Monday, March 25, 2013

Stand firm...

Week 13:

I Peter 5:6-11 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  8Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  11To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

This is a lengthy passage as far as my style of devotional thoughts go. However, I could not just rest on one or two verses. I am encouraged by passages such as these where advice is given as well as the reason the advice is given. Notice each piece of advice and the result of following that piece.

First, we must humble ourselves. Notice that it is not just a general humility, but a humble life under God’s hand…his mighty hand. The promised result: We will be lifted up in due time. Where I struggle with this one in my life is; what is his due time? Living in the generation of instant everything, my patience is short. I am amazed how many times I feel impatient about God’s work in my life to find later that it all comes out alright. He is faithful.

Second, cast all anxiety on Him. This is probably the most difficult practice for me. Until I allow the comfort of the Holy Spirit to calm my anxiety, I will look for comfort in other things. I believe that God sends the comfort of the Holy Spirit as well as people to us in order to calm our anxiety. I want to note that there is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear can help push me through a situation. Anxiety, on the other hand, can be crippling and unproductive. God cares enough for us to send comfort in anxiety.

Third, be self-controlled and alert. God and Jesus warn us that the devil is on the prowl. He is constantly working angles, making suggestions, and using deception. We must be aware of this constantly…especially in good times. Peter goes on to encourage us to resist and stand firm in our faith. It’s interesting that Peter relates our standing firm to the fact that we are not alone in this battle. Brothers and sisters all over the world are fighting similar battles. It is comforting to know and be reminded that I am not alone in my sufferings.

Finally, God is faithful to us through his grace in Jesus. Throughout scripture we read about suffering, trials, and hardships knowing that persevering and standing firm in Christ will make us stronger. No matter the outcome of these sufferings, if we persevere, God will be faithful; either in this life or the one hereafter.  

Pay attention to God’s advice and the promises that follow. Through Christ, the Holy Spirit will grant you core level peace that will help you to stand firm through suffering. I will rest on that outcome. How about you?


1. Of the pieces of advice, where are you weakest? How so?
2. Of the pieces of advice, where are you strongest? What gifts help you stay strong in these ways?
3. What in your life causes you the most anxiety?
4. How have you dealt with this anxiety in the past?
5. In what ways has God sent his Spirit to help you deal with this anxiety?
6. Pay attention this week to each of these pieces of advice and how they work in your life.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Slow to react...

Week 12:

Proverbs 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

In today’s world, insults happen frequently. In many ways, an insult is our culture’s weird way of connecting with a person. I know personally that I give people a hard time in order to connect with them in some way. Many times, this hard time includes some kind of insult, put down, mockery, or a pointing out of a mistake. In many cases, the people I am picking on take it as my love language and go on. However, there are times where I have really insulted this person at his core. The same thing happens for me. I really do not mind the hard time friends will give me. I feel in some ways that I deserve it since I tend to dish it out myself. There are times though when I get insulted at my core and I lash out or “show my annoyance ant once”.  

The above is just one example of my foolishness versus my prudence. Another area for me where this can be a challenge is in my profession. I deal with people on a regular basis. I also have to make difficult decisions about students which may not be popular among both the parents and the students. Occasionally, an unpopular decision creates tension and out of that tension I receive insults to my character. For years, my foolishness would show up in the form of defensiveness. I would defend my character by defending my decision. My hasty “annoyance” would actually create more tension that would last for quite some time. In fact, because of my foolish behavior, I would hold on to bitterness and resentment towards certain individuals for long periods of time. And, of course, who does that hurt? Me.  

I believe that a root cause of my foolishness could be that idea that I believe the lies that Satan has suggested about me. When my character was being attacked, deep at my core, I believed those attacks to be true about me. In a sense, I am defending myself because what a person is saying about me may be true…if, I believe the lie.

Keeping all this in mind, I believe that part of prudence or wisdom is to recognize the lie. There are times where my behavior may show as true to what I am being accused of. When that is the case, I need to own my actions and repent. However, that does not make me a bad person and it may not be true about my character. And, when I own and repent, I need to let it go afterwards. In most cases, what I am being accused of is not true about me at my core. In fact, many times, the accusation is more about the accuser and what he/she may want (and are not getting) than it is about me. A natural human tendency is to lash out in some way when we do not get what we want.  

So, when I am being attacked and insulted, wisdom though the Holy Spirit will tell me that I am a created, unique child of God. What is being said about me or at me is not true to how I was created or who I am. When I am able to keep that in mind, I am able to have peace in my heart and even at times, empathy for the accuser. This keeps me from being defensive, allows me to own what I need to own, and releases me from holding bitterness and resentment.

Taking this avenue also keeps me from just acting like the insult did not land and repressing my feelings about the insult. When I take this “I’m tough, I can handle this” approach, I grumble and hold resentment. When I take the “created and loved being” approach, the insult can roll right off of me. This approach allows me to live in prudence instead of foolishness.


1. In what ways does your foolishness show up for you?
2. What are some of the lies you believe about yourself when someone insults you?
3. Who are some people in your life with whom you hold bitterness and resentment?
4. Is this resentment tied to the lies Satan has suggested? How?
5. What in particular puts you on the defensive?
6. This week, list out some of your good character traits. Ask for help from those who see these qualities in you. Ask Jesus to come alongside you this week and point out where these are showing up daily in your life.
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Monday, March 11, 2013

No shame...

Week 11:

Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Shame is such a powerful piece of the human psyche. So many people carry shame about themselves to some degree. I believe that shame and fear are two crippling emotional states that are so hard to shake and keep us from serving God fully.  

I came across this short verse and it opened my mind and heart to see that in God there is no shame. David is the author of this Psalm. When I think of David and shame, I realize that David was open to God. He would lay open his sin, shame, guilt, and fear before God. Myself, I tend to attempt to hide my sin, shame, guilt, and fear. After a period of holding on to these I realize that God knows. Why do I continue to hold and hide these things? If David can present them to God; so can I.

David really made it simple. Look to God. Not only do we look to God and reveal our shame; we become radiant. I believe we have the radiance of God reflecting off of us. He shines His light into our hearts and souls. He rids us of our shame. Because we have presented ourselves before God humbly, he has cleansed us.

One step beyond just turning our face toward God is the fact that we have Jesus who stands with us and for us. David had a deep relationship with God; however, the savior had not yet come. How much more do we have than David? Jesus takes on our sin, guilt, shame, and fear.  

Is it as simple as just turning our face toward God? It can be. It really depends on the state of our heart. There are times where I turn toward God, but not from my heart. I go through the motions but my pain is not strong enough for me to lay myself bare before him. There are other times where I say, “Enough is enough!” This is where I can turn toward him and my shame is erased. Many times, it takes my being in the presence of a community of believers. When I feel the grace and love from other wounded healers, I feel the presence of God.  

The community allows me to walk alongside those who have walked a similar road. I am able to see where God has cleansed them and know that I will receive the same. The community also holds me accountable in a non-shaming way. The community becomes an extension of God in a human way.  

The challenge this week is to look at your shame and present it before God. Turn towards him either by making the “Enough is enough!” statement or by joining in the community of wounded healers. Do not carry the burden any longer.


1. What shame are you carrying right now? (It helps to stop and write this down so that you can identify and connect with your shame)
2. When you have presented your shame before God in the past, what resulted for you?
3. What has held you back from bringing this before God? What is getting in the way?
4. What is the source of your shame?
5. What lie do you believe about yourself that is feeding this shame?
6. This week, find a community of believers who are wounded healers. Present your shame before them and watch the grace of God unfold in your heart.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Of man or of God...

Week 10:

Acts 5:38-39 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you:  Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

Growing up reading the Bible and learning about the Bible in various classes, I learned to dislike the Pharisees. Why not? They were the ones who Jesus warned the most. They were the “whitewashed tombs”. They were the ones who crucified Jesus.

As I grow older, I realize that not all the Pharisees were closed-minded to Jesus and his followers. In this text, Gamaliel appears to be one of these. Even though he is a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, he appears to be more open-minded about Jesus. Now, this devotional thought is not about him or even about Pharisaical practices. What I am reminded of in this passage is what he understood. If what one is doing is of God, it will succeed. If what one is doing is not of God, it will eventually fail.

One of the most common questions asked by many of us is, “Is what I am doing part of God’s will?” The answer can be both complex and simple. The complex answer can be that there are many things you can be doing and still be within God’s will. In other words, as long as your life lines up with what you profess to be, it matters little what you are doing because who you are is of God. An example of what would make this complicated would be if I was wrestling with a decision between two godly paths. Both look like I will be serving God, so, how do I know which one to take? I may find no opposition from God on either decision. This makes the decision hard.

A simple answer would be if it is working, then I am in God’s will. If it is not working, then God may be in opposition to what I want to do. Say I want to change something in my life. I ask God for help in guiding me to that decision. However, every avenue that I take seems to have a closed door. In most of these cases, I believe God has told me to either remain where I am and continue to serve, or that I am not ready for this change yet (or both).

What about following others who seem to be following God?  First, this passage applies…if they are following God, there is no stopping them.  If they are not, their effort will fail.  Second, when I am in this situation, especially regarding tradition versus what is truly Biblical, I apply I John 4:1-6 and the testing of the spirits to what I am facing.  If the person I am following acknowledges Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is of God.  Those who do not, are not of God.  No matter the ministry, the work, the service, or anything else…test and see if it from Christ.  If it is, God will bless it in the end.  If it is not, it will fail.  

Wow!  I learned a lesson from a Pharisee (which by the way, his lesson was from God).  


1. What came up for you when you read this passage?
2. How does your interpretation differ from that of this article?
3. Where have you seen this passage at work in your life? Explain.
4. What are some things you opposed that turned out to be of God?
5. How did you know?
6. This week, pay attention to where God is working, both in your life and in the life of others. Pay particular attention to how you know God is working.

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