Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grace and Truth

Scripture tells us Jesus' life was balanced with grace and truth (John 1:14). He was full of them both. He provided the perfect example of what humanity should look and act like. We classify people today as "truth people" or "grace people". But we should be truth and grace people.

As God, He was the Word (or Truth) made flesh. As man, he showed us how to depend on the Holy Spirit to live out the truth. He displayed truth wrapped in grace. He never separated the two and was full of them both at all times. Is this true about your life?

Truth and grace balance each other out. They are married. Grace doesn't overlook truth but exercises it with love and compassion. Truth keeps morality high but apart from grace can be harsh and cruel. We cannot divorce the two.

Grace places value on others and not just on being right. It forgives, desires unity, and loves. Truth alone demands perfection and productivity. It just wants results and not relationships wrapped in righteousness. Grace alone overlooks standards and settles for good enough. Truth alone demands to be right and values rules over relationships which leads to rebellion. Without one another, neither is complete and become half-defined. They work together, not against one another. Grace is the salve that soothes truth. It is the aroma that enhances truth. Truth gives grace its substance.

Brutal honesty is wrong. Honesty is good but brutality isn't. "The truth hurts" is always void of grace. Truth sets free. Truth heals. Truth apart from grace is a harsh taskmaster with no loyal servants. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love, not to withhold the truth in love. Grace alone is spineless and cheap. Grace comes from Christ's death. It is what saves. It cost Christ everything thus is valuable and precious. He is also the truth that leads to the Father. Truth is the backbone that holds grace together and allows it to move. The truth isn’t something we should protect people from. It’s something God gives for their protection. That's giving them true grace.

Someone who wants others to get truth but no grace will unload on them. They will speak their mind and heart no matter the consequences. Problem is their heart and mind don't look like Jesus. Someone who continually overlooks sin without confrontation isn't reflecting Christ's nature either.

We need both grace and truth. They are inseparable. Separating them voids them from being accurate. Since Christ is full of both, we dare not choose truth over grace, or grace over truth.

Who are you withholding truth from? What about grace? To be like Jesus and Jesus to them you must give them both equally. Alone they are unloving and inaccurately represent Jesus. He was full of them both. Are you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

7 Steps To Destroying Your Marriage

No one wants to destroy their marriage? Right? You can unknowingly do several hurtful things to each other that in time will damage if not destroy your marriage. Here are seven ways that always lead to damage and destruction in marriage.

1. Stop Communicating
When you would rather talk about your spouse than to them you are in trouble. Using the “silent treatment” approach to diffuse the situation never works. Kids do this all the time. Refusing communication is like refusing food and water. Eventually, it will kill your marriage. Break the wall of hostility now. Go to your spouse with a repentant, forgiving attitude and open the lifeline of communication again.

2. Stop Listening
This is like playing “na-na-na-na-boo-boo” with fingers in your ears. Again, kids do it. Cutting them off in mid-sentence, walking away, leaving the house, talking louder than them, immediately correcting them, trying to prove your point more – all detrimental ways of not listening. It’s time to pull the fingers out of your ears and the scales off your heart and listen to your sweetheart again.

3. Assume The Worst
Jumping to conclusions is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. When a bad thought or word comes, carrying it to the extreme illogical conclusion never helps your marriage. Sit with your spouse and ask them patiently and lovingly for an explanation and clarification. You must do this with an understanding and forgiving attitude. What ever happened to believing the best about someone, especially your spouse?

4. Win The Argument
You may be right but you can be dead right. If pride keeps you from saying you are wrong about something then you are in sin. Pride usually makes you bring up tons of accusations and past situations that have nothing to do with the present argument. Why? So you can have bigger and better ammunition to maim and torture your spouse. When winning at all costs becomes the goal you will hurt and deeply wound a loved one. Practice speaking words of edification and praise to your spouse. Forget the past and don’t use it against them.

5. Spouses Are Enemies, Not Friends
Remember, you are supposed to be on the same team. Taking sides, digging trenches, and hurling insults is not friendly. Stop competing with and start completing one another. It is time to let God sign a peace treaty on your hearts so you can be one again.

6. Focus On Shortcomings And Failures
Only talking bad about your spouse’s failures and how they are not meeting your needs is selfish and wrong. Marriage isn’t give and take, it is give and give. Your goal should be to step up and serve them where they fall short. Everyone has shortcomings and has failed. Before you bring up your spouse’s weaknesses, take a look at yourself and see what you could do to improve your marriage. Remember that you both are not flawless and perfect. Only Jesus is and you need Him to wash away your sins and give you a fresh start.

7. No Fun
You have to build memories together – the kind you take pictures of and place around the house. Also, have mutual friends. If you only have a different set of friends from each other it can be damaging. You must also have date nights. Take time to have family fun. Leave the cell phones off during time together. You can Tweet and post on Facebook anytime. Talk about each other, not just the kids or other people. Be creative and think of new things to do together.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Understanding Authority

Think about this for a moment. A small policeman can stand in front of a giant semi and hold up one hand and say stop – and the truck stops. While the police officer can’t stop the truck with his strength, he does it with his authority. He is not relying on his strength to stop the truck but the authority he represents. We as believers are to be under God’s authority and His delegated authority. We also have authority over Satan. We do not get this authority from our own strength but from the Lord. Our personal strength cannot stop the forces trying to stop us. We exercise authority over Satan only as we submit to the authority of God. God’s Kingdom authority is what must be at work. We are children of the King and have authority to overcome every attack of Satan.

We must be in submission to God and His delegated authority. Let me give you a Biblical principle that will bring blessing and peace to your life: You will be exalted by God as you humble yourself under His authority and submit to the authorities He has set over you. All authority comes from God.

Romans 13:1-2 explains how we must submit to the authority over us, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

When we rebel against authority, we are rebelling against God Himself. This includes your boss, husband, teacher, government official, and all authorities. Satan is the originator of rebellion. He had no devil to tempt him to rebel but chose not to submit to God. When you rebel against God’s delegated or direct authority, it is sin and carries serious consequences.

In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel told Saul his rebellion would bring great consequences. He said, “rebellion is like witchcraft and stubbornness like idolatry” (15:23). Because of Saul’s rebellion and stubbornness God rejected him as king over Israel. Witchcraft is the worship of one’s self and power. Rebellion is the worship of yourself and claims to know more than God. It puts you in charge and removes God’s headship. Idolatry is the worship of something other than God. When you are stubborn and demand your own way you are idolizing your opinion over God’s truth.

In Matthew 8:5-10, a Roman centurion asked the Lord for help because his servant was paralyzed and suffering terribly. Jesus asked the centurion if he desired to see his servant healed? The Roman understood authority because he was over many and under submission as well. Jesus told this man He didn’t know anyone in all of Israel with such faith. When we exercise proper authority and submission it displays faith and maturity but also accelerates spiritual revelation in our lives.

Another benefit of submission to authority is receiving great supernatural favor, blessing and protection from God. Ephesians 6:1-3 tells us that as children honor their parents they are promised enjoyment of long life on the earth. This doesn’t necessarily mean just length but blessing, favor and protection as well. Remember to live under God’s authority, submit to His delegated authority, and exercise proper Kingdom authority over the enemy. This will bring great blessing, favor, joy, and protection to your life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Overcoming Addiction

Studies have shown that resolutions do not work. You may realize this by now since most of your New Year’s resolutions have not panned out. No matter how much optimism or hard work you put forth, you cannot change the outside without working on the inside first. External change comes only from internal change.

Paul reveals his frustration in overcoming his own obstacles in Romans 7:21-24: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!” Like us, Paul wants to do what is right but there is a war within him that is making him a prisoner.

No one wants to call themselves an addict. That term is usually reserved for alcoholics and drug abusers. I want to suggest to you that anything you do that is abusive and disproportionate to your life is an addiction. It could be food, work, money, drugs, Facebook, television, a relationship, shopping, sports, or a host of other things. Anything you are doing that you do not want to do but can’t figure out how to stop is probably an addiction.

What are some signs you are addicted? First, it becomes a part of your identity. Second, when you try to quit you fail and feel increasingly hopeless. Third, when your addiction is threatened you are personally threatened. Fourth, you begin to lose quality of life. Fifth, you ease pain by getting the next fix. I would also challenge you to read Isaiah 44:9-20 and see if this sounds like you.

So how do you overcome addiction? You must change the heart, not the action itself. Changed hearts produce changed behavior. Most of us don’t want changed lives, just changed situations. We don’t want to change our eating habits. We just want to be skinny. Addiction is just a symptom to a bigger disease – idolatry. Anything we have allowed to have a place of importance above God in our life is an idol. Whatever you worship, you serve. Anything you serve you eventually become enslaved to.

How do you dethrone idols? Read Matthew 17:14-21. Jesus told His disciples they were not connected to God enough (unbelieving) and too connected to the world (perversed). He went on to say they should have had growing faith: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” We need prayer and fasting in our lives. Prayer connects us to God and fasting disconnects us from the world.

There is no magic formula to overcoming addictions. Overcoming requires life change. Connect to God by faith and prayer and disconnect from the world by fasting and watch how your life changes. You won’t just lose an addiction but will gain the life you’ve always wanted.