Habits

 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. (Jeremiah 35:15 NIV)

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines a habit as a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance;  an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary; a manner of conducting oneself.

If we examine our lives, how many habits do we have?  If you really think about it, it can become mind boggling. I guess, depending on how old you are, you have a lifetime of acquired habits that have been formed by conditioning.  The condition of your childhood, the condition of your health, the condition of your socio-economic surroundings, the condition of your level of education, etc..  The things and people that are around us impact us.  The repetitive things are the things that eventually become habits with us.

Anything can become repetitive by the degree of value that we place on it.  As a young individual with a young mind you may place importance on what other people are doing, how they will view you and so you may do things according to that influence, for example smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or sampling drugs.  You start out voluntarily making a decision, but after a while you are stuck in habit that you are involuntarily chained to.  These types of habits impact our lives and futures in a negative way.  What took little effort to form a habit takes a huge amount of effort, dedication, mental and physical distress to change or break away from.

It only takes one impulsive act to change your life.  This change can be positive or negative depending on the side effects of the decision.  The enemy sows his seeds by feeding thoughts in our minds that are attached to emotive tensions in our lives.

Our inclination may be to question the thought and he know that so he begins to feed us more lies and lure us into seeing only glimpses of truth.  Yes, he may feed you a thought that you may become part of the “in crowd” but that does not mean that what you do will be good for your body, health, or that you will be able to control the effects of the impulse and the decision. He knows that if he can get you to act on impulse, he can get you to act again and again and he will continue to feed you lies based on your emotions and before long, you are caught up in all sorts of habits that he can use to lead you onto a path of destruction.  You see, that is his goal, to destroy you and to use you to destroy others.

My friend, if you are not following Jesus, the Son of God, who was sent to us to defeat satan and provide a future for us beyond sin, destruction and death, then you are following satan.  There is no middle ground.

When Jesus gave up His life on the cross, He gave it up voluntarily so that we might have a new life, hope, help, and a way to fight the enemy. When he ascended into heaven he sent us a helper.  “But the helper, the Holy Spirit that my father sends to you in my name, will teach you all things and bring to remember all that I have taught you” (John 14:26 NIV)  If we believe in Jesus then we can walk in the Spirit and by the Spirit.  “I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom”  (Daniel 5:14 NIV).  God did not send His son to the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:16-17 NIV) and He did not leave us in a condition worse than before he came.  The Holy Spirit lives within us and if we tap into Him then He can provide us with the intelligence and wisdom that we need to make all our decisions.  Our impulse should not be to act on our emotions, our impulse should be to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in our decisions. Repetition of this act will form a habit!

Once we engage the Holy Spirit to act on our behalf, Satan is immediately defeated.  We will not be led into a situation that will harm us. The important thing is this, if we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit, then we must listen, trust and obey.

We are not alone in this world.  Satan may try to make us believe that we are lonely and that we need certain things in our lives, but we have a helper that can help us see the truth and avoid the harm that satan’s deceptions cause us.

We cannot say that we believe in Jesus and live a life that does not include Him.  Belief from our mind is not the same thing as believing with our hearts.  Relationships are built from the heart not the head.  If you do not have Jesus in your heart, then you do not know Him and he cannot save you.  Satan uses our emotions to lead us because we engage in life through our emotions.  It is the same with Jesus.  Once you surrender your heart to Him, He can begin to build a relationship with you and the Holy Spirit can live in you.  The spirit of God cannot live together with the Spirit of Satan.  God cannot look upon sin, that is why He sent His Son, so that He could take all the sin upon Himself and destroy it.  When you are in relationship with Jesus, then God sees you through His Son and He sees who He created you to be.

Most of the habits we have in our lives are tied to emotions and emotions are tied to our hearts.  If we get our hearts right with God, then we can begin to form new and different habits with the help of the Holy Spirit and our lives can turn around for the better.

Do you have satan led habits?  What do you need to change?

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The Indefensible Weapon

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame, deliver me in you righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue, be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,  for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”  (Psalm 31: 1-3)

You are there, I know you hear me. I know you answer prayers, you have taken care of me my whole life.  My rock, my salvation, my countenance, my comfort, my peace, you are always there.  I depend on you for everything.  This is such a wonderful confidence. This is absolute truth and Satan turned it into a deceptive tool.

In my life experience I have found that there are peaks and valleys, hills and gorges and sometimes a dry river bed that stretches on forever. Where ever I find myself, I know that I am not alone.  For the past few years I have been walking that dry river bed searching for the inlet to where the waters will begin to flow. I have picked up little pebbles along the way that have hurt my feet to walk on, I have moved rocks that were in the way and swept clean a path to follow.  Today, I found the bolder that was blocking the flow of water, the dam that was holding everything back.  What a revelation!  What a monumental find.  Now comes the even harder part, how do I remove the blockage and keep it from coming back?

Sometimes when we are so deep in prayer, so wanting and needing to hear from God about a specific need our enemy sneaks in and takes hold of our weak places and holds us hostage.  He wraps his chain of lies around us and feeds into our fears, builds on dissolution and disappointment and creates a little fortress or stronghold against us.  The more we believe in his lies the more he feeds us and the bigger the fortress becomes.

Our enemy is sometimes clever enough to take hold of our faith, the one thing that defines us as Christians and weave his deceptions into it.  This happens when we mature as Christians and we gain knowledge and strength against the enemy.  His usual bag of tricks don’t work anymore, his power has been diminished so that he has to work harder and harder to find his quicksand.

Our tool against him is prayer.  Prayer is the one thing that Satan cannot battle.  He has no defense against prayer because prayer is the will of God.  Prayer is our lifeline, our point of communion with God.  Especially as your prayer life begins to grow and develop power and you pray in communion with the Holy Spirit.  It’s like the line MC Hammer and Rick James used in their songs, “you can’t touch this”.  Satan can’t touch our prayers.

When we pray for revelation against Satan’s lies and deceptions we become empowered to disarm him, to break the chains and blow-up the fortresses he builds.  Now, as it is with all prayers, God answers them in His own time and own way.  He clears the log jams as slowly or quickly as is necessary for us to learn and grow.

My latest revelation was seeing how the enemy had built a deception and distortion around my faith that God was going to provide for me. I had the faith and was diligent in my prayer.  The deception was around the way I was praying for provision.  I was praying like my dependency was a burden, like it was a bad place to be.  Imagine that……being dependent on the One who has all power, the One with unlimited resources and ability, in control of all that there is or ever will be and I was being deceived as though this was a hard place, a drudgery, as if I was a slave to it.  Now imagine the implosion of knowledge the moment God revealed the truth.  Is there anyone else I would rather be dependent on?  No!!!!  Is it a bad thing or a good thing to be dependent on God?  Duh!!  What freedom when you begin to walk in the truth.  But here comes another hard part…..remember the parable about the good news/seeds that falls onto the different types of soils in Matthew chapter thirteen?  The moment truth is revealed, there the enemy is again trying to steal it back.  He begins to weave new lies around your newfound truth.  Continue to pray for truth and revelation.  Continue to fight the good fight with the one weapon he cannot stand against.

When we pray, the one thing we are to pray with is our faith and our expectation.  If we are in communion with God, there is no better place to be, ever!!!!  This is a great and wonderful thing.

Don’t let Satan steal your joy, your hope, your expectation or your faith.  Don’t let him deceive you to believe that being dependent on your creator is anything but the best thing you could ever be.  Walk in the truth, walk in the power of knowledge that prayer is your sharpest and indefensible weapon!  And when you pray, pray expecting your mighty God to act on your behalf, for your good and for His glory!!!

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to Him, trust in Him and He will act”  Psalm 37: 4-5)

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Circumstances

The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23 NIV)

No matter how bleak things seem, how frightened or worried, or hopeless the enemy tries to paint a picture in your life, it is a lie.

Friends fall sick, family passes away, husbands or wives walk away from a marriage, jobs are lost, cancer enters your life, homes are lost, children go astray, cars fail.  Any number of things can happen in the blink of an eye, when you least expect it and life is dealt a blow that will have some long-term implications.  Believe it or not, it is not as important what happens as it is how you deal with it.

The enemy knows when you are in a weakened state and he will strike just and hard and fast.  His main objective is to take you while you are down and destroy you.  Every decision that is made will impact something in the future and if he can cause you to go off track he will.  He will use your emotions, all of them, to distract, side-track, back-track, stop you in your tracks and take you back if he can.

It is during these difficult and painful times in our lives that we can question the God that loves us beyond measure and His decisions for our lives.  We can get angry, feel abandoned or alienated and take an enough is enough attitude and turn ourselves away from Him.  When we react out of our emotions our tendencies are to make really bad decisions.  Our protective human nature kicks in and our rationale is affected.  We become defensive, retributive, fearful, abusive and in the end regressive and remorseful.

If God is not a part of your life, then the emotions described above turn to self and the victim mentality takes its aggressions out on those around you, who love you the most.  Human beings rarely have the capacity to deal with this type of emotive implosion, much less the compassion as much as they would like to think.

But if the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not lack (Psalm 23: V.1).  If you turn to Him, He will lead you beside the still waters and refresh your soul (V.2), He will lead you onto the right paths and walk beside you through it all, pushing aside your enemies and providing peace and comfort, (V. 3-4).  Eventually, He will walk you out into the light and anoint you with blessings and restore to you more than you thought possible even to overflowing (V.5).  He will never leave you and always be with you as long as you dwell with Him (V.6). (paraphrased)

1 Peter 5:7 says, “ Don’t submit to circumstances, instead submit to the Lord who controls all circumstances”.  When crisis occurs if we go to the source we can plead our case and ask for the help and answers that only He can give.  Who knows, the circumstance could have been created just so you would turn to Him.

Nothing lasts in an existing state forever. Not people, places, things or circumstances.  Each moment in time is to be celebrated and embraced with the One who created it.  We can’t understand why things happen when they do or how they do, but He does and He is the One who can best Shepherd us through.  Our life lessons are best taught by Him who can see into the future and understands what it takes to prepare us for what He has next.  Let him hold your tears and then let him hold you up and move your forward.  No one can take His place, no one can understand like Him, comfort like Him and restore you like He can.  What was, was good, but the best is yet to come. If you don’t move forward with Him, you will never receive all that He created for you, and you for.

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Only Fools Rush In

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matthew 15: 8-9)

Sometimes when we meet with God in our quiet times, it is hard to give over “our” time to “Him”. Why is this? We need to rend our hearts when we first arrive to be with Him, but we are so burdened with our sin, guilt and problems that we put ourselves first in the time slot. I am guilty as charged. Some days I come and rend my heart and I repent so I can be cleansed and have nothing between me and God, but other times I just rush right in. I am so much in need of His loving care that I don’t give Him His rightful place.

We need to approach God with sincerity. Sincere respect, sincere love, sincere placement in our lives and give Him some time to speak to us. When we do this, our issues and problems don’t seem so large and over bearing. We can see a clear path and way forward. Our burdens are lifted when we first lift Him up in praise and honor and glory. It is a supernatural thing that occurs when we come to Him with sincere and loving hearts.

Elvis Presley sang, “ wise men say, only fools rush in”. Practicing sincerity with God first can show us the way to improve all our relationships. When we meet with our family, friends and co workers, if seek the good things in them and we give them praise and honor and glory we will find fertile ground to nurture and in turn, we will be nurtured upon.

There is good and bad in everyone. It is better to look upon the good. The more we feed the good things in people instead of the bad, the better everyone feels. Propagating the good grows the good the same as propagating the bad grows bad. Just as plants need water and fertilization to grow healthy and strong, relationships and people need the same. If the weeds are allowed to be fed and grow, they choke out the beautiful plants and eventually take over. Eradicate the weeds, water the flowers and you can enjoy a fragrant garden.

It is hard to be sincere in any relationship when your eyes are upon yourself. Anytime you are so focused upon yourself a line is drawn and division and separation result. Focus on the things above. Keep your eyes upon the Lord and your energies applied to His will for your life and all the weeds and problems will diminish and your garden of relationships will flourish.

Posted in Following God's Will, Praise, Priorities, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Is Your Faith Personal and Real?

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Recently, God challenged me about my faith. He asked me “Is it personal and real?” Finding myself in a situation where my faith has been challenged over and over again earns me this little pat on my cheek from God.

My symptoms were; constant state of flux, anxiety that I was praying away most of the time, worry, worry and then more worry. The same scripture verses were being worn out like a rug that is trampled on hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

Now, I consider my faith to be one of my strengths. I have read over and over the words of God and understand His faithfulness and how He works. I know I can trust Him and depend on Him. I believe every word written in the Bible with all my heart. I am thankful for all the testimonies of the disciples of Jesus and the great role model prophets like Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel.

I know that God is a mighty God and that He delivers, protects, provides, encourages, comforts, motivates, loves and gives mercy after mercy. I KNOW this!!! God knows I KNOW this. But there is a difference between knowing and believing things in my head and believing in my heart….. He not only wants me to know and believe in my heart……He wants me to OWN it!! It has to be personal and real, not just knowledge.

We can memorize scripture and the Holy Spirit will bring them to mind when we need them, but memorizing in your head is different from having them written on your heart.

Remember the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the book of Daniel? They refused to bow down and worship the golden idol King Nebuchadnezzar had made because they feared God above the King. Even when they knew that standing on their faith could kill them, they chose to stand by God.

The King said bow to me or I will throw you into the fiery furnace. He told those in his command to crank up the fire hotter than it had ever been before (Daniel 3:19). They could see the fire, what they couldn’t see was God.

In their moment of truth, they chose God.   See, not only did they have the head knowledge about God, they also had heart-felt, life-altering, soul-committing faith that even if God did not save them from the fire, obeying and believing in Him was more important.

So what did God do with that truth? He sent His Son Jesus into the fire with them and He protected them from the flames. Their personal and real faith in the supernatural allowed God to show up and show off!! When the doors of the furnace were opened, they walked out without a single burn blister or blemish on their flesh. They didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them. The men sent to throw them into the furnace were burned up in the process (Daniel 3:22), but these three young men walked away with their lives better than before the fire.

How many times are we challenged to stand firm in our faith even when we can’t see how our problems can be solved? We can see the issue but we can’t see God.

We have to make our faith personal and real. We have to take our knowledge and own it. Worry, fear, doubt and anxiety bring harm to our lives, yet we give life to them. These things that are tools of our enemy, are used to keep us from making our faith just as real and giving life to it. Faith is a choice the same as worry and anxiety. We can choose to believe God or the enemy.

How did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego make their faith real? They committed themselves inwardly first and then publicly. They encouraged each other and reminded each other of God’s goodness in the past. They took their eyes off the problem and put them onto God and stood firm and unwavering in the truth.

God doesn’t tell us it will be easy, but He does tell us He will always be with us in the good times and the bad. Do you believe Him? Is your faith personal and real?

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;” (Psalm 121: 1-3)

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Let Go My Ego

“Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Samuel 15:30) NIV

Have you ever met someone who you thought had an over inflated ego? Someone who had an enormous sense of self-importance? King Saul found himself in a situation where he placed more value on what the people thought of him than he did his role of being God’s anointed king and made a bad decision that ultimately cost him his kingdom.

I have found that those individuals with huge egos are usually some of the most fragile, sensitive and low self-esteem people walking the planet. Their ego is their facade. They actually care more about what YOU think of them than they do anything else, so how they portray themselves is vitally linked to how they want you to think of them.

These types of people are more concerned about their status than they are about relationship. They are so busy trying to create, manage and keep control of their facade they do not have time to devote to you or anyone else for that matter, and put an effort into developing a relationship.

People with large egos will go to extremes to elevate their position when they are around a group of people. They generally size up each individual knowing who is the strongest and who is the weakest and these become their targets. The strong ones are the ones they will try to tear down and replace and the weak ones are the ones they will elevate to try to gain support and loyalty.

If you have ever been in a situation like this, in either targeted role, then you understand the damage that occurs as a result. These situations occur on a daily basis in work environments, in social settings, in sporting activities and even in church.

Once the ego is confronted in a group setting and exposed, they generally melt-down, add fuel to the fire and retreat. They don’t necessarily go away but they lose their effectiveness and look for new targets.

This type of ego is easy to recognize but there are other forms of ego that are a lot harder to identify much less recognize as harmful.

If you recognize “ego” as a tool to manage “what others think” then you can begin to understand how it manifests itself. If you find yourself acting differently in a group setting than you normally do, then you can say that your “alter-ego” has come into play. If “ego” is a sense of “self” then “alter-ego” is a sense of “self” according to what “others think”. I’ll even take it a step further and state “what you think, others think”, because no one really knows what others think.

Our alter-ego leads us into situations where we act differently because of its driver which is fear. We fear what other will think of us so we change the way we act to conform to what we think will be acceptable to others way of thinking and these alter-egos take on various different forms unlike the over-inflated sense of worth.

For example, one form of alter-ego could be in a situation where we try to “fit-in” with a group that does not have the same Christian values we do. Normally we would speak openly about how God has been working in our life, what the preacher talked about on Sunday, but in this group we change our conversation and “omit” any talk of God or Jesus because we fear what these people will “think” or that we don’t fit in with them, or that they may put us down or it may cause them to look at us differently, etc. Maybe you don’t post any Christian content on your social media sites for this very same reason. Your “social status” reflects your “alter-ego”.

Maybe your decision-making is compromised by your alter-ego at times so that you can go along with the group or not stand out and call attention to your differences. There are many ways in which your alter-ego can manifest itself in any given situation.

So how do you keep your alter-ego in check? The same way you keep your ego in check. You make a commitment to be true to yourself yet more importantly to be true to God.

When you base your actions and decisions on the thoughts and opinions of others you will never be able to own your sense of self. When you place your sense of worth on what others think, or better, what you think others think, the value quotient will never be one that you can live peacefully or consistently with. The value metrics will always change according to who you are with.

When you make a commitment to base your sense of worth on what God thinks, then there is one consistently peaceful measure and that is His unconditional and undying love. He created you so He knows your value and your ultimate potential. His thoughts are loving, encouraging and equipping so that you can feel worthy in any given situation. He is always there to help you in any decision-making process and to position your “own thoughts” no matter what others think, say or do. He allows you to be you, not some altered form of you. God never judges you in the way that people do. He judges you against the examples His Son, Jesus, set when He sent Him to teach us about His love. His two main examples were: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and Love others as you love yourself. (Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30) When you focus your ego around these teachings you find your true self worth and your true ego.

One thing is for sure, one day we will have to give an account of our actions to God, not people. (Romans 14:12, Hebrews 4:13)

Posted in Decisions, Ego, Peace, Purpose, Truth, Vanity | 1 Comment

Go In Peace

“Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace”. (2 Samuel 3:22)
Sending someone away in peace when there has been turmoil or trouble is soul satisfying. The alternative of course, is to send them away in anger or dismay. Think about it, how many times have you left some one in distress and walked away due to an argument, incident or simply because they don’t agree with you?

We are more prone to behave in this manner with those that are closest to us. Our spouses, children, friends, coworkers and so on. When we send someone away or dismiss them in a manner that leaves them in any manner other than peace, we leave the door open for Satan to work a mighty work against us.

In 2 Samuel chapter 3, King David is dealing with the fall out of being anointed King and the split between followers of King Saul’s army and his own. By chapter 15 he is dealing with the consequences of leaving his son Absalom, in a state of disillusioned punishment for killing his half-brother Amnon for raping his sister. Sent away from the family and not allowed to be in the presence of his father, Absalom was an easy target for Satan to minister to. Over time, Satan filled his mind with poison against his father and turned the remorse he should have had for his own actions against his half-brother into revenge against his father. This rift between father and son later split the kingdom and cost David the life of his third-born son turned rebel.

You may think that your actions could never have that kind of impact but repetitive behaviors over time can take their toll. Our enemy is vicious, hating everyone and his sole purpose is to destroy. While you may not mean to destroy, your actions can be leveraged by the enemy to go beyond your worst nightmare.

It is hard to think beyond the moment of emotional turmoil when you are in the realm of it, but it is critical to try. Now, luckily we are not left to our own demise, we have a helper sent from the Father to teach us and remind us (John 14:26) that we are peacemakers.

I get lots of practice with my four-year old when he throws tantrums, gets over-tired, or has a repetitive and one-track notion that must be heard. I can send him to his room but I must not leave him to feel abandoned. The difference between an angry cast off to the room and a loving hug that says please find the little angel that was here two minutes ago makes all the difference. Once the emotional trigger has been pulled it is time to bring in the Holy Spirit. Taking the time to think about what your response or behavior can bring about as a consequence makes a huge difference.

Our pastor gave some good advice in church yesterday. He said “let your first response be prayer”. This is something that I am trying to put into action in my life. Am I an expert? Not hardly, but I am getting plenty of practice and I am getting better. The enemy is certainly losing his impact and effect on this front.

Let’s all work on putting prayer as our first response and see how it makes changes in all our lives. (John 16:24)

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