Self-control without repression

”We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out.  We need self-control without repression.”- Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.”- Romans 12:2 (MSG)

Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller continue Chapter 2 of Boundaries for Your Soul as they note that, to a certain extent, your body and soul possess a remarkable abililty to heal themselves.  It’s a blessing from your Creator.  Yet, you need the Holy Spirit for a more powerful journey toward wholeness.

In The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen described that place in your soul where you obtain clear perspective.  A place where you gather your thoughts and desires, holding them together in truth.  It’s a place where your emotions, passions, and feeling don’t compete for control.  Mr. Nouwen writes:

“You have to trust that there is another place . . . where you can be safe.  Maybe it’s wrong to think about this new place as beyond emotions, passions, feelings.  Beyond could suggest that these human sentiments are absent there.  Instead, try thinking about this place as the core of your being — your heart, where all human sentiments are held together in truth.  From this place, you can feel, think, and act truthfully.

As a result, in this space inside your Spirit-led self holds you together in truth.  From there you either draw your troubling emotion closer or ask it to step back.  In this way, you develop perspective.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you develop self-control without repression?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Attuning to the challenging aspects of your soul”


Bring peace to the conflict within

“The well-meaning, but quarreling, parts of your personality require healthy boundaries.  Thankfully, you have what it takes to establish these boundaries and bring peace to the conflict within.”- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

In Chapter 2 (“Your Spirit-led Self”) of Boundaries for Your Soul, Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller note why we all struggle with troubling thoughts and overwhelming emotions.  That’s because your thoughts and feelings belong to distinct parts of your personality.  And each of them vies for control.  Thus, each well-meaning part carries its own agenda.  Each part wants your full attention, believing it’s strategy is the best to employ.

Therefore, Alison and Kimberly stress, each part of your personality requires healthy boundaries.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you possess the ability to bring peace to the conflict within.

Jesus showed us how to live.  In addition, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of His followers.  God responds to our human brokenness.  He transforms our souls from the inside out.

Most noteworthy, the authors, state, on Pentecost the Jewish people commemorated the day God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites assembled at Mount Sinai.  Although God gave Moses stone tablets, when the disciples gathered in the Upper Room that Pentecost Day, God wrote His law on their hearts.

However, some parts of your soul stubbornly resist God’s will.  So, having the Holy Spirit within doesn’t automatically bring perfect peace and joy.  But, you can invite the Holy Spirit to partner with the troubled parts of yourself.  As a result, you befriend and lead your soul’s unruly parts into an abundant life.

In conclusion, the authors exhort:

“God has given you agency.  He invites you to participate in the work he is doing in your life.  Your task is to trust neither your thoughts nor your feelings, but to lead them in step with God’s Spirit.  As you do, you can turn the most challenging parts of your soul into your greatest allies.”

Today’s question: How does the Holy Spirit empower you to bring peace to the conflict within?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Self-control without repression”

When God fashioned and created you

“The good news is, no matter how shaky your heart-foundation might be, every person is wired up for electricity at birth.  When God fashioned and created you, He wired Himself into the framework of your being . . .”- Christa Black Gifford

Christa Black Gifford continues Chapter 1 of Heart Made Whole as she offers a heart check.  First, Christa reminds you that the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence makes your heart forever capable of lighting up with new life.  Most noteworthy, this inner realm is the origi of every move you make, word you speak, thought you think, and action you take.

In other words, Ms. Gifford underscores, your insides produce your outsides.  Furthermore, since you’re the landlord of your heart, you control who takes up residence.  Therefore, Christa cautions:

“. . . as long as you’re harboring old wounds, beliefs, unforgiveness, and lies — allowing them to make themselves at home in your heart — Jesus won’t bust in and kick them out.  He needs your permission. . . . He needs you to give Him acces to every floor, every room, and every locked, forgotten space.”

Therefore, the author compares grace to a lifetime warranty that covers the process of your heart transformation.  As a result, grace empowers you to live differently.  In addition, Christa finds that heart transformation involves living in relationship with God, who abides within.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn to surrender more and more inner heart space to Jesus.

Today’s question: When God fashioned and created you, how did wiring Himself into the framework of your being change you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Unhealed pain – your greatest foe”

The God who raises the dead

“It’s one thing to say we believe God raised Jesus from the dead and that we have the hope of eternal life through faith in Him.  It’s another thing to put our faith in the God who raises the dead as He leads us into experiences of weakness.”- Banning Liebscher

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. . . .   Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.”- Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 5 of Rooted as he underscores that your faith gets reals when you experience weakness.  Most noteworthy, when you discover Jesus is always with you and He’s the One you rely upon, that changes everything.

Furthermore, Pastor Liebscher notes, when God asks you to step out in faith, He doesn’t toss you in the deep end, leaving you to figure it out.  God’s with you in the deep end.  And He wants you to experience that reality.  So, in moments of failure or loss, Banning hears God saying, The story is not over.  I’m the God who raises the dead.  I’ve got this covered and I’ve got you covered.

Therefore, when we emerge from the deep end, we possess an awareness of God’s abiding presence.  That sense of God’s abiding presence forever changes the way we view impossible situations. The Holy Spirit firmly establishes our rots as He reveals the Father who never leaves us.  Pastor Liebscher explains:

“Nothing is worth more to God than our faith.  It’s what pleases Him, and He loves to put us in situations where we can please Him. He also loves to put us in situations where we get to experience and see that our faith is genuine.”

Today’s question: How do you live your faith in the God who raises the dead?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Tested, proven, genuine faith”

Discerning the will of God – knowing His heart

“Discerning the will of God is about so much more than doing His will.  Discerning His will is about knowing His heart, and that happens only when you get close enough to hear Him whisper.”- Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson continues Chapter 7 of Whisper as he defines faith as “taking the first step before God reveals the second step.”  Sometimes, though, that first step results in failure.  The door slams shut – sometimes with our fingers still in the doorjamb.

Yet,  through failed attempts God gets us where we need to be.  Failure’s nothing short of His grace.  Thus, we can show gratefulness for closed as well as open doors.  Generally, Pastor Batterson observes, closed doors lead to open doors.

When it comes to discerning the will of God, Mark sometimes wishes we could just cast lots.  Like the disciples did when choosing Judas’ replacement.  However, that “option” takes intimacy out of the equation.  And intimacy = the end goal.  Furthermore, discerning the will of God consists of much more than doing His will.  It’s about knowing His heart.  And for that to happen, you must be close enough to hear God whisper.

Therefore, Pastor Batterson describes five tests he employs when discerning the will of God, the voice of God.  Mark discusses the first test today.

1.  The Goose Bump Test.  Mark notes an intriguing name Celtic Christians had for the Holy Spirit.  Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit An Geadh-Glas, meaning “the Wild Goose.”  In fact, Pastor Batterson has written a book on this topic called Wild Goose Chase.

Mark loves the imagery and implications of the name, as it reflects an element of unpredictability about the Holy Spirit and what He does.  Even though we’re on a Wild Goose chase most of the time, we’ll get where God wants us to go as long as we’re in step with the Spirit.

In conclusion, when you pursue a God-sized dream or God-ordained calling, you should feel goose bumps now and then.  And like a game of hot and cold, your desires get hotter and hotter the closer you get to God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Today’s question: How have you experienced a Wild Goose chase as you live a Spirit-led life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The peace of Christ – peace in the perfect storm”

We interpret signs via Scripture

“Let me remind you that we don’t interpret Scripture via signs; we interpret signs via Scripture.  And generally speaking, God uses signs to confirm His Word, His will.”- Mark Batterson

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up to heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.  And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”- Mark 16:19-20 (KJV)

In Chapter 7 (“The Door to Bithynia”) of Whisper, Mark Batterson notes that, as Christians, we speak the language of the Holy Spirit.  And door comprise one of His dialects: open doors and closed doors.  Yes, in John 4:48, Jesus warned against signs and wonders as a litmus test of faith.  However, when it comes to navigating the will of God, that doesn’t negate their value.

Furthermore, ignoring signs equates to ignoring the God who speaks through them.  Also, Pastor Batterson cautions, signs are subject to interpretation.  In other words, there’s a very fine line between reading signs and reading into them.  Therefore, we must learn to read signs the same way we read Scripture – with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Mark exhorts us to make no mistake about it: God speaks through circumstances.  Although Scripture provides direct evidence, circumstantial evidence also exists.

Most noteworthy, Mark observes, the language of doors requires the gift of discernment.  The author defines discernment as “the ability to appraise a situation with supernatural insight.  It’s prophetic perception that sees past problems and envisions possibilities.  Simply put, it’s picking up what God is throwing down.”

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson reminds us that we interpret signs via Scripture, not vice versa.  And the words with which Mark closes his gospel set a precedent: “signs following.”

Today’s question: How do you interpret signs via Scripture?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the latest Short Meditation, “My God – the strength of my soul”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Discerning the will of God – knowing His heart”

Get into God’s Word – so His Word gets into you

“One way or another, get into God’s Word so His Word gets into you.  Then the Holy Spirit can quicken it when and where and how He wants.”- Mark Batterson

“My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me according to they word.”- Psalm 119:25 (KJV)

As Mark Batterson continues Chapter 5 of Whisper, he discusses a transitive property at play in God’s promises.  Just as God transferred a promise He originally made to Moses to Joshua, Mark asserts, God transfers His promises to us.  Pastor Batterson maintains:

” . . . remember what 2 Corinthians 1:20 says: ‘No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”  If you’re in Christ, all God’s promises belong to  you.  Each one has your name on it, and the Spirit will quicken different promises at different times.  It’s one of the ways God whispers.”

Of course, when Christ returns, the Spirit of God quickens our bodies.  But, Pastor Batterson reminds us, the Spirit also quickens in other ways.  Sometimes it’s:

  • a thought that fires across our synapses
  • a prompting to step up, step in , or step out in faith
  • speaking the right word at the right time
  • a verse of Scripture that jumps off the page and into our spirits

In addition, Mark likens the quickening of the Holy Spirit to a truth bomb implanted in your heart, mind, and spirit.  As a result, when you hide God’s Word in your heart, you never know when the Holy Spirit might ignite it.  And, Mark encourages, that’s a good thing!

Therefore, whatever method you choose, get into God’s Word. Hence, in the process, His Word gets into you.

Today’s question:  What’s your favorite way to get into Scripture?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Bible – a spiritual sonogram”

Surrender your will to Jesus

“If a crisis has come to you on any front, then let me encourage you to surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.”- Os Hillman

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”- Philippians 1:21 (ESV)

Os Hillman concludes Chapter 8 of The Joseph Calling as he explains why a crisis must develop in our lives before we follow God’s will.  Os writes:

“Before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives.  This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges.  He brings us to the place where he asks us to be our utmost for him, and so we begin to debate.  He then providentially produces a crisis where we must decide for or against.  That moment becomes a great crossroads.”

Yes, Mr. Hillman observes, it seems strange that God uses incredible adversity to prepare His servants for greater service.  Yet, God often chooses to operate this way.  Because He’s well aware that the human heart possesses no capability to voluntarily step into situations where it must venture beyond its comfort zone.

Indeed, Os notes, at times the recruitment process leads to death- for example, a job, business, or relationship loss.  This may lead us to believe there’s nothing left in our earthly world worth living for.  However, Os exhorts:

“In the natural, it appears that everything is against us, and we may even believe God has abandoned us.  But this is not the truth. as we know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  During those times, God is doing his deepest behind-the-scenes work.  He is performing a deeper work in each of us, a work that cannot be seen.”

Today’s question: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, what Scriptures help you surrender your will to Jesus?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “The silence of contemplation”

A God-implanted desire in us

“God’s plan is that every time we experience an authentic desire — a God-implanted desire in us — we come to understand more deeply what a good God he is.  We learn how God has wired us and what he wants us to do.”- John Ortberg

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of all lights who satisfies the desires of those who fear him.”- James 1:17

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 7 of The Me I Want to Be as he states part of trying softer involves allowing what we naturally desire to lead us back to God.  God takes pleasure when people enjoy His creation.  Hence, Lewis Smedes explains:

“God is so great that he does not need to be our only joy.  There is an earthly joy, a joy of the outer as well as the inner self, the joy of dancing as well as kneeling, the joy of playing as well as praying.”

However, we must say no to any desires that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so, we sacrifice a lesser desire for the sake of living a greater life in the Spirit.  Therefore, as we understand God’s goodness more deeply, we find ourselves loving God more and more.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg discusses four categories of desire that impact living in the flow of the Spirit.

  1. Material Desires – put beauty in your environment that speaks to your soul.  As you see that beauty, John urges, embrace the God-given joy that accompanies it.
  2. Achievement Desires – because God created us to have dominion, we desire to achieve things.  Ecclesiastes 9:10- “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
  3. Relational Desires – to build a friendship or deep relationship requires overcoming unbelievable barriers, as Jonathan did with David.  Such friendships don’t just fall into your lap.
  4. Physical Desires – appetites, desires, and delights can help us remember God’s goodness and become more joyful people.  As John states, “You learn to connect the gift — which you already love — to the Giver, whom you want to love more.”

Today’s question: What’s your most significant God-implanted desire?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “There will always be a Jezebel”

In the flow of the Spirit – sin looks bad

“When I am in the flow of the Spirit, sin looks bad and God looks good.  When I experience gratitude, contentment, and satisfaction deep in my soul, there is a good chance it is the Spirit flowing within.”- John Ortberg

“Do not quench the Spirit.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 3 of The Me I Want to Be, he notes that when we’re in the flow of the Spirit, we’re increasingly filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  In addition, that fruit continues to grow.  John explains how to make ourselves available:

“The Spirit is available to whisper to us thoughts of love and joy and peace and patience every moment of our life.  Right now.  All we have to do is stop, ask, and listen (emphasis John’s).”

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit never just flows in us.  The Holy Spirit also flows through us.  Through that process, others flourish as well.  Writing in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the apostle Paul issues a simple command.  In a sense, John observes, that’s all we need to do: “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Stated another way, our only job involves staying out of the Holy Spirit’s way.

Therefore, as we live out life, we either (1) do things that open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s influence or (2) do things that close ourselves off to the Spirit.

Thus, the more we form our habits around resentment, anxiety, greed, or superiority, the more often we quench the Spirit.  To re-form habits takes time and patience.  But, the Holy Spirit remains tenacious.  John concludes:

“All that is needed in any moment is a sincere desire to be submitted to the Spirit’s response; a sincere heart never needs to fear that God is upset.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses keep you in the flow of the Spirit?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “You are not God’s appliance, but His masterpiece”