Archive | June 2011

Disputable Matters

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Romans 14:1

Disputable matters are differences of opinion over what is acceptable to God and not acceptable to God. These are really gray areas that we are tempted to use as a club of conviction on another believer in Christ. The purpose of disputable matters is not to get us worked up over another’s perceived “sin.” So relax. The purpose of disputable matters is to trust God with His judgment over the issue and to accept the person with whom there are conflicting standards.

Satan would rather us “major on the minors” and miss the significance of people dying without Christ in their hearts and food in their stomachs. The enemy’s goal is to suck us into the sideways energy of debating issues that pale in importance over exercising patience, joy and generosity. In the big scheme of things, what is really important to God? That’s where He invites us to put our focus and passion.

You may be a better debater and a more mature Christian. You can quote Scripture with the best of them and make a very compelling argument for your point. But, if you alienate and crush your weaker brother (not your opponent), what has really been gained? Do not use your liberty as leverage to look down on another. Nor are you allowed to use your legalistic standards to hold others hostage on behalf of your behavior.

We are all on a pilgrimage of understanding and maturity. Rather, accept one another and trust God with any judgment that may need to occur. To usurp His authority is to play God. This is not a fun game to play, and someone eventually gets hurt. The mature one in the faith knows better. The initiative to reach out and accept starts with the mature. Ask God for wisdom and grace to coach another when asked, and to mentor by your life’s example.

Your life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit is the best teacher and exhibit of Jesus. When disputable matters arise, keep the focus on Christ. What would Jesus do? How would Jesus act? You can’t improve on Jesus. He hung out with sinners. He turned water into wine. He accepted and forgave prostitutes, adulterers and dishonest businessmen. He abhorred religious pride and hypocrisy. Those with teachable hearts He loaded down with truth. To those with un-teachable hearts He told stories.

Therefore, for Jesus’ sake, replace a condescending attitude toward the weak in faith with one of compassion. Be challenged and convicted by their zeal to obey God. On the contrary, you may struggle with seeing others taking too much license with the grace of God. Do not let your disagreement with their behavior keep you from learning from them. Ask God to grow you and change you in areas where you may be too inflexible or unrealistic. It is OK, even preferred, for you to fear God and love God at the same time.

Moreover, disputable matters need not drive us apart, but they can bring us together. If we were both the same, then one of us would be unnecessary. Allow Christ to keep your motive clean. Do all things for the benefit of another, placing their well-being before yours. You can be right in the letter of the law and lose the spirit of your influence. Or, you can accept, not judge, and not only keep a friend but extend your influence. Let your gracious attitude override the temptation to drive home a point. The Holy Spirit will work way beyond your capabilities. Disputable matters can become a catalyst for Christ-likeness with all of us!

Taken from Dose 56 in the 90-day devotional book Infusion.

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Worry Is Wearisome

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25

 

Worry is wearisome. It is fatigue to our emotions like physical pain is to our bodies. Worry can trigger stomachaches, high blood pressure, headaches, anxiety disorders and depression. It is an enemy to executing a joy filled and productive life. Worry can so weigh you down that you are immobilized for lack of energy and because of fear.

Your family tree may have borne the fruit of worry over generations, but you can purge out obsession with negative thinking through trust in the Lord. Jesus’ teaching is very clear, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).

Exercised trust energizes the weary.??Your personality may lend itself to worry. You can see it in your furrowed brow, or in your brooding countenance. You worry about the economy and its effect on your retirement. You wring your hands over the war and wonder when it will ever end. You are stressed out over work, because of situations and people you are unable to change. Anxiety may have paralyzed you as a parent, because you don’t feel qualified to carry out your responsibilities.

Alcohol has become your outlet for those things that you cannot control, but the gnawing fear is still there the next day. One simple solution is to make a two-column prayer list with the headings ‘Things I can’t change’ and ‘Things I can change’. Ask God for faith and patience with the former and wisdom and courage to act on the later. Prayer is your time-tested prescription for worry:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Furthermore, look for those who long to be encouraged, who feel trapped by the anxieties of life (Luke 21:34). They need the truth of God’s word, because the cares of this world try to marginalize the truth. Truth can be forgotten in the fearful suffering of severe trials. Your kind words remind them of Christ’s care and concern for their health, their family and their faith.

Lift yourself and others out of the downward spiral of depression by cheering them up with truth. Read the Bible out loud with a friend and meditate on its promises that are filled with hope and encouragement. Use uncertainty as a reason not to worry, but rest in the Lord. You are freed up when you don’t fret, but apply faith instead. Above all else, His word wins over worry and gives strength for your faith journey!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

What promise from the Lord can I rest in and trust to overcome my chronic worry?

Related Readings: Luke 1:37; 5:1; 11:28; Acts 13:7; Ephesians 6:17

What You Can Learn from Pain

Author Michelle McKinney Hammond shares how to get past disappointment by listening to your pain

I recall being so in love with a man once I could hardly stand it. The trouble was that he wasn’t in love with me. I played games with him and me. Every bit of attention he gave me, no matter how small, I took as a sign that he had feelings for me. My friends tried to rein in my attitude and behavior as they gently told me the truth, but to no avail. I didn’t want to hear it. I refused to hear it. I wanted what I wanted.

Yes, he thought I was nice, but he didn’t love me. He didn’t want me that way. I couldn’t receive or accept this. As time went by and waiting for him to realize what I already believed went past my heart’s deadline, the pain finally forced me to confront him. “Are you ever going to marry me?” I asked. Without blinking or hesitating, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “No, Michelle. I am never going to marry you.”

My entire world crumpled before my eyes. The pain was excruciating. I wanted to die. And yet, deep down inside, I had already known the truth. I’d just refused to face it.

The truth can hurt. It can cut deep, slicing our strength into shreds and threatening to chop our hearts into little bits. Even though we might not realize it, this is when we are able to really breathe. Even if we don’t like the truth, it still will set us free…free to move on. Denial is bondage. We can’t move forward if we’re stuck in “where we wish we were.” We need to acknowledge fully where we are and then move past it. Accept the pain as the attention getter it is. Let it burn going down, removing anything that impairs our vision from seeing the situation as God sees it. Although it hurts, it’s a “good” hurt because it is helping us grow and embrace change.

Pain is best treated as a friend. I remind myself of this often. God gave us the ability to feel pain because it lets us know there’s a problem, and it forces us to deal with what is wrong or what we’ve buried, overlooked, or refused to surrender to God. When we stop and listen to the hurt, we uncover secrets our deceptive hearts may have believed or perpetrated. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else.”

God stands patiently, waiting for us to open our hands to show Him our hearts so He can do what He does best—pour on the oil of love and forgiveness and heal us. So often He says, “Give me your pain,” and we reply, “What pain? I don’t have any pain.” Our denial keeps us slaves to the very thing we want to be rescued from. We don’t want to go there because change might be required. You see, admission or exposure of the truth bears great responsibility.

“What are you going to do about it?” That’s the next question I don’t like to hear. I say, “I don’t like how this relationship is going.” And God says, “What are you going to do about it?” We want to check out the alternatives for getting the life, the love, the circumstances we want before giving up what we have. But the walk of faith doesn’t always expose those options until we face the truth and surrender to the will of God.
Sometimes God simply says, “I know the plans I have for you.”

And we say, “What plans might those be exactly? I’d like to know if it’s going to be better than what I’ve been clinging to. Even though I don’t like it, at least I know what it is.”
And God says, “I have plans for you—for good and not for evil.”

And we reply, “Well, that’s just too vague, God. Can you be more specific?”

And the conversation continues until our pain forces us to scream the truth: “My choices and decisions aren’t working!” There we’ve finally said it. When we turn to God and open our tear-stained hands and say, “God, look at the mess I’ve made,” He gently extricates what we’re holding and makes it right. That’s all God wants. For us to be honest with Him and with ourselves. “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow’” (Isaiah 1:18). Just in case we are afraid of the work it’s going to take to fix our situation, God offers to do the hardest part for us. He cleanses us and then empowers and encourages us to cooperate with His restoration plan.

Acknowledging the truth about where we are and where we’d like to be is the beginning of the route to freedom. Acknowledging both of these illuminates the path to get to the other side of our situations. The truth is our guide, noting where we want to go, where we are now, and calculating the best route to arrive at our desired destinations. But it can’t do that without first knowing where we are. When we grow weary of our location personally, spiritually, financially, professionally, or emotionally, we can let our exhaustion give way to the truth instead of making excuses for staying where we are. Don’t wait until life stares you in the eyes and asks for what you don’t have. Take a deep breath, exhale, and talk to God today…right now. Tell Him the truth and ask for His help.
Reflections
What is the truth about your current situation?

Are you having difficulty embracing or confessing this truth?
What needs to happen so you will face the truth and do something different this time?

What coping strategies are no longer working for you?

What are you going to do about that?

Tight Places

“Tight Places” by Marybeth Whalen 

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with life and situations that you felt like you couldn’t breath, sleep peacefully, or enjoy any part of life?  Have you ever had so much on your “plate” that it was over flowing onto the floor and stealing your joy?  Well, God has never intended for us to feel or live that way.  He is reminding us through His scriptures that there is an escape, a ray of hope, breathing room — through HIM .  If we call upon the name of The Lord Jesus Christ, our cries are heard and answered; in God’s timing and ways. He is our source of Strength, Our Strong Tower, Our Refuge, Our Deliverer, Our Prince of Peace, Our Redeemer, Our Healer, Our Provider, He is and has EVERYTHING WE NEED!!!!!!
“Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 4:1 (NIV)

Though I looked okay on the outside, inside I was screaming and flailing about. I was stressed, anxious, worried and overwhelmed. I felt like something was pressing in on me, pushing me down emotionally and preventing me from escaping my situation. The more these feelings built up, the more I wanted to lash out, strike out, or push back against my burdens. Outside I looked fine; inside I was a mess.
 
Do you ever feel this way? Stress comes at all of us every day, in a thousand different ways. Kid stress, job stress, money stress, house stress, and medical stress, relationship stress — the list goes on and on. Try as we might, we can’t escape it in this broken world. We feel trapped and imprisoned by these things we cannot change, and they weigh heavily on us.

When I read our verse for today, I was struck by the explanation in my Bible for the word, “relief.” It literally means, “make room for me in tight places.” Wow. I can totally identify with that idea!

I know what it feels like to want someone to come along and make room for me in my tight places. To remove the boundaries and burdens which threaten to smother me with their nearness. My stress level mounts, my blood pumps in my ears, and my hope takes flight. Whether it is the little irritations in life like being trapped in a car with a screaming toddler, or the big burdens of wondering about the future of my husband’s job, I know those tight places all too intimately. We all do.

I love that Psalm 4:1 reminds us there is Someone who can come and offer relief. So many times, we try to make our own space in our tight places — handling things independently and attempting to solve problems without ever calling on the One who best knows how to make room for us.  God is faithful to give us emotional elbow room, easing our burdens and offering us His wisdom. He shows us mercy when we call on Him, hearing our prayers and rescuing us from tight places.
 

The next time you feel stressed, anxious, worried or overwhelmed, call out to God, and let Him find you in your tight place, making room where you thought there was none.
 

Dear Lord, thank You for being the God who is near. When my tight places press in on me, Your presence is what I need. Thank You for offering me relief no matter what my circumstances. Help me remember to call on You in my tight places. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Lamentations 3:55-57, “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’” (NIV)

True Love Marries

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.” John 2:1-2
 

 True love transitions from the thought of living together—to the commitment of living together forever in marriage. It is not a man-centered conditional love, but a Christ-centered unconditional love. There is fidelity of focus on their faith in God and their faith in each other. Couples with true love see marriage as a reflection of their relationship with Jesus.

Marriage is much more than a contract between couples; it is a covenant before the Almighty. It is a solemn agreement between two God-fearing souls that honors heaven with vows of commitment on earth. Marriage is sacred to your Savior Jesus, because it communicates His love through the most intimate love between a husband and a wife.

“As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

What’s holding you back from an unconditional commitment to marriage? Fear of it not working out—fear of losing control, freedom and finances—or is it a selfish motivation to have sex and some security without any long-term obligations? Marriage, modeled on your relationship with Christ, purifies motives and brings joy to Jesus and to your life.

Indeed, preparation is needed before you are pronounced husband and wife. Invite professionals with a Christian worldview to use diagnostic tools and assess each others needs based on spiritual maturity, personality, temperament, giftedness and upbringing. Pre-marital education is meant to equip you on how to best love and serve your intended.

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other… Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps” (Psalm 85:10, 13).

Above all else, prepare your heart for your future husband or your future wife. Give your heart first to the Lord and He will give heaven to your marriage. True love trusts God first and then trusts the one who has given themselves to Christ in holy commitment. Jesus blesses weddings that honor Him and that honor each other in unconditional love.
 
“What Jesus did here [at the wedding] in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”
(John 2:11).

How should we honor each other with a wedding and marriage that honors the Lord?

Related Readings: Jeremiah 29:6; Malachi 2:14; Luke 20:34; Hebrews 13:4

Failure Is Not Final

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Proverbs 24:16
 

 Failure is not final for the faithful—it is a stepping-stone to success. The sense of failure is an opportunity for faith to flourish and for pride to be humbled. An extreme letdown allows the Lord to lift up the down hearted and hold them close to comfort. Failure facilitates a crystal clear focus on God and His game plan. It is a bridge to blessing.
 
Have you failed to be a good provider? Communicate caringly? Follow through with your commitments? Find a job? Love well? Become a consistent Christian? If so, join the club of everyone that breathes. We all struggle from time to time with unholy habits that drag us down and try to keep us down. But, by God’s grace, we will stand up, firm in Him.
 
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today” (Exodus 14:13a).
 
A faith untested is only fragile and weak, but a faith forged out of failure is stable and strong. God’s goal is not for you to do away with discomfort and remove all remnants of risk. His heart is to have the heart of His children—for without their heart—He only employs their mind. Your set backs set you up for intimacy with your heavenly Father.
 
A challenging relationship or a botched business deal are opportunities to move your religion from sterile academics to an engaging relationship with your Creator. You can go through a religious routine and say the right words—but are you truly alive to the Lord? Use failure as a diving board into the deep waters of faith—connect with Christ’s care.
 
“The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8b).
 
Furthermore, avoid self-pity and a victim mindset when you fail to meet the expectations of the Lord and those who know you the best. Embrace your responsibilities; express godly sorrow and vow to learn from your humbling—even embarrassing experience. Perhaps you commit to a process of biblical counseling for your marriage or pre-marriage preparation. Overcoming adversity takes time, trust and tenacity—success invests in each.
 
“When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God”
(Proverbs 14:32).
 
From what failure do I need to recognize, repent, take responsibility and learn?
 
Related Readings: Proverbs 11:8; 28; Isaiah 45:8; Luke 18:9; 1 John 5:4

UNTIE THE ROPE!

 
Hey there guys, you good? :-)

So, I just finished filming a really good movie called GOOD DEEDS. It’s me like you’ve never seen me before. It comes out in February, brace yourself. :-)  There were a lot of long days on this shoot, so I wanted to take a break.  I decided to do some traveling and since I still have 20 more pounds to lose before I start my next movie, ALEX CROSS, I thought I would go to the Grand Canyon and do some hiking, climbing and so on.  At one point in the climbing, I was over a steep drop and was tied to a safety rope, while a buddy’s safety rope was tied to me. It was my responsibility to help him up, since I was bigger and weighed more.  I told him, “I’ll hold on to you to help you up but if you start to pull me over with you, I’m going to untie this rope.” We had a good laugh about it, but I was serious… :-)

I started thinking about that moment a few days ago. How many times are we tied to a person, people or things that are pulling us down and we won’t untie the rope?  For whatever reason, be it family, friends, society, or just the feeling of being obligated, trapped or that if you don’t, no one else will.  I have watched so many people go over a cliff with a person that they are trying to help up, it’s sad.  YOU MUST UNTIE THE ROPE!!!

This is your life and you are wasting it being tied to someone who is destroying his or her opportunities and yours. If the person that you are trying to help does not know that they are worth being saved, how do you expect them to put any value on you saving them? You’re not worth it to them.  They can’t get it! SO YOU NEED TO! Listen to me, untie the rope and don’t lose yourself trying to hold on to someone who can’t survive on your level. You hear me? Maybe they have gone as high as they can go.  Just because you can survive on that level doesn’t mean that everyone else can. Stop trying to help them, UNTIE THE ROPE! I know you may feel this is cruel, but what is more cruel is dying a death that’s not your own. Letting your destiny go to hell because someone else pulled you there. Are you kidding me? That isn’t God!

Here is what I have learned over the almost 20 years that I have been in this business. Let me tell you, I have seen and worked with some of the most talented people you can imagine and I used to wonder why they never got any higher than they are. You know, the kind of people who always seem to be at the door, but never can go in.  It used to blow my mind until I got a revelation from God.

For many years I was the same way, I would get close and things would fall apart. I couldn’t get any traction, not in my career, not in my personal life and not in the pursuit of happiness. I just couldn’t move forward. Through much prayer and self-discovery, I found out that I used to be, notice I said “USED TO BE,” a self-saboteur. I would find a way to subconsciously destroy every good thing that was in my life and I didn’t even know I was doing it. Most self-sabotaging people don’t know that they are doing it.  I don’t think there is anyone sadder than a person who blames everyone else, but themselves for their situation.   The very revelation that I was causing my own problems was one of the greatest blessings God could have allowed me to see. Once I realized the behavior, I was able to change it. That is why my life is in such a great place right now.  I realized that my very thoughts were keeping me from being successful at everything.  “So, as a man thinketh, so is he.”

Many times a lot of us sabotage subconsciously because of what mamma or daddy said, traumatic childhoods or any number of things that happened growing up that made us feel that we shouldn’t have or that we didn’t deserve it.  I’m here to tell you all, that misinformation was wrong. You do deserve it! You are worthy of it! For me, knowing that Jesus died and rose again makes me know we are all worthy.

Why am I saying this? I’m just tired of people being upset with people who have realized their dreams.  The only difference in someone who is living their dream and someone who can’t get it to come to pass is they don’t feel they deserve it. They don’t feel they are worthy of it.  So many of us have dreams, dreams that the world is waiting for, talents that will help heal and change nations, but we keep destroying our own successes. I know for a fact that if I had not figured this out, you wouldn’t be reading this email right now. Nor would I be a happy soul.

The world is waiting for your gift. Give it to yourself and you will give it to them, but first you have to UNTIE THE ROPE.

Tyler