Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ways to Defeat Temptation and Why Does It Take So Long?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 27 & Day 28 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Defeating temptation is probably one of the most difficult things for us to do in our Christian walk. As we learned in last week's post, we are all tempted. So how can we defeat temptation in a way that we continue to grow as Christians? We've learned that God will never leave us, he'll never give us too much that we can't handle and that he knows we can overcome these temptations. On Day 27, Rick Warren gives us four "biblical keys" to defeating temptation. They are as follows:

1. Refocus your attention on something else. As a parent with a child with autism, I face temptation every day. My temptation is to think negatively about where my son is. With this "key", I'm reminded to not focus on the negative things that he's doing and instead focus on all of the positives he's doing. In other words, I'm going to remember how well he did yesterday at his new social skills group instead of the fact that he's not playing with the neighborhood kids. Don't be tempted into thinking about how far they have to go, instead remember how far they've come in such a little time.

2. Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. This is really important. I think it's wonderful to have friends who can pray with you, over you and that you can pray for as well. Especially autism moms who are also believers.

3. Resist the Devil. That tricky Devil is very clever. It's amazing how quickly he can get control of our mind. Rick Warren reminds us that we need to take two very important steps to resist the Devil. They are to accept God's salvation and to use the Word of God. Rick reminds us on page 214 "Jesus modeled this when he was tempted in the wilderness. Every time Satan suggested a temptation, Jesus countered by quoting Scripture. He didn't argue with Satan." We can do this too. We just need to invest the time in knowing Scripture. God's Word will help us when we too are tempted. So when the thoughts of my son never being healed from autism crosses my mind I will remember Matthew 15:30 A vast crowd brought him the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others, and they laid them before Jesus. And he healed them all. (New Living Translation)

4. Realize your vulnerability. Too often, we don't recognize how vulnerable we are to temptation. This is when we get tempted by the same thing over and over again. If you know that when you get together with the other families in your neighborhood it always gets too overwhelming for you, then prepare yourself. Read your bible. Remember all of the good things your child is doing. Be prepared to go into battle with Satan so that he will not reign negativity over your thoughts.

I know for me, temptation is very real. Especially in dealing with autism. It always seems that when my son takes a humongous step forward, something happens to steal his thunder. Autism shows up and shows it's face tempting me to give up.

The one thing that is essential for us to remember is that it takes time for us to grow into the Christians that God needs us to be. Day 28 reminds us of this. On page 218, Rick tells us "While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow. God views our lives from and for eternity, so he is never in a hurry." We are also reminded how our generation especially is the "I want it right now" generation. We are spoiled with Internet, email, debit cards, credit cards, cell phones, etc. Why wouldn't we expect a miracle to happen right away? Day 28 reminds us that God is taking his time with us. We have to remember that we will experience struggles, problems, worry and doubt. However, it takes time to grow spiritually. You can't rush it. But, why? Why does it take so long? Day 28 gives us the five reasons. They are:

1. We are slow learners.

2. We have a lot to learn.

3. We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves.

4. Growth is often painful and scary.

5. Habits take time to develop.

We have a lot to learn during our time here on earth. God knows what struggles we are going to have to face in order to prepare us for eternity. Rick Warren says on page 222..."The Bible is filled with examples of how God uses a long process to develop character, especially in leaders. He took eighty years to prepare Moses, including forty in the wilderness. For 14,600 days Moses kept waiting and wondering, "Is it time yet?" But God kept saying, "Not yet." I find myself asking God the same thing. Is it time for my son to be healed from autism. He replies the same...not yet. I know that during this storm of autism God is developing my character. I also know that Satan is throwing temptation my way. I'm going to take these principles that Rick Warren gave us on Day 27 and Day 28 and apply them to my temptations in autism and other areas of my life. As a badly as I want to take that shortcut in getting to where God needs for me to be, I want it done right so that I'm the person that God needs for me to be.

Bible Verses from Day 27 & 28

Run from anything that gives you evil thoughts...but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. 2 Timothy 2:22 (LB)

Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different form what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

Everything here on earth has it's own time and its own season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV)

I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Philippians 1:6 (LB)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When times are tempting...

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 26 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I am often tempted in different ways in my life as a mother of an autistic child. Sometimes I am tempted to give up and sometimes I am tempted to give in. When I am enduring a particularly long and painful season, and there seems to be no reward in sight I feel tempted to take an easier route. I am tempted to stop trying the things I have worked so hard at, fearing that it will not pay off in the long run. At times I feel tempted to give in to feelings of inadequacy, sadness, frustration and even envy. The word temptation has always had such a negative connotation to me. This chapter helped to free me from that misconception and see every temptation as a chance to grow and live with more victory.

To take this further, here are some points about temptation from this chapter that jumped out at me:

Temptation is just as much an occasion to do the right thing as it is to do the wrong thing.
(p. 201)

Every time you choose to do good instead of sin, you are growing in the character of Christ.

(p. 201)

Temptations keep us dependent on God. (p. 208)

Temptations help us to develop the character of Christ, or the fruits of the spirit. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (p. 202) We need all of these in abundance every day. I really thought I knew what patience was, and felt I was a pretty patient person before I had children. Living with the seemingly neverending demands on my patience that autism places taught me differently. Having an attitude of patience when life is easy is not true patience. Choosing to respond patiently when you are being pulled in different directions and are exhausted is. This doesn't just apply to our children, we all have our moments where we just need to cry out to God and reach out to others to help us carry our load. I want to make sure that I stress that asking for help when needed is a sign of strength, not weakness. Often my patience is most tried when dealing with adults in the community. When I am already tired and frustrated, the last thing I want to do sometimes is respond in a kind and respectful manner to kindly enlighten someone who doesn't "get" autism. Often, the power of our example as we help our children to function in the world speaks volumes. Just not letting someone's stares not get to you or steal your peace as you stay immersed in what you are doing speaks volumes. God's grace and character traits can turn a bad situation into a shining moment, depending on how you look at it. In these instances, this perspective allows me to see these as opportunities and not setbacks.

Since temptation is a tool that our enemy likes to use to keep us from growing, there are also some key facts about how temptation can be used against us. All temptation can be traced to a desire within. It was eye-opening for me to realize that even good desires can fall prey to temptation. I have a desire my son to be healed and set free from autism and the numerous health impairments he faces. This, to me is a very good thing to want. The difficult part is doing things God's way, not trying to take shortcuts or act impulsively outside of His will. I can easily see how the devil can use half-truths and weak moments to try and get me to try and fulfill this desire in a wrong way. We all have our blind spots and need the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit to see them and not fall into these traps.

I liked how Rick Warren made a point to state that being tempted can be viewed as a compliment. As we grow closer to God and become more of a threat to our enemy, he strikes at us and attempts to throw us off course. Temptation is something we will always face. Triumphing and growing through our response to it makes it easier to choose God's way. Even Jesus was tempted, but unlike us he didn't sin. We have a God who knows what it feels like because he chose to experience it firsthand. I'd like to get back to the point that temptation makes us more dependent on God. It is a great comfort to me to know that God isn't tired of hearing my prayers for help in these situations and is always eager to help me. And when we do fall down, He is there to forgive us and help us get up and begin again, one step closer to being more like His son Jesus.

Bible Verses from Day 26:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
-James 1: 2-4

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
-James 1:12

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
-Hebrews 4:15-16

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'll take the hammer please

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 25 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I'm going to do something a little different today. I'm going to start my post out with points that Rick Warren made throughout Day 25 that impacted me the most.

God has a purpose behind every problem.
He uses circumstances to develop our character.
Jesus warned us that we would have problems in the world.
Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take it's place.
God uses problems to draw you closer to him.
Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will most likely be your darkest days.
Problems force us to look to God and depend on him instead of ourselves.
Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance.
Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever.
It is vital that you focus on God's plan, not your pain or problem.
God wants you to thank him that he will use your problems to fulfill his purpose.
Character building is a slow process. Whenever we try to avoid or escape difficulties in life, we short-circuit the process, delay our growth, and actually end up with a worse kind of pain.
If you are facing a problem right now, don't ask; "why me?" Instead ask, "What do you want me to learn?"
What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?

It is way too easy for us to become wrapped up in our problems. Everyone in life has problems. Some may seem a lot more easier that others. However, we all have them. We have to remember that God does use these problems to shape us into who he needs us to be. Since we're all different, the way God uses these problems on each of us will be different as well. God will use these difficulties in life to help us grow into who he needs us to be.

When, I look at the last question listed above....What problem in my life has caused the greatest growth in me?'s easy for me, as I'm sure it is for you as well, to answer. Autism. Looking back at how I was almost five years ago when my son was diagnosed, I hardly recognize myself. It's not the way I looked. It's not the way I treated others. It's how I perceived a problem back then compared to how I see it now. You see, back then my relationship with God was no where near as deep as it is now. I was angry. I couldn't look at any of the positives coming out of this. All I could see was a major problem with no answers. Five years later, not only do I see tremendous growth in my son, I see some amazing growth in me as well. I can actually look at how God is using a difficult situations around me to change me. Or as Rick Warren said on page 196...."We are like jewels, shaped with the hammer and the chisel of adversity. If a jeweler's hammer isn't strong enough to chip off our rough edges, God will us a sledgehammer. If we're really stubborn, he uses a jackhammer." God knows everything. He knows what we need in this life to shape us into what we will become for eternity.
It's going to take a lot of trust though. Especially on those really tough, what I like to call "Autism days." As humans, it's hard for us to wrap our head around the word eternity and why we have to go through everything in this life. We want answers now. Why do our children have autism? What can we do to help them? What will their lives be like ten years from now? However, God knows that if we had the answers, we wouldn't grow like we need to grow. Our faith in God makes us stronger. It helps shape our character into what God designed many years ago. Sometimes, it's difficult to get our eyes off our own problems. We're so focused on what's going on now that we can't see how what we're going through now is actually the best thing that could happen to us for eternity. Difficult pill to swallow when I say autism is the best thing to happen to us, huh? We can't see it now. One day, when we're all in Heaven drinking our coffee, singing our praises to God and watching our children play, talk, eat, run, socialize like all of the others we'll look at each other and say "Now I see." I know that if you're like me, you want it now. Why do we have to wait until eternity to see this? Why can't our children be completely healed now? Some our children will be. It all depends on God's greater plan. That's what we have to remember is the most important thing. God's Will. I believe that Rick Warren was right when he talked about problems on page 193 "Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take it's place." Think of all of the people in the Bible who experienced problems and how God used their problems to help them become who they were. Rick Warren reminds us of these on page 194 "God could have kept Joseph out of jail, kept Daniel out of the lion's den, kept Jeremiah from being tossed into a slimy pit, kept Paul from being shipwrecked three times and kept the three Hebrew young men from being thrown into the furnace-but he didn't. He let those problems happen, and every one of those persons was drawn closer to God as a result."
Let God do his work in you. Draw closer to God so that he only needs use a hammer in your life, not a jackhammer. Let him shape you into the person you were designed to be.

Bible Verses from Day 25
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. - 2 Corinthians 4:17

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knowing God's Word

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 24 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

A good book is hard to put down. There are some books that captivate me from the beginning to the end so much that I can finish it in a day. There's just something about a really good book that makes you want to pick it up again and again. You never forget it's there, on your table, next to your bed. You always know where it is so that if you get a free moment you'll pick it up to read a few pages. Let me ask you this. Do you feel the same way about your Bible? The Bible is God's Word. It is the best story ever told and what makes it even more fascinating to read is that it's all true.

I'll be honest with you, I have not read the entire Bible. I want to read the entire Bible but I want to truly understand it as well. I also want to dedicate more time to reading the Bible.

That's why I loved Day 24, Transformed by the Truth. On this day, we are shown how important it is for us to spend time reading the Bible. I love how the author encourages us to make time to read our Bibles. Take out a thirty minute tv show and read instead. This spoke volumes to me. At the end of my day, I can't wait to put my children to bed and veg out in front of the television to my favorite shows. After reading this, I'm really going to try my hardest to read my Bible first. I really do believe that we will get so much more out of reading God's word than watching America's Got Talent. Although I do love that show! We also learn that there is so much more to just reading the Bible. We have to accept its authority, assimilate its truth and apply its principles. I believe that applying its principles is the one area that most people miss out on. It's so easy for us to read the book of Luke, know it's true and really understand it's power. But to take what we've learned and apply to our own lives and circumstances, we often forget to do. The same is true with dedicating ourselves to reading our Bibles. Do you ever find yourself reading the same verse over and over again because it's just not sinking in? I struggle with this a lot. Several years ago, I joined a women's bible study that taught me how to really spend time in God's word, study it and put it into my own life. I want to take some time to share this with you today. I find that when I spend time reading God's word in this fashion, it impacts my life on a deeper level.

Here's what you do....pick a book of the Bible. Any book. I, personally, loved starting out with the book of Luke. You're also going to need some sort of journal. It can be as simple as a single subject notebook. Then, you choose a handful of verses that you want to read. Enough to give you something to really think about but not too much to overwhelm you. Then, at the top of your notebook, divide it into four columns. The first column you can title "Verses." The second column you can title it "What it's saying". The third column you can title it "What it means to me." The last column you can title "Prayer." So, let's just say that you were to read Luke 1:38. Under your "Verses" column you would write: Luke 1:38 Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left. (Sometimes, if you are clumping together a lot of verses, you can just write Luke 1:38 or whatever your verses are.) Then, under your second column you would give a quick summary of what you read. So you could write something like "this is when Mary willingly obeyed God not knowing what was in store for her life. She accepted it because she knew it was in God's will." Next, move on to the third column "What it means to me." Here you share your feelings on your own life. For me personally, I would write "if Mary, an unwed mother who is now going to share with the world that she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, wanted to obey God especially not knowing what would her life would be like, then so can I. I should embrace the path that God has placed in front of me and do as He wants me to knowing that He is with me every step of the way and will lead me in the right direction." Under your last column is your "Prayer." With this particular verse, I would write down the following prayer...."Dear Lord, help me willingly accept everything you lay in front of me, even autism." A lot of verses, you can clump together. I just happened to chose a verse that would go well on it's own. Only you will know how much to do. Just start reading and as you read if you feel yourself drifting off and not really paying much attention, then stop and shorten the verses you're reading. If while reading you really start to see how this ties into your life, stop and write it down. The key is, there's no hurry to reading the Bible. To me, it's more important that we truly feel what we are reading instead of rushing through it.
Now, this may not be an ideal way for you to read and study the Bible. This way is not for everyone. It just made such a huge impact on me and how I learn from God's word that I had to share it with you today. If you have a suggestion for others on how to stay dedicated in reading His word and how to learn from the greatest book ever, I encourage you to share it with us!
I absolutely love how on page 188, Rick Warren writes "Daily Bible reading will keep you in range of God's voice." In other words, if you are waiting to hear from God and you don't understand why He's not answering you, it's probably because you're not recognizing his voice. I've been there and at times I still go there. It's very easy for us to become distracting and to stray away from reading God's word. We have so much going on in our lives especially with having special needs children. However, what we need to remember is how much reading the Bible can and will help us during these times. God's word will renew us and make us that much stronger.

My favorite Bible verses from Day 24

"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

"But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law-the law that sets you free-and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it." James 1:25

"But Jesus told him, "No! The Scriptures say, 'People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God." Matthew 4:4

"And now I will entrust in you to God and the word of his grace-his message that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself." Acts 20:32