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One reality of living is that we sin. No matter how hard we try to leave a godly and clean life, there is always an imperfection creeping in. Needless to say, we are not perfect beings. We are only human. God, alone, is perfect. However, as a person, I have always tried to be perfect. To control what I can control. I try to avoid sinning. I try not to do to others what I don’t want them to do to me. I try not to gossip, not to lose my temper, not to dishonor anyone and a whole lot more. But that’s pretty much what I can do by myself…to try.

Have you ever been frustrated with a recurring bad habit? How many times have you beaten yourself up for always “falling into a temptation”? Have you reached the point when you absolutely hated yourself because you have repeatedly failed to stand firm on your resolution to live a clean life? Were there times when you feel that you are already abusing God’s forgiveness and because of that you just don’t ask for forgiveness anymore? The reason why I am asking is that I have been there and most of the time…I still am. The fact is that the enemy is everywhere and he is present in every temptation and circumstances in our lives. He exists for a purpose: to steal, kill and destroy.

Everyone has his own “demons to battle” and it is mostly manifested by your weakest areas. It may be a blatant sin such as sexual perversion, lust, rage/temper, greed, pride or lying. It may also be subtle like cheating, gossiping, people pleasing, and procrastination. In every battle, the most important thing to know and understand is your enemy: to identify and pursue it head on. We have been given a natural alarm if something we do is wrong. Most sociologists and psychologists may identify them as the feeling you get when you act outside of the norm – when society, in general, does not accept what you do. I have a different view. Our natural alarm is that queasy feeling, that troubling whisper, that nagging and persistent feeling that bothers you every time and causes you to repeatedly ponder on what you have done. It is simply…GUILT.

Like most people, we try to justify our actions. We make logical analysis and worse, consider these “demons” as part of our human nature…our natural built. If we believe that we were made in the image and likeness of God then it should not be hard to understand that we were not designed to sin. To sin is not our natural make-up…rather; it is something that we need to conquer. This explains, then, the reason why we feel guilty…because sinning should not be natural to us. Similar to injecting a diluted or impure fuel to your car engine…sinning will not only bring troubles in your life but damage your soul as well.

I’m pretty sure you will agree with me that we can’t shake off guilt…that is why we feel the urge to recompense our misdeeds with good actions. The best way to remove guilt really is to conquer the cause. In my personal experience, the only effective way to conquer sin is to draw near to God. It is not a one-time solution. Never is. It is an unending process.

James 4:7-10 says,

Therefore submit 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

I realized that I am most vulnerable to making wrong decisions and give in to temptations and even unintentionally sinning when I am far from God. You see, the enemy seizes every opportunity big or small to attack us and being near God (in my case through prayer and devotion) enables us to be totally dependent and guided by Him. Our battle then is not ours alone to face since God is our ally!

I would like to share the following passages which inspired this entry:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12: 1-2

Romans 12 is replete with Paul’s admonition of living right but it all starts with his basic instruction (paraphrased version):

“By the mercy of God, present yourselves as a living sacrifice: a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable unto God.  This is your reasonable service to God. ”

How can we do this?

“Don’t follow the ways of this world but transform yourselves into God’s glory by renewing your mind so that you will show what is good, acceptable (by God’s standards) and perfect will of God in your lives.”

God’s Word is clear. Listen to your “gut feeling”, acknowledge that “guilt”. It is your signal that what you are doing or about to do is NOT natural…it is NOT God’s design for you and by all means…you have to end it.

I like the way how Paul ended his lesson:

Do not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.     Romans 12:20

I don’t know with you but to me, it is an assurance that yes…it is hard to break sin…to be free from your bondage but it can be certainly done!

I want to share the lyrics of this song which has blessed me and assured me of God’s love many times.   God speaks in various ways…through His Word, through others’ lives, and sometimes through a random song.   I last sang this more than 10 years ago in high school and I think the message is timeless.  I hope that, as you read through this, you will be reminded of God’s love.

Trust His Heart

By: Babbie Mason

All things work for our good

Though sometimes we can’t see how they could

Struggles that break our hearts in two

Sometimes blind us to the truth

Our Father knows what’s best for us

His ways are not our own

So when your pathway grows dim

And you just can’t see Him,

Remember you’re never alone

~~~

God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand

When don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

~~~

He sees the master plan

He holds the future in His hand,

So don’t live as those who have no hope,

While our hope is found in Him

We see the present clearly

But He sees the first and last

And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me,

To someday be just like Him

~~~

He alone is faithful and true

He alone knows what is best for you

~~~

When you don’t understand

When you don’t see his plan

When you can’t trace his hand

Trust His Heart

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

I had a recent battle of faith these past few weeks.  It has been difficult and agonizing.  If I had my way, I would have treated that chapter of my life like how you would remove a band-aid from a wound…quick and painless.  However, like most of us, I wanted to decide based on God’s will for my life and it has really been a roller-coaster ride (to say the least).  Actually, I always prayed that God would increase my faith and I sense that this is just one of His mysteries in dealing with what I ask for.  I am glad that phase is over and I came out of it with a lot of life lessons.

One of the Bible references that really inspired and kept me sane was Hebrews 11.  This chapter is the “honor roll” of the men and women of faith and as a “student of faith”, I realized that it’s necessary to understand them to fully realize what faith meant.

Faith, first and foremost, requires an understanding and acceptance that God holds all things and that our very limited knowledge of God will limit us to see what He sees. Therefore, to live in faith requires full surrender to God.  Faith defies human logic.  But then again, it is really difficult to fully surrender to God.  I know that since it is in our human nature to fulfill our personal interest.

Too often, our idea of faith is centered on the hope that God will provide us what we want or what we desire.  To be honest with you, I have claimed Psalm 37:4 in my prayers too many times: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

I, personally, don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking God for our wants and needs.  He is God – after all.  Also, I have seen Him work and fulfill my prayers.  However, we often get stuck on this idea that we fail to see how God works.  We often ask God for the reason for unanswered prayers:  Why didn’t He give that job to me?  Why didn’t I get that A+ grade?  Why wasn’t I considered for the promotion?  Why, why, why.  In other words, we actually do not hand over the steering wheel of our lives to God.  We just want Him to warn us of the bumps and traffic along the way and give us the direction of the destination.  When faced with a seemingly nice road and a more convenient short-cut, we get confused or decide for ourselves which road to take.

I feel that the struggles that most of us face are choosing which actions to take and understanding how God works.  It figures.  I mean, if the great men of God like Noah, Moses and Abraham struggled, why shouldn’t we?

Faith requires full-obedience and action. Faith is just words if it is not put into action.  Looking at the men and women of faith, what distinguished them is that they have decided to take action according to God’s Word.  Noah was deemed crazy because building a huge ark in a dry season was absurd.  God’s Word did not make sense to men…I believe even to Noah himself, yet, he obeyed God and built the ark.  Abraham followed God’s instruction to leave his country without knowing where to go.  It challenged the human desire of stability and certainty.  Still, Abraham followed.  And as if that wasn’t enough, Abraham sacrificed his son, Isaac, because God said so.  Abraham obeyed even if God’s demand was seemingly contradictory to His promises.  Even Sarah, his wife, asked for strength to act in faith so that she will get pregnant at 90!

What I have seen in my life and in the lives of others is that, often, God calls for illogical and unimaginable actions so that only Him will be glorified. After all, our lives will only be used by God if it is a testimony of His goodness and mercy.

Oftentimes, we are called to act against what we think is best for us.  We may be asked to give up our dream job, our current luxuries, and sometimes…we are led to pursue an opposite direction.  My recent predicament pushed me to choose between two very different but both good paths.  I prayed hard for weeks and weeks asking God for His guidance.  I viewed it as a choice between a chance to pursue my dream or an opportunity to see what I could be.  As it turns out…it was a choice between a short-term and a long-term dream.  God’s answer was not immediate as I had hoped it would be.  It was not plain and clear.  It eventually ended when I shifted my prayer from claiming that “God will give me the desires of my heart” to surrendering that “Thy will be done”.

It is funny and borderline frustrating to understand how God moves.  But then, how can we develop the faith to make us grow further if we know perfectly how God would act in our lives.  How can we depend on God if we are as omniscient as Him?  The call for faith may require sacrifices and it may seem that God is asking for too much that we can handle but know that the Lord, Who promised and gave His word, is faithful. Who else to best exemplify the act of faith than Jesus?

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”                                                                     Hebrews 12:2

So, whenever you are confused, impatient, frustrated and on the brink on insanity…surrender.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”                            Isaiah 55:8