Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I keep thinking what a sweet gift Jesus gave Peter when He sent him fishing. Peter loved fishing! He was a fisherman. All twelve of the disciples were regular guys from every walk of life who had given up career and family to follow Jesus. With Jesus they constantly faced situations that took them out of their comfort zones, that required them to do the impossible.

Were they all really suited to become apostles, evangelists, preachers and teachers? Were they really suited to establish a world movement, write scripture, oversee a whole new way of life, face torture and death? Is this anything they would have chosen for themselves if Jesus hadn’t called them?

The apostle Paul was suited to be a rabbi, preaching in the vaulted colonnades of Solomon’s porch. As the protege of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, he was on his way to stardom. Instead, Paul became something he wasn’t in the least suited for. A Pharisee, with extensive knowledge of the oral law and scripture, he became the evangelist to the Gentiles. He finally admitted that to do the job he had to basically forget about everything he had learned and just preach the gospel in simple terms.

He had been born to wealth and privilege, and ended up with very little to call his own, working as a tentmaker and itinerant preacher. He was regularly beat up, and a couple times left for dead, shipwrecked, exposed to the elements and worse.

But Paul had this to say about the work God had given him to do, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Phil 4:11-12). Later, he told Timothy “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim 6:6-10)

Philip Doddridge, a pastor 250 years ago prayed this prayer about contentment, “O Thou wise and merciful Governor of the world! I have often said, ‘Thy will be done;’ and now Thy will is painful to me. But shall I upon that account unsay what I have so often said? ‘God forbid!’ I come rather to lay myself down at Thy feet, and to declare my full and free submission to all Thy sacred pleasure.”

What would you like God to ask you to do? Now, what if you were to empty your thoughts and feelings of all your own desires, and were to say to God, as pastor Doddridge did, “Do with me as You will.” What do you think God would ask you to do? God will certainly call you to join the harvest.

There is hard work to be done, and often it is work that may not suit you, may not draw out the gifts you would like to have developed, may require you to get out of your comfort zone and do the impossible. This is when the lesson of contentment is so important.

Jeremiah Burroughs, a pastor 350 years ago, said “Contentment is that sweet, inward, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal at every condition.” You look for the things that can be enjoyed, because you delight in God’s wisdom of calling of you.

And sometimes the God who knows you, and knows what blesses you ,will surprise you, as Jesus did with Peter, with something you are perfectly suited for, and which you will enjoy to the hilt. Peter was going to give up fishing entirely so he could do what God had called him to do. But what God called him to do was fish!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Management

Successfully managing your time implies that you are accomplishing what is the most important for you.

When you don't accomplish what you truly want, you feel overwhelmed, compromised, frustrated, stressed out. A lot of times people try to use time management techniques that work for other people, only to be disappointed. Often this is because they haven’t figured out what goals are the most important to them and gear the techniques toward those goals.

So the first step in effective time management has to include techniques for good prioritizing.

Myths About Time Management
(1) MYTH: My life is completely controlled by external events.

FACT: You can have some control over a lot of what happens in your life, but you are the only one who can initiate that control. Ask God to help you recognize what you can control, and what you can't control before you start figuring out what you’re going to do with your day. Be realistic about how long things take to do, and how much time you need between things. Put in margin for travel time, for rest and meals, for unexpected interruptions.

(2) MYTH: I should be able to meet everyone's expectations.

FACT: Other people’s expectations of you are not always going to be realistic. Some- times other people’s expectations are based on a different set of priorities than yours. Ask God to show you what He expects of you, and how you can please Him first.

(3) MYTH: I should have no limits.

FACT: We all have limits. Sometimes we can trip ourselves up by expecting perfection, and only God is perfect. Instead ask God to show you how to be efficient and responsible with the resources He has given you. Ask God to show you how to strive for excellence, without getting hung up on perfection.

Try some specific techniques
(1) Organize your day around your energy levels. Figure out when your energy is high and do your most important things, like praying and studying God’s word, then. Save your less important work for those times when you have less energy.

(2) Optimize your work environment. Keep the things you need, like your Bible, your lesson and something to write with, in your work area. Make sure the environment is good for concentrating as well as for comfort. You know what works best for you.

(3) Safeguard blocks of time. Instead of looking at the deadline, look at when you should start doing something. Protect your time by saying "no" to the kinds of interruptions you can avoid – you don’t have to answer the phone or e-mail right now.

(4) Prioritize the things you want to do. You know you’re going to prepare and serve three meals today, you’re going to shower and clean up, and you’re going to go to bed. Those are nonnegotiable, so you plan around them. What else is nonnegotiable? Make spending time in God’s word as high a priority as eating a meal.

(5) Plan ahead according to your priorities. If you neglect certain activities they will catch up with you eventually, throw your life out of balance and undermine your high priority efforts. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, then include them in your planning and reward yourself for doing them. You are, in essence, parenting yourself as you teach yourself better habits.

(6) Avoid over-planning. Don’t make yourself crazy. Ask God to continually show you where you are being responsible and where you can do better. Thank Him for His wisdom, and then act on it.

The truly disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Battle For Your Mind

The greatest battle that goes on in the world today is for the mind.

During the early, formative years of our lives, you and I learned to live independently from God – we were born with this tendency, as has every human being since Adam and Eve, even when you are born to parents who know and love Jesus.

When you became a Christian nobody pushed the delete button in your head to make you forget how to live independently of God. All those thoughts and feelings are still in there, and this is what Scripture calls the flesh, it’s all permanently recorded in your memory.

You and I learned how to cope with life using thought patterns and behavior patterns that are not compatible with God’s way
• Lots of people learned to lie to protect or promote themselves
• We refuse to face the truth so we pretend it doesn’t exist – some people call this denial
• We indulge in a fantasy life because real life is unpleasant
• We withdraw from people so people won’t reject us
• We regress, revert to behavior from our childhoods
• We take our frustrations out on other people,
• We blame others for our troubles
• We make excuses for ourselves

All these ways of coping are similar to what Paul called strongholds in 2 Corinthians. The word “stronghold” could also be translated “fortress”, it’s your world view that was shaped by the environment you grew up in, and in which you now live, it makes you feel strong to face life. Since you can’t wipe that slate clean, you and I have to unlearn what we learned during those years without Jesus.

That’s why Paul said, in
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Even as believers you and I can still be conformed to this world by listening to the wrong music, watching the wrong shows, reading the wrong material, or even just being barraged with all of the advertizement that’s aimed at us.

You and I have to retrain our minds, we have to renounce the lies, reprogram the way we think by renewing our minds daily with God’s word, and we have to commit to believing the truth, speaking the truth and applying the truth every chance we get -- no white lies, no manipulation, no social niceties that are intended to deceive.

Satan knows that if he can control your thoughts, he can control your life because what you think will determine what you do and say.

in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Paul instructed the Corinthians to forgive the person they had been disciplining so that they would not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes – in other words, Satan takes advantage of the thought lives of people who refuse to forgive others. Unforgiveness is a major reason why people remain in bondage to their past instead of being free in Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers
2 Corinthians 11:3 The serpent is crafty enough to lead even Christians astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus.
Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is capable of putting thoughts into people’s minds. These deceptive thoughts sound just like your own voice, so you think you’re thinking your own thoughts. (1 Chronicles 21:1 and John 13:2)

The antidote to Satan’s deceptions and schemes is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5, disciplining yourself to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Does that sound like work? It is. Hard work! You must take every thought because the problem with deception is that you don’t know if you are being fooled, since you might already be deceived. So you ask Jesus: is this thought worthy of You? Does this thought pass muster with Your word in the Bible?

God has given you and me an excellent sifter for thoughts: it’s found in

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Most of the time our little captive thought won’t even pass the first test “whatever is true.” More often than not, our thoughts are based on what we imagine must be the truth, what we project must be the truth, but there is no proof of veracity. Take each of those words in that verse and meditate on them. Is it honorable.... really? Is your thought just, does it give fair judgement? Is it a pure thought? Is it beautiful or is it ugly? Would you commend this thought to someone else? To God? Is it an excellent or a shabby thought? And is what you’re thinking worth praising? Are you proud of that thought?

God cares deeply about your thought life: Jesus said love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind...” Matthew 22:37)

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does t.v. really rot your brain?

If you’ve been reading the news, and news journals, you know that recently there’s been a lot of research coming out about the brain. One current article says, “The most interesting and complicated frontier in science is the human brain. This three pound universe has seemingly unlimited capabilities, yet in spite of advancements in neuroscience, the brain remains the most mysterious force in existence.”

Research has discovered that
• Men and women think differently because our brains are formed significantly differently
• Near-death experiences have been replicated in the lab simply with the use of well-placed electrodes on the head
• The old saying is completely not true: 90% of our brain does not lie dormant – we use 100% of our brain.

But ironically, with all this excitement over the brain, a trend has been happening in our society that one author calls the cultural pattern of mindlessness: the inability, or at least the unwillingness, to look at what is happening around us in an analytical and critical way. The chief culprit seems to be television. Chances are that, at some point in your life, someone — probably a parent — has told you to "stop watching television, it rots your brain." Guess what?! There is strong evidence it really does. Only 30 seconds of watching television causes the human brain to produce alpha waves, which are associated with an inert, almost comatose state.

Research shows that watching television "numbs" the left brain and shifts activity to the right, sometimes permanently. That’s not so good, since it’s the left brain that handles the organization, analysis and judgment of incoming information.

When you are watching television, your higher brain regions shut down, and activity shifts to the lower brain. The function of the lower brain is reactive — it only responds to stimuli, like the "fight or flight" response.

And your lower brain can’t tell the difference between real and pretend images, like all those murders, scenes of adultery, criminal activity, suspenseful situations, weird spooky images, sassy naughtiness and so on. Telling the difference between real and pretend is the job of the higher brain region -- which has, remember, been shut down by you watching t.v. So your lower brain, the only part of you that is actually on while you’re watching your show, reacts to television events and images as though they were really happening, causing the release, into your brain and your body, of a whole cocktail of stress hormones and adrenalin.

Watching t.v. also causes your brain to release endorphins – the feel-good chemicals that can get you addicted. Several studies have proven that your body actually suffers withdrawal symptoms if you cut down on your regular t.v. time. One study paid 182 people to agree to stop watching television for a year. Not one of them made it longer than six months and they all showed the symptoms of opiate withdrawal: increased anxiety, frustration and depression.

The consequences of this can be pretty bad; long-term television watchers could find their judgment severely impaired; and children who watch hours of t.v. every day might actually have their brains' development altered.

How deeply do you believe that your mind can be transformed just by reading, thinking about and applying scripture? The fact is even television has the power to change you. Some researchers contend that t.v. is making us dumber. The more you watch it, the more time you spend with your brain effectively "turned off," in effect consciously reducing the amount of time you spend alive, conscious and a part of the world. Wow! No wonder God says to us today -- don’t be conformed to the world anymore, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!

[Washington Week]

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