Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

Healing Our Insecurity II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 5

am forgiven all my sins. Ephesians 1:7

I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. Jerimiah 33:6

To die to ourselves as C.S. Lewis penned does not come easy.  We fight it, wrestle with it, deny it, defend ourselves, project onto others our shame and guilt, and feverishly attempt to coverup our inadequacies.  To die means to face them head on, acknowledge them, confess them to God in order to eventually lay them at the cross.

Why do we hold onto something that inwardly is hurting us?  We find it enormously difficult to be honest about ourselves.  We can barely entertain the thought of looking into a mirror and saying, “You have deep insecurities and you have to stop covering them up.”  For some of us, letting go is more difficult because it demands living another way.  It requires change and sometimes change, even for the good, is more problematic than staying the same, even when it is unhealthy to do so.  

Catch these verses found in Proverbs, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise, He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”  (Proverbs 15:31, 32) 

Are you aware the Bible tells us that God, like a loving parent, initiates discipline and correction?  Do you know why?  He loves us enough to encourage life changes.  “…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”  (Hebrews 12:10)  God wants us to change through correction in order to grow and gain something good—to be like Him, holy.  

It is imperative that we renounce the idol of worshipping oneself.  To renounce means to give up a claim or to disown voluntarily.  Even if we seem unable to pinpoint any of our self-protecting insecurities, we can still take a step of faith and renounce anything in our life that looks like, smells like or acts like insecurity.  There is only one God to worship and it is Him alone.

But if we can label our insecurities, now is the time to confess them.  Perhaps along the way many of those insecurities have come to mind.  It is now time to confess them to God, renounce them and break off any unhealthy dependency or unhealthy attachment with them.  It is time to confess any fear of man that exceeds your fear of God.  It is time to break off inordinate relationships that have become a source of security for you.  It is time to lay down your excuses and justifications for negative behavior which actually stem from your insecurities.

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among then, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’  Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’  And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”  (II Corinthians 6:16-18)

All of us have sinned. (See Romans 3:23.)  We all fall short of God’s plan, and the wages of “missing the mark” (which is the definition of sin) is death, but Romans 6:23 states: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God has given us a free gift, without any effort on our part.

When the Bible speaks of being justified or having received justification (See Romans 5:1.), there is a threefold definition to this word.  To be justified means that I am forgiven of my sin, I am free from my guilt, and I am in right standing with God.  To be forgiven, free of the guilt I feel for sinning, and then to actually be in right standing with God in my human state is simply astonishing and yet true, based on what Jesus, the Just One, did for me.

Through Him I am forgiven of all my sin, in right standing with God and can enjoy peace and security in my life.

Question for reflection:

Can you take a minute to once again identify your insecurities, confess them and break off their power over your life?

To order the book for yourself, a friend, your family or a group click here.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Parents, Singles, Small Groups

The Trap of Emotional Dependency

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 3

I am now God’s child. I John 3:2

I am highly esteemed. Daniel 9:23

When we solely look to another for our purpose, our meaning, our significance and our security, we might find ourselves in an emotionally dependent relationship.  

Everyone needs to know they are loved and approved of. Our first recognized source of love and approval is the family. Often, in dysfunctional homes, children may grow up with parents who are harsh, too strict, unable to be pleased, and critical. They control their children through shame and blame. These children can become guilt-ridden, confused about authority, overly responsible or compulsive. They frequently try to please their parents but seem to never quite measure up. In severe cases of this emotional roller coaster, self-identity problems emerge and an esteem crisis ensues. 

The second source of love, acceptance and approval is from God. I say “second” source because we recognize it after we recognize the need for a family’s love and approval. 

We need others. I am convinced relationship with God and with others is the most important thing in life. Jesus taught this principle when one day a Pharisee raised the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus then replied that we were to love the Lord our God with all our heart…soul…and mind…and love our neighbor as our self. (Matthew 22:36-39) However, our need for relationship cannot be allowed to become the center of another person’s life. The emotionally dependent person feels as though he or she cannot exist or function without this relationship. Mistakenly, this association is an attempt to meet the need for intimacy and security. 

We become vulnerable or susceptible to dependent relationships when we focus on our needs rather than the Word of God. When we lean too heavily upon one particular person, the emotional attachment can begin, causing us to lose our objectivity in the relationship.

Does the Bible speak to emotional dependency?  Not directly. But throughout the Scriptures, we are admonished to be self-controlled. Paul wrote in the book of Titus 2:1-8 about sound doctrine. Let’s see how they apply: 

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. 

You are first God’s child. In a healthy way you are dependent upon Him and interdependent with others. No one other than Jesus can satisfy your need for relational connection. It is He who highly esteems you!

Question for reflection:

Are you dealing with any emotional dependency in your life that you need to turn over to Jesus?

To order the book at a significant discount for yourself, your family or for a group study click here.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Parents, Small Groups

The Presence of Insecurity in our Lives II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 2

I have eyes to see God’s eternal purpose. II Corinthians 4:18

The Spirit Himself intercedes for me. Romans 8:26

Several years ago my mother visited our home, bringing with her a handful of report cards.  She had kept every report card from kindergarten on—every one. Wondering what I would do with them, I set them aside.  

A few weeks later I began to peruse through them.  My grades were quite good, especially in grade school and middle school (high school might have been a different story with certain subjects…just saying.).  However, it was a comment that my kindergarten teacher placed on my report card that caught my eye.  It read, “Steve has difficulty using a scissors.”  I failed scissors cutting!  Really?  Yes, really.  (But honestly, could those dull, blunt-nosed scissors cut anything?)

Truthfully, I was nervous and apparently when placing a scissors into my four-year-old hand, I could not cut paper.  It was an outer expression of an inner insecurity.

Insecure persons struggle with relationships.  We walk out life with certain fears and ongoing feelings of failure.  We struggle with our esteem and can retreat within ourselves.  We become nervous around persons who we see as secure or we feel an inner judgement coming from them.  Some of us would claim shyness, but the truth be told, we lack social confidence stemming from our own misbeliefs.  

Going deeper, we can become emotionally dependent on others to be our security or find persons or substances that help to create or foster a false sense of security.   It seems as though there is no end to our negative self-talk and repetition of neediness when it comes to insecurity.  How can something that each and every human being needs so deeply be so difficult to acquire?  What makes security so elusive?

Working with a drug addict for many years has given me a new appreciation of what these persons suffer, not to mention what their love ones suffer along with them.  Drugs can take on a life of their own.  One can be a drug addict and work, earn a living, be many things, but that will not be their focus or define their purpose in life.  They can have a family, go to church, pay their bills, but those things will not capture their ultimate attention.  What will?  Drugs, and the need for more drugs.

Drug addicts can eventually take on the identity of a drug addict because their lifestyle requires it, or should I say, forces it.  At the end of the day, all else takes a back seat to the most important thing in their life—drugs.  Please hear me, I am not saying for a minute that this life is chosen or preferred by them or that they are just trying to be totally selfish, but the addiction now leads them.  It takes any worth or esteem they might have, any identity or security, and forfeits it all for the next high.

In your insecurities have you gripped onto idols or stuff of earth that continue to promote insecurity?  It’s a vicious cycle that ends in even more insecurity. According to our knowing who you are in Christ verses for today, God has already established eternal purposes for you and has given you the eyes to see those purposes, as the Holy Spirit intercedes for you.

Question for reflection:

Can you identify idols or “stuff of earth” that continue to promote insecurity in your life?

To order the book at a significant discount for yourself, your family or for a group study click here.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

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Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents, Singles, Small Groups

10 Reasons Why We Need a Local Church in Our Lives

I recently returned from serving a local church in Chicago, IL and was reminded in so many different ways of why we each need a local church in our lives and the lives of our family. To me it is imperative to be in close relationship with those persons who care about you and your family. It is essential to have that connection for not just receiving, but giving as well.

So, here are 10 reasons for being intentionally connected to a local church.

 

  1. Support – A local church connection provides support to family and/or us as individuals. It is a vehicle that God has chosen to provide spiritual and emotional support for personal growth. It is a spiritual family with fathers and mothers who will care about you and your future. (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 12:9; I John 2:13, 14)
  2. Fellowship (koinonia) – The local church is a place of relational connection and belonging. It is a place of family with common life values. We are not alone in this world when we have a local church connection. We have people around us who personally care about our welfare. Wholesome and positive friendships can develop with our younger children, our teenagers and ourselves. An active, involved, dedicated and serious youth group can save a teen’s life. (Acts 2:42; I John 1:7)
  3. Service – The local church is a place where we can work toward and support a vision outside of ourselves. We all need something bigger than ourselves and a local church with vision can provide that. We can connect with the vision and find valuable ways to serve others. (Acts 12:24, 25)
  4. Gifts – It is a place for us to learn, practice and use our spiritual gifts. The body of Christ needs one another and the gifts that we each bring. Those gifts given us by God are not to be hidden, but made use of to serve others. The local church is the perfect place to use your teaching, serving, hospitality, prayer or mission gifts. (I Cor. 12: 12-27; I Peter 4:10)
  5. Resources – A local church is extremely important to a family. There are resources available at every age level to participate in. There are ongoing trainings and seminars for raising children, budgeting, marriage and the like. Often there are even counseling, coaching and mentoring resources. Families who attend church together have a clear advantage over those who do not – they have resources above and beyond themselves. There is far less isolation and far more family interaction with spiritual connections and challenges. (II Timothy 2:2)
  6. Outreach – A local church is often the vehicle for local community outreach. Local churches are involved with the homeless in their community, the after school tutoring and the missionaries serving overseas. Your family can have a direct effect and impact in the world by participating with these worthy causes. (II Timothy 4:5)
  7. Education – The local church is a place of education in the Bible and in practical Christian living. It is a place where our whole family can grow through sermons, Sunday school classes, seminars, video classes and so much more. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
  8. Groups – Small groups provide accountability and discipleship for each of our lives. The small group setting is a place of greater relational intimacy while it provides room for open discussion and opportunities for praying together. (Acts 5:42; 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19)
  9. Giving – The local church is the place to give our tithe and sow financial seed into something that we know and trust. We can give elsewhere to a lot of really good causes, but it’s difficult to know where our money is going. Not so with the local church and the built-in responsibility that is offered. (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6: 3,4; Romans 12:8)
  10. Accountability – When we are part of a local church, there is a provision aspect of someone watching over our soul, someone(s) caring about our daily life and our future. There is the possibility of others who we can look up to that are inspiring models in integrity, marriage, spiritual gifts, etc. There are positive peer relationships that help us to keep moving forward in our faith, growing, being challenged and calling us to a higher level of faith. There are businesspersons and homemakers that can help us walk out our daily lives. (Psalm 119:26; Hebrews 13: 17)

I have experienced all of these and more in many local churches and I appreciate the body of Christ so much. God is not angry at His church as so many speak today, but rather, He loves His church, He died for His church and longs for His church to be with Him one day. Until then, be a vital part of a growing, Bible believing and faith-filled local church body. You and your family will grow and help to grow others.

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Encouragement, Small Groups, Training

The Four P’s

images-5 Have you ever heard of the four P’s? If not, here they are:

People of risk; Places of risk; Possessions of risk; Processes of risk

Those who are in Christ are called a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17) and in order to fight the forces of our past, God will give us wisdom and insight into how to resist the pull of finding ourself off course.images-6

There once were people in our lives who helped us to sin. I call them people of risk. These were the ones who always knew where the party was. As we are learning to walk a different way, people of risk should be avoided. Further, quite often people of risk are found in places of risk. These are the places that you now realize are places of darkness. We, through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, need to steer clear of these places so as to not be tempted to re-enter our former life, at least until we are strong enough to handle the temptations of that former life style.

images-7Possessions of risk are those items that enabled us to disobey God or at the very least did not draw us toward our Savior. An example of one of those items might be inappropriate books. In the book of Acts, chapter nineteen, the new believers actually conducted a book burning. They burned their possessions of risk. In this case, they were books of sorcery.

The last one is processes of risk. This one is a bit difficult to define, but can you think of a time when God spoke to you and revealed that your present way of thinking was a part of your old mindset? The scriptures reveal that we have been given the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). So, a process of risk might be a return to anger or jealousy in order to get what you want. The Father wants to give you a new process in order to arrive at what He desires for you.images-2

There you have it, the four P’s. How can they help you walk differently today and when can you share them with another?

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Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups

A Thirty Six Year Old Prophetic Word

images-3It was May 6, 1979 and I was 25 years old. A young man (who did not know me) left his drum set from the front of the auditorium – mid worship set – and headed to the back of the room where I was standing. He wiggled his way through the pew and came nose to nose to me, a visitor. He then began to speak in King James language, …”For yea I shall stir thee and move thee out. Yea a gift shall come upon thee. Thou shalt exhort with the word and bring forth a rich blessing to my people that thou knew not of. Yea I shall return unto thee a hundred fold, saith the Lord.” There were words before and more after these few statements, but in re-reading them the other day, while on a two-day prayer retreat, I was struck by the boldness and obedience of this young man and by the ways in which this “word” has come to pass.images-5

I loved God with all of my heart, but those words were a huge stretch for me at the time they were spoken. Only God could speak something so truth-filled and yet so far from the days of fulfillment. How could I possibly comprehend that one day I would have the opportunity to travel around the world depositing the “gift” of God’s word through teaching. And, amazingly, some of those words would turn into books.

imagesGive your life fully to God today so that He can grow you and use you to create a different world tomorrow. No one person can affect everyone, but each of us can do our part and reach the world with the truth of the gospel one by one.

 

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Issues of the Day, Singles, Small Groups

A New Generation: Drinking and the Questions We Need to Ask

images-5Let’s face it—alcohol is back. No longer is alcohol demonized in Christian circles. We even find churches using beer as a gathering agent during Bible studies in local bars. Is that practice sacrilegious, going too far or taking hold of my liberty and tramping all over yours?

How much alcohol is too much and do we know our personal limits? Just where do we cross the line? Is getting a little drunk a little wrong or simply not a sin? The Bible, our source as believers, gives some very clear guidelines. I’d like to offer you a few more—if you’ll indulge me.

First, in taking a close look at God’s Word, it is absolutely wrong and sinful to be inebriated. Jesus Himself said, “Watch out! Don’t let me find you living in careless ease and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34).*

Apostle Paul warned believers not to participate in wild parties and get drunk (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21). Paul said drunkards would not share in the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). He told the Ephesian church—and therefore that includes you and me—not to be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18). Peter stated in 1 Peter 4:3, “those who drink to drunkenness share in evil desires;” and such behavior is to be treated as a sin that we completely eliminate from our lives. He actually called those who participate in drunkenness “godless people.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to find myself in eternity and discover that I have been involved in “godless” activity of any kind. I desire to live my life in a way that leads others to my Savior, an attractant, not a distraction from Christ. At this point, you might think that I am against any alcohol consumption by a believer. I am not. That is between you and our heavenly Father. So, the first question is to ask Him: “Father, is it okay with You that I consume alcoholic beverages?” It is important to know God’s will for you. Just because you are of legal age to drink does not mean that you have the liberty to partake. Has your heavenly Father given you permission or do you have some form of conviction in your heart that you are dismissing?

While I was in the military some decades ago, I observed a lot of alcoholism and other addictions. The military taught that alcohol is a drug—the most frequently abused drug in the world. In graduate school, I heard many drug and alcohol counselors say that alcoholism started with one drink, just like drug addiction starts with one joint or pill. Does everyone become addicted? No. Does everyone have the potential of addiction? Yes.

The second question to ask yourself might be, “Does alcoholism exist in my family history?” If it does, the potential of addiction is even greater. Why? That spirit of addiction is already introduced to your family line and may have been part of it for generations. Carefully look at your family history. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to break off any generational spirit of addiction in the name of Jesus.

images-4Third, who are you hanging out with? Are they encouraging you to drink and/or to drink too much? Did you know that Proverbs 23:19-21 admonishes, “My child, listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course. Do not carouse with drunkards and gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty.”

Speaking of poverty, how much money does it take to drink alcohol and can you actually afford it? Does the expense of alcohol limit your ability to purchase necessary items? Listen to Proverbs 21:17, “Those who love pleasure become poor; wine and luxury are not the way to riches.” Drinking too much can be a road to poverty, loss and brokenness.

Fourth, are you hurting a weaker brother or sister in the faith? If someone has recently become a Christian and their background was drinking to the point of drunkenness, then part of their freedom might require them to never drink again. Your freedom to drink might offend them; or worse, encourage them to drink again and bring destructive forces back into their lives. Apostle Paul said he would abstain from eating meat and drinking wine if eating or drinking would offend a weaker brother. “Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything if it makes another person stumble” (Romans 14:21).images-6

On occasion I have heard Christians boasting about their liberty to drink, freely admit that they drink too much at times but feel no conviction about it. For those who feel this way, please consider the wisdom of Isaiah 5:22, “Destruction is certain for those who are heroes when it comes to drinking, who boast about all the liquor they can hold.” Do not be led astray by these persons because, “Wine produces mockers, liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1).

Someone told me that drinking alcohol or offering it to minors is no different than introducing them to coffee or being addicted to caffeine. I have never observed inebriation among coffee drinkers. Can we be addicted to caffeine? Yes. Is it comparable to alcohol addiction and what the Bible forbids in drunkenness? That, to me, is quite a stretch.

On almost every occasion that the subject of alcohol comes up for discussion, someone quickly retorts, “But didn’t Jesus Himself turn water into wine? Wasn’t He by His action an advocate of drinking?”

It’s true, Jesus turned water into wine. Focusing on the subject of the miracle rather than the miracle itself is less about why the story is in the Bible. However, take it a step further will you? Do you believe that Jesus turned the water into wine so that the attendees of the wedding could become drunk and unable to find their way home, commit adultery with another man’s wife, speak crudely or end up regurgitating all over the wedding feast?

We also know Paul told Timothy to have some wine for his stomach’s sake. Are you sick every Saturday night and does your stomach need a little wine? To be fair there is, however, a Proverb that actually encourages a drink for those who are “dying” and those who are in “deep depression” or anguish (Proverbs 31:6).

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you personally think about alcohol consumption:

 

  • Has alcohol ever caused you any problems in life such as a DUI, being late for work, a broken relationship, an unclear mind, slower reaction time or influenced you in some way to make a wrong decision?
  • Do you feel the need to defend your actions concerning alcohol?
  • Do you know how much drinking is too much?
  • Have you set a consumption limit for yourself? Have you ever gone over the limit? If so, what have you now changed as a result?
  • Can you afford alcohol?
  • Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed, worried or can’t sleep rather than turning to God?
  • Is alcohol an answer for anything in your life?
  • Does drinking alcohol (in your mind) help you to fit in, be more social, make you feel older, help you to be less inhibited or more popular?
  • Do you feel that you need to drink alcohol to relax?
  • Is alcohol an excuse in your life for anything?
  • Are you developing a tolerance to alcohol?
  • Does alcohol need to be a part of all of your social occasions? Can you say “no” to a drink when you are with friends and not sense any judgment from them about your choice?
  • How do you relate to/judge peers who have chosen not to drink alcohol?

What if your friend is at your home, your birthday party or your wedding reception and in celebration they drink too much, as you know they have a tendency to do at times. Your friend then hops into their vehicle to drive home. Due to too much alcohol, they have an accident and are killed or kill someone else. Can you control other people’s actions or decisions? Not really, but how responsible might you feel? We can supply an environment to either help or hinder them.

Consider the following if you choose to drink alcohol:

 

  • Set a limit on the number of drinks for yourself. Know your personal tolerance.
  • Set a limit on the frequency of times for partaking.
  • If you are driving and attending an event where alcohol is being served, consider not drinking.
  • If you have friends who drink too much and then get behind the wheel, never ride with them.
  • If you know that you have had too much alcohol and have become giddy or drunk, ask yourself if this is the person of Christ who you desire to represent.

Romans 12:1 clearly discusses how we are to use the body God has given us. We are told to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” that is “holy” and “pleasing to the Lord, as an act of worship.” It is amazing to realize that how we treat our bodies, abuse our bodies or care for our bodies can either bring glory to God or be harmful to ourselves and to the cause of Christ. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice is to worship God. In all environments and in all of our actions, we should desire to bring glory to our Savior.

Finally, consider Paul the Apostle’s advice that he gave to us as a very clear outline for our life and how to live it, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

*All scriptures taken from the New Living Translation, 1996, Tyndale Charitable Trust

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Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups, Training, Uncategorized

Encountering Risky Business Through the Four P’s

images-6 (Note: I am sending this blog out early due to taking some vacation time next week.) Wanting to follow-up on last weeks post, I thought it appropriate to share four types of risk to steer clear of. I am unsure where some of these originated from, but I have used them for years in attempting to help others in their personal life. I have urged many to stay away from: people of risk; places of risk; possessions of risk; and processes of risk. What do I mean?

Often as a young believer, it is difficult to discern who to hang out with, old friends with bad habits or all new relationships. Initially, it might be advisable to stay away from those persons who are risky to your personal growth and change. Identifying persons of risk can eliminate being talked out of new life patterns. A place of risk is a pretty obvious one. In other words, for now stay clear of those establishments that allowed and promoted your former life-style of sin. Possessions of risk are a bit tougher to discern or even do away with. In Acts chapter 19, it was discovered that many new believers had been involved in sorcery. The new converts made a large bonfire and threw their sorcery scrolls into the fire. They eliminated many possessions of risk. Today this may include books/magazines, music CD’s or even computer games.

Lastly, it is important to consider processes of risk. Process is the connection to our thoughts. For example, prior to becoming a Christian our process of thought when being verbally attacked might have been inordinate anger or running away. Both became familiar and established life patterns, but both of these can be risky due to the fact that we might not be processing truthfully. As the word of God is received and acted upon, our responses will begin to change because our thought processes encounter truth and truth will set us free from former life patterns of risk. Which of the four P’s are you working on?

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Encouragement, Small Groups

Grocery Store Lessons

Have you ever noticed the difference in your grocery bill when you go shopping for food hungry as compared to shopping right after you consumed a satisfying meal?  When you’re hungry, everything looks good followed by lots of extras thrown into your shopping cart.  When your gut is full and satisfied, nothing looks very special and rarely do items jump out at you.  Noticeably, you are not fooled by the colorful posters or the, “Buy three, get one free” offers.  “Three…I don’t even want one,” you tell yourself.  You have no appetite and so grocery shopping is simply a necessary exercise.  Without an appetite, your brain is not sending signals to your eyes which otherwise would be busy scanning to and fro for what might taste good immediately.  Your mind knows your stomach is full and satisfied and the need for sustenance is turned off.

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Now let’s say your private sin issue is lust of the flesh and you find yourself in the middle of an adult bookstore.  Your eyes are taking in all of the skin exposed in magazines and movies and your brain is in overload recording all of the images.  It is a feeding frenzy of lust and your flesh is hungry for more.  You go deeper into the store where you find the “best of the best,” feeding your soul like it is starved to death…emaciated.  But back up.  If you were “full” rather than depleted would you even hunger for such filth?  Would you have sought out such a seedy, unclean and defiling place?  If your spirit was full of the spirit of Christ and you fully knew His love, approval and acceptance would your lust-filled hunger be satisfied and would this need be turned off?  You and I choose to fill these natural appetites with God or with ungodly, sin-filled desires.  Proverbs says an empty stomach drives us on (Proverbs 16:26b).  What drives you?  What are you passionately hungry for?

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