Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dealing With The Feeling

Peninsula Community Church
Body, Soul, and Spirit; Dealing with the Feelings
March 30, 2014

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Today, we are transitioning from how our minds and our thoughts effect us to how our emotions effect us. There is so much to be discovered on this subject. So, while we will take a couple weeks to look at this subject, there is a recognition that we could spend the next year dealing with our emotions alone. In so doing, we will only scratch the surface of our understanding. My desire, however, is that this will provoke you to a deeper study of this critical issue.

As we read our text for today, we are brought face to face with the fact that our relationship with God and with others is an emotional adventure. Jesus points to one of the greatest emotions of all times when he says that we shall “love the Lord your God.” That alone is a powerful statement but, Jesus continues by stating that we are called to love God, and we are called to love others. Of note here, is the fact, that Jesus also describes the level of love we are to exhibit. Notice this. We are to love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart, ALL of our soul, ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. In other words, the totality of who we are is to be engaged in our relationship with God. We cannot be divided, compartmentalized, or lackadaisical in our approach, we must be fully engaged.

Secondly, in relationship to others, we are to love them just as we love ourselves. Can you imagine the power of love when we would seek to love others the way we want to be loved? This speaks to us that we need to have a correct view of ourselves in order to have a positive understanding of how to love others. Too often, we are trying to love others without loving ourselves properly. When this happens, we often wonder why we fall short and have such failures in our relationships.

As we begin, let me make a couple of observations about our emotions. Next week, we will look at specific steps we can take to deal with our emotions.

First, every emotion we have or will ever experience has been created by God. For some, that may seem unrealistic or unbelievable, but it is true. The problem is that as a result of the fall of mankind into sin, our understanding and use of our emotions have become distorted. We do not have to look too far in our society to see the repercussions of this.

One of the best examples of this in a contemporary fashion is the recent death of Pastor Fred Phelps. For those who do not know Pastor Fred Phelps, he was the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church that picketed at the funerals of soldiers because he felt the death of our soldiers was caused by our acceptance of homosexuality in America. His misguided emotions and actions caused many painful experiences. He not only picketed the funerals but his group held up signs that were both cruel and rude. The signs focused on gays and lesbians. Some signs read “God hates fags.” He stated, “You can’t believe the Bible without believing that God hates people.” It’s pure nonsense to say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. He hates the sin, and he hates the sinner. He sends them to hell. Do you think he loves the people in hell?” This is a misguided view of God’s love. The fact is God loves everyone. He, God. may not agree with their lifestyle or accept their sin, but what one does in no way diminishes His love.

Because of actions, his death has elicited a plethora of emotions and responses from both Christian and nonChristian. Let me be clear about my feelings in regard to what he did and what he lead others to do. The acts perpetrated by this individual did not represent Christ very well nor did they promote the truth of the gospel in most cases. With that said, I can hate the actions he took but not hate the individual carrying out those acts. He was a vicious man who was filled with hate himself, but I cannot and must not put myself in the position of judging his heart or his salvation. That is not my role, my position, or calling. His life illustrates the distortion of emotions on a couple of levels. To do so would be to fall into the same trap of he found himself… Judging the heart without knowledge. One, his emotions were distorted and caused him to be blinded to the pain he caused. Rather than deal with the issues in a healthy way, he chose to attack those who had little to do with the problem.

A second event that occurred just this week was the decision by World Vision to hire gays and lesbians who are married. Their initial reasoning for this was that they wanted to promote monogamist relationships juxtaposed to acts of adultery and sex before marriage. It appeared that their decision was somewhat motivated by the emotion to please rather than resting on the foundation of the word and their own statement of faith.The problem in their decision was that in fact they promoted one sin over another. It was as if they decided to say that it is ok to lie but not to steal.

But, I am pleased to report that they reversed that decision two days later. Why? There were Christian leaders who gathered around World Vision, and most of these leaders worked behind the scene to bring counsel, encouragement, and correction to World Vision’s decision. These leaders kept their emotions in check and provided a balanced view on the issue with hate or judgement. World vision has since written a strong letter of apology for their actions, and asked forgiveness for the pain it may have caused those closely allied with their ministry. While their initial decision was based on an emotional response, the truth of the Gospel and good counseling righted their actions.

Second, our emotions serve as a gauge or as a warning light. This is like the warning lights on our our car’s dashboard which serves to warn us of any problems with our car. In Michelle’s, car we have had an engine light on for sometime. I decided to take her car to the auto parts store where they ran a diagnosis on the problem and found that we had an emissions issue. The problem was not the light, the problem was a faulty sensor. In this regard, the problem(s) are not major but none-the-less the warning light registered a problem.

You see when you lash out in anger, the cause of the anger must be determined by understanding what caused you to lash out in anger. Nine times out of ten, the anger is not the problem. The problem is what is driving you to get angry. Have you been abused in this area before? When we are anxious or fearful, we must determine the cause of these emotions. Why are we fearful? Is it a matter of trust? Are we disappointed? Are we experiencing unmet expectations? Distrust, disappointment, and unmet expectations can have radical results on our emotions.

Third, feelings or emotions taken on their own are often unreliable as a measure of what is real or even true. Let me ask you? Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you made a decision solely on an emotional response, only later to regret the decision. One of the statements that is so misleading is the statement, “Just follow your heart.” I know a lot of people that followed their heart only to find out later that they had misread their heart. They had great emotion but they lacked the knowledge or the understanding they needed to make a decision. I have alway been interested in some of the scams that are perpetrated upon people, especially the elderly. So often, the salesman will move the heart strings of the person. They know that if they can get the person emotionally attached to the item to be purchased, they have a sale. Have you ever purchased anything, emotionally, only to find out later it was not all it was cracked up to be.

The fact is our emotions must never be disconnected from truth or factual information. When this occurs, we can follow after things that God never intended. After all sin is pleasurable for a season (Hebrews 1:24-25). Have you ever notice that sin often begins as an emotional draw or pull. It might be lust. It might be anger. It might feelings of low self-esteem. We must deal with our emotions so that they do not control us or our actions.

Fourth, an emotionless life is boring and dull. Our emotions have a role to play and they are important in forming and shaping who we are as a person and as a believer. Too often, we have reached point where we shut our emotions down so we do not have any emotion at all or at least we think so any way. Let me say this, a relationship with Christ brings about a plethora of emotion. There is joy in Christ. There is peace everlasting. In fact, Paul noted that we should be filled with the Spirit that is guides us to express our emotions in positive ways.

Paul stated But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22).

So how are your emotions? How are you effected by your emotions? Do you allow your emotions to control you or do you control your emotions? Does the Spirit motivate your emotions or are you motivated by the Spirit?

Copyright 2014, Robert W. Odom Ministries

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Watcha Thinking Part 2

Peninsula Community Church

March 23, 2014

Body, Soul and Spirit – Whatcha Thinking? Part 2

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Let’s continue to look at this passage together this morning. Last week, we focused on Paul’s admonition to think on those things which are true. We think on truth by focusing on a constant, unmovable point of reference. The problem with not having a fixed point of reference in our lives is that we can begin to believe that truth is relative and can be whatever we want it to be. Modern thinking says that you have your truth and I have my truth. By extension then, my truth is correct and your truth is correct as well.

For this reason, we are in the midst of a great debate about the relevancy and the truth of God’s word and His teachings to give us guidance. Unfortunately, rather than taking God’s word as a fixed point of reference that is constant and unchangeable, we have a society that believes that God’s words and teachings are archaic and no longer necessary. This is foolishness. When we do not have a fixed point of reference, we will walk blindly and aimlessly through life. When we lose the moorings of a fixed point of reference, we lose the ability to judge truth accurately.

But, God’s word and God himself has been and will continue to be that fixed point of reference. not just for believers but unbelievers as well; even though the nonbeliever may not realize it. The amazing thing is that these truths are so constant that when nonbelievers live by the principles of God’s word in regard to their business dealings and how they treat others; they will be blessed. Now, unfortunately, they may not make it to heaven or enjoy the blessing of God’s gift of eternal life, because they have now received Christ as their savior, but they are still blessed because they follow godly principles.

As we move forward in this study, rather than spend time on each of the remaining items in the list Paul gives us, I think we must learn and understand the principles of Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4:8. As we review this list and the admonishment to think on these things, we find a new mindset and discipline about the way we should be thinking. We have said it before that whatever you focus your attention on, you will begin to follow and begin to trust those things. The same applies to our thinking. What we focus on begins to stamp a neurological response on our hearts that results in familiar paths being taken. We in essence begin to live out a conditioned response of action and thought.

It is for this reason that Jesus made the proclamation that “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” When we feed our intellect, we feeds our hearts, and what we feed our minds and our hearts effects our will and our emotions. If we allow evil and corrupt thoughts to invade our thinking, there will be negative outcomes. Our heart will be malformed and will speak from the position of distortion, lies, and false doctrine.

As we move forward, we must consider where do we go from here? In other words, when confronted with unhealthy and nonBiblical thoughts, what do we do? How do we respond? Please note that the following is in no set order but are things to be considered so that we understand the focus of our attention.

The first step for us to take is to ask if the thoughts we are entertaining pass the Philippians 4:8 test. Is this thought based on truth? What does the word of God say about this situation or problem? How does the word confirm or contradict the truth of what is being said? Once acknowledged, we must align ourselves to God’s truth. So what are you thinking? Does what you think pass the Philippians test? Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it commendable? Does what I am thinking exhibit excellence? Is it worthy of praise?

To understand the truth, we must be in the word every day. John Piper made the following observation. “We’re completely wrong-headed whenever we lapse into thinking that private devotions somehow wins merit points with God. Devotions aren’t for impressing God or anybody else. They are for daily pointing us in the right direction and fueling the engine of our trust in God.” The goal through the Word is to have that point of reference that directs our steps. We cannot know truth unless we know The Truth.

The second step is to determine if the thoughts we are having are based on imaginations, false truths, and/or lies. One of the difficulties we face is in the area of imaginations and perceived truth. Imaginations are hard to deal with because they tend to be emotionally charged. One of the ways to do deal with imaginations and perceived truth is to refuse to continue to rehearse what someone has said or done to you. For example, if you believe that you have been ignored by someone and you continue to dwell on that, you can begin to build up an imagination and construct a story that is not based in truth. Some times these lies are so powerful that we would rather believe the lie that binds us than believing the truth that frees us. 

We must also remember that the mode of operation for the enemy of our souls is to speak lies, distortions, and false hood. How do you know the enemy is lying. Listen to see if he is speaking. Listen to what John 8:44-47 has to say about this matter. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

A third step is to stop and think about where the unhealthy or nonBiblical thought is coming from. When this happens, pause for a moment and consider where the particular thought or idea is coming from. Is it true? Am I acting this way because I am tired, or wounded. Am I misunderstanding what is being said or done? Do I have all of the information required to process and understand the truth. Remember the enemy of souls loves to use well timed suggestions to entrap us into a false way of thinking. He loves to take advantage of well timed opportunities to whisper into our ear or to have others whisper into ears. He is so effective at distraction and distortion. He loves to join with our unhealthy thoughts and build on the negative. He is able to speak false truths and negatives in such a way that we begin to believe them and accept them at face value. You see the enemy of our souls will never be concerned about the kind of damage you will do for the kingdom of God, if he can get you to buy into the lies of incompetence, weakness, and inadequacy. 

Uncontrolled thoughts form and shape our hearts and out of the heart actions are generated. Too often we are being tormented by events and issues that we continue to rehearse in our minds. Many times these thoughts are things that cannot be changed or resolved because the other person has become disengaged or disinterested in effecting change. But this is where we must remember that I am not responsible for the other person’s responses or actions. I am, however, fully responsible for my actions and responses to the stimuli in my life. 

A number of years ago I spoke to someone that had received a letter from their husband. In the letter, he wrote some devastating, cruel, and mean things. He wounded his wife deeply, and then at the end of the letter he stated that he was already seeing someone else and that he was filing for divorce. The letter was not only caused her pain, but it attacked her character. It went to the core of who she was. In the letter, he threatened to malign her character by spreading false rumors and gossip about her. In our discussion, she stated that she continually read the letter and each time she read the letter she became more angry, and she became more fearful. As we discussed this, it was obvious that a continual reading of the letter was causing her great pain. To resolve this, I recommended to her that she could do one of two things. One, she could continue to read the letter and allow the wound of her heart to be opened again or she could destroy the letter, never to read it again. If needed to keep the letter because of the pending divorce, I suggested that she take the letter, place it in an envelop, scotch tape it closed, and never open it again. 

Why would I say this to her? She was allowing that letter to continue to feed her insecurities, fears, and was breeding a false understanding about who she was and what she had done. You see the letter was filled with lies, and inaccuracies about her life. Each time she read the letter she was opening herself up to believe the lies and the inaccuracies. She was being affected by these thoughts so that her emotions and her heart were negatively impacted. 

So what are you thinking about? Is what you thinking about based in truth? Is it honorable? Is it lovely? If not, it is time to change. No more excuses. No more false reasoning? Just stop it.

 For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

 

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Body, Soul and Spirit – Whatcha Thinking?

Peninsula Community Church

March 16, 2014

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

A number of years ago I took a course on counseling where the teacher focused a portion of her teaching on what she described as stinking thinking. What she was communicated was that we can so easily allow our thinking to be manipulated and distorted by faulty thinking, lies and distortions. Our thinking can become distorted through the outside voices of our lives. These are the words spoken to us by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, and others. This also includes the words we speak to ourselves. These are the inward voices of condemnation and distortion about who we are, what we are becoming, and about the circumstance of our lives.

Faulty thinking are those lies and distortions that we have allowed to enter our mind and eventually into our heart. Once a thought has entered the heart, the heart directed to action by that thought. 

The truth is, when we do not bring faulty thinking into captivity, we risk that thinking becoming a part of who we are. We risk having faulty thinking dictate our response to life. We risk having faulty thinking create a stronghold in us that refuses to allow the truth of God to settle within us. It fights against or it neutralizes the truth of God because of the power we give it.

What exactly is stinking thinking? Stinking thinking is a result of a truth being rooted in a false reality and/or deception. It is truth that has been distorted so that we are walking in deception and in blindness to the reality of God’s word and the way things could be and should be. Stinking thinking places more value on perception and distortion than on truth. Now let me say this to you. I understand that this thinking, at times, is all we know. It is all we understand. This is true because of the experiences we have had. This is true because of what we have been taught. This is true because of how our families trained us or what they modeled as truth. Sometimes, as a result of this we have been deceived to believe that there is no hope and that there is little or no way out of the bondage we find ourselves. While this is the way things are, it does not mean we have to stay in this place.

Let’s do an evaluation. And be honest. Are you a pessimist or an optimist. Is your glass half full or is it half empty. The problem too often is that even an optimist can be a pessimist at heart. They present a good front but when they are alone they beat themselves up and distort the truth about who they are. When you encounter a difficult issue what kind of thoughts do you have? When someone mistreats you, what kind of thoughts do you have? Do you live positively or negatively? Have you ever known someone who always considered the negative side of things or the worse case scenario on anything and everything. When confronted with a negative, do you throw your hands up in despair and believe there is no hope and all is lost. It is my belief, and I believe that scripture bears this out, that one of the tools that the enemy of our souls will use in the last days is despair and hopelessness. When we walk in despair and hopelessness, we will be distracted and miss the good that God is doing in us and through us which leads us into deeper confusion.

Before we move forward with this let me say that there is more to this than just adjusting our thinking. Changing our thinking must lead to a change of action. This requires us to get the truth established in our minds so that we act out the truth of God’s word. We must surround ourselves with the disciplines of right thinking, prayer, and study of the word. Our actions must be motivated to change and align themselves with God’s will or else we will miss the mark. 

The apostle Paul is clear about where the focus of our thinking should be. Paul sets forth the parameters and the template through which we can begin to take every thought captive to the glory of God. Paul’s admonition is to think on the right things. Paul instructs us on how to change our thinking. We are to think or meditate on:  what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise

The first item on Paul’s list is to think on what is true. The root word for true means “constant.” It means to be found unwavering. It also means to be upright. Having this word first is not a mistake because the truth effects everything else. At least two realities are revealed. First, there must be a solid, nonnegotiable point of truth in our life. Our current society has made a tragic mistake in that they believe that truth has become relative to one’s own processes and what one thinks truth is. But, we must have a mooring for truth, or else we can believe anything and everything. We have people, yes even Christians who believe anything because they have had someone share it or say it and they take it face value. There is no filter for truth in their life.

Jack Graham in his book “Unseen” had this to say about this. He stated “The reason we need to focus on truth is that “for every action you take, your brain creates a neurological pathway that paves the way for familiarity, so that the next time you take that action, your mind already knows what to do.”

We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines truth by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it.

It also means that we are not to be naive about life. He does not say to be positive thinkers, but we are to be truthful thinkers. We do not reject reality but rather we focus honestly and factually on the issues we face. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a question. The thing that I am entertaining, is it true? Is that the way my spouse, my friend, my boss would act? Did they really mean that? Sometimes we continue to feed ourselves falsehoods and lies. We begin to entertain imaginations about others but we must meditate on what is truthful. 

If we want to be a better person and have a better sense of life then begin with truth as a gateway to right thinking. This means we must eradicate the lies that are presented to us. Lies about ourselves. Lies about God. Lies about those with whom we are relationship with. Lies about our goals and reason for living. You see as fallen creatures we are subjected to Satan’s lies and deception. We are prone to self deception. Remember that the devil, sleuth foot, satan, whatever you call him is the master at distortion. He can take even precious spiritual traits and ideals and distort them so that we believe a half truth.

Listen to what John 8:44-47 has to say about this matter. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

How do we know the truth? We read the word of God because contained within these words are the ways of life. How to live. How to act. How to freely live. For that reason, we must pour  ourselves into God’s Word and allow God’s Word to be poured into us. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. However, if you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.

Recently, someone shared a story about a letter they had received that devastated them. It had wounded them deeply because of the words written within the context of the letter. After we talked, I made a suggestion to them. If you do not need to keep the letter throw it away because every time you read it, it will cause a negative reaction. If you feel you do need to keep the letter, put it in an envelop, seal the envelop, scotch tape it closed and never read the letter again unless you have to. In this way, the truth of God’s love and purpose cannot be distorted in your life. 

As I close, let me ask you what things do you need to throw away? What things do you need to seal away so they do not impact your heart or mind again? What kind of unhealthy thinking do you have. Let us pray.

 

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The Body, Soul, and Spirit, The Soul Part 3

Peninsula  Community Church

The Body, Soul, and Spirit – The Soul Part 3

March 9, 2014

 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

As we look at the first passage, we see a couple of truths that stand out. First of all while we walk in this flesh as human beings, as believers we do not wage war in the flesh. If we battle with weapons that are motivated by and nurtured in the flesh, the outcomes are not spiritual and are most often not productive. When we battle in the flesh, we are driven by what satisfies the emotions, the will, and the five senses. When we are motivated by the flesh, it is easier to accommodate false beliefs and to compromise biblical beliefs by surrendering to a false world view than it is to stand on Biblical truth.

To overcome the flesh we must be walking in the spirit, but what does that mean and what are the rewards. Some of this can be cleared up by understanding Paul’s writings in Galatians 5:16-26 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident:sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

When we walk in the spirit and therefore refuse to use fleshy weapons, Paul gives us a promise that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Notice this is more of a promise than it is a command. To use fleshly weapons is to submit to the desires of the flesh but to walk in the spirit is to surrender our lives to Christ to His ways of living, thinking, and doing life. In the passage, we have a comparison of what the flesh looks like and what the spirit looks like. What a difference. Look at the comparison of the flesh as it defines the actions taken and the fruit of the spirit which deals with the character of the believer.

Let me ask you a question? Have you ever witnessed someone who has seemed to be a solid believer in Christ, only to find that at some point in time they do things that reveal that their inward life does not match the outward life they present in a big way. When this occurs, it is very possible that they were using the weapons of the flesh and not the weapons of the spirit to fight their battles. They were in essence facing a level of dissonance which brings their life into confusion. Too often, they live at a level of a hypocrisy. The reason most often for this is that they have been living and battling from the flesh and not a spiritual perspective. The fear of being exposed established parameters in their life where they only allowed you to have entrance into certain parts of their lives. The problem reaches a climax when we touch on a subject or issue they have not presented to God or for that matter they do not have a desire to surrender it God. The result is rejection, isolation, and ejection of the friendship. They would rather hide or run than deal with the truth.

The second idea presented here is, as believers, we have been give divine power to destroy strongholds. To understand this, we must understand what a stronghold is. In biblical times, Paul’s readers would have understood this terminology more than perhaps we do today. A city would establish a fortress around the city for two reasons. One it would protect the people within the fortress but negatively, it often closed the city off from the rest of the world.

Spiritually, a stronghold can be defined as a wall that has been built in the mind that protects the mind. A stronghold is a mindset or a point of operation within a person that holds the believer captive or he is incapacitated because of it. These things are initiated for several reasons. For one we have been hurt before and we decide that we will not allow people to hurt us again, so we wall up our minds to any future relationships. Because we have been hurt, it is extremely hard to let others in. This mindset may have been established because of a doctrinal position that minimizes the truth of God’s word or diminishes the value of God in our lives. This happens too often because the false doctrine appeals to our flesh and not the spirit of God within us. I could offer many other examples but I think you get the picture.

The ideas and thoughts that make up the stronghold in our minds are based on the lies that challenge the truth of what God has revealed about Himself and about ourselves. For our discussion today,  a stronghold is a mindset, an epicenter, of unbelief that exalts itself over God and keeps you from maximizing your potential in God in every area of your life. It’s possible to be active in the church and say the hallelujahs but be locked off from God’s glory which makes you a functional unbeliever in different areas of your life. 

I love what Mark Twain said about the thoughts we had. He wrote, “What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” (Reader’s Digest [1/93], p. 155).

Strongholds are also describe as an “argument or high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Strongholds are erected through our thought life and what we allow to be planted in our minds. Paul continues to express at least two of these strongholds that effect us. We destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. Notice here that the scripture does not say against God alone but against the knowledge of God. You see the problem that exists is that once our understanding of who God becomes distorted, we find that we become mentally disabled emotionally and spiritually. 

These arguments most often are couched in terms of the lies that are spoken into our lives. I often  go back to the events involved in the creation but they are helpful reminders to us that lies and distortions have been a part of our existence before the fall of mankind. The serpent did not outright lie, he simply distorted the truth of what God had spoken. What lies keep the Gospel from dominating your thought life? What strongholds have been setup in your mind, that hinder the sanctifying work of God in your life? What sinful thought fortresses reside in your head? If you remember the story of creation, you will see that from the beginning of time man has dealt with the issue of the lies that are spoken. As we continue to focus on the truth, rather than lies dominating us we will find that we are more successful in following truth. 

To understand strongholds, we must understand what causes them to occur. As we have discussed before, we find that there are several sources for the strongholds that exist in us. These strongholds can be initiated because of the experiences we have had. If we are continual rejected, we tend to believe that we are rejected as a person and we will believe any negative act initiated toward us is an act of rejection. This view can lead to a mindset and therefore a stronghold that we are rejected. A second source is the lies and falsehoods that are communicated to us and in us. If we do not take these lies into captivity, we can begin to be controlled by the lies. A third source of strongholds are the beliefs and doctrine we hold to. And finally, the influence of our family can be a source of strongholds in that we experience a lack of love, acceptance and encouragement, so we begin to believe that we are unloved, not accepted which results in us walking in discouragement, doubt, and depression. 

Let us look at just one of these sources, lies. I would propose that are many lies that effect us.

For example, there are the lies you tell yourself: I have to be perfect. I can’t make any mistakes. I am a failure. I am a mistake. I must be happy. I need people to agree with me all the time. I can’t shake my past. 

There is a second level of lies that are communicated to us. These are the lies the world tells you:  I’m only human; everybody does this. Do whatever it takes to reach the top no matter who you hurt in the process. Your value is determined by what you possess, and who you know.

Thirdly, we are impacted by the lies communicated through our relationships: It’s your fault. If I had not married you… You make me so mad. Why can’t you be like so and so? I wish I was like so and so.

Fourth,  we must deal with the lies that distort the Gospel: I must earn God’s love. God won’t protect me. God does not love me. I can do what I want and God will forgive me. If I were more spiritual I would not struggle like this. God will bless me if I obeyed. 

And finally, we have the internal lies that come in the form of the questions we ask: Does God really hear me? Does God really love me? Has God abandoned me? Why does God not stop the pain?

So how do we deal with these things. We do so by taking every thought captive. We in essence lay these lies being spoken into our lives against the template of God’s word. It is the truth of God’s word that sets us free. We will look at this next week. 

 

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The Body, Soul, and Spirit – The Soul Part 2

Peninsula Community Church

Body Soul and Spirit – The Soul Part 2

March 2, 2014

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As we look at this verse, we find an implied connection between the body and the soul. Notice that Paul states that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices. This is something we do. It is a spiritual act of worship. Notice that Paul says that action is motivated by the mercies of God. How do we present ourselves as living sacrifices? We do so by realizing how much mercy is ours through Christ. This mercy allows for mistakes. This mercy allows for false starts. This mercy allows for us to say and do things that are less than God’s perfect intent for us. This mercy does not stifle us, but rather it encourages us to act on God’s will as a result of recognizing the work already done for us. And when we fall, we pick ourselves up and start a new day because the mercy of God says that we can start again It is a new day! (Lamentations 3:22-24) It is a new moment! Each time we start anew, we are made stronger and become closer to the goal of freedom in our life. We do as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Notice that Paul also states that we are to present ourselves as living, holy, and acceptable beings before Christ. We are to give ourselves to Christ. We come to him with honest hearts and open minds to receive from Him. Paul states that this is our spiritual worship. What is spiritual worship? It is living open and free lives because of the mercy of God that has been bestowed upon us as Children of God. Too often, we fall short in this because we deceive ourselves and we deceive others. We live lives of deception because we are afraid of what others will find, and we fear they we will not like us. The greatest issue is self deception because it is often the hardest to deal with but we are called to honesty and realness before God.

Paul then moves from the body to the mind. Listen to what he says. Do not be conformed to the this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Let’s break this down. First, Paul states that we are not to be conformed to this world. The problem with conformity is that it just changes the order of things. We reshape our issues and mold them in a way that they look different but the inner heart and motivation is not changed. There is no real change only a shuffling of the issues.

The problem from a spiritual state is that when we try to conform to the world’s ways we are still faced with the inner issues that brought us to where we are to begin with. Too often, conformity deals with the symptoms and not the disease. In this discussion, we must recognize that there is a difference between sin management and spiritual transformation. For example, in sin management, if one is a shopaholic, removing one’s credit cards may be a step in the right direction, but removing the cards will not change the inner motivation to shop or spend money uncontrollably. To effect change, there must be a change of heart and a change of desire so that the inner man is renewed and revived. 

The problem that exists, as well, is that too often when we are living in conformity, we are simply exchanging one thing for another. We stop smoking and then we binge on food. We stop drinking soda, so we binge on coffee. The inner issues that drive us to make decisions and take steps that are less than what we need are never changed.

One of the problems, in America at least, is that people are spending a lot of money to change their outward appearance. Now, I know that studies show that changing some features of our body makes us feel better about ourselves. I do not deny this. The problem is that too often the outward appearance is changed but the heart is still messed up and is dealing with falsehoods, problems, and addictions. The outward has changed, but the inward man is still at odds with itself and with God. True transformation brings change to the inward man, which results in change to the outward man, which results in a change of behavior and of action.

Now, Paul moves beyond the need to conform to presenting the need to be transformed. He states that we are to be transformed. In one sense this is not an option, it is a command. Please note that the word “transform” is an interesting word. It is the same word we get the word metamorphosis from. It means that a complete change occurs. We see this in nature. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly. A tadpole becomes a frog. This is metamorphosis. Something is found in one state and then it is totally and completely changed into a different state. 

Paul is calling for us to do this as believers. What is the formula he is proposing? He states that it occurs by the renewing of our minds. It is a process of feeding our minds with the truth of who God is, who we are and what we can be when we have completely committed our way, our hearts, our way of thinking, and the way we live life to Christ

As I look at this, let me say that feeding our minds must be more than an act of receiving information. To be honest with you the problem for most believers today is not information but application. We are a nation in information overload. We have books, magazines, and TV are our disposal 24 hours a day. We can go to amazon.com and find a book on just about anything we want. In seconds, I can have a book downloaded to my Kindle app or to my IPAd. We can do a google search and in seconds have more information than we will ever need. 

I love what Rick Warren had to say about this. God gave us the Bible to transform us, not simply inform us. It should give us a bigger heart, not a bigger head. In the Book of James, we’re told, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV) In other words, God wants our beliefs turned into behavior. 

A second problem with information alone is that we must have a filtering system to determine what is truth and what it is not. To be effective our filtering system must be in alignment with God’s word. Too often, we try to prove the Word of God by our experiences but the fact is the Word of God must prove our experience. Here is what I mean. I read a passage of Scripture that calls me to action. I act. I receive the blessing or reward for that action. I see that the Word of God is right and is what I need. Let me say this. Just because you experience something does not mean that it is aligned with God’s word. God’s word must always be the filter through which we ascertain the validity of truth. The fact is the enemy of our soul is an incredible lier and is a fabricator of truth and experiences that seem right.

I love the commercial on TV that shows two people standing outside a brownstone. The guy asks the girl where did you get that information. She says on the internet. Then she says you know if it is on the internet, it must be true. Then she says she met a guy online who is French. Just as she communicates this we see him enter from off screen and he is anything but French. How many have been caught in the hoaxes on Facebook or by email that proved to be error. The point is, just because something is printed does not make it true. we must have a filter to assure that what we are receiving is truth. 

There are those who are experiencing many ungodly acts in our world today. For example, there is a battle brewing in many churches over the union of gay and lesbian couples. While some have experienced this, we must turn to the Word of God to define our truth about this matter. This does not mean that we are hateful or vindictive toward couples who wish to do this, but we must stand on the principle of God’s truth and his definition of marriage. We find this in the abortion issue, as well. Experience has trumped God’s truth. This is never good. Just because we experience something, does not mean that truth has been validated. However, God’s word can and will be validated through our experiences when truth and experience are aligned. 

In this regard, let me also make this observation. We must be careful and not pick and choose what passages we will cling to. Too often, we have done a disservice to the body of Christ and the world to which we are ministering when we pick a single scripture or a phrase within a scripture to base our doctrine on. We must interpret the scripture with other scripture. The doctrine or truth we present must hold up throughout Scripture and not just one verse or phrase. And, it must be held up around the world and just in America.

As I noted last week, we have been shaped and formed by our environment. We have been shaped by what we are exposed to in life. We are shaped by our experiences. We are shaped by the theological input in our lives and our view of God. We are shaped by the voices that speak into our lives. The problem therefore is not a problem of formation but the need to be transformed into the image of God and the image of God’s purpose for us.

The key to transformation is the renewal of our minds. And, this renewal must be a daily practice because we are so easily formed and shaped by the the things around us. The formation of our thoughts are not always in alignment with God’s will or His purposes, so we must renew our minds on a daily basis. When that happens is we must find out what God’s will and plan is and then conform ourselves to that plan. 

This is not always easy, but it is necessary. It is not always popular, but it is right. It may not always win friends, but it touches souls.

The audio version of this message can be found at http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14 

 

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