HEART check

One of the many useful tools Celebrate Recovery teaches is the “Heart Check”. Ask yourself the following questions to give yourself a Heart Check and to know if you may be about to give in to temptation.

AM I…

Hurting?
Exhausted?
Angry?
Resentful?
Tense?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you probably need to take a time out and give your hurts over to the Lord. You see, it is when we are mindful of our emotions, as well as where they take us when left unchecked, we are better able to prevent relapse and further damage to our relationships. But please don’t just take my word on the subject. Let’s look at scripture for further help. Here are just a few verses on the subject of what to do when temptation comes knocking on your door.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:18

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Addiction or distortion

Many of you know, some of you may not, but I have struggled in my life with addiction. Some of it more serious than others, but none the less, it has been apparent.

As I get older, and a bit more exposed and complete, I have stumbled upon an insightful list that I wanted to share. It has to do with addiction, personal motivations and the thought process I know I have gone through… here is an excerpt…

Almost every book on fighting sin focuses on how we can react better at the moment of temptation. Thousands of tips and techniques are laid out to keep us from acting out. While helpful, these books miss the point: we didn’t reach this moment randomly. We got here by gradually distorting our view of God ‘back there’.

Those prevention tools made sense until we allowed ourselves to entertain a thought that would eventually lead us into crisis. The moment those safeguards are needed, it’s too late. We no longer want them to help. We are now way past wanting to do right. The problem is actually rooted far back when our course was fundamentally altered. The problem is our distorted picture of God.

The distortion is a pall over our eyes, keeping light out. That distortion is there because we believe these five things about God:

  1. God can’t satisfy me as much as this sin.
  2. I’ve always been this way. I don’t believe you’re powerful enough to change that.
  3. There is something fundamentally wrong with me.
  4. I don’t believe God has been fully good to me.
  5. I’m going to feel like a failure anyway, I might as well enjoy it!

These are the root beliefs behind the permission we give ourselves to fail. They are all formed from picturing God separated from us.

Taken from a wonderful book by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol & Bill Thrall called “The Cure”

Break the cycle

My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous – 1 John 2:1
People who are caught in the sin-confess-sin-confess-sin-confess cycle eventually begin to lose hope that they can experience any real victory over sin. Sheer willpower can’t keep them from repeating the sin they just confessed, and Satan pours on the condemnation. Self-control seems like an illusion, and the Christian life is one of unending ups and downs.

Suppose there is a door you are commanded not to open. On the other side of the door is a dog that keeps insisting, “Come on, let me in. Everybody is doing it. You deserve to have a little fun. Who will know? You can get away with it.” So you open the door and the dog roars in and bits you on the leg. Ironically, the dog instantly changes its story: “You opened the door. I have a right to be here. You’ll never get away with this!” If such a thing happened, would you beat on the dog or on yourself?

Sin which is allowed to reign is like the dog that bits you on the leg and won’t let go. Not realizing there is a dog, you beat on yourself for leaving the door open and cry out to God for forgiveness. He forgives you, but the dog is still there. Why not cry out to God and beat on the dog instead of yourself? James 4:7 tells us, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We are correct in confessing our sin, but we have failed to follow the complete biblical formula which breaks the cycle: sin-confess- resist . We must first assume our responsibility for opening the door, then we must resist Satan and command him to leave if we are going to experience victory over sin.

We live as though God and a sick humanity are the only realities in the spiritual realm. We must turn to our righteous Advocate (1 John 2:1) and resist our perverted adversary if we are to experience victory and freedom over temptation and sin.

Prayer:Lord, show me where I have opened the door of my life to sin that I may confess it to You and command Satan to leave in Your precious name.

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Response to feedback

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T BE DEFENSIVE
While being reviled, He [Jesus] did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously – 1 Peter 2:23 

There are two reasons why you should not be defensive when there is a critical, negative evaluation of you.

First, if you are in the wrong, you don’t have a defense. If you are criticized for saying something which is out of order or doing something which is wrong, and the criticism is valid, any defensiveness on your part would be a rationalization at best and a lie at worst. You must simply respond, “You’re right; I was wrong,” then take steps to improve your character and behavior.

Second, if you are right, you don’t need a defense. Peter encouraged us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). If you are in the right, you don’t need to defend yourself. The Righteous Judge, who knows who you are and what you have done, will exonerate you.

A dear lady entered my office with a well-thought-out list of “things for me” and “things against me.” I suggested that she share the “things for me” first. That didn’t take long! As she was going through the “things against me,” the part of me that is made of earth wanted to respond to every allegation. But I didn’t. When she was finished, there was an awkward pause before I said, “It must have taken a lot of courage to come in and share that with me. What do you suggest I do?” She started to cry.

Nobody tears another down from a position of strength or judges another without being judged. Judgmental people are people in pain. If you can learn not to be defensive when someone exposes your character defects or attacks your performance, you may have an opportunity to turn the situation around and minister to that person.

Prayer: Lord, give me the courage not to react defensively. You are the only defense I need, and I entrust myself to You, who judges righteously.

Salem Web Network | Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. | 111 Virginia St., Suite 500, Richmond, VA 23219

It’s not about us

“The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.”  — Francis Chan

Sometimes God is doing something in your life for others to see.  Your life is part of a greater story that He is weaving, a bigger picture.  Sometimes the things that are happening in our life are not just for our own living and experience but for those around us.  God uses our lives to demonstrate His reality and grace.

We are called to know Him and make Him known.

Jesus said to his disciples Lazarus is dead and for your sake I am glad so that you may believe.

At the tomb entrance Jesus prayed I have said this for the benefit of the people standing here, so that they may believe you sent me””

In the prison where Paul and Silas were chained and singing – the other prisoners were listening.  Paul and Silas’ captivity just wasn’t about them but it was part of the bigger picture.

What does this say about me?

“You’re either going to live your life defined by what you go through or by Who you belong to.” @Stevenfurtick

Jesus said in this life you WILL have trouble, but trouble does not need to define you or discourage you. You can rise because Jesus is risen. You can have hope because God is faithful to His promises. You can be joyous because God is at work. You can have peace because God gives peace despite what is going on around us.

My choice is to say YES to God and to believe.

Those dark days may be the most richest, character forming, life changing of your life. They certainly were for Lazarus, for his sisters, for his community, for the disciples.

Jesus did something remarkable through Lazarus’ life and death that was on centre stage for everyone to see.  Lazarus’ death and then resurrection were for all to see.  They were part of a greater story that God was weaving.

Tune In

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.– James 4:8-10

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. When? When you’re serious about seeking Him. The idea is to be serious about it, to turn off the TV, to take some time and make an effort. Why? Not because God is saying, ‘Only when you mourn and weep will I speak to you.’ That’s not it at all. The purpose of mourning and cleansing is not so that God will speak—but to get me tuned into the right frequency so I can hear Him already speaking. Think of it this way…Right now, Channel 10 is broadcasting all sorts of words and images. But we aren’t tuned into the frequency. To get the picture, we’d have to take some time, bring in a TV, and put up the antenna. Would we do that to impress Channel 10 to send pictures our way? No. They’re already doing that constantly. We’d have to bring in a TV and put up an antenna simply to get us in the position to receive what’s already being broadcast from Channel 10 continually.

If people don’t read this passage right, they begin to say, ‘If we afflict ourselves like the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, if we slash our bodies and dance in a frenzy, God will speak’ (I Kings 18). That’s not the heart of the Father. That’s the heart of a false god.

The purpose of washing your hands and humbling your heart implies quitting your normal activities and taking some time to get tuned into the proper frequency. Go to the park. Get away. Do whatever it takes to change your setting and say, ‘Lord, I’ve been tuned into work. I’ve been dialed into parenting. I’ve been positioned to pursue my hobbies. But now I’m taking time to hear from You because I know You’re broadcasting 24 hours a day, and I want to hear what You say.’

Courson, J. (2003). A Day’s Journey: 365 Daily Meditations from the Word. Santa Ana, CA: Calvary Chapel Publishing.

Indwelling life of Christ

I was blessed with the following devotional and I wanted to capture it and pass it along to you.  May it be encouraging, yet challenging for you.

Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:16 NIV

In one of my all-time favorite books, The Indwelling Life of Christ, Major Ian Thomas explores the mystery and the power of living resurrected:

The true Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you — your personality, your willpower, your gifts, your talents, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything — then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.

If your life as a Christian can be explained in terms of you, what have you to offer to your neighbor next door? The way he lives his life can already be explained in terms of him, and so as far as he is concerned, the only difference between him and you is that you happen to be “religious” while he is not. “Christianity” may be your hobby, but not his, and there is nothing about the way you practice it which strikes him as at all remarkable. There is nothing about you which he does not feel himself equally capable without the inconvenience of becoming a Christian.

Only when your quality of life baffles your neighbors are you likely to get their attention. It must become patently obvious to them that the kind of life you are living is not only commendable, but beyond all human explanation.1

Oh how I want to live an inexplicable life that points to Jesus, and Jesus alone. Don’t you?

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. – Acts 4:13

How do people see you? When you are in the grocery store, or at a restaurant? When you are in a meeting at work? When you are in public, do people see who you are by your own merits or are they astonished by who you are influenced by?

References:
“At the Feet of Jesus” – Joanna Weaver, 2012, WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO ISBN:978-0-307-73100-5

All failures are not sin

I was doing a devotional this morning with my son and it was really simple, but was really insightful as well. The reality was the messed up thinking people can have about failures.  Many people really take it personal when they fail and yet we know that many times the greatest achievements are accomplished only after a variety of failures.

The devotional used the story of Thomas Edison and the work he did inventing things.  He was confronted once about all his failures on producing a decent battery. He had tried over 10,000 different combinations with no success. He was asked about all the failures and he responded “Those are not failures, those are proof of what will not work”.

The story tied into Paul and the book of 2 Corinthians, chapter 12 where Paul talks about the thorn in his side, but he also talks about failing….

6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 NLT

It may be hard to relate the story of Paul to the story of Edison, but the similarities are aligned with not taking our identification in the failures or challenges of this life. Edison and Paul both refused to be limited or discouraged by the challenges and opposition.

The biblical principle that was discussed was the difference between failure and sin.  A failure is something that occurs when we don’t achieve our plans and expectations. Sin is when we don’t obey and comply with God’s will.  The basics are…

All sin is a failure, but not all failures are sins. We can fail at things that are not sinful, such as failing to win a game of cards. But when we knowingly fail to follow God’s will, when we know better, we have sinned and failed.

We were given a task to carry a battery in our pocket today as a reminder that we are going to fail, and we will be able to learn from our challenges, but we don’t have to be hindered or restricted by our failures.

If we are outwardly doing selfish things that are against God’s will, we are committing sin, the worst of failures. We need to stop and review our motivation and attitude towards the sin we are committing. Why are we consciously doing what we know is wrong? Do we not fear our authority? Or do we feel we are our authority?

I know that when I fail at something, I get really upset at myself and condemnation comes in fast, furious and heavy.  Imagine if Thomas Edison or Paul would have condemned themselves when a failure happened, they most likely would have been dejected and ever accomplished the things they did. Let us remember that failures do not always equate to condemnation. Let us learn from our failures and if they are sin, dig in and remove the motivation to do such things that are deliberate against the God.

Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Co 12:6–10). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is; Not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

AMEN

They’re His people

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” – Romans 11:2-3 

People say, ‘Give us a man of passion and power. Give us a man who can pray down fire from heaven. Give us Elijah.’ But look how Elijah prayed. He made intercession to God against Israel. Yet even this man whom James holds up as an example of one who prevailed in prayer, an example of one who knew how to pray, didn’t influence God in this case at all.

Although others may curse you, pray against you, or come down on you, none of those things move God. If God be for us, who can be against us? Elijah was unable to pray successfully against the people of Israel for God had made promises to Israel which still needed to be kept. He had a remnant in Israel Elijah didn’t know about.

Next time you, like Elijah, pray God will get someone, remember that there are things about them you don’t know. There are qualities in them you are just too blind to see. God sees people in an entirely different light than we do. Yes, He’s aware of their failings and frailties—but He also sees what He’s doing and the work which has already taken place in their lives.

We miss it. We judge people by what we think they should be. God looks at them and sees what they would have been had He not entered their hearts.

A Days Journey – J.Courson

Ramblings, thoughts and ideas