Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chapter 1 - Self-Control


$ Galatians 5:22-26 and Colossians 3:12

Self-Control: A state of being focused; control of one’s own emotions, desires, actions, etc. (NKJV uses the word Sober and KJ Bible uses the word temperance.)
Sober: Serious in mood, earnest, staid.  
Temperance: moderation in the indulgence of appetite or passion.

       Self-Control involves all the  actions of your person, some of which are thinking, speaking, and attitude.  This gives the picture that a Christian practices self-control with every action, reaction, and thought towards people and life.  I know that in my life I find it hard not to count things that people do that annoy me, for example a list of things that annoy me about someone, I’m usually a really relaxed person, but there are people I encounter who just don’t seem to care about doing anything but the absolute necessary things and that grates my cheese. 
       In the past there were also times where I told myself that it was okay to be around certain things, watch certain things, or allow myself to be affected by others influences instead of doing what I knew was right.   At the time I didn’t realize what I was doing, or I convinced myself that it was okay because I wouldn’t let myself think too deeply, but what I realized is that I was feeding my heart the wrong things and I was allowing my heart to form into something that I didn’t like and it in turn influenced my life choices and it made my Christ like example be ineffective because it wasn’t a Christ like example.    For example, what society deems as okay in the world is not okay with Christ we are to be in, but not of, the world.  (Romans 12:2) The world says that it is okay to have sex before marriage or to allow yourself to explore sex with other people (we are surrounded by that influence) and we let ourselves come to the thinking that it’s okay if I experiment “as long as I don’t really do it” or to say “well this is the modern way of thinking and the Bible is really up for personal interpretation.”  Those are lies, God said obey me and follow my commands he didn’t say some time or whenever you feel like…..he said obey!  (Psalm 37: 23-24) God also commands us to take care of our bodies because it is his temple, and believe me taking care of our bodies  involves our hearts too (our inner person and outer person) and it is proven that a mind at rest helps the body stay healthy.  When your heart is troubled it sets your whole self off.    
     Another example is gossip and openly (or privately in your mind) tearing down someone, talking down about that person or discussing your personal disgust of an individual is not okay.  If you don’t like what a certain individual does (or did) that is okay I don’t always like the way people do things or respond to me/ approach me, however, you just gotta let it go.  You have to let it go, if you don’t it is like a seed that is planted and it grows malice, anger, and a constant bad response to that person.  Before you know it….that person can’t do anything right and they are just a person that has no business being on earth because they practically “ruin” your life.  That is a very hard weed to get out of your garden that is supposed be fruitful, it is far more difficult to go back and pull out all the vines that have twisted around the fruit and fruit that are trying to grow and bloom in your life than if you had pulled out the seed or the little yellow dandelion in the very beginning.  (Now if you are a green thumb sort of person you defiantly caught my drift, if you are not I am sorry if this was hard to grasp)

The Bible says in Luke 6:45: A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

      The NIV says that which is ‘stored’ in the heart.  It’s saying that if you are storing good as a treasure in your heart that will be reflected in your actions….it will be in what you speak.  When you develop a habit of only speaking negatively your heart starts forming in that negative way, before you know it you don’t know how to do or be anything but negative and it makes you feel ugly, it makes you seem ugly to others, and it makes your life miserable.  What you expose your heart to influences you, maybe not in the moment, but long exposure to bad things is like long exposure to sun without sun-screen….you get burned, it hurts big time and it takes a long time to recover and sometimes you get sun poisoning.  It says in Proverbs 25:28 Whoever has no rule over his own spirit, is like city broken down, without walls.  
      Now hear me say this, I am not saying that you need to be an up-tight person who can never have fun or never can hang out with people who “don’t do Christianity,” not at all, I am saying be careful what you are letting influence your heart and mind.  It is important to have friends that you can be a shining light too and it is important to be aware of the things around you, but it does not mean that you are adopting those things as your own. 
1 Peter 1:13-15 Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.
       In other words a person who has no self-control is without protection and leaving themselves open to the enemy’s deception and destructive attacks.    Even if we think something is harmless we are letting evil things chisel at the walls of our hearts letting the enemy slowly have way, until we finally have no boundaries or walls that protect us from being like the rest of the world.   As it said in 1 Peter, we were ignorant in our former ways, but with Christ we are given wisdom and we are given the command to not make the dumb choices we made before, but to be obedient and wise in our new understandings.  We are changed persons when we ask Christ to wash our sins away and with that change we are supposed to respond with the changing of our life habits and leadings.  By having self-control we monitor what we are feeding into our hearts, we know what is going in and what will come out.   And if we protect ourselves and guard our hearts this we will be following God’s commandments which in turn he will always bless you for.
1 Samuel 24:1-15: Now I am not going to write out the entire passage that should be read on your own, but I will write out the verses that I want you to take a closer look at, (4-5) Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day that the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” And David arose and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.  Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe.   We see in this verse that David is pressured by his companions to kill Saul by trying to convince him that God had delivered David’s enemy into his hand (Saul), however David decided to just ‘cut’ off the corner of Saul’s coat because it would be ‘okay’ after all he wasn't hurting him he was just giving Saul a ‘close call.’  Then we see that later on that David’s heart was troubled over it, he knew that he had let himself go too close to the edge of a cliff and that he could have so easily let himself kill Saul right then and there without God’s blessing.  This would have been so wrong, because at that point David would have been taking God’s plan into his own hands instead of waiting on God, instead of practicing self-control and faithfully relying and trusting God’s plan.   David knew that his actions also affected his reputation if he had chosen to go farther that would have eventually affected his influence over his men and his future kingdom.   We see a similar situation back in Genesis where Sarah (Abraham’s wife) failed to have faith in God and failed to practice self-control when she gave her servant girl to her husband Abraham, because she didn’t trust that God knew what he was doing!  (And that caused a pretty big mess….it caused a lot of unnecessary drama) When we practice self-control we are guarding our hearts, minds, bodies, and lives from evil and disaster and are then open to God’s blessings, wisdom, and divine and perfect plan for our lives.

1 Samuel 9 and 10 (key verse is 10:27) But some rebels said, “How can this man save us? So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.  Now growing up in ‘Sunday School’ I guess at some point I developed this not so great picture of King Saul from back in the Old Testament.   I don’t know how, but I came to this idea that he was always an evil person who didn’t follow anything that God ever told him to do.  I don’t know if anyone else has or had that sort of picture of him, but that is what I managed paint in my brain growing up.   Then a year ago or so I took a closer look at the scriptures and found that Saul was actually a wonderful servant of the Lord up until he messed up pretty bad and then, like most of us, instead of repenting and doing what was right he allowed himself to be devoured by evil and greed.     Anyway, in 1 Samuel 10:27 back when King Saul had just been declared King, it says that some rebels who dishonored him by giving him “no presents.”   Which may seem slightly humorous and childish, (I find it to be slightly funny because it reminds me of the ‘Soup Nazi’ from Seinfeld… “No Presents for You!!”    In this verse it says that Saul didn’t respond to their unkindness, however, he held his peace.  He decided to not worry about it the insult and “let it go.”   He didn’t respond with any harshness, scripture doesn’t say that he blabbed on about them to other people, and it doesn’t say that he punished them either.  “He kept his peace” he put his trust in God; he knew that he had God’s blessing and so he knew that God had a plan.  He chose to show self-control in his attitude and actions.

2 Peter 1: 5-10  (key verses: 5-9): But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

       It takes self-control to do the right thing, it takes self-control to respond to a negative with a positive, it takes self-control to follow God’s commands.   So when we gossip or tear each other a part, or convince ourselves that doing a little something that isn’t quite the full bad thing, or when you are feeling extremely unhappy with who you are and how you live.  Take a step back and evaluate your heart….. reflect on how you live, you might find that your heart is flowing with muck and filth in order for junk to come out of your mouth or full in your head to convince yourself that “it’s okay.”   You have to ask yourself, am I full of crap or am I really a tree that smells sweet of freshly grown fruit?   Which do you want to be?  I have come to the point where I actually had to start writing on my hand “Be positive” or “B+” to remind myself every day that I need to be positive every day that I need to make the best choices every day. I want to be fruitful, I want to be a joyful person that makes the world a brighter place, don’t you?    I challenge you to write that on your hand or some where you can see it to remind yourself that what comes out of your mouth and the choices you make reflects the condition of your heart! Be Positive! Practice Self-Control! Be fruitful! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit - Introduction

      In this journal we will go into a fairly deep study of the fruit of the Spirit.  This journal will break down each of the elements of the fruits and create a deeper understanding for the reader.  This understand should lead the reader to have a deeper understanding (and hopefully, conviction) as to how we as Christians should live in order to draw closer to God’s presence, live a peace filled life surrounded by God’s blessings, and be shining lights to the world around us.
      Our main scriptures that will guide us through this study will be at the beginning of the chapters (or) fruit sections, these scriptures will have a greater impact when memorized and reflected on daily, they are: Galations 5:22-26, Colossians 3:12, and 2 Peter 1:5-11. (Which are written out at the bottom) These will be regularly looked back on as review and a reminder that all elements should be sought after and that all the elements are dependent on each other.  We will find as we go through this study that we will not find one of the fruit without finding the others as well, which I think is a glorious sign of God’s immaculate wisdom and glory, it is a sign of God’s wonderful consistency.
      Please remember dear readers to keep a humble mind as we go through this study, do not forget that we are not done learning, we are life-long learners who must always be willing to grow.  If we had all the answers God wouldn’t ever need to rescue us from our problems, nor would he have had to send his son to die for us, nor would we have to pray for wisdom to a God who has all the answers.   Remember with humility we grow at a steady pace and develop deeper understanding, not to mention we receive the blessings that God wants to pour into our lives.  I find too that I discover more understanding about myself and find flaws that I was too proud to face when I humble myself.  I love how much I grow every time I do this study and I have to say that I am quite relieved that I am not done growing, for if I knew all that there was to know in life, I would feel quite empty and honestly I wouldn’t find any hope in my future.
      So join me as I don on my cap of humility and gather my excitement as we start our journey, our journey of growth in our Christian maturity, our growth in our love relationship with Christ, and our growth in our Christ-like image that will be a beautiful shining light to those around us.  The Bible version I will be using is the New King James Version (NKJV) however, a New International Version (NIV) or King James Version (KJV) will be fine.  I find that the NKJV goes deeper than the others, yet doesn’t lose you with the old language, but that is my personal preference.  Here we begin.

 Galations 5:22-26: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are in Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. 

Conceit is vanity, it is a high opinion of one's self, in a way it is pride or haughtiness. However, remember stay open minded, we are putting on our humility caps and thinking in a new and humble way. In 1 Peter 5:5 it talks about how God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Think on that as we wear our humble hats.
To Provoke someone is to call forth anger in them, to stir up on purpose, to inflame or rile them, and this could even go beyond anger this could be any sort of reaction that is negative. We are to build each other up and encourage the right things in each others lives, not the other way around, we as Christians are to promote life and love, not hatred and trying to destroy each other.
Envy is  a painful or resentful awareness of another's advantages.  I love how the dictionary defines it as a painful or resentful awareness, both are negative things in life.  Pain can stir up sadness, depression and so on while resentment can stir up malice and hatred.

I define these to give a clear picture of the things we want to avoid, I want a clear picture of what we are not to do especially because we have just put on our humble hats.

Colossians 3:12-14: Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all you must put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 

Now all these things take humility, especially forgiving others, I know believe me I really know how hard it is to forgive some people, I have been wronged in BIG ways, and I felt God telling me to forgive them which was extremely difficult because I didn't want to let go of my anger.  I had to let go of my pride and humble myself, and when I did and when I forced myself to really let go and forgive I felt this amazing peace rush in.  And I love how in this scripture it doesn't say "you should forgive as Christ forgave you" like a suggestion, but rather "you MUST do" its not a request or a suggestion it's a command.  I know that sometimes command feel like someone taking away our freedom, but God's commands are to promote our freedom in him.

2 Peter 1: 5-11  (key verses: 5-8): But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sings.

This scripture is quite clear, if you have these things you will be fruitful and if you don't you are blind and have forgotten that you have been remade in Christ.  So put on your humble hats and go with me on this journey of gaining wisdom, fruit, and a closeness to Christ that will also impact our world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I am not done growing...

Dear Readers,

   On Tuesday, May 13th,  at approximately 12:35pm, I finished my last final exam for this semester.  I now take a deep breath and quote the words of Jesus, "It is finished." Of course his meaning and my meaning are two different things, yet they are similar.  In John 19:30, Jesus was referring to all the prophesies and his work being completed, this was the confirmation that he was now able to give up his spirit and die.  It was the sign of the end, or the completion of his mission and that it was time for a new start.  That is how I feel, I feel like I have worked very hard all semester, sweat and cried, I didn't quite bleed, but I really put my all into doing well this semester.  I may not be walking away with all A's, but I know I did my best and honestly for the tough semester I had, my grades are very good.  Through this semester God has taught me a lot, our relationship has grown and strengthened, I have grown and strengthened, and I have learned a lot about trust, love, and peace.
    I look back on this semester with a smile, there are so many things that I could want to change and normally I probably would be kicking myself about how I should have done things differently, but I learned through this semester that God has used every opportunity to transform me into something he can use and he has helped me come to the point where I have peace and joy in letting go and trusting him.   I know that there were times during this semester where I felt as though I could barely keep my head above the water, I remember having anxiety about my grades being dragged down by the overwhelming  work load that seemed to just keep being piled on. There were times where I was asking and asking, God is this your will? God if this is your will, why does it seem that I am having such a hard time?  I forget sometimes that when things get tough, that is the time that God is working the most.

   This semester God taught me a lot about trust and he taught me a lot about where I lacked prayer in my daily habits.  During this semester there were times where I was really struggling with whether God was listening or if I was in his will with what I was doing at school.  I kept praying for a job near school so that I would be able to stay in this area and have something during the semester.  I struggled because I felt as though my prayers were falling on deaf ears.  At some point in April,  I was having a terrible day and I felt that the world was caving in, I fled to a place that I find to be peaceful, serene, and completely quiet with no one around, minus the dead.  Yep, I went to a grave yard, the place that always seems to be my quiet "hiding place" and I just wept.  I don't think the dead buried there minded too much, I'm pretty sure that they had quite a few tears during their life on earth and understood where I was at.  I cried out to God and asked him why he wasn't giving me a job.  I mean, in everything I was doing my best to keep up with devotions among the other crazy time consuming  things required of me during the semester.  Why hadn't he answered? Wasn't I being faithful enough?   If this was his will for me to be here at school, why was he letting my savings drain and not providing me a job?  Something that God has been trying to hammer into my head that I seemed to be too dense to fully comprehend and/or accept, is trust.  God reminded me that I need to TRUST him.  I was reminded of the struggle I have with trust with a lot of people around me and definitely with him.
   I try not to ask God 'why' questions, because every time I do he always seems to retaliate with his own why question.  (Which I love, but sometimes pound my fists in anger about)  God retaliated with this thought: why don't you trust me enough to know that I love you with an everlasting love, that I have a plan for you to prosper you.....never never to harm you. Why then do you not believe that I am going to take care of you? Have I ever let you go, have I ever failed to keep you safe, have I ever broken a promise with you? 
   I wept, why is it that I question God when he has never done anything to make me need to question his faithfulness?  I said over and over in my mind two verses from Jeremiah that I love:
Jeremiah 31:3-  "The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes I have loved you with an everlasting love;  Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you..."

Jeremiah 29:11-13- "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me,  and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me,  when you search for Me with all of your heart."

   I wept because once again I had failed to trust God, a God that has always approached me with loving-kindness, it was my blindness that lead me to my troubles.  God reminded me of the story with the widow and her oil. (2 Kings 4:1-7) Did God fail to take care of that widow? Of course not.  I thought about the scripture Psalm 37: 4, where it says that if you delight in the Lord he will give you the desires of your heart. That's when I prayed to God and said that I wanted a job, I wanted to stay close to school.  However, above all I wanted his will.  I realized that God knew everything I needed AND wanted, and he knew what was best.
   I wept on my mountain, sure it was a mountain of dead people, but I think you can learn a lot from dead people (as morbid and perhaps funny as it sounds).  The dead are the most quiet people I know, they sometimes put me in awe, and I think I realized that day and realize again as I am writing this, how hard it is to be completely quiet in the presence of my Lord, and I wonder.  However, I realized that even if it is hard it is so important to be still before the Lord, when I am quiet I am open and ready for what he wants to reveal to me.  I was reminded about the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8,  where a widow is so persistent and honestly annoying that a judge agrees to give her justice just to get rid of her.  In the Bible it talks about praying without ceasing, 2 Thessalonians 5: 16-17.  I have learned that I am to pray with out ceasing, and also be still, to be quiet before the Lord and give him a chance to get a word in.

   I learned two valuable lessons that day that drew me closer to God, and brought us to a deeper level in our relationship.  I learned how to trust and pray.  If you want to be happy in, obey, pray.  I have learned a lot this semester about growing up.   I've grown up a little more in the spiritual sense, I have grown up in my life by getting a taste of reality, and I have grown up in the professional/educational world.   I thank God that he blesses me constantly, he loves me, and that he is patient enough to keep guiding me.  I know that I am not done growing and am actually quite glad that I am not done growing.  If this was the level of intelligence I had to reach to be done, I would be scared to death, I also am glad that there is always room for improvement and more that I am going to learn. Why wouldn't I want to strive to be the best that I can be? Why shouldn't I keep my eye on the prize of heaven and do my best to be my best while here on earth so that I might reach heavens glory proud of the time I spent here on earth?

I leave with this scripture Philippians 4:8-9:  Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

                                                                              Yours Truly,
                                                                                           Miah B