Category Archives: Religiosity

Tool Kit

God does not leave us empty handed to fight battles against sin, evil spirits and darkness.

No, God gives us tools.

But if you don’t us those tools, you will lose battles that really should be won. In reality, the hard work has been done. After all, Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” And Jesus meant what He said.

So if you have just experienced a breakthrough or victory in your life, don’t be surprised if sin, temptation, lies and demonic influences come back. But if you use the tools in your tool kit, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The Bible says, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

So, what you waiting for? Open up that tool kit and get busy…

Here are the tools that Jesus has given His Church …

1.)    Listening prayer – By quieting the noise around us and taking authority over the influences in our lives, we can position ourselves to hear from God. Too often our prayers focus on talking and don’t involve enough listening. If you listen for the “voice” of God, He will reveal His will as well as His love and affirmation. The Holy Spirit will identify areas you need to surrender, things you need to repent of and actions steps you should take in faith.

2.)    Confession and repentance – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Lord also helps us repent by His power. Repentance is sweet although too many people think of it as something to be avoided or feared. Repentance frees us from the power of sin and gives us hope to be different.

3.)    Surrender – By letting go of the things that hold us back, we can be free to become who God always intended us to be. Surrender helps us come to the point where we rely on the power of Jesus to change our heart. It is the launch pad where we ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us to develop godly character and values. Surrender is the path to success in the kingdom of God because it recognizes our weakness and taps into God’s strength.

4.)    Break Agreement with Foundational Lies – You are not your sin. You are not the sum of your thoughts. Actually, many of the thoughts that pop into your head don’t reveal your real mind about a situation or person. This thought doesn’t become yours until you accept it as truth and make it part of your worldview. If you make agreement with a
lie, you look at yourself, God and the world in a skewed way
. Many times we make agreements with lies about our identity, which robs us of the dignity that God has given us. We are beautiful and beloved in God’s sight. What lie have you believed about yourself? Break your agreement with that lie, deny it and speak the truth over your life. This is more than just the power of positive thinking. It is the power of having a Christ-like mind.

5.)    Forgive Again – When we forgive others, we set ourselves free and provide the potential for future reconciliation with that person. By holding a grudge, we sit in judgment on the other person. Even if they have wronged us, there is power in forgiving that person in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we trust them or allow somebody to hurt us. But it does cancel the debt and allows us to view the person without having the feeling that we are owed something. Jesus told His followers to make a habit of forgiveness because the measure to which we forgive impacts the freedom of our heart to receive God’s forgiveness.

6.)    Life Together – You are not in this battle alone. God has positioned people around you to help. While we should first rely on God to be our source of strength, there is nothing wrong with calling in some reinforcements. Sometimes we need other peoples to listen to us, give a shoulder to cry on, provide advice, serve a need or pick us up when we are down. You may need to reach out to other believers because your need may not be obvious to others. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength not weakness.

7.)    Worship – The best kind of worship comes when we are facing a trial or recently experienced a loss. We could give up or curse God. But instead, we worship Him in song or prayer. That is the revelation of a heart that truly values and glorifies God above everything else. Worship causes our hearts to soar and helps build faith. It also positions us to receive from God and stand firm despite opposition. It fills our love tank and honors God. This mindset realizes that we praise God because He is worthy. We shouldn’t praise God just for all the things He had done to bless us. Even if all the blessings from God evaporate, we should still worship God alone. Worship will calibrate your life to focus on God and others.

8.)    Serve – It is hard to be down about your problems when you are helping other people with whatever hardships they face. Instead of looking inward, we can find strength, purpose and stress relief when we reach out to help others in the name of Jesus. May you find somebody who is worse off and bless them. That will keep you busy and help you avoid the trap that can come when boredom leads to sin.

9.)    Develop Spiritual Gifts – Rely on supernatural gifts to help you battle evil spirits and darkness. This requires believers to request gifts from the Holy Spirit and step out in faith to activate them as prompted by God. These gifts are to be grounded in love and should be used to glorify and bless the Church.

10.)                        Practice Generous Assumptions/Speak Words of Life – Your words can land you into trouble or liberate your situation. Speaking kindness to somebody who is angry can soften their wrath. It can position their hearts to forgive and seek reconciliation. Also, if we assume the worse, we tend to get bad outcomes. The reverse happens if we think good thoughts and practice generous assumptions about others. This calls us to look for the good and hope for the best. But thinking the worst drives you to look to be offended and ignores the good things about a person or situation. This attitude blocks hope and sows seeds of further disharmony.

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What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.

Tired/Weary – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 6

John 4:6 (ESV)
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Prayer
Jesus, You know what it is like to be exhausted from a long journey. Far from easy, Your life consisted of many endless trials, challenges and homeless nights. Walk, walk, walk – Your constant travels kept You on the move. Even though You are God, You were also human. Jesus, Your body was just as limited by physical exhaustion as the next person. You can relate with my fatigue after a busy day at work or school. You know what it is like to fall asleep from exhaustion or desire nothing more than to take a nap.

I am comforted by the fact that You can relate with my limitations. Yet, You show that it is possible to live a righteous life if each step is kept in tune with the Holy Spirit. Overcome by life, help me Lord. I am tired. May I seek a drink from the well that contains Your Living Water. May I be refreshed in the middle of the noon-day sun. May I seek rest under the shade of Your love.

Cause me to rest and enter Your best. For when I am spent, You can sustain me. As I come to the end of myself, I discover there is plenty of strength in You. Amen!

Grieved God’s Heart – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 4

Mark 3:5 (NKJV)
And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Prayer
Jesus, What grieves Your heart? Is it not those who hide behind religious rules and miss the heart of the matter in the process? Is it blind guides who lead others astray? Is it not the Pharisee who thinks he is righteous before God even though he is just as much a sinner as the next person?

May I stretch out my hand in faith to be healed. May I confront those who seek to wrongly accuse You. Help me to know how to live by Your law and the Spirit. Free me from thinking too highly of myself and questioning You.

Lord, You are the maker of each new day. Teach Your people to honor the Sabbath by doing acts of justice, not turning a blind eye to those in need. Help me to see as You see and respond as You would in love. May I not fear those blind guides who follow dead religion. May I be free to live in step with the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Consumed by Zeal for God’s House — Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 3

John 2:15-17 (ESV)
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Prayer
Jesus, You boldly confronted the religious systems of Your day. Consumed with passion for Your Father’s house, You overturned tables and called for pure worship. This was not a passive enthusiasm that only desired for God’s best and failed to act. No, you acted in earnest. You took time to deliberately prepare to purge those things that were not as they should be. You made a whip to overturn the exploitation and abuse of Your holy temple. May I have the same zeal for things that consume Your heart. May I see religiosity for the dead end it is.

Help me to see past the man-made systems and religious facades that deny Your true power. May my zeal be directed by the Holy Spirit. Beyond mere enthusiasm, may I be zealous for the things that matter most. May my heart beat as one with Yours. May I see clearly enough to allow You to turnover the tables that don’t belong in my life. Amen!

What Do You Want?

A number of times somebody approached Jesus and He instinctively asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is an incredible question because He who asked it could truly answer it. Jesus once declared that all power in heaven and earth was given Him. Better than a genie in a bottle, Jesus could actually answer incredible requests.

Some people asked for miracles or healings. Others wanted to follow Him and see where He lived. Still others asked for position and blessing in God’s kingdom. Have you ever stopped to think what you would say if Jesus turned to you and asked, “What do you want for me to do for you?”

This is a very loaded question. It reveals a lot about what we believe about God. It opens our heart motives and inner longings. It shows what we value and how we are open for God to move in our lives. Even the degree that we take the question seriously, reveals something. Do you think God would ever ask you what you want for Him to do in your life?

As I think through this question, I am disturbed by my potential requests. I could list so many things. But these all seem so petty compared to the response, “I want whatever you want.”

Oh, how I wish this was my request. But so often, I want so much more than just what God wants. Actually, my problem is that I want less than His best. There is no such thing as more than what God wants because my more is actually less.

I am wrestling with this question… What really does God’s best look like for my life?

Beyond Talk, Forget Excuses

Jesus sometimes spoke very strong words to His followers and those who expressed a desire to follow Him. From calling people to be perfect to saying that the crowd should eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus knew how to challenge everyone outside of their comfort zone. He harshly rebuked Simon Peter on a number of occasions. Jesus continually pushed the disciples to new places of faith and self abandonment.

Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow Him, a concept that would have seemed more repulsive during the first century than it does today. When one man asked for time to bury his father, Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Jesus called those who followed Him to put everything else below their devotion to God. There are no excuses or reasons to shy away from God’s call. Either you are in, or you are not. There is no middle ground. That is where the double minded live, and they are unstable in all that they do.

Why did Jesus seem to set the bar so high? I think Jesus did this because He knew our human tendency to look for ways to get out of what we know we should do. The truth is that we do what we want to do. We have all the time we need to do what matters most. But all too often, we say something is really important and ignore it. We have lied to ourselves. And until we realize that, we just won’t change.

Anyone who is a Christian should hear the call to abandon all and trust God with everything. This requires us to go beyond talk and good intentions. We have to act in faith and divine empowerment as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Check out this related devotion at http://utmost.org/the-go-of-renunciation/