Power to Live

Many of us act like we believe the Christian life can be lived by human effort. We don’t pray much and don’t takes risks that require God’s help. But living the Christian life is supernatural.

I used to lead small groups by relying on my skills as a facilitator. But I now realize for the time to transform lives the Holy Spirit must be free to work. He can be hindered by relying on myself instead of his presence.

For years, my wife complained she didn’t feel I loved her deeply. This led me to try harder. But it wasn’t enough. Finally, I gave up trying and committed  the problem to God to enable me to rely on his power to love her – and it worked. She feels more loved today than she ever has.

Often we are exhorted not to ask why we are the way we are. The reason is  we are complex and often can’t figure out what the twisted motives of our hearts are. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”(Jeremiah 17:9, NLT). But the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and will often reveal them to us if we ask. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT).

We need the Holy Spirit to free us from the lies and bad habits that continually block us from embracing the fulfilling life God offers us. We don’t have to keep striving to be safe, loved, and important. We already are.

The Holy Spirit helps us when we give him control. This is scary because many of us can only trust ourselves to protect us. How do we know God can be trusted? We may think,  He has allowed many hurtful things to happen to me in the past., how can I rely on his protection this time?

When I was twenty-six, I gave up trying to find a wife. I had dated extensively for six years and was frustrated because I couldn’t find a person I wanted to marry. So, I gave the problem to God. After a five-year wait, he finally brought her into my life. After forty-one years of marriage, I am convinced a better pick couldn’t have been made.

We get his help through trust. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, ESV). Knowing the Bible is good. Obeying the Bible is better. But unless we have the courage to trust the God in the Bible, we will never live a supernatural life.

He tells us that we are important without achievement. He loves us regardless of how we perform. He comforts us by assuring us we are safe in spite of living in a dangerous world. But unless we rely on these life-giving truths, we will continue to be a slave to performance, pleasing people, and worrying about life.

The Holy Spirit can help us to trust in these truths and be transformed. May we escape being described as “they will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 3:5, NLT). May our lives have supernatural power as we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us think, feel, and do as Jesus would.

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine living in the presence of someone who is very strong, but is head-over-heels in love with you.

Picture someone whose smile slowly melts away your fears and tensions, for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18, NAS). Imagine someone who is always there for you, but gives you space when you need it.

Visualize someone who will never reject you no matter how weak and unbelieving you are, for he says, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NAS). Picture someone who enjoys being with you and delights in who you actually are.

Such is the love God has for us, his children. There are no strings attached. He gives love as a gift. It is too good to be true, yet it is true. We can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us, and we can do nothing to cause him to love us more, for it is already “as high as the heavens are above the earth” (Psalm 103:11, NAS).

Even though he knows our every weakness and sin, he still loves us. His love comes from who he is, not our performance. He wants us to rest in his love, and let him satisfy our needs for worth, safety, and acceptance. He doesn’t want us to keep striving to earn what he has freely given us.

But it will take work to enter this rest as he says to us, “Be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NAS). We have considerable distorted thinking and believing to overcome.

I have often considered this kind of love as too good to be true and  have largely tried to earn it by pleasing others. In recent years, I have grown more aware of his loving interventions in my daily life.

God wants us to live in this reality of his intimate love for us. He wants us to soak in it and be transformed by it. “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18, paraphrased). He yearns to transform our lives from striving to be loved, to resting in the glory of being his beloved children.

Imagine how different our lives could be to live more fully in the reality of God’s love for us. Our striving to be approved of would be gone. Our fears would melt away. Our pessimism about the future would change to eager anticipation for his good things.

Comprehending God’s immense love for us is supernatural. Paul prayed we would comprehend the extent of his love for us in Ephesians 3:17-19. Let’s meditate on and pray over the many passages of scripture that describe his love for us, including John 3:16, Romans 8:37-39, and 1 John 3:1. May God then enable us to experience a deeper awareness of his great love.

 

 

Are you a perfectionist? Being deliberately bad at a number of things fooled me into thinking I wasn’t. But that was only so I could have the energy to be a perfectionist at what was important to me.

Things like my spiritual maturity, being a husband and father, and my ministry have been the focus with some success. But it’s never enough. Being a good father seemed to morph into being a perfect one. Being productive in ministry increased to being even more fruitful. Good was not good enough.

When I graduated from seminary eight years ago I envisioned myself as a Movement leader. Unless God used me to turn the hearts and minds of hundreds or even thousands toward the deeper spiritual walk I had experienced in seminary, I was falling short. This was perfectionism in action.

I am slowly learning to be content with fulfilling the roles that God has assigned for me, even if it feels like a third of a loaf instead of a whole one. Each new project is now carefully evaluated  to insure it comes from God. Seeking to be perfect in my eyes is a waste of time because it is unnecessary, for God has already said to each of us, “You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4, NLT). By accomplishing more, we will never be valued or loved more than we are today.

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Many of us are taught to aim high and if we fall short, we still have accomplished a lot. But failure can cause discontent and the fear of trying. Several times in my career I have accepted jobs that were over-my-head and suffered the pain of failure. It helps us to remember our importance does not depend on how impressive the job we hold is to us or others but on it being God’s assignment.

I recently decided to stay involved in a ministry that was only doing a fraction of what I hoped it’s impact would be some day. I wanted to accomplish a fuller impact sooner. But God usually doesn’t work that way. It’s “little by little” and “step by step. ”A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense” (Proverbs 12:11, NLT). Let us lay aside our fantasies and follow God in pursuit of his ministry.

Ninety-two percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Perfectionism often drives us to make unrealistic goals and when we fail, we give up. We never think of  cutting our goals in half.

Let us be content with who we are and what we do. After trusting God for his power and doing our best, may we rest in who we are to God. We need to let go of trying to earn importance and approval from God and others by being perfect.

We are already important and approved of by him. We have a perfect standing with him. Let’s look forward to the day in heaven when our performance will be perfect as well. In the meantime, we are still important, accepted, and loved by God, despite being imperfect.

 

 

We all suffer. It’s amazing the variety of ways we do. Backaches, heartbreaks, and pressures to perform are common sources of our pain.

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Suffering is made easier when it has meaning. Most of my periods of pain as adult do have meaning. I can look back and see some of what God was doing in the situations. However, I still struggle to understand what God was doing through my difficult childhood. But that’s okay. I accept there were reasons the suffering took place.

Sometimes others don’t seem to be struggling that much. But my confidence is God has worked together  difficulties to make me more like himself in ways that would never have happened in easier times.

If we are Christians, we know God loves and watches over us. Yet, we suffer. How do we explain that? There are a number of possibilities. God is a loving father and disciplines us so we will grow more like him. This process often is painful as he allows us to suffer the consequences of failing to live life his way.

Pain comes because we live in a fallen world. How could it be otherwise? We can’t expect this to be a “heaven on earth” experience when our world is in rebellion against God.

He allows suffering so we can experience his comfort and encouragement. This develops our dependence on him and deepens our intimacy. Pain makes us desperate and more inclined to throw ourselves on his mercy, otherwise, we prefer to rely on ourselves. But it’s in our struggles we recognize our weakness and grow strong in the Lord. “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The difficulties encourage me to look forward to heaven where there will be no pain. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).As long as we are here, we are promised trouble (Job 5:7).

Regardless of the good reasons to suffer, I don’t like it. Many times, my choice would be comfort over difficult growth.

How do we please the Lord in our pain? What does godliness look like?

Joseph was shipped off to a foreign land as a slave by his jealous brothers. He was put into prison when he was falsely accused of wrong-doing. Yet, he served his masters well, saw God in his circumstances and did not become bitter by his harsh treatment. He saw God’s good purposes in his circumstances. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20, NLT). Like Joseph, we need to develop God’s perspective on pain by applying scripture to our suffering.

We may feel God doesn’t love us much when we are going through hard times. But he does. Pain can deceive us. God promises us that hard times will never mean he has stopped loving us (1 Peter 5:10).

Several years ago, I went through a period of intense chronic pain. I was confused and didn’t know what to do. In my darkness, I focused on doing the responsible thing in God’s eyes, regardless of the pain. This helped me to face my fears instead of running from them. I learned avoiding trials was not always the responsible thing to do. The commitment to do the responsible thing despite pain was the light God used to lead me out of the darkness.

May God give us his perspective on pain- it’s for a purpose, it’s for our good, and he will help us through it. Let’s give thanks for what he is doing through our suffering today.

 

 

 

We all are wounded by life. These wounds can cripple us or we can grow stronger through confronting the fears and distorted thinking behind them that threaten to keep us from becoming the healthy people God designed us to be.

My scars have slowed me down. I came from an abusive, Non-Christian home which left me with considerable distorted thinking. What people thought of me was who I was. My worth was determined by my achievements. It wasn’t okay to be me.

These false beliefs could have crippled me if not confronted and transformed by God’s power. By confronting them, I have gradually realized what people think is not as important as on what God thinks of me. Achievements don’t increase my importance which helps me relax more in being precious to God.  And it’s okay to be me. My passions, interests, and desires need to be lived out in God’s power to become the person he created me to be.

People who are learning to overcome their wounds are setting aside the crippling thoughts, beliefs and practices from their pasts and embracing God’s liberating truths.

One of my ministries is mentoring medical students in how to integrate their faith with their future medical practices. But many of them have been wounded which has led them to become addicted to pornography. This addiction can cripple them and rob them of a fulfilling life. But they can also fight back against their wounds and cooperate with God in their healing. Many of them are joining support groups for encouragement and accountability in this area.

Too often we tolerate our wounds. We get used to living in a sick reality because it makes us feel safer. But God wants to heal us from our wounds and put on his ways of dealing with life (Ephesians 4:22-24). Pornography is a false way to intimacy that only God can fully satisfy.

We need to face our brokenness. This takes courage and desperation. We may need to revisit our childhoods and reflect on the messages we had trained into us about how life worked. Sometimes we will realize we have been radically molded differently from God’s ways. If we have been trained to please others to be safe, we may spend the rest of our lives trying to live other people’s expectations instead of being true to ourselves and living the life God has planned.

But we will need to work at it. Learning and using the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit, and practicing spiritual disciplines can be helpful in cooperating with God in our transformation.

The bottom line in avoiding becoming crippled is a healthy heart. “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NAS). Knowing the Word only and not practicing it, depending on ourselves only and not the Holy Spirit, and practicing the spiritual disciplines as a way to grow ourselves will fail to change us. Only God can do this. He will use the Word, the Spirit, and the disciplines we know and practice to transform us.

We can be healed of our wounds so they don’t cripple us. But we need to count the cost. Are we willing to fight the battle with the world, the flesh and the devil to be healed? Or do we want to take the worldly path and miss the supernatural one God offers us as we heal? I choose health over being crippled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we think getting a physical examination is a smart thing to do, we will have little fear of getting one. However, if we view it as a means to discover something seriously wrong and suspect there may be, we can become terrified. The same situation can generate peace or fear depending on how we think about it.

However, to be focused on our thinking without paying attention to our feelings is to risk having a distorted view of reality. God uses both to communicate with us. Ignoring either one can get us into trouble because our thoughts influence our feelings and vi-se-versa.

In decision-making, both should be used. I use rational thinking to help determine the right way, but I also use my emotions to discern God’s path. “All his paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17), meaning I will feel peace as I head in God’s direction.

We may choose to ignore our feelings because they are sometimes unreliable in telling us the truth about life. But they do tell us about ourselves and what we truly believe in our hearts. We miss knowing our hearts when we ignore our feelings and then fail to “watch over our hearts with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

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Knowing Scripture is a good first step in living in the reality of God’s peace and strength. However, we don’t always believe the Scripture we know. Our feelings often reflect this. We can use our feelings to exam what we are believing in our hearts and work with God in changing them if they need it.

Our fears often show we don’t trust God is the Good Shepherd in guiding, comforting, and protecting us. We can be terrified as we face the day. We think we are alone with many challenges and potentials to be hurt.

Yet, God is always there. He is quietly watching to give us strength to get through each day. But our feelings sometimes drag down our beliefs about God because we let our fears dictate our thinking this is a dangerous world without help.

Some of the thoughts in our hearts have been put there by Satan. As Jesus used memorized Scripture to beat Satan, we must do the same in fighting back against the lies within us (Matthew 4:1-10).

I spent many years ignoring my feelings. In my childhood home, I was afraid to experience them because I could lose control and risk physical and emotional abuse. In engineering school, I was also taught to ignore feelings because they could cloud my objectivity.

Only in recent years have I realized feelings are important. They reveal my heart which is necessary to draw closer to God. We need to acknowledge feelings so they can be processed which reduces their intensity. To ignore them can create physical and emotional damage.

May we learn feeling at peace requires positive thinking. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise… Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT).

Feelings are important. They are a gift from God. May we learn to experience God through them.

 

 

 

 

 

How we view a problem determines what we feel about it. For example, if we think an eye discomfort is a serious problem that will only get worse, we feel fearful. However, if we view it as a “nothing burger,” a minor nuisance that most people learn to live with without complaint, we feel peace. This is the same problem with two dramatically different emotional reactions to it based on how we perceive the problem. So, how do we think positive and accurately about our problems? Or how can we look at our problems with God’s perspective?

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We need to be intentional in gaining God’s perspective on our problems. For example, God’s perspective on a difficult time is for us to respond with rejoicing. Why?  Because the trial is intended to help us grow spiritually (James 1:2-4).

Is that your perspective on hard times? It’s not mine either. I want the problem to go away before rejoicing. A practical exercise I have done for years is to apply memorized verses to various situations throughout the day. It’s amazing how this helps me to think more positive. I say to myself, What is God saying to me in this moment through this verse? Life seems more positive after doing this.

We often have negative thinking already programmed in our minds, such as expecting worst-case scenarios. In addition, Satan can bombard us with lies that are designed to keep us from thinking positive. We need to tune into our thoughts to determine if this is happening. This can help us insure our thoughts are true, right and admirable (Philippians 4:8).

For me, this requires a couple of 15-minute breaks a day to connect to God and my thoughts and feelings. If they aren’t from God’s perspective, I experience the negative feelings, release them, and exam the thoughts driving those feelings. I then ask God to help me to dwell on his perspective and reject the negative thinking.

We think about what we focus on. If we focus on five hours of TV a day, and work 60 hours a week it will be hard to see life from God’s perspective. Without reading, mediating, hearing and applying the Bible to get the Word into our hearts, we will not think positive because we live in a negative world.

We can also ask God to guard our thoughts and minds from negative thoughts (Philippians 4:6-7). We can daily ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any hurtful thoughts we have (Psalm 139:23-24). And when we discover them, claim the Holy Spirit’s power to replace them with God’s truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Finally, remembering who we are to God helps us to think positive. He is always with us and promises to help us through every situation. He is the Good Shepherd and is always watching out for us. He also loves us enough to have died for us. We never need to prove anything to him because He already loves, values, and accepts us completely. Nothing will ever change that.

I hope practicing some of these actions will enable you to think more positive. Remember, my friend, “these sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Look at life from this perspective and think positive.