Philippians 1:25 "I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith." (Progress, not perfection)
'Ya, but' is a defiant statement forever keeping those who use it from change. Many people conflicted with trouble use this statement to avoid personal responsibility and ownership for their actions. It is highly used by people who struggle in addictions. Excuses, justifications, and crafty reasoning is the path for denial and suffering. Faultfinding and blaming are their tools. As long as a finger can be pointed elsewhere change will not happen. In most recovery programs the finger pointing is placed on the individual. Rigorous honesty at a personal level to take account of thoughts, choices, preferences, attitude, feelings, and actions are key.
We ought to be careful not to dismiss scripture for the sake of another scripture. When a controversial scripture verse is used some may seek out a different verse to support their personal views. This type of reasoning is defense against the controversial scripture. Why would we defend ourselves against scripture? Instead, we ought to use reason and logic to explain it. Is the interpretation in error and are we in error are a couple good questions to discern. Defensiveness ought to be avoided. Use of scripture to attack or punish someone would be a misuse. See Rebuke & Correct & Hardened Hearts
Most of us have learned how to handle choices. Some of us have learned to defer our choice to someone else so they get blamed if it's a bad one. Some of us will just take the first thing that comes up having little interest in evaluating possibilities. While others like to explore every possibility under the sun before making a decision. Each person handles choices a bit differently. What does God want for us regarding choice? It seems to be that God wants us to be at peace, but not fear suffering for the good, or to be lacking in growth in the Spirit. So with that it would be safe to say God wants us to gently and purposefully make choices to struggle deeper into God's character and grace for increased righteousness. Personal investment of time, energy, and diligence is most necessary so we will need to choose to participate in such things.
Do our thoughts, attitude, intentions, actions, habits, heart, mind, soul, and strength match up with the bible?
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
Matthew 22:36-38 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 10:12 [ The Essence of the Law ] “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"We can't be perfect!"
Yet couldn't we be better, closer, more informed, more active in; prayer, study, peace, love, generosity, forgiveness, patience, truth, and justice? If we are not continuing to grow with God then perhaps we have settled into stagnation, complacency, or idleness. What ever thought we believe that gives us permission to cease development, its not from God. If we obey, agree, or follow that thought, not from God, then we might be moving away from following God. It is imperative that we slow down, meditate (however long it takes no matter how uncomfortable it may be), and reflect upon our thoughts to better understand them. Our thinking leads our choices and our thoughts are prompted by our beliefs. What we choose affects our life, soul, love, and salvation.
We have a choice to serve God or not. If we avoid the choice we choose to not serve God (Rush "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice"). There is no avoidance of the choice. We choose it every minute of every day. Choosing to delay is choosing to avoid. If we avoid watering the lawn it dies. If we avoid taking care of our soul... it dies. Choose life and choose to actively seek and follow God.
The Choice of Life or Death
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
To make a choice we first need options. For example; If I say to newly sober people, "what would you like to do this weekend?" Instinctively they will mentally consult their options, but it will probably be empty due to the fact they only thing they have done in their past has been drink or drug. They do not have more options out of their experience to recall for ideas. Therefore, they need to go out and try something new. And for most of them that new idea will come across as boring or appear to be a waste of time. There is something about our mental make up which blocks us from becoming interested in doing what we are not used to doing. Perhaps because interest cannot develop out of thin air. We must first see how something tastes before we can decide whether we like it or not. Let's taste God's goodness and see what it's like.
100% Truth: Try to be rigorously honest. Record even the smallest lie. See how the mind attempts to make excuses and justify the lie. Let's learn why we do what we do.
Empathy: Try just relating to how other people feel. Let's imagine ourselves what the other person thinks, believes, desires, and wants without judgement and then see how we can relate to them.
Generosity: Give out of service, time, and resources to someone you don't know and stick around to see how it affects them.
Mercy and Forgiveness: Forgive someone their debt, forgive ourselves, end resentment completely for one day. Just commit to not fight, argue, or find fault anywhere.
Stop controlling and trust the flow of goodness: Just do good things and end worrying about what we might miss, mistakes we might make, or losses we may have. Just practice doing right and let our person selfish agenda go. Go with the flow of others toward goodness staying on the path of doing right.
Patience: Wait longer then normal, go slower than normal and see what happens. Do it all day long. Do not give into conformity. We do not hurry because other people seem to hurry. Let go of rushing around to seemingly make others happy, because it won't. Drive in the slow lane. Let others cut in line. Go to bed earlier, sleep longer, and get up earlier. Arrive 10 minutes earlier and stay 10 minutes longer.
Consider other people's needs above our own wants: If someone has a need that we can help with, try not to let one of our wants stop us from helping. If a friend needs help moving, but we would rather golf, what kind of friend are we? Let's put more intention upon being there for others. Relationships really build on this action.
Follow justice: do not steal or exploit others for selfish gain, guard against favoritism and prejudice, when we do wrong... correct it.
We ought to try each of these for a period of time to learn what they taste like. Then we will have at least a beginners idea into God's righteousness, but we ought to be honest about our understanding of it. Trying it once is like cooking something for the first time, we could be off on the recipe. It's probably better to practice it a while and get it down before judging it.
After we have learned from this course of action we will have developed some more options. At that time we will have empowered ourselves toward more choices and become more able to choose righteous actions. If we don’t know an option that is available then it acts as if it is not available. If I tell someone that behind them is a free stack of gold, but they do not believe and never turn around, to them it would be as if there was never any gold.
Welcome to the journey!
The bible is clear that we will need patience, endurance, perseverance, and self-discipline as we grow with God. Also important are forgiveness and mercy toward ourselves and others as we live out God's will. We all fail and failure is part of being obedient provided we are honestly seeking to do God's will. God calls us to seek him with every effort/diligence and he understands our limitations. Mistakes are bound to happen. He did not make us to be perfect as the world understands perfect. We are to be perfected. He desires us to continue through failure and many mistakes toward his perfect demonstration of how to live. We are to move forward with the thought 'how can I grow in service to God and practice God's character?' If we are improving from one year to the next, then we are growing. Our relationships are often times a good indicator of how well we are following God. God is love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, generosity, truth, and justice. Such actions almost always produce higher quality relationships and values in our lives.
“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
Winston S. Churchill
We must apply effort
2 Peter 1:5 "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
Setting simple achievable goals is a great start. We may find it difficult to see what is in front of us if our thoughts move too far ahead or dread upon our past. To know God we must experience God. Just reading or listening to others about him is insufficient. Keeping our focus on what we can do this moment for God is the first step toward following God. Immediately self-discipline is required. Right now we can serve God by getting to know more about who God is and what he desires. As we gradually and consistently improve our knowledge of God we can improve our practice of his character. This is precisely what we are called to do.
Keywords: "every effort to keep... peace"
Ephesians 4:3 "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
Keywords: "every effort to live in peace"
Hebrews 12:14 "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."
We ought to have goals set to increase our Godly activity. (If you do not understand how to set goals and follow them, please learn. Books and websites are available to help with this. Make every effort...) Self-discipline is key.
We ought to have in our mind, heart, soul, and strength Godly character. Many of us seldom consider God's will. Out of sight, out of mind. If we avoid looking at God's goals for us, we will not see them, and if we won't see them then we won't think about them and if we won't think about them then we won't apply them and it will be as if they do not exist. When we focus on our wants and desires, ignoring/avoiding God's, we separate ourselves from God. We can, if trained, sense this separation within our heart and soul. We might feel emptiness and loneliness. We might feel like something is missing or incomplete.
Our unique journey within us
Christ's teaching and modeling reflects much of the Old Testament. This website is geared to provide some direction. However, the goal is to learn more how to follow the Holy Spirit within us instead of other people. Other people can only speak for what they experience which will be different from anyone else. The journey inward is to understand our own unique experience. We each have our own path. The Holy Spirit is provided within us to help guide us through the biblical principles we are called to experience. Each of us will come to know love differently. We will also come to understand our purpose with God differently, yet it ought to correlate with Godly characteristics outlined in the bible. If it doesn't relate to the way the bible describes God, then it ought to be tested and examined thoroughly.
We are all a bit different in how we sense and relate to God.
For example, if 100 people go and see a movie they will all have their own personal experience with it. The movie is exactly the same for everyone, yet each person will have a different feeling and interpretation of it based on their different knowledge and experience. This is the same with any experiences we share. Why would it be any different with God. Look at the Old Testament. So many people come to know God and have so many different experiences (Keeping with God's character of course: Love, forgiveness, etc.) . It's okay to be different. Our differences can actually help us understand God better. If we can learn to listen to others how they experience love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. we can often times expand our understanding of God's character. Experiences and other perspectives have a tremendous amount of value in them. We ought to seek God. God's spirit is in each of us. So let us look and listen inwardly and closely to the spirit in others.
Each journey takes time. It is an inward exploring experience to better understand the intangible spiritual character of God flowing through us and others. Meditation and reflection are necessary to look inward to examine our thoughts, heart, and listen to the spirit. The tangible superficial exteriors which occur outside of us is often a distraction to keep us from being spiritually aware.
Also, our selfish nature and evil desires ought to be acknowledged, confessed, and repented. Defensiveness, faultfinding, and arguing will always block understanding. We are called to purify our hearts, a little at a time. Correcting our selfishness and aligning ourselves with God's will ought to be our everyday goal. It's best to stay focused on the moment, what we are thinking and feeling, while being attentive toward others. We ought to make gradual improvements as we mature spiritually. Let us do it now before our minds distract us. Prayer might be a good idea.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Keep it simple:)