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Alpha Ministries, Inc

Church in the Woods at ....

Freedom Ranch

Choices

Dear Saints,

All of us are confronted with a multitude of choices to make daily. Many of them seem small and almost inconsequential while others seem overwhelming and life threatening. What makes life so complicated and hard is not just the choices we make but often it seems we really have no choice at all. Much of our confusion and frustration in life comes from the fact that we are not sure what choices we have, if we even have a choice, and exactly what choice we should make in any given situation. Welcome to the world of a control freak!

Seeking to control the people and circumstances in our life comes from a deep need to make ourselves secure in an insecure world. There is no guarantee that we will be unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven in this dog-eat-dog and often hostile world. In fact, chances are that we will be neglected, abandoned, or even abused. Likewise, unless we can control the people and circumstances in the chaos of this world it is impossible to find a real sense of importance, purpose, and competence. Wrong or bad choices seem naturally to lead to a meaningless and unsatisfying life.

Underlying all other choices we must make is the most important and basic choice. It is the choice the Bible urges us to make daily and describes it in a variety of terms. Jesus invites us to take his “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11: 28-30). Paul urges us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices unto God” (Romans 12: 1-2). James tells us to ask for wisdom from above (James 1: 5). Peter calls on us to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5: 6). All these directives (and many more) have one thing in common…surrender. We give up trying to make it happen and let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In the AA program of recovery the 3rd step describes this kind of surrender as deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Making the choice to surrender all our decisions as well as our very lives to the control and care of God is the foundation and start of a new and satisfying lifestyle of grace in which God, through his indwelling Spirit, leads us, guides us into all truth, comforts us in our choices, reminds us who we are, and produces the very character of Christ in us. As Paul instructed the Philippians 2: 12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. “

The fundamental choice we all must make each day is whether we want to let God control our lives. It is really a no-brainer since he is the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe and loves us so much he gave his life for us. For me it boils down to one simple prayer each morning, “Lord please remind me of who you made me to be in your son and guide me in how you want me to love others around me today”. I really do not have any other choice that makes sense.

John

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Mask of the Pharisee

Posted on 11 February, 2021 at 13:40

Dear Saints,

 

The harshest words Jesus spoke here on earth were recorded by Matthew in the 23rd chapter of his gospel. They were an indictment against the religious politicians who ruled Israel with their own interpretation of the Law of Moses and claimed to be serving God for the welfare of the nation under Roman rule. The leading party was known as the “scribes and Pharisees” which had a long history of seeking to protect the nation Israel from God’s wrath by practicing and teaching rule keeping. They were convinced that keeping the 10 commandments and all of their related 613 rules and telling others how to act would garner God’s blessings and hopefully avoid his cursing’s.

 

Jesus begins his indictment by describing the heart motivations of the scribes and Pharisees as: 1) “they say, and do not” 2) “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders” and 3) “all their works they do for to be seen of men”. Sounds like he is talking about our modern Congress today especially as he goes on to describe their self-absorbed efforts to make themselves look great in outward appearance, public events, powerful positions, titles, and reputations. But as he gets into the specifics of his indictment he calls these religious politicians hypocrites no less than six times.

 

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word “hupokrites” which referred to the masks worn by actors in the Greek plays to denote various characters. In the Greek theater a hypocrite was one who wore a huge and ornate mask to play the part of the assigned character by imitating the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of someone he was not. Jesus used the word to reveal the true character of the Pharisees who pretended to be charitable and godly but were blind to the truth of God and self-serving. He further exposed them as “blind guides” and “serpents, generation of vipers” hiding behind their masks of concern for God and their nation.

 

The institutional church today has often been accused of being full of hypocrites. And to some extent that is true. All of us are prone to putting on “masks” of one sort or another to cover our own perceived shortcomings or failures. We naturally want to “look good” in the eyes of our peers and sometimes go to great lengths to build elaborate facades to hide the things we do not want others to see in our lives. Rather than let God deal with the darkness of our own flesh we prefer to cover it over and pretend it is not there. The real problem with such efforts is not the nastiness and filth of our own flesh nor the masks we hide it with, but the lack of faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross our old person was put to death forever. The leftover conditioning and habits of that person (our natural identity in the flesh) is no longer who we truly are. The way to deal with such ugliness is not to cover it with a mask, but trust God to remove it from us. Instead of trusting Jesus to save them from their natural self-centered flesh the scribes and Pharisees trusted in their masks and crucified the Lord of glory. Faith in Jesus requires laying aside our masks and trusting what God has done for us to make us secure in his love and significant in his plan.

 

John

 

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