Monday, April 29, 2013

All your mind...

Week 18:

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

As I stated last week, I believe that we have mind and strength down well when it comes to applying this passage to our lives. We looked at strength from a perspective of being a doer for God. This week we look at the mind.

Again, coming from a western perspective, our society is very much a thinking society. If we can think it, then we can do it. If we can discipline our mind, then we can control our lives.

From a Church and Christ-follower perspective, we have worked hard at knowing God’s Word. We are great at quoting scripture (and misquoting scripture…and quoting out of context). In many ways we look at our lives and see if life matches up with what we know in scripture. If we see something is out of place in our world, we go to scripture to find out how to get it back into place. Scripture is taught in our churches. Bibles are printed in several languages and versions. We have worked hard at the knowledge of scripture.
I came to know who God was by knowledge. If I had not been taught the Bible, I don’t think I would have known God. Scripture also gave me a guide to know that my sin separates me from God. Scripture also told me how to come to God. Knowledge is an important trait listed in 2 Peter 1:5ff. In Colossians 3:2, Paul talks about setting our minds on things above. And in Romans 12:2 he talks about the renewing of our minds.  

For us to love God with all our mind, we must shift our thinking toward having the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Our knowledge of scripture helps with that very thing. I have always said that a lot of my morality was based upon scripture. I could not always tell chapter and verse when it came to discerning between right and wrong. However, I could tell you that making many choices about right and wrong came from my base knowledge of scripture.  

Our mind helps lead us in our strength. To serve others and God, we must first realize what needs to happen. It takes our mind and knowledge of what God wants us to do in order to bring our strength on line.  

It is important for me to stay in the Word so that I am renewing my mind. I also find that God reveals new things to me through passages I have read many times before. I am sure that some of that comes from age and maturity as I look at the word through different filters than I did when I was younger. That is part of the reason I must be renewing my mind regularly. In order for me to love God with all my mind, I must keep exercising my mind.  

However, I cannot be wholly like Jesus with just my mind and my strength. At this point, I am only two-dimensional. I need more…

1. When you hear, “all my mind”, what stands out for you?
2. Where in your life do you need to strengthen loving God with your mind?
3. Where are you strong in your knowledge of God?
4. Where in your life does this knowledge get in your way? How does it hold you back?
5. Pay attention this week to the renewing of your mind. Where do you need to improve?

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Monday, April 22, 2013

All your strength...

Week 17:

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Over the next five weeks we will stay in this passage looking at each of the four parts of us that are to love God; heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will write on each one in reverse order. On the fifth week, we will look at how Jesus loved God this way perfectly.

Those of us who are western in thought are trained to break things into categories. I am no different. When I look at this passage and see what Jesus says, I see four areas or parts of me that need to love God. I realize that what Jesus is saying is to love God with my whole being and I believe that he is outlining what the whole being looks like. So, I begin with; love the Lord your God with all your strength.  

I believe we as western Christians work the hardest at loving God with both strength and mind. I will reveal more about that throughout these four weeks. To me, loving God with my strength looks like what I do for God. Where am I serving? What have I done in His kingdom? What am I doing with in the physical world?  

If we accept this definition of strength, then I believe that when it comes to Church work, a lot of the focus is on the area of strength. We look at what we are doing for God. There is a lot of focus as a corporate body on where are we serving. Are we bringing people to Christ? Are we acting in such a way that others notice a difference? We can even get down to a simpler view of; are we attending services? Are we active in serving our local body of believers?  

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that using our strength is important. Without action faith is dead (James 2:17ff). Jesus told us to love God with all our strength. Therefore, what we do should be done to the glory of God. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) This is a challenge for our daily living. We are a society of doers. For most of us, we want to see accomplishment in our lives. To Love God with all our strength challenges us as Christians to be doers for him.  

At the beginning of each day, I need to ask myself, “What am I going to do for God today?” At the end of each day, I need to ask myself, “What have I done for God today?” Each day’s actions are to be devoted to God. That is how I can love God with my strength.  

For some, this is natural. In fact, this is their gift. To those who are gifted this way, I challenge you to look into the other three parts as they unfold over the next three weeks. For some, loving with all strength is the area of challenge. Those who are “thinkers” and somewhat introverted may feel the challenge to do more. Either way, it is a part of us that is to love God. Jesus was the perfect example of each of these four areas which I will expand on in the final installment of this series.

As we dive into this over the next few weeks, keep this passage on your heart and in front of you. Ask yourself, “What is God telling me here?” I plan on keeping these words on the tip of my tongue: Heart, soul, mind, and strength.


1. What comes to mind for you when you read this passage?
2. Where in your life do you love God with your strength?
3. Where in your life do you need to use your strength for God more?
4. What came to mind for you when I introduced the thought that strength relates to acts of service?
5. Pay attention this week to where your strength glorifies God. If this is a weak area for you, look for where you need to improve.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Love your neighbor...

Week 16:

Galatians 5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I often wonder … “why do I have such a problem loving my neighbor?” I mean, I do love my family and those I associate with. However, there are times when I cannot stand to be around them, or I do not have a loving attitude toward them. I believe it is because of what the verse says: “love your neighbor as yourself”. I do not love myself very much. How can I love others when I do not love myself?

Why do we have such a problem loving ourselves? I notice that I do not receive compliments very well. When someone is giving me a compliment, I cannot look them in the eye. I am embarrassed and I do not believe them. I beat myself up for the sinfulness in my life. I visit a friend and I am parched, but when he asks if I want something to drink, I refuse. Even though I do not accept compliments, etc. well, I crave them. 

I believe that Satan has twisted and perverted scripture to convince us that we are not worthy of being loved. We are reminded to get rid of “selfish ambition” (Gal. 5:20). We are to clothe ourselves with “humility” (Col. 3:12). We are told not to “think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Rom. 12:3). “Evildoers are full of boasting” (Ps. 94:4). In 2 Timothy 3:2, Paul talks about the evil being lovers of themselves and boastful. These scriptures echo in my mind as I think about loving myself. It becomes counterintuitive to love myself according to the above passages. I believe Satan has twisted these and played these in my mind when I am actually feeling good about myself in the Lord.

In this broken world, many times there are those around me who have said hurtful things to me and about me. Some true, some not, some out of their own pain, and some in the heat of the moment. In most cases, those who have hurt me had remorse and/or have asked forgiveness. However, the message from that hurt continues to play in my mind long after the initial hurt. I use those messages to beat myself up and tell myself that I am not worthy of love.

But the passage “love your neighbor as yourself” keeps coming back to me over and over. So how do I love myself without boastfulness or selfish ambition? Why is this so hard? I believe I tend to hide the things I do not like about myself for fear I will not be loved. I have found in recent times that talking about those hidden things with others has actually freed me to be loved more. However, it is still hard to release those things out of fear. 

Of course, there are the obvious answers like: I know that God created me and loves me; listing my blessings; my family loves me unconditionally; etc. But getting those from knowledge to feeling is so difficult. I have to fight a battle daily to rid myself of the lies that Satan has suggested about me.

Once I begin to love myself as God loves me...loving others becomes more natural.


1. In what ways do you beat yourself up?
2. What have you noticed about the connection of loving others and loving yourself?
3. What is it about your character that prompts you to be harder on yourself than on others?
4. List your good character traits. If you need help, ask a trusted friend.
5. Spend time each day this week asking Jesus to point out to you the good qualities he gave you as a gift. Make note of your good character traits.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

It depends on me...

Week 15:

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

We live in a culture that loves to blame. It is nothing new, mind you. As I read through the Bible I see blame being used even beginning with Adam. This verse, however, places some responsibility back on me. To live at peace with “everyone”, I have to take some action and look at myself. Here are some steps toward living at peace with everyone.

The first thing I have to realize is that I have a choice on how I react to situations and people. I both say and hear the commonly used phrase, “That makes me angry.” Honestly, very few things make me anything. I have a choice to be angry or not. Now, I realize that many things trigger my anger easily and it can appear to me that the cause it outside of me. However, when I really drill down into the source of my anger, it does not come from an outer source. I choose my reaction. With this recognition of myself, I become better at discovering the other person’s intent. To seek first to understand is a beginning step toward peacemaking.  

A second step in this process relates closely to the latter part of the first. Seek first to understand before attempting to be understood. What is behind the actions of others? I learned on a recent leadership weekend that a good leader will have a sense of wonderment about what is behind the words and actions of others. Instead of becoming defensive, first seek to understand. The person I am dealing with may have just lost someone, lost a job, had a fight with a spouse, and/or may be deep in a wounded place.  

Third, I do not need to take things so personally. Many times the actions and words of others have very little to do with me and my situation. It is arrogant of me to think that most of the way a person is acting is directed toward me. If I become defensive, it opens a door for that person to attack my character. If I practice having a choice and seeking to understand, then I am able to take things less personally.

Fourth, I have to look inside of me. I ask myself this question often: “How is this about me?” I follow this question with some sub-questions like: What are their actions and words triggering in me? What is my reaction tied to? Is this something from my past that has hurt me before and this situation reminds me? Do I act like they are acting which in turn makes me uncomfortable? I carry into every situation my own baggage. When I react, I am pulling something out of a suitcase of wounds or past actions. I need to recognize those things in myself.  

Finally, I have to put all these pieces of my being together and be intentional. I have to enter every situation with the intention of living at peace. If I am able to put the order of “living at peace” on me, it makes the situation smoother. Obviously, there are times where cooperation from the other party is just not possible. But, if I have entered the situation with the intent of peace, then I have met what Paul is challenging us in this verse, “…as far as it depends on you…” 

So, remember these steps: We have a choice. Seek first to understand. Do not take things so personally. How is this about me? And, be intentional. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”


1. How did this verse land with you?
2. Which step is one of your strengths? Why?
3. Which step is a weakness of yours? Why?
4. What is a common action or phrase that will trigger you to defensiveness?
5. What wound does that come from for you?
6. What makes it difficult for you to seek to understand others?
7. Pay attention this week to how you react to people. Ask Jesus to point out to you both where this comes from for you and what you are missing as far as understanding goes. 

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Good from bad...

Week 14:

Genesis 50:19-20 19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

The example of Joseph’s life has always reminded me of how God can take something so off course and create something so good. Joseph seemed to be a victim of evil intent in so many ways throughout his life. Yet he created some of his circumstances through an arrogant streak when he was young that just fed into his brother’s jealousy. Once he was sold off, Joseph would prosper only to find a roadblock each time. Yet God still elevated Joseph…time and again. God’s plan for Joseph was years in the making. The final result was the saving of God’s people.  

A passage relating to this theme is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Joseph is the poster child of this verse. In every situation we see that Joseph called on God, obeyed God, and loved God. I’m sure he got discouraged, felt fear, was alone, and had some questions. Even though he had the normal human response, he did not lose faith and in the end he knew that God was faithful.  

I believe two things: One, God has a master plan and His work will be done whether we join Him or not. Two, God has a plan and purpose laid out for us. As far as number one is concerned, the only choice we have is to join Him or not. If God has a plan and purpose laid out, we will not stop Him. No matter how bad it may get and no matter how many times Satan tries to detour God’s plan; God will prevail. His good and perfect will is going to succeed. God will take the bad and make something good come from it.

As far as His purpose for us is concerned, I need to look no further than Joseph. Joseph actually had seen a fore shadow of what was to come through his dreams as a young man. God had a purpose for Joseph’s life. And even through human selfishness and Satan’s plans to derail God’s plan, Joseph still fulfilled the purpose God had laid out for him. No matter where I am in my life journey, I can rest on the belief that God has a purpose for my life.  

I do want to note a couple of observations about Joseph’s life. I believe that God both allowed some things to happen in Joseph’s life and administered some discipline. Some of what Joseph experienced was purely based on bad human intentions coupled with Satan’s attempt to derail another of God’s chosen. However, some of what Joseph experienced was also God’s discipline (like the kind written of in Hebrews 12 that produces a harvest of righteousness). Both allowed Joseph to grow up and be the mature, wise leader the Hebrews needed.  

So, as we deal with both the roadblocks that come with evil intent and the discipline that God the father incorporates in our lives; we need not lose our focus on that fact that God has a plan and purpose for us. Ultimately his plan and purpose will prevail. And I hope that I am like Joseph. I hope that I can see the end result and that I recognize that it is God who carried me through.  


1. Where in your current life situation are you seeing evil intent that seems to be getting the way of God’s purpose in your life?
2. Where do you see God’s discipline being carried out in your life?
3. Explain the differences between the two in your life.
4. Describe a past life situation where good came from bad.
5. Pay attention this week to your current life situation. Note where there is evil intent to derail your purpose. Also note, where God could be “growing you up” through His discipline.

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