Don’t Fight Temptation… Flee It!

(I shared this thought from Rick Warren on The House FM this week.  I especially like the final thought… go after the good stuff instead!  I also liked that it quoted “bad company corrupts good character”.  So true in the temptation battle.)

“Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NCV)

Many people are intimidated by the fact that they are tempted, like they shouldn’t even be in that situation or that they should be able to control it. But you shouldn’t feel guilty about temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s a sin to give in to temptation. The Bible says that Jesus experienced every temptation known to man, but he didn’t sin. Temptation is not a sin. It’s how you respond to it that matters.

The Bible says we need to flee temptation: “Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NCV). To “be alert” means to know what tempts you so that you can stay away from it.

There are two things you need to stay away from: tempting situations (circumstances) and tempting associations (people who tempt you). One of Saddleback Church’s pastors, John Baker, says, “You hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.” It’s true! If you have a problem with alcohol, you don’t go to the bar to eat a sandwich. You stay away from it. You need to know what tempts you, when it tempts you, where it tempts you, who tempts you, and then just stay away from those situations and people.

If you get tempted in airport bookstores, don’t go to airport bookstores. If you get tempted by a certain channel, don’t have that channel on your TV. We have parental block on our TV, and the youngest person in our house is my wife, Kay. We don’t have kids at home any more, but I don’t want to even risk going through channels and stumbling upon something I don’t need to see.

You also need to avoid tempting associations. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be fooled. ‘Bad companions ruin good character’” (TEV). There are some people you need to stop relating to. There may be some friends who maybe should not be your friends, because it’s always easier for them to pull you down than for you to pull them up. If they’re leading you away from Christ, they’re not friends. Bad company corrupts good character.

So what should you do if you try to avoid those tempting circumstances and people but still find yourself in a sticky situation? Get out! Don’t just walk away — run! You don’t fight it; you flee it. And you go after the good stuff in life instead.

by Rick Warren

My Friend is Depressed, What Should I Do?

with all the talk about Robin Williams and his depression and suicide, this article seems very relevant… for all of us

published in Relevant Magazine by Eddie Kaufholz

I have a friend who has been struggling with depression for a long time and I think she’s considering suicide. I’m really worried about her, but I don’t know what to say. What’s the best way to help her?

- Courtney

Courtney, thank you for reaching out and asking this incredibly important and brave question. You are good person with a good heart, and I’m glad your friend has you.

Here’s what I’m going to do. Usually, the form of these Ask RELEVANT articles take us from theoretical to practical. Today though, I’m skipping most of the theoretical and just giving you three steps to do right now:

1. Treat Every Mention as Real.

When we first hear someone say they’re thinking of taking their own life, it can be really difficult to accept. There are a number of reasons why:

Sometimes, they say it in such a casual way that it doesn’t register as an actual threat to their life, but more like a little throw away phrase. We all say these kinds of things, don’t we? “I could kill the guy who’s setting off fireworks in August!”

See what I’m saying? Even if I’m justified because the 4th of July was well over a month ago and my kids are now crying at 3 a.m. because of that punk, I’m not going to really kill anyone. I’m just talking.

We need to do all we can to remove the mental barriers that make us treat a cry for help as something other than a real and credible danger.

We sometimes hear, as clear as day, someone say something like, “This world would just be better off without me,” and we chalk up the statement to our friend being sad and maybe a little dramatic—they’re just talking, right? Who knows. That’s why you treat it as real, instead of guessing incorrectly.

However, there’s another reason we don’t believe the mention of suicide is real. It’s because, well, we don’t believe it’s actually real. We think there’s no possible way they would actually do that. Maybe we think the idea of suicide is unthinkable and unimaginable. Or maybe you’ve heard a friend say a hundred times that they’re going to take their life. But this time, you believe it’s time to wisen up and not be duped a one-hundred-and-first time.

Nope. It’s real, just like it was time 1 through 100.

Whatever our reasons for not fully comprehending the weight of a suicidal threat, we need to do all we can to remove the mental barriers that make us treat a cry for help as something other than a real and credible danger.

So Courtney, just to be really clear, your friend’s cry for help is real, and it’s time to act. Which leads us to the next step …

2. Ring the Bell.

Courtney, you need to find someone to tell about your friend’s admission to you. Now, I know, because you’re a good friend, that it may seem like you’re betraying some sort of trust because your friend may ask you to keep this between the two of you. But seriously, you can’t. Here’s why:

First, neither you nor I have all the skills necessary to really help. In fact, no one person does. Even an amazing counselor, when confronted with a client who’s threatening self-harm, talks to another counselor for wisdom.

You see, really caring for someone who’s suicidal is more than just being a listening ear. It’s a holistic conversation about medical issues, psychological issues, life issues, etc. etc. It’s bigger than you, or me, or your friend. But it’s usually not beyond the scope of a good support team.

So what I would do is be as empathetic and loving to your friend as possible, and then engage in a conversation about who else could be told about this. Maybe your friend will have an adverse reaction and try to stop you. If that’s the case, you have to just go to a parent, counselor, pastor or really anyone you trust and let them know everything you know. Your friend’s desire for your actions can’t outweigh your desire for their well-being.

However, more often than not, the person will appreciate that you’re taking the threat seriously, caring for them genuinely and letting other people join the team. If this ends up being the case, talk together about who could be told and then figure out the best way to tell them.

Courtney, isolation is the enemy here. Your friend knew that, and she was smart enough to bring you in to help and not try to fight this thing alone. And now you need to do the same. You can’t be alone in knowing this information—it’s time to ring the bell.

Really caring for someone who’s suicidal is more than just being a listening ear. It’s a holistic conversation about medical issues, psychological issues, life issues, etc. etc.

One more thing: A lot of people get hung up on the, “I have to tell someone” part and they can’t figure out a person who is trustworthy and safe. If that’s the case, or even if you just can’t come up with a name in the intensity of the moment, please call this number, they’ll walk you through what’s next:

1-800-273-TALK(8255)
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

3. Be Supportive.

All right Courtney, this is the last thing. Thoughts of self-harm stem from a very real and difficult space. And anyone who has ever been suicidal and found their way out of the dark woods knows that it wasn’t because they purely willed themselves to get better. It’s because a lot of people helped.

Courtney, think of yourself as one of the three legs of a stool: One leg represents professional/medical help, one leg represents a belief system (often, a belief in God), and one leg is community support (you).

For your friend to get better and find balance, all three legs must be intact. This is where your role becomes vital. Because while doctors and counselors are diagnosing and testing, you’re going to be there telling your friend you love and value them. And while your friend tries to figure out that their life is worth something, you’re going to be the constant voice telling them they matter to you. Courtney, you’re not the only leg of the stool, but you’re a vital part of the team. What you contribute can’t be undervalued.

In closing, I’ll share this: I still mourn the loss of one of my best friends to suicide, and would give anything to tell him one more time that he matters and what he does with his life matters. And while I still feel unspeakable sadness about his death, I know it’s not in anyone’s power to save anyone else. All we can do is take the threat seriously, gather a support system and love them through the pain.

I, and many others, will be praying for you, Courtney. You’re a good friend.

Kind regards,
Eddie


Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/my-friend-depressed-what-should-i-do#KA7La88d8wl0ZACU.99

Fun! Good memories!

What Sin Do You Need to Face… Today?

I have an acquaintance who didn’t deal with something very wrong in his life… and is now facing life in prison.  Whatever is going on in your life may not be punishable by prison, but there are definitely consequences for your life in what you’re doing.  I came across this devotion today that I think really challenges all of us to look at our lives closely.

by Janet Scott (originally titled “What Is Your Response?”)

Jeremiah 36: 3
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”


Throughout the generations we have all loved to hear the positive messages of having faith and everything turning out great and wonderful on the other side and those are good messages to have and are always my favorite but there are times when God has a different message. Kings used to kill prophets at times when they brought a bad word and other times they would tear their garments and repent and God would bring healing to the land. What’s your response?


God had told the Israelites over and over that if they would do as He said and follow His lead everything would be great and He would be their God and they would be His people. He almost begged them to ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins so He wouldn’t have to continue with the disaster He was bringing on them but they were hard hearted and wouldn’t listen, they would rather die and have their children die. Sad to say there are times when some of us are like that today, we can know what we are doing is wrong but we justify it by blaming someone else and claiming that God is a god of grace so it will be alright. God is a god of grace and He loves us and wants to forgive us and move us forward into all that He has planned for us but He is still a holy God and He will not allow us to rebel and not confess and face what we have done wrong.

The consequences of not bringing to light on our own what we have done or are doing and repenting and turning away from it and getting the help we need are much worse than anything we could possibly face from the people around us. God is God and He still hates sin! If we want His blessing and favor on our lives then we must stop being complacent Christians and we must strive to be more like Him. Don’t wait for Him to reveal what you have done.

Have you ever watched a child in the grocery store that wants something and when they don’t think they are going to get it they throw a fit expecting that to help them get what they want? I believe there are times when we seem to want God to overlook anything we are doing wrong and give us what we want and it doesn’t work that way. Trust me God would love to bless you even more than a parent wants to bless their child but He wants you to live right first.  I am not saying that we are blessed by our works, but we are blessed by our obedience!

It is God’s love for us that requires His discipline. Over and over He pleaded with the Israelites to repent and follow Him and when they did He was eager to forgive them and bless them. His desire was always for their good and to bless and He hasn’t changed, He feels the same way about you!

Maybe this message isn’t for you today, maybe it is for someone you know instead. I would encourage you to pray for them and ask for God to show mercy on them and those they are affecting. Restore people when they are ready for restoration and forgive those who sin against you as well. Don’t allow Satan to have victory in the situation on any level!

Shared this on TheHouseFM.com and MyPraiseFM.com today.
Maybe too much “stuff” is part of your discontentment. Focus on quality instead of quantity. Great thoughts here.

Happiness Requires Letting Go

by Rick Warren

Happiness requires letting go and learning to forget. Worry won’t change the past, so forget what can’t be changed and focus on the future.

Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (NLT).

You only have a limited amount of energy. That’s why you get tired. That’s why you get fatigued. That’s why you get worn out.

Since you only have a limited supply of energy, I highly recommend you not waste any of it on the past. Every day, choose to focus your energy on what is in front of you and what lies ahead.

This habit is so important to your happiness, there are three traps you have to be aware of.

The trap of regret. You’ve got to let go of regrets. Are there things I wish I had done differently in life? Of course. But I can’t dwell on them because I can’t change them. Don’t waste any emotion on regrets.

The trap of resentment. Holding on to resentment doesn’t hurt anybody but you. Let it go! For your own sake, you must forgive. Do they deserve it? No. But do you deserve forgiveness from God? No. Those who experience grace are gracious.

The trap of tradition. Everything is constantly changing, and you cannot stop it. You have to decide whether to resist and resent those changes or to be happy. Happiness is a choice.

How you handle change in life reveals your spiritual maturity. When you’re guided by and anchored to eternity, change can take place all around you and you can choose to be happy.

Nine Doors Down

by Karen Ehman for Proverbs 31 Ministries

“‘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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

In the two years since we’d moved into our new neighborhood, I’d seen her on my walks. Sometimes she was rolling her trash can out to the curb. Or in her front yard watering her flowers. I’d smile and say “Hi” for a brief second.

After all, my neighborhood is big; my life is busy. So I’d pop my headphones back in and keep walking to my house, just nine doors down.

Awhile back, there were flashing lights, sirens and all things alarming in our neighborhood. A fire, maybe? … I thought as I drove into my neighborhood, returning from an errand-running venture. My mama’s heart raced. My 12-year-old son was home alone. Had he burnt some toast and set the smoke alarm system blaring? Or worse?

As my car approached, I saw it was not my house, but another house nine doors down. Relief for my soul.

And though the rescue vehicles were parked in front of my nine-doors-down neighbor’s house, no fire appeared to blaze there either.

Must have been a false alarm, I reasoned to myself.

Two days later, I heard the awful news. No fire. No smoke. Just a terribly saddened soul.

You see, just nine doors down, something happened in the mind of my nameless, flower-watering, smile-and-say-hello fellow human being. Something told her this life wasn’t worth living anymore. And she agreed.

Now her heart no longer beats. Her flowers still grow, but she can’t water them anymore. I can still walk by her house, lost deeply in the Jesus-music blaring on my iPod. Staring straight ahead. Rushing to the next thing on my to-do list for the day.

Nine doors down, there will be no more hand-waves. No smiles as I stroll by. And no more thoughts of, I should stop and find out her name. I haven’t really met this gal yet. If I’d reached out and befriended her, would she have seen Jesus in our friendship?

Could we have walked the neighborhood streets together? Maybe gone for coffee to get to know each other a bit? Would a glimpse of the perfect God in the life of an imperfect me perhaps beckoned her to have a relationship with Him, too? Would she have found God’s purpose and peace instead of finding a way to end her emotional pain?

God only knows.

I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to really love the people He puts plainly in my path. But this love, as today’s key verse declares, is more important than all the sacrifices we could make.

I cannot beat myself up. But I can do something. So can you. We can pause, permitting God to tap us on the heart, gently interrupt us and rearrange our day.

We can go deeper … beyond a hurried “Hi!” to an authentic, “How are you?” When God knocks on our hearts, we can knock on their doors.

Will you do it? Will you try? Then once you’ve reached out, leave the results to God. Our job is obedience. God’s job is results.

Trust me, it is AWFUL to get to know your neighbor through the tales and tears of her relatives at a memorial service. I wish I had made the time and gotten to know her personally.

May we all respond to those taps on our hearts today and not ignore them. God just may use us as He saves a life.

After all, remember it isn’t that far of a walk … just nine doors down.

- See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/just-nine-doors-down/#sthash.tBeB6WtJ.dpuf

In a rut? Feel like life is just “meh”? Be encouraged.

Regrets to Avoid

by Jerry Del Colliano

Bronnie Ware who is a nurse to the dying in Australia wrote a book about dying that is actually very much for the living.

In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed By the Dearly Departed, Ware gives us a second chance to avoid the regrets that so often come at the end of life.

They are:

  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  To me, this regret hits home and is a timely reminder to be the person you want to be.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.  I’m sure you can relate.  Life has a way of interrupting our master plan.  No one ever regrets more time outs spent with family and friends.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  There is a nice, pleasant way to say how you feel.  What is left unsaid at the end of life is more painful.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  Friendship takes work that pays a dividend all during life.  It is not an accident.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.  People from mid-life on often say that they consider their personal happiness more than when they were younger, a practice that will leave few regrets.

Just writing these five things that I have shared previously makes me hope that I won’t have these regrets someday.  How about you?

  If you want more resources go to Jerry Del Colliano.com.

The Story of the Running Father

by Sherri Gragg and Proverbs 31 Ministries

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Sherri Gragg

Everything was quiet. I sat very still with my Bible and journal on my lap by my front window in a picture of perfect peace. But my heart was heavy with familiar grief.

I had been in church my whole life. “Amazing Grace” was as familiar to me as the lullabies my mother sang over my crib, yet somehow my image of God was less of a kind and gracious Father and more of an angry, distant judge. How could a holy God ever accept me, one so flawed?

I bowed my head and began to weep and pray with the kind of honesty that only comes when we are at the end of all our strength.

I know the Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but I just can’t seem to believe it. Every time I turn to You, my first impulse is fear!

I give up. I can’t do this on my own. Will You please heal my heart?

Over the next year, God did for me what I had been utterly helpless to do on my own. He revolutionized my image of Him.

One of the stories that meant the most to me on my journey was the story many of us know by the title, The Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. I discovered that in the Middle Eastern Church the story goes by another name: The Story of the Running Father. The difference in the title reflects important cultural knowledge that the people to whom Jesus spoke would have known.

In the biblical story, the son demands his share of the family’s wealth, leaves home and breaks his father’s heart in the process. Eventually the young man finds himself destitute in a foreign land and determines to return to his father’s house with the hope of working as a servant.

Scripture tells us the father sees his son a long way off and runs to him. It’s the image of this running father that was so powerful to the hearers of Jesus’ story.

First, it was considered extremely undignified for a Middle Eastern man to run anywhere. Running was for children. Also, running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful.

The reason he was running was even more significant. It was a very serious matter for a Jewish young man to lose his family’s inheritance in a foreign land. If he did, and he had the gall to actually return to his village, his entire community would then bring him to justice through a custom called the Kezazah. Once the community discovered the money was lost, they would surround him and break a pot at his feet. Then they would announce that from that moment on he was cut off from his family and community … as if he were dead.

But this young man’s father had been watching, and even though his son had broken his heart, he had been hoping for his return. He knew all too well what would happen when the villagers saw his boy. His son would be shamed and then the pot would fall, break, and his son would be lost. So, the father did what no first-century Middle Eastern man would do: he hiked up his robe and ran.

He ran through the village streets as his neighbors stared in horror. He ran as young boys began running along behind, shouting and mocking him in his shame. He ran ahead of the crowd as they moved toward his guilty, filthy son. He ran ahead of all that was reasonable and fair. He ran ahead of justice, taking his boy’s shame upon himself.

When he reached the boy, the father quickly gathered his son into his arms, kissed him on each cheek and called for a banquet in his honor.

This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like.

For too long my image of God was one of a tyrant, or a cold and callous judge. But now whenever I think of God, I see Him running toward me, gathering up my shame in His wake, to redeem me with His costly love.

My Father, thank You so much for running toward me. Help me rest in Your grace and trust Your great love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

- See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/the-story-of-the-running-father/#sthash.MxhZNZjW.dpuf