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““O Israel,” says the Lord, “if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more.” Jeremiah‬ ‭4:1‬

Back in the 1970s, a comedian named Flip Wilson did several comedy sketches built around the phrase “the devil made me do it!”

While there was a lot of humor in those sketches, the reality is that many of us continue to play the blame game when it comes to our struggles.

We blame our spouse for relational issues. We blame the boss for an unhealthy work environment or our inability to pay our bills. We blame the pastor for our lack of spiritual growth. We blame the government for… well, everything. We may even blame the devil himself!

Make no mistake about it, Satan is powerful; he is deceitful; his intent is to destroy us. The apostle Paul teaches us that Satan is at the root of all our battles. The last thing the devil wants us to do is to follow God and live in the peace and freedom that God wants us to be in and that we have available to us through Jesus Christ.

The reality is, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, and because of his resurrection, we have the Holy Spirit living within us when we are his followers. We did not receive a spirit of fear but a spirit of power.

The message God sent to Israel is the same message he sends to us today. Nothing in our past and nothing in our current circumstances can keep us from turning to God if we truly want to. He wants us to come home to him. He wants us to experience his love. He wants us to know the joy and peace we can have in him through Jesus.

But the choosing is ours. We have to want to change first and then ask God to help us begin the journey to living a God pleasing life. Satan wants to destroy you. God wants to build you up and empower you. But the choice begins with you!

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30

Remember the story of the Little Red Hen? She scurries around the farmyard trying to get the ingredients for making some her great homemade bread. She asks for help from all the farm animals and none of them are willing to help so she does it all herself. When the aroma of the bread wafts through the farmyard all the animals gather together for a taste only to find that she wasn’t willing to share since they weren’t willing to help.

One moral of that story might be that you have the choice to do whatever you want, but you may not like the consequences of your choices. Little Red Hen never appears to be angry with those who refused to help. She didn’t chastise them in the least. The request was made, the refusal received, and life went on.

Perhaps one of the most precious gifts God has given us, next to salvation itself, is the freedom to choose. He didn’t create robots, he created humans. He didn’t put within us a computer chip programmed to respond correctly in every situation. He gave us a mind that, like his could reason, explore and think. He gave us emotion so we could enjoy the sunsets, smell the fresh spring rain and look in awe at the mountains majesty.

But choice has a downside. Choosing to follow the path of faithfulness isn’t the easy button in life. In fact, choosing the path of faithfulness often leads us along a trail that is most difficult. Choosing to follow God is easy when things are going well, but true character, true faith, is shown when things don’t go the way we want them too.

It’s easy to believe in a God of love and grace and mercy and all things comfortable. It’s hard to believe in a God that allows us to suffer the consequences of our own poor choices. It’s easy to choose a God who rescues us from adversity. It’s hard to believe in a God that allows us to go through the frustration of being falsely accused; of being attacked for openly sharing our faith; chided for following a list of rules that seems antiquated and irrelevant in comparison of with the way the world is going.

The apostle Paul writes, “Don’t grow weary in doing good.” He knew what he was talking about. His life in Christ was full of pain, adversity, being falsely accused and physically attacked. Yet he finished the course, he fought the good fight.

God doesn’t always ask the big things of us. Sometimes he asks for a series of little steps, little choices. The decisions we make along the way will be hard but the reward is worth it. True faith says we will follow more closely to him when human wisdom screams at us to go the other way.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s easy to follow you on the good days when I’m not tempted, not mistreated, not feeling under attack. But I haven’t seen very many of those days. Empower me to see you on the hard days; those days when nothing seems to go right. On those days help me to choose you regardless of the cost. Amen.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

All of us get angry from time to time. For some of us anger is a fleeting event in the process of life. Our anger is like a firecracker. Long or short fused, once we reach the ‘boiling point’ we explode. We say what we feel needs to be said or do what needs to be done and then we are finished.

For other people anger is like an iceberg. We may show some emotion on the surface but the true feelings are beneath the surface. People learn to stay away because they know that lurking beneath the surface of our emotions is a dangerous monster ready to rip us apart.

Anger in and of itself is not a sin. Jesus got angry with the religious zealots and the hypocrital Pharisees for the way they twisted God’s law for their own religious benefit. He was angry the day He drove the money changers from the Temple because they had defiled God’s rules on sacrifice.

Others in the Bible grew angry as well. Sometimes their anger was directed at wicked kings and family members. Sometimes their anger and frustration was directed at God. Even God is described as growing angry in relation to sin and to those who taught a ‘religion’ that contradicted His love and concern for mankind.

In most situations, anger is a secondary emotion. It is sub-consciously used as a cover up for guilt, unresolved sin, or fear. When we grow angry it is often because we feel threatened. We get angry at other people because they do or say things that make us feel inferior, unloved or unimportant. We resolve to never let that person hurt us again and never seek resolution.

Paul warns us that while being angry is not a sin, we should not let anger lead us into sin. In any situation we should respond, not react to the person who is attacking us. There are times when our first action must be to remove ourselves from the situation. God never wants us to be abused physically, spiritually or emotionally. Time apart allows both parties to evaluate the situation and work towards resolution, even if resolution includes ending a relationship.

When we are angry we need to resolve that situation as soon as possible. That doesn’t always mean we can go to the person who has made us angry and resolve things. Anger is my choice to react to a situation that I feel threatened by. It is also my choice to release the person that has hurt me by choosing not be in bondage to that person or to anger.

In cases of extreme abuse it may take years to get over the anger and hurt, but Jesus came to heal and free us from the bondage of anger. When we feel attacked, anger can be avoided by simply reassuring ourselves that because of Jesus we are okay. You are a child of the King. No one can change that or take it away from you.

Be angry. But don’t allow the anger to consume you and change who you are. Ask for God’s help in releasing you from anger as soon as it rears its ugly head. Waiting ‘until morning’ may allow Satan to take you captive.

PRAYER: Dear Father. I confess to you that I am filled with anger today. I thank You that You understand far more than anyone else how hurt I am. I want to be released from the anger I feel. Empower me through Your Holy Spirit to live with the confidence that nothing and no one will ever change the fact that I am Your child. Amen.

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