I've been studying Scripture with friends, and I am attempting to apply these lessons to my daily life as a believer. Based on the first lesson on sharing the Gospel, I ask myself 1) Do I truly have compassion for the lost? 2) Am I sharing the Gospel and the good things God has done? 3.) Since the enemy is not very creative and since he blinds the minds of the lost, in what way may he be trying to blind my mind to new things God has for me? For lesson two, about repentance,my self-examining questions are 1.) Do I truly ABHOR sin? 2.) Am I quick to turn to God and ask Him for help, or do I make excuses for my bad attitudes, justify my wrong thoughts, and hang on to my pet sins-thereby refusing what God has to offer? I've asked the questions, and I've encountered some situations that have given me the chance to answer them.
At the beginning of the year, I was inspired to create a concoction I thought would be healthy. It was a combination of cranberry juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, and lemon juice. One morning, I heated a cup and sipped on it as I was spending time in prayerful meditation. The first sips of the steaming brew were good. I could taste the juice and honey, with only a hint of tangy vinegar. But I got caught up in my prayer time, and left the cup on the end table. By the time I got around to taking another swig, the drink was cold. Yuck! The potent taste of vinegar pricked my tongue. It was as if the honey had evaporated.
It reminded me of two truths. The first is the bitter can taste sweet if it is the right temperature. Wrapped in love, instruction, correction, and even punishment can be well-received. Surrounded by encouragement, a person can overcome many obstacles. Cloaked in God's Spirit, a Christian can endure hardships with joy. In these instances, the warmth of the environment make the undesirable more palatable. By the same token, the second truth is illustrated in this situation. Harsh manners, isolation, and disconnected hearts can take the same mixture of life and bring the bitter to the forefront: Resentment, self-pity, worldly mindsets. The concoction is the same, but the coldness of constitution enhances the negative.
While there are some environments that we cannot control, we always have the ability to determine our spiritual temperature. Are we tasting the sweet? Then we're likely staying warmed by God's Spirit. Are we puckered with prune faces over the bitter? Then we may need to evaluate if we have left spiritual matters unattended, thus allowing our hearts to grow cold. Today's a good day to "Taste and see that the Lord is good," (Psalm 34:8) for His presence is sweet any time of the year.
Tip/Tidbit: Take a minute to rehearse your recent thoughts. Are they entrenched in anger, unforgiveness, criticism, lust, or blame? Is there a struggle to indicate you're trying to overcome, a fight against old mindsets, or an effort to defeat negative thinking? Do your thoughts say you are willing to let go of wrongs, willing to forgive the bruising, willing to wish the best for/to others, quick to recognize the good? Are your thoughts sweet, flowing with love, compassion, concern? Make an effort to connect with God, the Sweetener of life, today.
I have begun a simple Bible study with some friends. Each week, we look up selected verses. Some are reading God’s Word for the first time. Others dig a little deeper and study everything from the Greek meaning to the vast commentaries on the subject. Me? I guess I seek to apply the verses to my own life. The passage that stirred me in this week’s reading was 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” I guess because my mother was physically blind this stands out to me.
Blindness is the result of some abnormality, disease, or external force. It causes stumbling, confusion, and loss of freedom. It affects more than the victim. Blinded minds are much the same. The ability God has given to see the truth is marred by the disease of sin, resulting in stumbling, confusion, and loss of freedom. We see this in our world as lost people think they are truly living yet are so turned around they don’t realize they are in a place of destruction. Just as it was pitiful to find my mother in the corner of a room convinced she was headed down the hall, the plight of the lost grips me. It should if I care about the blind and the innocent bystanders who are affected by sin’s influence.
When I think about it, I can see Satan continues with his same ploys even after someone is a believer. In my life, he’s tried to block out the light of God’s truth with the sin of a “beam” of judgement, a disease of temptation, or even a solid punch in the eye when I’ve pulled my shield of faith out of the way. Thankfully, through the Spirit, I don’t have to stay blind! Like the song Amazing Grace declares, “I once was blind, but now I see!”
Tip/Tidbit: Ponder this question: Do you feel like you are standing in the light of God’s truth, or do you feel disconnected from the Gospel? In light of the New Year and the promise of a fresh start, are there areas in which you need to surrender more fully to God (loving or giving more generously), areas in which you need to remove yourself from the enemy’s influence (a temptation you need to deny, a wrong attitude to release, a person to forgive? Let’s begin 2016 without the hindrances of yesteryear.
*The Bible study passages my friends and I are exploring are posted weekly at http://www.rachelwindham.com/bible-study-lessons.html
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