Muscle Memory, New Instincts, and Trusting in what God says about You

IMG_20140625_101348356

Encouraging others about their worth and forgiveness in Christ can be easy for me….but trying to encourage myself, now that can be difficult at times. It seems that in my darkest moments of guilt, shame and discouragement, there are times when I can’t push through my feelings enough to believe what the Bible says about me if I am in Christ. When others are struggling, I have words of purpose, words of proclamation, words of life…and I know that what I am telling that person is true. I know it because of what I have read in the Bible. I know that God is gracious. I know that God is forgiving. I know that God is sympathetic. I know that God loves without conditions. I know that nothing can separate us from God. I know all these things. But all too often, what I know is overridden by what I feel about myself. What I know becomes foggy and hazy in the shadows of my own sin. In the shadows of what I did. In the shadows of what I thought. I can’t get past it. I tell myself that God expects more out of me. That I should know better by now. That my grace period is running out.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had such blasphemous thoughts cloud your vision of just how much God really does love and adore you? Maybe it’s just me, but in my weakness and vulnerability I can let the enemy win sometimes when it comes to fighting against guilt or weakness. And I know that this isn’t what God wants for me. He doesn’t want that for you either. God wants us to be confident in who we are in Christ…so much so that we get to the point where the devil can say anything to us, and we still won’t believe him. That is where I hope to be…and I want that for you too.

In getting there, I have discovered that my issue with believing the enemy’s lies about myself comes from elevating my feelings over my knowledge of God’s goodness. Letting my feelings be elevated over the goodness of God always puts emphasis on “me” rather than on God. I make “me” the idol by thinking it is up to me to fix my situation. And that never turns out well. We must elevate God back up to His rightful position of Lord over our lives –and that means, Lord over our feelings too. If we don’t, we will remain hampered under the restraint of what we feel about ourselves, rather than trusting in what we know is true because of what the Bible says.

If I let how I feel override what I know is true – that I am loved, forgiven and chosen in Christ – I will never fulfill His calling for me, and neither will you. We have to rewire our brains to let what we know is true override how we feel.

So how do we rewire our brains to let what we know is true override how we feel? Well, it’s kind of like muscle memory. In softball, a pitcher throws thousands and thousands of pitches until that throwing motion is permanent and the number of wild pitches start to lower. It takes practice day in and day out. And it takes focus and determination. You have to really want it. You make yourself do it until the new throwing motion becomes so natural you don’t have to think about it. After that motion has been established, a pitcher will be throwing almost mechanically because of the muscle memory formed in the arm and body. We do the same things with the thoughts in our brain. We can’t get rid of destructive thoughts altogether, but we can replace them with a new motion…a new thought process…meditating on God’s truth. Just as a pitcher’s wild pitches start to lower with the development of the correct throwing motion, so our negative thoughts start to lower with the replacement of a new thought process.

It may take weeks, months, even years until those thoughts become permanent in our minds. But eventually it will be natural to think with a new mind that is full of God’s truth. Any attack of shame, guilt, despair or discouragement will be feeble compared to our new instinct to recall God’s truth and let that be the final say on the matter. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells us that we can “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We have this ability! So in Christ, we already have control to rewire our thought patterns. And as we do so, the muscle memory of meditating on God’s truth will help us to naturally kick out the negative thoughts that war in our mind.

I’m realizing that I don’t need to feel as if I’m forgiven and loved in order to be forgiven and loved. I just need to cling to what I know. I need to let my heart catch up to my head. I need to let my feelings catch up to my knowledge. Not the other way around. Clinging to what I know – which is based upon what scripture says – will eventually rub off on the way that I feel. We have to train our minds to cling to truth even in the midst of almost not believing it. Let me say that again, we need to cling to truth even in the midst of almost not believing in it. Because in that process is where the permanence forms… and we must be patient with ourselves while in the midst of it.

Yes, we keep clinging to truth because we know that our feelings cannot be trusted. But the truth of God’s word can always be trusted.

We may feel like a failure. But we know that we’re not. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “His power is made perfect in weakness.” Our weakness is not a threat to God. We may feel like we’re unloved by God. But we know this isn’t true. The Bible says in Romans 8:38 that “[nothing] will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” He will never give up on loving us. We may feel like we’ve wasted time. But we know that we haven’t. The Bible says in Joel 2:25, “I will restore the years that the swarming locusts ate…” God is not limited by where you’re at in life.

Trust in what He says! It can be so easy to think…well, that’s a word for somebody else but not for me. But it is for you! And is for me! God has a word of encouragement for you and I that He desperately wants us to hear if we would listen. Read your Bible and know that it is true. Cling to it. It only takes a few minutes a day of reading your Bible, thanking God for who His, praising Him in worship, or writing it in down in a journal, to be filled with the Spirit and renewed in Christ’s joy. We can’t forget to take that time.

Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church says this, “Never take your spiritual life for granted, because you will lose your strength and become weak.” And it is so true. We must continue day in and day out reading the Word of God, letting it form muscle memory in our minds, so that new instincts are formed and we remember God’s truth above all else.

Together, let’s increase our confidence in the God who is destroying strongholds in our minds, allowing us to live in the freedom of His overflowing grace, mercy and love. Then, we will be empowered to defeat the lies of the enemy and help others to do the same.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name;

you are mine.

I will be with you when you pass through the waters,

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not overwhelm you.

You will not be scorched

when you walk through fire,

and the flame will not burn you.”

–Isaiah 43:1b-2 –

 

Questions for Today:

  • Where am I struggling to believe the truths that God has spoken over me?
  • What can I do to rewire my mind to meditate on God’s truth?
  • How can I elevate God to the place of Lord in my life?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my walk with Him today?

“You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Worship ft Amanda Cook

Getting to Know Jesus: Philippians 2:1-11

IMG_20140619_144847074

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while imprisoned for preaching the gospel in Rome. Formerly a man who persecuted Christians, a conversion experience on the road to Damascus wrecked his whole purpose in life. He met Jesus right then and there. Saw the radiance of His glory. Felt the magnitude of His presence. And Saul was never the same. In fact, he became Paul… the writer of nearly half the New Testament and a champion evangelist for the cause of Christ. His faithfulness, dedication and perseverance are evident in the sincerity of his letters. In Philippians, Paul encourages the church in Philippi to live for Christ no matter the circumstances. It’s saturated with practical advice, testimonial encouragement and motivating exhortation. It’s short, simple and reassuring, which surely inspired 1st century Philippians living under Roman rule. Nobody knew what it felt like to be persecuted for the faith like Paul… and his words of heavenly citizenship and pressing on towards the goal of Christ Jesus helped to remind the Philippians that their sacrifices were not in vain. Jesus would be the ultimate reward. Paul always wanted to encourage his church to continue walking towards Jesus in conduct and character, while teaching them how to do so. Philippians exhorts the reader to focus on the sufficiency of Christ and trust in His provision, as Paul himself explains that he has discovered the secret to contentment. That Christ is always enough. Philippians also includes one of the most profound passages of scripture describing the humility and noble character of Christ. As we read this passage in Philippians 2, while thinking about the way that Jesus embodied the human condition, it provides an encouraging example of how we should live our lives. We see Jesus as the humble servant despite a pedigree of royal Kingship. Obedience and submission despite authority and power. Humility. Grace. Love. We see Jesus for who He is. The lion and the lamb. And it compels us to do the same.

Summary: Philippians 2:1-11

Paul reminds the Philippians of the uplifting benefits of Christ, encouraging them to embrace these benefits and have the same mind; Paul encourages unity and selflessness, while he discourages selfishness and conceit; Paul reminds the audience that they have the mind of Christ and thus are able to attain all of these things previously mentioned; Paul then describes the attributes of Christ, emphasizing His humility, obedience and noble character; Paul highlights that Jesus chose to become a servant rather than take advantage of His power and royalty; through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Paul declares Jesus Christ as Lord and the One whom every knee will bow, to the glory of God the Father.

You can also read Philippians 2:1-11 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=philippians+2%3A1-11&version=ESV

 

Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11

Jesus is full of encouragement (v. 1)

Jesus’ love brings comfort (v. 1)

Jesus’ Spirit partners with us (v. 1)

Jesus is affectionate (v. 1)

Jesus is sympathetic (v. 1)

Jesus wants us to live in unity (v. 2)

Jesus enables us to embody humility (v. 3)

Jesus helps us to desire the betterment of others (v. 4)

Jesus enables us to think and live with this new mind (v. 5)

Jesus is the form of God (v. 6)

Jesus never took advantage of His rightful role as God (v. 6)

Jesus always thought of others before Himself (v. 6)

Jesus emptied Himself of everything he deserved and was selfless in how He interacted with others (v. 7)

Jesus chose to be a servant (v. 7)

Jesus was born in the likeness of men (v. 7)

Jesus was human (v. 7)

Jesus displays humility in everything He does (v. 8)

Jesus is obedient (v. 8)

Jesus embraced the plan to die on a cross (v. 8)

Jesus is exalted by God (v. 9)

Jesus name is higher than any other name (v. 9)

Jesus’ name will cause every knee to bow before Him (v. 10)

Jesus’ name and Lordship will be confessed by all (v. 11)

Jesus is Lord (v. 11)

Jesus brings God glory (v. 11)

 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

– Philippians 2:3-

Questions for Today:

  • What surprised me or stood out to me about these attributes of Jesus?
  • Why do you think Jesus chose to come as a servant instead of a regal King?
  • How can I imitate Jesus’ humility in the way that I think… talk… and live?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my walk with Him?

Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 8 (*Earlier post…Not a part of Matthew book study)

IMG_20140613_161453994
The gospel of Matthew is the first of four gospels in the Bible to record the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. Each one has its distinct style and point of view, as Matthew in particular emphasizes Jesus’ Jewish heritage. In doing so, Matthew wants His audience to know that Jesus is in fact the Son of David. A royal ancestor and the rightful Messiah. The coming King. The One everybody’s been waiting for. Since Matthew is situated as the first book of the New Testament, it perfectly positions this gospel as the link to the Old Testament… indicating that Jesus is indeed the link. The intermediary. The fulfillment of the law. The redeemer. The One who transcends the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. He is the covenant Himself. Matthew also implements many Old Testament passages within his gospel that prophecy about Jesus’ divinity and Lordship. This establishes His presence in the Old Testament as the One who the world had always anticipated, while cementing the fact that He is the only One who can fulfill the prophecies and save the world from sin. He alone. And as we get to know Jesus in Matthew, we see Him as the facilitator of our faith. The promised one. The King of the ages. The One who was, and is, and is to come.

Summary: Matthew 8

Jesus is followed by large crowds while descending a mountain/hill in the Galilee region where He preached the famous sermon on the mount in chapters 5-7; Jesus heals a man with a serious skin disease; Jesus enters Capernaum and heals the servant of a centurion after the centurion begs Jesus to heal Him; Jesus recognizes and praises the centurion’s faith; Jesus prophecies saying that many like this centurion (gentiles) will soon come to enter the Kingdom of God as more sons of the Kingdom (Israelites/Jews) are denied entrance – signifying Christ’s invitation to all people, without preference to Jew or Gentile, which is made possible by His death and resurrection that is recorded later in the book of Matthew; Jesus goes to Peter’s house ; Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and then she begins to serve Him; Jesus also heals many demon-possessed people and sick people that are brought to Him while at Peter’s house; Jesus and His disciples decide to travel to the other side of the sea (Sea of Galilee); Jesus addresses what it means to follow Him; Jesus and His disciples get into the boat just as a storm is coming; Jesus falls asleep; the disciples wake Jesus and tell Him that they are going to die from the waves and storm; Jesus rebukes the winds and waves, and calms the storm; Jesus points out to His disciples that they lacked faith; the disciples are amazed at His ability to make the storm stop; they reach the other side of the sea in the region of the Gadarenes; two demon-possessed men come out of tombs to meet them and Jesus rebukes them and sends the demons into pigs, who go over a bank into the sea; the townspeople are angered about the loss of the pigs.

You can also read Matthew chapter 8 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+8&version=ESV

Jesus in Matthew 8

Jesus is a leader (verse 1)

Jesus embraces followers (v. 1)

Jesus is approachable (v. 2)

Jesus reaches out to those who ask Him for help (v. 3)

Jesus makes us clean (v. 3)

Jesus is always willing to heal (v. 3)

Jesus cares more about his ministry than publicity (v. 4)

Jesus is available to people in need (v. 5-6)

Jesus prioritizes healing people (v. 7)

Jesus’ power and glory is evident to anyone who comes into His presence (v. 8)

Jesus loves to see faith demonstrated (v. 10)

Jesus prophecies about the future kingdom (v. 11-12)

Jesus acts according to a person’s faith (v. 13)

Jesus recognizes others’ pain (v. 14)

Jesus wants to heal (v. 15)

Jesus responds when we bring others to meet Him (v. 16-17)

Jesus fulfills prophecies (v. 17)

Jesus challenges us to follow Him whole-heartedly (v. 19-22)

Jesus draws those who want to follow Him (v. 23)

Jesus is never shaken (v. 24)

Jesus is the One we go to for help (v. 25)

Jesus wants us to have more faith (v. 26)

Jesus calms the storm (v. 26)

Jesus calms fears (v. 26)

Jesus has all authority on earth (v. 26-27)

Jesus amazes with His power and authority (v. 27)

Jesus meets those who others are afraid to interact with (v. 28)

Jesus is immediately recognized as the Son of God by demons (v. 29)

Jesus does whatever it takes to heal people (v. 30-32)

Jesus draws critics from those who care more about their own provisions than others’ healing (v. 34)

Jesus illuminates the contents of people’s hearts (v. 34)

“Then a leper appeared and went to His knees before Jesus, praying, “Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.”  Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone.” – Matthew 8:2-3 – (The Message)

Questions for Today:

  • What stood out to me about Jesus in Matthew 8?
  • How does the recurring theme of Jesus as a healer speak to my current situation?
  • How can these attributes of Jesus help me to trust Him more? And have more faith?
  • What can I do to be more like Him?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my walk with Him?

Overcoming Discouragement

pics bog-page-0

Have you ever had one of those days where the smallest thing sets you off? One of those days where everything has gone right until that one moment… and it’s as if reality is crumbling before your eyes. All because of one bad move. One bad conversation. One bad decision. One bad thought. And you plunge into the downward spiral of discouragement. I definitely have. On the brink of making one of the biggest decisions I’ve made in a while, I find myself wrestling with the “am I making the right choice?” syndrome. Am I moving to the right school? Will I be okay on my own? Am I going to be in debt forever? Am I really making a difference? And then I find myself ashamed about even having these questions. I tell myself I need to trust God more. Stop worrying. Stop over-thinking. Stop planning. Just stop. But it’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard to stop worrying over the things that we worry about in life. We’re wired to be problem-solvers, planners, thinkers, builders, helpers…and when circumstances keep up from doing those things effectively, it is easy to panic and feel inadequate. We become swallowed up in discouragement.

Discouragement is one of the top rivals of our joy. It weakens us. Wounds us. And will kill us… if we don’t find a way to escape it. Discouragement does whatever it can to distort our perspective so that we focus on our situation more than on the One who has power over our situation. I know that when all I do is think about the stress of my current situation, I am stripped of my ability to think the way God thinks. It blinds me to His promises and deafens me to His voice.

I have found in my own life that I get the most discouraged when I am “doing more.” It sounds ironic, but anytime that I work harder to plan something, fix something, write something, or accomplish something I get more and more discouraged the more invested I become. I feel like I’m not doing enough to complete the task or that everything I’m working so hard for will be for nothing.

But it’s teaching me a valuable lesson. That this feeling of inadequacy is a gift. That’s right. A gift.

I never realized that before, but God is teaching me through my discouragements, my inadequacy is the perfect ingredient for His sufficiency. When I come to Him empty-handed and exhausted, He is more able to fill me with His fullness and strength. And I am much more able to accomplish what I had set out to do. My mind is clear. My emotions are less fluctuating. My perspective is shifted. And I realize that I was never meant to do all this on my own. The discouragement starts to melt away.

I think it’s important that we reach the destination of inadequacy, because without that raw, uncomfortable feeling, we may never realize just how much we need Him. And that we can do nothing apart from Him.

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” When we desire to abide in Him the way it talks about in this verse, discouragement doesn’t stand a chance. Why? Because we are connected to the life-source. We have access to the One who can take the ashes and turn them into beauty…pain and turn it into purpose…discouragement and turn it into hope. It doesn’t matter what we face, God has the ability sustain us.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In Psalm 55:22 the psalmist writes, “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.” And 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Jesus is waiting for us to come to Him so that we can receive the peace and rest that He graciously provides. It is up to us to respond.

When we absorb this truth of the Word, we realize that we really have no reason to be discouraged! We have God on our side, relieving us of the pressure that accompanies obligations of life. But we have to be intentional about savoring this truth to memory. We have to train our minds to recollect God’s promises. So that when the next wave of discouragement comes, we know where to turn and we can escape the gravitational pull of self-pity. Instead, we turn to the truth of God reminding us…

We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)

We have a purpose and a plan (Jeremiah 29:11)

He is our refuge (Deuteronomy 33:27)

He will never forget us (Isaiah 49:15)

We are His children (1 John 3:1)

We are loved (John 3:16)

We are overcomers (John 15:33)

He sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17)

We have been redeemed (Isaiah 43:1)

We have the Spirit of God within us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

There is nothing we can do to be separated from Him (John 10:28)

The promises of God enable us to widen our perspective and see that God holds our situation in His hands. We are never alone. Never abandoned. This isn’t to say that we will never again be discouraged. Life happens and situations can grab our attention so swiftly that it can be easy to react naturally with discouragement. But maybe, we can start to let God’s truth shape the way we think so that our vulnerability to discouragement might be less-prone than it normally would be. Maybe we can get the upper hand on discouragement.

With minds set on the truth of Christ, we can choose to fight for these promises every day of our lives and take hold of that which have attained in Christ, as 1 Timothy 6:12 says. Then we might find hope to lift us out of our overwhelming situations of discouragement, knowing that it’s okay to have questions and it’s okay to not have it all together. We know the One who is… and that’s all that matters. With Him, there is nothing we cannot overcome.

“Fear not for I am with you; don’t be discouraged, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10-

 

Questions for Today:

  • Is there anything I am discouraged about?
  • What promise of God can help me to have hope in the midst of that?
  • What can I do to surrender my discouragements to God?
  • What next step do I need to take in my relationship with Jesus?

“The Rock Won’t Move” by Vertical Church Band

Getting to Know Jesus: Hebrews 1

IMG_20140605_184828168

Hebrews remains a significant book of the Bible. Given the title, it is addressed to Hebrews, or Jews, who struggle with the tension between Jewish tradition and faith in Christ. But Hebrews is relevant to all because it points out that the “old way” of doing things is never enough. Not the “old law.” Not “old good deeds.” Not “old knowledge.” Not “old religion.” We can never do… be…  think… or learn… enough in order to be saved by God. There must be some kind of transaction to take place to atone for sin. And we all have sin. Hebrews makes a declaration based upon what Jesus has accomplished through His death and resurrection. That Jesus is enough. He is the transaction. Simple as that. There is no longer any need to measure up to the former law of Moses, since the whole point of the law was to make atonement for sins and bridge the gap between humans and God. Now that Jesus has already done that by dying for our sins, there is permanent, eternal salvation for all who profess His name. He is the law fulfilled. He is the everlasting covenant.  And as we get to know Jesus by reading in Hebrews opening chapter, we understand just who Jesus is as God almighty. The beginning. The Author. The Sustainer.

Summary: Hebrews 1

The author introduces Jesus as being the spokesman of God in the present time, and that in the former times God spoke through prophets; the author continues to elaborate regarding Jesus’ nature and role as the Son of God; and then the author quotes scriptures and talks about how God the Father speaks about Jesus.

You can also read Hebrews 1 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hebrews+1&version=ESV

 

Jesus in Hebrews 1:1-14

  • Jesus is God speaking to us (verse 2)
  • Jesus is heir to all things (v. 2)
  • Jesus made the universe (v. 2)
  • Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (v. 3)
  • Jesus is the exact expression of God’s nature (v. 3)
  • Jesus sustains all things by His powerful word (v. 3)
  • Jesus purified our sins (v. 3)
  • Jesus is at the right hand of God (v. 3)
  • Jesus is higher than the angels (v. 4)
  • Jesus’ name is superior (v. 4)
  • Jesus is God’s Son (v. 5-6)
  • Jesus will be worshiped by the angels (v. 6)
  • Jesus has authority over everything, including the angels (v. 7)
  • Jesus is declared God by God the Father (v. 8)
  • Jesus’ throne reigns forever (v. 8)
  • Jesus kingdom rules by the scepter of justice (v. 8)
  • Jesus loves righteousness (v. 9)
  • Jesus hates unrighteousness (v. 9)
  • Jesus is anointed as God by God the Father (v. 9)
  • Jesus is anointed with the oil of joy (v. 9)
  • Jesus established the earth (v. 10)
  • Jesus created the heavens by the work of His hands (v. 10)
  • Jesus remains forever (v. 11)
  • Jesus will roll up the heavens and the earth (v. 12)
  • Jesus always stays the same (v. 12)
  • Jesus’ years will never end (v. 12)
  • Jesus is sovereign over all (v. 13)

 

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” -Hebrews 1:3-

 

Questions for Today:

  • How does God speaking about Jesus as God emphasize the trinity?
  • How does this shape the way I view God?
  • What aspect of Jesus stood out to me?
  • What can I do to be more like Jesus?
  • How can I talk about Him with others?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him?