Saturday, January 25, 2020

Love Yourself

by Bryan Vickers

No, this is not a Justin Bieber song. It's a reminder. 

I think we all tend to go through seasons of dissatisfaction; with where we are, and who we are. Maybe we aren't living up to our potential. Maybe we've made some bad choices and are living with regret. Maybe we just never liked much about ourselves and have spent a lifetime wishing we weren't this person. I tend to swing back and forth between being confident in who I am and what I'm capable of...and feeling completely inadequate, accusing myself of just faking it. I think they call it imposter syndrome.

Whatever the case, you don't always love yourself. But you should. For a million reasons. Just for starters, there's the fact that God created you. He wanted you, He dreamed you up, and He made you exactly the way He intended. Then there's the fact that the only good and perfect person to ever walk the earth decided you were worth dying for. And Jesus went through with this plan because God wanted a way to be close with you in spite of the ways you've fallen short. If He loves you that much, why don't you?

Well, I'm willing to bet it's because your head is full of thoughts about the way you are and the way you should be. Every day you listen to things like "you're not a good person," "you really messed up," "they probably don't like you," and "why can't you be better?". My friend, you are being lied to. Some of it is the enemy, Satan, throwing out lies and accusations to keep you stuck believing you don't deserve love. But some of it is you...lying to yourself.

In Acts chapter 10, the apostle Peter has a vision in which the Lord tells him "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean". In this vision God is speaking about which food is suitable for Peter to eat; but we learn later in the chapter that God is communicating a deeper truth: that the promise of new life in Christ is not just for those who have been born into the right circumstances and done all the right things. God's love is for everyone, even though we all were impure. He went to a lot of trouble to make us clean. So when I read this verse, it's a reminder to check the way I'm thinking about myself.

"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
Do not call yourself ugly when God has made you beautiful.
Do not call yourself hopeless when God has made you with a purpose.
Do not call yourself unworthy when God stepped down from Heaven to die for you.

There is so much power in our thoughts and our words. The way we treat and talk to ourselves has a direct impact on our wellbeing. Stop believing the lies. Stop playing the comparison game. Stop living under condemnation. Jesus already traded His righteousness for your sin. Start treating yourself the way you would treat a chosen and righteous child of the Almighty God. 

Because that is who you are.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Wise Much?

by Sylvia Gaston

How many decisions do you make each day? Thousands! The average human makes 35,000 decisions a day. Granted, many of these are too small to be of much significance in the grand scheme of life. Things like what time to wake up, what to eat, what to wear, how fast to drive to work or school, etc. are not all that important. Other decisions carry a little more weight and importance such as where to live, what relationships to have, and what larger purchases to make (think cars and houses). And then there are the really big decisions! Decisions like who to marry, how many kids to have (if any), and what to do with your life. This is the stuff that has lifelong consequences.

So how do you make these large and small decisions well? Flip a coin, ask a Magic 8-Ball, phone a friend, or just do what “feels right”? You need wisdom. By definition, wisdom is gained by learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test so you can become a wiser person. In my experience, this is a lengthy and flawed process.

Do you sometimes wish there was a source of wisdom to tap into that could help you always make the right decisions? There is! What?! Oh yeah . . . God. Why wouldn’t you seek the wisdom of the One who created everything, knows everything, and sees past, present and future? Why not ask the Creator who created you with a plan and a purpose?

To do that requires that you know Him. This is the single most important decision that you will make in your life - or not make! To know God gives you access to the Author and Finisher of all things and all people. 

OK, so let’s say you've already chosen to follow God. There was no instant download of all the wisdom needed when you made that choice. So how do you access the wisdom of God?

We read about a man in the Bible, Solomon, who became king of Israel after his father, David, died. Solomon showed his great love for God. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom. This pleased God and He promised him great wisdom because he didn’t ask for self-serving rewards like long life or personal wealth. God said to him, “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for - both riches and honor - so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” (1 Kings 3)

According to King Solomon, the wisest king ever, wisdom is from God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6)

So how do you get it? Fast forward to Jesus’ day - His brother, James, states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Wisdom problem solved! Follow Jesus, love God, and ask Him for wisdom! Then . . . bring on the decisions - large and small - and see how your life is transformed! 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Uncommon Habits for the New Year

by Andrew Cromwell

This year, just as in year’s past, most will make some new year’s resolutions. We will determine to lose weight, get back in shape, spend more quality time with family, save money, and read more. We resolve to do differently because we want to be different! 

Inherently we know that if we are going to become better people we have to change our habits. Habits have the power to transform our lives for better or worse. We can be filled with peace and patience or anxiety and angst, all depending on how we order our lives. According to Justin Whitmel Early, “habits form [not just] our schedules, they form our hearts.”

Let me suggest three habits—three new year’s resolutions—that could have the power to change your year because they have the power to influence your heart. Let me warn you, these habits are countercultural. They are uncommon. But uncommon habits lead to uncommon lives. And uncommon lives have the power to change our world.

The first uncommon habit is Scripture before Screen. It is as simple as it sounds. And yet, for many of us, we have become so trained by our technology that we no longer are in control. For many of us, our phones are both our alarm clocks and our mindless entertainment (not to mention the way we communicate with the world). So the phone tends to be the first thing we grab as we wake up in the morning. If the phone is not your screen of choice then it might be the television or something else. This simple habit involves a decision to first stare at the mirror of God’s Word before anything else. It may be the single best strategy for having daily devotions that we have available to us today! 

The second uncommon habit is One Meal with Others. For some, this habit may not be a challenge. But increasingly we live in a world where we are disconnected from others. Our lives are filled with activity and yet we find ourselves eating alone. Sometimes we might eat next to others but we aren’t really with them because we are so preoccupied with our technology. This habit is all about connecting relationally with the people around us. We all have to eat, why not turn it into a meaningful time for conversation and connection? Imagine if you planned your life and work around connecting with others rather than the other way around?

The third uncommon habit is One Hour with Phone Off. It sounds easy, but for many of us, the very thought of being without your device brings on a panic attack. Perhaps that’s why this one is important. Pick a time and turn your phone off completely. It’s not good enough just to put it on silent or to turn it over. Turn it completely off. Oh, and don’t cheat with other devices -- turn off the Apple Watch, the iPad, and any other device that stands between you and the physical world. The world will go on. You will be free. And you might notice some things you’ve been missing. 

You might have noticed that two out of three of these habits have to do with technology. The simple fact is that our lives, our hearts, and our relationships are being shaped by tech in ways that we often don’t realize. Perhaps 2020 will be the year when we begin to take back control of what shapes our hearts!