The Dangerous Wrong Voices

If you took an inventory of your thoughts today…how many do you think would be negative and how many would be positive? How many are causing fear and how many are causing your faith to grow stronger?

I rarely watch the news or visit news websites. I also find myself spending a lot less time on social media. And I’ve “unfollowed” a number of people on Facebook.

I just don’t need the negativity. Life is tough enough without being reminded of it day after day.

Thoughts are powerful. I need to decide carefully which voices are bringing them to me.

Hebrews 11:6 says that, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…”

God wants to be believed. It pleases Him.

It’s not easy though. Especially when we get our eyes focused on our circumstances and listen to the wrong voices.

God had miraculously led the nation of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt. He brought them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them His laws. About a year later, they are camped just outside the land God had promised to give them.

He instructs Moses to send 12 men into the land to explore it. They return 40 days later. Ten of them are afraid of what they’ve seen…the fortified cities and how strong they think the people are. “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” These men begin to spread a bad report about the land among the people.

Two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, do their best to convince the people they should go in and take the land because God is with them:

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

It’s too late though. The people have listened to the wrong voices. They’re convinced God wants to kill them. They talk of stoning Moses and Aaron. They want to appoint a new leader and go back to Egypt where they lived as slaves.

These people experienced miracles. They saw God do things no one had ever seen before. God was providing food for them daily. And yet, ten wrong voices swayed 2 million people away from believing God.

And it cost them.

The adults were not permitted to enter the good land God was giving them. Only their children would inherit it. And even they would have to wait 40 years.

Notice that Joshua and Caleb equate a lack of faith with rebellion against God. That’s what happens when we focus on our circumstances and listen to the wrong voices. Fear is the opposite of faith. And it causes us to rebel.

Who are you listening to?

The media? Even “your” station will fill you with fear.

Friends on Facebook? Even your “friends” will fill you with fear.

How about that negative, condemning voice in your head? The voice that reminds you of your failures and endlessly rehearses worst possible outcomes.

Listening to the wrong voices is dangerous. It fills us with fear and dread. It keeps us from experiencing God’s love and faithfulness.

The nation of Israel missed out on the Promised Land for 40 years. What might the wrong voices we’re listening to be keeping us from experiencing?

Today is the first day of Lent, a season of reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter. What if you were to be intentional about believing God and rejecting the negative voices?

Tomorrow and Friday (March 2-3, 2017), I’m offering the eBook version of my 40-day devotional, “I Believe God,” for free on Amazon. What if you and and your spouse or a friend were to go through it together? Believing God is a team sport. It’s really tough to go it alone. You will need each other for prayer and encouragement.

Grab a partner and start believing.

CLICK HERE to get the book. Feel free to share the link with others.

 

Do You Understand…Yourself?

Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.

As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”

So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.

One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.

After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.

Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”

“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.

The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.

Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.

But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.

Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.

Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.

Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.

So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.

What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?

Some of these questions might be helpful for them:

  • What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
  • What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
  • Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
  • Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
  • What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
  • The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?

By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.


 

 

What God Wants

When life gets full or complicated or I’m not sure what to do or what decision to make, it always helps me to pull back to the big picture…to ask some fundamental questions. And for me, the biggest one is simply…what does God want?

Of course, inherent in the question is the presupposition that there is a God, that He has actually revealed what it is that He wants and that I’m accountable to Him for whatever it is. So if you’re with me on those points, let’s keep going…

I’ve been thinking a lot about several verses from the Bible that all point to one inescapable conclusion…

God wants to be wanted.

He wants to be pursued.

He wants to matter to us.

Now wanting something is very different than needing something. God doesn’t need anything. He certainly doesn’t need me. But amazingly, He does want me. And He wants me to want Him.

One of the best things that can happen to me in the course of my day is for my phone to buzz and then see a text message from my wife. I love seeing her name show up. I especially love the texts that communicate she’s been thinking about me and wants to be with me.

I want to be wanted. So does Robyn. And you do too. We all do. We want to know that we matter, that someone values us.

God wants that too.

Here are a few of the verses I’ve been considering lately…

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

If we delight in the Lord, He gives to us.

If we trust Him and seek Him, He rewards us.

If we make His Kingdom and living according to His ways our priority, He provides for us.

Now all of this might sound selfish or self-centered to you, but God is the one who has set it up this way. When we pursue Him, He delights in rewarding us.

Maybe you’ve already stumbled a time or two on your New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ve already become discouraged and given up. What if the answer is to first align yourself with what God wants? And then worry about all the lesser goals after Him.

Make your #1 priority this year to delight in and seek God. Spend time with Him each day reading His word. Talk to Him throughout the day. Invite Him into your conversations. “Take Him along” when you run errands. Thank Him for your family, for your life, for a place to live.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking of God as an impersonal, far-away force. He’s not. He’s a person. And He wants you.

And He wants you to want Him.

 

If you need a guide to help you get started, you might want to check out my 40-day devotional, “I Believe God.” CLICK HERE to get the Kindle version or paperback on Amazon.

 

 

The Election

If you live in America, and even if you don’t, you know we’ve got an election coming up soon. By all appearances, it’s a tight race. And both sides seem to be terrified at the thought of the other side winning.

To be honest, I find myself easily getting caught up in it. And depending on the headline, video, poll or meme, I may feel encouraged or discouraged. At peace or anxious. Hopeful or despondent.

But those up and down emotions based on the circumstances of the day are a good indicator I have my mind set on the wrong thing. Negative emotions like fear, worry, anxiety and insecurity are like the warning lights on the dashboard of my car. They’re letting me know I’ve got a mindset problem.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

Paul contrasts the mind controlled by the flesh with the mind controlled by God’s Spirit. The flesh is that part of us that insists on going its own way, not God’s way. It’s a desire to live life independently of God. Whereas the mind controlled by the Spirit leads to life and peace, the mind controlled by the flesh leads to death and hostility toward God.

So what does any of this have to do with a presidential election?

If you are a follower of Jesus, then the Spirit of God is in you. That means you and I can choose to set our minds on what the Spirit desires. We can surrender our lives to Him and learn to walk in His ways. We can experience life and peace regardless of who’s sitting in the Oval Office.

But how is that possible when there seems to be so much riding on the outcome?

Because in the Kingdom of God, there are no elections. And the American president, the German chancellor or the British prime minister cannot change the laws that govern the Kingdom of God.

God’s promises to us are not nullified by an executive order, a tax hike or a Supreme Court appointment we don’t agree with. God is seated on his throne and no election is ever going to change that.

And as a citizen of God’s Kingdom, you have the privilege of living according to His laws and principles. When you do, it leads to life and peace. Not just some day in the future, but right now.

Just Answer the Question

In John 5, Jesus asks a man who’s been lame for 38 years, “Would you like to get well?”

It’s a “yes” or “no” question. Either the man wants to be well or he doesn’t. But that’s not how he answers. He begins to explain to Jesus “why” he can’t be healed. That wasn’t the question though.

This had nothing to do with what the man could or couldn’t do. It had everything to do with what Jesus could do.

Your situation may feel as impossible as the man’s who’d been paralyzed for 38 years. Your finances may be a mess. Your marriage might be in even worse shape. Your health isn’t good. Things aren’t going well at work.

Could it be that Jesus is asking you the same question? “Would you like to get well?”

I wish I could say that would always result in immediate healing of whatever you’re facing. That might be the way Jesus will work, but what I’ve seen more often is God working slowly. As we trust Him and cooperate with Him by walking in His ways, we see things begin to change little by little.

Make no mistake about it though, it is God working in us, through us and for us to bring about the change.

In John 6, Jesus asks another very simple question. A large crowd of people has been following Him and so He turns to Philip and says, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”

Remember taking essay tests in school? Those could be trickier than multiple choice, true-false or fill-in-the-blank questions. There was just a question and a blank page staring back at you. If you happened to study the information asked for in the question, then it wasn’t too bad. But sometimes you read the question and realized you had absolutely no idea how to answer it.

I think that’s where Philip was at. He was staring at a question and a blank page and knew he had nothing. Maybe the best thing Philip could have said was, “Good question, Jesus, I have no idea. What do you think we should do?”

But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he answers like the paralyzed man. Just like you and I would have.

“Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money.”

Jesus didn’t ask if they had enough money. He asked where they could buy bread. Philip, like the lame man, was answering the wrong question. Jesus asked, “Where?” Philip jumped to their lack of resources.

What about you? Where do you jump to?

Could it be that God wants to make us well, but we’re still focused on what we can or can’t do?

Could it be that God has a way to meet our needs, but we’re still focused on what we’re not able to do?

We answer incorrectly when we have our eyes fixed on our circumstances. The paralyzed man said he couldn’t be healed because no one would help him into the water. Philip explained how they didn’t have enough money.

To answer correctly, we have to fix our eyes on Jesus. We have to listen well to the question…and realize the One asking the question is also the answer.