here’s the irony: my obsession
with being my own person is what divorces me
from becoming my true, authentic self.
Let me weep and dance before your throne
as undignified and unashamed as David,
with a naked heart,
a wild tongue,
and earthy desires.
Break the chains of my respectable tidy language,
set loose my awe and my squirrelly playfulness.
I need the freedom and humility
to cry in your arms,
and the courage
to shout your praise.
CHANGE YOUR HABITS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Danna Demetre | January 2009
If you feel defeated and condemned to a life of bondage, who do you think is condemning you? I can assure you that your sense of shame is not of the Lord. If you are feeling defeated this very day by your failures, I am guessing that you are throwing stones at yourself. Put down the stones and listen to Jesus. He alone can give you the power to walk away from anything that holds you in bondage. Let go. Drop the stone. Grab his hand.
When we are tempted, Jesus wants to help us. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew he was going to die very soon and carry the sin of all humanity to the grave. Jesus could have surrendered to his own flesh and walked away. Instead, he surrendered to God. We too must surrender our weakness and temptation to God, praying like Jesus, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” It is in humility and surrender that the power of the risen Christ can strengthen us from all temptations. When we choose to seek God and his power, he will meet us at our point of need.
In 1 John 1, the apostle of the same name reminds us about the fellowship we have with God through Christ, so our joy will be complete. And then he shifts gears at the end of the chapter and starts to talk about sin. He tells us that if we say we have no sin, we are liars. But in the midst of that condemning blow, he gives us hope by telling us what to do with our day-to-day sins --- confess them to a loving God. By doing so, we can know that we are purified from all unrighteousness and can walk once again in confident fellowship with the Lord.
People influence us greatly when we spend time with them every day. Good friends pick up each other’s mannerisms and favorite words. They also can take on each other’s bad habits. That’s why we need to be purposeful about surrounding ourselves (and our children) with quality people. Of course, no one is a perfect role model --- that is, other than the Lord. That is why we are told to be “imitators of God.” He is our model of love and sacrifice. When we imitate God, we practice giving ourselves up as an offering to others --- sacrificing our time, gifts, and resources. But we can’t imitate Christ if we don’t know him intimately and study his thoughts, words, and deeds.
James 4:7-8 tells us to submit ourselves to God. But what does that mean? Submission in this day and age is often a word associated with being weak or “less than.” The truth is we are weaker and “less than” almighty God. He calls us to submission to protect us. Running to God is like running for cover in a time of war. We don’t stand out in the middle of a battle and let the bullets fly. Instead we hide in the safest place we can find. The next time you feel tempted, run to God. The next time you are beating yourself up for your weaknesses or failures, run to God. The next time you feel confused and hopeless, run to God. Submit and surrender it all to the Lord and know in that moment that the enemy has run off with his tail between his legs.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Are you letting busyness and expectations rob you from the “one thing”? Do pressures from others make you feel guilty when you try to get away by yourself and sit quietly at the Lord’s feet? I know that I once did. But I won’t let that lie influence me any longer. When I spend time with Christ, he fills me up, recenters my priorities, and gives me strength for the challenges of life. Without daily time with him, I am soon running on empty once again.
If you eat only one meal per week, you will become weak and unable to perform even the simplest of daily activities. None of us would intentionally starve ourselves for months and years on end. But, many of us are starving spiritually. We need to consume the Word of God voraciously every day as if we had been starved without any food for days on end. To fix it in our minds, we need to think about it, memorize it, and pray about it constantly. God knows we are weak, and so he tells us with great detail what it will take to make it “stick” in a way that will consume our thoughts, influence our actions, and honor him.
Taking good care of our body is a form of worship to the Lord. Doing our part to stay healthy may extend our life and improve its quality. It is certainly worth the effort. Yet, even a perfect lifestyle will not halt the aging process or keep us from dying one day. It is such a great relief to know that no matter how much pain, disease, or struggles we face in this lifetime, one day we will have an absolutely perfect body in heaven. It is not something that money can buy; it is an amazing and excessive free gift lavished on those who are children of the King. And we all will live as heirs in the majesty of heaven!
Body image is just a part of our total self-image. However, in today’s culture, how we look seems to have more significance than who we are. We are bombarded with magazine and television ads that seem to say we need to look a certain way. One of the best things we can do to develop healthy body images is to change our focus. As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Will you behold society’s image or God’s? To behold God’s image, you must refocus your attention on seeing yourself from God’s viewpoint. He sees you as a complete person --- body, soul, and spirit --- and is most concerned about who you are inside. Pray that he will give you an accurate perspective and a grateful spirit not only for who you are potentially but also exactly who you are this very moment.
Each day as you make choices about what to eat, drink, or act upon, try to keep God’s glorification always before your personal gratification. Unless we make a constant and conscious effort to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, chances are that our needs and wants will always float to the top. God has provided all we need to reach our best potential --- whatever he has ordained that to be. He has given us food to eat, air to breathe, water to drink, and his Word to completely satiate our souls and spirits. If we simply go back to the basics in all areas --- natural food, pure fresh water, clean air, and the unadulterated Word of God --- we would be absolutely amazed at what we can “grow”... a healthier body, soul, and spirit!
The fear of God in the life of the believer is part reverence and awe and part trembling and quaking as we consider the immensity and omnipotence of the God we love and serve. If we take his incredible grace for granted and believe we no longer need to fear him, we are mistaken. While the blood of Christ has cleansed us from all sin and secured our place in heaven, we must live knowing that the God who loves us enough to send his one and only Son to die for us will also discipline us as he molds us into the image of Christ. When we have a healthy fear of the Lord balanced with a great confidence that comes from his mercy and grace found only in Christ, we have the beginning of wisdom.
God’s laws are good for us. Most of us know that and yet we cut corners and make up our own rules as if our wisdom surpasses God’s. We eat to please our palate more than nourish our cells. We do all sorts of things that break what we would call “little rules” while always keeping the big ones. We’d never rob a bank, but do we handle our money according to God’s Word? In little ways we mold God’s and man’s rules to suit our own needs. Today, I will follow God’s righteous laws to my best ability. I know I will stumble and fall. I know only by God’s power and grace can I be faithful. If we are willing, God will not only illuminate our path so we can walk in righteousness, he will give us great joy in the walk.
The word abundant conjures up thoughts of something overflowing in sufficiency. If we have abundant health, we have more vitality and energy than we can possibly use. If we have abundant wealth, we cannot outspend or outgive our resources. If we have abundant relationships, our life is overflowing with people who know and love us. As humans, we want abundant lives... we crave them. As Christians we actually already have them. But we sometimes miss the value of the treasures God has stored up for those who love him. We have all we need to live complete, joyful, and purposeful lives.
God wants his words to dwell in us above any other, so much so that it influences everything we do. For that to happen, we must take the time to put his truth into our minds through study and meditation. And over time, it will migrate to our hearts. Once the truth of Scripture is resident in our hearts, it can overflow to others, teaching and encouraging them with wisdom. Just as we need daily food and water to survive physically, we need to consume the Word of God to survive spiritually. There are limits to how much food we can or should eat. But, we can never ingest too much truth. God doesn’t want us to merely survive. He wants us to be filled to overflowing so that we cannot even begin to hold in the love, joy, and hope only his truth can give.
Just as we need to read the fine print on product claims, we need to discern the accuracy of everything we read, watch, or hear before we apply it to our lives. Without truth, we process our life circumstances and decisions through an incorrect grid. We claim promises that may not be real and practice prayers or rituals that are not biblical. It doesn’t matter how sincerely we love God and desire to know truth. We may be a Christian of high integrity and moral courage, sincere in all we do. Yet, without absolute truth we are sincerely wrong. Without truth we are destined for failure. However, integrity coupled with absolute truth results in powerful victory in the Christian life.
Expectations and successes. Disappointments and failures. Sometimes it seems like we are on a never-ending roller coaster of experiences that set the tone for our lives. If we are reaching our goals and realizing success, we are happy. If we run into challenging circumstances or fail at something, we are sad. This is no way to live. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11 that he learned the secret to being content. So, what is the secret? It is gratefulness for who God is and what he has already done. It is finding satisfaction in the basics, because God has already lavished us with forgiveness, eternal life, and a great reward in heaven. And, it is there, in heaven, that we will wear a crown as “best in show” because we are judged by the perfect life and sacrifice of Christ.
Consider your last twenty-four hours. On a scale from one to ten, how would you rate the past day? Go ahead --- take a moment to give it a grade. Your answer may tell you more than you might think. Life is rich, complex, and mysterious. Look up from your to-do lists, frustrations, and challenges to rejoice about something in this very moment. Develop a mental focus that cultivates a heart of gratitude and thankfulness. Join with the psalmist in exclaiming, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Notice, he didn’t place any qualifications for rejoicing --- if your kids are respectful... if your boss appreciates your hard work... if your husband gives you the attention you desire. Yet when we have an attitude of joy, our influence on those in our lives is profound.
The mouth can cause us so much trouble. >From putting too much food in to letting the wrong words out, it is often a key player in many of our challenges. Too often, we say something before we’ve passed our thoughts through the filter of God’s truth. It seems if we can get to the root of controlling our mouth and our tongue, which we are told in James 3:6 “corrupts the whole person,” we may be able to control our entire self. Matthew 15:18 says that what comes out of our mouths actually originates in our hearts. If we want to know the state of our own hearts, perhaps we should listen more carefully to not only the words we are speaking but also the silent conversations taking place inside our own minds. If we want our hearts and our words to be pure, we must change our thinking.
Have you noticed how much more emotional and weak you feel when you are sad, hungry, or tired? Everyone has less tenacity and resolve to make the right choices and do the right things when they are in such a state. So what are we to do? Pray. Prayer immediately acknowledges you are in a battle, and you need to submit your will to God rather than your own weak flesh. It may seem silly to pray to avoid the Oreos, but Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray continually” and in Philippians 4:6 that “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” When we are “looking up,” our focus is on God. When we are “looking in,” our focus is on ourselves and our immediate gratification. When you are facing temptation on any level... get up and pray!
Sometimes in our walk of faith, we are so captivated by the power and majesty of God that we can sense his presence and power in our lives in profound ways. But if we take our focus off of him and turn it instead to our own ability, we often lose confidence and find ourselves falling into old patterns of fear, frustration, and failure. The Lord wants us to have strong faith to face the storms of life. When our faith falters, we falter. When our hope in Christ sinks, we sink. When the storm clouds of doubt come our way, we must look up to heaven and pray for the ability to see life’s challenges through spiritual eyes. We must process every circumstance through the grid of God’s Word. Only then will we have “walking on water” faith.
As New Testament believers, we are no longer under the law. We live under the new covenant of grace. We no longer tithe under compulsion but out of love for God. We have so much freedom and liberty to worship God. And yet too often we worship those things that gratify our own cravings more than that which glorifies God. As we make choices each day, here are a few questions we can ask ourselves that may help us determine how to choose the best from all the good:
Will it help me know and love God more?
Will it help me know and love my spouse more?
Will it help me know and love my children more?
Will it help me grow in loving others more?
If we are told in Scripture to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful in all circumstances, then it must be possible. We need to practice seeing every single thing through spiritual eyes, trying to grasp the whole picture of God’s plan despite our limited capacity to see it in its entirety. Life can be painful, even devastating at times. Yet we must remember that our pain is only temporary and our heavenly Father is always present, ready to hear every word uttered to him in prayer.
In the race of life, we often lose focus on what is truly important. In business, we strive to be the best and sometimes in the heat of competition don’t see the faces of the people who seem to be in the way of accomplishing our goal. When we put people above projects and fellowship above fame and fortune, we are truly storing up treasures in heaven. The truth is, we can’t take our accomplishments or acquisitions with us to heaven. The only thing that will meet us there are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of those could be people who came to know him because you responded differently to them in the course of life.
God has given us all we need to be rooted, built up, and strengthened in our faith. If we keep our eyes on Christ, our mind on his Word, and our heart connected in love to both God and others, we are unshakeable. But, like newly planted saplings, it takes time to grow strong, deep roots. We need the instruction and fellowship of more mature believers to protect us until we are mature and able to withstand the changing seasons of life. Like changing habits, growing in the Lord takes time. A fleeting moment of motivation does not keep us going, but deep love and commitment to Christ do. Invest the time it takes to change your mind and change your habits (especially your spiritual ones), for it will truly change your life. A life deeply rooted in Christ can be easily evidenced by the overflowing thankfulness it produces.
When we are in a life struggle, it is often hard to see things accurately. So when we pray, we must know God’s Word and pray in accordance with it. God cannot answer a prayer that reinforces our disobedient behavior. However we live, we reap what we sow. At times in our desperation, God in his incredible mercy may give us a moment of reprieve despite our disobedience. But I sense from my own life, this happens to give me another chance to follow his plans rather than my own. God wants to bless us in accordance with his will. When our lifestyles in any area are not in keeping with his perfect principles, distress, disharmony, and disease can follow. Seek his truth and then pray in great confidence. He will answer and supply your need.
What is holding you back from doing the good works God created you to do? Does your health slow you down? Do you feel inadequate because you have allowed a bad habit to consume you and have lost all your confidence that God even wants to use you? No matter what is holding you back, God’s plan and purpose is to work for his glory. Yesterday is gone. Today is a fresh, clean slate, and God has prepared opportunities for you to make a difference for eternity... today. It doesn’t matter where you work, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, if you’re retired, or even if you’re an invalid. God will supply opportunities every day for you to do good works that bring him glory. If we just slow down and really notice what is going on around us, we’d be amazed at the possibilities.
Think about the last 24 hours. Do you consider your time well spent? Did you celebrate the crisp morning air and praise God for his creation? Did you miss the heart cry of a friend over the whirl of the blender? Was there a chance for you to share the hope of the gospel with someone who is desperately seeking? How did you honor God with your body, soul, and spirit yesterday? In order to look back at each day with great joy and a sense that we have fulfilled our purpose, we must be fully focused on the value of each moment. To live with purpose we must invest in this very moment. If we eat, drink, speak, rest, relate, work, and worship with this simple principle in mind, God is glorified and we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ.
Most of us cling to the things of this world that we know because we can barely get our minds around the immensity of heaven, not to mention letting go of life as we know it and of those we love. If we completely understood, we would be able to honestly exclaim in concert with the apostle Paul, “To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What shall I choose?” One day when we reach heaven, I’m sure it will finally hit us how ridiculous we were to cling so tightly to the things of this world when all that we really want, need, and desire is fully realized in heaven.
How many of us are slaves to our physical desires? I certainly was for many years. My obsession with food impacted everything I did. This slavery to food and my eating disorder consumed my life. My focus was not on God. It was on food. I am so thankful that I am blessed to live under the law of grace. Even in my darkest hour, God saw me through with the blood of Christ. Yet, being forgiven is no excuse for bad behavior. God desires us to put him above all things. When we cannot control our appetites, we are clearly walking in our flesh and must surrender them to the Lord. It may be a daily battle for a while, but God wants to deliver us from slavery. Call out to him when overwhelming desires for the things you crave consume you, and he will deliver you from bondage.
If this life on earth was simply about coming to a saving faith in Christ, then once that happened, God could simply snatch us up to heaven. But instead he leaves us here on this earth to impact others with his love. There are so many divine appointments that can be missed if we are foolish and self-absorbed in our own plans. People need encouragement. People need truth. People need Jesus. If we are encouraging other Christians toward a deeper, more meaningful walk with Christ, giving help to the downtrodden in Jesus’s name, loving the unlovely, lifting up the lonely, or sharing the good news, we are making the most of every opportunity. It is in those moments that we become less and he becomes more, and amazingly our personal issues are overshadowed by his heavenly purposes.