What in the World Are We Telling Ourselves?

kindness-3

Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?  No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

As we see here in Proverbs 18, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  Let’s face it, words are powerful!  When someone pays us a compliment, it can make a world of difference, transforming our day and possibly even our lives.  But the speaker may not even be aware of the impact that their compliment had on us.

Not only are the words we speak to each other important, but also the words we say to ourselves.  Every day each of us engages in an internal conversation.  In the world of psychology, this practice is called self-talk.  During this internal talk, we give ourselves positive or negative feedback.  When we do well, we often congratulate ourselves: “I did a great job!”  It builds our self-esteem and boosts our confidence.  But when we don’t do so well, we can become very critical of ourselves: “Ugh!  I’m such an idiot!”  The danger comes when we engage in constant negative self-talk.  It becomes a self-inflicted wound, resulting in ongoing doubt and fear that we have created within ourselves.

Lisa M. Hayes, a relationship coach, once said, “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.”  I think that is much more important of a statement than we may initially realize.

We need to learn to speak the language of life!  We need to get rid of all of our stinking thinking and put God’s Word to work in our lives.  Romans 8:31-39 is filled with uplifting truths that we should be telling ourselves:

God is for us (v.31)

                Graciously gives us all things (v. 32)

                It is God who justifies (v. 33)

                Jesus is interceding for us (v. 34)

                Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (v. 35)

                In all things we are more than conquerors (v. 37)

                Nothing can separate us from God’s love (vv. 38-39)

I challenge each of us to take the next week of our lives and read this passage each morning before we start our day.  See the impact that filling our mind with positivity to begin our days really can have a huge impact on how our day goes.  Just give it a try and see!

In addition, I would add two more verses to add to that list to read each day:

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

 

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

 

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Why is it important to know what God thinks and feels about you?
  2. Make a list of the negative self-talk you commonly use. How could reading these passages each day help us eliminate that kind of talk?

So our assignment is to read these 3 passages each morning this coming week:

Romans 8:31-39

2 Timothy 1:7

Philippians 4:13

If we feed ourselves with words of life, it will starve off the negative self-talk.  The result is that we will see our lives change right before our eyes.  We will see our relationships with others improve.  We will see that we are more like the person God designed us to be.

I think that 3 minutes of our life each morning is worth that, don’t you?

               

 

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The Dangers of Idle Talk

gossip 1

Proverbs 12:13-22 (NIV)

13 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk,
    and so the innocent escape trouble.

14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things,
    and the work of their hands brings them reward.

15 The way of fools seems right to them,
    but the wise listen to advice.

16 Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult.

17 An honest witness tells the truth,
    but a false witness tells lies.

18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
    but those who promote peace have joy.

21 No harm overtakes the righteous,
    but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

22 The Lord detests lying lips,
    but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

 

Ask anyone to define the word gossip and most will mention the spreading of rumors about others.  That is correct, but it’s not the whole truth.  Gossip includes any idle or malicious talk that harms someone else.  In other words, damaging speech is a universal sin, one that we all are guilty of at different times in our lives.

For example, did you ever comment negatively on how a person was dressed?  Or suggest to a friend that someone you both know is in the wrong job or involved in unsuitable hobbies?  Or tell an acquaintance about another man or woman’s personal life?  Let me ask you a final question: Did you feel a check in your spirit while you were speaking?  All of these can be examples of gossip, which are words that do damage and hurt others despite sounding innocent.

Idle comments are often delivered in a way that makes them seem unlike the traditional definition of gossip.  People mask gossip in several ways, such as speaking in jest, offering others’ personal details “as an example,” and disguising the spread of information as a prayer request.  Of course, not every tease or illustration is gossip.  And the body of Christ is certainly called upon to pray for those facing hard times.  Therefore we must be able to distinguish between worthless chatter and wise speech.

What matters is the heart’s motivation.  We see this clearly in the book of Psalms:

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

When the intention is to mar a reputation or create instant camaraderie with another person, lips tend to move loosely.  This often happens while discussing someone else’s misfortune.  But a desire to please God and reflect His grace should prompt us to speak only that which builds others up.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The next time we find ourselves talking about another person, we need to ask ourselves what our true intentions are.  Are we building them up or tearing them down.  Would God approve of what we are saying?  If not, maybe we should consider not saying anything at all.

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We Should Work From Our Rest, Not Rest From Our Work

rest

Genesis 1:26-31 (NIV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;

 male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

 

Genesis 2:1-3 (NIV)

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

 

John 15:1-8 (NIV)

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

We gain a prescription for the pattern of our lives as we look into creation.  God started by working for six days.  On day six, He created man and woman to be His image-bearers.  Day seven arrived, and God rested.

Adam and Eve spent day seven, their first day, resting before they worked.  Is was not a rest as recovery, but rest as a connection to God.  The importance of rest was confirmed with the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments.  In the Old Testament, God commanded our rest and attention to Him one day a week.  In the New Testament, Jesus did not come to abolish the Sabbath, but to clear it from the clutter and distraction of legalistic hurdles.  He gave it to us once again as a blessing, not a burden.

Mike Breen, and English church leader once said, “Resting in God- abiding in His presence- is the only way we can be successful in what He has called us to do.”

God weaved into creation the fundamental principle that we are designed to work from a place of rest and not vice-versa.  In our performance-driven culture, we continually push the work needle into the red.  We chase activity as a way of identity and success as a route to status.  We are left in a state of being way too busy and way out of alignment.  Jesus directs us into rest, into a richness of connecting with Him to draw nourishment and direction.

The Hebrews started their day at sunset, resting through the night and ending their day with work.  In agriculture we see the same pattern: It is the season of pruning and rest that cultivates growth and fruit.  Today, determine to set daily, weekly, and seasonal times of rest.  When we choose this route (resting in Jesus and abiding in Him), we will see greater fruit in our lives.

Today let’s ponder these questions:

  1. Have you chased activity as identity?
  2. How have you tried to pursue rest in Jesus?

As a focus for this week, let’s try to reset our schedules so we can spend more time abiding in Jesus.  The more time we spend in connection with God, the better our focus will be on doing the things that are truly important in our lives.

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Consider the Words You Speak

gossip

2 Timothy 2:23-3:5 (NIV)

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

 

Gossip is often regarded as a relatively harmless pastime, particularly when compared to “bigger” wrongs like murder or adultery.  Satan has painted idle talk as innocuous, but if we peel away the deception, we discover the ugly truth.  In the Bible God lists gossip among the most depraved sins.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself:

Romans 1:28-31 (NIV)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

Nothing about gossip is harmless.  Whether the talk is intentionally cruel or simply some idle musing, the target of the comments can be embarrassed or hurt.  I had a friend, from one of my men’s groups, decide to trace a damaging story about himself back to the original source.  He asked one man after another, “Where did you hear this?”  Seventeen people later, he finally found the person who had originated the story.  This fellow admitted he had speculated aloud regarding a situation about which he knew very little.  A destructive chain reaction began with just one man jumping to a false conclusion while chatting with a friend.

Even if the victim never learns of the chitchat going on his or her back, gossip still has consequences.  The people who spread story reveal their inner thinking:

Matthew 12:34b (NIV)

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

A poisonous tongue flows with the jealousy, resentment, or pride that resides in the heart of the person.

Gossip has the power to hurt feelings, destroy reputations and friendships, and divide churches.  We do not have the right to bring such damage into anyone’s life.  In fact, God is the only one we should turn to when we hear a story about somebody.  Those facing trials need prayer and love rather than tongues wagging over their struggles and misfortunes.

Please keep in mind the full extent of the possible consequences before you choose whether to engage in gossiping.  Hopefully by pondering and praying about it, we will choose to take a better path.  A path that builds up and does not destroy.

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Don’t Be a Slave to Shame

shame

Mark 2:13-17(NIV)

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Want to hear a weird irony?  At some point in our lives, we all long to be known, but at the same time we are terrified of it.  So many of our patterns of relating to others can be traced to this inner tension.  So, which side wins?  More times than not, it is our terror that wins out.

I know this has been true of my own life.  Much of my early life was spent trying to make a name for myself and become known to others.  Being an athlete in a high-profile program such as Iowa State and my brief time in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams brought me to that level of recognition that I so craved.  It is a double-edged sword though.  When you are well-known by people, you don’t slip through the cracks.  People know things about you that they would not normally know about a person.  You really do tend to live in a fishbowl, where people can see everything you do and make judgments about what they see accordingly.  Even though 18 years have passed since I have participated in any organized sports, I still get recognized in public, often by people I do not even know.

As I have grown older, my desire has become to live a more private life, where not everyone knows everything I do.  I don’t have that strong desire to be “known,” as I once did.  I don’t want everyone to see me completely, all the time.  Despite this, I have found that I still feel, at times, relentless pressure to look good to all the people I do interact with.  The idea of admitting my own fears, doubts, and temptations seems impossible to me.  I am a slave to my shame way more often than I really want to admit.

So how does Jesus change this?  Take the story of how he called Levi, the tax collector, a eatinman hated and shamed by his fellow Jews.  Levi throws a party and invites the only friends he has, other tax collectors and lowlifes.  What can they do?  They eat together.  Eating in that culture required a certain physical intimacy as they reclined together on couches.  It also implied an emotional intimacy as hearts were shared over the food.  Imagine the impact on Levi and his friends.  Jesus wanted to be close to them, and it began the dismantling of their shame.  We don’t know what happened to Levi’s friends after the party, but we do know what happened to Levi.  He was so revolutionized by Jesus that he eventually penned the Gospel of Matthew.

That same revolution can happen in us too.  How does shame get healed?  How do we learn true intimacy?  It comes as we allow Jesus to re-shape how we feel about ourselves, seeing ourselves through His eyes.  Shame binds us because it defines us, but the truth is that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.  We see this in the book of Hebrews.

“Whatever the reason for your broken intimacy with God…Jesus waits to embrace you now in the arms of unconditional, divine love.”

Charles Stanley

I think there is a lot of peace available to us, knowing that Jesus love us no matter how bad we mess up.  There is nothing we can do to make Him stop loving us.  He will forgive us for anything we might do wrong.  All we have to do to accept this gift is choose to accept it.  It really is that simple.

The important question that we need to ask ourselves is:

How has shame influenced and distorted your life?

Once you can answer that question, you can work to end that influence and distortion.  One way to do that might be to go to a trusted friend and share a present or past struggle or difficulty from your life.  There is real power in sharing with others.

We are all influenced by sin in our lives and none of us are perfect.  It can be very easy to let the shame we feel for things we have messed up in our lives control the direction of our lives and take us in directions we never imagined possible.  Just remember that we do not have to be slaves to our shame.  Jesus has already bought our freedom through His death on the cross so that none of us have to live as slaves to anything, including shame.

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The Lasting Impact of Freedom

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

As we approach another 4th of July holiday, when everyone puts a huge emphasis on our freedom, have you every stopped to consider this question: How do you use the gift of freedom?  I love the freedoms we have in this country and I am so grateful for the sacrifice of all the men and women who allow me that freedom.  But I am talking about a freedom that goes beyond freedom in this life.  A freedom that is not contained to the borders of our country.

God gives all believers true liberty through His Son Jesus Christ.  Do you squander that blessing or share it with others?  The problem is, some people are so focused on their own needs and desires that they fail to impact even their closest neighbor.

Think about all the people you see every week.  Do you know how many of your neighbors are sick?  Are there people in your church who struggle to make it from day to day?  Do you know if any of your coworkers are going through hardships?  Most likely, there are individuals all around you who could use assistance.  But being self-focused limits our ability to notice those people, let alone reach out to them.

Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

In order for salt to remain useful, it must maintain its purity and potency.  Likewise, we must endeavor to lead holy, humble, and loving lives, focusing on the Savior’s will rather than our own.  God has prepared the good works that we are to walk in.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Our job is to carry them out.

Whether or not we affect our world positively depends on the focus of our heart.  Do we look inward to consider how we can do more to get ahead and add to our own lot in life?  Or do we look outward and think about ways that we can do more to serve others.

This holiday, when someone mentions the word freedom, I challenge each of us to think of an even greater freedom that each of us has available to us.  Let’s step out of our comfort zone and share about that freedom with those around us.  It really is a matter of life or death.

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Walking in the Spirit

Holy Spirit

Galatians 5:16-25 (NIV)

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is one of God’s most precious gifts to His beloved children, which is of course, us.  The Spirit takes up residence within the believer at the moment of salvation and empowers the individual to overcome sin and live for God’s glory and purposes.  However, the Holy Spirit’s power can’t be “turned off” or ignored.  Only those who choose to walk with Him have unhindered access to His strength and guidance.

Walking by the Spirit denotes reliance upon God.  God leads the way, and we follow Him.  As He speaks, we listen, heed His warnings, and obey His directions.  The Spirit’s way is a path of surrender which, although difficult, leads to fullness of life.

God’s Spirit not only guides but also empowers us.  The challenge of obeying Him is impossible in our own strength.  The Holy Spirit supplies everything we need for living a godly life, and He produces His amazing fruit in us.

Being led by the Spirit should be the natural lifestyle of all sons and daughters of God.  As you intentionally seek to maintain an awareness of His presence throughout the day, He is only a thought away.  When your mind turns to Him, He gives you a sensitivity to the things of God and provides understanding about the situations and people in your life.

Take a walk with the Spirit today, and learn to know His voice.  Spend time in the Word and in prayer.  Whenever your mind is not occupied with the duties of the day, focus your thoughts on Him, asking for His guidance and looking expectantly for His leading.  When He gives direction, obey what God says, relying on His power, not your own.

 

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