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Friday, November 28, 2014

Learning to Accept Correction

In review of Genesis 4:6-7 it says, “Why are you so angry?” the lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Bottom Line:
Why are you so angry, why is your face dark with rage. If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling, but refusing to obey, should cause caution. Sin is crouching at the door eager to control you. You can conquer it.

What this means to me:
Anger on my part often comes from not having done the right thing and being questioned about it. If I had done the right thing, I would have been happy with my effort. However, refusing to obey, or doing the right thing, or putting the right effort into something puts me at risk. Sin is just around the door waiting for an opportunity to get in. And it will use this to gain a foothold. You must learn to subdue this. This is also all about integrity, doing the right thing consistently whether it be external or within my own heart.

This verse also reminded me of how I don’t always care for and take constructive criticism well. Often I react incorrectly. If I think back to situations where this has occurred, Its usually related to times where I wasn't doing my best (I had done a lazy effort.)

I know that I don’t always react well when someone suggests I have done something wrong or even offers improvements. What I do with this feedback is really important. Do I move to correct the mistake or to improve or do I deny that I need to correct it? Do I try to justify myself or do I take it as advice in order to improve myself.  

In Genesis Chapter 4, When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. And Abel, Cain’s brother also brought a gift; the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. God always wants me best, not my sloppy leftovers or half hearted effort.

So in this situation Cain became very angry, and he looked dejected. God gave him the chance to right his wrong and try again. But instead Cain refused. Later in the chapter we see where Cain’s anger leads him to attack and kill his brother.

What I need to do the next time someone suggests I’m wrong, is to take an honest look at myself and choose God's way, to take the suggestions and see how I can apply them, instead of defaulting to the way that Cain handled it.

One of the heart attitudes that I have adopted as part of my congregation is to “Give and receive Scriptural correction”. Hebrews 3:13 says, “You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” (NLT). Its easy for me to give correction but not so easy to take it.  I need to work on this so that I can reap the blessings that can come from being put back on track. This will also help me combat sin that can easily crop in if I’m not careful. I also need to open my life more to some close individuals who can help look into and speak into my life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Faithful Person Serves Others

In review of 1 Peter 4:10 it says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another”

Bottom Line:
God has provided each special gifts to use in service to others.

What this means to me:
God has given me special abilities from his great variety of spiritual gifts. I’m to faithfully use them to serve others and be a good steward of what God has provided.

God will use the talents he gave me to test my unselfishness. I need to decide for whom or what I’m going to live. I’m either going to live a self-centered life or I’m going to live for something greater than myself; the kingdom of God.

What I’m learning is that a faithful person won’t live for themselves. They realize that the talents God gave them are not for their own benefit; God provides them to make the world around them a better place.

When God made me, he gave me all kinds of gifts, talents, and abilities. These can be referred to as the acronym “s.h.a.p.e.”, they are my spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. These five things make me who I am. What I need to remember is that there’s nobody like me in the whole world, and he wants me to be me for his glory, not mine.

God shaped me to serve him, and there’s only one way to do that: by serving other people.

A faithful person realizes that their talents are not for their benefit.  God doesn't provide me with abilities just so I can love to have or do them. He gave them to me so that I can use them in some way to help others. Enjoying them makes it easier to use them.

God made everyone different so that everything in the world can get done. If we all liked to do the same thing, there would be a whole lot left undone.

So, I am to be the steward of my talents, and God is watching to see if I will use what he gave me effectively here on Earth. If I use them effectively here, he’ll likely give me more responsibility later in life or in Eternity.

One important thing I’d like to keep in mind about this life. God created me and put me here, because my life is a test, a trust and a temporary assignment. He’s watching to see if I’m faithful to use what he gave me here on Earth to bless other people.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (NLT). God gave me talents, and he’s watching to see if I’ll be faithful with them.

Today, I need to consider how I’m using my talents to serve others. Am I using them to serve and help others and glorify God, or am I doing them for myself?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Little Things Count Greatly

In review of Luke 16:10 it says, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones.”

Bottom Line:
Unless you are honest in small matters, you won’t be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.

What this means to me:
If I am faithful in small matters, then I can also be trusted with larger and more important matters. However, if I’m not faithful or dishonest in small matters then I won’t be faithful and honest in larger and more important matters.

What I’m learning is that God will use little things to test my integrity. The tendency is to think it’s the big things in life that create a leader. This is not true. The big crises in life reveal leadership, but leadership is not built in the big things of life, but rather in the small things of life. This is where integrity shows up; in the stuff that nobody sees, in the stuff behind the scenes. In the small, unseen, unspectacular choices of life where I do the right thing even though nobody’s ever going to see it.

Faithfulness requires integrity, and God will test my integrity in the little things.

In Luke 16:10 Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones” (GNT). This is indicating that my public blessing will be determined by my private integrity.

When scandals appear, many will say, “It really shouldn't matter what a guy does in his private life. It hasn't a thing to do with him as a leader.”

My opinion is that it has everything to do with him as a leader!  If a man lies to his wife, he’ll lie to others. If he’ll lie to his best friend, to whom he said, “Till death do us part,” he will likely cheat on others.

My public blessing as a leader comes because of private integrity that nobody will ever see. God uses these little things in my life to test my integrity.

I must remember this always. The small things are just as important as the larger things. Many years ago, I adopted this phrase as part of my mission statement for life; “To live with integrity, and to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Today, I will consider some of the small things in my life to make sure that I’m handling these as equally important as the larger things. I will strive to be consistent in how I handle both.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Importance of Faith

In review of 2 Chronicles 16:9a it says, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Bottom Line:
God is watching out, and will give strength to those who will faithfully obey him.

What this means to me:
The Lord is watching, he will provide strength to me if I faithfully obey him. Therefore, I must not be foolish and do things outside of faith and obedience to him.

The Bible indicates three things about the importance of faith:
1.God is looking for faithful people. God is physically, visibly, actively, taking the initiative to look for faithful people that he can bless. 2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds me, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NLT).

I’m learning that if I can make myself usable, God will. God is looking for faithful people that he can use.

2.Faithful people are hard to find. The Bible says in Proverbs 20:6, “Everyone talks about how faithful he is, but just try to find someone who really is!” (GNT) A lot of people talk the talk, but they don’t really trust God. They say they believe in God, but they don’t really trust him when it comes to their lives, finances, health, or job. So will I just talk the talk or will I walk the walk?

Psalm 53:2-3 says this: “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (NLT)

3.Faithfulness is the key to blessing and victory. 1 John 5:4-5 says, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

The Bible says in Proverbs 28:20, “A faithful man will have many blessings” (HCSB). So in order for me to have many blessings, I’m going to have to learn to practice faithfulness. I should also be aware that God will test my faithfulness in different ways. Key for me will be to let him grow me in this area so that I can be a man of faith?

What I need to remember is that God will put me in situations in which I have no control. When these happen, I just need to be faithful and obedient to what he asks me to do. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many men in my congregation who demonstrate their faithfulness and integrity constantly. I just need to think of them and how they would handle the situation I am facing. I can even ask them for their opinion/guidance. Each of these men have a consistent beliefs and faith in God. They can recount many instances where they needed to just trust God and how he came through for them. In essence they have been able to exercise their faith muscles and as a result they have grown and found it much easier to trust God. I can use them as examples to follow in my own life, as Paul mentions in Philippians 4:9, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Living with Integrity

In review of Ephesians 6:14 it says, “So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist.”

Bottom Line:
Stand ready, put on the belt of truth tight around your waist and let God’s justice protect you.

What this means to me:
I am to stand ready by putting on the belt of truth tightly around my waist and then letting God’s justice protect me like armor.

Integrity matters. God’s word reminds me that I’m in a war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world.” I won’t be able to battle those spiritual forces that threaten to derail my life if I’m not living with integrity.

Essentially, I’m to be committed to taking the truth of God’s Word and applying it to all areas of my life.

It’s why Paul tells me that I need to put on the Belt of Truth before I go into the spiritual battles that are all around me. He says, “So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14a GNT).

The Belt of Truth holds up everything. Without truth, my life will fall apart, and spiritual darkness can take over.

I put on my Belt of Truth, by living with integrity. Integrity comes from the word “integer,” which means “unit of one.” My life of integrity isn't the pieces of the pie; it’s being the whole pie.

To live a life of integrity, it’s important to not only know the truth, but to live it out. Like a belt, integrity provides me with stability. It holds me together in the middle through tough times. It gives me much-needed strength.

Living with integrity doesn't mean perfection. If perfection were the standard for integrity, no one would have it. I need to remember that everyone stumbles.

To live with integrity, I need to let people see on the outside what’s going on inside. It means what they see is what they get.

Hypocrisy is the great enemy of integrity. I would practice hypocrisy when I know the truth and don’t do it. It’s when what I say is not the same as what I do.

And it’s dangerous, very dangerous. A lack of integrity in any area of my life will leave me vulnerable to Satan’s arrows. In fact, the moment I start segmenting my life into different pieces; my church life, family life, work life, etc.; I've lost my integrity. I’m not living the same in all areas of my life.

So when life seems overwhelming, or if I feel like darkness is starting to win, its an indication that I’m living a double life. I’ll need to check my integrity. I am to do what God’s Word teaches in all areas of my life, not just where and when it is most convenient. I’ll have no hope without that kind of integrity.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Willpower Alone Won’t Solve My Sinful Nature

In review of Romans 7:22-23 it says, “I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.”

Bottom Line:
Even though you can love God’s law with all your heart, there is a part of you that fights against this. It makes you captive to sin that dwells deep within you.

What this means to me:
While I delight in God’s word in my heart, I still have something that fights against this new delight. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still deeply rooted within me.

I have a war inside me that will rage for my entire life. It’s between who I used to be and who I've become in Jesus Christ. Paul, one of the most prominent missionaries in the history of Christianity and the author of most of the New Testament, also battled with this same thing.

The Bible says in Romans 7:22-23, “I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (Romans 7:22-23 NLT).

This problem will always be present in my life. I’ll always battle this, I’ll never outgrow it. I won’t be able to read enough Scripture to make this temptations go away. And I won’t be able to hide from them.

So, until I get to Heaven, I’m stuck with this all-out battle between these two natures. I’ve been a believer for a long time, but I know that my old nature is still there. This old nature wants me to be prideful, lustful, self-centered, deceptive, and just downright sinful sometimes.

So what can I do about this?

Willpower alone won’t solve the problem. Just because I want to change and put everything into making that change doesn't mean I’ll make the change. It may work for a bit, but it never lasts. I always end up getting tired and stop my manual efforts.

What I’m learning is that the best way to battle this is to choose to follow my new nature, meaning I choose not to follow my old nature. So, if I’m tempted with something, I need to immediately remove myself from that temptation, I in essence starve the old self. So If, I’m tempted with pride, I remember my dependence upon God, which should keep my old nature
from cropping up.

Today, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me recognize when my old nature starts to crop up. I ask him for his help to find a substitution from my new nature that can help squelch it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Missing Ingredient in Battle Against Sin

In review of Galatians 5:16 it says, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

Bottom Line:
Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you so that you won’t obey your own selfish desires.

What this means to me:
I am advised to let the Holy Spirit be my guide. He’ll direct me on what to do. When I do, I won’t be satisfying my own selfish desires and natural tendencies.

I can do everything right and still not defeat a sin. I can read the Bible every day. I can pray. I can have a group of friends around me who’ll speak the truth in love to me on a regular basis.

And I can still be trapped in habitual sin.

At the end of the day, I can’t depend upon myself and what I can do to defeat sin. I also need the Holy Spirit’s power. The Holy Spirit enables me as a believer to do what I can’t do and to fulfill God’s desire for my life.

Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (NLT).

I can have all the right equipment to defeat habitual sin in your life, but it won’t matter without the Holy Spirit’s influence. This is much like finding a bird that had just died less than a minute earlier. If I pick it up, it won’t be much different than one of its live counterparts. It’ll still be warm. It’ll have the same muscles, bones, feathers, and wings. However, if you toss it up in the sky, it’ll drop right back down to the ground.

This bird has no life left. The life isn't in the feathers, wings, or bones. It’s in the life God puts in it. Without a spirit, the bird won’t fly, even if it has all the right equipment.

Likewise, I can have all the right equipment to live a successful, victorious life, but without the Spirit’s empowering, I can’t live that kind of life.

It’s much like throwing a dead bird into the air.

I won’t be able to live a victorious life of Christ on my own. It’s impossible. My best intentions and my too-easily-broken promises won’t enable me to live the Christian life. The Holy Spirit has to live through me.

I can get the Holy Spirit living through me by inviting him in. By allowing him to speak truth into my life when my thoughts go wild. I need to remember that God, via the Holy Spirit is living in me. I can tap into this by pushing myself and my desires aside and listening to his voice. For me this will require just quieting my own thoughts down and then allowing his presence to come forward. I can ask for his guidance whenever I need it. In summary, Paul also said in Galatians 5:17, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.” So today, I will do my best to live by the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Need for a Battle Buddy

In review of James 5:16 it says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen.”

Bottom Line:
Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, so God can heal you. The prayer of a good person has great power.

What this means to me:
I am to get with someone else I can trust to be honest with me. We are to confess our struggles and pray for each other. Our prayers for each other can have a wonderful effect.

A person won’t go to war by themselves. If they did, it would be a suicide mission. There is a  need for someone to have your back. You’d need a battle buddy, platoon or posse.

The same notion is true in the spiritual battles I face. I can’t go to war against lustful thoughts, dishonesty, addictions, and fear by myself. I’ll be doomed to fail.

If all I want is to be forgiven, I can admit my sin and brokenness to God. However, what I’m learning is that, If I want to make a lasting change, I need to admit it to someone else.

Revealing my sin is the beginning of healing. I don’t need to admit my sin to everyone. But I do need to admit it to someone. I need one person who’ll love me unconditionally, accept me completely, and pray for me constantly. I need someone of the same gender to be open and honest with.

Today’s verse in James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen” (NCV).

When I confess my sins to someone else, I in a sense, open the relief valve and take the pressure off. Suddenly, the big issue isn’t so big.

Often sin is a cycle. I start out humbly asking God for help, so he gives me the power to make it. After about six months of success, I can start to get prideful. Then, I fall, and in humility again, I ask God for help. If I could stay in that spirit of humility, I’d be good. But pride always returns.

I can’t kick that kind of cycle without friends who’ll pray, care, encourage, and keep me on track. When success comes, they’ll help me keep my perspective so my humility can stay in check.

Because of this need, a local congregation or church of fellow believers is really important. However, I can attend a church for years and never put myself in a situation where I know others and are known by them. I need to make the effort to get with some guys in which I can be completely open and honest.

To think I can quit a bad habit without being honest about it with others is simply a cop out. It never works.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Learning To Let Go of Self-defeating Lies

In review of 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

Bottom Line:
Never think you are without sin, if you do, you're only fooling yourself and not accepting the truth.

What this means to me:
If I think that I have not sinned, I’m only fooling myself and refusing to accept the truth.

It’s easy to lie to myself: Thing like, “Its not hurting anyone, or no one would even notice.”

But one lie that is the most dangerous to tell myself is: “It’s not really a problem, or I don’t think I've sinned.” I can tell myself that my finances aren't a problem, a relationship isn't in trouble, and my temper isn't out of control. But in reality they are.

What I’m learning is that lying to myself is one of the biggest ways to mess up my life. Today’s verse reminds me, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 NIV). Sin causes me to deceive myself, and deception causes me to sin.

Behind every self-defeating act in my life is a lie I've believed, or I've believed one of Enemy’s lies. Scripture reminds me that, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). I need to recognize that I do have an amazing ability to lie to myself.

So, I need to stop it! I need to stop rationalizing and minimizing my behavior. I need to stop excusing and tolerating it.

I need to stop deceiving myself. Jesus said, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free.” I can’t be free from what I can’t admit already exists, and I can’t beat the problem if I’m not truthful with myself about it.

Today I will consider what self-destructive behavior exists in my life that I’m pretending aren't there. I’ll also consider what are the lies I believe that keep me from making lasting changes for life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Winning the War Inside of You

In review of Ephesians 6:12 it says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Bottom Line:
We are not fighting other humans, but rather powers, rulers, authorities and other evil spirits of the dark spirit world.

What this means to me:
I must remember that my struggles are not against other humans, but rather against the forces and evil rulers of the unseen world and against a huge number of spirits in the spirit world.

One thing that I need to keep in mind is that I’m constantly at war; an invisible one. This is a war I’ll be engaged in until I die.

The Bible tells me that I have three mortal enemies who are out to destroy my life and everything God wants to do through it:

.The world — the dominant value system around us
.The flesh — the old nature within you
.The Devil — a real being that's out to “kill, steal, and destroy” along with his demonic minions.

The Bible teaches me that, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

A victory for this war won’t come through bullets or tactics. Within this war, all that matters is Jesus. I need to make him the general of my life, the one I let e in charge of the battle plan. Simply being a believer is not enough for this war. I need to let Jesus become my Lord.

Many believe in Jesus, however to find victory these things, Jesus has to be more than just someone I believe in.

Romans 7:24-25 says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (NIV)

The answer to an all-consuming battle I’m in isn’t a self-help seminar, a new book, a conference, a psychology, or a therapy. I’m reminded that It’s Jesus. I need to make him my boss always, not just sometimes. I can look to the example of the Apostle Paul. In Romans he makes it clear that he is at the end of his rope. He can’t win the battle on his own. His only hope is “Jesus Christ our Lord.”

It’s time for me to put a new sign over my life that says: “Under new management.”

Spiritual warfare takes place all the time. However I’m likely at my weakest, when I’m detached from God, or tired or just plain cranky. I need to be careful during this times and try to quickly turn my situation around by absorbing Jesus into my life and following his direction.

I believe that so much of what people have problems with in life can likely be traced back to some form of spiritual battle. Unfortunately, our culture is not conditioned to recognizing and even accepting Jesus. This is why its important for myself to help others, when they experience problems in their lives. I can help provide personal example and testimony from my own life. I won’t be able to convince anyone. I can only witness, which is what God wants me to do.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Steps to Effective Bible Study (Part 2)

In review of Matthew 4:4 it says, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Bottom Line:
In addition to food, we need every word that God has spoken.

What this means to me:
In the scriptures I am told (and Jesus has confirmed it) that I can not live only on food. I need to be obedient to every word that God speaks.

God wants me to apply his Word and then allow it to change my life. All of this starts by studying God’s Word. Yesterday I reviewed  two principles:

1. Ask the right questions.
2. Write down my observations.

Here are the others:

3. Apply God’s Word. In this step, I move from the “what” to the “so what” and do what the Bible says. The ultimate goal of all Bible study is application. In other words, how will this Scripture change my life? I am to not settle for understanding alone. I need to apply the biblical principles to my daily life. Any of my Bible study efforts won’t really have any value if, I don’t become more like Christ.

What I’m learning is that I will only believe the part of the Bible that I apply. If I don’t do them, then its like I don’t really believe what the Bible teaches about them. The problem isn’t with understanding, rather with applying what I understand.

4. Study the Bible systematically, not just haphazardly. I can study it systematically by studying it verse-by-verse, book-by-book, topic-by-topic, or theme-by-theme. The opposite is a sort of dip-and-skip method, where you just open up the Bible and put a finger down where you want to study. This may not produce the kind of results God wants in my life.

5. Read the Bible over and over again. This simple tool will change your life. It can be amazing how much I can get out of a passage just by studying the same passage over and over again and then coming back to the same passage a few months later. The more I read a passage, the more I’ll get out of it.

By applying these five principles I’ll get more out of my study time.

Honestly I find myself doing a more haphazard approach as I use as a springboard the “Daily Hope” daily devotional from Rick Warren for my quite time studies. This tends to be more topic based and jumps around from book to book, so I may not be getting the benefit of seeing a portion of scripture as a whole. I have however just started my last college class for my Bachelors degree and it happens to be a study in Exodus and Deuteronomy. This is a more concentrated study, verse by verse.  This course will go on for the rest of this year. This will give me a good re-introduction into this form of study. Starting next year, I’ll re-address how I do my quiet time studies and possibly adopt a different approach that is more verse by verse or book by book.