by Elodia Flynn, L.C.S.W.
I have always loved working in the garden because besides being my therapeutic outlet, it is also a source of great pleasure. I have tried my hands at growing lots of things and while I‘m not, by any means, a rosarian, I have tried growing roses with some degree of success. It was in the process of pruning my roses that I came to have a clear picture of John 15:1-5.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the true vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing”. (NASB)
I don’t know about you, but my understanding of Scriptures usually comes not when I’m studying, praying, or in church, but when I’m doing something so mundane as pruning a rose bush. The Lord usually uses very mundane things to explain spiritual principles to us.
When I started learning about growing roses a gentleman known as a great rosarian came to teach me the process of pruning. He began by asking the question of whether I wanted lots of small roses or fewer roses, but larger. You see, how we prune not only maintains the health and beauty of the plant, but also determines the size of the roses we get. He was very careful in the way he cut the branches, since the angle of the cut determines how the new branch will grow. Every cut was quickly sealed with Elmer glue to protect the new and soft branch from insects feeding on the sap. I began to understand that pruning is not just a haphazard process, but something done with a very specific goal in mind—the health and beauty of the bush and the quality of the fruit—in this case, roses.
Then one year, right after the last frost and once the bushes started leafing out, I was beginning to get ready to do some pruning when a friend said, “Oh, don’t cut them, they look so pretty and healthy.” Clippers in hands, I responded, “ It is necessary for the health of the plant and the quality of the roses, to cut them down.” As I started cutting my friend was horrified and said, “Stop, you’re going to kill them.” It seemed to her that what I was doing to the plants was not only unnecessary, but also cruel. I responded that in a few weeks she would be surprised at how those “Stumps,” as she described them, were going to look.
After I finished picking up all the withered branches and sat down to observe my work, the above scripture came to mind. Christ the Vine, His Father the Vinedresser, and we the branches. But how was this Scripture related to what I did to my rose bushes? As I carefully observed the plants and what I just have done, I wanted to understand the spiritual side of pruning? I began by removing the dead canes. These can be identified as cane that are shriveled, dark brown, or black. Then I preceded to tear off the “suckers,” these are small branches that come out of the root system; they take away nutrients, crowd out the plant, but produce nothing. Others, I cut off because they were weak and prone to diseased. Others, I cut so that they would produce better and prettier roses and yet others, called cross branches, I cut because the direction of their growth was counter productive to the overall look, production and health of the plant. Shortly after being cut off, the branches lay withered on the ground and I picked them up to throw them away.
Cutting Off Dead Wood
If we put ourselves in this picture how are we pruned by the Master vinedresser? The first thing He does is to clean us up by cutting off all the dead wood. The dead woods of our lives are those events that happen to us many years ago. They were no doubt very painful, like any kind of abuse, rejection or being shame by the people we love and whose approval we needed and wanted; but even today the pain of those events still affect us. We find ourselves angry, resentful, bitter, and unforgiving and take our frustration out on innocent victims—usually our children. The longer and tighter we hold unto that dead wood the more part of us dies down. They are so debilitating that the only things you see in us are the dried out branches that produce absolutely nothing. They are like cancer cells that infect the rest of the body and eventually leave us emotionally dead.
- What is some dead wood you are still holding on? Are you willing to go through the pain of being pruned?
- What skills have you developed to deal with intrusive and painful thoughts?
- As a mother or wife, what are some of your greatest regrets?
- Do you tend to personalize the behavior of other people as statements of you?
- Do you find yourself easily angered and frustrated with your children over relatively small transgressions?
Pruning the Good Branches
Then there are those habits that, while good, need some pruning. These are the good things we do, but if we are not careful they get out of balance. Like getting involved in too many things, taking on too many responsibilities or not asking for help when we needed. As a result we don’t do anything with excellence, but half way.
- How many good things are you involved with, but that at the end of the day you find yourself physically exhausted?
- Do you find yourself always rushing from one activity to another?
- How many activities do you allow your children to be involved in?
- Do you find yourself too busy to rest, listen to your children or spend a few quiet minutes with the Lord?
Cutting Away the Suckers
Next, He goes for the suckers, which usually come right out of the roots. He does not cut them off, but tears them off to make sure they don’t regrow again or multiply, as it is their tendency. Usually, these are unhealthy habits we develop to cope with life’s difficulties. The development of one leads to another and another and pretty soon we find ourselves addictive to them. They debilitate us and crowd our lives, but produced nothing of value. Like buying things we don’t need or our obsession with exercise or diet. And let us not forget the incredible amounts of time we often spend on Facebook, or our indispensable cell phones. I’m not suggesting that these things are bad in and of themselves but, if not careful, we find ourselves control by them.
Perhaps you can write down what are a few suckers that need to be torn off from your life.
- As an example, you might want to check how much of your time is spend on Facebook?
- When you get a text do you feel the urge to look at it immediately even though you are only a couple of minutes away from where you are going?
- When you get up in the morning what is the first thing you look at and then grab? Your Cell phone?
- We are told, “you are the temples of the Holy Spirit” As the temple of God Spirit, can you name 3 things you do to care for His temple?
Removing Diseased Branches
Next there are those weak and prone to diseases branches. These are habits we seldom talked about, like feeling sorry for ourselves, anxious or depressed. From this position a small mistake is a catastrophe and we criticized ourselves and conclude that the reason why not even the Lord loves us is because of our stupidity. Added to this is our view of ourselves as worthless and undeserving of loving or being love not only by others, but also by the Lord Himself. As a result our relationships are a continual struggle and we isolate or worse conclude that life is not worth living. Our own self-values is at the root of those weak and prone to diseases branches.
- Are you afraid to trust others, so you isolate?
- What do you say to yourselves when you make a mistake?
- How often do you doubt your ability to love or deserving of being love?
- Do you doubt the value of your life?
- When life hurts, what is the first thing you think about? Then, what do you do next?
Taking Away the Cross Branches
And then, what are the cross branches? These are activities we engage ourselves in that lead us in the wrong direction. Among these is our preoccupation with what others faceless and nameless peoples may think of us. As a result every decision we make is based on what those other peoples may think or say about us. Our lack of boundaries also fit in the in the cross branch category. And since we are afraid of what others may think of us, we find ourselves saying “YES” to every request, and then resenting those that we feel are taken advantage of us. But in the event that we might say “NO”, we justify our “NOS” with a series of excuses none of which are true.
- How often in making a decision, let say whether or not you Home School your children or participate in a particular activity is decided by your fear of what others may say or think of you?
- Are your decisions made by your need to belong and be accepted by the group?
- Is the motivation of your “YESes” a genuine desire to please the Lord or are they motivated by your fear of being rejected or criticized?
- Do you believe that your “YESes” are a way for you to make friends?
Sealing the Branches
While the Scriptures does not addressed the sealing of the branches, I thought, how might the Master Vinedresser, would seal the cuts of His pruning in us? Surely not with Elmer glue? For the roses the glue acts as a protective and healing balm. But what about us, if we were so careful to protect a rose bush from diseased, certainly He would not leave us expose to the elements? In Psalm 147:3 we reads, “He heals the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” But how? In Jeremiah 8:14-22 reference is made to the Balm of Gilead. The Bible uses the term “balm of Gilead” metaphorically as an example of something with healing or soothing powers. Matthew Henry in his commentary about this verse said, “The blood of Christ is the balm in Gilead, his Spirit is the Physician there, all-sufficient; so that the people may be healed,”
In light that the Holy Spirit is present in us and among us, we are going to finish by doing something out of the ordinary. For a minute now, close your eyes and while you hear the song being sang picture the Holy Spirit applying the balm of Gilead to those old wounds. Then when the song is finish you might want to share your experience with those around your table.
Not too long ago the grandparent’s role in the family was seen with great respect as the carrier of spiritual and moral value, whose wisdom could be respected, trusted and even sought out. Some even believed that grandparents were the backbone of the family, to whom the grandchildren and even the parents could go to for counsel and advise because of what life had taught them. However, in this age of great technological advances where computers and cell phones seems to have replaced people, texting has replace face-to-face conversation, Instagram and Facebook have become the way of establishing relationships and ordering your medication is done by talking to an unknown voice on the other side of the phone who tells you what bottom to push; the importance of the grandparents role has been reduced to a trip to the mall or as an economical resource. Stories about the family, conversation about the child’s dreams, school or for the grandparents to share something of value that life has taught them, are a thing of the past. Today, a visit with the grandchildren is reduced to “just hanging out with them” meaning they spend all of their time with their new IPhone searching the Web for the latest technology, the latest movie or game, the latest scandal of a famous wrapper, athlete, or movie star and of course resolving a problem with their peers by texting. Conversations are rare and difficult since their attention is on the keyboard or their IPhone or IPad.
This is not to say that technology is a bad thing when used as a tool to enhance our lives; but when it replaces face-to face conversation, something of great importance is lost—the comfort offered by the sound of another human voice when life hurts. While technology offers us a myriad of advantages, the value of our connection with the people who loved us can never be replace with a text or a Facebook message. However, the grandparent concerns over some of these things is considered irrelevant and old fashion.
While technology offers us great benefits, like in medicine, education, communication, it is hard to balance the speed with which it assails us, but especially its impact in the mind of young children and youth. Regardless of the advances of technology, there are very few things that can replace the value offered by the warmth and strength of a relationship with a loving, respectful and sensitive grandparent.
At a time when children’s struggle with their value as a person or their identity on the basis of how they compare to their peer in the material and popularity scale, when they are bombarded by the media with what makes you famous, important, lovable, or significant, when the lure of a credit card can take you anywhere or get you anything you desire; the influence, love and support of grandparents can become a child secure place where they learned that their self-image is not based on what they have or what others think of them, but on the person they were meant to be. A relationship with a grandparent can nurture these qualities in a child’s life like perhaps no other relationship would. However, geographical distance, the parent’s view of grandparents as irrelevant or possibly having a negative influence on the child, can make or even void the impact of such a vital relationship.
There was a time when grandparents could correct grandchildren and such corrections were supported by the parents. Today too many grandchildren can ignore a grandparent’s correction or even tell them “I don’t want to talk to you” as instructed by a parent. When grandchildren are allowed by the parents themselves to be disrespectful to grandparents, the influence of the grandparent in the life of their grandchildren is nullified. Being in the field of counseling I’m concerned and appalled at the disregard with which some grandparents are treated.
In an article by by Allan G. Hedberg, Ph.D. about the role of grandparents he writes:
“Grandparents serve as the backbone of a family. They provide wisdom and perspective on life as it unfolds within their families and communities. Age brings experience, and experience brings stories embedded in valuable life lessons. In short, grandparents have a whole lot to teach us about life, because they’ve lived longest!
On the other hand, without grandparents, a family may flounder and feel disassociated. Feelings of loss or loneliness might prevail, especially at times of stress or turmoil. These are the times when it would be helpful to have perspective on an issue; when we need advice or guidance, but there is no one to turn to for the direction, support and wisdom gained during the grandparent’s lifetime. The person we wanted to call should have been grandma or grandpa. Unfortunately, many of us never had a grandparent to consult, lean on, learn from, or look up to.”
If the family is the nucleus of society, what then is society’s future when families disregard the value and contribution, of its older members and their wisdom and experience is replace by Google? Unfortunately, for the grandparents, but especially for the children who are the future of society, such disregard, only breeds disrespect and disrespect leads to chaos.
The role of the grandparents can be a joy, but it is also very risky. It can be thought of as very valuable. When this is the case, the child learns to trust the grandparents’ wisdom and view the relationship with grandparents as a safe haven when life feels confusing and scary. But when the role of grandparents is often seen as irrelevant by the parent, the child cannot benefit from the many important life lessons and emotional support a grandparent can offer.
“Grandchildren welcome, parents by appointment only”
 Hedberg, Allan G., Ph.D.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
Upon hearing the story of another grandmother and being a grandmother myself has propelled me to say a few words about the value of grandparents, but also the joy and risk of the role. All of this being said, we should take into account that grandparents are to respect the boundaries parents has set for their children, whether or not we agree with them. Also recognizing that there are grandparents whose conduct negates access to their grandchildren.
However, what I want to emphasize, is the lack of respect and appreciation given to many grandparents today and whose life are a good example for the grandchildren. It seems that the parents fail to communicate to their children the value and respect owed to grandparents. As I talked to other grandparents as to what I was writing about, I heard a few stories about the perils of grand parenting.
One grandmother who is also a single woman, told me that how her daughter threatens not to let her see the grand baby if she does not comply with certain requests. By the use of contempt, she manipulates the grandmother saying things such as, “What kind of grandmother are you?” To prove her value as a grandmother and not to lose the privileged of seeing her grand baby, she gives into her daughter’s demands at a great emotional cost to her.
Another grandmother told me of the pain of not being allowed to participate in the life of her grandchild because she refuses to give into the demands of the mother who treats her more as a maid than a grandmother. The list of does and don’ts is the first thing given to the grandmother when asked to baby-sit, failure to comply with every dot and tiddle leads to disregard for the grandmother’s insight and knowledge about taking care of young children. Keep in mind, she raised four children of her own.
A grandmother is preoccupied with the high expectations her son and daughter-in-law have to correct their 2-year-old daughter. In her view, the parents are very rigid in how they treat her granddaughter. In spite of her concerns, she says nothing. She fears that to suggest the possibility that the parents might be wrong could put the relationship in question. She and her husband want to have an impact on their grandchild’s life so she keeps her emotions and opinions to herself. The boundaries set for these grandparents are not only ridged, but also denote a lack of respect for them as people capable of reasoning and taking care of children, while respecting parental guidelines.
I have also heard parents make derogatory statement or laugh about grandparents in the presence of the grandchildren. When things like this happen the child dismissed anything the grandparent has to say as unimportant and irrelevant.
In light of this, lets take a look at what the Old and New Testaments have to say about the grandparent’s position in the life of young children:
Deuteronomy 4:6-9 (NLT)
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”
Obviously, God thought of grandparents as trustworthy and capable to pass on to grandchildren the precepts of His word. Could it be that the respect the Jewish culture has demonstrated for their elders is the one reason for their preservation?
Exodus 34:7 Exodus 34:7 (NLT)
“… I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”
Psalm 103:17 Psalm 103:17-18 (NLT)
“But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children.”
It is important to notice, that the effect of our conduct has an impact on the following generations. As a result, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves what is the legacy that we will passed on.
2 Timothy 1:5 2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)
“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”
It is quite clear that Timothy’s grandmother played a big role in the life of young Timothy and that his mother obviously saw and allows the benefit of that role. The responsibility of the parents then is to evaluate with sober judgment if the conduct of the grandparent merits their trust.
For the grandparents, the sound of those little voices when they call you Grandma or Grandpa or Nana or Papa is invaluable. To see their little eyes light up when you bow to give them a hug, or you make a surprise visit is wonderful. To attend one of their activities and see them kicking a ball, tumbling on a mat, swimming another lap in the pool or playing a part in a play, is joy indescribable and of course we believe there are no other children in the whole world that can quite measure up to our grandchildren. Then as they grow, we wish for their life to be free from difficulties, but we know better and realized that our love for them does not shield them from the perils of life. However, as grandparents, we hope that our prayers or perhaps our emotional contribution to their lives and the examples we set, contribute to their well-being and help them manage with integrity and courage whatever life has in store for them. And to that end we embark in hope that our efforts will be a contribution for good in their life.
Part 1 of a 2 part series
Elodia Flynn, L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
What we believe determines our emotional state as well as our behavior. Are you experiencing the power that comes in victorious thinking or the pain from misbeliefs? In our last article entitled “Victorious Thinking – Changing the Way You Think”, you learned how much our misbeliefs could hinder our life from the freedom Christ purchase for us at Calvary (Galatians 5:1). God’s desire for us is to set us free from those destructive misbeliefs.
Misbeliefs are any negative or false thought patterns we have about God, ourselves, or other people. Sometimes those misbeliefs are the result of our interpretation of things that were said or done to us by important people in our lives when we were young and impressionable. Other times our misbelief are the result of painful life circumstances. In any case, the task for us is to evaluate where the beliefs came from and whether or not they are true. As we discover those misbeliefs, it is essential to verify whether they are true of false. In Philippians 4:8 we find the key to gage the validity of our thinking. In it the apostle Paul instructs us on the importance of where our mind dwells. Notice that he is not suggesting a good idea, but giving us a command when he writes:
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Write your thoughts next to the above list, and then ask yourself the following questions:
Are my thoughts true, just, pure, lovely, of good report, are they virtuous, are they praise worthy? Are you aware of what types of thoughts control your thinking and where they come from as well as where they lead you? Do you see the need for making some changes?
The Lord’s desire is that we manage our thought life with integrity and He made this quite clear in the above passage. For better or for worse, we become masters at what we practice. In Proverbs 23:7 we are told “For as he thinks within himself, so is he.” The power of our thoughts impacts the quality of our lives at every level. Such impact requires our careful consideration, if making changes is our goal. But changing our thinking is not easy task.
First of all, we need to evaluate our thinking and ask ourselves what we need and want to change within our thoughts. This needs to be followed by a conscious decision, that we are the masters of our mind, rather than allowing our mind to master us. We are not victims of our thoughts, but we allow our thoughts to victimize us. The decision to change our way of thinking does not come naturally or easy, but it is a decision we make on a continual basis. The renewal of our mind is not only a spiritual process, but a biological one as well where new neurological pathways are created as a result of where we focus our attention. If our focus is according to what we have read on Phillippian’s 4:8 the end result is a spiritual outcome. However, when the focus is on something contrary to such valuable instruction the result are devastating both emotionally and spiritually.
When David in Psalm 1:2 state that, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” I don’t think he is talking about a casual look, but rather the Word of God becomes his guideline for living. Further in Psalm 119 he makes a declaration of what God’s word is to him when he writes, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” He has come to understand the meaning and value of meditating and where to keep the focus of his attention. However, he also understood the danger of an idle mind that is allowed to wonder. His sin of adultery was the result of his idleness and allowing his mind to wonder in places he shouldn’t have.
When you’re idle where do you allow your mind to go?
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we read God desires for us to:
“Cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
How do you bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ?
• Step 1: Identify your thoughts and beliefs – The first step is to pay attention to your own thoughts and become more aware. At the beginning and end of each day (and throughout the day if you can), use a journal and list out the things you are telling yourself about God, yourself, your circumstances and other people. Don’t spend too much time, just write phrases, not sentences. Do this for one week and see what you can learn. This is important because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Ask God to reveal any misbeliefs you might have that you are not aware of and begin watching for him to show you what those things are.
• Step 2: Evaluate your thoughts and beliefs – Use the standard found in Philippians 4:8 (above) to determine which of your thoughts and beliefs are true and which are false. Indicate in your journal which thoughts are healthy and helpful, which ones are lovely and praiseworthy and which are not.
• Step 3: Submit your thoughts and beliefs – Once you learn what thought patterns you have adopted that do not line up with God’s Word, begin to ask God to change your thought patterns. The God of the universe loves you, created you and desires that you live a life of freedom. He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10). You may not be able to change your life circumstances however, you can change how you think about them and how you react to them.
• Step 4: Experience peace and victorious thinking – Philippians 4:7 is a great verse about the peace of God.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Looking for peace in your thought life? Through prayer and supplication, give thanks and ask God to move in your life.
Peace does not come from putting ourselves down rather peace come from learning to have peace with ourselves. It comes from having an understanding of God’s Word and choosing to believe it no matter what life and experience throw at us.
Backus and Chapian, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1980). pp.128-129, 180-182.
Co-Authors: Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W. Founder, Walking Worthy and Angela Duval M.Ed.
Do you tell yourself things that are not true? Of course you don’t. Why would you? That makes no sense, right? It sounds absurd! However, most of us do this every day and don’t even realize it. This starts at a very young age and we grow up with little consideration for how healthy our thought life is. William Backus and Marie Chapman in their book, Telling Yourself the Truth label our negative or false thought patterns as “misbeliefs.” Misbeliefs generally appear to be true to the one who is repeating them to himself. They can be hard to decipher because most of the time there is an element of truth in them and we have been saying them to ourselves for years. They can be even more challenging to decipher when we live in a society that feeds us misbeliefs through media on a daily basis. Some counselors who are not trained in this therapy may not even recognize these misbeliefs when confronted with them. Some examples of misbeliefs are, “no one cares about me so it doesn’t matter anyway”, “Nobody wants to be around me”, “I can’t do anything right”, “I must please everyone”. If you believe these type of statements, it is important to look deeper at them to examine them for truth and error.
This is so important because what we think determines how we feel and behave. Let me give you two examples. If you tell yourself your father-in-law is a horrible man that is good for nothing, then you will believe what you tell yourself. As you accept these words, your feelings and actions will follow. This will cause you to feel anxious around him and treat him more as an enemy than as family member. Or maybe you have a boss who is difficult to work with and you tell yourself that your boss hates you. As this thought persists, it won’t be long before you find it hard to continue showing up to work. More than likely, your father-in-law or boss gave you some reason to tell yourself these things, so you feel justified with your beliefs about them. That is why it makes it hard for us to see our own misbeliefs.
We often want to put blame on someone or something else. “If my husband were easier to get along with life would be easier”, or “My church is full of hypocrites and that is the problem,” or “My family is a disappointment”. We learn from Proverbs 23:7 that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we think determines how we will feel. This is so important for us to understand. Consider the following:
I am a failure at everything
Including my marriage.
I CAN SAY:
My marriage is struggling but I deeply loved by my family and God.
I hate my job because it is terrible.
I CAN SAY:
This is not be my favorite job but that is OK. I can function well until I find another job that suites me better.
What does it matter, no one cares
I CAN SAY:
My life is valuable because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).
Our first step is to learn to recognize our misbeliefs and realize they are actually lies that bring us down, emotionally. Second, we need to remove these lies from our thinking. This takes practice but with time, we can become more skilled at recognizing these lies. Thirdly, we must begin replacing these false words with what is actually true. How do we know what is true? We have to take time to read the Bible so we can learn what God’s truths are. For example, it does us no good to say “No one cares about me” when we know scripture teaches us that the God of this universe loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 and John 3:16) or “I can’t do anything right,” when the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you learn to replace false beliefs with the truth, you will experience a new kind of joy and freedom in your life. John 8:32 tells us “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God desires for us to live a life of freedom and we see the truth has freeing power within it.
So, do you have thoughts that need to change? What misbeliefs do you have that need to be replaced with the truth? This week, think it over and pay attention to your self-talk. In our next article, we will discuss a life of freedom that Christ brings in part 2 of this 3-part series.
Backus and Chapian, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1980), pp. 15-22.
Is there any benefit to being thankful? If so, what? What do we learn in the process of being thankful? Our thanksgiving demonstrates a humble and tender spirit. Therefore, without any forethought or manipulation, we blessed the giver and are blessed again by our gratitude.
Gratitude produces in us a sense of well-being, life satisfaction and a view of life as something to appreciate. Todd Kashdan, from George Mason University and his colleagues found that gratitude lowered levels of aggressive behavior as well as inhibited destructive interpersonal behavior. The research also showed that a spirit of ingratitude corrodes human relationships.
Gratitude is not indebtedness. Indebtedness indicates that the recipient believes the giver expects something in return. The recipient feels obligated to pay back for whatever he or she receives and in this way the gift contains a component of shame. “Indebtedness may relate to shame, a self-focused emotion and therefore may have a complicated and sometime negative relationship with humility”.
Gratitude on the other hand, changes the focus from the self to something other than the self. It is this redirection that changes our attitude of entitlement (life owes me something) to a spirit of humility (I’m grateful for what I have received). Philippians 2:3-4 is an example of this kind of humility that not only is concerned with personal interest, but also looks out for the interest of others. It doesn’t obliterate personal needs as something evil or sinful, but at the same time considers the needs of others with equal importance.
Philippians 2:3-4 reads, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your interests, but also for the interests of others.”
In the 2nd book of Peter we are instructed to “clothe ourselves with a spirit of humility”. This is not to indicate a preoccupation with personal weaknesses or to negate individual strength; but it is to accept those strengths and weaknesses, as part of the person we are. Yet we have come to believe that deprecating or belittling ourselves is a sign of our humility and to own our strengths is viewed as being conceited. Many of us feel uncomfortable with a compliment and either trivialize it or feel the need to pay it back immediately by complimenting the giver. Humble people do not seek to be in the limelight, but neither do they have the need to hide themselves.
“Theorists posit that humility is indicated by an accurate self-concept, balanced awareness of strengths and weaknesses, lack of arrogance, and sense of others’ worth. For example, humble people recognize the strengths and value of others… Furthermore, the construct of humility is closer to an affirmed and secure identity than a self-disparaging one. We propose that the opposite of humility is not a positive or negative self-view, but rather high self-focus.”
Research indicates that humility predicts ethical business practice, cooperation, helping and generosity as well as less troublesome employees and leaders that model a more positive behavior and empower those they lead.
“Humility can become a faithful tutor — if we let it. For under humility’s tutelage, a profound gratefulness is birthed for all the blessings life has to bestow, even if these blessings may sometimes be mixed with sadness or grief”.
Just like when our children or grandchildren express their gratitude to us for some simple thing we have done for them and we feel so proud, not because we needed the thanks, but because their expression of thanksgiving revels the tenderness of their hearts. In cultivating gratitude, they avoid falling into the exaggerated sense of deservingness that marks a narcissistic and entitlement disposition.
By the same token, it is not that God needs our thanksgiving, but in doing so we humbly recognize our dependency on Him as well as others.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
i.Kruse, Elliot, Chancellor, Joseph, M. Ruberton, Peter, and Sonja Lyubomirsky: An Upward Spiral Between Gratitude and Humility.
iiii. Press-Enterprise Editorial. Published: Nov. 25, 2015 Updated: 4:12 p.m. “Roots of gratitude found in humility”
Do we realize that every pounding of our heart, every breath we breathe and every step we take is a gift from God? Every sunrise or sunset we have the good fortune to enjoy and every sound we hear is a gift for which we have done nothing to deserve. Oh, to experience the morning breeze on our face, to witness the fluttering of a hummingbird as it extracts the nectar from one flower and then another, or to hear the murmur of a babbling brook as it slides gently and lazily over the twist and turns of rocks is unmerited favor. Gifts, upon gifts freely given to us.
To be sincerely grateful seems difficult to us. We bow our head and give thanks for our food, we are grateful when the job we wanted comes through, or we praise the Lord when the biopsy indicates the tumor was benign. These are the times when gratefulness flows freely. However, it is incredibly difficult to give thanks when we do not receive the things for which we have so faithfully prayed. Yet we are instructed to give thanks in every situation and to rejoice always, (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This means not only when the situation turns out in our favor, but also when doing so seems absolutely ridiculous and futile.
We often take for granted the multitude of things we receive, which are not obtained by our own effort, but are given to us at the discretional favor of another. Only when something goes wrong, do we realize that our very life is dependent on things we have taken for granted; the care of a physician, the protection of our police force or our freedom maintain by the sacrifice of others. As individuals and as a nation, we have been blessed beyond measure. Today we stand as one of the wealthiest, most prosperous and powerful nations in the world. Yet, we have come to believe that our prosperity is solely the result of our great wisdom and hard work. We sing “God Bless America” with a great deal of enthusiasm, but often without a thought of the sacrifice of others or of God as the source of our blessings.
Gratitude has been replaced by ingratitude. A sense of entitlement has been created in which individual rights are to be respected, without any obligation or responsibility to anyone else. In such an atmosphere, being grateful for what we receive is a foreign concept. Children and young adults resent, criticize and are disrespectful to parents when they fail to deliver what is perceived as their rights and privileges. No thought is given to the concept of an obligation to parents and society as a whole.
Robert Emmons in his article on Morality and Philosophy, September 18, 2012 quoted Roger Scruton as saying, “A spirit of ingratitude corrodes human relationships and becomes epidemic within a culture when entitlements and rights are prioritized over duties and obligations… Is it any wonder then, that the biggest fear that parents now have for their children is a sense of entitlement and the resentment produced when life fails to deliver what their children think they are entitled to?”
Robert Emmons in the same article on Morality and Philosophy writes: “Ingratitude is a vice that represents a profound moral failure, a defect of character… Where gratitude is appropriate, even mandatory, being ungrateful is a sign or symptom of lack of socialization, whether the inability to appreciate what others have done for you or, worse, the grudging resentment of one’s own vulnerability and the refusal to admit one’s debt to others.”
It seems quite clear that taking for granted the expression of love and care that God and others share with us, has a detrimental effect on the individual and society as a whole. Without word our ingratitude says, “it is my right and privilege”, I’m entitled to what I have received”, “Life owes me…” or “You owe me”. But if we are entitled to what we receive, then it is not a gift at all, but something we have earned by our own efforts. A gift presupposes that I have done nothing to receive it, but rather it is an expression of the kindness of the giver and in my giving thanks I not only bless the giver but myself as well.
Is there any benefit to being thankful? If so, what? What do we learn in the process of being thankful?
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
Part 1 of a two-part series
i Kruse, Elliot, Chancellor, Joseph, M. Ruberton, Peter, and Sonja Lyubomirsky: An Upward Spiral Between Gratitude and Humility.
iv Press-Enterprise Editorial. Published: Nov. 25, 2015 Updated: 4:12 p.m. “Roots of gratitude found in humility”
As a church, parents and ministers of the Gospel, our role is to care for the well-being of the souls of those we shepherd. It is incumbent on us as shepherds to understand that this position requires a deep understanding of the negative effect of shame. The maturity of the sheep does not depend on criticism, or shaming, but on the gentle understanding and wisdom by which they are led. However, this process is impossible when the shepherd himself is ashamed. His own shame produces in him a state of defensiveness; anxiety and fear and the rod and staff intended for comfort and guidance of the sheep become punishing tools.
To better understand shame and its effect, let us take a brief look at what some of the experts have to say about the subject. In the last 15-20 years there has been an explosion of studies examining shame and its effect on children and later in the adult individual. Erick Erikson, in his study of human development, suggested that the second stage of development that takes place between one year of age and 18 months is “Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt.” It is the child’s response to the parent or caretaker’s behavior in response to the child’s needs. The reason for this is that in order for shame to develop we have to care about the opinion of anothers before his/her behavior can affect us.
Russian Philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, in his book The Justification of the Good, states that what makes us truly human is our capacity to feel shame. He writes: “This (shame) is the true spiritual root of all human good and the distinctive characteristic of man as a moral being.” Pg.135
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
What is it about the emotion of shame that over 2000 years ago, David in his writing of the Psalms has two very specific prayers clearly addressing the terrifying effect of shame? The first one is for him to be delivered from it; the second is for his enemies to be put to shame as the worse punishment they could possibly receive. His evaluation of shame seems to be that to bear such an excruciating state of being requires divine intervention. Over and over again he cries out to God, “Do not let me be put to shame.” The following Psalms are an example of his cry for deliverance of an emotion that he finds worse than death itself. In Psalm 25:2,3 he writes: “O my God, in Thee I trust, do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me…those who deal treacherously without cause will be put to shame. In Psalm 31:1, 17 he writes, “…Let me never be ashamed… Let me never be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon Thee.”
His second prayer is for the punishment of his enemies. He does not ask for their death, but rather that they be put to shame and that in so doing they experience the pain of being divested of something so essential to living as the very air we breathe—our God given personal worth and dignity as human beings. In the following Psalms he writes:
I35:4-26 “Let those be ashamed and dishonor who seek my life. Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice in my distress.”
40:14, 15 “Let those be ashamed and humiliated together who seek my life to destroy it. Let those be appalled because of their shame”
It seems that shame is “that thing” that produces in us an emotional state that leaves us feeling as if we were naked and exposed, when “we are not ready to be seen or exposed.” It is that “thing” that robbed us of something mysterious, but indispensable for living–our dignity and value as a human being. Even before our birth, God’s valuing of us is undeniable. Like a master weaver, He carefully considers and positions every strand of our life. In Psalm 139 David writes, “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; …”
Also in Psalm 139 David seems overwhelmed as he searches just for the right words to describe that sense of awe in being known and seen by God. He writes, “O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thoughts from afar, Thou dost scrutinize my path and my laying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word in my tongue, behold, O Lord You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.”
To be seen and known is a God given need, wired in us from birth. Lipton and Fosha state: “It is well known by now that our brains are wired from birth to connect… (Solomon & Siegel, 2003). Early attachment relationships shape an infant’s neurobiology…” (Lipton & Fosha, 2011, p. 255)
Fosha (2003) also explains that, “…the roots of security and resilience are to be found in the sense of being understood by and having the sense of existing in the heart and mind of a loving, caring, attuned and self-possessed mother, a mother with a mind and heart of her own” (p. 228).
To be seen and known even as an infant awakens in us that innate sense of dignity and value as a living being. Dr. Daniel Siegel stätes, (2011) “The mind we first see in our development is the internal state of our caregiver. We coo and she smiles, we laugh and his face lights up. So we first know ourselves as reflected in the other…Our resonance with others may actually precede our awareness of ourselves.” Pg.62
Cozolino (2006) suggests that research is beginning to prove what God so long ago declared:
Scientists have had to expand their thinking to grasp this idea: The individual neuron or a single human brain does not exist in nature. Without mutually stimulating interactions, people and neurons wither and die. In neurons this process is called apoptosis; in humans it is called depression, grief, and suicide. (p. 16).
We must remember that God wired us for connection, not only to Himself, but to others as well.
Cozolino writes, From birth until death, each of us needs others who seek us out, show interest in discovering who we are, and help us to feel safe. Thus, understanding the brain requires knowledge of the healthy, living brain embedded within a community of other brains: Relationships are our natural habitat. (Pg. 16)
This then, makes our sense of dignity and value irrevocably connected not only to our Creator, but also to other human beings.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Be watching for part 2 coming soon.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I love you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How can we exemplify the love that identifies us as disciples of Jesus? In the above passage, the Greek word used for “love” is Agape. It denotes benevolence or compassion for the loved one. It is a love that focuses solely on the well-being of the beloved. It acts, walks, reaches and cares for the other without seeking benefit for self. Agape love does not require any kind of payment, gratitude, or thanks. Why did God require us to do something so hard, something that feels so impossible to fulfill? Did He not know we would fail at the task? Our tendency in the flesh is to require some sort of pay back for our giving. How can we keep on giving, reaching and caring with not even the sound of a faint, “thank you” or the recognition of how unselfish we are? However, when we get even a small glimpse of the magnitude and force of God’s love for us, then we are reminded it is in and through Him that this is even possible. God does not require us to sacrifice our children for the redemption of people who have been cruel or mean, as He did for us through His son, Jesus:
- God gave His only begotten Son, (John 3:16)
- He sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live. (1 John 4:9)
- “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (for us)…, (1 John 4:10)
- “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8)
1 Corinthians 13, a chapter we sing about, recite, and often quote with such ease, states that it doesn’t matter what we do, give, or have. If we are void of love, we are nothing and our giving profits us nothing. The writer then proceeds to describe what love is and what it does as a result. He states that everything in life may end up in rubble, but love, “never fails,” and “remains.” (I Corinthians 13:8 & 13) If we as a church or individuals are to follow the command “to love one another, even as I (Jesus) love you,” (John 13:34-35) how do we perform such an unnatural act in everyday life when we have either been hurt or have hurt some one else? First, we must admit that we don’t know how to love well, or without recompense. Our tendency is to even the score. How do we then respond to an offense without being weak or unhealthy? Loving someone who has not only hurt us, but also fails to recognize the magnitude of his/her offense is not easy, yet it is what we are called to do. On the other hand, when we are the offender, we reason or explain away our behavior. We justify our behavior by pointing out what the other person has done to us indicating that they got what they deserved. Loving one another in a way that others will know that we are His disciples, requires a measure of sacrifice and surrender to Christ that we are often not willing pay. It is at this point that we begin to find ways to soften or rationalize the magnitude and force of this command with phrases such as, “I need to defend myself,” or “I cannot let people walk all over me.” In addition, we use scripture to point out the other person’s sinfulness, while denying and ignoring our own. The commandment to love as Christ loved us does not endorse tolerance of abusive or disrespectful behavior, nor does is it condone enabling the violation of the Scripture. However, for us to learn “to love one another” we need to recognize our lack of love without Christ’s help, our limited capacity to give without recompense and our absolute dependency on God’s grace and Holy Spirit when such an unnatural act is required of us.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy
When someone offends you, how do you deal with that in light of scripture? Not to count someone’s trespass against them is not easy business. How do we handle an offense in light of this Scripture, “…….He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation?” Our desire to be right, to prove our point, to be in control, frequently blinds us as to the part we play in a conflict.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “Now all things are from God, who reconcile us to Himself through Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassador for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
To be sure, conflict never takes place in a vacuum. It is always in the context of relationships. In this context, very seldom does one party bear all the responsibility for the wrong done, while the other is without blame. To take the log out of our eye before we take the speck out of our brother’s eye, as we are told in Matthew 7:5 is not only difficult, but very painful. As a result, our prayer usually is that the other party would hear and understand our point of view; but, seldom do we pray to listen to and truly seek to understand the other person’s point of view. We seem to believe that such approach is a sign of weakness, an abdication of our position, and that being week is to be avoided at all cost.
Again in Matthew 5:23-24 we are told, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” To obey such a command requires a great deal of honesty and courage on our part. These qualities are not in great supply, not only among people outside the church, but sadly enough, for those in the church. Have you ever consider the humility and maturity needed to leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled with your brother, particularly when you believe you’re right? This is one of the places where the battle between the spirit and the flesh is fought the hardest.
If we happen to “leave our gift at the altar and go to our brother” for the purpose of reconciliation; we need to ask ourselves, “Is my heart in the right place?” or do I go to show my spiritual superiority? If my motivation is the latter, my spiritual superiority will further anger my brother and create and atmosphere where reconciliation is impossible. True reconciliation only happens in the context of safety and security. When we feel threatened, we might pretend and even use the word “reconciliation,” but the heart is not in it. We comply for the sake of saving whatever remains of the relationship or out of fear of what would happen if we disagree. Doing so is not reconciliation, but compliance. Fear may keep my brother “in line,” but the relationship between us is colored by superficiality, if there is a relationship at all. In such an atmosphere trust cannot develop. The process of authentic reconciliation is permeated by truth and offers both parties the freedom to disagree respectfully and without fear of later consequences.
To seek reconciliation, I must be willing to consider the possibility that I play a part in the conflict. The purpose of going to “my brother,” is to seek to understand him, not to convince him of my point of view; and this can only happen by putting away my pride, my need to be right, and by carefully listening to his point of view without defensiveness.
In Galatian 6:1-2 we are told, “Brother, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted…each one should test his own actions.” As we seek to restore our brother, we are warned to do it gently, realizing that we too can be tempted. To this end we must watch our actions. Our gentleness comes as a result of understanding our own vulnerability to be tempted, as well as how we would like to be corrected when we are the one who has fallen. When we realize our own vulnerability, we don’t approach our brother from a parental or superior position, but as an equal. My actions then, come out of a heart that is in the right place. When my position and my actions are driven by humility and a genuine desire for reconciliation, I offer my brother a real opportunity to evaluate his/her contribution to the problem since my position is not a threatening one.
When in conflict with someone under our leadership we must remember Christ’s words in Matthew 20:25-28. To put this into context, the sons of Zebedee are looking to secure their position in His kingdom. The rest of the disciples become angry with them. To their quarrel Jesus responds, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be serve, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”. (Matthew 20:25-28) This is a tall order not only for the disciples but for us as well. According to the above passage, leadership is not a position to be defended by exerting our authority, but rather, it is demonstrated by our willingness to become a servant. The irony of this is that the moment I insist on proving my authority, that is precisely the moment that I lose it. The position of leadership carries with it a degree of power that when misused corrupts the leader and the position. The wise leader does not misuse his power, but rather, understands that his position demands a great deal of understanding and humility along with a willingness to put aside his pride for the sake and well-being of those he leads.
For a leader to handle a conflict and finish in such a way that portrays our ambassadorship for Christ, we must be willing to offer ourselves for crucifixion. This is a quiet a solitary process that we go through for God’s glory not ours. In that place of crucifixion, we do not look for the recognition of man as there is no applause, no lights, no fancy speeches about us, only a quiet voice saying, “Well done good and faithful servant you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)
Our own experience, as well as scientific studies, prove that social media can have a significant impact on our mood, our relationships, and our feelings about ourselves. A New York Daily News article says that Facebook was named as a contributing factor in 1/3 of all divorce proceedings in 2011. While social media can be a great tool for helping us stay connected with friends and family, it can also be a dangerous place. It is important for us to set some boundaries regarding our use of social media in terms of the amount of time we stay “out there” and the level of private details that we share.
Today, we are featuring a blog written by BJ Lawson outlining 10 Rules of Engagement When Using Social Media. Following these rules can help to make our social media experience a positive one. Click here to read this informative and helpful article.
The nation of Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The King of Babylon took some Jews to the capital city to serve in the palace. Among those was Nehemiah; he was the cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah chapter 1 tells us that some people from Jerusalem came to Babylon and Nehemiah asked them how things were going back home. Their answer….. “Not good at all!”
- The people who survived the attack are in trouble.
- They feel great shame.
- The city wall is broken down.
- The gates have been burned.
Nehemiah was heart-broken. What he does next gives us an example to follow when we are troubled by news of a bad situation.
- He wept and mourned. (Nehemiah 1:14) This demonstrates how sad and upset he was. He didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s too bad!” and he didn’t forget their answer. He mourned because he loved his city, it was the dwelling place of his God, and it was in ruins.
- He fasted and prayed. (Nehemiah 1:14) He was so heartbroken that he could not eat and he spent his time pouring out his broken heart before the Lord. He talked to the only One who could help him. He did not run around telling his fellow-Israelites; he didn’t tell the king, and he didn’t post it on Facebook. He prayed. He confessed his own sin and the sin of his people. He was specific in his confession (Nehemiah 1:7) as he listed out all that he and his family and his nation had done. He understood that his people had forgotten God and that was part of the reason that the city was destroyed.
- He reminded God of what He had promised in His word. (Nehemiah 1:8-9) That means that Nehemiah knew God’s word so well that he could refer to a passage in Leviticus 26:33 and remind God of what He had promised. God warned the Israelites that if they were unfaithful, He would scatter them. That’s exactly what happened when the city fell to Babylon and the Jews were taken captive. But, God also promised that if His people return and keep His commandments, that He will gather them together again. Nehemiah started the process of leading his people back to God when he recognized their sinfulness and confessed it to God.
- When opportunity came, Nehemiah had the courage to speak. (Nehemiah 2:5) Nehemiah had spent time praying, confessing sin and seeking God in regard to the broken down wall of Jerusalem. He understood what had caused the situation and God had given him a desire and a vision to solve the problem. Nehemiah did not share his burden with the king until the king noticed that Nehemiah was not himself and he asked why. Once the king asked, Nehemiah was ready with an answer. He obviously had put some thought into his answer because he gave the king a specific list of things that he needed in order to rebuild the wall. He asked the king for permission to leave his post and return to the city; he asked for letters from the king that would allow him to pass through other lands; he asked for timber for the wall, the temple and his own house. When the king asked Nehemiah how long it would take, Nehemiah was ready with an answer. Nehemiah says that “the good hand of my God was upon me,” and the king gave him all that he asked.
- After he knew that he had heard from God with a plan to rebuild the wall, he inspired others to help. (Nehemiah 2:17-18) He didn’t run to his friends for advice and help when he initially got the news that the wall was in disrepair. He prayed first. But once he had clear direction and he knew that God was with him, he rallied the troops and inspired everyone, including priests and politicians to get to work on the wall.
While you may not be tasked with rebuilding a wall back in your hometown, you may be faced with a situation that has broken your heart and needs your attention in order to be made right. Learn from Nehemiah’s example. Run to God, study His word, and boldly follow the path that He puts before you.
Even Jesus was not immune to attacks from the enemy! Jesus himself had an encounter with Satan which is recorded for us in Matthew 4: 1-11.
This passage tells us a few things about Jesus:
- He was led by the Spirit
- He fasted for 40 days and nights and then became hungry
- He was attacked by Satan
- He resisted each attack by countering with Scripture
- The angels ministered to him
We also learn a few things about Satan:
- He came to Jesus to tempt Him
- He made three attempts, all of which were unsuccessful
- He left Jesus
Satan came to Jesus in a time of weakness. He misused scripture and he offered something that wasn’t his to give. Imagine the irony of offering kingdoms to the King of kings! He tempted Jesus physically, spiritually and emotionally. He persisted with Jesus and he will persist with us.
But Jesus showed us how to deal with the attacks of our enemy. He did not give any room in His mind to even consider the temptations of Satan. He knew the scripture and used it to refute Satan’s bogus offers. Finally Satan gave up and left him alone. If you continue to struggle with the same temptation over and over, and it seems that the enemy will not leave you alone, you need to honestly assess your reaction to his temptations. Are you considering giving in? If so, the enemy will continue to attack in hopes that he can wear you down.
Practically, what do we learn from Jesus’ encounter with Satan?
- We must be aware when we are weak physically, spiritually or emotionally. Those are the times we can expect an attack. We need to guard ourselves and do whatever is in our power to take care of ourselves in each of those areas so that we don’t become easy prey.
- Know thyself! We must know the areas where we are prone to stumble and take extra care to guard ourselves in those areas.
- Know scripture so well that we recognize when the enemy is misusing it for his own purposes.
- Recognize when the devil is playing to our pride and egos. What counterfeit power or position is he offering you?
- Call Satan out on it. Sometimes it helps to verbally state aloud that we recognize that the enemy is trying to attack and that we are not going to fall for it.
The passage ends by saying that Satan left Jesus and that the angels came to minister to Him. In our situations as well, James 4:7 says that when we submit to God and resist the devil, he will leave us alone.
In the last post, we talked about the fact that as Children of God, we have an enemy. He has lost our hearts, but now he is after our minds. One of his tactics if to try to make us think about things that are not true or things that are only partially true. Remember, a partial truth is a LIE and we should not accept it!
Philippians 4:8 gives us very clear and simple instructions to protect our minds:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Every thought must run through the filter of Philippians 4:8……
- True – God’s word is true! Each thought must line up with the truths of God’s Word.
- Honorable – Our thoughts should center on things that are honest and serious.
- Right – Righteous or just
- Pure – Holy and clean
- Lovely – literally means beautiful
- Good Repute – Good reputation. Think about things that would lead to actions that would cause you to have a good reputation.
- Excellence – virtue or worthiness
- Worthy of Praise – Do these thoughts lead to me speaking words that bring praise and worship to God?
THINK ON THESE THINGS!
If we think on the truth of God’s Word, we will recognize the lies or partial truths that the enemy throws our way. If we fill our minds with thoughts that fit this criteria, there will be no room for false, impure, unjust or lustful thoughts.
So before a thought takes root in our minds, we need to run it through the filter of Philippians 4:8 and if it does not line up, we need to reject it immediately as a lie of the enemy.
As children of God, we need to realize that we have an enemy. He knows that he has lost the battle for our heart, so he has refocused his efforts on our minds. If he can gain control of our thoughts, then he can render us ineffective in our spiritual lives.
When we are plagued by guilt over the sins of our past – even sins that have been forgiven – then we do not feel qualified or worthy to effectively serve in whatever capacity God has us. Whether we are mommies staying at home with our kids, missionaries in a foreign field, or the manager of an office, if we are controlled by the guilt of our past actions then we are often unwilling to deal with spiritual issues simply because the enemy continues to remind us of our sin and we feel inadequate.
The remedy for guilt is the acceptance of God’s forgiveness! We must go to God and admit what we’ve done and accept the forgiveness that He offers. Once that is done, the enemy has no grounds to bring up that sin again. However that doesn’t mean that he won’t try! He definitely will try to remind us of that sin. Often he characterizes us by that sin. If we have lied, then he will whisper, “You are a liar!” If it was a sexual sin, he will tell us “You are a tramp!” We must recognize that if a sin has been forgiven, then we are free and that when the enemy puts those thoughts into our minds, we need to reject them immediately. They have been covered by the blood of Christ and God sees us as righteous.
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
One of the most paralyzing emotions that we experience is fear of the unknown. If the enemy can get our focus off the promises of God and on to the “what ifs” of life, then the fear of what might happen can leave us afraid to move. Maybe we feel a tug at our hearts and we know that it is God wanting us to get involved in a ministry, or to share the gospel with our neighbors, or to ask for forgiveness from someone we wronged long ago. But the fear of failure, rejection, or being ridiculed paralyzes us and we do not have the courage to obey.
The remedy for fear is trust in God. By refocusing our thoughts from our circumstances and the fear of unknown and turning them toward God, we are recognizing that He is in control. We begin to understand that if we obey God, and even if we are rejected or ridiculed, that we are walking in trust.
Colossians 3:1-4 summarizes where our attention should be focused. Verse 2 says “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
By being aware of our enemy’s efforts to make us ineffective in our Christian walk, and by knowing the truth of God’s Word, we can confidently reject the thoughts that are not in line with God’s Word. Our greatest weapon is being so familiar with God’s Word that we immediately recognize the thoughts that come into our minds that are from our enemy.