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Posted by on Aug 13, 2013 in Inspirational | 0 comments

Focus on Simple Obedience

Previously, I told a story about stressing out trying to add to a caulk job my father had already finished. I put a lot of effort into the job, but I didn’t realize I was only adding gobs of mess to an already perfect work. That’s how many of us approach the idea of righteousness (right standing before God). We’re busying ourselves trying to do good works, but the Bible is clear that Jesus has already finished the work for us. We can’t make ourselves any more righteous by our own good works. We can’t get any more saved than we already are as believers in Jesus. In fact, our fleshly efforts only mess up the perfect work of Jesus.

What is a believer supposed to do, then? Are we just supposed to sit around and do no good works? Should we go around sinning, knowing that grace will abound even more? Of course not! Our role becomes one of simple obedience. It’s not stressing out trying to follow a legalistic set of rules. It’s being led by God’s Spirit, day by day.

What is Simple Obedience?

One time Jesus asked a group of pharisees if it was right to good or evil on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a picture of the age we live in today as believers, an age where we can rest from the works of our flesh and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The only remaining question is what to do in that place of rest, the same question Jesus asked the pharisees: Should we use our place of rest to do good or evil? To me, that question is a picture of simple obedience. “God, what would be GOOD for me to do today?” “How can I best show Your love to the people around me today?” The answer to these questions is the opportunity to simply obey God’s Spirit.

Paul tells us not to use our new freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Simple obedience is all about prayerfully approaching each day looking for the opportunities God is placing in our path to love others. We’re free from adherence to the Law…free to follow God’s voice in loving others! [TWEET THIS]

How does this Help with Stress?

Here’s the awesome thing. Simple obedience is not stressful! Sure, we’ll be stretched. Sure, we’ll be uncomfortable. The Apostles commitment to simple obedience led them to many uncomfortable situations. But, we never carry the burden alone. We’re empowered by God’s Spirit and He shares the burden with us. You can imagine two bulls yoked together, but one is much stronger than the other. As long as the weaker bull stays in step with the stronger bull, he is never carrying much weight, no matter how much weight is piled on. That’s what walking in simple obedience to Jesus is like. Jesus says:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

What does walking in simple obedience look like for you?

More thoughts on Stress:

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Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in Inspirational, Leadership | 2 comments

Keys to Avoid Moral Failure

Keys to Avoid Moral Failure

There’s nothing that troubles my heart more than watching a spiritual leader morally collapse.  It brings such a wide-range of emotions.  I feel for the people who looked up to the leader.  I feel for the community that was supposed to be reached by those people.  I feel for the leader, their family, their calling.  I feel for myself.  ‘If it could happen to him, what about me?’  I get sad.  I get angry.  I feel loss.  But then, I quickly develop a sense of resolve.  ‘This doesn’t have to happen.’

Leaders don’t just spontaneously-combust.  That’s just how it looks the moment we hear about it.  The truth is that the seeds of that public failure were quietly sown long before they produced public fruit.  Those seeds were nurtured in an environment that allowed them to grow undetected.  Then, at the opportune moment (for our enemy), the disgusting fruit produced after the very kind of disgusting seed it came from.  Had the seed only been identified and destroyed, we would still be benefiting from all the good things these leaders have to offer.

What about you and me?  Will we identify the seeds of corruption in our own lives before they take root and destroy our lives?  No one else can do it for you.  Most people will never even know your secret battles unless some public fruit is displayed.  So, here are some tips to take with you into your personal struggle with evil.  By the way, if you want to win that battle, YOU WILL.  So don’t worry about it.  Just commit to smash those nasty seeds and cultivate the good seeds that Jesus has already sown into you!

Keys to Avoid Moral Failure (Click to Tweet)

1.) Make it Personal.  It’s easy to exist in a community – even a Christian community – without ever personally engaging with God.  It is totally awesome to go to church every week and to attend prayer meetings and small groups.  Do that and also spend alone time with God.  I’ve found it’s possible to put on a great show in front of other people even when you’re silently slipping away on the inside.  If you’re always with others, you may even convince yourself that everything is fine.  I’ve also found that it is impossible to seek out one on one time with God and not immediately be confronted with your true state.  Don’t be afraid of that.  That confrontation is the beginning of setting everything back on course.

2.) Honor the Word.  I’ve noticed that I don’t hear my kids anymore.  Years ago I started tuning out all their play noises so I could focus on other things.  As a result, I occasionally don’t even notice when one of my kids is standing right in front of me asking for something.  Terrible, right?   Consider how we do that with God’s Word.  The more we get used to hearing the Word and not acting, the less sensitive we become to it.  Eventually, the very tool He gave us to help us grow toward Him is useless to us.  Honor the Word and He will always be able to speak to you through it.

3.) Have Quality Conversations.  Genuine relationships with other people are a powerful tool for staying on track.  The problem is most of us don’t take advantage of those relationships.  We prefer to keep conversation surface-level and about others.  What if you found one person this week and created a quality conversation, one where you talk about what God has speaking to you about in the Word and in your time with Him? Going public with what God is challenging you with is a powerful tool.  Don’t waste your relationships on gossip and pop culture.  Mix in some quality.

4.) Be Under Authority.  Each of us need someone looking out for us that we’re accountable to.  Lone-rangering is a recipe for moral compromise.  Justifying your actions, behaviors, whereabouts and words to someone else may seem like extra work, but it’s worth it.  Just the process will help you avoid traps and self-deception.

5.) Focus.  With everything else covered, all that’s really left is to focus on doing what God has called you to do.  That won’t leave you with much time for any nonsense.  Assuming you’re putting to practice these other keys, simply being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there will keep you on track most of the time.

What about you?  What keys have you found for avoiding moral failure?

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Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 in Inspirational | 2 comments

Don’t STOP Sinning!

Don’t STOP Sinning!

Sin (of all kinds) is terrible.  Sin hurts other people…and ourselves.  Maybe you’ve been trying to quit in some area but haven’t had much success.  I have advice for you.  Don’t stop sinning…start living better!

Sin starts with a thought.  The thought is called temptation.  Some psychologists have said that tempting thoughts only stay with us for 5-7 minutes at a time.  Avoiding sin would mean not allowing those thoughts to move you toward sinful behavior.

But, have you ever tried to stop thinking about something?  It’s basically impossible.  The more you think about not thinking about something, the more you think about it!  The trick is to replace thoughts in your mind with better thoughts that lead to better actions.

Here are some tips:

1.) Be Prepared – Vision: You don’t have tempting thoughts ALL of the time.  Use time away from the battle to prepare your mind.  Develop a vision for your life without sin.  For instance, if you’re regularly tempted to look at pornography you might think about the relationships you value that would be hurt by that decision, or the ministry opportunities that would be limited by that decision.  Why do you care about those relationships/opportunities?  What do you want them to be like?  Write down those things so you have them with you the next time a tempting thought comes along.

2.) Be Prepared – Ammunition: You’ll also want some ammunition to counter the tempting thoughts when they come.  The Bible is full of the ammunition you need. The key here is to be able to assert your identity as a child of God when you’re tempted to believe otherwise.  My favorite verse for this is Romans 3:21-22, which says that the righteousness of God through Jesus is a gift for all who believe.  I am the righteousness of God…not a sinner!

3.) Go to Battle: Here comes the tempting thought!  This time, rather than trying NOT to think it, bring out your vision and your ammunition.  You’ve got 5-7 mins of material, so put it to work.  Visualize the relational and ministry accomplishments that are in your heart.  Speak out loud and meditate on your Scriptural identity.  This process is actually training your mind.  Before long you won’t just be NOT sinning, you’ll be living for something better!

4.) Drop Shame: Shame is that feeling like something is wrong with you.  Let me set the record straight.  Nothing is wrong with you just because you have tempting thoughts.  The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way.  When you’re being tempted, you’re being like Jesus.  Don’t choose to believe that you have a problem because you keep feeling tempted to sin.  Rather, focus on your righteous identity from tip #2.

5.) Make a call: I’ve got a guy in my life that I can call at any hour.  If I’m losing the tempting thoughts battle, he’s told me to call him up so he can help talk through a better vision and who I really am.  Honestly, sometimes just the thought of calling him is all I need to help me win.  I bet you have a friend like this in your life.  Go ahead and get permission so you know they will be there for you when you need them.

“Throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception.  Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.  You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy and true” Ephesians 4:22-24

Let’s hear from you: What has worked for you to overcome tempting thoughts?

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