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Showing posts with label Virtuous Cycle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virtuous Cycle. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Purity 286: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


 Purity 286 12/09/2020 

Good morning!

Today’s photo comes from my alma mater, SUNY Oswego, as they shared this pic from the vantage point of the Edward Austin Sheldon Statue on campus this week to encourage their students as they entered finals week.   Sheldon was so influential on education and beloved by his students that this statue was commissioned in 1898, paid in part with penny donations from 200,000 students from more than 3,000 different schools.  

I share because it’s sunrise or sunset sky is spectacular and to remind all of us that although God created the heavens, He also created us, and Christ’s teachings indicate that we are to love and serve one another. 

Sheldon’s example shows us that we are also to teach one another what we know.  We all have the potential to change someone’s life for the better.  Our knowledge, experience, and skills that the Lord has directed us into can be utilized to change our lives and the lives of those around us.  We can all be teachers and we can all encourage others to live a life of purpose and hope.

While we can all be teachers, we need to take the risk to speak out and be rejected. We have to leave the safety of our isolation and anonymity and let others know what we know about life and truth.   

As we draw near to the end of the year and Celebrate Freedom is entering a type of “finals week” period in that we only have two meetings before our holiday break, I am thankful for the opportunity to teach others what I have learned since coming to faith in Christ in 2010 and allowing God to transform my life through following Him.  No matter what type of work I may do to support myself, I feel my life’s purpose is to help others come to know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to apply it to their lives as a daily spiritual practice that will result in the fruit of the Spirit growing in their lives. 

For years of my life, I kept to myself and spent a lot of time in a basement, alone, lost and hopeless.  Not seeing any meaning or purpose to life, I tried to leave the world outside and just fulfill my selfish desires.  But through tragedy and heartache, I came to a point in my life where I had to know what life’s meaning was. 

After years of searching for truth and meaning in all the wrong places, God reached out and told me the truth of His Son, Jesus Christ, through a radio message. He literally breathed life into me through the Holy Spirit as I became spiritually alive when I made Christ my Lord and Savior.  I’ve gone from an isolated addict in a basement to become a teacher and counselor to anyone who needs the truth and the hope that comes from a life in harmony with God. 

I learned that knowing the truth wasn’t enough. I had to live it and share it.  And while some will reject the message, I am compelled to continually deliver it. 

God has a plan for your life.  Keep walking and talking with God and go where He sends you.

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This morning’s meditation verse was:

1 John 2:5 (NKJV)
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.

 This verse is appropriate in my experience for two reasons.  As a disciple of Christ, my intention is to keep His word by knowing what it says and by trying to live by it. 

 It is also meaningful because I was just speaking to someone about our Christian walk and how when we walk in the Spirit, we confirm that our faith is real.  The word says that it is by our fruit that people will know that we are His.  

 I pointed out to my friend that the best person we can convince of our faith in Christ is ourselves!  Our daily practices of prayer, meditation, and Bible study are fruit. When we attend or serve the church or share the gospel, it is another fruit.  When we tell the truth and forgive others, we are displaying the fruit.  

 Our faith isn’t just holding a set of beliefs.  Our faith has to be lived out. Our faith has to have action.  

 I explained that unlike our previous “viscous cycle” (where the enemy hit us with a steady stream of temptation, sin,  accusation, and condemnation), when we walk in the Spirit we start to live out a new cycle: a virtuous cycle. 

 I explained our virtuous cycle like this:

 

  1. As disciples of Christ, we attempt to live the Christian life. So we get MOTIVATION to actually try it.
  2. Our motivation leads us to perform GOOD WORKS (all the disciplines of our faith and good deeds).
  3. The performing of “good works” gives us CONFIRMATION – that yes, we are actually a Christian!  
  4. Receiving this Confirmation is an ENCOURAGEMENT, which leads us to be motivated and Repeat the cycle. 


 This virtuous cycle is where a discipled Christian lives their life. Instead of the flesh and the enemy pushing us into that “viscous cycle” again, our spirit and the Holy Spirit leads us into the cultivation of the fruit of the spirit in our lives and into our purpose for the kingdom of God.  

 So encourage and motivate yourself into the good works of faith that will confirm who you are in Christ and begin or continue a thriving life of walking in the Spirit.  

 Today we continue chapter 5 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss mental strongholds.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Mental Strongholds

Believing thoughts and feelings about yourself that are not true inevitably establishes mental strongholds over a period of time. We don't want you to get the impression that all the lies we have learned to believe about ourselves and God come directly from Satan. The world and the flesh are also enemies of the soul. Most false beliefs about ourselves and God come from living in a fallen world. They are patterns of the flesh that can only be changed by renewing our minds to the truth of God's Word.

Taking Our Thoughts Captive

In one sense, it doesn't make any difference whether the thought you are now thinking came from your memory bank, the television set, another person, Satan or whether you just had a new thought yourself. The answer to what you are to do about it is the same. Regardless of its origin, we are to take every "thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). If what you are thinking isn't true or edifying, then don't think it.

Telling people just to stop thinking negative thoughts is not a complete answer. You overcome negative thinking by choosing to think and believe the truth, as Paul says in Phil. 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (NIV, emphasis added). In other words, we are not called to dispel the darkness; we are called to turn on the light.

It is our experience that you can win the battle for your mind if you are free in Christ (i.e., if you have no unresolved conflicts between yourself and Him). But you can't if you have many unresolved personal and spiritual conflicts. Paul drives this point home in 1 Cor. 3:2, 3, when he tells Christians at Corinth that they were not able to receive the truth because there was jealousy and quarrels among them.

That is why, when we work with people, our first step is to help them resolve their conflicts, first through a process of repentance, which includes submitting to God and resisting the devil (see James 4:7). Establishing freedom in Christ and staying free are two different issues, however. You maintain your freedom as you continue to believe the truth and live by faith. After giving us that list of what to think about in Phil. 4:8, Paul continues in Phil. 4:9 (NIV), "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

You are not alone in your struggle to manage your thoughts. Every believer has to contend with the world, the flesh and the devil.

Lies We Often Believe

The following statements are some of the most common lies that depressed people believe about themselves, life in general and their relationship with God:

"I'm worthless and would be better off dead."

"I have no value and no meaningful purpose for being here."

"I'll never amount to anything."

"No one loves or cares for me."

"My situation is hopeless. I see no way out but to die."

"I'm stupid, I'm dumb, I'm ugly."

"I'm a mistake."

"God doesn't love me and He won't help me."

"Life is the pits."

"My future is hopeless."

"Nobody can help me."

The list could continue with many other blasphemous thoughts about God, themselves and others.

To illustrate how destructive thoughts are developed over time, listen to the testimony of Cheryl Dankers, who was voted Mrs. Minnesota-America in 1996. Unlike the picture-perfect life that one might expect from a pageant queen, Cheryl's life was filled with trauma, rejection, depression, suicidal thoughts and years of emotional pain. She wrote the following letter to Hal:

Dear Dr. Baumchen,

It was such a pleasure to meet and work with you at those two benefits. Thank you for letting me share my story with you. I am still in awe of what God has taken me through these last 20 years.

I had a lot of allergy problems which were finally diagnosed when I was in second or third grade. It was very upsetting for my dad because they could no longer have big parties. I was too allergic to cigarette smoke. I remember my dad telling my mom, "Well, if she's so sick, put her in a hospital."

I excelled in school. I thought it was the only thing I could do well. I got nearly straight A's. However, I sank my sadness and social frustrations into bags of cookies, candy, potato chips, and gallons of ice cream and Kool-Aid. The neighborhood kids called me "Schultzie" after the "Hogan's Heroes" character who was overweight.

My parents partied a lot on weekends. There were many Sunday mornings when I woke up because dad was vomiting in the bathroom. My parents would have heated arguments, and many times dad threatened to leave. I remember my sister and I crying on his lap, begging him to stay. Dad lost a number of jobs because he quit or was fired. After he became a policeman in 1969, he started drinking less. However, he was very controlling and verbally abusive.

My parents attended most of my band concerts and were proud of my accomplishments in debate, although I felt they were overprotective. I had several very close friends throughout school, one of whom I am still very close to. Yet, I felt isolated and alone. I would throw parties and almost no one would come.

I went to Bemidji State University in the fall of 1976. During college, I developed a promiscuous lifestyle. Since this was the pre-AIDS era, protection was not always used. By the spring of 1977, I was feeling tremendous guilt and shame. I lost my motivation to work hard in my classes, and I had gone through two different roommates. I developed a friendship with a football player. When I would sit in rooms filled with marijuana smoke, he always defended my right to say no to drugs. So I considered him a friend. One very late night he knocked on my dorm room door. He had an intense look on his face, so I let him in to talk. Before I knew what was happening, he was on top of me (he probably weighed close to 300 pounds). I kept telling him to stop and saying "NO! NO! NO!" But I was too ashamed to scream "Rape!" because I was afraid no one would believe me or help me. After he left, I took a long shower, trying to wash him off of me. The next day, he was gone. He had returned home.

I planned my suicide. Since I couldn't swim, I decided I should just start walking into Lake Bemidji. Eventually I would drown. I felt like I deserved a violent death. I wrote down the names of people close to me and gave a time frame of how long it would take until they would forget me. I thought I had let everyone down. I felt dirty, alone, ashamed and unworthy of God's love. Then I called out to God. I asked Him to rescue me and do something in my life that would stop me from ending it. Somehow I knew that God was with me, because I never contemplated suicide again.

Cheryl is describing a life filled with rejection, guilt and emotional pain. Those growing-up experiences caused her to think and therefore to feel that she was alone, dirty, ashamed and unworthy of God's love. Those negative beliefs had a very destructive influence in her life.

After college Cheryl was married, and her four-and-a-half years of marriage were filled with threats of violence and emotional and sexual abuse. Then she was divorced, and life began to change for her. She writes:

A couple of weeks later, I signed a purchase agreement for a townhouse with an agent by the name of Mike Dankers. We started dating in July, 1983. He said he was a Christian, and we started attending church at Grace Church Roseville with some of Mike's friends. During one of those first services, I invited Christ into my life. This time, I knew it was for real.

My life started changing right away. I was baptized, began teaching Sunday School, and most importantly, saw God's unconditional love for me in a way I had never seen it before. I knew He had always been with me, but now He was allowing me to experience Him. There was no turning back. Everything I had learned over the years made sense to me. God was alive and at work in my life. Mike and I were married in 1985.

In 1994, our church was going through some difficulties. We brought in Neil Anderson's series, "Resolving Personal and Spiritual Conflicts." During those seminars, I realized that I could forgive those who had harmed me.

In May 1995, our church had almost a day-long service in which people came forward to confess sin and recommit their lives to the Lord. God used this time to cleanse and heal so many in our church who had been hurting for many years. God used this opportunity to show me that, while I had been faithful in forgiving others in order to move on with my life, I also could forgive myself. I cried all day long, praising the Lord, and letting my gallons of tears wash away all the guilt, shame and sadness I had felt for so long.

Just over a year later, I was crowned Mrs. Minnesota-America. It was almost unbelievable. I was an overweight child who had hated herself. I had gone through so much trauma in my life that I didn't think I could ever be free. God cleansed all the self-inflicted hatred and made me see how internally beautiful I was in Christ. Then I was able to "clean up" the outside and serve Him faithfully wherever He leads.

Cheryl Dankers

Mrs. Minnesota-America, 1996

Free in Christ! Cheryl is no longer living beneath a load of guilt and shame. Now that her identity in Christ was firmly established, she was able to stand against the accusing and condemning messages from the world, the flesh and the devil. She could see herself the way God sees her—a new creation in Christ.

Nobody can fix your past. Not even God will do that. Nevertheless, the gospel assures us that we can be free from the past because we are not primarily a product of our past. We are primarily a product of Christ's work on the cross and His resurrection. We are no longer in Adam. Our primary identity is no longer in the flesh; it is in Christ. If that were not true, then all Christians would remain helpless victims of their past.


Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

 

------------------------------more tomorrow--------------------------

 

God bless you all!