Losing the Battle in the Brain

Proverbs 22:13 – The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”

I was having a discussion with my young son about math recently. He was trying to do his math, and I could see he really was struggling to keep going on it. He was working on multiplication problems, and he was just going downhill mentally and emotionally. He had gotten himself worked up to where he didn’t remember 3×7, which he had used over and over. This wasn’t a knowledge problem, it was a battle of the brain problem.

When I began to look at his work, overall he had done 90 percent of it right. But he was telling himself stories, like “I don’t like Math.” “This is too hard.” “I don’t want to do this.” “I need help.” “I can’t figure it out.” Yet he had done most of the work perfectly all by himself. But now he was at the brink of tears and unable to do a simply 3×7 because of the stories he was telling himself. He was shutting down.

So, I held him close to me and hugged him and told him that he wasn’t losing the battle in the math workbook, he was losing the battle in his mind. I had him look at all the right things he had done on that page, and I had him say positive things about himself when it came to those he did right. “I am smart. I can do math. Look at all I did right. I can figure this out.” By the way, brothers and sisters in Christ, do not disregard the power of meditating on the positive and telling yourselves hopeful things (Philippians 4:8). Paul says think about what is “true,” so God does not want us to tell lies to ourselves.

You see, with this son, if he is doing art or building Legos, there is nothing too hard for him. He is designing his own amazing and complex things out of Legos (good grief he is making his own Transformers out of Legos). His artwork for a young kid is just incredible. There is nothing too hard for him there. He certainly has a gift with art and designing things.

Maybe his “gift” will never be that he excels in Calculus or Nuclear Physics, and that is fine! We would not want to push him in a direction other than his natural talents and strengths. But what we do want for all of our kids is for them to learn to win the battle of the brain.

Don’t defeat yourself before you even begin something by telling yourself I can’t do this, or it’s just too hard, or I’m just not able to figure it out. Maybe it isn’t possible for you to do that task. That might be true. For example, the only way I’m ever going to dunk a basketball is if I use a step ladder or if the rim is adjusted to 7 feet! So there are limits to what we can do, no doubt. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My point here in this article is to discuss how we can defeat ourselves from the beginning just by how we think and what we say.

I know I’ve lost that battle repeatedly, and I can see in my kids when they begin to go down that road. Look at that above passage from Proverbs, a person can tell himself there is a lion in the streets when no such lion exists. There is no real lion! The man did not step out to work because he told himself a wrong story in his brain.

What stories are you telling yourself? Are you losing the battle of the brain because of what you are saying to yourself?

God Granted Paul 276 Men

I encourage you to read Acts 27 in which Luke describes in amazing and accurate firsthand detail the dangerous journey they took by sea. Not only is the firsthand knowledge of Luke’s account an incredible witness to the accuracy of the Bible, this is just a breathtaking and emotional journey as you read what those men went through on that ship in the Mediterranean Sea. So many faith and leadership lessons can be taught here.

What I want to focus on for just a moment this morning is how Paul’s relationship with God and his leadership brought all those people safely to shore.

Notice this: When Paul is speaking to the men on the ship, he tells them about what God told him.

and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
(Acts 27:24)

God has “granted you all those who sail with you.” What is implied here? Doesn’t it sound like Paul had specifically made a request to God for all of these men on the ship? God seems to be saying, I am giving you what you requested. These men will all safely come to shore, even if they do so swimming or floating on broken pieces of the ship.

and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
(Acts 27:44)

276 men were on that ship (Acts 27:37). 276 men made it safely to shore, even if it was scary and ugly. And they all can be thankful for Paul’s dedication, prayers, and concern. Paul showed who he was down to his core – he deeply loved and cared for everyone on that ship. And Paul showed them the loving and mighty God he serves. When those men swam ashore and stood on the ground, they could rest assured that God keeps His promises, and God answers the prayers of the faithful.

As we go into Memorial Day weekend, let us also remember that we have made it safely through a lot of storms in our country. God is to be praised and thanked for that first and foremost. But do not forget those who sacrificed of themselves and poured our their blood because they wanted all of us to make it safely to the shores of freedom. We stand in freedom because others laid down their lives.

Saul was a King, David was a Leader

1 Chronicles 11:1-3 Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.'” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel.

Look at what Israel said to David!

Even when Saul was king, it was you (David) who led out and brought in Israel.

Who was the king? Saul. Who was the real leader in Israel? David.

To whom did the people go to for leadership? David. Who was the person who understood the real enemy of Israel? David. Who was the one who had the courage to face the giant with God’s help? David. Who was the one who encouraged the hearts of Israel to trust God and take on the enemy? David. Who was the one who walked among the people and knew the people? David.

What was Saul doing? Hiding. Doubting. Cowering. His focus was his power, his image and keeping his throne. He was incredibly fearful and jealous of David and anyone who supported him. He devoted the rest of his life to chasing David all over Israel to eliminate him because he was a threat to Saul’s power. In fact, you can see that Saul lost focus of the real enemy, the Philistines, until they had completely surrounded him and it was too late.

You see, the people of Israel were smart enough to know who the real leader was. That is still true today. It is evident in churches, homes, businesses, sports teams, politics, etc. The people in charge are not necessarily the ones who are really leading. Sometimes it is a husband who likes to assert his authority all the time, while the wife and mother is the one really leading the kids. It might be in a sports team where the “captain” of the team is just bossy but another player is the one who inspires the team. We see it in businesses, where the CEO is a controlling, micro-managing type, and there are a few others who really make that business what it is.

So, what about you? Are you a boss, or a leader? Are you an elder, or a leader? Are you the “head of the home” or a leader? Leaders inspire, set examples, communicate and build relationships. There is an atmosphere of welcoming and safety around a leader. Leaders don’t have to go around asserting their authority all the time to do so. Look around, are people following you because they respect you or because you are in charge? Also take a look, are people continually going to someone else instead of you? It might be that you have asserted your authority way too much and they don’t feel safe coming to you. How do you respond when others get the praise and recognition, yet you are in charge? Do you encourage and welcome that or are you intimidated by that?

God’s encouragement for you today is to be a leader like David, not a king like Saul.

Eagles’ Wings

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31; NKJV)

I encourage you to take some time and read all of Isaiah 40 if you get time today, but I wanted to bring the last 4 verses of the chapter to your attention as you start the week.  I need to be continually reminded to see my current life on earth from a Heavenly perspective.  This allows me to see God’s majesty and in seeing that I can have confidence that God knows my situations, will provide for me to deal with any short-term difficulties and will deliver me in the end.

I pray you have a wonder week and that you feel God’s influence and care in your life.

Daniel: Overwhelmed Then Strengthened

We have been camped out in Daniel 10 for a few days as we continue to harvest some great concepts from the text.

As we have seen in Daniel 10, Daniel was fasting, mourning and seeking God’s help for 3 weeks. God will send Daniel answers and comfort, but we will see that God brings a powerful vision that completely zaps the strength from Daniel until he is face down and unable to talk.

When the divine messenger came to Daniel, Daniel was not immediately strengthened and comforted. What happened first? Daniel was overwhelmed by the visions, the mere presence, and the powerful voice of this being. The men who were with Daniel did not see the vision, but just the mere presence of this being brought trembling to those men to where they had to run and hide (verse 7)!

When Daniel saw the vision of this heavenly being (which may be Jesus here, not an angel):

(8) So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength.

As this being spoke to Daniel, here was the initial effect:

(9) Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

So, Daniel started out mourning, fasting and praying. He then sees the vision and is completely drained of all his strength. As the words of this spiritual being are spoken, Daniel goes into a trance-like state.

Then this heavenly messenger touched Daniel, but Daniel is still trembling.

(10) And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.

Do you see how God is overwhelming Daniel with His power, His presence and His voice? Then and only then, does God lift Daniel up to comfort and strengthen him! This is so awesome, and this is how God works with us all, even if not through a miraculous vision. God wants us to be completely humbled, overwhelmed and in awe of His majesty, so that we can truly be lifted up by His strength.

Here comes the comfort to Daniel by this spiritual messenger.

(11) And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.

(12) Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

The words of this heavenly being silenced Daniel’s words and took the last bit of energy and strength from Daniel’s body:

(15) When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute.

(16) And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength.”

This is where God wants everyone of us so that we can be filled with His strength and holiness. Look at the question that Daniel asked in verse 17, and ponder it. This is so true. How can we talk with our Lord unless He gives us the strength to do so?

(17) How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

Once again, we see the comfort from the touch and words of a divine being:

(18) Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.

(19) And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

If we want God to speak to us, do you know what He is going to tell us? Well, in the next two verses we will see the answer. God will only tell us the truth!

(20) Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come.

(21) But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

God’s Voice and the Storm

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:38-41)

Here is a song to listen to today, called Oceans. Very encouraging.

God’s Voice and the Storm

It is no wonder that these Jewish men were wondering “who” Jesus was! God’s power over the waters, winds and storms is evident throughout Scripture (Genesis 6:17; Exodus 14; Joshua 3; Psalm 29:3,10; 65:7; 89:9; 93:3-4; 104:6-9; 107:29; 148:8; Proverbs 8:29; Job 38:8-11,25; Jeremiah 5:22; Nahum 1:4). When Jesus woke up and “rebuked” the wind and told the sea to be calm, it immediately obeyed His voice. Only God has that power.

Read Psalm 29 about the voice of God. Think about Jesus as you read this, but also think about the “storms, winds and floods” in your life. Where is our faith? We are in the boat with the God of the Storm.

Psalm 29:1-11

A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (2) Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (3) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. (4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. (5) The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. (6) He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. (7) The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. (8) The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. (9) The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (10) The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. (11) May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Jesus rebuked the wind (Mark 4:39). He also rebuked the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39), he rebuked unclean spirits (Mark 9:25). Peter tried to rebuke Jesus and Jesus turned around and rebuked Peter (Mark 8:32-33). After His resurrection, Jesus rebuked his disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16:14). When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:55). There is authority and great power in the rebuke of Jesus. Let’s let Him rebuke our storms and winds.

The Power of Envy

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.
(Matthew 27:15-18)

An innocent young man, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his brothers because of envy (Genesis 37; Acts 7:9). King Saul tried to kill righteous David because of envy (1 Samuel 18:7-11). The Jewish leadership persecuted the apostles because of envy (Acts 5:17). Because of envy, the Jews in the Galatian region contradicted everything Paul was trying to preach. They were envious of the grace and attention being given to the Gentiles (Acts 13:45).

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
(Proverbs 27:4)

Who can stand before jealousy? Great question. Look at how the people, including the Jewish leadership, treated Jesus because of envy. He was innocent, righteous, holy, and he did nothing but good for others. Jesus would be the safest person in your community. Yet, whom did they choose to release back into their midst? A “notorious” criminal, Barabbas, who was a murderer and a thief. These people had absolutely lost their ability to reason because of envy and blind rage.

I will write more about this later, but this is something for us to ponder. What can jealousy do within our hearts? Where will it lead? How will it hurt others? You don’t have to look any further than what happened to Jesus because of jealousy.

Who Can Stand Before His Cold?

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
(Psalm 147:15-18)

A majority of the nation is dealing with some really cold temperatures right now. Here at home we are expecting a high of -3 degrees tomorrow. Crazy cold, but I know other places are much colder. I’m not much of a winter fan, but the snow sure is pretty today and it was so beautiful watching it fall last night.

I found this verse today that talks about the winter and God. God brings the winter and He takes it away. He gives the snow and hurls down crystals of ice and then He melts it all in spring. Snow is a gift from God intended to refresh the soul and water the earth (Psalm 148:8; Proverbs 25:13; Isaiah 55:10).

But what struck me is this question, “Who can stand before His cold?”

The question is nobody. Even the toughest people with the warmest gear will eventually get to a place where they can’t take any more cold and they have to warm up. In temperatures like this, frostbite occurs very quickly.

This concept reminds me of what our congregation was just studying in the book of Job. God paraded all of nature before Job, including His greatest, most magnificent creatures. The questions to Job were something like, “Can you do this?”, or “Can you stand before this?”

As we brave the cold and endure the harsh winds and drive over ice and snow, we can be reminded that God is the one who rules the winter. We are in His hands. Just like we cannot stand before the winter, we cannot stand before God. That is of course unless we have Jesus and His blood to help us stand before Him. Which leads to another thought.

God’s forgiveness is also compared to snow.

  • Psalm 51:7 – Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  • Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

God’s holiness and appearance is compared to the whiteness of snow.

Think about what it is like when you have a blanket of snow on the ground and a very sunny day. What do you need? Sunglasses! That’s the image of God’s presence presented to us in Scripture.

  • Daniel 7:9 – As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.
  • Matthew 28:3 – His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
  • Revelation 1:14 – The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire…

Here is one final thought. Last night my neighbor came over and plowed our driveway. After he was finished, we were talking, and I said, “Listen…isn’t that amazing as to how much quieter it is when it is snowing?” It is really awesome to think about the quieting effect of a fresh blanket of snow. Here’s an article that explains why it is quieter when it snows. God’s presence also is to have a calming, quieting effect upon our lives (Psalm 131:1-3).

Well, that’s it. Enough about snow and cold for now!

Fear

This week, I would like us to take some time and consider one word…”fear”.  I think this is a good word for men to take a good hard look at…especially in our relationships and lives.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we are going to find fear.

I am not talking about the healthy fear we have in our lives in which we use our God-given senses to be careful and make good judgement in avoiding hazardous situations.  Fear, for this discussion, is more in line with insecurity.  That takes on a whole different meaning and deals more about where we put our security and when others somehow (whether real or perceived) threaten us

So where do find fear or insecurity?  I submit a good place to find it in our relationships is by looking at when we get mad.

Why when we are mad?  Because I believe that fear or insecurity is a root of our anger.  It isn’t necessarily “the root” but is certainly a root…along with hurt, confusion, a whole lot of other things.  This is certainly true with my wife, my children, at work and even with the brethren.   There is a lot at stake in these relationships and sometimes there are a lot of things going on and some of them I do not understand and cannot control.  This brings fear…and my fear manifests itself in anger.  So with my teenage son (who by the way needs a father who is looking to be like The Father), instead of screaming “I am scared to death you are going to succumb to peer pressure and make a bad judgment and hurt yourself or someone else”…I just yell!  I go on the attack.  I put myself “back in control” and make a mess of it.  I pick something easy and start yelling and man can I get on a roll and oh boy the aftermath of hurt feelings can take days to unravel and repair…if at all.  But in the end…I blew it.

I got mad because I was scared and what I should have done was taken a breath, admitted my fear, and talked rationally about it with the mini-me standing in front of me.  I have done it a whole lot of times too…even after I learned some of the lessons I am sharing here.  Still, I am thankful that my God loves me and is patient with me…because He is the reason I can be better and not let fear dictate my life and how I live it.

So be reminded with me of God’s position in our lives and ability to take away our fear and replace it with love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, long-suffering.  Paul reminds Timothy and let us be reminded too:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7; NKJV)

The reason that is true…that we shouldn’t have a spirit of fear but of power and of love…is because we serve a Living God and He is our Abba Father hearing and answering our prayers according to our good.  In Psalm 61:1-4 David teaches us that we should call out to Him and in doing so we can have power and not fear.

But it isn’t always that easy.  What is easy though…is opening God’s book and learning what He has to say about fear.  Start there…look for that word along with afraid and see what He teaches you.  It will give you power and will give you a sense of being loved so you can love.  And it will help you deal with your fear properly…but boldly going to His throne of grace and shedding it at His feet while asking for Him to help and trust that He will.  This is such glorious blessing and brings such a relief to the heart.  You will find the strength to not fear and in that understand that God is with you in all your relationships so you don’t have to be afraid and hopefully will reduce the amount of time you spend angry.  Let’s look at that more closely this week…but for now consider these verses and start asking yourself “What am I afraid of?” or “Am I mad because I’m scared?” or “Why am I carrying this fear around all alone?  Why don’t I give it to God?  Why don’t I find a brother to help me?”

Let’s start there and see what we can learn about ourselves this week as it pertains to fear as we work to face fear in our lives, to find out what is really going on, and to figure out we need to do to be free of it.  We’ll learn and relearn together to search out and to find safety and power and love in our Heavenly Father, His Son, His Spirit, and His Word.

James’ Words for the Rich and Powerful

Today’s words come from the book of James, and the focus is those who have power and possessions. There are some blunt words and clear warnings given by James to those with the funds and the status.

Read these words of wisdom and reflect on what God has to say to those of us in positions of authority. What is God saying to us when we have the blessings of material goods in our lives? Authority and money are great tools and wonderful blessings that can be used for God’s glory; they don’t have to be used like most people use them (abuse them).

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
(James 1:9-11)

The rich man must remember that all those “pursuits” will fade away. Use them, enjoy them and share them, but remember they are all going to perish.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
(James 2:5-7)

Being affluent doesn’t mean anything to God when it comes to salvation. In fact many times it gets in the way, because the rich often are too proud and self-sufficient to see a need for salvation. We may be rich in funds, but we must become poor in spirit.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(James 2:13-17)

One of the very reasons we work and get wages is to have funds to help others in need (Ephesians 4:28). If you have this world’s goods, remember to look around for those who are lacking those goods, and share your blessings with them. Don’t do it out of guilt, do it out of gratitude. Show your faith by how you use your cash.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17)

Plans and life itself all change in a millisecond. James bluntly calls us arrogant when we make all our plans without regard for God, His will, or the brevity of life.  Are you doing the Lord’s will today? Tomorrow may not arrive.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6)

Finally, God pays attention and knows very well who is being oppressed and abused. Those who use authority, status and money to hurt other people will be judged by a holy and just God. If the workers cannot cry out to their bosses for mercy, they can certainly cry out to God for mercy and He will hear them. Use your power, status and money to be a protector and provider of others. You know it shouldn’t have taken unions, lawsuits and riots to force businesses to do the right thing for the workers. If those who are running businesses and managing employees would honor God and read James, then they would naturally work to create a safe working environment and pay fair wages.