Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What’s on your Mind?

After many years of playing tennis and watching my children in their sports activities, I’ve realized that athleticism and talent is second to mental focus. If you can’t focus your mind to drown out all the other voices—you will lose. In sports they call it the zone. It’s when a player is so focused on the game; they don’t hear the roar of the crowd or any other distractions.

If you want to walk in the Spirit, you need to get in the spiritual zone.

Your mind brings you into the zone. When you are spiritually connected to God, you’re not distracted by the flurry of activity around you. You learn to trust the Holy Spirit within to guide, direct, and lead you into the right paths.

“We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

How can we have the mind of Christ? We can take the steps of M-I-N-D and begin to walk in the Spirit so we don’t fulfill the lusts of our flesh (or sinful nature).

M- Meditate on the Word of God
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (Psalm 119:15)
Meditation is simply rehearsing what God’s word says over and over in your mind. You won’t be nudged so easily by the flesh to do those things which are sinful.

I- Invite the Holy Spirit’s Guidance
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit gives direction and guidance in your Christian walk. It’s so easy for us to dismiss the urgings of the Spirit when our minds are so busy with everything else.

N- Nurture your Mind with Study
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Be involved in a Bible study that challenges your faith and helps you to become more knowledgeable on the Bible. Every answer necessary for your life is in the Bible.

D- Discipline your Mind
“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
You discipline your mind like your body—you take care what you allow into it. By cutting off unhealthy visual and auditory prompts, you can restrain your thoughts.

Spiritual growth over fleshly desires is possible. It comes day-by-day, step-by-step with a determined spirit, an open heart, and changed mind. Aren’t you tired of losing to the flesh? Perhaps you feel overwhelmed or exhausted with trying to live Spirit over flesh. Next time, let's understand how God's grace gives you the strength to overcome the flesh.

The New International Version. 2011. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Take a Walk with God

What does it mean to walk with God? Is it really possible that the God who created this fantastic universe with all its glory wants to walk with you?

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

When a baby takes his or her first steps, it’s a major milestone for their physical growth. The same is with you. When you begin to walk with God, it’s the beginning of your spiritual growth.

Time to grow up!

Walking with God is different from sprinting (too far ahead of the Spirit) or standing (too far behind the Spirit). Walking denotes a rhythmic pace of keeping in step with the Spirit of God. We sometimes forget how to walk with God. We stumble through life with busyness, distractions, annoyances, frustrations, or get so engaged in our flesh that we rarely even think about walking in the Spirit.  

In order to walk physically, there has to be stimulation from the mind to activate the muscles, bones, and nerves in the legs. Walking with God begins the same way—with a change of your mind. Your thinking engages your walk with God.

Are you spiritually paralyzed? It may be time to deal with your thinking.   

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. 
(Romans 8:5)

When your mind is focused on the flesh (or sinful nature), it will always lead to death—perhaps not physical death right away. But it will certainly lead to death of your dreams, in your relationships, and in your destiny.

On the other hand, when your mind is focused on the Spirit, it will always lead to life! You will have renewed hope for your future, you will be forgiven and set free from guilt, and you will have perfect peace even when chaos reigns all around you.

We need to have the mind of Christ in order to walk in the Spirit.

The question is: how can I have the mind of Christ? Next time, let’s discover how you can have the mind of Christ so that you can walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the longings of the flesh.

The New International Version. 2011. Grand RapidsMI: Zondervan.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It’s the Dog in Me :  Part II

Years ago I heard a preacher on TV say that other than sweet potato pie—he had overcame all his fleshly desires. While I gave him credit perhaps for what age and experience has taught him, I was still taken aback that someone could claim victory over all fleshly desires.

Unlike him, my flesh can find all kinds of new ways to trip me up in my faith walk.

That’s the deceitfulness of the flesh…as soon as you think you’re alright, you snap at somebody or overindulge in food or entertainment—all the while making excuses:
I wouldn’t have snapped on you if you didn’t make me angry.
I deserve those fries because I worked hard today.
God understands it’s too hard for me to wait.

It’s time for us to get out our leashes and put a choke hold on the flesh today.

How to get control of our flesh :

#1) Recognize that we need to deal with our flesh and not make excuses for it. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8)

That’s just the way I am. How many times have we heard that? But we are new people in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We don’t have to give into the cravings of the flesh because we have the power of God to overcome it.

#2) Confess our sin to God and receive His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Admit it. You blew it. Once we agree with God that our flesh is out of control, we will begin to see our sin just like He does. Through His forgiveness we can experience life without guilt or condemnation. (Romans 8:1) We can be free.

#3) Separate ourselves from anything or any person that provides an opportunity for our flesh to thrive. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)

This is tough. Sometimes we may have to take drastic measures to not give our flesh the feeding ground it desires. (1 Corinthians 5:7) This could mean a serious grocery list change, TV/Internet separation or a relationship break up (non-marital, of course)…whatever it takes, do it!

#4) Seek the Holy Spirit everyday for direction and wisdom in the area of our weakness.  “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”

You can do this. You were created for more. God wants you to win over the cravings of your flesh. He makes a way for you to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13) It takes the step-by-step, full and complete dependence on the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to overcome the flesh.

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

Next time let’s broaden our understanding of what it means to walk in the Spirit so we can resist the flesh with its desires.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It’s the Dog in Me : Part I

It’s in you. It’s in me. It’s in everyone. It’s the dog in us. My husband said that women don’t have the dog in them. But I know that I do…everyone does. The dog answers by the same name:  the flesh or sinful nature.

The Bible describes the flesh as “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”(Galatians 5:19-21, NIV)

Wait a minute! I don’t do these awful things!

 Okay…okay…before your flesh starts barking, just know that it waits for your moment of weakness to seize an opportunity for temptation. You know it’s there. Every time you lose your temper, gossip about someone, watch a TV show or movie that you shouldn’t, overeat or drink to excess, speak or act disrespectfully to those in authority, entertain impure thoughts, love the things in the world more than you love God, become jealous or envious of others, start fights or arguments, etc…

The flesh is about you getting what you want, when you want it, and how you want it—even if you know better! You may want to do right before God, but your sinful nature keeps luring you back to what is wrong. Though you’re free, it keeps you enslaved to sin.

But before you despair, know that the Paul struggled as well in Romans 7:15-19 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” This is the cry of every sincere believer who wants their life to shine God’s righteousness and holiness.

How to deal with the dog?

Years ago we lived next to a young couple who owned a big, scary dog named Grace. She wasn’t graceful towards us…but that’s for another blog. I noticed that when the husband walked Grace. She kept in perfect step with him. When he jogged, walked, or stood still, Grace wouldn’t move one inch away from him. He trained that dog to the degree that he probably didn’t need a leash.

However for his wife—it was a totally different scenario. When she decided to walk the dog, you couldn’t tell who was walking whom. Grace yanked her across the street, sniffing everything she wanted to sniff, barking at everyone she could find, and chasing after rabbits, squirrels, basically anything that dared to move. My neighbor would be screaming, “Heel!” to no avail.

Just like Grace, many of us are being yanked around by the flesh to places we don’t want to go. We can control the flesh and its desires with the Spirit of God…find out in “It’s the Dog in Me Part II” next time!

The New International Version. 2011. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Have you ever been lost? I was lost driving past acres of cornfields with only a fourth tank of gas and a truckload of children. No cell phone. No GPS. I could only rely on the dashboard compass (but that doesn’t help when you have no sense of direction). So I prayed…hard. After a short time, I found what I was looking for. It was a relief for me…but it got me thinking, is this how it is for those who are lost without Christ?

Being lost meant that…

*I was going at a fast rate of speed in the wrong direction.
            At first I was very confident that I was going in the right direction until I realized that I should’ve arrived at my destination some time ago. Likewise, people who don’t know Christ are speeding down the fast lane of life towards an eternal suffering. Do you think they would keep going if they really understood their destination? “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)

*I was getting passed up by people who knew where they were going.  
            I slowed down to get a feel of where I was heading. People who sped around me seemed relaxed and comfortable with their destination. Believers can cruise through life with a peace that surpasses understanding. Sometimes we forget that not everyone has this peace. It’s easy for us to swerve around unbelievers in our neighborhoods, workplace, and schools instead of taking the time to check on them. We are the road-side assistance for Christ. “Save others by snatching them from the fire.” (Jude 23)

*I needed easy-to-follow directions.
            Turn right at the stop sign…when you see the red rooster mail box, make the 2nd right…go up the hill and turn left at the grain mill…go about a mile. Or maybe you should take a right instead… When I get directions like this, my mind turns into a huge glob. I’m toast. Unbelievers need clear and concise directions to God. They need to know that they are sinners and Jesus came to save them. Give good directions to the cross. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?...Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

*I was running out of gas.
            It’s stressful not knowing how much time you have before the car shuts down. You can’t drive an hour on 30 minutes of gas. Time is running out. Everyone moves one day closer to eternal life or death. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Now is the time for you to share your faith story with someone who is lost. Don’t put it off or make excuses for your delay. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:15)

Let’s not drive aimlessly through life with no regard for the lost. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.
(Luke 15:24)

Scripture Reference: The New International Version. 2011. Grand RapidsMI: Zondervan.   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It Sounds Good, but is it Sound Doctrine?

You can be healthy. You can be wealthy. You can have everything your heart desires.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? I mean who wouldn’t want to become a Christian if you could have everything you want. The premise of these teachings is rooted in making our lives comfortable—without sickness, without sorrow, and without pain. This reminds me of something…

Heaven! But we are not there yet.

Have we forgotten what Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”? (John 16:33) Or what Paul said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”?(2 Timothy 3:12) They never promised that our lives will be free of sickness, sorrow, or pain. We are in this world, but not of this world.

Many sincere people believe that sickness comes from personal sin. While there are sicknesses and sorrows that come from our personal sins—smoking increases the chance of lung cancer, sexual immorality increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, using drugs increases the probability of addiction with mental and emotional issues, etc… However, believers also die of cancer who never smoked a cigarette in their life.

When the Great Depression hit America—believers and unbelievers were hit with a massive financial crisis. When the Black Plague wiped out 75 to 200 million people—Christians were also affected. There wasn’t some Superman force shield to protect them from the crisis of their day.

Well Crystal…you don’t know their life. They could’ve sinned in their mind or sinned in some way that only they and God know.

True. Only God knows a person’s heart. But remember when the disciples asked Jesus about the blind man. They wanted to know who sinned…either him (must have been in the womb) or his parents. Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3)

The big picture—God uses our pain, sickness, and sorrow to show His glory. It’s not the absence of sorrow that reveals the glory of God in your life. It’s taking the step of faith everyday no matter what is going on in you or around you.  He is glorified when you keep the faith—even in the darkest days.

Can we still love, trust, submit, and obey God’s word when everything falls apart? Yes, because we have the hope of God in our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit we are comforted in our trials, we are strengthened in weakness, and we are saved through Jesus Christ. Even in our physical death—we win.

Scripture Reference: The New International Version. 2011. Grand RapidsMI: Zondervan.   

Monday, February 4, 2013

Still don't have a Devotional for 2013?

It was almost 16 years ago when I was first introduced to Kay Arthur’s Precept Bible Studies. Back then, I was wondering if I was just doing the Bible study to get out of the house instead of learning more about God. Her style of teaching led me directly to an incredible hunger for knowing and understanding God’s word for life.

Her devotional, Lord, I Give You This Day, does not disappoint. For 366 days, you will be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to seek the Lord in every situation.

Arthur’s trademark greeting for readers of her books, “Beloved of God” and “Precious One”, compels me to read her book with a gentle prompting of love and acceptance. She brings me face to face with the hard hitting questions such as where do you go to find your deepest longings or what underlying thoughts and beliefs direct your decisions and lifestyle? Each passage is short, but power-packed for those who need a strong dose of God’s word in an easy-to-read format. Check it out and let me know what you think.

For more information about Kay Arthur:
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Is it Okay to  tell a Lie?

I read a piece about a Christian actress who said that she would tell a lie to win on a reality TV show. She planned to share her proceeds with a church if she won. It made news because she professes to be a Christian—other Hollywood bigwigs could admit to lying and no one would bat an eye.

Is telling a lie a big deal or not?

All of us, at one time or another, has lied. We lie outright, we lie in omission, we lie when we are afraid, we lie on accident, we lie in our exaggerations, and so on. There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10)

So what’s wrong with a little white lie? Or if I exaggerated a story by just one word…is that sinful?

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Is telling a lie less sinful than the other nine commandments in Exodus 20? What if, she said “I would have an affair to win” or “I would kill somebody to win.” Would it be alright as long as she gave all the proceeds to orphans?

If we are going to lie just like everyone else, how are we different from the world? Christians are unique. Jesus said we are the salt of the earth and if the salt loses its flavor…what is it good for? (Matthew 5:13)

How bland life would be without seasoned salt! Have you ever had the unexpected surprise of taking a bite of a meal that was so much better than you thought it would be? It’s like the BAM! 

Are you the BAM in your home, workplace, school, or neighborhood for Christ?

It’s not about being perfect, sinless, or without fault. It’s about a real relationship with God that brings out the best in you and those around you. Will you tell the truth so that others can experience the delectable flavor of God flowing out of you?

Scripture Reference: The New International Version. 2011. Grand RapidsMI: Zondervan.   

Closet Cleaning

A closet is more than a place where you keep your clothes.

Skeletons are in closets.
People come out of the closet.
Jesus said, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet” (Matthew 6:6)

“Clean out your closet!” I heard this instruction in my spirit after struggling with low self-worth. This closet awakening changed my life. I opened my closet brimming with clothes. Frumpy clothes that reflected my frumpy spirit. I felt led to get rid of everything that didn’t say…you are so worth it!

What is the opposite of low self-worth? An awareness of your exquisite value in the eyes of God. Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)

Precious to God

Everything was gone except one red coat dress with gold buttons down the front. It was the one outfit in which I felt confident, assured, and empowered to do great things for God. Does this mean that we all should throw out our clothes and run to the nearest mall? Of course not. Start with the inner closet of your spirit.

Do you struggle with confidence in your gift from God? Are you constantly turning down opportunities that will stretch your faith? You can’t hide what’s in your closet.

Just as you are what you eat…you reflect what’s in your inner closet. If you are a bitter, fearful, angry, discontented, insecure or doubtful—it will leak out. No matter how hard you try to cover it up, anyone who is around you will catch on in a short amount of time. Your tone of voice, your body language, or your comments will shout out how you really feel.

Perhaps it is time to clean out your closet and discover who you are in Christ. You might find out that you are:
A new person (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
Loved (1 John 4:19)
Chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
Called (2 Timothy 1:9)
                                                                        Gifted (Romans 12:6)

Start cleaning your closet today. You might find the jewel in you!
  Scripture Reference: The New International Version. 2011. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.