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Blogging my way through this crazy, busy, confusing, every-changing, BLESSED thing we call, Life. I'm not perfect, auto-correct hates me, I don't specialize in anything, I'm not a professional anybody, and I'm full of mistakes, missteps, mishaps and lame choices. I'm constantly striving to better myself, grow closer to God, and live in such a way that I'm at least facing the direction of being worthy of all He's done for me.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Road Signs

This morning I had a powerful "Ah-HA!" come through my bible study. In fact, I was so excited by this epiphany I had, that I used it in bible study with my boys when we started school a few hours later. I felt like a preacher in front of a congregation of hungry Jesus lovers, preaching the feast! You may laugh, but it really was an awesome lesson and seemed to resonate almost as much with the boys as it did for me. 

I began my personal bible study today by mistakenly re-reading the opening for the week, thinking I was further behind than I thought. The opening talked about Self-Control. One quote shared in it is, "We must have a spirit of power towards the enemy, a spirit of love towards men and a spirit of self-control towards ourselves." ~ Watchman Nee
The other big neon sign in the opening was this; 
"The flesh is that voice in your head that tells you, "If it feels good, do it. It tells us we need things when we don't, and if we followed it we'd sleep too late, eat too much and eventually come to poverty. That's where the heart wants to lead us.
The Spirit is the voice that leads you in truth. The closer you walk with God, and the more time you spend in His presence the more you become aware of His will in your life." (Thank you Darlene Schacht, The Time Warp Wife for this amazing study!)

At this point, I've been struck a little bit by the above portions of the week's intro, but I'm still really just hoping I can get some reading in before all the boys clamor out of their rooms and start making noise. So I go on to read last Friday's chapter (did I mention, I'm behind?) which is Galatians 5;1-15 "Freedom in Christ." And WOW! It hit me like a ton of bricks!

The little gem of greatness is rooted in Galatians 5:7 (ESV) which says;
"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
Ok. So I break it down, sentence by sentence in my head; 
- You were doing well. 
- Who got in the way of you obeying/doing what was right?
- God gives direction, not persuasion. Persuasion (aka, temptation) doesn't come from the Lord, it comes from Satan. 
- A little yeast makes the whole batch of dough rise, not just parts of it. Either it's going to be leavened and rise or it's not. There is not in-between.

Wow! That's big. So here the bible is telling me I was doing so good, so what's suddenly gotten in the way? What's stopping me from doing what I know I should? The answer for me, as it is for most of us human folk, is me. I get in my own way. Daily! Have you ever heard, "Just get out of your own way and do it!"? I have always loved that, because it's so true that we all have a tenacious knack for tripping ourselves up in life and then making a bigger mess of things. Here the bible tells me, "Get out of the way! Do what you're told, what you know is right, and stop getting in the way of yourself on this path I've set out for you." God didn't design us to fail. Not in the long run, anyway. He designed us to be able to obey His word and achieve what he set us on a path to do. Couldn't get more direct than that, could it? But then this passage goes on to give us further direction when it tells us God doesn't give us this persuasion. If something doesn't come from God, who then does it come from? Only Satan. 

It was later in my study when faced with the study question, "How can you apply this to your life?" that it dawned on me that perhaps in some areas a more appropriate word for persuasion, would be temptation. We are all tempted to do things throughout our day, right? I'm not the only one tempted to go back for another piece of the chocolate bar I swore would last me the whole week, am I? Or what about a second glass of wine? It was a long, hard day after all. And exercise? Sure, I want to get fit and be more healthy. But I also really wanted a nap so when that sweet baby decided he didn't want to sleep anywhere but in momma's arms...well, who am I to fight it? Guess I'll just have to find some time later this week, since that little window of time has passed. Oh and that new outfit! Can't forget that! Of course I should be replenishing our rainy day fund after we had to use it on some unexpected plumbing expenses. But then again...I do have that credit card with a little credit left on it. What's another $25 or $50 bill per month? No biggie. 
These are just a few examples of allowing temptation to rule over sound judgement. 
So hold those thoughts, as we look at the next big section, Galatians 5:13 which says, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." We know we have freedom of choice thanks to the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. They chose of the flesh, because they were persuaded by Satan instead of abiding by the word of the Lord. Ok. Well, in our present day world, freedom to choose probably sounds nice. I get that. But then when we go full circle back to what we were talking about a minute ago, in those temptation examples, I feel like it puts it all under a whole new lens. 
You see, none of those things I gave as examples were positive choices. They were examples of a person being persuaded or tempted to use poor judgement or be lazy. The extra bill for a new outfit that wasn't needed all the while ignoring the need for a rainy day fund, putting off exercise altogether with no plan to make up for it, to take a nap instead, the over-indulgence in wine or chocolate...Those are desires of the flesh, or heart desires. God doesn't put those desires on our hearts. He doesn't instill in us or even encourage, a sense of laziness. So in my feverish marginal writing as all of this came through my mind like a deluge, I wrote that you are not persuaded by others, if you don't already have those heart desires and lack of self-control. Where on earth, did that come from!? I hadn't ever thought of that before. But suddenly there it was in the margins of my bible with big fat arrows pointing to the verses I gleaned it from.

This whole self-control, accountability, temptation thing has been a theme for my boys for awhile. "X told me to do it! He MADE me!" I admit, I've used the age old, "If X told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it!?" (I got a firm and equally measured "Probably!!" in response last week). 
So when I approached this with the boys for a bible study for them a few hours after soaking all of it in myself, we had a lot of examples among us. Since we're always talking about these things, having this biblical direction tie in matters of the heart to self-control was a really big learning moment for us. 
We talked about things they are tempted to do, and how if they didn't already want to do those things, even a little bit ("A little leaven leavens the whole lump.") then they wouldn't do it. But because they (I actually said, "we") aren't practicing self-control, their hearts desires are stronger and tend to win. 
I went on to explain that in my opinion, self-control is probably the biggest spiritual muscle we have, and therefore needs the most work. It is the hardest to tone and refine, because we are daily bombarded with outside influences that tell us things are ok that really aren't or shouldn't be. Things like the check out line, the ads, the posters, the infomercials, the commercials, our peers...The list is endless. I explained that when we practice self-control, and the more we practice it, the stronger that spiritual muscle gets. This is important because when it comes to temptation, as long as we allow our heart desires to have even a little say in our choices, we leave open the door for persuasion (temptation) to burst through and muck everything up. It stops us from doing what we should, or allows us to do what we know we shouldn't. This is us getting in our own way. But when we practice self-control, we close the door on persuasion. It's no longer an option. 

This is where things become more black and white for me. I'm now equipped with this incredible moment, and an incredible lesson I gleaned straight from God's word. The direction is clear, and applications are without limits. I need to practice self-control in a BIG way! I need to recognize my heart desires from His plans. Sure, I think it's great to have dreams and to want nice things. We all want something in our lives. I don't see a problem with that, for the most part. As I explained to the boys, I think the problem comes in when we accommodate those wants knowing we shouldn't. That split second where we think, "Weellllll...Maybe I should/shouldn't ________." THAT is the moment we know it's a heart desire, and Satan is in our midst trying to persuade us (tempt us) to do/not do something. And what do we know about Satan's plans? They are not God's plans. Those things are not what God wants for us. 

My summary for the boys was essentially that we should continue working that spiritual muscle, self-control, so we know it's always strong enough to close the door on persuasion. Nobody and no circumstance can make us do something, or keep us from doing something. The choice and doubt is either already on our hearts, or it's not. When we're practicing self-control, we're doing the things we may not really want to do, but we know are good for us or those we serve. Or, we're not giving in to temptation and we're avoiding the things we know we shouldn't do. So simple. 

There are times I read passages in the bible and come out with a particular message or lesson, and I can later go back to that passage and come out with something entirely different. I love that about the bible. Maybe this will strike a special place in you, or maybe you've stopped reading the rambling already. I don't know if any of this will make more sense to a reader than a hill of beans. But it seemed to resonate with the boys, and it most certainly was a game changer for me!

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