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Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:21 (NLT)

Remember the game you played in Jr. High? A friend punches you, kicks you or plays a prank of some sort on you and yells, “Even”. Maybe this was more of a guy thing, but I remember it well. It usually started out relatively harmless. Sometimes it could escalate into a full-blown war. It may have started with an accidental push and usually you never knew who really started it. One thing you did know is that ‘Even’ never happened because you always had to get in the last act of (usually) playful violence.

There is, deep within us, the desire to win, to stand for ourselves, to be victorious. It may be buried under years of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It still lies beneath the scars of our pain, but it’s there. It’s longing cries out to us. Its desire cloaks itself in anger, hopelessness, fear and worry. We use chemicals, lifestyle and other control issues to soothe its longing.

The fact of the matter is, we’ll never be victorious as long as we have the attitude of “It’s me against the world.” Until we realize we are nothing more than pawns in a cosmic, spiritual battle we’ll continue to try to win a battle we can never emerge from victorious.

The lifestyle of the Christ-follower is one of dichotomies. The war for our souls is no exception. The best way to ‘win’ is to ‘lose’. The best way to ‘be strong’, is to ‘be weak’. The best way to ‘get even’ is to ‘give in’. The best way to combat the evil in our lives is to do good. Evil acts will always conceive more evil. The only remedy is to allow the Holy Spirit of God enter into your life and develop his fruit in your soul. “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways” (Galatians 5:22-23CEV).

The Christian life is one of dichotomies. Society says, “Revenge is the best way to handle conflict”. God says, “Doing good in the face of evil destroys evil.” Society says lives by the adage, “I did it my way”. God says, “It’s my power working in you, not your power that accomplishes things.”

When faced with the desire to ‘get even’, remember you will accomplish much more by taking a step back and seeking God’s power and wisdom to know how you can best turn this evil into good; to show Christ-like character to those needing the freedom grace has to offer.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times when I’m mistreated, offended, ignored and blamed. During those times when I seek to get even give me the wisdom to follow your path and show Christ’s love in response to those who persecute me. Amen.

Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil. Jeremiah 13:23 (NLT)

It really shouldn’t surprise us, but it does. News reports come across every day of parents brutally abusing children; of domestic violence; of people we put in political office because of their integrity only to find out they lied to us.

Professional athletes fail as role models for our children while those who are out in left field attract them. Marriage is made a mockery and faith has become a ‘personal thing’ based on personal feelings and ideologies.

We ask, the question, ‘When will this all stop?’

The answer is, sadly, never. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we as humans are doomed when it comes to making the world a better place by our own initiatives. All the protest rallies and government intervention and foreign aid won’t solve the problem.

Scientific research may be able to pinpoint certain things to alleviate the symptoms of our disease. But the sad reality is, science has never been able to cure the wound of the human soul.

A brave preacher may on occasion stand before his people and preach a moving sermon against homosexuality, or divorce or pornography and be applauded for his call to repentance.

On the other hand, a preacher that stands before the congregation and speaks out against gluttony or critical spirits or intolerance will be roasted along with the beef at the dinner table.

We who are believers in Jesus Christ like to point fingers at those who don’t believe as we do. We shake our heads at those who follow after a life of sin. We create entire denominations to take a stand against this sin or that sin. But we fail to remember that we are all the same; all humans; all victims of the same disease.

When Jeremiah speaks to God’s people he reminds them that there is nothing good about them and there is nothing they can do to change. Nothing. They were evil from birth; they will be evil until the day they die.

Hopeless situation you may think? Not so. That’s why Jesus came into the world. Galatians 3:13 reminds us that Jesus didn’t take our sin away. He became our sin for us. There is nothing you can do to change your DNA. There is nothing you can do to change your past. There is nothing in your own power you can do to change your desires. Only Jesus Christ can do that when you accept his forgiveness.

Don’t be surprised at the evil around you. Don’t be surprised by the evil you fall into yourself. You are simply doing what humans do. But fear not. In Jesus Christ there is freedom in spite of yourself!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I’m appalled at the evil that surrounds me. I’m equally appalled at the evil I do in word, thought or deed. I praise you for the fact that even though I can’t change, you have changed me and taken my sin upon you. Praise you Lord, Amen.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Comedian Flip Wilson used to do a skit in the 1970’s in which his ‘character’ did all sorts of things wrong. Whenever he was caught his quick response was to say it wasn’t his fault, “the Devil made me do it!”

It was just a silly skit but lurking in the shadows of the laughter is a truth that none of us should ignore. When bad things happen to us, or to others, our first tendency is to place the blame on someone. We blame other people, we blame God, we blame government or employers. We even may blame the Devil, or Satan.

There are three things each of us must realize about ‘the Devil’. First of all, the Devil, or Satan, is a real spirit person just as God is except that he doesn’t have nearly the power God does. Secondly, the bible is very clear that Satan is the root of all temptation and that his main goal in life is to draw us away from God. Lastly, and this is the most important thing, if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we can order Satan to leave. In fact the Bible says that if we resist him, he flees from us.

The third statement about Satan is very important when we are tempted to do things we know we are not supposed to do or when we don’t do things we know we should do. Temptation is not sin. Being tempted is a thought; sin is acting on the thought. The bad news side to temptation is that if we act on the temptation we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we get angry or bitter or unforgiving, that’s a choice. When I over eat, refuse to exercise, text while I drive it’s not the fault of the person who wronged me or the person who made the good food or the cell phone company. If I sin, I’m the one to blame. Not Satan, not God, not you. Me.

The good news is that when God allows temptation to come (He is never the source of temptation) He will also provide a way of escape if we ask Him. His desire is to see us succeed, not to see us fail.

Those of us who struggle with addictions know all too well the struggle of giving in to temptation. Whatever that addiction is (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, pornography, food) we want in the worst way to resist and yet we find ourselves giving in over and over again.

If you struggle with sin (if you think you don’t you are in denial) let me remind you that the same Paul who wrote to the Corinthians to say that every temptation has an escape, also wrote to the Romans to say that the very things he wants to do he doesn’t do and the things he hates doing he finds himself doing.

In Jesus Christ we have hope. Jesus’ desire is to walk with you through temptation so that you can see victory in those areas of your life that seem out of control. Be patient with yourself. Know your enemy. Plan your escape through Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. You alone know the struggle I have with giving in. It seems no matter how hard I try I can’t have victory over the things I hate doing. I thank you for your forgiveness and patience with me. Thank you for giving me second and third and fourth chances. I ask that you would help me to battle the habits and actions that plague me daily. Help me look to you for the victory I need. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to resist the temptations as they attack me. In Your name I pray, Amen.

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

When I was young I used to dream of being a famous athlete. I imagined myself being in position to win the big game. Sometimes it was the winning basket at the buzzer in the championship game. Sometimes it was hitting a homerun with bases loaded, two out, behind by three and a 3 ball, two strike count. Other times it was breaking free for the winning touchdown.

There were several things that kept those dreams from becoming a reality. The major one is that while I love sports of all kinds, I’m really not very athletic! So no matter how much I’d like to make any of those achievements, it just wasn’t going to happen!

Sometimes we feel that way about our walk with Jesus. We get up in the morning feeling like we can tackle any challenge before us. Then we burn the toast, remember that we forgot to buy milk and find a flat tire on our car! Things tend to go downhill from there and at the end of the day we realize that our thoughts, actions and words haven’t made us the spiritual champion we hoped we would be.

To make matters worse, it seems like people who could care less about living for Jesus seem to be prosperous, happy, successful people. We look at others and wonder what we are doing wrong and if God even notices that we are doing our best.

Psalm 37 has good news for us. Even though it seems that people who are evil are winning, they aren’t. God doesn’t look on a person’s actions. He measures us by our heart, our desires, our yearning to follow Him.

I like the way the message phrases Psalm 37:23-24, “Stalwart walks in step with GOD; his path blazed by GOD, he’s happy. If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; GOD has a grip on his hand”

These verses remind me of a small child walking on ice. No matter how hard they try to walk, they will slip and fall. But, if a loving parent is holding their hand, even if they do fall, the fall will be temporary and relatively painless. Mom or dad will lift them back to their feet. That’s what Jesus does for us. We try to live for him. We fail by the words we speak or the thoughts we think. We do things we’ve promised ourselves we’ll never do (and do them again!). Still, because of His love, forgiveness and grace, He picks us up and helps us continue on our way.

There are three promises of God in these verses. First, God delights in our attempts at living for Him. Second, we will fail at times. Third (and I like this best), He’ll help us get back on our feet!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I come to you today feeling like a complete failure. There are so many times I’ve tried to live for you. So many times I’ve tried to break the bad habits I’ve formed, said words I didn’t mean and had thoughts that are displeasing to you. Forgive me for my failures. Help me back to my feet so I can walk closely with you. Most of all, thank you for loving me so much! In Your name I pray, Amen.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT)

During the Prophet Habakkuk’s ministry to Israel ominous times loomed on the horizon. A new enemy was arising, the Babylonian Empire, and threatened its borders. The Babylonians were a ruthless enemy. They didn’t believe in God, they didn’t care about the people they killed. They had no conscience whatsoever.

In the meantime, the people of Israel completely disregarded their covenant with God. They continued to live Godless lives in the face of imminent danger. Habakkuk’s message of repentance fell on deaf ears.

Habakkuk was a frustrated man. He prayed and prayed to the God of Heaven but got no results. At one point he says, “If you are a God that hates evil then why don’t you do something to change all of this?” Another time he says, “Why won’t you listen to me? Why do you make me look at all this sin and filth and do absolutely nothing about it?”

The tiny book of Habakkuk ends with a prayer in Chapter 3. Habakkuk once more begs God to look at his situation and change it. He reminds God of all the great things He has done in the past. He worships God for the many times He has rescued Israel and for His love.

As He continues to think of all that God has done something interesting happens near the end of his prayer in verses 17 & 18. Habakkuk states that no matter what happens he will rejoice in God’s salvation. For example, if fig trees don’t blossom, not only will year’s crop fail, but next years as well. This is not only present tragedy but future crisis as well.

When you look around you and see the danger of a lurking enemy or you get frustrated by the way you are treated or the way people have turned from God. When the shadows of your past or the weight of your present pull you down, take a lesson from the pages of Habakkuk. Focus your attention on what God has done in your past and what He has done for other people and at other times.

God has never gone back on a promise. He has never forgotten His people. Even though He seems silent at times, His will is accomplished. We can trust Him even when hidden enemies loom on the horizon and our society rejects Him. He never changes.

PRAYER: Father God, I have to confess to you that I get really angry when I see the injustice around me. It seems like people who are completely against you flourish while I struggle as I try to live for you. I’m ashamed of my past, worry about my present, and fear for my. Help me to remember all you have done in the past. Help me to praise you in the midst of my struggle. Amen.

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February 2023
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