Monday, October 28, 2013

Nothing hidden...

Week 44:

Hebrews 4:13 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

As I was growing up, I viewed this passage and others like it from a place of fear.  I have always been taught that God knows everything.  For the most part, I would live my life in such a way as to not do wrong out of fear for God.  Of course, I would make mistakes and actually take part in willful sin.  When I did, I felt enormous shame around my choices and the fear would grow.  I know God wants us to have fear for Him, but not in that way. 

Over the course of the past few years I have done some contemplating around the ideas of transparency and vulnerability.  What happens when I shine the light of God into the deepest corners of my soul, heart, and mind?  I believe that some of what God has revealed, through several sources, is that there are two parts of myself that continually need to be uncovered and no longer hidden. 

The first is the obvious; the sinful rebellious part.  God knows it all!  There is no hiding my sin from Him.  So, when I hide my sin, the person it affects is me.  When I hide those dark parts of me in shame and fear, they begin to master me.  I think about Cain and the advice that God gave him in Genesis 4:7.  God is basically telling Cain to own his responsibility or it will master him.  And, it ultimately did.  He killed his brother.  God doesn’t tell me to bring my sin and darkness into the light only because it is unholy.  He tells me also for myself so that my sin will not master me.  When I am able to lay myself bare before God, His Spirit helps me to move away from the mastery of darkness. 

A second part of me that God reveals to me is my goodness.  The power He has placed within me to do His work much of the time is also hidden.  Most of the time, my focus on my negative traits and shame blinds me from seeing the good parts of me.  God made me for a purpose; He gave me power to carry out that purpose and He shines His light of goodness into my heart to remind me that I am made in His image.  When I hide parts of myself in the shadows for fear of shame and exposure, I also hide the good parts of me.  In a sense these parts are “collateral damage” as a consequence of my hiding. 

As I lay myself bare before God and allow His light to shine in, I take responsibility for my sin and give an account to God.  In turn, I open up a door of Grace that has been shining down all along.  Furthermore, I discover the good parts of me that are hidden.  No matter how painful it may be to own my “stuff” before God and men, the warmth of grace feels much better than the lack of power over my life does. 


1. How has this passage landed with you?
2. What parts of you do you need to lay bare in front of God (those parts He already knows about)?  
3. What goodness have you hidden that needs to be put into the light?
4. Why do you suppose you have hidden the goodness?
5. Pay attention this week and notice what God is calling out of your darkness. Both sinful things as well as good things. Confess what needs to be confessed and accept what good needs to be shown.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Believe in ourselves through Jesus...

Week 43:

Matthew 17:20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 14:30-31 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”


A goal for me in life is to put together a book someday covering the topic of believing in our goodness.  I look at Ephesians 3:20 and take to heart the edifying phrase of, “his power that is at work within us.”  The Spirit of God lives in us giving us the power and goodness we need.  So much of the time, I am beat down by failures, missed opportunities, poor choices, sins of the flesh, and the lies that come with all of that.  I allow these things to lead me to believe that at my core I am evil and there is no real hope for me.  I believe in Jesus and His promise and power in my head, but in my heart I struggle in believing in my goodness.

There are so many passages I can draw from when looking at this theme.  Today, I want to look at what Jesus notes about His power that resides in us.  God created us…me, good and He did not change His mind.  We read in Romans 8 that nothing separates us from His love.  God’s love and grace flow to us continually; it is me who causes the separation by believing the negative about me and the lies that the evil one has suggested. 

What is getting in the way?  Where do I start to believe these lies?  First, it starts with doubt.  Rob Bell in his video titled Dust notes that when Peter began to doubt, it was not Jesus he doubted; he doubted himself.  He knew the power of Jesus and that Jesus could save him.  In fact, he called on Jesus to save him.  I think Peter looked around and thought to himself, “I can’t do this!”  Oh, how many times have I been doing kingdom work and looked around and said to myself, “I can’t be doing this!  Who am I?”?  Because of that doubt, I usually come up short, back off, or second guess my work. 

A second source of self-separation for me is in the area of holding on to my sinfulness.  In his book Gateways to God Dmitri Bilgere spends time explaining what he calls the “Mercy exception.”  I believe that God has mercy, grace, and love for me.  In my head I understand all of that.  However, in heart, there are some sinful patterns that I believe that God just cannot forgive.  Behaviors in my life that I continue to work on and think, “One of these times, God will say, ‘That is one too many times for that sin.’ and there will be no redemption for me. ”.  I cannot remember who said this I heard years ago, but it went something like this: “If God remembers our sin no more, then why do we keep bringing up our past sin and shame to remind Him?”  Now it’s one thing to use our past as a ministry opportunity and learning experience, but to relive the shame over and over allows me to believe the lie that God can never forgive my sin.

What does it take for me to believe in myself and my goodness?  First, I have to remember that I am created in the image of God and Jesus.  That means at my core, there is goodness.  My choices may go against my goodness and could eventually create an evil heart, but God created me good.  I must draw on God’s goodness that he placed inside me at birth.

Second, I must believe in what Jesus tells me.  Peter doubted himself when started to believe in what he saw and thought about himself.  Jesus gave him authority to walk on the water and Peter began to doubt his ability to use that power.  Jesus has empowered me to further His kingdom, I must believe in my power through Jesus.

Third, I must stay connected to Jesus, His teachings, and His love.  When I believe a lie and doubt myself, I need to bring that to Jesus.  I need to confess that I am lacking faith and believing the lie and ask Jesus to tell me the truth about me.  It is amazing how much more powerful I feel when I do this, yet still try to fix things on my own.  Jesus is there, His Spirit is within me, I need to stay connected and pay attention to the truth he tells me about me. 

It is so easy to identify with the negative of this world.  It is easy for me to take that negative and put it on like an old t-shirt.  However, it is time for me to believe in what Jesus sees in me.  It is time for me to live in the power and goodness given me at birth.


1.      List the judgments you have about yourself around your faith and life.

2.      What negative to you believe to be true about you?

3.      What is the source of the lie or negative you believe?

4.      Think about the mercy and grace God showed through Jesus.  Is this negative or lie true about you at your core?

5.      What does Jesus think of you?

6.      This week, pay attention to what negative or lie you have believed about yourself.  Ask Jesus to show you the truth about you.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Avoiding strife...

Week 42:

Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

A dictionary definition of strife is:  very angry or violent disagreement between two or more people or groups; bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; an act of contention; exertion or contention for superiority.  A common buzz word relating to this that I hear on a regular basis is, “Drama.”  There are those who thrive on strife and drama.  However, most of us may only quarrel in certain situations. 


What is it about strife that entices me to follow it down a path?  Now I am not one who is big on creating strife.  In fact, if it were up to me, I would avoid conflict all together.  I do realize that healthy conflict creates growth, yet I still dislike it.  Still, there are times where I get involved and even sometimes create strife in my life.


This really depends on the situation for me.  Most of the time when I create or carry on strife, it is around some unmet need or want.  I am not getting what I really want, therefore. I power up and go at the situation through conflict.  Usually, when this happens, I become defensive and begin to protect my heart.  I make excuses for my actions and decisions and become argumentative when I feel my character being attacked. 

Most of the time, this idea about my character being attacked is all about perception.  I just perceive that being disagreed with is about my character.  Truth be known, it has little to do with me at all.  My reaction though is based on my own insecurity.  If someone gets close to what I am insecure about, I become defensive and strife usually follows.  In fact, within the above definition, the area describing the exertion of superiority fits my style of strife.  I do not want to feel inferior, so I set myself up as superior in order to guard that part of me that feels insecure.  From this place of superiority I become condescending and sarcastic.  What I think is protecting me is actually placing a barrier between me and the other person.  This in turn may damage the relationship. 

How do I get to a place where my insecurity is no longer in the way?  I need to put this verse into practice.  I must avoid strife.  I am not to avoid necessary conflict.  That is different than the strife.  Conflict is inevitable.  To avoid it would cause repressed, hidden, and denied problems that may surface as strife later.  What I am to avoid is needless strife.  So, how do I do that?

First, I need to acknowledge my insecurity for what it is; my insecurity.  I need to own and take responsibility for how I feel and how my insecurity makes me feel.  By doing this, I recognize that perceived attacks on my character may be just that; perceived.  I also must own any truths spoken about me.  If I am accused of being condescending, then I need to acknowledge that my statement was condescending. 

Secondly, I need to recognize that the person I’m dealing with has an opinion.  I may not agree with that opinion.  Never the less, I must respect that he has an opinion.  He is coming into the situation with his insecurities and past and he is formulating his opinions based on those.  This approach actually allows me to have compassion and empathy for him.  A great verse for me around this thought is Romans 12:18.  This verse helps me to have a peace with the one I’m dealing with. 

Third, I need to set boundaries.  What does this mean?  The conversation needs to stay on the task or issue at hand.  I must separate myself from the facts and issue.  When she begins to attack my character and get personal, I need to redirect the conversation to the issue at hand.  I also need to gently help her to see that this is a boundary for me.  We can discuss my character later when we are both ready emotionally to do so, otherwise, we must stay on topic. 

Finally, I have to believe what I know is true about me in Jesus.  Because of Jesus and my faith in Him, I am a good man.  God created me good, He did not change His mind even though I have made many bad choices in my life and have not followed Him like I should at times.  Again here, I also need to take responsibility for what I have done, yet also lean on the truth of my goodness. 

As I write this out, I realize that I still have a lot of work to do in the area.  Hopefully, I have done better in the more recent years.  I thank God for His patience and His transforming power.  I am also thankful for passages He sends my way as I continue to work on my heart.


1.      What stands out for you as you read this passage?

2.      Are you guilty of thinking of an example of someone you know rather than yourself when it comes to reading this piece of scripture?  Explain.

3.      Describe your insecurity that fosters strife when someone “attacks”.

4.      Think back to a confrontation that involved strife.  What was your insecurity?  What was the other person’s insecurity?

5.      Pay attention this week to how you handle perceived attacks on your character.  Ask God to reveal to you how you react in the moment.  Ask for God to reveal truth about you to you. 

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My peace accepted...

Week 41:

Matthew 10:12-14 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

This passage is a part of the instructions Jesus had for his disciples as he sent them out.  This particular piece has me thinking about how I respond to those I am trying to serve or help and they are not willing to receive that help. 


When I put myself out there to serve or help and I end up feeling rejected, my initial reaction is to be dismissive.  I want to exit and hide.  I want to take my toys and go home and basically tell the person, “Rain on you.”  I believe my intent is to cause them to feel pain for rejecting me or manipulate them into accepting my gift so that I can be praised.  However, this chosen behavior actually puts a burden of bitterness on me.

As I look at what Jesus instructed His disciples to do, I see that He instructed them to “shake the dust off your feet”.  On the surface, this looks like what I do.  I shake the dust off my feet by exiting quickly and taking my toys and going home.  However, I don’t think that Jesus wanted His disciples (or me) to have malicious intent when leaving a place they were not accepted. 

The key is verse 13, my peace.  If I approach a service situation with my peace intact, then I have no ego tied into the situation.  I offer myself to help; if it is not accepted, I take my offer back.  The key to avoiding bitterness is to come from a place of peace.  If I truly approach a situation with a selfless attitude, then I am able to handle the rejection understanding that the rejection has little or nothing to do with me.  I have made my offer, now I can shake the dust off my feet as a symbol of knowing that I have done what might have been prompted by the Holy Spirit.  Here I am reminded of the prophets of the Old Testament.  When God gave them a message to give to the people and the people chose not to follow what the message said, then the prophet was held blameless for the people’s choice.

If I come from a place of peace and selflessness, as opposed to focusing how I might feel after helping someone, then I am able to walk away without carrying bitterness and contempt for the person.  This is a fine line for me.  Most of the time, subconsciously, I am offering help in order to gain approval or be someone’s hero.  When the help is rejected, I feel rejected and begin to believe a message about me that I am unworthy.  In order to not feel that way, I turn this back on the individual by exiting or wishing harm on them.  I believe that I have been prompted to help, but my approach must be from a place of peace.  Once I am able to offer from that place, I am open to the Spirit’s leading.  If my peace is accepted, great!  If my peace is rejected, it falls back on me and I move on with no bitterness of heart. 

My challenge is to work from a place of peace.  I have more work to do around being in touch with the Holy Spirit knowing that where he leads may not be about helping as much as it may be about handling my peace.


1.      Explain how you have handled rejection when offering help?

2.      When you have been rejected, what has been you defense mechanism?

3.      What does “shaking the dust off your feet” look like for you?

4.      What is getting in the way of you entering a service situation with peace?

5.      Notice this week how you react to those you want to help and they reject you.  What is God telling you about yourself in this situation?  What needs to change in order to get you to a place of peace?

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Speak to the sin...

Week 40:

Acts 16:16-18 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

I have often heard the phrase, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.”  I believe it is based on how Jesus views us in our sin.  I also believe that we as Christians should treat each other according to this statement as well.  I’ve tried, as best I can, to follow this philosophy.  I was recently teaching from this area in Acts and this passage stood out to me as a reminder of how to love the sinner and hate the sin.

As I was studying the passage, one of the commentaries mentioned how Paul addressed the evil spirit and not the girl.  The commentator went on to note that this was the common way that Jesus and his disciples dealt with evil spirits.  He spoke directly to the spirit and not the person bound by the evil spirit.  When Jesus was dealing with the demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:8-13), He spoke to the demons. 


This passage reminds me to separate the actions or choices from the core of the person.  Like this picture above, the storeroom is cluttered.  Is that the reflection of the storeroom?  The storeroom is a storeroom.  The clutter is what needs to be rearranged.  We don’t destroy the storeroom because of the clutter.  Now, if the clutter remains too long, then the storeroom may be damaged in some way by the neglect of the clutter and therefore be destroyed or remodeled. 

Our life is a lot like this.  My sin is based on my choices.  I choose to follow my flesh, believe the lies of suggestion by the evil one, succumb to temptation, and/or blatantly decide to be self-serving.  When I choose one or more of these, I clutter the storeroom of my heart.  Now, the storeroom of my heart was built by God.  God created me good.  When my choices do not follow God’s plan, I begin to fill my storeroom with other things besides what God has for me.  This does not make me bad at my core, but it does reflect badly on my character and image as a man of God.  If I continue to fill my storeroom with this “junk”…and…leave it unattended, I can endanger my storeroom.  Is there a point of no return?  Truthfully, only God can decide that.  However, I really do not want to get to that point in my life.

One thing I have discovered while working with others around the choices in their lives is that when I “speak to the sin” or choices and separate out the core of their being; I see the beginning of transformation for them.  When I guide them to see the truth of who they are versus their choices, they begin to have hope.  This is not to say that we ignore the consequences for their choices.  Those consequences may stay with them in some way for the rest of their life.  David’s sin with Bathsheba is an example.  However, despite the consequences, God can still use their life for good.  They can still draw on the power within them guided by the Holy Spirit. 

For me, the biggest challenge is to believe in my own goodness…the goodness that God used when He created me.  When I look around, all I see is the clutter in my storeroom.  One thing I have found is a group of men who can help me see my core goodness and in turn help me clean out the junk in my life.  These men help me to separate the sin from the sinner.  These men help me to see my choices, how the choices affect me and others, and walk along side of me as I make better choices.  For me, this group has come from my work in The Crucible Project.  For men, I highly recommend this Christian organization.  Even if you are not able to connect with this group, I challenge all to find a group of people that will be authentic and able to speak truth into your life.  Choose a group that can both point out what is good about you as well as help you de-clutter your storeroom.  This action will create a more authentic walk with God.  It has for me.


1.      When observing the choices of others, how often have you judged them as a bad person?

2.      What keeps you from looking at the choice separate from the person?

3.      What has this type of action done for you in your relationships with these you have judged?

4.      Explain how hard it is to practice loving the sinner and hating the sin as it applies you and your heart and life?

5.      What makes is difficult for you to see your own God-given goodness?

6.      This week, pay attention to two things:  First, notice how you see others in the light of loving the sinner and hating the sin.  Where do you need to improve here?  Second, notice the same for yourself.  Where do you need to hear the truth about your from God (especially around your goodness)?

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