April 29, 2017

CHRISTLife—Five: Acknowledging Wrong Images

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Wouldn’t we all like to pretend that there are no negative and unhealthy images of ourselves hidden in our hearts and minds!?  But the fact is that there probably, almost assuredly, are.  I would prefer if the bad self-images would run off like water on a duck’s back, and the good self-images would be like water on a sponge, which soaks into the core of the sponge and still remains visible on the outside.  Former experiences and people from our past all have an effect on us, whether good or bad.

Our emotional reactions to situations are often “clues to negative images of ourselves” due to past experiences, whether we remember those experiences or not. They influence our attitudes and behaviors.  2 Corinthians 13:5 (AMP) tells us to: “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves….”  To better understand ourselves and our “inner identity album,” we need to examine our viewpoints and beliefs.  They have been formed either from previous bad experiences or from good experiences. We need to separate the bad from the good so we can get rid of the wrong images that distort the truth.

An example might be that as a child in school your teacher gave you a hard time because you were left-handed, you wore hand-me-down clothes, and/or you couldn’t see the blackboard from your seat.  That experience might have distorted your view of those in authority.  It might also have caused a negative self-image to grow in you that has led you to believe you aren’t good enough and you can’t do anything right for those in authority over you.  Your emotional reaction might be to withdraw or to be defensive.  Ruth Myers says this, “We need to become more objective in our viewpoints and beliefs. We must learn not to color the facts with our misguided conclusions and opinions” (pg. 23).

Do you ever hear yourself say, “If only…?” Yes, I know I have said that at times and I’m sure you have too. When those negative, unrealistic “If only….” thoughts come into your mind and even on your lips, you (and I) need to begin to replace them with reality and God’s Word.

“If only my situation would change…”
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

“If only I hadn’t committed that sin in my past…”
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

“If only my parents had been better examples…”
…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Romans 12:2

Recently I saw the movie, “The Guardians” for the first time.  Although just a whimsical, fictional story (of which I will probably forget most of it in short order), there was one line that popped out at me.  Jack Frost asks, “How can I know who I am, before I know who I was?

Obviously, I am contemplating this question from the perspective of this study as well as God’s Word.  Check out Psalm 139.  Here are just a few verses in response to that question:

O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me…
You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion…Every day of my life was recorded in Your Book…
How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God.

We are His!

In Jeremiah 31:3, God tells us, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love; with unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.”  Because He loves us so, He wants to help us.  Let’s not waste time wishing the past had never happened.  We have today, and we have God’s Word.  Let’s take on the privilege, the responsibility, the hard work, and the joy of rejecting all the unrealistic and false images in our “inner identity albums.”   With God’s help, let’s replace the lies with truth—His Truth.  How freeing and uplifting that will be when we aren’t carrying around the burden of those lies anymore.  Then, too, our negative reactions will be replaced with responses that bless and glorify Him.

I want to encourage you to go back to chapter 5, page 25, and read again the Scripture references and answer the questions in light of God’s love for you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends You,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalms 139:23-24

  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Dear Lord, thank You for this first week of our study. Already, You are revealing to each of us wrong images from our past that still produce negative emotions. We thank You that Your Word is The Truth. As we study together, help us break down the negative past and rebuild our lives based on the truth that is Your Word. ‘I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath’ (Psalms 116:1-2). In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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Glorious Living w/ Coach Megan: Changing Your Heart from Critical to Caring

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Dear Coach Megan,

God has really been working in my heart lately and, whether I like it or not, He has shown me that I have a really critical spirit with the people closest to me. I don’t like it and I want to do my part to change, but I’m not sure where to begin. Can you help?

~ DJ

Dearest DJ…

In my experience, anyone with a critical spirit is an expert at finding fault and focusing on it! Bless you for not only admitting this, but being willing to let God in and work on your precious heart to make an impact {in a good way} on all the lives you touch!  I pray that this blog post will be a blessing to you and your family, and I would love to hear how God fills your heart with His supernatural caring!

A critical spirit does not reflect the heart of the wise, nor does it reflect the heart of God.  Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man  brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him”  {Matthew 12:34-35}.

A critical spirit is an excessively negative attitude with harshness in judging.  A person with a critical spirit gives unfair criticism by fault-finding, nit-picking, carping, quibbling, and complaining.  The Bible is clear about those who are judgmental:

Romans 14:10

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?  Or why do you treat them with contempt?
For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

On the flip side… a caring spirit is a thoughtful, attentive attitude with a heart to help.  One of the most important needs we all have is for someone to care about us; someone to be attentive to our dreams and disappointments, our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our strengths and weaknesses, our vices and virtues.  How blessed we are when we have caring people in our lives!  Those who have a caring spirit reflect the heart of our caring Savior.

Nahum 1:7

 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him

How to change your heart from critical to caring:

Identify your shortcomings {Psalms 139:23-24}

  • Humble your heart to see your own sin, your imperfections, and your immense need for God’s mercy.
  • Help others see their significance in God’s eyes.
  • Pray: “Lord, may I see my sin as You see it…may I hate my sin as You hate it.”

Practice compassion for others {Colossians 3:12}

  • Look closely at the life of Christ to learn His compassionate way of confronting the truth.
  • Pray that you will not be a critical stone thrower, but a compassionate need-meeter.

Draw out the heartfelt needs of others {Proverbs 20:5}

  • Don’t listen to only what people say on the surface. Listen for the needs and feelings beneath the surface… feelings of being unloved or feeling insignificant or insecure.
  • Pray that God will give you a discerning spirit as you seek to draw others out.

Offer acceptance to others {Romans 15:7}

  • Realize that everyone has an innate fear of rejection and a deep yearning for acceptance.
  • Choose to be a channel through which God extends His acceptance to others.

See the God-given worth in others {Luke 12:6-7}

  • Treat every person, especially the one most problematic to you, as someone with God-given worth.  The truth judges our hearts, attitudes, and actions towards others.
  • Pray that the Lord will not allow you to despise anyone whom He created and loves.

Praise the positives in others {Philippians 4:8}

  • Avoid the temptation to try to catch people doing something wrong.  Instead, comment on what they are doing right.
  • Pray that you will see something positive in every person, then faithfully make that your focus.
  • Pray that you would see others as God sees them and value them as He values them.

Refuse to wound others with words {Colossians 3:16}

  • Consider the fallacy of the saying “talk is cheap.” Talk is costly when it tears others down. Prayerfully consider the possibility that what you are criticizing in someone may be something God wants to deal with directly, and that God may want you to pray and remain silent.
  • Before speaking words of criticism, ask a wise friend to evaluate the content and tone of your words.  Realize that after critical words are spoken, you can never take them back.
  • Inspire those who need to change by sharing with them your belief that they can change. Encourage them by saying “Don’t give up. Trust God to guide you in the way you should go. I know you can make the right decisions. I believe you can experience God’s best!”
  • Present your words to God as His instrument for good, and pray that He will put His words into your mouth.

See the unmet needs of others {Philippians 4:19}

  • Instead of judging the inappropriate actions of others, seek to understand the need behind each action.
  • Realize that people who speak forth cutting words reveal that they have unmet inner needs {for love, significance, or security.}
  • Realize that people don’t always mean what they say nor understand their own deepest needs.
  • Pray that your critics will allow the Lord to meet their deepest inner needs.

Rely on God’s Word and God’s Spirit for wisdom

  • Seek God’s wisdom by reading a chapter a day from the Book of Proverbs.
  • Write down every verse from Proverbs that pertains to the tongue.  Check your words against this list and see if you are being wise with what you say.
  • See God at work in every circumstance and trust Him for wisdom to know how to respond {wisdom is the ability to look at life from God’s point of view.}
  • Pray that God’s Spirit will teach you spiritual truths and lead you to speak these truths in love.

1 Corinthians 2:13

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom 
but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

Blessings,

Coach Megan 🙂 

Glorious Living w/ Coach Megan: Releasing Present Anger

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Dear Megan,

I pray you can help me. I have spent a lot of time working through the anger from my past, but I am really struggling releasing anger I am currently feeling in a constructive way. Maybe that means I haven’t truly released myself of the pain of my past anger, I don’t know. I do know that I need help now and I pray God can speak to me through you on this. Thank you for any help you can give!

~C.D.

Dear one, thank you for your question. I think we need to start off by understanding what is at the core of anger. Really, when we feel that our real or perceived rights have been violated, we can easily respond with anger.

This is something very real that many people struggle with…sometimes in certain seasons, situations and circumstances more than others. What is not okay is if we are walking around with the wrong belief that we have the right to be angry about our disappointments and choose to stay angry for as long as we feel like it. It is not okay to walk around with the belief that you have the right to express your anger in whatever way is natural to you. That is why I loved in your question when you said that you are struggling with releasing anger in a constructive way…. this implies that THIS is the type of guidance you are looking for and THAT, I believe, is pleasing to God!

What we want is to believe in our hearts that our Lord is sovereign over us and that we trust Him with our lives. We must yield our rights to Him and, through that, our human disappointments become God’s appointments to increase our faith and develop His character in us! We must choose to NOT be controlled by our anger, but to use our anger to motivate us to do whatever God wants us to do.

1 Peter 1:6-7

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold,

which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I pray that the following steps will help you to handle your present anger constructively and biblically.

1. Acknowledge Your Anger {Proverbs 28:13}

  • Be willing to admit you are angry
  • Be aware of when you feel angry
  • Become aware of suppressing or repressing your anger because of fear
  • Be willing to take responsibility for any inappropriate anger

2. Analyze Your Style { Psalm 139:23-24}

  • How often do you feel angry?
  • How do you know when you’re angry?
  • How do others know when you’re angry?
  • How do you release your anger?

3. Assess the Source {Psalm 51:6}

  • Hurt, injustice, fear, frustration, _________

4. Appraise Your Thinking {Proverbs 21:29}

  • Are you expecting others to meet your standards? “She should take better care of her children.”   “They ought to notice what I do for them.”
  • Are you guilty of distorted thinking? {Exaggerating the situation, assuming the worst, labeling one action based on other actions, generalizing, etc.}

5. Admit Your Needs {Anger is often a tactic used to get inner needs met} {Philippians 4:19}

  • Do you use anger as a manipulative play to demand certain “musts” in an attempt to feel loved?
  • Do you use explosive anger to get your way in an attempt to feel significant?
  • Do you use controlling anger, insisting on certain conditions in order to feel secure?
  • DO you know that only Christ can ultimately meet all your needs?
6. Abandon Your Demands {Learn to look to the Lord to meet your needs instead of demanding that from others}  {Jeremiah 31:3} {Jeremiah 29:11} {Psalm 118:6} {2 Peter 1:3}
  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more love from others, I know that You love me unconditionally.”
  • “Lord, though I would like to feel more significant to those around me, I know that I am significant in Your eyes.”
  • “Lord, though I wish I felt more secure in my relationships, I know I am secure in my relationship with You.”
  • “Lord, though I wish others would be more responsive to my needs, I know that You have promised to meet all my needs.”

7. Change Your Attitudes {Take these steps outlined in Philippians 2:2-8}

  • Have the goal to be like-minded with Christ
  • Do not think of yourself first
  • Give the other person preferential treatment
  • Consider the other person’s interests
  • Have the attitude of Jesus
  • Do not emphasize your position or rights
  • Look for ways to demonstrate a servant’s heart
  • Speak and act with a humble spirit
  • Be willing to die to your own desires

8. Address Your Anger {Galatians 2:20}

  • Determine whether your anger is really justified
  • Decide on the appropriate response {How important is the issue? Would a good purpose be served if it is mentioned? Should I acknowledge my anger only to the Lord?}
  • Depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance
  • Have constructive dialog when you confess
  • Don’t speak from a heart of unforgiveness {think before you speak}
  • Use personal statements such as “I feel…” instead of “How could you…” or “Why can’t you…”
  • Stay focused on present issue {don’t bring up past grievances}
  • Don’t assume the other person is wrong… actively listen for their point of view
  • Don’t expect instant understanding. Be patient and always respond with gentleness
  • Show the love of God by saying the following to yourself: I placed my anger on the cross with Christ. I am no longer controlled by anger. I am alive with Christ living inside me. I will let Christ forgive through me. I will let Christ love through me. I will let Christ reveal truth through me.

****Please, please journal out your thoughts, prayers and fears as you begin this journey to constructively release your present anger. I am praying God will move in your life in a mighty way through this and may He get all the glory!

Are YOU struggling with anger? How might you benefit by using this exercise along with our dear C.D?
Blessings,
Coach Megan 🙂