Personal Growth

DANGER IN UNLIKELY PLACES

That hurt!!  I just bit my tongue.

Every time I do this, I wonder how it happened.

Now, I don’t want you to think I bite my tongue on an hourly, or even daily basis. I looked online and there are people who actually do have a serious problem with biting their tongues, often while sleeping. I don’t have a tongue biting “problem”, and no I am not in denial.

I just wonder why?

At this point in life I should have developed enough coordination to avoid these violent collisions between my incisors and my tongue.

From my tongue’s perspective I would think that fear of being chomped by the surround fence of teeth would be a top priority in every meal. Although with teeth closing in at every side, food being mushed around, liquids being sloshed in, and having to handle the flow of saliva – my tongue does have a complicated task at meal times.

Yet, when my tongue does get hammered, I wonder what specifically fouled up this usually smoothly running procedure. There is never any warning sign, and moments before each mastication disaster, I am under the impression that my mouth is under full operational control.

I am left with this basic fact of my humanity – there is much I don’t know and cannot prevent. Even when I think I am in control, I am vulnerable to a 1001 dangers that I never saw coming.

If I cannot even guarantee my tongue that I can keep it safe while in my own mouth, what makes me think I can stand on my own in anything that truly matters?!

I desperately need God to be my help, my strength, my wisdom, my protection, my guide, and everything else that is important for life in this world, and in the next.

Since I need God for everything in my life, it goes without saying that he is the One I must look to hold the lives of those I love.

 

 

WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT?

think

by Debbie Huber

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

For Christians to grow in likeness to Christ we need to have a renewed mind. God in his graciousness to us gives us his Word so we know what our minds should and should not give attention to.  We need God’s word to saturate our minds so that our thoughts change from selfish and sinful thoughts to praiseworthy thoughts in all situations. 

We need to change how we think and “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5.) Seek to think of things through the filter God’s word. Ponder the things of God that are worthy of our thoughts.

“Whatever is true”:  Think about the good things we know about others, not the motives we assign to their actions. 

“Whatever is honorable”:  Honor is about serving and respecting others, not seeking our own rights above others. 

“Whatever is just”:  Knowing that God’s ways are perfect and unbiased and that even the most difficult person on your life should be served with joy.

“Whatever is pure”:  Ask God to remove desires for gossip, viewing ungodly TV and movies, and inappropriate or addictive social media. Feed your soul through prayer and Bible reading.

“Whatever is lovely”: Ask God for a heart to love others with pleasing thoughts, words and actions.

“Whatever is commendable”: God is concerned about the state of our hearts, not the world’s standards of accomplishments or success.

“If there is any excellence”: Are you thankful for the excellent qualities of the world that God has made and the people that he has put in your life?

“If there is anything worthy of praise”: Flee from negatively criticizing people and situations because God is worthy of all our praise.  And no situation can ever diminish His commitment to us.

Therefore, “think about these things”.

WHO IS IN CONTROL, YOU OR YOUR PHONE?

We love our smart phones!

The convenience,  the connectedness, the amazing apps!

I no longer wear a watch, have a camera or use an alarm clock. My smart phone keeps me connected to friends around the world, it provides many forms of entertainment, and it allows me to answer virtual any question that comes up.

So go ahead and celebrate the genius of your smart phone. However, along the way, we should be aware that these phones have side affects. Some of these are good and others are subtly unhealthy.

Tony Reinke helps us to think through the effects of our smart phones with his new book “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”. Reinke’s purpose is to help us maximize the benefits and carefully minimize the costs that come with using one of the most amazing and powerful gadgets ever invented.

 

DO YOU WANT TO BE GREAT IN HEAVEN?

The disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

Great in heaven.

Wow, that sounds too wonderful to be true!

But look again at Jesus’ description.

The great in heaven are not those with big ministries or impressive gifts. Neither is it necessarily those who have gone through horrible circumstances.

Jesus tells us, it is to humble ourselves like a child.

Humility is a perspective and lifestyle that we must “turn” to – it is not our natural way.

However, it is a way that any believer can follow. Humility is an approach to life in which we can all become proficient.

Greatness in heaven has nothing to do with the measurements and standards that the world uses or that we typically think of.

You don’t need a high IQ or extensive training

You don’t need an abundance of resources

You don’t need leadership gifts or a high position

You don’t need circumstances to go your way

You don’t need years of Christian heritage

You need the direction of God’s word and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

Humbleness can grow in us bit by bit each day.

Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is an invitation Jesus has given to you. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is a reality which can become yours.

The question to us is not can you become great in the kingdom of heaven. The question is whether it is important enough to you to “turn” away from anything that keeps this path from being the one you are following.

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

THE COMMON SIN THAT NO ONE DOES

Gossips

No one wants to be called a gossip, and I doubt many people think they are a gossip.

Yet, gossip is widespread!

This means gossipers are plentiful. It also means that people don’t understand gossip or their own inclinations toward it.

An excellent book that walks us through the nuances of gossip is “Resisting Gossip” by Matthew Mitchell. You can read my review of this book.

Tim Challies drew from Mitchell’s book to write his own article on the subject, “The Five Gossips You Will Meet”.

The purpose of Mitchell and Challies (and now me) is two-fold:

1)  Help us identify and protect our lives from the influence of each form of gossiper, which includes not allowing them to use us to extend their sin.

2)  Help us examine and identify aspects of gossip which may already be in us. Even if you are fairly certain that you are not a gossip, there may be fragments of gossip lurking in you.

Why should you bother giving attention to the subject of gossip? Because God gives his attention to gossipers and He clearly is not pleased with the practice. In fact, it is somewhat shocking to see the company in which God places the sin of gossip:

Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

The seriousness in which God takes gossip should be motivation to scrutinize our lives and make sure we are not allowing any trace of this sin to hide in us. This includes as the passage above points out, “giving approval”, which encompasses encouraging gossipers by giving them an audience.

THOUGHTS FOR DRY or DEAD BIBLE READING

Do you struggle to consistently read God’s Word?

You are not alone, but in the end, there are no excuses!

We are commended to abide in God’s Word.

We desperately need to abide in God’s Word.

We rob our life of richness when we fail to abide in God’s Word.

Whatever your reason for not establishing this habit, the answer is to stop minimizing the person of God while you maximize the importance of your own activities.

The failure to pray and read the Bible is not a time or scheduling issue, it is a love and submission to God issue.

The consistent, engaged and responsive reading of God’s Word will revolutionize your heart. Don’t miss God’s wealth of wisdom and goodness, because of a lousy excuse.

Do you struggle to keep your reading fresh?

You are definitely not alone there either.

Every faithful and mature Christian has walked through this struggle – many times.

I find that opening my Bible with the perspective that God is an amazing person who wants to speak to me as I read, is helpful.

John Piper’s latest book, “Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”, is an excellent resource in this area. I hope to post a review on this book next week.

Until then, read this helpful article by Tim Challies, “Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life”. He mentions a few books at the end of the article. “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis has my high recommendation.

Another idea is to talk with fellow-believers who show a love for God. Relax over a cup of coffee and discuss ways to freshen your devotional time. Anyone who loves God will be glad to talk with you and pray for you about these matters which are precious to them.

Even if you feel dry in your devotional life, take joy in the fact that you are laboring at it. Take joy in the wonderful reality that you want God to fill your life. Most people are grievously blind and dead to these desires.

God wants to bring a fresh breeze to your time with Him. He rejoices in the time you give. It is never dry and empty to Him!

THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL TOXINS

There are a lot of opinions about being healthy, but every serious view recognizes that we must focus on more than one component.

Good health involves how we eat, how we exercise AND what we eliminate from our lives. If we are serious about our physical health, we don’t shop in the junk food aisle (at least not too often).

In a similar way, spiritual health requires attention to more than one area. We will not be healthy if we pray, but ignore God’s Word. Our soul will be anemic if we read the Bible regularly, but ignore the community of a local church.

However, just as important as what we take in, is what we cast out. As Paul writes in Romans 13:14 put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”.

We live in an extremely toxic world. Unless we are intentionally ridding our system of these toxins, they will affect our spiritual health. Even the world recognizes this as a general principle, as evidenced by the rigorous attention given to the effects of secondhand smoke.

The difficulties we face in eliminating toxins are many. Not only are these toxins common, they can be subtle. Pride, and the self-centered attitudes that our human nature consider to be normal, the Word of God rejects as ungodly!

If we are to rid ourselves of spiritual toxins, we must be serious about self-examination. And if we are to be successful in self-examination, we will need the help of Scripture and the community of God’s people.

Pastor John MacArthur gives us some direction is this article “Eliminating Spiritual Toxins”.

Physical health has significant benefits, but they cannot compare to having a healthy soul. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 tells us:

“train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”

JUST BE FAITHFUL WITH YOUR TODAY

James-4-14

by Debbie Huber

I recently read a blog article where the author made a point that stood out to me:  “Just be faithful with your today”.  Many of us allow regrets from the past to prevent us from doing what we know is best today.  We can beat ourselves up over the things we did not accomplish or would do differently from the past.  We also tend to habitually put things off until “tomorrow” or expend a lot of mental energy worrying over the future.  These thoughts can often paralyze us so we are not faithful with the things God has entrusted us with for today. 

Are you waiting to begin having your personal time reading the Bible daily until circumstances are better (….your child sleeps through the night, or until your work schedule changes, or until summer comes, or until you are less tired…)?

            Make a plan today and begin.  There will always be events of life that seem like they are obstacles.  Make reading God’s word a priority TODAY.

Do you feel like your children are too old and it is too late to begin reading the Bible together as a family?

            It is never too late to begin reading the Bible.  Apologize to your children for putting it off and approach it as a privilege, not a chore!

Is there tension in your marriage and you have pulled back emotionally?

            Repent of your selfishness and seek God for your marriage TODAY. 

Are you putting off joining a small group until after your child’s sports season?

            Do not wait!  Demonstrate to your family that God is most important.

Are you neglecting hospitality because you are not happy with how your home is decorated?

            God has put you in your home today, be content in it and do not be ashamed to share your life with others.  He has called us to be faithful with what we have. 

Have you been putting off sharing the gospel with a coworker?

            Ask God to help you do it today.

Have you been meaning to call your struggling Christian friend but are dreading getting into her “messiness”?

            Pick up the phone today.  Do not neglect God’s imperative to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24