Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dealing With The Fear Of Honesty

In review of James 5:16 it says, “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Bottom Line:
Be honest and be willing to admit your faults to others, then pray for each other. Our prayers will have great power and produce wonderful results.

What this means to me:
I am to be honest and willing to admit my faults to others and ask them to pray for me. I am not to keep my faults to myself. In addition I am to pray for others. The prayer of a good friends has great power and will produce wonderful results in my life.

In order to get relief and release from the hurts, habits and hang-ups I have, I’ll need to deal with a fear of being honest with others about myself. I’m learning that there are three common fears that the enemy uses to keep me stuck in my rut and afraid to face the truth.

The first is the fear of my own emotions. Thinking that if I deal with the issue I may not be able to handle my emotions, grief and shame. What I need to keep in mind is that everyone has had that fear. Everyone has felt at some time in their life that they were losing their mind. It’s not as big a deal as I might think. Only rational people have that fear. I’m broken, but I’m not crazy.

The second is the fear of how others might react. Theres the fear of being rejected, or looked down on. Others might think me less of me. I’m afraid to be myself, because I’m all I’ve got, and if people don’t like what they see, I’ll be in trouble. And, then they may offer more help than I’m willing to take.

Lastly is the fear that being honest is useless. I may think what will it do, what’s the point, why even tell anybody else about what I’m struggling with?

The verse tells me to, “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 LB). When I can let go of my fears and admit my faults to other people, God has promised me the healing I need.

I’m sure it will help me if I truly reflect on the notion that others are probably having the same type of struggles as myself. I think my biggest fear is that someone might think less of me for having a struggle. Today I will consider what I need to be honest about and then reach out for others.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Healing Requires Telling Others

In review of James 5:16 it says, “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Bottom Line:
Admit your faults to others, pray for each other. Our prayers will have great power and produce wonderful results.

What this means to me:
I am to admit my faults to others and not always keep them to myself. In addition we are to pray for each other. The prayer of a good friends has great power and will produce wonder results in my life. With friends praying for me and holding me accountable, I can get the power to get over the problems that seem to linger in my life. I need to get honest with God and with others. However, admitting deep down issues makes me very uncomfortable.

I’m reminded that in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (NIV).

God has wired me so that I would need others. I was never meant to face my problems or my sins by myself. I think we all have a longing for belonging. And with getting together with others we help each other out.

James 5:16 is one of the most important verses for my health and holiness as I attempt to get over my habits and hang-ups: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (LB).

Rick Warren says, “Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.” He bases this on James 5:16. He indicates that the way you get well in life is by revealing your feeling. There is relief and healing in admitting and sharing. The moment I do, I’m humbling myself, and God gives grace to the humble.

However, I must make sure I don’t let my pride get in the way. It’s easy to tell God about my habit, but really hard to tell anybody else. I also need to remember, that its tough to get well on my own. God has wired me in a way that I need other people to order to help me grow.

If all I want to do, is to be forgiven, I can tell God. But if I want to be healed, then I’v got to tell other people.

God has put into my life a few guys that I have been trying to get with a little more often. They are my posse, and guys I can trust who know me and will be honest with me about my life. I’m going to see what I can do to free up some time this week to get together with them again.

Friday, September 26, 2014

For Lasting Change, Off with the Old and On with the N

In review of Romans 12:2a it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Bottom Line:
Don’t use this world and its ways as a guide for your life. Instead, let God transform your thinking, then as you do so, you will learn what is good, pleasing and perfect to him.

What this means to me:
I am to not copy and be like the people of this world, but instead, let God transform me by a complete change of my mind. As I follow him, I will learn from my own experience, what is good, pleasing and acceptable to him and what will end us satisfying me. If I want to have a lasting change in my life, I need to refocus my mind. Specifically, I need to change my thought patterns from focusing on what I don’t want to focus on to what I do want to focus on. For whatever I focus on is what I’m going to move toward.

This verse gives me a blueprint to change my thought patterns: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a NIV).

Do not conform …” It’s interesting how often I let other people shape me. God doesn’t want me to be like someone else; he wants me to be the person he made me to be. So I am not to copy, conform, or try to be like anybody else.
“… any longer …” There are a lot of things I started off doing by copying others, these have turned into a habit.
“… the pattern of this world.” Pattern means the model of everything I’ve learned in life. If I want to change, I need to change my pattern or model of living. I need to replace the old, unhealthy pattern with a new one modeled after the life of Christ.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Transformed is the same as the word used for metamorphosis, the process a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly. In the same way, God wants to transform me into a completely new person by renewing my mind.
This can happen if I follow Ephesians 4:22-24, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This means I’ll need to do some putting off and I’m going to have to do some putting on; and the putting off has to happen before the putting on. It’s just like trying on clothes in a store. Before I can try on the new stuff, I have to take off the old stuff.

I’ll need to let go of the old attitudes, the old thought patterns, the old images that you’ve been living with so you can put on the new garments that God has for me as I become renewed and made more like Christ.

What I fill my mind with is the direction I’ll go, much like driving a car. What I pay attention to and focus on is where the car will go. So, I’ll also need to be careful with what I’m filing my mind with.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What It Takes To Change

In review of 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”

Bottom Line:
To think or claim we have no sin, is to only deceive ourselves. In doing so, we refuse to accept the truth.

What this means to me:
I can never think I’m without sin, to do so is to only deceive myself. It’s simply not accepting the truth. I’m defective, I can’t measure up to any standard of perfection. It would be silly for me to pretend that I do, as others can clearly see through me. This verse reminds that to think so is self-deception.

I’ll will never be sinless here on earth, but it is possible for me to sin less. Its hard to change things within myself. I’ve had these defects a long time. However, I need to be careful not to identify with my defects, thus confusing my identity with them, otherwise I just set myself up to perpetuate it. My defects can have a payoff, (whatever is rewarded will get repeated.) Possible payoffs for my defects may be to mask my pain, cover up a fear, give me an excuse to fail, or to compensate for guilt. The enemy will do his best to discourage me. He’ll say things like “Who do you think you are? You haven’t been able to change in the past. Do you think you’re going to be able to change now? It’s hopeless. It’s not going to work.” These are fears planted in my mind by the enemy himself. These are things that often keep me from changing the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that I know are unhealthy.

Ephesians 4:21-27 has the remedy. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:21-27 NLT).

In essence, let my life be changed by my relationship with Him. Use the Holy Spirit for strength. Be honest with myself and with others. And lastly, never let anger for lack of forgiveness build up or fester in my heart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learning To Give Him Total Surrender, Asking For God's Help

In review of 2 Corinthians 1:9 it says, “We ... saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead.”

Bottom Line:
Stop trusting in yourself, and put your trust and hope in God. He can do anything.

What this means to me:
I need to realize that I am powerless on my own to help myself, especially when the situations get tough. Instead, I need to rely on and put my complete trust in God. He can do anything. The first part is admitting that I need help. I need to swallow my pride, my sense of I can do it all and ask God for help. Move from confession, (I need help) to petition (provide the assistance I need.)

At one point in his life, the apostle Paul was so discouraged that he was ready to give up on life. In fact he said, “We felt we were doomed to die” (2 Corinthians 1:9 LB). Then he went on to say in the same verse, “We ... saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead.

If God can raise a dead person, he can raise a broken relationship, a dead career, a dead dream. Anybody can bring good out of good. Only God can bring good out of bad. He can do miracles! But I’ve got to ask God for his help.

Notice that the verse says, “We put everything into the hands of God.” Paul is talking about total surrender. It’s not partial surrender where you say, “My finances are in a mess, so I’m going to give God my finances.” I’ve got to give him all of my life! I’ve got to put everything in his hands.

The good news is that I don’t need to wait until I hit bottom on an issue. Often I’m so obstinate God has to lay me flat on my back to make me look up to him. There’s an easy way and a hard way to do this. The easy way to change is to see the light. The hard way is to feel the heat. The problem is most of us rarely change until our fear of change is exceeded by the pain. Then when the pain gets so great we go, “Oh, I’ve got to get help!” I shouldn’t allow myself to get to that place where everything has to drop out in my life for me to admit I need help.

I just need to go and ask God for help.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3 MSG).

Today, I will consider what areas I may have only give partial surrender to, and instead offer everything in my life, the good, the bad, the ugly, the rotten, the happy, the sad, the ups, the downs. I will put it all in God’s hands.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learning To Admit That I Need Help

In review of James 4:6 it says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Bottom Line:
God gives grace and strength generously, however, He opposes the proud, while showing favor to the humble.

What this means to me:
God will provide his grace and strength in generous amounts to me, however, he will oppose me if I get too proud or haughty. When I’m humble, he will show his grace and favor.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he explains the choices that will help me heal from my own hurts and hang-ups, and the habits that mess up my life. The first Beatitude, Matthew 5:3, says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV).

To be “poor in spirit” means that I can not get into Heaven if I’m full of pride. I get there only by grace. To be poor in spirit, I must humbly admit that I need help.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” I’ve got to face the truth about myself and stop living in denial. This is called a reality choice.

However, I may not always like the truth. Its easy to love the truth about everybody else, I just don’t care for the truth about myself. It’s a lot safer to avoid the truth because it is painful to face. Truth will set me free, but first it may make me miserable when I realize what requires changing.

The good news is my habits, hurts and hang-ups can be healed. The bad news is it takes humility. I’ve got to humble myself and swallow my pride. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (NIV).

There are some facts that I need to admit about myself to allow God to bless my life, and the first is: I’m broken. I live in a broken world where nothing works perfectly. The economy doesn’t work perfectly, my relationships don’t work perfectly, and my body certainly doesn't work perfectly.

Secondly, everybody’s confused today. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be or what they’re supposed to do. We’ve confused attitudes, attractions, and addictions. Even our identities are confused.

Yet, all I have to be, is myself. But this includes the understanding that I’m broken! And that’s OK, because once I make the choice to admit it, I’m on the path to humility, which leads to grace.

God’s grace will cover my brokenness, hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And that’s good news!

God can use my brokenness and my admittance of it. It can serve as an example to others of what Christ can do, when you make him the lead of your life. I feel God calling me to reach out to others and share what he is doing in my life and how things are better when I allow him to be in the drivers seat.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Learning To Be My Wife’s Biggest Fan

In review of Hebrews 3:13 it says, “Encourage each other every day while it is ‘today.’”

Bottom Line:
Encourage each other daily, while it is today, so that we won’t get deceived by sin and hardened against God.

What this means to me:
I am to encourage others every day, as we can be deceived easily by sin. Sin can blind us and end up causing us to be stubborn and hardened against God.

This morning I am reminded that God has given me an incredibly important role in my marriage. I am to be my wife’s biggest fan. It’s a job only I can do, in a way that God desires. Unfortunately, we live in a world full of critics. I don’t need to look very far to find someone who will want to put us down.

For this reason, everyone needs to be affirmed by someone else on a regular basis. It’s how God wired us. So in order to grow my marriage, it's important for me to affirm my wife as well. The Bible says in Hebrews 3:13, “Encourage each other every day while it is ‘today’” (NCV).

First I need to affirm her value. When dealing with houses, the word “appreciate” means to rise in value. So likewise, I can raise the value of other people including her when I show appreciation for them. As I openly appreciate my wife and place value on her, I ultimately raise the value of my marriage. Proverbs 12:25 says, “A word of encouragement does wonders” (LB). So a word of encouragement will do wonders for my marriage, or for any other relationship I have.

Next I need to affirm her strengths. I can bring out the best in her when I specifically point out her best, and not her worst. I can choose to be a dream builder, not a dream buster. We ultimately become what other people see in us.

Lastly, I need to affirm her ministry. I need to let her know how much I appreciate what she does for God’s sake in the world. I can cheer her on as she makes contributions. Help her see the impact being made for Jesus’ sake. If I can do this, it will help the health of my marriage.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Choosing Forgiveness Over Gossip

In review of Proverbs 17:9 it says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”

Bottom Line:
Love will prosper when a fault is forgiven, you will lose a friend if you keep talking about what they did wrong.

What this means to me:
True love on my part includes forgiving others. If I harp on it or not let it go, I will only lose them.

When someone does something crazy around me, it’s almost impossible to not reach out for someone else and say, “you won’t believe what they just said or did!” We naturally want to tell someone else, we want affirmation from someone else. This need for affirmation is one of the most difficult things in the world to let go of it. It may feel good when we tell someone to spread the word about the crazy-person’s act, but it’s also unloving.

The Bible tells me to forgive even your enemies. Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends” (NLT).

Gossip is an incredibly destructive thing. It is destructive to me and those around me. It will tear me up and it will separate the closest of friends.

The worst thing about gossip is that the crazy-person wins! All of a sudden, the crazy-person is controlling my conversation. The crazy-person is controlling my emotions. Don’t let that person win! Don’t let the crazy-person win by choosing gossip.

1 Peter 3:9 says, “Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing” (NCV).

Overall, I just need to realize that when I want to tell someone else about it, it’s a form of gossip. I’ll need to remember forgiveness over gossip. Also that my affirmation should come from God, not others.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learning To Cut Others Slack and Let Go of Any Hurts

In review of Colossians 3:13 it says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Bottom Line:
Be tolerant with one another, forgive anyone who offends you, remember the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive others.

What this means to me:
I am to be tolerant and make allowances for others, forgiving anyone who may offend me. I do this because of my remembrance of what Christ has done in forgiving me.

I believe many of us have had someone in our lives that has done some crazy and hurtful things to us or someone around us. The tendency is to forgive them as soon as they apologize directly. The problem with this approach is that we end up holding on to the hurt. Also, we may never see that person ask for forgiveness. This only leaves us up to stewing over something that someone else may have long forgotten. Allowing it to eat you up.

What I’m learning is that I should never hold on to a hurt, because the resentment will tear me up. Resentment is much like drinking poison and hoping it’s going to kill someone else. It doesn’t work. I need to decide that, before anything else happens, I am going to forgive that person.

Jesus said this even in the most extreme of circumstances, as he’s hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a NIV).

The key is to remember the great gift of God’s forgiveness.

Today’s verse, Colossians 3:13 reminds me to: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). This is not a bad verse to memorize and carry with me, I’m likely going to have lots of chances to use it.

The phrase “make allowance” is the Greek word that means “to bear with, to endure, to be tolerant.” Basically it means to cut people some slack. Jesus promises, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7 NIV). I know I want God’s blessing in my life, and one of the ways to receive it is by being merciful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Give Grace to Someone Who Is Irritating

In review of Proverbs 19:11 it says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Bottom Line:
A wise man will restrain his anger and overlook insults. Doing so will earn you respect.

What this means to me:
I am to be wise and yield patience. I need to restrain my ager and overlook insults that come my way. If I can do this I can earn respect and show what I’m like by forgiving others. Whenever I deal with someone who is offensive or irritating, you need to look past the behavior to their pain.  Everything we do is motivated by something. When people are hurting others, it’s because they’re hurting on the inside. Hurt people will hurt others.

The more I can understand other people’s backgrounds, the more grace I’ll be able to show them. How much do I know about the backgrounds of those who are difficult to deal with. I don’t know anything about their background, their upbringing, their home life. If I don’t know their story, I’ll likely not show them any grace.

The Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). With a viewpoint of wisdom, I won’t get offended, because wisdom gives me patience. When I understand somebody’s background, I’ll better understand the stress that person is under; allowing me to easily show grace. Wisdom will give me the patience to overlook the offense.

This is real love, the Bible says refusing to be offended by other people is actually an act of mature love. It shows me how much love I have in my heart. The more love I have in my heart, the harder it will be to offend me on a personal basis.

The less love I have in my heart, the more insecure I’ll feel and the easier it will be to become offended.. The Bible says in Proverbs 10:12, “Love overlooks the wrongs that others do” (CEV). The more I am filled with love, the less I’m going to be upset when they are demanding, demeaning, disapproving or whatever.

So my first step in dealing with difficult people is to make the to refuse taking it personal and to not be offended.

Today i will consider the people who are the most difficult to deal with in my life and consider how I can learn more about them in order to show grace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Antidote to People-pleasing

In review of Luke 9:26 it says, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Bottom Line:
If you are ashamed of Christ and his message, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he returns.

What this means to me:
I should never be ashamed or afraid to speak or admit Christ and his message. If I do, then he will likewise be ashamed of me when he returns. It is important to keep in mind that one day, I will give an account of my life before God. If I can keep this in mind and have this kind of long-term thinking, it will ultimately change what I say, what I do, and who I try to impress. It is the antidote to people-pleasing.

When I take that long look ahead and realize that I’m going to give an account for every word I say today, I’ll should be able to ask of myself, “Do I want God disapproving of what I just said or did, or do I want this person disapproving of what I just said or did?”

Naturally my human nature wants me to be liked. Unfortunately to do so, this same human nature will direct me to compromise, divert, punt, and leave out the truth. I can’t just say, “I just leave that up to God” or “Everybody has to make up their own mind.” That’s only a  a politically correct, people-pleasing cop-out. If I do this, I’m not standing for the truth.

Instead of saying something that would be politically correct and not offend, I remember these truths. In that pressure moment, I can do three things.

First, I remember what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. He didn’t deny me. He didn’t back down for me. He died for my sins. I owe him my eternal life. He created me. He saved me. He forgave me. He’s taking me to Heaven with him. I’m not going to deny him.

Second, I remember that one day I’m going to give an account to God. And at that point God’s going to say, “What did you say in that conversation at work? What did you say to your friend?” I need to remind myself that my integrity is more important than popularity.

Finally, I tell the truth and let the chips fall.

Today’s verse in Luke 9:26 says, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (NIV).

Going forward, I want to keep this in mind, “Do I want God disapproving of what I just said or did, or do I want this person disapproving of what I just said or did?” I want to make God my banner that I’m proud to march under. I need to look to honor God with what I say and do at all times.

Monday, September 15, 2014

People Pleasing Is Idolatry

In review of Galatians 1:10 it says, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

Bottom Line:
Do not try to please people, instead try to please God. If pleasing people was your goal, then you would not be Christ’s servant.

What this means to me:
I am to not concentrate on pleasing people, instead, my focus should be on pleasing God. I can’t please people and be Christ’s servant. In life, I really only have to please one person. And that is my Creator. I only have to please the Lord, the one who made me and has a purpose for my life. Knowing this simplifies life greatly. I only really need one person’s approval: God’s.

Jesus said it like this in John 5:30: “I don’t try to please myself, but I try to please the One who sent me” (NCV). He basically says, “I’m living for an audience of one.”

What I’m learning is that pleasing people is a form of idolatry. The first commandment in the Ten Commandments is, “Don’t have any gods before me.” Anything I put before God becomes a god. So, my career could be a god. My hobbies could be a god. Watching TV can be a god. Anything that becomes number one in my life that isn’t God, becomes your god.

The second commandment is, “Don’t make any idols.” Anything that replaces God in my life is an idol. Success can be an idol. Money can be an idol. A relationship can become an idol. If any of these is more important than God, it’s an idol.

So trying to be a people pleaser, allows something other than God to take first place in my life. All of a sudden it becomes god in my life. I do this because their opinion matters more than God’s opinion. What they think of me matters.

So what I need to remember is that, in life I only have to please one person. Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT).

Today I will consider what things I’m allowing to become an idol, above God, and then refocus my attention and energy on Him.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Personalizing God’s Word to Change My Life

In review of Philippians 1:6 it says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Bottom Line:
I am certain that God who began this good work in you will continue working up and until the day when Jesus Christ returns.

What this means to me:
I am certain that God who began a good work in me will continue this work up and until the day when Jesus Christ returns for me. What I’m learning is that God’s Word will never change my life until I let it become personal. It’s not about others, rather it’s about God’s Word being applied to my life. In other words, the Bible won’t become dynamic until it becomes specific.

To make God’s Word more personal to me, I can do a personalize-it method of Bible meditation. To do this, I simply put my name in the place of pronouns or nouns in Scripture. For example, if I were personalizing John 3:16, I’d write something like this: “For God so loved Mark, he gave his one and only Son so that Mark would not perish but have everlasting life.”

Or, for Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in Mark will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Putting my name in the text, will help strengthen my faith and encourage me.

You can also re-write the verse as if God is talking directly to you. For example, Philippians 1:6 would be: “I, who began a good work in you, Mark, will carry it on to completion.”

If I do this as I read the Bible, it will become like God’s love letter to me. Reading the Bible isn’t just about getting to know the content of the Word; it’s about getting to know the author of it personally.

Making God’s word more personal helps with the conversation aspect of talking with God. It personalizes it for me and helps me hear God speak directly with me. To start today I can write” I am certain that God who began a good work in Mark will continue this work up and until the day when Jesus Christ returns for Mark.”

Using My Words to Build Others Up

In review of Ephesians 4:29 it warns me to “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building ...