Even Though I Walk Through The Valley…Pt. 2

Hello Friends of NLD,

I am back working on the 23rd Psalm series here on the blog.  Interestingly as I type this Tony and I are on I-85 as we are on our way to Charlotte, North Caroline for the day to visit his best friend since Middle School who is dying with Cancer.  He was diagnosed a year ago with a malignant brain tumor.  He is now down to 4 or 5 weeks left to live and will leave a precious wife and three young children (ages 7, 5, & 3) behind.  We don’t always understand the valley’s we travel.  My Father died at the age of 50 with a malignant brain tumor as well.  Death is overwhelming but praise our kind, good Shepherd who took the curse of sin that was credited to us through the law upon Himself and shed His own blood and presented it in the heavenly temple before God and it satisfied God’s wrath against sin and we have forgiveness, freedom and LIFE! 

This part of the 23rd Psalm has been quite the popular passage to be quoted in those moments when someone is about to pass from this life to the next.  But even here for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door in to a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ.  Death is but the dark vale opening out into an eternity of delight with God.  It is not something to fear, but an experience through which one passes on the path to a more perfect life.  But for those of us who remain on earth, there is still a life to live here and now.  So let’s look at some ways our Good Shepherd takes care of us in these “valley’s”

Let’s look at some reasons why the Shepherd takes His sheep up on the mountain ranges and long treks of the spring, summer and early fall.  As with ordinary sheep management, so with God’s people, one only gains higher ground by climbing up through valleys.  And notice it doesn’t say “we die there”, but rather, “I walk through…”.  We will have many “valleys” that we will walk through.  The disappointments, frustrations, discouragements, dilemmas, the dark, and difficult days, though they be shadowed valleys, they need not be disasters.  They can be the road to higher ground in our walk with God.  These thoughts bring me to point number one….

1.  The trek up into the mountains is the easiest route to get us to this “higher ground” with Christ.  We will see this when we receive our trials and adversitys….when we surrender it all over to Him, thanking Him for the dark, difficult days.  We will then see that He is here with us and has never left or forsaken us.  We will see that He is working out all things for our greatest good to the honor and glory of His name.  To come to this conviction in life is to have entered into an attitude of quiet acceptance of every adversity.  It is to have moved onto higher ground with God.  Knowing Him in this new and intimate manner makes life much more bearable than before.

2.  The second reason why sheep are taken to the mountaintops by way of the valleys is that not only is this the way of gentlest grades but, also it is the well-watered route.  Here one finds refreshing water all along the way.  There are rivers, streams, springs and quiet pools in the deep defiles.  During the summer months long drives can be hot and tiresome.  The flocks experience intense thirst.  How glad they are for the frequent watering places along the valley route where they can be refreshed.  Our good Shepherd is Living Water!  He said if we would drink from Him we would never thirst!

As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself.  It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles, that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty.  We are thrilled beyond words when there comes restoration to our souls and spirits from His own gracious Spirit.  Any other “source” we turn to for refreshment will NEVER satisfy and we will remain thirsty. 

Interestingly, the one who can minister to the broken heart best is the one who has experienced a broken heart.  Don’t avoid the valleys….you never know how God might use your experience one day, but know that the refreshment you can find available in Christ will fulfill like nothing you have ever seen!

3.  A third reason why the rancher/Shepherd chooses to take his flock into the high country by way of the valleys is that this is generally where the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route.  The flock is moved along gently-they are not hurried.  The lambs have never been this way before.  The shepherd wants to be sure there will not only be water but also the best grazing available for the ewes and their lambs.  Generally the choicest meadows are in these valleys along the stream banks.  Here the sheep can feed as they move toward the high country.

Ironically, these grassy glades are often on the floor of steep-walled canyons and gulches.  There may be towering cliffs above them on either side.  The valley floor itself may be in dark shadow with the sun seldom reaching the bottom except for a few hours around noon.  The Shepherd also knows from past experience that predators like coyotes, bears, wolves ,or cougars can take cover in these broken cliffs from their vantage point prey on his flock.  He knows too that these valleys can be subject to sudden storms nad flash floods that send walls of water ramping down the slopes.  There could be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches, and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep.  But in spite of such hazards he also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country.  He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop!

Our Shepherd knows all of this when He leads us through the valleys.  He knows where we can find strength and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us.  It is  the most reassuring and reinforcing experience to the child of God to discover that there is, even in the dark valley, a source of strength and courage to be found in God.  It is when he can look back over life and see how the Shepherd’s hand has guided and sustained him in the darkest hours that renewed faith is endured.

The person with a powerful confidence in Christ; the one who has proved by past experience that God is with him in adversity; the one who walks through life’s dark valleys without fear, his head held high, is the one who in turn is a tower of strength and a source of inspiration to his companions.  We are going to have some valleys in this life.  “in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

The only question left then is…..how will you and I face these valleys?  How will we handle them? 

Well, with Christ – we will face them:



and with surety that only with them can I pass through on to higher ground with God.  In this way not only shall I be blessed but in turn I will become a benediction to others around me who may live in fear.

Thank you, Jesus!  You thought of everything we would ever need on this side of eternity!  I’m crazy about you!


“Even Though I Walk Through the Valley…”

Wow….it has been awhile since I have been in blogger-ville.  No worries…I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth.  Still here!  It has been a crazy month or so with work, normal-everyday life and some trips out-of-town for us.

I am picking back up with the phrases from the 23rd Psalm.  We are looking at “Even Though I Walk Through the Valley…”  You may be wondering what a phrase like this has to do with sheep but there is a very interesting connection.  As we have said that the whole Psalm tracks the entire year-long season of care between sheep and shepherd.  When we come to this phrase we are looking at the halfway point in the year.  One could imagine that the previous phrases were made by the sheep to other less fortunate sheep in the pen next door but with this phrase we make a dramatic turn.  Spring has sprung and the efficient, good Shepherd leads his sheep out to the high country to the summer ranges. Their summer and fall will be spent in close companionship and solitary care of the good shepherd.  The personal pronouns I and You enter the conversation.  It becomes a most intimate discourse of deep affection.

The terrain that would be crossed would be wild mountains, rushing rivers, alpine meadows, and high rangelands.  When Samuel came to anoint David as the next King of Israel David was not home but off climbing the summer ranges leading his sheep.  He knew from first hand experience about all the difficulties and dangers, as well as the delights, of the treks into the high country.  The good shepherd would not take his flock where he had never been but would have gone ahead to look over the country with care (Oh, the sweet care that our Heavenly Father, the good shepherd, takes with us as well).  All the dangers of rampaging rivers in flood, avalanches, rock slides, poisonous plants, the ravages of predators that raid the flock, or the awesome storms of sleet and hail and snow were familiar to him.  He had handled his sheep and managed them with care under all these adverse conditions.  Nothing took him by surprise.  He was fully prepared to safeguard his flock and tend them with skill under every circumstance. 

Just as I was typing that last sentence and reflecting on how good our heavenly Father takes care of us, I suddenly had my stomach “drop out on the floor” so to speak.  I remembered that last night on the way home from the office I realized that I needed gas bad!  I was on a “wing and a prayer” so to speak.  I had already passed all the gas stations and was just a few miles from home and so I prayed all the way home setting in my mind that I would go first thing this morning to get gas.  Well, I forgot to get gas and came straight on to the office.  Out of the clear blue I remember that I did not stop on the way in this morning so I really am on fumes now!  Thankfully, I believe it was the Lord that reminded me and isn’t that just awesome that He takes care of us even in our ignorance!  Lord, we really are like sheep and we need You to be our good Shepherd!

I’ll finish up this portion of the phrase next week!  So stay tuned!


Living In Larger Life

This morning I was working on my Bible Study and ran across a very good point and I thought I would share it with those of you keeping up with the NLD blog.  The Bible study is Beth Moore’s newest study entitled Esther, It’s Tough Being A Woman.  Today’s lesson was called, “The High and Low of Ego”.  The portion that really struck me dealt with what we teach here at NLD about realizing that we are crucified with Christ and that we are to deny self/flesh and follow Him.  Today’s study centered around Esther 5:9-10 and Haman’s rage at Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him.  Here was her quote that spoke to me….”Amid all the depravity of this world, man is still God’s prized creation and most valued treasure.  Christ’s purpose in calling us to deny ourselves is that we’d deny our selfishness, ambition, pasts, or any damaged emotions the right to cheat us of His far higher plans for us.”  Wow…is that not the truth?  Our flesh, if left to run it’s own course would so rob us of experiencing all of the life that Christ has called us to.  My flesh wants to cheat me out of experiencing Father’s highest plans for me, God’s love for me and God’s work in and through me.  I have made it my utmost priority to so walk with God and allow His healing in my life that I can experience all of the freedom that He died on the cross to purchase for me.  It is our own hang ups, damaged emotions and sins (which is any way that I am trying to get a legitimate need met in a illegitimate way) that keep us from experiencing the victorious christian life.  In the study we learn that God knows that “nothing leaves us more hollow than being full of ourselves.  We have no greater burden than our own egos.”  She goes on to add that we have nothing more breakable than our own ego’s as well.

2 Corinthians 4:10-12 helps us understand why we are called to this thing the New Testament calls the crucified life.  “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we  who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So, then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”  The point of my study this morning was that any time God calls us to die, His purpose is to reveal larger life.  She mentions that “God’s forte is life.  He’s just not willing to leave things dead.  A paramount theme in Esther is what God can do when we resolve to obey and ‘if I perish, I perish'”.  Before I can be used of God I must be full of God and I can’t be full of God when I am full of myself.  The antidote for our ego’s….knowing your IDENTITY IN CHRIST!  When I know who I am in Christ, the position I hold, the benefits, privileges and inheritance that comes with my relationship with Christ – I’m finally SECURE!  What a safe place!  What a loved place!  What a place of perfect peace regardless of what others say or think about me!  Knowing who I am frees me up to have a correct estimation of myself.  My friend – do you know that if you have relationship with Christ you are no longer a sinner?  Your IDENTITY changed!  2 Corinthians 5:17 says you are a new creation.  Paul calls us “Saints in Christ Jesus” over 60 times in the New Testament!  Let me tell you who you are my friend….listen up….If you are a Christian you were a “Sinner” and now you are as we say here at NLD a “Saint who sometimes sins”  Romans says you were “in Adam” now you are “in Christ”.  You have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light!  If your emotions aren’t lining up with this new truth just yet….it is because you have been believing a lie for way to long and your mind needs to be renewed to the truth of God’s Word – Romans 12:1-2.

So….what is it in your flesh that needs to die in order for you to live in larger life?


Do You Want To Be Well?

This morning I was reading in John 5 about the man that was paralyzed lying next to the pool in Jerusalem that was called in Hebrew Bethesda.  In the appointed season an angel of the Lord went down and stirred up the water; whoever was the first person to get down into the water would be healed.  The man that John 5 refers to had been suffering with this lingering disorder for thirty eight years.  Jesus approached this man and realizing how long he had suffered asked him, “Do you want to become well?”  By this queswtion, Jesus meant, “are you really in earnest about getting well”.  The man’s response is quite interesting.  He says, “Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool; but while I am tyring to come into it somebody else steps down ahead of me.”  Jeus immediately tells him to pick up his mat and walk.  Immediately his life was changed!  What catches my attention the most about this story is the question that Jesus asked the man-Do you want to become well.  At first glance that seems like a crazy question.  Of course the fellow would have wanted to be well-right?  I remember a sermon that our pastor at our church preached a long time ago on a Sunday night regarding this particular passage.  He dealt with the paralytic’s attitude about getting well.  There are some who have suffered for so long that they have lost hope of ever being well.  For some, due to the dysfunction (False Beliefs-as we call them) in their minds they depend on the resources of others to care for them and live in a constant state of a self pity party.  Now, don’t get me wrong…some literally have to depend on others to care for them.  What I am talking about are thsoe who due to their dysfunction have misplaced dependencies and then developed unrealistic expectations of others.  Meaning they are looking to others to meet their emotional and spiritual needs of Contentment (happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment in life), Security (love & acceptance), and Significance (worth, value, importance, identity).

It can seem crazy to think about, but some people literally don’t want to be well.  They are drawing out life from others by the attention they receive from being sick.  Obviously this is a sad place to be and many of us will encounter some of these folks either threw out the holiday season or just around our churches.  Some of us may have someone like this in our family that we deal with.  For most of us it may not be the most comforttable situation in the world to have to deal with.  Some have asked me for suggestions about what to do, how to respond to them and what to say.  My answer is usually always the same…don’t enable them and don’t necessarily try to reason with them.  They cannot understand reason.  You must allow Christ to love them through you…I don’t know any other way to put it than that.  It is impossible for us to love others in our own strength.  As Christ demonstrates Himself through you as you depend upon Him, He will guide you in loving them and communicating with them.  You must leave their mental and emotional dysfunction with Him through prayer.  If He directs you to speak the gtruth in love to them then do so…but make sure it is Christ speaking through you and if so it will be done in love.  They have to want to be well in order to make that journey.  It is most often a long, tough process for all of us in dealing with our emotional hangups a.k.a. FLESH.  As I tell our clients…you and I can’t apply a microwave solution to a crock pot problem.  You have to want that healing in order to make that journey.

It is our prayer that you have a blessed Merry Christmas and wonderful times with friends and family!


Perilous Times

Today is exactly 3 weeks until election day in our country.  We will vote on many positions, amendments etc…but most of all we will elect a new president for our country.  With many out of jobs, our housing market plummeting, and our economic crises many have expressed a lot of emotion about what is going on namely fear and anger.  I know the more and more that I understand about what is going on the more angry I find myself becoming.  I can understand why many Americans are expressing a lot of anger at some of these politcal rally’s. 

This morning my running partner was sharing about this conference that she was at over the weekend. When she and others from the conference were out running several were expressing who they were going to vote for and were being very negative and ugly about the other party.  I thought her response was the best that it could have been in the situation…..what she said went a little something like this, “ya’ll, we need to quit talking about this because God is totally in control anyway.”  Think about that for just a moment…..God is incontrol of the election – God is incontrol of our economy – God is incontrol of all our foriegn affairs – God is incontrol of all of it!  When I remember this, I find myself asking, “why am I afraid?”  Do I really believe what I say I believe?  obviously if I say God is incontrol but I am feeling afaid there is a disconect somewhere.  Our feelings/emotions always display what we really believe.  In James 1:8 he calls the man who doubts a “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  The more we pour truth in and then experience that truth, the more firm our foundation becomes and we grow in our confidence and security in Christ.

If you are finding yourself a bit afraid today as you think about our world and what is going on, you are in good company.  I challenge you to do what I am doing.  Go to God and ask Him a very simple quetion that goes like this, “God, what is it that I do not know about You, that if I did know I would not be afraid right now?”  Pay close attention and listen to him over the next several days and weeks.  He will reveal to you the answer to that question and fill your heart with faith.  You too, then, will grow in your confidence level and in your assurance of our mighty, soverign God.

Some great verses on fear:

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God:  I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteiousness.”

Isaiah 43:1b-3 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.”

Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will trust in God.”

Matthew 7:31- “Do not be anxious then saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’…for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I hope that these verses minister to you as they have ministered to me. 


Today Is My Mother In Law’s Birthday

Grace has so many facets…..so many gifts for us….so much to offer us!  Grace allows us the freedom to be real, authentic, and vulnerable.  When we understand more of who we are in Christ and His enormous love for us, it becomes easier for us to be real with each other-and that is when true relationship takes place.  We spend so much time, energy, and effort trying to “keep up our image”, trying maintain control of our circumstances and those around us and that is exhausting; not to mention impossible to accomplish! 

What does all this have to do with my mother in law and her birthday….well, she is one who is real, vulnerable, and authentic.  Today is her birthday and she is having a tough day and it has nothing to do with being a year older because, quite honestly….I think she really, truly is “over all that” nonsense.  There were bigger issues on her mind.  As she ate lunch with us she was free to be herself, free to not have to act like a super, spiritual giant that has everything under control.  That freed her up to “loosen up”, laugh with her family and allow her own children to encourage her to help her get through the day.  She may have some tough circumstances right now, but she knows her God, she knows who she is, and who she belongs to and that is enough for her.  She knows Grace Himself intimately…..she loves Grace and Grace knows and loves her.  She knows she is secure in Grace and knows that Grace will provide for her.  She knows that Grace is in control of her circumstances and the people around her.  She even knows that Grace will thoroughly work all things together for her good and His Glory. 

Now that’s my mother in law.  Just by being in her presence, she makes me want to be better – to be the best person that I can be – to desire to be all that God intends for me to be.  Yes, I know some of you may be flipping out that someone can actually say they have a mother in law like that.  Well, you see, I prayed for a long time for a “wonderful, spirit filled mother in LOVE” and she was worth the wait!  Even when I struggle and fall back in my legalistic ideas of living, she speaks grace to me and loves me just the way that I am and accepts me as one of her own – no rules, no expectations (maybe except to love her son-ha-ha), no requirements.  She just loves.

You may be wondering who my mother in law is.  Well, because of who she is and her humility she would not want her name mentioned in something like this.  If you know her you would agree with me.  She would only want your prayers and for you to come and get to know this man who changed her life – Grace Himself – Jesus Christ.  She would tell you that when you experience Him and hear what He has to say about you – you would fall in love with Him immediately.  So, what are you waiting for….”Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

So….to a wonderful, spirit filled “Mother In Love”…..Happy Birthday!  If I could turn out to be just half of what you and my own mother are like…..wow…..that would be awesome!  I am so blessed!


Complete Abandonment – a.k.a. Surrender

Well, let’s fill in that blank that we left off with! If you have gone through the coaching process with us then you can fill in that blank for yourself. It is a word that is tough to get out and if you paid attention to the tittle of this blog you can see where I am heading with all this.

Let’s recap….our Flesly strategies (patterns, coping mechanisms etc…) will always lead us into trials & adversity. As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for you?”. The reason why he asks that question is to get the person to realize that their coping strategy doesn’t work and only makes things worse – a.k.a. more trials & adversity! Those trials soon bring us to a place of brokenness that we discussed last time. This week we will see how that brokenness pushes us over the edge to surrender – complete abandonment. I like the term abandonment because it reminds me just how serious it is that I completely let go of my Flesly ways/patterns and the False Beliefs that fuel that behavior.

What is Abandonment or Surrender? Here are a few points to consider….
1. Surrender is yielding self-will, one’s independence from God, or one’ own way of trying to control life, to the Life of Christ within.
2. Surrender is to relax and cease from our internal struggle to satisfy our neediness by self-reliance and self-effort. Ps. 46:10, John 15:4-5, Heb. 4:10
3. Surrender is ongoing. We choose surrender regardless of our emotions. We surrender ourselves-our life-to God’s control.
4. Surrender is not by efforts to put away old ways-flesh patterns.
5. Surrender is not passivity. It is ceasing from our own works.
6. Surrender is like focusing on (setting our mind on) learning a new language (truth). The mind that is set on the Spirit is life and peace. Rom. 8:5 Set your mind on things above. Col. 3:2 It is to have one’s mind “set like a flint” on the Lord. Isaiah 50:7
7. Surrender is “to faith” – to intimately focus on the Spirit and truth, depending on the Lord.
8. Surrender is “faithing” as an ongoing process of choices which are, often moment by moment disciplines.
9. Surrender is to delight ourselves in the Lord and commit our way to Him. (To delight in the Hebrew meanse to be bendable, pliable.) Ps. 37:4
10. Surrender is warfare.
11. Surrender is HUMILITY.

Consider today absolute abandonment to the Abba Father – Daddy who loves you with His unfailing love. With surrender usually comes great relief.


Brokenness In Principle

I left off last time talking about Trials & Adversity and the purpose of it in our lives. I shared with you that it’s ultimate purpose is that Trials & Adversities are to break our dependencies on our flesh. Once this happens we experience what many have come to call “Brokenness”. If you have ever really been to that place then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Brokenness is the place where you quite literally come to the end of yourself – your strength, resources, ideas, power, influence, options, opportunities etc…. are all gone and there is nothing left but you and God. You may feel as if you are sitting in an emotional heap of nothingness and there is absolutly nothing else you can do to fix the situation or circumstances. You have hit the preverbial “brick wall” and most likely have colapsed.

The principle rests in God’s marvelous design. God’s design is that my outward man (my reliance on my fleshly strategies to make life work for me) be broken so that the inward man (Christ in my spirit) may be manifest through me, that I might receive from Him and display His Life through me. Sometimes things that may need to be broken in us are our ways of trying to avoid the very things we fear most. We may need to be broken of our ways of trying to get what we need and want or our love affair with these familiar beliefs, laws, ways that are most precious to us a.k.a. our false beliefs. I have found that brokenness is absolutely necessary for experiencing Life in Christ, victory, or a walk after the Spirit. It is necessary for our experiencing His sufficiency and our needs being met. Romans 8:13 tells us that if we live according to the flesh we shall die. But according to Matthew 16:25 and Luke 17:33 if we lose this fleshly life we will find Christ’s life and whoever seeks to save his fleshly life will lose it.

So the purpose of brokenness could be summed up in several key points:
1. To realize my fleshly efforts are futile; that I can not live the Christian life nor get my needs met by my own strength, by my own resources or strategies and controls.
2. To realize that I have no ability in my self-life; that without Him doing it, I can do nothing.
3. To give up on trusting my fleshly way, my false beliefs, and the resulting behaviors and damaging emotions.
4. That my outward man might be conformed to the image of Christ.
5. That I might depend on God.
6. That the life of Jesus might be manifest in my mortal body.

So, if we find ourselves at this place of brokenness as a result of trials & adversities what do we do? We receive the trial & adversity….as the Bible says, we take up our cross. Receiving that trial & adversity with the attitude or mind of Christ – with a mind of humility. A beautiful display of this is found in Phil. 2:5-8. “Have this attitude in yourselfves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ received His trial with an attitude of humility, not trying to regard His equality with God so as to try to preseve His Significance. He could humble Himself to accomplish the task because He knew WHO He was and WHO He belonged to. We can now experience the joy of New Covenant living in relationship with Him and that transforms everything!

Fleshly Stategies = Trials & Adversities = Brokenness = ______________________ we will fill in the blank next time!


Trials & Adversity-What Does Adversity Look Like?

Do you really understand the meaning of adversity and what it looks like? If you have thought like I have for a number of years, I put anything that hurt in the category of adversity. If it hurt-it was adversity and I didn’t like it! Even going to the dentist! My apoligies to the Dental Comunity out there that takes care of our oral hygiene. We are glad you do what you do….except when we are the ones sitting in that chair! 🙂

On a serious note….let me see if I can clarify our thinking. An adversity or trial is anything designed to break our control-our reliance on our fleshly strategies. You know, our New Testament friend Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit and not after the Flesh. Just in case you are wondering what flesh is…flesh is more than just “smoking, drinking, carousing and hanging out with those who do.” Yes, that is Flesh, but it is more than that. Flesh is any way that we are living independently of God attempting to get our needs met in our own way. By needs I mean Contentment (peace, fulfillment satisfaction in life, happiness, forgivenss), Security (love & acceptance, emotional connectedness with others, safety) and Significance (identity, worth, value, feeling important). We have these needs and it is not wrong to have them. God created us with these needs but His intent was that we would look to Him to meet them. Our problem comes when we look to others and other things to get these needs met. Things like other relationships-a girl/boy friend, a spouse, a parent, a friend, a boss, other employees etc…. and things like careers, materialistice things and money. That is flesh! Often times these “fleshly strategies” or “flesh patterns” as we call them are outside of our awareness. For many years I sought out love and acceptance-security from relationships from others and I sought out Significance from my career-ministry. I had no idea that this was fleshly living. I mean, by all outward appearances I was doing the right things and even being consistent in church and Bible Study for many years. Guess what….when others didn’t respond to me with that love and acceptance I felt like a failure. When suceess in ministry seemed elusive for many years, I felt like a failure. As a matter of fact, up until just a few years ago if you would have asked me with regards to my ministry if I felt successful, I would have said, “Absolutly not-I am an utter failure!” My “stinking thinking”, as my friend Phil Mason would say…didn’t always produce productive behavior. As a matter of fact, it made me quite insecure and insecurity breeds all kinds of fleshly controls and that in turn reeks havoc in our relationships.

It is interesting to me when I see in Scripture that the very nature of the flesh is that it produces trials/adversity in our lives. It leads to our death and destruction. So….as our fleshly ways naturally bring on adversity, we see that it is uniquely orchestrated by God to break our control-our reliance on our Flesh so that we might rely/depend on Christ in us to meet all our needs. FYI…you know how a lot of people say, “Oh, yea…I’m a control freak for sure!” Well, we all are control freaks! Attempting to make one’s fleshly way work to get needs met, makes everyone a “controller”. I know….sounds like a lot of bad news. Well….let me see if I can give you some good news.

We all want relief from our pain and struggles don’t we?? It is when we receive our trial/”take up our cross” and surrender reliance on our fleshly strategies that relief will come from our pain and stuggle. I will talk more about how to receive the trial/adversity next time and what it means to have the attitude of Christ, but it is through all this that we are conformed to the image of Christ. You want to know what the will of God is?? Well, that is it – that we would be conformed to His image. We seek so hard and wonder what His will is for our lives – well, we make it way too complicated. The bottom line is that we are to be conformed to His image being broken of our reliance on the flesh. If that is His will it sounds like we all will have some adveristy and trials from time to time.

More later!!