Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fear of Making the Wrong Decision

In review of Psalm 23:3b, it says, “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

Bottom Line:
He will guide you along the right path, as he has promised.

What this means to me:
God gives me new strength, he guides me along right paths just as he has promised he will.

I have to admit that I’m often afraid of making the wrong decision, and this can cause delay, make me miss out and just plainly create stress.

When I can’t make up my mind, I end up staggering through life. In fact, the Bible says when I remain double-minded, I become unstable in everything I do (James 1). The Greek word for unstable literally means “to stagger like a drunk.”

But God says there is an antidote to my indecision. Psalm 23:3b tells me that, “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (NIV). I can handle the stress of decision-making by letting God guide me.

However in the past doing this can make me more confused than before. Sometimes knowing God’s will is difficult. What I’m learning is that God isn’t trying to trick me or frustrate me, in fact he wants to guide me and wants me to know his will more than I probably want to know it. My problem is that I often look for the wrong thing when I’m trying to find God’s will.

It’s easiest to look for a feeling, to be swept off my feet by some emotion so I can say, “That’s how I know what God’s will is!” Also it would be easy to just have some form of methodical approach, a recipe or a formula to apply. Even a magical approach would be helpful, with God providing some fantastic sign, like writing it in the sky, calling me on the phone, or sending me text message.

However, all of these ways will lead to frustration and cause me to miss God’s will. What I’m learning is that God’s will is not a feeling or a formula or something he wants me to be frustrated or fearful about.

God does not want me confused, and he does not want me stressed over making any decision. He is there, guiding me each step of the way.

In summary, when it comes to having fear over making the wrong decision, I should keep in mind first that when I need guidance, God has promised to lead me, however it may not always be through a miraculous sign. Today, I thank you God for caring enough for me to guide me in all areas of my life. While looking for an easy answer might be easiest, I need to be patient and let You lead me one step at a time. You speak to me through your written word and through the counsel of those I trust who are also walking closely with you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Life Is Shaped by My Thoughts

In review of Proverbs 4:23 it says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”

Bottom Line:
Be careful and guard how you think, as your life will be shaped by it.

What this means to me:
I should be very careful and guard my heart, (the thought center or cockpit of my life), for the things I allow and think about will shape and influence everything in my life.

What I’m learning is that God is far more interested in changing my mind than in changing my circumstances.

I know I would want God to take away all of the problems, pain, sorrow, suffering, sickness, and sadness in my life. But God wants to work on me first, because transformation won’t happen in my life until I renew my mind, until my thoughts begin to change.

There are three important reasons that I need to learn to manage my mind:

First, I manage my mind, because my thoughts will control my life. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (TEV). The power of my thoughts has tremendous ability to shape my life for good or for bad.

Secondly, I manage my mind, because my mind is the battleground for sin. All temptation happens in the mind. Paul says in Romans 7:22-23, “I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin” (TLB). One of the reasons for mental fatigue is because of the battle in my brain that’s going on all the time. It’s debilitating because it’s intense, and it’s intense because my mind is my greatest asset. Satan wants my greatest asset!

Thirdly, I manage my mind, because it’s the key to peace and happiness. An unmanaged mind leads to tension. A managed mind leads to tranquility. An unmanaged mind leads to conflict. A managed mind leads to confidence. An unmanaged mind leads to stress. When I don’t try to control my mind and the way I direct my thoughts, I will have an enormous amount of stress in life. But a managed mind leads to strength and security and serenity. “Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:6 NLT, second edition).

In summary, I really need to protect what goes into my mind. The warning in the various translations of this verse is to be careful and to closely guard. It is so easy to just not think but let the media of today shape my thoughts. Today I thank you God for the warning and reminder to watch what I feed my mind. I need to be careful with what I’m allowing in based on the TV programs I watch and what catches my interest as I surf the internet. In the long run, my life will ultimately be shaped by my thoughts.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Learning How to Have Lasting Change in Life

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

Bottom Line:
Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform the way you think.

What this means to me:
I should not just be complacent and copy the behaviors and adopt the value of the world around me, rather I should let my relationship and continuing knowledge of God change, even transform the way I think.

What I’m learning is that if I want to have a lasting change in my life, I’ll 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. Whatever I focus on is what I’ll move toward.

Today’s verse provides a blueprint how to change my thought patterns:

Do not conform …” How often am I letting others shape my life? God doesn’t want me to be like someone else; he wants me to be the person he made me to be. So I shouldn’t copy, conform, or try to be like anybody else.

“… any longer …” There are a lot of things I started off doing by copying others, they eventually turn 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 that I learned in the past. 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.” The word “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.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24 that this happens when we: “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; be made new in the attitude of your minds; and … put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (NIV).

This means I’m going to have 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 department store. Before I can try on the new stuff, I should really take off the old stuff first.

I’m going to have to let go of the old attitudes, the old thought patterns, the old images that I’ve been living with so I can put on the new garments God has for me.

In summary, the world’s way of thinking isn’t really right and I should not be like everyone else, rather I should let my relationship with Christ change or transform my thinking. Today I pray and thank God for “catching my attention and pointing out to me that I shouldn’t take the easy road by just following the crowd and what media suggests. You have a much better plan for me and my life If I will just learn to listen to you. You will transform me into the unique person you made me to be.” In addition, I need to start considering what ways I’m just adopting the world's values or taking the easy way out. It’s not always popular to not follow along or to speak out when I know that something is not the way God intended it to be.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

God Understands That I Can’t Change Overnight

In review of Ephesians 4:24 it says, “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Bottom Line:
Put on a new you, which was created in God’s likeness, true righteousness and holiness.

What this means to me:
I am to be a new and different person, one which is created in God’s likeness and will reveal itself in a life that is upright and holy.

What I’m learning is that when God wants to remove the defects in my life, he doesn't just snap his fingers so that it happens instantly. He does it incrementally. When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes six hours, but when he wants to make an oak tree, he takes 60 years.

Would I rather be a mushroom or an oak tree?

I’m also learning that the Holy Spirit will make changes in your life far beyond anything I thought possible, but they won’t happen overnight.

In order for me to be stronger emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, and financially, I've got to be intentional about it. This verse reminds me to, “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 NLT, second edition).

This is how I become more like Jesus. I am to throw off the old things and the old ways that keep me from getting to know Christ and becoming like him, and rely on the help of the Holy Spirit. I let God do his work in me, no matter how long it takes.

As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18b TLB).

In summary, I am to put on a new self, one that is created in God’s likeness and character. So today I pray, “Thank you God for making me in your likeness. With the help of the Holy Spirit the outcome of my life will reveal a life that is upright and set apart for service to you. It’s also good to know that you don’t expect me to change overnight. You know my heart and know that it takes time for me to lasting change.” Overall, true change in my life will take some time, I can’t expect it overnight. I just need to make sure that each day I’m moving more toward the person he wants me to be. To that end I need to have goals for my life and my ultimate character. I need to think about what I want my life to look like 10 years from today. Each day I will ask him to help me trust him as he work to fulfill his ultimate purpose for me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

If I Want to Change, I Need to Change My Thinking

In review of Ephesians 4:23 it says, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

Bottom Line:
Let the Spirit renew and change your way of thinking

What this means to me:
I should let the Holy Spirit living within to help me change my thought, attitudes and way of thinking.

Any change in my life will require new thinking. In order to change, I must learn the truth and start making good choices, but also change the way I think.

The way I think determines the way I feel, and the way I feel determines the way I act. If I want to change the way I act, I start by changing the way I think. In addition, if I want to change the way I feel, I must start with the way I think.

I can’t just say, “I need to love ____ more.” It’s not enough to will my way into a feeling. I just first change the way I think about it. That will help change the way I feel, which will then change the way I act toward it. This verse reminds me to, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT, second edition).

The battle for sin, the battle to deal with the defects in my life that I don't like, will all start in my mind. In order to change anything in my behavior or emotions, I would start with my thoughts and attitude.

The renewal of my mind is related to the word "repentance." Many think repentance is something bad, something they don't really want to do, something painful. Also the vision of a guy standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Repent! The world's about to end!"

What I’m learning is that repentance has nothing to do with my behavior. It is about changing my mind and learning to think differently. “Repent” simply means to make a mental U-turn.

I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from frustration to freedom, from darkness to light, from hatred and bitterness to love.

I may also need to change the way I think about God. He's not mad at me; he’s mad about me! I’m deeply flawed, but I’m also deeply loved.

I need to start with my mind, and then change the way I think about my relationships, the economy, the world, and my past, present, and future. Changing the way I think will then affect my emotions and your behavior.

It’s difficult to change on my own, I need to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit that God has already implanted in me and allow him to renew the way I think! Today, I thank you God for providing the Holy Spirit in my life to help provide me with promptings and guidance. I need to stop making assumptions about the way things are and begin to look at life from a different perspective, one through God’s eye’s. I can know more about how God would look at things by continuing a pursuit to know God and my savior Jesus even more. I may need to make some “u-turns” in order to renew my thinking.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I Need To Choose to Change

In review of Ephesians 4:22 it says, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.”

Bottom Line:
Get rid of your old sinful self, and your former way of life, which was being corrupted by its deceitful desires.

What this means to me:
I should get rid of, even throw off my former ways of life which were sinful and evil, they were corrupted by lust and deceitful desires.

Real change in my life will require me to make a choice. It's not enough to just dream of changing. It's not enough to desire change. In order for me to really change, I’ll need to make a decision. I must choose to change.

Change is intentional and it will only happen if I choose to change, because change will not happen accidentally. It requires a choice.

I tend to think that I’m waiting on God to change me, however what I’m learning is that God is waiting on me. He’s waiting on me to say, “Yes, Lord, I'm willing to make these changes in my life.”

I need to make intentional choices in order to grow. There is no growth without change, there is no change without loss, and there is no loss without pain. If I’m going to grow, I’ll have to change, and change means I let go of some old things in order to grab hold of some new things.

It's like swinging on a trapeze. The trapeze artist swings out on one bar, and then he has to reach out and grab the other one. At some point, he's got to let go of one to grab on to the other, or he's not going to make it to the other side. If he thinks he can hold on to both, what happens? He gets stuck in the middle, and he's going down.

I too can get stuck in the middle, and going down because I likely haven't let go of the old patterns, the old habits, and the old ways of thinking. I have to let go of my old ways.

This verse reminds me to, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life ….” (Ephesians 4:22a NLT, second edition). In other words, let it go. Those old habits, those old hurts, those old patterns, those old sins, just let them go. The verse says to throw them off and trust that God is working in you “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13b NIV).

This verse literally tells me to get rid (even throw off) the old way, it was corrupted and not useful. Today I thank you Jesus for showing me a different way to live that serves the needs of others and steers me away from hurting myself. Starting today I need to get rid of the way that I identify myself attaching meaning to position and status.  I need to review how God wants me to be and be that person. I need to choose to use my position as a servant, serving those around me.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Remembering, That I’m Not Home Yet

In review of 2 Corinthians 4:18 it says, “For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.”

Bottom Line:
We should fix our attention not on what we is seen, what we see is only temporary, but the things of God is what is going to last.

What this means to me:
So I shouldn’t fix my attention on what I can currently see, rather I should focus on what is unseen. For the things I see now will soon be gone, but the things of God that I cannot see will last forever.

As I attempt to reach goals that God has given me, it’s important for me to remember that life here on Earth is just a temporary assignment. Keeping this in mind should radically alter my values and help me to fix my attention on the things that are eternally important.

It would be a fatal mistake for me to assume that God’s goal for my life is material prosperity or popular success as the world defines it. An abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance. Faithfulness to God may not always guarantee success in my career or even in ministry. I should never focus on temporary crowns.

Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison. John the Baptist was faithful, but he was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it. What I’m learning is that the end of life is not really the end!

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever” (TEV).

So whenever life gets tough, when I’m overwhelmed with doubt, or when I wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, I just need to remember that I’m not home yet. At death I won’t leave home, I’ll just go to my real home.

In summary, I shouldn’t focus on the here and now as if that is all there is. Rather, I should keep my focus on my future as for what is seen only last for a while. Thank you God for having so much more for my life than what exists in this world. It’s often hard to think beyond what I can see, but what lies ahead will last forever. I’m not home yet! I will Live for today, but pursue the things that will last forever such as relationships and helping others to know and have a relationship with the Father.

Friday, June 19, 2015

When Detours Come, Never Give Up!

In review of 2 Chronicles 16:9a it says, “God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.”

Bottom Line:
God is always on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.

What this means to me:
Nothing escapes God. He is always on alert, watching over me and will provide strength and blessings as I stay committed to him.

One thing's for sure, when God gives me a mission, I can be sure that I’ll run into some form of delay, difficulty, detours, and dead ends along the way. Its just part of life. However, I can be ready for them.

For example, if anybody had a right to be discouraged, it was Noah. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark and see his mission from God fulfilled. I’m not sure I be able to go 120 years on a project without one word of encouragement from anybody else.

Noah fully trusted God, and when he heard God's warning about the future, Noah believed him, even though there was no sign of a flood. I’m sure there were many days that Noah didn't feel like going to work, however for 43,800 days, he went to the same place, and he worked. And as his story indicates, he never gave up.

I too should never give up on a dream God gives me. The good news is that God is in control.

The verse reminds me that, “God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 MSG). This means that God is looking for people who are committed to him and his plan so that he can bless them.

In order for me to be one of those people, then I should never give up!

Things may get tough and it may look like detours are about to side track me. I need to stay the course, and not look for shortcuts or take matters into my own hands. I need to be patient and know that God is for me and will ultimately equip me to handle what he has given me. I strive to be totally committed to him.

While my mission from God won’t be to build an ark, it is comforting to know that what God has planted in my mind is something that he will help me with, day by day. It will manifest itself in how I interact and serve others day to day.

Thank you God for always being on alert and looking out for me. Thank you for the assistance and blessing you bestow upon me as I commit to allowing Jesus to lead my life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shortcuts Are Shortsighted

In review of Proverbs 4:20-22 it says, “Listen carefully to my words. Don't lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning.”

Bottom Line:
Listen carefully and don’t lose sight to what God tells you, let it penetrate deep within you, for it will give life and health if you understand and put them into practice.

What this means to me:

I am to listen carefully and not lose sight to what God tell me through his word. I should let them penetrate deeply within me. Life will go so much better for me when I can understand them and put them into practice.

One of the pitfalls I face as I try to fulfill my purpose is the temptation to take shortcuts. In reality, shortcuts will only get me off track. The shortcuts can be moral, ethical, spiritual, financial, or even relational one. But if I take them, they will only distract me from what God wants me to do in life, eventually eating up my time, energy, resources, and creativity.

Shortcuts are almost always shortsighted. God wants me to stop being “absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that's where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:2 MSG).

In order to be alert to what’s around me, I need to carefully listen to what God reveals to me in his Word. As this verse mentions, I am to let his Word penetrate deeply within my heart (guidance center). Keeping them close will help shape my perspective and ultimately my values. Then my desires will be filtered by a new perspective and value systems and I’ll come out with the behavior that God wants for me. It’s tempting for me to, especially when I’m feeling pressured or overwhelmed to seek out shortcuts. Being aware will help me stay away from shortsighted shortcuts. I need to persist on doing what I know I need to done in the manner it should be done.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To Hear God, I Need To Get Near Him

In review of Proverbs 2:6 it says, “It is the Lord who gives wisdom; from him come knowledge and understanding.”

Bottom Line:
It is God who provides wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

What this means to me:
It is the Lord who provide me wisdom. His every word is a treasure of knowledge and understanding.

In order to get and trust God I need to hear him. But often it’s hard to hear from him.

What I’m learning is that it's difficult to hear God when my mind is filled with a thousand other distractions. In order for me to hear God, I’ve got to get near Him. I've got to get alone with God and be quiet.

The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). That means sit down and shut up. That's how I hear and get near to God. I need to sit alone and just be quiet with my Bible and say, “God, is there anything you want to say to me?” Then read God’s Word, and begin to talk with him about what I’m ready and what's on my heart. I can follow this four step process for spending time in his word.

First Reading: Simply familiarize yourself with what God is saying here. Notice the circumstances, people, places, etc.

Second Reading: Notice what word, phrase, sentence or verse makes an "impression" upon you.

Third Reading: Spend a few moments in prayer thanking and praising God for His Holy Word. Then prayerfully interact with God about the text.

Fourth Reading: Ask God to show you how He wants you to live based on this. Is there something He would have you start doing, stop doing or continue doing?

And, God says he will give you the wisdom I need to recognize his voice and follow through on what he says: “It is the Lord who gives wisdom; from him come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6 TEV).

Today I pray: “God, I want to listen to you, not the voices of doubt. I want to get close to you and get to know you better. I want to hear you, and I promise to then obey you. I want to be one of the people that you can use and bless in the next 10 years. I want those years to be a decade of destiny for myself, my family and those around me.”

Monday, June 15, 2015

Whose Voice Am I Listening To?

In review of Proverbs 1:7 it says, “Start with God, the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.”

Bottom Line:
Having reverence and taking God seriously is the entry point for knowledge, for only a fool would reject wisdom and good advice.

What this means to me:
The first step for me to go from folly into wisdom is when I take God seriously. If I don’t take God seriously then I’m rejecting true wisdom and learning.

There have been times in my life when after establishing a goal for my life when I think or even hear others say “You should hold off or be careful”, or “It can't be done” or “You should just forget about it”.

The antidote to listening to the voices of doubt is for me to listen intently to the voice of God. The story of Noah brings to mind the tons of critics and self doubt Noah faced. I’m sure some would say, “That guy Noah thinks God speaks to him, but he's just messing up all of our property values by building that ark in his front yard.”

However the Bible tells me that Noah listened to God. He heard God's warning that the world was going to be destroyed. He believed what he had not yet seen. That's what faith is, being certain of something we don't see.

So Noah didn’t turn back on the vision God had given him. Instead, he moved forward and built the ark.

God is likely going to give me some specific goals for my life, and some people may think it’s pretty crazy. I need to stay focused on what I know God has said through his Word, the Bible. Then, I’ve got to go build my ark!

I think because of my tendency to be a private person, I usually do not receive as much criticism about my goals because I tend to keep them private. What I face more is my own self doubt and fear of pursuing a goal; especially if it means opening myself up or taking risks socially. I need to ask God for more courage to start opening myself up and taking social interacting risks. Also, it won’t hurt for me to spend more time with God just listening for his voice.  

Overall the the antidote to listening to the voices of doubt in my life is for me to listen to the voice of God. I need to believe and be certain of that which I don't see. I should stay focused on what God has said to me through his Word.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Raising My Expectations of God

In my review of Hebrews 11:1 it says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Bottom Line:
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and the certainty about what we cannot see.

What this means to me:
To have faith is to have a confident assurance that what I hope for will happen, and the assurance that what I don’t see will be waiting for me.

God will work in people’s hearts when we expect him to do so.

Rick Warren explains that before each service at his Church, he prays, “God, it would be a waste of time to go out there and talk to those people without expecting you to do something. So I’m going to thank you in advance for changing lives. I expect it to happen in faith. Not because of who I am, but because of who you are.” That is the faith that God uses to change lives.

I think very few people come to Jesus Christ the first time they hear the Good News. Like me, it may take them a while to think about it and additional time to make the right decision.

What I’m learning is that I should never give up on anyone. I need to trust God. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV).

If there is someone I’d like to see become a believer, I need to start praying in faith, expecting God to act. Faith is certain of what we do not see. You need to say to God, “I don’t see them warming up to you at all. But I’m going to pray and expect that you’re working in their lives, even when I can’t see it.”

I’m reminded of the story in the Bible of the four guys who had a friend who was paralyzed? They believed Jesus could heal their friend, so they put him on a mat and took him to Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20b), and he healed the man.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man on the basis of the friends’ faith, not the guy who was sick. Sometimes you have to believe in faith for other people and expect God to act. Put a little faith in a big God, and you’ll get big results.

In summary I need to believe in faith for others and expect God to act. God will work in people’s hearts when we expect him to do so. I should pray for God to do something and thank him in advance for doing it. I should learn to raise my expectations of God. If I just put a little faith in a big God, and I’ll see big results.

Choosing to Accept God’s Grace

In review of Romans 6:23 it tells me that “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lor...