Is there anything worth complaining about?

Is there anything worth complaining about? Not when we understand two words: substitution and forgiveness. This four minute video explains the benefits.

Scripture Memory: We believe it’s important but we rarely practice it

Chuck Swindoll refers to Scripture memory as the most under-used spiritual resource of today’s Christian. In my estimation from my years as a pastor, I would have to agree. I rarely meet Christians who are regularly memorizing God’s Word. That’s why I was so excited about what happened this morning.

For the last five weeks every Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM the Lord has graciously provided the opportunity for me to meet with 50-60 men doing what we call 12th Man Training.  For 20 minutes I teach, and then for 35 minutes the men gather around a table with 4-5 other men providing an opportunity for further discovery, accountability, application. The teaching time is then put to a YouTube channel for easy access for those whose work obligations cause them to miss occasionally. Each week the men receive one Life Application Question associated with the teaching that they are responsible for working on over the next 7 days. Last week’s lesson was on the importance of Scripture memory as a means of overcoming temptation. The Life Application Question was: Which of temptation’s lies do you most often fall to? Which passage will you memorize this week to combat the lie with truth? You can view that lesson here:

So today my heart was so encouraged when I asked the question, “Which of you are now regularly working at memorizing Scripture?” Nearly every hand went up. Then I asked a follow-up question: “Which of you would acknowledge that has not been the pattern of your past?” Again, nearly every hand went up. For a moment, it took my breath away – fifty men equipping themselves for daily spiritual battles through the memorization of the Word – something they had not been doing previously. Imagine the impact of that effort if it’s continued over the next year or two.

I believe that we remember Scripture best, when we learn the verses that will help us at our point of need. This provides instant application for the text to our temptation or struggle. That doesn’t mean we simply learn verses about our sins. Rather, we ought to memorize from both a defensive and offensive posture. To play good defense, we memorize verses in the lie/truth formula as this exposes temptation’s deception. To play good offense, we memorize verses about the character of God and the nature of the gospel as this weakens temptation’s appeal.

You can read more about how to do 12th Man Training with your men’s  group here: http://biblicalstrategies.com/5-steps-to-start-12th-man-training-with-your-mens-group.

The importance of framing your worldview

Slide1The landscape of our culture’s thought patterns is changing rapidly. You will struggle to grasp how significant those changes are unless you examine their foundations. The following slides will walk you through seven different worldviews that have left a significant impact on our society, and provide you with the Biblical response.
J.B. Phillips warned us:

Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but instead let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind (J.B. Phillips translation of Romans 12:2)

Now is the time to think carefully about what you believe (slides read from left to right).

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Next steps to change

(1) Set short-term goals – Are there short-term goals I need to accomplish this change?

(2) Pray specifically – What specific ways do I need to pray for change? With whom can I share these prayer requests?

(3) Search biblical resources – Are there other biblical resources that would help me change (i.e. books, media, websites, etc)?

(4) Develop a long-term plan – Is there a long-term plan I need to put in place as I move towards changing?

(5) Acquire accountability – Would I benefit from an accountability partner? Who will it be? When will I contact him/her?

Taken from Just Like Jesus: biblical strategies for growing well by Phil Moser

Available through www.biblicalstrategies.com

Assume God’s responsibilities and you’ll neglect your own

One of the common themes I’ve observed as a pastor is that people often fail to do what they should do, because they’re trying to do what only God can do. We are not equipped to carry out God’s role, but that doesn’t keep us from trying.  Here are some examples:

  • God sees the future; we can’t see it, so we worry instead (Psalm 139:16)
  • God knows a person’s inner desires and intentions; we can’t know them, so we develop a judgmental spirit questioning their motives (1 Corinthians 4:5).
  • God can change a heart; we can’t, but we try; we seek to control and manipulate others through our words and emotional responses (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Titus 3:5-6).

When we attempt to do God’s job we end up defaulting on our own. Look back at the emphasized words in the previous points. God told us not to worry (Phil. 4:6), not to judge the heart (1 Cor. 4:5), and not to control and manipulate others (2 Tim. 2:24-26). When we attempt to do what only God can do, we fail to do what he asks us to do. The Bible teaches we are totally inadequate to carry out God’s responsibilities (Romans 11:33-34).  This is why we not only do them poorly but complain because the burden is too great to bear.

This is prime territory for self-pity to grow, as God’s dialogue with Moses revealed (Num. 11). So how do we overcome this tendency? By trusting God with those less than desirable circumstances and believing that he can accomplish something purposeful through them (Romans 8:28).

This was a truth that carried Joseph through betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and nearly ten years in prison.  At the conclusion of his story he reminds his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20)  Joseph had grown in contentment. He didn’t need his brother’s approval to feel successful. He found it easy to love them and forgive. He didn’t need pleasant surroundings or positive conditions. It’s not our circumstances that make us prone to self-pity; it’s our dissatisfaction with those circumstances. Self-pity takes root in the soil of discontentment.


Taken from Dead-End Desires: biblical strategies for defeating self-pity.

Available November 2012 through www.biblicalstrategies.com.

 

What we can learn from Jonah about anger

Jonah had an anger problem.  A really big one. Sure he could push it down for a chapter or two (his book only has four chapters), but before long it would come roaring back again. The final chapter closes with Jonah sitting on the side of a mountain, being good and angry at God’s gracious ways.

It actually appears that a bad case of self-pity brought it on. You see, Jonah wanted the Ninevites destroyed, but God granted them a stay of execution. Something that’s allowed if you’re the judge and your heart is gracious (Ps 100:5). But Jonah wanted their punishment bad.  Wanted is the key word here.  When we struggle with self – pity it is always our unmet desires that push the door open; before long we can’t get the focus off of ourselves, no matter how hard we try. 

Self pity says, “I believe that something I wanted and deserved was unfairly kept from me” (Jonah 4:1).

This is where Jonah finds himself. He believes he deserves to see the Ninevite’s destruction. With the destruction of nearly 50 Jewish cities on the Ninevite’s resume, Jonah figures they had it coming. Notice Jonah’s words when God backs off on the initial plans for destruction.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? . . . for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Jonah 4:1-2).

Jonah believed that something he wanted and deserved was unfairly kept from him. Think about the word deserved. Did Jonah really deserve to see their destruction? Was he really given the role of both judge and jury?  Had God called him to  prophesy the message and mete out the justice too? The after-effects of a bout with self-pity are anger and the controlling of others.

Because self-pity has its underpinnings in pride its helpful to contrast it with humility. The change of words in the definitions is subtle but essential.

Humility says, “I believe that something I didn’t want, but deserved was graciously kept from me” (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

Paul points this out in 1 Corinthians. He writes,

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

Because humility believes it doesn’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness, its after-effects are gratitude and the serving of others.

I don’t want the last chapters of my life to read like Jonah’s–stuck on a mountain and seething in anger. I want them to read like Paul’s–free, though in prison, and thankful for God’s grace. I’m betting you do too.

Memorizing the Word

Here’s a question: if the Son of God deemed it necessary to memorize the Scripture to defend himself against temptation, why would we think we’re exempt?

Memorize Phrase by Phrase

The Scripture provides the method for memorizing its rich truth. Isaiah recorded, “To whom will he teach knowledge . . . For it is precept upon precept . . . line upon line . . . here a little, there a little.”  The best way I have found to retain biblical passages is to learn a phrase, repeat it until I’ve mastered it, then move on to the next phrase. Once I have the phrases mastered, I begin to link them together. Sometimes I will alter my emphasis on certain words in the phrase; other times I will alter the location where I’m memorizing (my office, the car, my home), but always I am working the phrases and adding the subsequent phrase. As the Scripture says, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

Memorize Day by Day

When it comes to memorizing, I have found it to be more effective to spend a few minutes several times a day, as opposed to a lot of time one day during the week. Simply put, for your mind to permanently retain a truth, you will need to learn it more than once. For me the pattern works like this: Learn it once. Forget it. Relearn it. Forget it again. Relearn it again. Forget less. Relearn it again. Retain it.

While it may sound odd, forgetting is actually a significant part of memory retention. Remembering my need to forget keeps me from growing discouraged. Scripture memory is more of a process than a single event. Having worked on a verse for several days doesn’t mean I will remember it tomorrow morning. I now see the process of forgetting as an essential part of learning the verse.

 Taken from Just Like Jesus: biblical strategies for growing well byPhil Moser, pages 35-36. Available though www.biblicalstrategies.com

Top 10 promises to memorize

Memorizing verses about the character of God and the nature of the gospel is an effective means to hold temptation at arm’s length. Temptation occurs at the “desire” level (James 1:14) so loving God more changes our desires. I have found the best way to do this is to get to know him better and to grow in appreciating the benefits of the gospel. The following 10 promises and accompanying verses have helped me to do both.

#1 God is good, loving and faithful.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

# 2 God loves me and enjoys acting on my behalf.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

 #3 God sacrificed his Son to show his love for me.

 8…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:8,10).

#4 Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37)

#5 God is purposefully at work in my life and circumstances.

 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. . .  13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek   me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11, 13)

#6 God will never stop loving me.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:23-24).

#7 God will always be with me.

 . . . for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

 #8 God is with me when I’m in trouble.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.             Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea . . . (Psalm 46:1-2)

#9 Having been forgiven I need not fear God’s condemnation.

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

#10 God saved me, because of who he is, not because of who I am.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-6).

How the character of God holds self-pity at bay. . .

Living with suffering is hard work; it’s easy to lose your focus. Once your focus is disoriented it becomes difficult to hold self-pity at bay.  Suffering can come in many forms; not all of them physical. Our mind struggles with harsh and critical statements that seem unjustified. Our emotions vacillate between confusion, anger and grief when circumstances in our life seem to contradict the hand of loving God.

When the apostle Peter heard Jesus speak of suffering that was needful for him to endure, he tried to protect Jesus. He said, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matt. 16:22). Jesus’ answer was quick and to the point: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of man” (Matt. 16:23). 

Jesus focused on a specific aspect of the character of God—his wisdom. God thinks differently than man thinks. The wisdom of man is short-sighted and pragmatic (1 Cor. 2:8, 13). God’ wisdom is eternal and directed purposefully. The ability to focus on the character of God (not the wisdom of the man) is a quality Jesus develops (Heb. 5:8). He exercises this ability most fully in the garden of Gethsemane.

When confronted with the suffering (separation from God) he will experience on the cross Jesus asked if there might be another way. Mark recounts it this way: “And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:36).

Abba is a family term. It might be best rendered in the language of our day as “Daddy.” When my kids want the quickest access to my heart this is how they address me. It’s the term that every dad knows—like they’re saying, “Dad, I know you love me. . .” Jesus is clinging to this aspect of his Father’s character: his love. Then he adds, “. . . all things are possible for you.” He is acknowledging that the Father has the power to act if he would so choose.

Both with Peter and with his Father Jesus embraces suffering without questioning the character of God. In fact, it’s fair to say that he affirms and focuses on the character of God in the midst of his suffering. This is the means through which we avoid self-pity when times are hard. We trust the character of God not the wisdom of man.

One of my seminary professors who left a profound impact on my life was Dr. Fred Barshaw. Prior to becoming a pastor, Fred served as a public school teacher. Gifted in understanding the learning process, he received the esteemed “Teacher of the Year” award for the state of California. Fred’s strength was his application of the Word to real life situations, and I was drawn to the unique ways he found to communicate. During my final year of seminary, Fred began his battle with cancer. I graduated and headed into ministry on the other side continent. Several years later, I was developing material for a class, when I realized my lay out and presentation looked strikingly familiar. I went to my filing cabinet, pulled out my notes from one of Fred’s classes, placed them next to my own and immediately recognized the similarity. Having not intended to so, I realized I was teaching just like my teacher. I picked up the phone and called Fred, wanting to communicate my deep sense of gratitude for his investment in my life. Cancer had taken its toll. He was short of breath, and spoke with a hoarse whisper. Because he was so weak I expressed my appreciation quickly. Then I asked him how I could pray for him. There was a long pause, and then the words: pray that I would be faithful to the end. I did. Thirty days later, Fred Barshaw met Jesus.

Our response to suffering will take one of two roads. We can focus on the character of God and pray for faithfulness; or focus on the difficulty of our circumstances and indulge self-pity. Your focus will determine your ultimate outcome.