harm.  We know we shouldn’t, but we run back to those sins because we find short term pleasure, we feel an emotional release, or it's just plain easier than fighting with it.  While there is a short-term freedom from the fight, we know that our spiritual lives take a hit.  There is a great example of this found in 1 Samuel 28.

Leading up to this passage, King Saul has become extremely jealous of the king-in-waiting, David.  David is more famous and more beloved than Saul.  He even tries to kill David, which causes David to go on the run.  Saul’s spiritual life takes a nosedive during this period.  The last of the great judges, Samuel, has died and Saul cannot get a word from the Lord.  In the past God has spoken to him through dreams, prophets like Samuel, or the Urim (divination tool of the priest); however, now God was silent.  This was a result of Saul’s hard heartedness.  He refused to humble himself to seek God’s will.  He had an entitlement that God frowned upon.

Saul, looking for any spiritual insight, goes back to a dark place.  Before King Saul the people of Israel were tossed to and fro in their spiritual allegiances.  They worshiped idols and practiced all kinds of different forms of worship during the period of the Judges.  King Saul, with the help of Samuel, had helped Israel get more focused on worship of the one true Lord, Yahweh, the God of the patriarchs.  Saul had kicked the mediums, sorcerers, and others performing magic out of Israel. That’s what makes what Saul does in 1 Samuel 28 so troubling.  He goes and finds one of the banished mediums to get a word from the Lord.

Do I even have to say how messed up this is?  Instead of repenting and turning back to the Lord he goes around God to a lady that practices forbidden magic.  This medium even acknowledges that what she is doing is forbidden, but Saul swears a promise by the Lord that she will not be punished.  Saul is acting very blasphemously now.  Despite his reckless behavior, he asked her to conjure the dead judge, Samuel.  The medium is shocked when Samuel appears.  This is most certainly a work of the Lord, not the medium as evidenced by her shock.  God is using this to get Saul’s attention.  Samuel does not have good news for Saul.  He confirms that God has indeed turned away from him because of his sinfulness and disobedience.  He also tells him God will allow him to die at the hand of his enemy the Philistines.

Saul was already far from God and instead of seeking God’s face in repentance he doubled down on sin.  He ran away from God to the thing he had put out of the kingdom.  He knew that magic was sinful, but when faced with what he thought was no other option, he ran headlong back toward sin.

Can you relate to Saul in this story? What do you do when you are far from the Lord?  What do you do when you feel God is silent?  Do you get frustrated and run further away from God into sin? Like I said before, there is comfort and ease with sin, but it's always short lived and ultimately not worth it.  Sin will always take you farther than you want to go and ask for more than you are willing to give.  It starts as a friend but quickly turns into a bitter master.  What sin is it for you that tempts you to run back to it?  Brothers and sisters, it is not worth it.  We need to turn to the Lord with pure repentant hearts instead of acts of worldliness or rebellion.

When I was a young student in college, I was challenged to memorize James 4. Part of it has always stuck with me and I find it very helpful in dealing with temptations. James says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”. God is waiting and wanting us to come back to Him.  If you are far from Him don’t run away, run to Him.  Like the prodigal son, He waits with open arms, all He requires is a humble and contrite heart of repentance.  So, no matter what you are going through, come back to God today!

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Spare Change - August 2021

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Recently I was given the opportunity to fill the pulpit while Pastor Alan was on vacation.  There was a part of the sermon that I had to cut for time.  I know you probably thought I could have cut more for time...just kidding.  I really enjoyed getting a chance to preach and was honored to bring you a word from Galatians 5:16-25.  In this sermon I spoke about how we can walk in the Spirit.  We do this by participating with the Spirit in killing sin (mortification), seeking to place Christ first so we could live in a new spirit filled life (vilification), cooperating with the work of the Spirit by feeding our souls the right kind of food (focusing on spiritual disciplines, specifically reading and studying God’s Word).

There was one more helpful thing about walking in the Spirit that I was going to mention but cut for time.  This is the idea that when we walk in the Spirit we must realize we are free from our past; but that doesn’t mean our past shouldn’t be acknowledged.  We are not supposed to forget our past sins but we are also not supposed to be held captive by them.

One of Satan’s biggest spiritual devices is to accuse us or pile on guilt after we have sinned.  It works like this: he often tempts us to sin, then we make the choice to sin and he turns around to accuse us.  He tells us how bad we are and how we will never amount to anything.  This shouldn’t surprise us, his name means accuser!  Living within this guilt forever will severely hurt our walk with the Spirit.  Some Christians have let their past sins cripple them.  Now I’m not saying that recent sins or sins that have great consequences don’t need to be dealt with.  There is a time of healing and repentance that must occur, but past sins do not put a black mark on you forever.  If so, the grace of God is not worth very much, is it?

So how do we deal with our past?  We must acknowledge it, learn from it, use it as a testimony, and move on to live for the Lord.  We can not let the ghost of our former self haunt us today.  This makes me think of that oak tree out in the front of our church that I mentioned during the sermon.  Remember how I talked about it being infested with oak galls?  I used it as an illustration of how we need to take in the right spiritual food to grow.  The oak tree has been injected with a special mixture of insecticide to kill the bugs and fertilize the tree over the past couple of years.  To give it the mixture the tree experts have to drill little holes all around the base of the tree.  The tree has recovered beautifully but there is some scarring at the base of the tree where they inject the mixture.

This got me thinking about the scars of our past.  In the spirit filled life we will have the scars from our sinful past but that is not who we are today.  A scar doesn’t mean you are not healthy, it shows a past trauma that you have overcome. The sins of our past scar our lives but they do not define who you are….you find your spiritual health, your identity, new life, your everything in our Savior, Jesus Christ, not your past.  Instead of being held captive or discouraged about your past, be in awe of all that God has brought you through.  Your past scars give glory to God, let them be a testimony of His grace in your life.

Do not let your past keep you from doing ministry and following God’s will in your life.  Walking in the Spirit means following God to do whatever and go wherever He calls you to go.  God has redeemed me from much brokenness in my past, I bear the scars of many mistakes but that has not stopped me from following God in my life.  Everything good that I have, everything that I have is all because of God and it is all for His glory.  It is the same with you!  So live in the freedom that Christ gives us and walk by the Spirit!

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