Self-Destructive Desires

Romans 7:18

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Galatians 5:16-17, 5:24

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Ephesians 4:22

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

Jesus spoke much about your heart – that you worship what you treasure. The apostle Paul likewise reiterated the same train of thought through the above Scriptures. The battles we face are best managed by how well you and I channel our desires.

Without allowing God’s Spirit access into our deepest desires, the carnal wants will have their way with you and I. When we focus on the Spirit and God’s character, we are aiming towards the eternal, long-term benefits which we all know is good and beneficial for all, but delayed gratification is not one of humanities greatest strengths.  

The other day, I had a strong desire for chocolate. Our neighbor, who loves to cook, stopped by with a plate of peanut butter cookies along with a plastic bag of chocolate bars. Good, expensive, dark chocolate. The type that is good for you. However, if you have an addiction towards sweet foods, not the best thing to have around. In less then a day, I had devoured the entire bag and could have eaten more. Thankfully there was nothing more available.

I slipped and satisfied my bodily desires. If I had immediately gotten rid of them the moment they entered into our house, I wouldn’t have indulged in my lust. But, I didn’t. Instead, I gave into my fleshly desire and consumed ½ pound of chocolate within minutes.

Though this is a small, carnal desire in comparison with other more harmful, destructive acts, it’s a lesson that I remind myself of the importance of walking with God’s Spirit in full surrender at all times. That the battle we face each day is with how we respond to the desires that continually are filtered through our inner world.

Over the years there are many times that I simply pushed the chocolate away from me without any temptation. Other times when I least expect, the temptation comes and I give in. The solution is knowing yourself and how best to fight against your weaknesses and perceived strengths.

When we are prayed-up, focused outward based on a Christ-centered base, the temptation is simply batted away. However, when we are empty, swaying far from the center of reality and truth, our self-centered, carnal desires easily flow with no godly boundaries in place. We are like a castle whose walls have been penetrated by the enemy. The battle is soon lost.

But thankfully we have a God who gracefully understands our human weaknesses and loves us even more than we can fathom. He restores us like the child who falls for the umpteen time, but her loving dad picks her up and encourages her to keep on trucking. Eventually the falls occur less and less, and maybe, the child even grows up and wins a goal medal in the Olympics.

Who knows what the future brings? But until then, the battle lies with the desires that explode us. I for one am grateful for our King who has gone before us, won the battle with the enemy, and now mentors us on how best to fight the carnal desires that evade us.

How? Holy Spirit have your way with us!

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
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What Do You Desire Most?

Psalm 73:25

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

Ever wonder what is the primary difference between the person who says there is no God and the one who says there is a Master Designer? People have debated this for centuries without a universal, agreeable answer. So, I am going to add my two cents into the equation; not because anyone asked, but it has been on my heart lately.

I always thought it was an intellectual exercise to determine whether or not God existed. Most of the time we witness two people debating the issue on stage – one for and the other against. At the end of the day the audience wouldn’t change their mind. Whatever side they agreed too at the beginning of the debate is where they remained at the end of it. That is why I now wonder if it has little to do with intellect and more to do with one’s desire.

I look at my own life as an example. In my mid-teens, life was a total mess. Looking back, I was rebellious, angry, and troubled to the point if things didn’t change, I would soon be joining some of my associates either in prison or the cemetery. Out of desperation one evening, I knelt at my bedside and for the first time cried out, if there was a God, I needed him to save me from the mess I have gotten myself into.

Up to that point, I was probably more of an agnostic. But from that moment forward, I began to slowly change the course of my life. I started to read the Bible. I would go to the library and check out books on all the main religions and world known philosophers. Then one day in my senior year of high school, I found myself standing in the middle of the hallway between classroom changes just being mentally bombarded with the thought “what is the purpose of life?”

My intensity to discover the answer grew. I realized the first hurdle was to determine whether or not God was real. Because if there was a God, then the Master Designer would have had a purpose in mind. But if there wasn’t a God, then there would be no objective purpose for life.

The switch has been thrown. For the next several years, I lived life with one leg acting as if God existed and the other leg as if there was no God – no easy task. However, the more I read both sides of the argument and witnessed the lives of people who professed in a God, the more I began to realize if there was no God, life would be better with One.

So, I made the choice one day to begin living life as if God did exist. I searched out and became a member of a faith community. I began to learn to pray and study the Bible. (after reading other religious manuscripts, I most likely initially chose the Bible because of cultural acceptance). In many ways, those early years in my twenties, I still had one leg for God and the other leg being pulled for no God. But there was one scripture that became my marching order – Romans 12:2. I began to test God’s will.

Long story short. The more I looked for Him to act upon my prayers, the more I witnessed outcomes which made me stand back in awe. Initially I thought they were coincidental. But when favorable solutions repeatedly happened in a variety of unpredictable circumstances, you begin to take notice. You witness hearts and attitudes change in people who hated you.  You witness financial and physical intervention in your life and others which leave you scratching your head in amazement. You begin to witness invisible, life-giving forces weave through people’s lives which only makes you want to better understand its Source.

Over time, you begin to grow a relationship with an invisible God. You align what you read in Scripture with what you face every day. You realize you have taken what you have acquired in knowledge, learn to apply each day in your world, and grown from the experience. In hindsight, either you are crazy or you are truly experiencing the with-God life. I choose to believe the with-God life.    

Yes, the long journey included acquiring knowledge and experiencing God’s grace in action. But it all started with a strong desire to know whether or not God existed. Without that desire, it would have been easy to invest only one hour toward the study, reach a negative conclusion, and move on from there. However, with the scientific mind of starting off with a hypothesis, and then spending years putting God to the test, I can now say like David wrote in the Psalms, there is nothing on earth I desire more than knowing Father-Son-Spirit.

So, you can argue mentally all day long. But I now believe only when you have the intense desire to truly search for HIM, you will find him (Hebrews 11:6).  

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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Desires

Psalm 73:25

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

2 Timothy 3:12

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

James 1:14-15

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 4:2

You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

1 John 2:16

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Genesis 4:7

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Your desires propel you toward your destiny.

The Bible describes desires as either carnal or divine. The carnal desires are enforced by the activity of the world around you. But the divine are God’s heart and character imprinted in us through HIS Spirit.

The carnal desires are naturally thrust upon us from the day we are born. The world and culture around us bombard us with images, sounds, and smells to entice us. In a sense, our family, friends, neighbors, teachers, along with social media, movies, and books have program you and me on what we want most from life.  One day we wake up and realize our natural inclination is to act and think like the world around us even though at times we don’t want too. Why?

Because at the same time God’s Spirit is alive and active. He is likewise revealing HIS way of life and the fruit which comes from living with HIM. And as we slowly learn more and more who HE IS, we want to become more like HIM and experience life the way HE does.

Then we will either spend the majority of our lives deprogramming our minds from worldly influences and cultivating eternal values which lead to a more abundant life, or succumb to the world’s carnal pressure of living life like animals seeking to breakout of our cages.

The Bible calls it repentance; to change one’s mind or worldview; to set aside carnal values and pursue divine attributes. When we do, we begin the process of allowing God’s Spirit to program our heart and mind and soul with HIS truth and character. We then also realize we are walking against the world’s culture and will be persecuted for it. But we are willing to accept the abuse. Why, because we know this is the best way for you, me, and others to live which leads to real freedom, flourishment, and fulfillment for the world. This is the reason Jesus Christ came, lived, died, and was resurrected. So, you and I can live life with our Creator the way HE designed everything from the beginning of time.

Your passion is fueled with the desires you choose to pursue and act upon. And the repercussions are either life-giving or hell-bent. Choose wisely.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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Fear Not

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Hebrews 13:6

So, we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

2 Timothy 1:7

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ever notice throughout the Bible whenever angels appeared before humans, their first words are a strong command not to be afraid. Or when Jesus spoke with His disciples or someone approached him, he would reiterate “fear not” and then explain why.

Fear is a strong emotional spirit that is wired in us to protect us from potential harm. Those of us who have a strong creative imagination probably are more challenged to keep fear to a healthy manageable display, but everyone of us deals with the matter throughout our lives. Yet there are those who better manage the response of fear than others.

I have worked for business owners whose level of monetary risk was substantially greater than mine. As one explained to me, after you lost a few million, gone through bankruptcy, and still survive, your level of risk tolerance grows. The same is true of whatever we may fear. The more we face our fear and survive, the stronger we become.

Jesus would often imperatively command his listeners not to be afraid. The reason: because God cares for you and will help you walk through the ordeal. He would point to God as the one we should fear because he can destroy both body and soul; whereas people can only kill the body. In other places, HE chastises doubt away, and points toward God as the solution to overcome fear and anxiety.

Elsewhere in Scripture, the apostle Paul and John and the writer of Hebrews likewise poo-poo fear away by reminding us that God has given us through HIS Spirit the power and love and self-control to debunk the fear in our lives.

John highlights that God’s love is greater than any fear. As we allow HIS presence to live in us and transform us, we slowly see the fear dissipate from our lives. As we come to know HIM more and more each day, we become witnesses of HIS power to work in our life and the life of others.

The intensity of the fears we face each day are correlated with the presence of God in our life. As HE becomes more and more central in our life, the relationship grows and HIS attributes and worldview begin to dominate in our world. Whatever problem we see or ordeal we are living through is soon recognized as only a hiccup in HIS path.

Fear is a very powerful emotion God gave us to protect us from danger. Yet fear, unless bridled can cause greater harm than the trigger point of fear itself. Like all emotions, fear needs to be managed properly under the circumstances one finds themselves. The beginning of a healthy system to manage fear is with God who created the emotion for our protection. When HE becomes the central core of our emotions, the challenge and response become more controlled, healthy, and productive. So, fear not, and let God be your guide.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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Fear of God

Romans 3:13-18

“Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
 in their paths are ruin and misery,
 and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

What ever happened to good-old-fashion fear of the Lord? Maybe it’s only me, but in our youthful ignorance when we had a simple but respectful attitude toward our Creator, wasn’t life more peaceful and civil?

Today, people seem to have greater fear of being fired from their job, or cancelled by the internet crowd, or being discovered of who they truly are, then fearing the Author & Designer of Life. We witness daily through the media and political rhetoric how fear is used as the tool of those in power to manipulate their subjects into following them into the promise land. We seem to fear everything and everyone except the one who deserves the most respect and honor of all: Our LORD.

When the fear of God is preached in some pulpits, they highlight the wrath of God. Yes, for those who do not know God, his power and authority is intimidating. When we do not know someone in an unfriendly situation, fear normally takes the lead. Yet under the same circumstances when we do know the heart and character of the person facing us, we have no fear. The same is true with our LORD.

If you were raised in a house with a father who physically or emotionally abused you, you would learn to distrust and even hate him for the pain he put you through. Yet on the other hand, if your dad loved and played and taught you valuable lessons throughout your growing years, you would learn to respect and honor him. The same is true with our heavenly Father.

The healthy fear the Bible reveals about our relationship with our God is a respectful awe. As we come to know HIM, his character and his heart, we realize there is nothing to fear but our own carnal imagination gone wild. He is a God of love and justice. He knows how to discipline us for our good, not from personal anger but from a heart of knowing what is best for us. He also knows how to best bless us with HIS gifts.

As we live in HIS presence each day, we gladly invite him into our life as he has invited us into HIS. We kneel in amazement at HIS wisdom, HIS love for everyone, and HIS uncanny ways of intervening for HIS children.

Yes, my fear of God is knowing HE is all powerful and HIS word has final authority in all matters. Yet my fear is balanced by also knowing HIS character and heart.

If only all people would come to know HIM and live in HIS presence each day. We wouldn’t need thousands of laws, more police, judges, and jails. Some may call it a utopia. For humans to make happen it is an unrealistic dream, but for God who changes the hearts of people, there will be a time in the world tomorrow when heaven and earth are merged together into the final chapter, then all people everywhere will experience the joy and love of living in the fear of our God. Until then, we who experience God’s grace every day, can only share HIS way of life with others and pray they have the courage to reach out to the God who truly cares for you and me.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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Some Church History

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

When I read this Scripture, I find comfort knowing God’s Church will outlast hell. Yet there are people who emphasize this Scripture as Peter being the first leader of the Catholic Church. Good for them. But what does history record?

Everyone agrees that the Christian faith began in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit made his public entrance into the known world. Even Peter stood up at the time and preached the first sermon where the Holy Spirit converted over three thousand people. Yet later during the first recorded church convention of the early Church, the Book of Acts highlights James as the local church administrator leading that first meeting.

Early church history records the five largest and most influential churches were based in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria. Each church was led by their own bishop without accountability to a higher human authority. It wasn’t until around the 300-350 period when King Charlemagne based in Rome made the Christian religion the national faith. With his assistance, the church in Rome then took on a more political stance and grew from the experience.

Meanwhile, the churches in the other major cities continued with disagreements on certain faith issues. Though they all held similar basic fundamental beliefs which was outlined in the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D., they also had their differences. For example, the church in Jerusalem still had many people who observed the seventh day Sabbath and kept the Jewish holy days. The church in Alexandria eventually became the hub of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Antioch was where Believers were first called Christian and the influence of the Greek gentile culture challenged those from Jerusalem.

History and the Bible prove that Peter was the original leader of the twelve apostles. And each apostle traveled to major parts of the known world preaching the good news of Jesus Christ including Peter. The early Church didn’t have an institutional hierarchy in mind. Instead, it was a loosely organized movement inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The structure and political influence came later after the richer faith communities settled down and began integrating into the local city life. Like all movements, vested interest came together and people settled into daily routines.    

Yet the Church after two thousand years still remains. Still active, still expounding the truth, and still showing the light of Jesus through the many souls who have tasted and feasted upon the love of God. And as the enemy has constantly attacked to destroy the Church and repeatedly failed, we have Jesus’ promise that the Church will survive to the end.

Thank you, Lord, for directing your Body of Believers for the work you have us do.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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Discipline Yourself

1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The Holy Spirit shares HIS character with us which includes self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). He provides us with the added resources and support to live the good life. However, we still have to make the choice. Yet how often do we waiver between two opposing options? We know what is the right thing to do but yet our carnal desire seeks the opposite. 

Paul compares the Christian walk to an Olympic event. The Christ-follower is like the athlete being trained to win a race or a boxing match. If you have ever played sports, you know the preliminary practice and training required to prepare the body and mind for actual competition. The Christian life is no different.

One of the life long battles with the self is disciplining the body to pursue godly attitudes and behavior. In our current culture overran with luxury and pampering, many of us are out of shape to enter any type of Olympic event. This is nothing new under the sun. The way our forefathers managed this process is through “the disciplines of grace” as Richard Foster describes in his book “Celebration of Discipline.”   

The disciplines he describes are simple exercises we intentionally put ourselves through for the long-term outcome of subduing the body into subjection of God’s grace. We train ourselves to yield our desires for a more eternal outcome.

For example, I love to eat. And of course, the foods I desire are typically high in calorie, sugar, and other ingredients which in moderation would be OK but in the hands of an addictive personality, very dangerous. To overcome and better manage the urge of gluttony, I turn to the discipline of fasting. Fasting is an old-time tradition that Jesus and his disciples spoke about as the Bible has much to say about its merit. Yet when practiced on a regular basis, science has demonstrated its effectiveness for physical health, and the Bible has shown its importance for spiritual nourishment.

Other disciplines include worship, giving, celebrating, silence, and at least another dozen that one can choose from to better help in managing the carnal desires of the body. The way to choose which discipline one practices most often is to understand one’s character defaults. For example, if friends and family members point out that you may over talk at events, then maybe one could better control the tongue by practicing the discipline of silence. Another example is if one finds it hard to donate money to others without any strings attached, then maybe the discipline of giving would help balance out the selfish heart.

There are many others options to choose from. The point is to make the intentional decision to practice the discipline one needs to better shape the character within you. For life has a way we either discipline ourselves or life will hit us from the outside with such a punch that we may find ourselves the victim of a knockout. I for one would rather be prepared for the unexpected.

The disciplines of grace help me better manage myself through the obstacle’s life throws us each and every day. I am sure you will find like many others who practice these disciplines they would also make a positive difference in your life. Take time this week to investigate. You may be pleasantly surprise in the difference they will make in your life.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Encourager & Author of e-Books

 *  Dancing With God: Life-Giving Theology Explained
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

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