How do you remember what’s important?

This post isn’t about time management!

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Practically speaking, what could it look like to stand firm and hold fast to the things God has taught you?

My nature is to be impulsive–this has ups and downs. One downside is repeated mistakes. I knew I’ll never stop being impulsive so I needed to make sure my impulses went in the right direction. Therefore, I needed to learn to how to reflect, the art of recognize mistakes and recording my learnings. I have my dad to thank for developing this habit!

When I was just getting started in my spiritual journey, I developed the practice of summarizing the things I learned into a single sentence. I’ve been collecting these summaries for 20 years (along with some of my favorite scriptures), and I read them 2 or 3 times a week. Some of these lessons were painful to learn and I don’t want to re-learn them!

So, I’ll ask again: what could it look like for you to stand firm and hold fast?

Three roadblocks to hearing God Speak, a reflection from Psalm 19

Relationships suffer when there is a breakdown in communication. If you feel far from God, when was the last time you heard him speak? Maybe you need to push through one of the following roadblocks that keep a person from hearing God speak:

Roadblock #1: Lack of attention to God’s Work

The Psalmist begins with a grand picture: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) We are often too preoccupied to look up. We may spend all of our time looking ahead to the next thing and we’re too busy to look up. Sometimes we spend our time looking downward at our own concerns and we’re too selfish to look up. There is so much more to life than our personal pursuits or problems! God is working everywhere, speaking to us always, we only need to stop and pay attention.

Roadblock #2: Lack of time in God’s Word

God’s Word is like an instruction manual, telling us everything we need to be successful in life—how to live according to God’s design. The Bible is also like a love letter, moving us toward a deeper understanding and relationship of God. The Psalmist reveals the benefits of God’s word: it brings rest, spiritual growth, joy, and vision. Have you ever wanted to see things more clearly? The answer is God’s Word. It’s no wonder that the writer says the Bible is more valuable than gold and sweeter than honey. We can’t hear everything God has to say to us if we don’t spend time in God’s word.

Roadblock #3: Lack of submission to God’s Will

The Psalmist begins powerfully and ends personally: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

We may be moved to speechless awe when we contemplate the breathless beauty of creation, but if we are not submitted to God, it matters not. We may know the Bible inside and out, but if we are not submitted to God, we are missing the point. The heavens reveal knowledge so that we might change our thoughts so that they are pleasing to God. We are not called to serve others or ourselves, but to be fully submitted to God.

Join us at New Life Church this Week.

This weekend I am preaching on Psalm 19, “How to hear God speak.” Due to Pastor Ron’s memorial, we are canceling services on Saturday night (this week only). Join us at 9am or 11am on Sunday morning. Go to for more information.

Living Well In the Wake of Loss

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about loss and grief. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the Psalms. What follows are some of the salient points from my personal journey as I attempt to live well in the wake of loss:

Express it.
When one of his friends died, Jesus wept. As I see it, I think he cried because he saw the pain others were experiencing. I don’t think Jesus was personally feeling the loss because he was about to heal Lazarus of his death problem. Wether I’m right or not, it’s clear that Jesus expressed himself.

Additionally, the Psalms stand tall as a powerful testament of unflinching expression of grief and loss and confusion and fear. God loves us in our limitations and meets us in the place of despair.

We don’t need to burry it. This may delay things for a while, but it’ll only come back up. The longer we let it linger, the larger it becomes.

Reflect on it.
Animals lack freedom beyond their instincts. We act based on our instincts too, but we can develop self awareness. Animals don’t have this option.

We can choose to think and feel about our thoughts and feelings. We can’t change everything about ourselves or about our situations, but we can choose the most important things. We choose what we love and hate and what drives us and the direction we are headed. You may really love your cat, but he can’t do these things (but dogs probably can).

If you get a splinter lodged into one of your fingers, you don’t wallow in pain and say, “something hurts somewhere!” That’s silly. You grab the finger, identify the splinter’s precise location, pull it out, and make a note to avoid doing whatever it was that led to getting injured (Sometimes I skip that last step just to keep my life more exciting).

Pain in the heart is so much more difficult to find!

Begin by asking, “Why is the loss such a big deal?” I’m NOT saying the pain SHOULD NOT be a big deal, only that we need to go beneath the surface and learn the WHY. What are all the reasons why the pain is so painful?

Uncovering the layers of the WHY will be difficult. The human heart may have four chambers, but it has infinite rooms filled with conflicting ideas, emotions, and motivations.

The next question may feel like throwing salt into the wound, but we are not of those who shirk back! In the long run, the bliss of ignorance is much more harmful than the bite of understanding. So, without further preamble, here it is, I tried to prepare you: “What’s unhealthy about your grief?”

Ultimately, all loss carries an element of selfishness. Somewhere in the kernel of grief is at least a hint of entitlement.

  • We compare: “Anyone in my situation would feel like this.”
  • We contradict: “No one really understands, I have it worse than anyone.”
  • We compromise: “I deserve to feel this way.”

Entitlement undermines what we believe about God.

  • If we really believe God is in control, then his timing is right. Some elements of grief argue against God’s timing.
  • If we really believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, then we would rejoice when the saints go marching home. Some elements of grief don’t trust God’s promises.

Most of us understand this aspect of grief. The only way we’ll truly move through the grief is to give ourselves permission to be entitled. Temporary permission.

The truly difficult part, the task that requires a LION’S SHARE of courage, is to move this understanding from the abstract to the concrete. The general feeling of loss to the intensely personal and specific reason why. We need to move from, “everyone would hurt in this situation” to “I am hurting because ….”

This sets us up for God’d next work.

Trust more.

Every loss—wether they are unjust or not—creates for us an opportunity to trust God more. This doesn’t mean we should take a stoic approach, seeking to live a life with as few connections as possible. We need to love others deeply, but we need to remember that one of God’s names is Jealous. He wants our hearts un-dividedly devoted to him. He is constantly working to draw us into greater dependence on him.

Pursue more comfort from God than anything else.

Healthy diversions can clear our minds and grant perspective. I hear this is why some people go hiking. For me, I find a slightly less comfortable position on the couch. Diversion creates space for some comfort.

Friends are important! Great Friends can bring Great Comfort. Biblical fellowship bears one another’s burdens, and we ought to be better at caring for one another.

However, these are lesser comforts. We worship the God of comfort. He has provided the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—because his power is the only remedy for our broken.

Receive Joy.

When we are caught up in the throes of grief, it’s irrational to think we can find joy in Christ. Nevertheless, it is there. God’s promises are independent of our predicaments. There is always a reason for hope, we need to posture our hearts before God to receive it.

We don’t need to manufacture it, it won’t last. The World’s evil is greater than our ability to ignore it. We don’t need to pretend we are happy. Others will see right through it, and all it does is create more relational distance from them.

Instead, we must look to Christ for the peace that transcends understanding.

Remember that experiences equip you for future impact.

When the time is right, you’ll be able to pass on the comfort you’ve received. God comforts us, and out of the overflow of his work, we will comfort others. God won’t waste a hurt. The good work he does in you will soon become a good work he does through you. The idea of passing it on doesn’t matter very much in the middle of the storm, but it is a true promise from God that can serve as a lighthouse in the dark.

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
(Psalm 116:7)

The Infinite Value of the Psalms

I LOVE the Psalms, but…I didn’t always love them.

To be honest: when I was a younger Christian, I thought the Psalms were a waste of space. Harsh And horrible thinking, I know. How could a person claim to love scripture (which I did), but not like the largest book in the Bible? Theologically, this amounts to believing that God didn’t know what he was doing when the Holy Spirit inspired the Psalms. Older Christians would often speak of the Psalms with a special reverence, and for the longest time, I just didn’t get what all the hype was about.

My shame runs even deeper—even after I had read through the entire book of Psalms a few times, I still wasn’t convinced of their importance. Two or three times a year, I’d get a strong impression that I needed to read/study/pray some of the Psalms. Occasionally, I’d ignore this desire, and I ended up with some pretty fruitless quiet times…so it was with reluctance that I would return to the Psalms, and God would bless my time with him—but my heart was still too hard to love the Psalms like other believers do.

Over time, this changed. There wasn’t a single moment where God changed my entire attitude over night. I wish there was, it would make for a better story! Instead, for me, it was a gradual process where I began to develop a deep love and appreciation for the Psalms.

The Psalms stand as one of the most unique books among the collection of already unique books that make up the Bible. It’s the biggest book, by far. It’s quoted more than any other book of the Bible. Although I couldn’t prove it, I bet it’s the most read.

I think the most interesting thing about this book is its dual nature. The Psalms are holy Scripture, and this means it’s God’s Word to people. As songs and prayer they are also our words to God. When you or I read from the Psalms, we are simultaneously listening to God and speaking to him. Weird, I know. The very idea of hearing and speaking at the same time calls for reflection.

If you struggle with your prayer life (I should probably write WHEN you struggle), the Psalms are a great place to turn. Praying the Psalms back to God can be an amazing experience. I often meet people who say, “I don’t know how to pray or what to say.” The solution is the psalms. There are many things in the psalms that are confusing, but human experience is universal. We all feel moments of triumph and moments of pain. We are thankful and joyful and ready to glorify God. And we also feel lonely, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. The Psalms express all of these things—and more.

The book of Psalms is a book about knowing God… talking to him honestly and authentically, listening to him, searching to find out what he’s really like. It’s a book that documents the journeys of different God-seekers by letting us in on their conversations with the Creator. Through their prayers and songs we can follow the well-worn paths they traveled as they discovered greater intimacy with the Father.

Leadership Principles of Jesus, part 1: Matthew

A survey of the book of Matthew yielded the following reflections. But first, a few notes. (a) Reading Matthew’s gospel in two sittings showed me things I wouldn’t have seen if I was reading smaller sections. Both kinds of readings–small parts and large parts– are needed for a healthy spiritual life. (b) I read with the intention of discerning the leadership principles of Jesus. Leadership is nothing more (nor less) than influence. Every believer has influence in some arena, therefore every believer is a leader. These principles are a discernment of what it means to influence others. (c) I don’t presume to think that this list is complete or absolute! I imagine spending ten years with just Matthew would not be enough to uncover all of the teachings. (d) I did my best to remove the redundancies and clean up the confusing comments, all while keeping each one as short as possible. If you see something unclear or redundant, make a note in the comments below.

  1. Matthew 1:1-25 — God was at work before you where born, he will work after you’ve died.
  2. Matthew 4:1-11 — Defeat lies from the devil with truth from God.
  3. Matthew 4:17; 19:17; 28:18-20 — Point people to God, teach them to obey Jesus’ commands.
  4. Matthew 5:12-16 — Your faithfulness will cause others to glorify God.
  5. Matthew 4:19; 26:37-38 — Gather a team, don’t lead in a vacuum.
  6. Matthew 4:23; 8:14-17; 14-13-21; 14:13-21; 15:29-39; 20:29-34 — Bring spiritual and/or physical healing and help to others.
  7. Matthew 5:1-2; 10:5-8; 15:24; 17:22-23; 20:17-20; 25:14-30 — Use your God-given gifts to follow your God-given calling.
  8. Matthew 5:3-12 — Develop Christ-like character.
  9. Matthew 5:11-12 — Endure persecution and hardship.
  10. Matthew 5:19 — Resist setting your own agenda.
  11. Matthew 5:21-22; 27-30; 31-32 — Align your attitudes with your actions.
  12. Matthew 5:23-24 — Remove the roadblocks in your relationships to remove roadblock in your worship.
  13. Matthew 5:33-38 — Build trust through integrity with your words.
  14. Matthew 5:38-42; 6:14-15; 26:49-50 — Submit to injustice,  give generously.
  15. Matthew 5:43-48 — Love neighbors and enemies.
  16. Matthew 6:1-13; 16-18 23:5-10 — Worship in secret, not for admiration from others.
  17. Matthew 6:19-24; 19:28-30 — Work for heaven, not for earth.
  18. Matthew  6:25-34; 10:9-10 — Worry less by seeking God first.
  19. Matthew 7:1-5 — Judge yourself before judging others.
  20. Matthew 7:6 — Give the truth to those who will accept it.
  21. Matthew 7:7-11, 21:22— Ask God for what you need and pursue it.
  22. Matthew 7:12 — Treat others how you’d like to be treated.
  23. Matthew 7:13-14 — Live in the “narrow,” avoid the popular path.
  24. Matthew 7:15-23 — Judge people by their actions, but don’t just look good, be good.
  25. Matthew 7:24-27 — Listen to God’s voice and obey him.
  26. Matthew 7:28-29 — Authority comes from teaching God’s ways.
  27. Matthew 8:1-4 — Seek Jesus to be purified.
  28. Matthew 8:4; 13:52 — Never let something new in your life keep you from doing the old things which were good.
  29. Matthew 8:5-13; 9:18-34 — Believe that Jesus is willing and able to help and heal.
  30. Matthew 8:18-22 — Intentions polluted with excuses never translate into obedience.
  31. Matthew 8:23-27 — Fear forgets that God is bigger than our storms.
  32. Matthew 8:28-34; 12:22-29; 12:43-45 — We fight an unseen Enemy.
  33. Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 18-26 — Spiritual healing, the forgiveness of sins, is more important than physical healing. Jesus can do both.
  34. Matthew 9:9-11 — Everyone can have a place in God’s kingdom.
  35. Matthew 9:12 — Everyone needs Jesus, not everyone knows it.
  36. Matthew 9:14-17 — Do what makes sense—what God wants—not what makes other people happy.
  37. Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14 — Show compassion for the harassed and helpless.
  38. Matthew 9:37 — There will always be more needs than we can meet.
  39. Matthew 9:38 — Ask God to call others to service.
  40. Matthew 10:1 — Authority comes from God, not people, popularity, positions, or power.
  41. Matthew 10:11-15 — Start with people who are supportive.
  42. Matthew 10:16-31 — Spiritual leadership is opposed and this opposition should not be feared.
  43. Matthew 10:32-37; 11:27; 12:2; 21:42 — Keep Jesus first, he is our center and foundation and cornerstone. Many will question and fight this.
  44. Matthew 10:38; 16:21-28 — Leadership requires sacrifice, self-denial, and giving up the world.
  45. Matthew 10:41, 18:5; 26:10 — Welcome everyone who serves Jesus.
  46. Matthew 10:42; 25:34-46 — Ministry means meeting needs in love.
  47. Matthew 11:1-18 — Never discount or discount another person’s doubts and questions.
  48. Matthew 11:5 — Share the good news, even to the poor.
  49. Matthew 11:20-24 — Pay attention to miracles, do not ignore the often inexplicable work of God
  50. Matthew 11:28-30 — Find rest in Jesus, learn from him, live with the lighter burden.
  51. Matthew 12:1-13; 15:1-20 — Legalism is an incorrect ordering of priorities.
  52. Matthew 12:16; 16:20; 17:9; 21:27; 26:63 — Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. Wait for the right time.
  53. Matthew 12:33-37 — Words matter and they spring from the heart.
  54. Matthew 12:30-32 — Sanctification is a process, and salvation has a beginning.
  55. Matthew 12:38-42; 16:1-4 — There will always be wicked doubters, still try to answer them.
  56. Matthew 12:46-49 — The evidence for being in God’s family is following God’s will.
  57. Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15 — Not everyone who hears God’s Word will accept it.
  58. Matthew 13:24-29; 36-43; 47-51 — Let God separate the wheat from the weeds, that is, the spiritual from the unspiritual.
  59. Matthew 13:31-35; 17:14-20; 21:21-22 — A little faith in our Great God will produce great results.
  60. Matthew 13:44-46 — God’s Kingdom will cost us everything, and we’re still getting the better deal.
  61. Matthew 13:53-58 — Sometimes the people who know us will never respect us.
  62. Matthew 14:1-12 — Great injustices will happen to great leaders.
  63. Matthew 14:22-36  — Encourage, challenge, and correct others according to their needs.
  64. Matthew 15:1-20; 23:16-22 — Human traditions are important, but not as important as God’s Word.
  65. Matthew 15:5-12 — Watch for false teachings, even in small amounts.
  66. Matthew 15:13-20; 20:32; 21:23; 22:41-41 — Ask questions, because they change people.
  67. Matthew 15:21-23; 26:32-35; 26:69-75 — Even good people will oppose God’s plans.
  68. Matthew 17:22-23 — Sometimes, the sacrifices we make as leaders will sadden those closest to us.
  69. Matthew 17:24-27, 22:17-22 — Submit to earthly authorities
  70. Matthew 18:1-5 — Kingdom membership is based on humility
  71. Matthew 18:6-7 — Watch that you don’t cause others to stumble.
  72. Matthew 18:8-9 — Do whatever it takes to keep from stumbling.
  73. Matthew 18:10-14 — God cares for the lost.
  74. Matthew 18:15-20 — Relational sin needs to be confronted, personally first, then involve a few others.
  75. Matthew 18:21-35 — Leaders forgive, authentically and continually.
  76. Matthew 19:1-12 — God doesn’t give up on us when we fall short of his ideals.
  77. Matthew 19:13-15 — Jesus is for everyone, don’t hold anyone back, not even little children.
  78. Matthew 19:16-27 — Do the possible and trust God to do the impossible.
  79. Matthew 20:1-16 — Do not be envious of the generosity of God toward others.
  80. Matthew 20:20-28; 23:11-12 — Greatness comes from great servanthood.
  81. Matthew 21:12-13 — The things that hinder worship need to be destroyed.
  82. Matthew 21:28-32 — Even extravagant grace can’t break the hardest hearts.
  83. Matthew 21:42-44 — Spiritual leadership helps others bear spiritual fruit.
  84. Matthew 22:14 — Grace doesn’t negate our responsibility
  85. Matthew 22:15-18 — Maintain integrity, teach the truth, be faithful to God (not people).
  86. Matthew 22:-29 — Two things build disciples: the Word of God and the Power of God.
  87. Matthew 22:37-40 — Teach people to love God, self, and others.
  88. Matthew 23:3 — Leaders can learn from hypocrites.
  89. Matthew 23:4 — Leaders don’t need to make others feel guilty.
  90. Matthew 23:13-14, 29-32 — Avoid hypocrisy at all costs.
  91. Matthew 23:23-28 — Change from the inside out, not just the outside.
  92. Matthew 23:34, 37 — Some leaders are sent to save the hypocrites, a mission field most hostile.
  93. Matthew 24:1-51 — We are not sure when Jesus will return, do not be deceived: everyone will know once it happens.
  94. Matthew 25:1-13 — Faith is prepared to wait expectantly for Jesus.
  95. Matthew 25:14-28 — We don’t just wait, we also bear fruit.
  96. Matthew 25:31-46 — This temporary life is preparation for eternal life.
  97. Matthew 26:17-30 — Endure personal betrayal for the good of the Kingdom.
  98. Matthew 26:39, 42 — Leadership is about God’s will, not ours
  99. Matthew 26:40-41, 45-46 — Leadership supports others who are struggling.
  100. Matthew 27:1-10 — Sometimes people get what they want even when it’s not what they need.
  101. Matthew 27:45 — Because Jesus was forsaken, we never will be, but sometimes it will feel like it.

The Power of a Parent’s Words

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

Words are powerful! Whoever said, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” was a liar! Or stupid. Words can build up … or tear down.

You’ve experienced the power of words–both positive and negative–in your life, right?

As parents, especially as our kids get older, we may wonder if our kids are really listening. If they were truly listening–even just a little–we wouldn’t have to repeat ourselves so often!

While we may wonder if our kids are listening, we can be confident that they are watching. They may not hold on to every nugget of wisdom–or even simple directions– but they do remember the big picture.

Think about a computer screen for a moment; the overall image is created by thousands and thousands of pixels (unless you aren’t on a  Mac, then your screen probably has 20 pixels). When you look at the screen, you look at the entire picture, not each individual pixel.

Our kids perceive our words in the same way. They don’t remember every single word or each individual conversation, each if these are simply small pixels making up a larger picture. Every conversation is important! You can’t have a big picture without small pixels. But a single good conversation won’t overcome a hundred bad ones.

Consider your words from the past week or so. As you think about the things you said directly to your kids (and the conversations you’ve had with others in front of them), ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did your kids form an overall picture what is wholesome?
  • Did they see you building others up according to their needs?

As a church family, let’s make a commitment to using better words to and around our kids. When we choose to honor Christ in this way, not only do we build strong families, but we also have a strong “witness” to the world. People in our community will notice that we are different because of the way we speak to one another!

How To Build Fear and Trust as a Leader

Exodus 14:31 paints a wonderful picture of what leadership in God’s kingdom ought to look like:

“And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

God calls us to obedience, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s soul staggeringly difficult! However, when we are faithful, the results are awe inspiring.

The ancient Israelites saw God at work. The redemption from Egypt was so powerful, so visible, that it didn’t require any spiritual sensitivity to notice. Afterward, the people feared God and trusted Moses.

This is a good test for our leadership, and by extension, all of our relationships. As we relate to others, we ought to make it a goal to earn their trust, not demand or expect it. Additionally, we also need to point people to God, to help them respect and fear him more.

Faithfulness in God’s family doesn’t highjack his glory for ourselves.

The key for getting this right is found in adopting the posture of a servant. Moses did amazing things–stuff you or I will never do–but everyone knew who Moses belonged to, he was God’s servant.

When we commit to humility, it doesn’t matter what God does through us, everyone around us will know that God is the real power behind our efforts.

It is difficult to be faithful and do great things for God.
It is more difficult to be faithful and do great things all for the glory of God.

Successful Transformation: a reflection from Ephesians 4

Change is painful. There is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain. It is not difficult to understand that all change is painful. Intentional change – the changes we choose– has an added layer of difficulty because we don’t like it. For many of us, this explains why it’s been so long since we’ve experienced any meaningful transformation..

We need to learn how to change on purpose because we can’t rely on uncontrollable events and crisis to become the person God created for us to be. Sure, God works through these things to shape us, but we also have the responsibility to pursue personal transformation. The following teaching from Ephesians 4 can help us to this end:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. […] Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:17; 19)

Here are the results of my reflection on this passage:

“You must no long life as the Gentiles do…”
ONE: Decide to be obedient.

Nothing happens without commitment, nothing significant happens without sacrifice. The pursuit of change is an act of obedience that we don’t naturally want to take.. When we decide to change, we are choosing to follow Jesus authentically.

Typically, the term “Gentiles” is a racial description—meaning “not Jewish”—but in this passage Paul is talking about a spiritual condition: a life separate from God.
“…in the futility of their thinking…”
TWO: Give up worthless thinking.

How we act springs from what we think. Every action is rooted in our thought life, so if we want to change our life, we need to change the way we think.

One part of this process includes the identification of specifically what is futile. For example, sometimes we think, “If I’m selfish, I’ll be satisfied.” Nothing could be further than the truth! But we often live with self deceptions like this because we don’t take the time to identify them. The rest of this scripture highlights futile thinking we often allow to take root in our thought life.
“Having lost all sensitivity…”
THREE: Develop greater awareness.

We love to rely on our own intuition. But it’s not enough, especially when we are living in immaturity. The gas gage in a car only works because it’s been tuned. When we have lost our sensitivity, we need to be tuned by God’s Word, prayer, rigorous reflection, and input from mature believers.

This isn’t just true for our entire lives, but also in specific areas. We may be doing really good spiritually in many areas, but we still have a few blind spots and lost sensitivity. Think of a person whom you can’t stand…when it comes to your interactions with (and thoughts about) that person, you need to develop greater sensitivity so you can determine what is right and what is wrong.

“They have given themselves over to sensuality”
FOUR: Reject the trap of feeling good

The unspiritual life lacks freedom because it’s enslaved by feelings. “If it feels good, do it!” This thinking is immature and leads to pain, and it grows over time. When we live in darkness—outside of the light of God’s desire and design for our lives—we become enslaved to feeling good. We are quick to give ourselves over to destructive habits and adopt all kinds of addictions, most of which are emotional rather than chemical. Some examples of futile thinking:

“It feels good to be admired by others, so I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve this.
“It feels good to have power, so I’ll do anything to get more.”

Just because something feels right, this doesn’t mean it’s actually right. This truth becomes self evident the moments after indulge in things we we shouldn’t.

“So as to indulge in every kind of impurity”
FIVE: Refocus on the future.

When we live to feel good, it works for a while, there can be no denying this! However, the impurity builds up over time and our quality of life diminishes. A polluted heart becomes a corrupted heart. The commitment to seek change means lifting our head up and looking a little further down the road.

Telling a “white” lie may avoid a few immediate problems, but it sows a seed for future disaster. Lying becomes easier, eventually people will find out and stop trusting you, and your lack of integrity will lead to a lack of peace. If you refocus on the future, you’ll want things like trust from others and peace within your heart. You will find the courage to tell the truth today (even if it means trouble) when you have an eye on tomorrow.

“…and they are full of greed.”
SIX: Resist temptation

Resisting temptation is the only way to reduce temptation. When we give in to temptation, it’s power grows. Poking a few holes in a dam may reduce the pressure on it’s wall, but our hearts aren’t the same way. When we feed the unhealthy hunger in our heart, we improve our vision for objects of destruction. Unhealthy hungers are never satisfied for very long.

The choice for transformation is a choice for obedience. We must recognize fruitless thinking and develop greater sensitivity to the things of God. We can reject the trap of feeling good by recognizing that the satisfaction of sensual feelings is short lived, it only leads to greed for more indulgence. Transformation is a battle against temptation, and resisting temptation is the only way to reduce temptation.