Monday, July 28, 2014

Misdirected denial...

Week 31:

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

This week, instead of writing what this passage is about, I want to write what I believe is a misdirected interpretation of this passage.  I am convinced that Satan often twists God’s Word in order to discourage us (me) from living an abundant life in the Kingdom.

In a past article Love your neighbor…I touched on loving self in order to love others.  The article was based mainly out of Galatians 5:14.  That passage is based on Jesus teachings quoting Leviticus 19:18.  In a nutshell, I have trouble at times loving my neighbor because I have trouble loving myself.  Much of the time, I do not see me as Jesus sees me.  When I look in the mirror, both figuratively and literally, I am not impressed.  I see the flaws, the past sin, the shame, etc.

I am in contact with people on a regular basis in my education world, my church world, and my para-ministry world.  One thing I notice as a constant is this theme of people having a hard time receiving blessing, compliments, and/or believing that they are good or have worth.  I think this due partially to a misdirected view of the above passage. 

I realize that we must deny ourselves so that Jesus and the Holy Spirit can reside and guide our hearts, souls, and minds to follow Jesus’ teachings and direction.  However, the way I deny myself, much of the time, is contrary to “loving my neighbor as myself.”  There has to be a balance between loving myself as Jesus does and denying myself in order to follow him.

In the book Age of Opportunity, Paul David Tripp talks about how raising teenagers is usually dreadful and difficult.  One of the things that will happen when a child moves into the teen years is a beginning of withdrawal and isolation for the teen.  Usually, the parent has already dreaded the upcoming teen years and as he/she moves into the moodiness of hormone change, the teen tends to want to isolate from the family more.  Because the change in attitude is so unpredictable, parents oblige this exile into the dungeon of the teen’s room.  Now neither party seems to understand the other and then the gap widens.  If everybody survives this period, then things seem to move toward normalcy as the teen comes out of the teen years…but not always.  Tripp’s advice is to keep the teen engaged with the family, no matter how painful that may be.  The results are much better in the long run.

I use this analogy not as advice for raising teens (however, it is good advice and I personally have seen results to the positive), but as a recognition of the teenager that is bottled up in all of us.  There is a little boy or little girl in all of us that needs our attention.  This little person or teen has been beaten up by the messages of this cruel world.  It is from this place that I have a hard time believing in my goodness.  I need to hear what Jesus says about me and bring that love, mercy, and grace to my little boy inside.  I find that when I take care of that little boy like Jesus takes care of me, I am more able to love my neighbor.

So, what is the difference between denying yourself and loving yourself?  Denying my self means that God’s agenda will override my own.  God’s purposes and plans will prevail and I am to join Him.  I must deny myself and my agenda.  Notice that this part of self to be denied is the agenda part, the selfish motivation part.  This is my plan.  This is done out of my selfish nature.  On the other hand, loving my self is not self-esteem.  Loving my self is self-worth.  I am to love the part of me that God created for His purposes.  I am to love the drive, desire, knowledge, goodness, etc. that God placed within me.  If I am to deny, repress, ignore, hide those good things that God created in me, then I am essentially telling God, “I could have created a better me than you did.” 

Recently working with Dmitri Bilgere during his first Gateways to God workshop; he said something that has stuck with me.  During a process, and I’m paraphrasing, he talked about how God created us with these desires, longings, hopes, and dreams.  Then God set us up to fail at these or be blocked from reaching them.  Then we feel fated by God to be stuck or just out of reach of these dreams…so, why try?  He then points out that we have actually set up an idol in the place of a true merciful, loving, gracious God when we feel fated to this existence.  We may have misused those wants and desires in sinful ways and therefore feel blocked by God.  That is not how god sees us.    

I take from this that I have been denying God’s gift of my core goodness instead of my agenda.  I am to love myself, my core, my little boy inside and deny my agenda and selfish motives.  In fact, the selfish motives are misdirected ways in which I try to get my core noticed because I will not accept my goodness.  If I notice my core goodness first, I am free to deny my agendas and love my neighbor as I should. 

Moving forward, I must take care of my little boy and his core goodness gifted from God.  I must then deny my agendas and follow where God has me going.  I am to follow Jesus who loves me unconditionally. 


1.      Where you able to see the difference between denying self and loving self?  How?  If not, what distinctions do you see?
2.      Where does the teenager analogy apply in your life?
3.      What judgmental, merciless, idol have you set up that denies you of loving yourself as Jesus loves you?
4.      Ask God this week to point out where He loves you.  Have a conversation with Jesus asking for Him to point out your goodness and then listen.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

When they are not where I am...

Week 30:

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

Upon each new discovery or revelation in my life the enlightenment allows me a new way of living.  In most cases, this new way of living is better than the old way I was following.  Each of us gains new insights, experiences God in fresh and new ways, and hopefully grows emotionally and spiritually in some way.

One thing I notice at each point of growth and enlightenment, I am not very patient with those who are not where I am.  I either take an attitude of “…why don’t you know this?” or …”why aren’t you listening to me?”  I will find myself feeling levels of intolerance and frustration that my “enlightenment” has not spread.

As I reflect back on jumps in transformation, I see that I have done this over and over.  When I would get better at a particular sport, I would lose patience with teammates who did not get better.  And, that frustration would grow as I tried to bring them along and they weren’t progressing as I thought they should.

When I became a Christian and began a deep study of the scriptures, going to classes, attending Bible studies, and gaining knowledge; I became intolerant of those who would not see “the light” with me.  Not only would that be frustrating, but I would also talk too much about “my” “enlightenment” and would drive them away from me.

Over my last few years of my transformational journey toward knowing, following, listening, and understanding God deeper in my life…I have at times developed the same pattern.  I have done some deep work in my life and at times cannot fathom why others would not do the same.  The same impatience, frustration, and intolerance begins to surface for me. 

I think there are two main reasons I feel this way when they are not where I am.  One, I am excited about the revelation I have received and I want others to experience this alongside me.  When that excitement is not shared, I feel hurt and insignificant.  Secondly, I follow the human tendency to compare myself with others in order to feel good about whom I am.  Both are rooted in good intentions.  I want to connect with people and my mission is to help people see their God-given goodness.  So, when I find something new and helpful, I want to share and help others.  When I compare, the intent is to get better, not look down upon.  However, many times these two intents become out of balance.

Some things I need to remember while I am journeying: 

·         First, I need to remember we are all on a journey and we are going at the pace that God set in motion.  Each person will grow according to God’s plan and the person’s willingness to grow. 

·         Second, not everyone is ready and/or willing to make a next step in their journey.  Rushing this creates animosity. 

·         Third, I need to compare only myself with myself (Galatians 6:3-5).  When I compare myself with others I get a false sense of where I am in my journey.  I need to look only where I have been and where I am going.  

·         Fourth, it’s not a reflection on me that what I offer is not accepted.  My offer not being accepted is not about me, it’s about where they are in their journeys. 

·         Fifth, just because I feel I have advanced does not mean that life is not working for those who have not chosen the same path. 

·         Finally, our paths may end up going two opposite directions.  This is a sad reality.  The relationships I build today may not exist in the future.  Most of the time this divide occurred due to the lack of frequency in the relationship set up by the different directions of the paths.  This doesn’t mean something bad has happened; just two different paths.

The number one thing for me to remember, that my reactions and actions toward those who are not where I am is up to me.  If I recognize where I am and how I am reacting to others, then I am in control of my emotions surrounding the scenario.  Like the referenced passage says: “…as far as it depends on you (me), live at peace with everyone.”


1.      What do you do or how do you react to those who are not where you are on the journey?
2.      What is it about them that seems frustrating to you?
3.      Which good intent is your motivation and when not checked becomes a source of frustration?
4.      What are some ways you will handle this issue for you in the future?
5.      Think about and describe a relationship that you have lost due to the different paths you and the other has taken.
6.      Think about a recent relationship where you have been frustrated about the difference in paths.  Ask God to allow you to unlock your grace for the other person as well as yourself.  Pay attention to what happens next.

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Monday, July 14, 2014


Week 29:

Psalm 119:89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;  it stands firm in the heavens.

The more I live in the kingdom of God, the more I see Him beyond scripture.  God is interwoven in the fabric of our lives and world.  We may not always see or acknowledge God’s presence, but He’s there.  With that being said, I am also continually amazed how His Word applies to everything I do.

Growing up, I fought off a touch of disbelief that God’s Word applied to every situation in my life.  In my head, I believed those who preached that God’s Word can be used in every situation, yet in my heart I still had doubt.  Occasionally, I still do.  However, the older I get and the more life situations I experience, I see His Word apply more and more.  God’s Word is eternal.  No other book has applied to life over the course of time as His Scriptures. 

I’m not talking about justifying new ways of life through scripture.  I’m not talking about twisting scripture to fit life.  I have done a little of both and found that as time passed, that type of interpretation does not work long.  What I do notice is that at the right time, the Spirit reveals how I have been following God fits within His Word. 

One of the keys to seeing when God’s Word fits is simply knowledge of His Word.  To know that a scripture is applying to a life situation, I have to be in the Word enough to have it written on my heart.  I cannot understand the eternal impact of the Bible without reading eh Bible. 

Another key is wisdom by experience.  I had to have lived some life before I could see manifestations of God’s Word in my life.  As I touched on before, I have incorrectly applied Scripture in places in my life to find later I was off base.  Those experiences coupled with watching Scriptural truth unfold in life have given me experiences with God which revealed His eternal Word.  When I was young, I despised how the older generation would tell me that I was young and would learn.  To some degree, I had more life experiences than many my age, yet, I still lacked the wisdom and maturity that comes with age.  Now that I am older, I see that more clearly.

The final key, and probably the most difficult, is having faith in the Holy Spirit.  First, I have to recognize when the Spirit is speaking to my spirit.  Second, I have to notice when the Spirit is pointing to Scripture and its application to life experience.  Learning to see, follow, and have faith in the Holy Spirit is still a challenge…a lifelong challenge.

For us as believers, His Word is where we start.  His Word is what is on our hearts.  His Word applies all life situations.  His Word is eternal.


1.       How did this scripture land with you?
2.      Describe a recent life situation where you clearly saw scripture apply.
3.      What made it clear?
4.      When you hear the word “eternal”, what comes to mind?
5.      Pay attention to your life situations.  Notice where you are and where you are not applying God’s eternal Word.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Admission of fear...

Week 28:

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I have written a devotional thought using this passage before here.  This week has some similarities yet has a different flavor.  I reminded often that the Word of God is so rich with application that I usually could write several different thoughts out of a same passage.

All though out the Bible we read the words, “do not be afraid, do not fear, do not be anxious, fear not, and/or similar words or phrases.  For years I have hidden my fear thinking that I was faithless or sinful for feeling afraid in any way.  I have covered my fear, lied about my fear, avoided my fear, and/or ignored my fear.  But something stood out to me recently around these passages…an assumption of fear.  God speaks these words because He knows the subject is feeling fear or going to feel fear.  Fear is inevitable. But, like a good Church boy, I have hidden my fear for fear of sinning in my fear.

There are four major ways in which I hide my fear.  The first is through anger.  I hide both fear and sadness through unhealthy anger.  The fear creates such uneasiness that I will use my anger to back anything away that may cause be to be afraid.  On the surface, this anger seems to drive me to accomplish things.  However, instead of this anger pushing me through my fear, it actually pushes the fear far away from my consciousness only to return again, usually with my intensity. 

The second way I hide my fear is through detachment.  I deceive myself into believing that my fear is gone if I detach from emotion completely.  This allows me to appear that I have become stoic yet all the while I have the emotion of fear running strong in my heart.  So strong at times, that I end up acting in a way that I look back and ask, “What was that about?” 

A third way that I hide my fear is through analysis.  This is similar to detachment for analysis requires little to no emotion.  I begin to analyze my fear.  If I had an answer to my fear, then I can conquer it with logic.  The problem here is that it causes me to become a poser and wear a mask to hide my fear.  I become somebody I am not.  People notice my mask; react to it, causing me to be afraid that I am acting strangely.  So, I analyze, change who I am again and create the whole pattern over again.  What a vicious cycle.

The fourth way that I hide my fear; is by ignoring it and hope it goes away.  Sometimes this shows up by my recklessly pushing through my fear with being attentive of the fear.  I act as if the fear is not even there.  When I look up, I have gone down a path that is so far of course of where I should be, it takes a long time to get back to where I need to be.  Once I get back, the fear is still there. 

So, how do I deal with this fear?  Faith!  God knows I will fear.  I have to face that fear, work through that fear, and come out on the other side all through faith.  See, when God gives a “Do not fear…” statement, He also gives an instead statement.  When I have fear, I can look it in the eye and walk through it with an assurance from the “instead” statement.  An example is from the passage for this thought:  “…for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  I must face my fear with the faith that God will walk with me through the fear to the other side.  And…I will grow from this walk. 


1.      Where do you use anger to cover your fear?
2.      Where do you use detachment to cover your fear?
3.      Where do you use analysis to cover your fear/
4.      Where do you use ignoring to cover your fear?
5.      What steps of faith do you need to take this week to face your fear and walk through to the other side?
6.      Ask God this week to show His “instead” statement.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My kids will likely need therapy...

Week 27:

Genesis 4:1-17; 25-26 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.  Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”  While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”  “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”  13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.  25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.  At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
We recently took a vacation with our kids that was the most days and longest distance we have ever taken.  We drove…2500 miles…five of us together for eight days.  Many can relate to this type of trip.  When there are five family members together in that type of situation for very long, conflict is inevitable.  I know that as we reflect back on this trip, even this close to its end, we will have nothing but fond memories.  However, during those times where somebody was on somebody else’s nerves, I began to realize that my kids are likely going to need therapy at some point in their lives…and it is because of me.

My wife and I have been intentional in raising our kids.  They have known nothing but a Church life.  We have limited what they can view on TV and listen to music wise.  I work at a Christian School and my kids have known nothing but a Christian education.  We have prayed for them and with them.  We really have put a lot of effort into being involved in our kid’s lives at the same time, giving them some space.  Even after all that effort, I know that I personally have missed some things.  I have projected my wounds, my faults, my emotional imbalance, etc. onto my kids. 

One thing I have said many times is that no one hands new parents a manual on how to raise children the day that child is born.  And, truthfully, there is very little about raising children in the Bible.  There are some general thoughts and words around how you show God to our children, but so much is left out.  My wife and I have done the best we can to apply the Psalms, Proverbs, human stories of Biblical characters where ever and whenever we could. 

So, why did I choose this passage for this article?  Because the first recorded parent didn’t necessarily get it right either.  Adam and Eve had direct access to God.  Yet, Cain still killed Abel.  In fact, God talked directly to Cain prior to his act and still Cain followed through.  There are other examples of kids as well…David, Aaron, Eli. 

I don’t want to give myself a pass here, but I take comfort in knowing I am not alone in my mistakes in raising my kids.  Overall, they are good kids.  They follow God, or strive to anyway.  However, they will need help and guidance emotionally from someone else at some point in life.  I realize that fact, accept that fact, and hope that when they look back on life, they realize I did the best I knew how.  I hope they are aware of the fall of humankind beginning in the Garden of Eden.  I hope that they see that although we are responsible for ourselves and our choices; there is something not quite right in this world until Jesus returns to make all things new.  That is the hope I have to rest in when I look at what I have done with my kids.


1.      As a parent, how has this landed with you?
2.      If you are not a parent, what can you draw from this as you reflect on your parents?
3.      What action is God calling you to do from what you have read today?
4.      What conversation do you need to have with your kids/parents?
5.      Pay attention to what God is asking you to do around this this week.  Is it to forgive, make amends, have a conversation, explain, and/or ask forgiveness of someone?  Take action.

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