On Saturdays this summer I have been trying to get rid of milk thistles in our yard. If you have ever had to deal with thistles, you will understand exactly why I hate thistles so much. If you’ve never dealt with thistles, then you will probably think I’m a little off for having such a visceral hatred of these plants. At the risk of sounding extreme, my thistle battle is a metaphor for the spiritual battle that everyone faces.
Scripture employs thistles as a symbol of the effects of sin in our lives. In Genesis 3, as a result of the Fall, God tells Adam and Eve that the ground will be cursed and thorns and thistles will grow as a result (Genesis 3:18).
I see five similarities between my thistle battle and the spiritual fight that every person has to deal with in their lives.
You probably have heard or seen (or experienced) when legal contracts don’t go as expected. It seems like one party is always letting another party down in the promises they make. Perhaps you have been let down by someone else in a contract—or in a promise.
Unlike human contracts, God’s promises aren’t violated. God’s promises are always kept. But He requires our active participation in fulfilling His promises.
In Psalm 37, David lists five promises from God. God says that He will do something—if you do something first. Here’s what God asks of you, and what you can expect in return.
Why do people want to follow visionaries? Because they can see what has not come to pass as if it already has. They are able to see how they want the world to be before it is that way. They are able to see the Not Yet as if it were the Now.
God called David to be king when he was just a shepherd boy. But it took several years before he actually assumed the throne of Judah. And then he had to wait another seven years before he became king of all Israel.
There were times that David stopped believing that he would be king one day—even though God had said it would happen one day. Circumstances made him believe that what God said would never happen.
If you have a God-sized vision in you, then you can learn from what David did right and what David did wrong when he was pursuing the Not Yet in the Now.
In 1 Samuel 30, David and his crew came back to his home base at Ziklag, only to find that the Amalekites burned the city with fire, stole their goods, and took all their families captive. David’s men were inconsolable, and David was greatly concerned when his men talked about stoning him. But he worked to encourage himself in the Lord his God.
There will be times that you will need to do the same thing as David: you will need to encourage yourself in the Lord. But what exactly does that mean? And how do you do it?
Different translations say it in different ways.
ESV: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
NIV: “David found strength in the Lord his God.”
MSG: “David strengthened himself with trust in his God.”
But regardless of what the phrase means, these translations don’t help you understand how to do it. Using Psalm 13 as a model, here is a three-step process you can use to encourage yourself in the Lord.
Be conscious of the negative self-talk you say to yourself because your mind will think you mean it. When you say negative things to yourself, you are contradicting things God has already said about you—because God has a positive answer for all the negative self-talk you say to yourself.
Don’t believe everything you think. Make sure there is a filter between the negative things you think about yourself and what you say about yourself. While ideas have consequences, words have power.
I came across these 15 positive affirmations in an old notebook. I hope you find them helpful to combat your negative self-talk.
I recently came across a Bible study I had done more than 20 years into character traits of elders and deacons. My study showed what the Lord would require of those who aspired to those offices. At the time I did this study, I had not yet become an elder in my church. But I sure aspired to be one. And Scripture said that was a good thing (1 Timothy 3:1). So I took these Scriptures as an assignment: to develop the character traits these offices would require. I sought to know what I needed to be—and what I shouldn’t be. And I also wanted to know what I should do—and what I shouldn’t do. So I compiled a list.
Mind you, these were aspirational affirmations. They were not necessarily all true statements about myself. But I wanted them all to be true about me.
I hope you find this list useful for developing the right character traits and weeding out the wrong ones in your own life.
The Scripture has a lot to say about today’s workplace. Even though it may use words that may seem strange in today’s parlance, it applies directly to the modern day.
Here are five words taken from Colossians 3:22 and Ephesians 6:5-6 that provide a guide for how to function in today’s workplace.
I hear people say all the time that you just need to “have faith.” But what does that mean? And more importantly, why does it matter?
If properly applied, faith can be a powerful force, but many people don’t understand it. Some people think that it is just repeating the same statements over and over to yourself. While that may improve their mental outlook, that’s not faith. Others think that it is the mental acceptance of a fact. But knowing about Jesus is not the same thing as believing in Jesus. And there are others who keep their faith in the closet of their life and don’t bring it out except for show on Sunday mornings. That’s not faith; that’s compartmentalization.
Faith will be helpful to you when it’s incorporated into the totality of your life. When it shows up in every part of your life, you can get the most out of your faith. Here’s what it looks like to put action to your faith.
When reading the scriptural accounts of the heroes of the faith, it’s easy to lose the most important lessons. I know I have read all of the biblical narratives at least ten or twelve times. But there are many things that I missed because I wasn’t looking for them. And neither was I clued in to appreciate them.
The Scriptures teach a lot without directly saying it. Much of the stuff worth picking up from the biblical accounts is implied. Readers have to be willing to go a little deeper, using information and experiences that everyone can relate to, in order to process the lessons of Scripture.
Here are three important points for looking at the people in these historical accounts.
Because you are a leader, you are a spiritual target. You have people depending on you to do the right thing. And the enemy of your soul wants to take you down.
Pastors are leaders with big targets on their backs. But business leaders have targets on their backs too. And parents especially have targets on their backs. Because all these leaders carry the responsibility of leading and caring for those in their charge.
It is imperative to watch out for how you can be targeted by the enemy of your soul. Here are some warning signs from James 1:14 to help you handle being a spiritual target.