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Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Little Things Count

In 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.” (GNT)

God uses little things to test my integrity. It’s not just the big things that count—even though that’s what the world wants me to focus on. But the Bible tells me that God is looking at the smallest details of my life to see if I am faithful to him.

This is true in every area of life, including leadership. It’s often thought that it’s the big things in life that create a leader. No! The big crises in life reveal leadership, but leadership is not built in the big things of life. It’s built in the details of life. That’s 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 tests my integrity in the little things.

Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones” (Luke 16:10 GNT). He’s saying my public blessing is determined by my private integrity.

Every time a politician has a scandal, I can always count on that person’s defenders to come out and say, “It really shouldn’t matter what their private life is like.” Have you ever heard that one? “It really shouldn’t matter what a person does in their private life. It doesn’t have anything to do with them as leaders.”

It has everything to do with them as leaders! Why? Because if a man lies to his wife, he’ll lie to his constituents. If a woman lies to her best friend, to whom she said, “Till death do us part,” she will cheat on us, voters! Count on it!

My public blessing as a leader comes because of private integrity that nobody ever sees. My public blessing as a person comes from your private integrity that nobody will ever see. God uses little things to test my integrity. And faithfulness in the small things will lead to blessings in ways only God can provide.

My integrity is often put on the line in money matters. God calls me to be honest even in small details I could easily ignore. Heaven's riches are far more valuable than earthly wealth. But if I am not trustworthy with my money here (no matter how much or little I have), I will be unfit to handle the vast riches of God's Kingdom. So I need to see that I maintain my integrity in all matters, whether big or small. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Sometimes the Change Is Gradual

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says, “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (NLT)

I need more power than just willpower in my life. I need God’s power.

The fruit of the Spirit is the qualities that God puts in my life when the Holy Spirit lives in me: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

How does God produce that fruit in my life? Not by willpower. I could go out and say, “I’m going to be a more patient person!” but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

The Holy Spirit has to grow it on the inside. I try to say, “I’m going to be more patient. I’m going to be more loving.” It’s like tying some oranges on a eucalyptus tree and calling it an orange tree. It doesn’t work that way. The fruit of the Spirit can only come from the inside—God’s Spirit living through me.

How does the Holy Spirit work in my life? The answer is gradually: “And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT).

When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes six hours. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes 60 years. The question is: Do I want my life to be a mushroom or an oak tree?

I didn’t collect my hurts, habits, and hang-ups overnight. The things I most want to change usually develop in me over years. I’ve got to peel that onion one layer at a time.

The Holy Spirit works within me to make me gradually more and more like him. My character is the sum total of my habits. My responsibility is to develop new habits that reflect his work in me.

By gazing at the nature of God with an unveiled mind, I can be more like him. In the Good News, I see that truth about Christ, and it transforms me morally as I understand and apply it. Through learning about Christ's life, I can understand how wonderful God is and what he is really like. As my knowledge deepens, the Holy Spirit helps me to change. Becoming Christlike is a progressive experience. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

It’s Time to Change My Mind

In Philippians 2:5 it says, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (NLT)

Changing my life requires new thinking. The battle to change the defects in my life is always a mental battle. It starts in the mind—and that’s where the battle is won or lost.

Ephesians 4:23 says, “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (NLT).

I’m not going to change until my thoughts and attitude change. This is why a daily quiet time is important. The time I spend intentionally studying God’s Word and in conversation with him through prayer is the spiritual renewal in my mind. Even with the Holy Spirit, it takes spiritual discipline to have the power to change. I have to get to know God so I know what he expects from and desires for me.

The theological term for “change of mind” is the word “repentance.” To repent literally means to change your mind.

The word “repent” is actually a Greek word: metanoia. Metanoia means to change your mind—to turn from death to life, sin to forgiveness, guilt to peace of mind, hell to heaven. You turn from “my way” to God’s way. The most positive change in life will be when I repent of my sin and turn from regret to forgiveness and peace of mind.

I have to learn to think in new ways about my defects. Defects are often strengths being misused. That’s a new way of thinking. I probably never thought of it that way, but that’s repentance! That’s a change of mind. My defects are often the strengths God gave me that are being misused.

I have to change the way I think so I can make the most of my strengths instead. To do that, I “must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5 NLT).

God wants me to learn to think like Jesus. How do I do that? Again, it’s a choice. I’ve got to make a choice and say, “Lord, how would Jesus think about this?” The more I fill my mind with God’s Word, the easier that’s going to be. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Change Is a Choice

In Philippians 2:12-13 it says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (NIV)

It’s not enough to want to change. It’s not even enough to say, “I have a dream of changing.” Dreams are worthless unless I wake up and actually act on them. I’m not going to change the problems in my life until I choose to change.

How am I going to be different in six months? Will I be emotionally stronger, mentally sharper, physically healthier or more spiritually mature?

It isn’t going to happen automatically. I’m not just going to get healthier by accident in any category of life. A lot of times we think we're waiting on God to change us. Well, it's not us waiting on God. God is waiting on us!

There is no growth in life without change. There is no change without loss. And there is no loss without pain. I’ve got to let go of some old stuff, and it’s not always going to be easy.

Some are stuck right now because they haven’t learned how to let go. That’s a choice. Ephesians 4:22 reminds us to, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception” (NLT).

We may think our defects are from our circumstances or chromosomes. But it doesn’t really matter where they come from. We need to deal with them. Genetics explains your inclinations, but it doesn’t excuse our sin.

Here’s the good news: Once we become a believer in Christ, we have a new power in us that is greater than those old tendencies. That power is the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (NIV).

Does that mean we are supposed to be afraid of God? Of course not! It means be afraid that we’ll miss God’s best and waste our lives. Be afraid that we will go our entire life and never know God’s purpose.

The secret to changing life is not willpower. It’s God giving us the will and the power through the Holy Spirit to do what needs to be done. 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Change My Thoughts, Change My Life

In Romans 8:5-6 it says, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (NIV)

I haven’t been sentenced to a life of frustration and stress. I don’t have to be stuck in my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I’m learning that God has something far better for me.

Everyone wants peace and freedom—and the good news is it may be closer than I think.

The Bible teaches that, for those who follow Jesus, peace is a mindset. If I’m not at peace, it’s my choice.

In the next few months, the economy more than likely won’t change. My work situation won’t change. My broken relationships may not get healed.

But my mindset can change. That will be the difference between a life of self-destruction and a life of peace.

The Bible says in Romans 8:5-6, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (NIV).

I can ask the Holy Spirit to give me better thoughts—thoughts that bring peace, not frustration. I need to look at my situation differently: in the Holy Spirit way.

Will I look at my life the way I’ve always looked at it, or will I look at it the way God does? Remember, the “mind governed by the flesh is death.” Choosing to look at my situation through my own lens is self-destructive.

I can ask the Holy Spirit to replace the self-destructive thoughts with his own. When I’ve got something negative in life, don’t resist it. Replace it.

If I turn on the TV, and there’s something on that I don’t want to watch or I shouldn’t watch, I can’t just sit there and tell myself I shouldn’t be watching it. I have to change the channel. I replace it—immediately.

I choose what I dwell on. I can ask the Holy Spirit to give me the thoughts I need to focus on. He’ll do it! He will change my perspective. And that will change my life. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Letting Go of My Self-defeating Lies

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

We lie to ourselves all the time: “I haven’t gained any weight.” “I’m not hurting anyone.” “No one even noticed.”

But one lie is more dangerous than most: “It’s not really a problem.” We tell ourselves that our <fill in the blank> is not a problem, or out of control.

Lying to ourselves is the number one way we mess up our lives. The Bible says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 NIV). Sin causes us to deceive ourselves, and deception causes us to sin

Behind every self-defeating act in my life is a lie I’ve believed. Either I’ve lied to myself or I’ve believed one of Satan’s lies. The Bible says our heart is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). We have an amazing ability to lie to ourselves.

To stop defeating myselfdoing all of those self-defeating behaviors that cripple my ability to follow Jesus faithfullyI have to stop deceiving myself. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NIV). But first, the truth will make me miserable! I can’t break free from these self-defeating behaviors if I won’t admit they exist.

I can’t beat the problem if I’m lying to myself about it. Victory starts with telling the truth and being willing to do something about it.

It takes humility and honesty to recognize my weakness, when I'd rather pretend that I am strong. But, I do not need to fear revealing my sins from God, he already knows them. He will not push me away, no matter what I've done. Instead, he will draw me to himself.