The Overcomer’s Diet

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, January 28, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Freedom From Sin.”

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7).

You may recall from the story of our foreparents, Adam and Eve, that God created humankind in a perfect world. The environment was perfect. The holy couple was perfect. All of the fine details of God’s creation were perfect. The relationship between God and humanity was, well, perfect.

Unfortunately, Eve was deceived into accepting the word of the wily serpent over the Word of her loving Lord. Adam chose to jump into sin with his now fallen wife, and they both spiraled downhill toward inevitable death. Thankfully, God had already foreseen their fall (not that they had to fall), and provided that if fallen human beings submitted themselves to God by faith, and continued to grow in love and submission to Him through the righteousness of Christ, they would be redeemed from eternal death.

Some don’t realize that when the Bible says that God stationed an angel with a fiery sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve sinned, that He had their best interest at heart. The tree made people who continued to eat from it immortal. That is, as long as one could freely eat from the Tree of Life, one would never die. What if the now fallen couple were allowed to continue eating from the tree? Due to sin, now disease, strife, emotional distress,and bad relationships, had become the lot of humanity. Can you imagine what eternity would be like with Ebola continuing to eat away at your flesh, but you never die? Can you imagine what an eternity of spousal abuse would look like? Can you imagine how it would be if slave masters could continue their heinous, devilish plans forever? I think you get the picture. So it was a blessing that God’s Plan of Redemption included a temporary ban of Tree of Life fruit eating.

Now, here’s more blessing, if you can handle the truth: God is now forming holy characters in the lives of cooperative people. He has promised clean hearts, new minds, humility, love, and the ability to do His will to those who would simply yield to Him as He gives them strength. And He promised that those who overcome our human deficiencies through the power of His blessed Holy Spirit would one day have access to the Tree of Life again. We will be reunited and it will feel so good. Once God has sealed those who have continued loving Him, and Jesus finally returns as He promised He would, He will guide us to that blessed tree, which has 12 manner of fruit and leaves for our eternal healing.

Now imagine eating from the tree with no sin, sadness, pain, suffering, or evil of any kind. How does that feel?




As Easy As Hailing A Taxi

Black men trying to get a taxi at the Los Angeles International Airport, known to many as LAX, may have a one-in-five chance of not getting one. At least that’s what two black Los Angeles police officers discovered during a recent undercover operation.

Because of these findings, the Los Angeles City Council may decide to levy stiffer penalties on taxi drivers accused of racially discriminating against airport passengers. A vote may happen as early as this week.

“The last thing we want is for our city to have any part in discrimination,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.

Blumenfield, who represents the part of Los Angeles known as the San Fernando Valley, not only proposed the stiffer penalties but wants to see the undercover operation continue for another year. One of the penalties being considered is banning guilty drivers from working the airport for a year.

Taxi drivers discriminating against black men – described by some as “hailing while black” – is neither unique to Los Angeles nor a new phenomenon. In 1999, actor Danny Glover (the “Lethal Weapon” movies, “Beloved”, “The Color Purple”) alleged that five taxis in New York failed to stop for him, his daughter and her college roommate. Glover also filed a complaint with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, accusing another taxi driver with racial discrimination because the driver didn’t allow Glover to ride in the front.

Ten years after Glover’s allegations, ABC’s Good Morning America show conducted its own “hailing while black” investigation. The show recruited attorney Christopher Darden, famous for his work as a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, to hail cabs in New York. Darden had no problem getting a taxi during the day. At night, it was another story.

Two cabs passed Darden by, according to Good Morning America. A third, driven by a black man, stopped and picked him up.

“I guess it’s true what they say, ‘After dark, it’s hard to catch a cab to Harlem,'” Darden said on the show.

GMA continued its experiment by having two other men – one white, one black – try to hail a taxi at the same time. The results were similar to Darden’s efforts: Both were successful during the day, but at night the black man was less likely to get a cab to stop for him.

“Unfortunately, the problem of taxicab drivers prejudging certain fares still exists, though to a lesser extent than in years past,” read a statement from the New York City Taxi Commission in response to the GMA report.

The commission also indicated that training had been instituted for New York cab drivers in an effort to reduce driver discrimination.

The undercover police operation in Los Angeles was triggered by the experience of ESPN’s Doug Glanville. The baseball analyst, who is black, wrote an essay for The Atlantic last year in which he described being discriminated against by a taxi driver at LAX. According to Glanville, a white colleague with whom he was traveling had successfully hailed a cab but when the driver realized that Glanville was also a passenger, the driver rejected both men as fares.
“Go across the street!” Glanville recalled the driver shouting at them. “You take the bus! It is $19!”

After a fruitless exchange, Glanville and his colleague walked away, only to see the same driver accept another – white – passenger. Eventually, the two ESPN employees found a taxi who would accept them as fares. Before they left, Glanville said a black woman who worked at LAX approached them.

“You need to file a complaint,” Glanville said she told them. “This is the third time this has happened to a black man on my shift tonight.”

An interesting twist: Glanville noted in his essay that white drivers weren’t the ones who “most blatantly refused” to accept him as a passenger. It was non-white drivers.




How To Be Close To God And Free From Satan

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, January 26, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Freedom From Sin.”

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:7).

Submission is a foreign principle to most people. We have been poked and prodded so much through injustice, inequality, disenfranchisement, etc., and have had to fight for our rights for so long, some of us cannot even fathom the concept. And worse, there are many who are just naturally proud. Yet, this pride and fight have become impediments to spiritual growth. Human beings naturally believe that we know so much more than we actually do. We often believe we have more control of our lives than we do. This is why so many believe they can stop drinking whenever they want to and quickly realize that the habit is stronger than their will to quit without intervention. This is why some people believe they can have just one more secret liaison with that person other than their spouse, only to realize that there are invisible handcuffs and leg irons restricting their ability to return home to the ones they vowed to love and cherish ‘til death.

The blessing of submission in the context of today’s devotional thought, is the One to whom we have the privilege to submit. As we said earlier this week, Jesus overcame the devil on his own turf, not to mention that there was a heavenly war that the devil lost too. We also mentioned that the Lord stands ready to give us new hearts and right spirits. Therefore, when we submit ourselves to the Lord in humility, we are consenting for Him to pervade all areas of our lives and thoughts. We are consenting to yield our proud, self-deceptive thoughts of being in control, to the One who has already conquered the devil in every way. It is when we surrender to Jesus that we receive the infusion of the Spirit into our lives, who then gives us the power to resist the devil. With the Spirit in control of our lives, we are armored from head-to-toe to resist the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:13-17).

So the key to our victory is surrendering our thoughts, will, actions, and intentions to Jesus who has defeated the devil. It is in this submission that we may have His victory applied to and superimposed upon our lives for spiritual insulation until Jesus returns.




Power To Keep You From Falling

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, January 25, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Freedom From Sin.”

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).

In these two verses near the end of the Bible are hidden in plain sight, one of the greatest blessings to humankind—God’s power to completely eradicate sin in our lives. Now that I have whet your proverbial appetite, let the Scriptures nourish you with the satisfying Bread of Life.

In this benediction, Jude proclaims an almost foregone conclusion in the way he speaks. He redirects the attention of his readers from false teachers and naysayers to the One who is able to perform the greatest miracle in our lives. Jude rightly says that Jesus is able to keep you from falling. There is no mysterious symbol employed here. There’s no need to search a Bible concordance or dictionary. Inherent in the plainness of the meaning is the profundity of it. The same Jesus whom Jude highlighted that Enoch prophesied about is able to insulate anyone whose faith is resting in Him from falling into sin.

In the spirit of Paul’s message to the Romans, in chapter six, he is teaching that those who are submitted to God are indeed dead to sin. Therefore, when we are tempted to sin, we see the way God has provided for escape, and take it. Like Joseph, we ask how can we do this great sin and wickedness to our God? The Holy Spirit bolsters our faith and empowers us to do His will. Thus, we are kept from falling as long as we continue to trust Him.

Jude continues by saying that Jesus is able to present us faultless before the Father with exceeding joy! As we have said many different times and ways in our devotional thoughts for the past couple of years, Jesus is coming back for a blemish-less bride who has neither spot nor wrinkle, or any such thing. In the spirit of Jesus’ word to Nicodemus in John, chapter three Jude reminds us of God’s power to re-birth us. When children are born to their earthly parents, they all inherit earthly tendencies toward evil. We are born in sin and shaped in iniquity. We don’t even need to be taught to sin. It is a part of our fallen nature. We are born into sinful slavery. The blessing is, though, as I mentioned a moment ago, those whose faith is completely surrendered to God are dead to sin. That is, we receive a new birth experience. We are no longer born of flesh. Rather, we are born of the Spirit. Thus, it is possible to obey God’s will, because we are actuated by the power of our new, holy parentage.

That which is born of flesh is flesh. But thank God, that which is born of the Spirit is indeed spirit. Therefore, when Spirit-filled people continue to fight the good fight of faith, even if we stumble (God forbid), we accept the advocacy and sacrifice of Jesus in our behalf, and when our life’s records are surveyed in the heavenly courts all that are therein displayed, are the mighty acts of the perfect Man, Jesus Christ. His life’s record stands unsullied in the place of our confessed and forsaken record. Thus it is that He is able to present us without fault before the Father with abundant joy. He takes pleasure in making us holy and keeping us that way.




The Freedom You Need And Want

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, January 24, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Freedom From Sin.”

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

I am going to start this week’s devotional thoughts with great news! I hope you are ready for it. You can be free from sin. Now I realize this might be a startling statement to some, because you recognize the abysmal failure you’ve been at trying not to sin. Don’t worry, though. Our “trying” is often the problem, but we will come back to that later in the week. Today, we are going to begin with Jesus.

The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16–17). Have you ever lusted for that which is unholy? Some intimate encounters are unholy. Some desires for fame and notoriety are unholy. Some things that we do for fun that tempt death are unholy. Pride definitely is unholy. All of these things are “in the world.” That is to say, the three categories of lust in these verses, which Jesus encountered in the wilderness temptations recorded in Luke 4:1-13, comprise that which Jesus overcame according to our theme text. Further, the Bible says, “I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.]” (John 14:30, AMP).

This is a great place to stop. Our loving God is giving us a special message today. He gave us Jesus, His only begotten Son so we would have everlasting life. Not only would Jesus pay the sin debt of those who submit to Him by faith, He also would cancel all slavery claims the devil has over our lives. If we rest our trust in Him, we are no longer compelled to serve sin. He overcame so He has the right to empower us to overcome.

It doesn’t matter to what we have been enslaved. It could be the chief sin of pride. God can handle it. It could be addiction to alcohol or drugs. No sweat. God can handle it. You might be a wife-beater. God can handle it. You may be a sex offender. God can handle it. You may have done some things so egregious it would be shameful for me to enumerate here. Guess what? God can handle even that. Here’s one more text: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:1–6, ESV).

The first order of the day is to recognize your need for Jesus’ victory to be applied in your life. Then ask the Lord to help you confess your sins so He can be faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Our freedom from sin begins with Jesus’ victory over it while living on earth. Thank God for His victory!




What Happens When You Pray For Patience

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, January 21, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Love.”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

“Are you trying to work my very last nerve?” This was the shout of a young woman to a gentleman in the stairway as she stormed off. One could almost cut through the air’s tension with a knife as the man kept silent. He made a simple statement, she lost it, he kept silent, and she stormed off. Which of the two were patient and kind?

It is easy to be kind when things are going your way and you are having a great day. But, what happens when the dog thinks the kitchen floor is a patch of grass and your child was supposed to walk her, but didn’t? Or, what if your girlfriend habitually asks you the same questions as though you two had never spoken about a thing before. What if you are a serving in a fast food joint and unruly teens bark their orders at you while texting and don’t even say thanks when their order is complete? How does love behave when your fellow church member obviously seeks to undermine your programs, no matter what you do? Are these questions far-fetched? You be the judge. What certainly is not far-fetched is the choice each of us must make when someone actually does get on our very last nerve.

One of the most serious things we can do is pray for some Christian virtue. When we do this, generally God does not roll a bunch of that esteemed virtue into a premium goose down pillow and toss it in your direction. Oh, no! It is not that simple. When we ask in faith for that which is pleasing in God’s sight, the antithesis of that thing floods into our experiences. Since God loves us so much, if we pray for patience, He will guide us through the most trying of circumstances. If we put in a request for a large order of kindness, we can rest assured that we will soon mysteriously encounter the meanest, most needy people we have ever met. I say these things sort of tongue in cheek, but it’s true nonetheless.

This is not meant to be a discouragement of prayer. The fact is that we need to possess these and other Christian virtues. As such, our heavenly Father is delighted to carry us through various opportunities for growth, to the end that we will soon be fit representatives for God on earth. Fit representatives of God on earth will one day become holy residents of His eternal kingdom.




Secrets

Drama Files Title TileA secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. Margret Atwood the author of The Blind Assassin stated “the best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.” In our therapy sessions with couples we often hear a sense of distrust and recognize chronic poor communication between the two. Bruce and Mary encountered problems during their marriage that created the inability to feel comfortable sharing feelings and being open.

The couple had been married for 17 years and have three children ages 9, 12, and 14. Bruce was an administrator for an area high school and Mary was a respected supervisor for an insurance company. Bruce was concerned about past problems that had threatened the marriage but because of his commitment to family, he stayed. However, he attributed his high blood pressure and other health issues to secrets within the marriage.

Bruce said that his wife had no remorse for having an affair earlier in their marriage and he suspected she was involved with someone currently. After seeing a text message from Mary’s cell phone, his suspicion was verified. The couple decided to search for marriage counseling. During our initial session Mary insisted that she only talked to the men and had not violated their marriage vows. Our session was intense with accusations of lying and infidelity flying.

“I want to keep my family together” insisted Bruce, “but I want my wife to be honest and willing to change.”

Adding fuel to the fire, during the reconciliation process, Mary left the home for one day. She returned during the evening, but Bruce did not know she went to a hotel and paid for the room with a credit card until the bill came, three weeks later. Mary said she needed some time because she was stressed and she went to a hotel to rest for a few hours alone. Bruce did not believe she was in the hotel alone.

Bruce wanted healing but Mary could not change the behavior of keeping secrets within the marriage. George Orwell the political writer stated “If you wanted to keep a secret you must hide it from yourself”. Mary was certainly hiding from even herself. Even during her efforts to be honest and open she could not share her secrets. She was living a double life. She wanted to be married but she also wanted other relationships.

Eventually Mary’s secret life was exposed. She had an ongoing relationship with her son’s football coach, who also was a friend to Bruce. Once again, the evidence was found on Mary’s cell phone where she had recorded nude pictures and text messages that were explicit and devastating to her husband and children. Bruce asked Mary to leave the home and he contacted the wives of the coach and another man who also had a relationship with Mary. The secrets destroyed Mary’s family as well as the families of the other men who had shared a secret with Mary.

Bruce has started proceedings for divorce. We must realize that secrets are like a vine growing around a post. The vine grows to the top and then it winds down again, back to its beginning.




Envy, Jealousy And Love

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Love.”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Envy. This is one of the more dangerous emotions known in the universe. In fact, Lucifer found this out when iniquity was mysteriously found in him (Ezekiel 28:15). Instead of being content with the high position of leadership and unsurpassing beauty that God had bestowed upon him, he coveted the position and worship belonging only to the Most High Himself. It was then that the one who was honored by the name that meant son of the morning became the prince of darkness. God had given Lucifer unparalleled gifts and favor, but he could not be satisfied. This was not love.

Perhaps you have experienced envy in your life, whether you have been a victim or the one in whom it was found. While envy and jealousy are used interchangeably at times, let’s make an important distinction in this devotional. In the giving of the Ten Commandments, the Bible says that our God is a jealous God. This self-description comes on the heels of His command to reject the worship of anything in His place. God loves to share good and perfect gifts with us. In fact, all of creation waits upon Him to do so. But, He does not share our affections with anything or anyone. So, here we find the positive side of jealousy. When God sees the actual threat of our love being redirected to something or someone else, He becomes jealous. In the divine model of jealousy, the one who becomes justifiably jealous, simply becomes protective of the affection they are due, and no more. This is love.

Envy on the other hand, which is always negative, becomes covetous of that which does not belong to the envier. One who envies sees your relationship with your spouse, and becomes dissatisfied with their lack of relationship, and dissatisfied with the fact that you are in a great situation. Then this wicked emotion creeps in. This envy can be of persons, places, or things. It does not discriminate. Whatever you have is fair game to envy. This is not love.

Therefore, the antidote for envy, thereby giving us a clear path to love, is respecting all that God has given to us, as well as what He has given to others. When we are content and grateful at all times, we can see other’s possessions, talents, and relationships as blessings for their enjoyment. “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content” (1 Timothy 6:6–8, NLT).




Flint, Michigan Water Crisis-Acknowledgement And Help Too Slow

What a difference six months has made in Flint, Mich. By July of 2015, the scandal regarding the city’s lead-poisoned water had reached such intensity that its toxicity had infected the Governor’s office.

“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint,” wrote Dennis Muchmore, chief of staff for Gov. Rick Synder. “I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving from the (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) samples.

“These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us.”

By January, Flint’s local crisis had become a national news story. Muchmore’s email had surfaced, underscoring the belief in Flint that the governor had been disturbingly unresponsive and callously indifferent to their plight.

Facing mounting criticism and pressure, Synder declared a state of emergency on Jan. 5. He mobilized the National Guard seven days later to help distribute bottled water, filters and other necessities.

President Obama responded to Synder’s request for help by declaring a federal state of emergency in Flint on Jan. 16, which will give the city access to at least $5 million in aid. And Cher, the world-renown actress and singer who called Synder a murderer in a Jan. 5 tweet, has partnered with Icelandic Glacial to ship more than 181,000 bottles of water to Flint.

Flint, water, lead, crisis, health
Bottles for Babies founder Lanice Lawson is seeking aid for residents of Flint, threatened by the water crisis, and shut off notices.

“This is an impoverished city,” explained Lanice Lawson, founder of Bottles for the Babies, an organization that has distributed thousands of units of bottled water to Flint’s citizens. “Most of the residents are struggling.”

Flint, one hour from Detroit, has a 40 percent poverty rate. Lawson and others believe that the governor was engaged in foot-dragging at the expense of the once thriving city’s residents. His efforts to help them, after months of denials and inaction, have not quelled their outrage.

“This should be considered a crime against humanity,” Lawson said.

 




No One Is Untouchable

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This Week’s Devotional Focus is, “Love.”

“And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1:40–42).

What must it have been like? I mean, living in fear that someone would discover his secret? Day-after-day, he tried to keep his composure after hearing that someone in his situation died. He could not help but to imagine that his turn was coming. If it did would he have been ready? Would he have been able to say that though his physical health declined, that his spiritual health prospered? These kinds of thoughts must have entered the mind of the leper who would stop at nothing to be healed by Jesus.

He was ostracized from society. Only people in his same condition would associate with him. Even the religious leaders would steer clear of him, thinking that they would be contaminated and be subjected to the ridicule of ignorance related to his disease. It seemed that nobody who knew he was ill would dare be caught in public with him.

Yet there was a man who was not ashamed of closely associating with the outcast and downtrodden. Jesus was not afraid to embrace even the sickest among them. His touch of love had the power to compel all diseases to disappear without a trace. Mental anguish, physical pain, and spiritual debility were no match for Him. And the leper went “beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:40-42).

Much can be said about the power of healing Jesus possessed, but today let’s focus on a few lessons Jesus was teaching through this example:

 

 

Jesus, untouchable, heal
Jesus Cervantes/Shutterstock
Jesus prayed for power to heal the “untouchable.”

Whether we realize it or not, all of us need the touch of love. We can choose to face that reality or stand aloof and be neither changed nor become agents of change. You see, the leper Jesus healed, recognized his need, went to Jesus for help, and then the Bible says that he went out to help others (Mark 1:45). With healing comes responsibility. The healed must become ambassadors of healing. So, whenever the Lord envelops you with love, be receptive to opportunities to do the same. In this way, we can receive the touch of love.