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Advice on Advice

6 Dec

ListenToGodlyAdvice“When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it is a mere formality,” said humorist Erma Bombeck. “It doesn’t’ matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.”

I’ve had a lot of people say they wanted to give me a piece of their mind, but at the moment, they didn’t seem to have much to spare!

Most of us are better at dishing out advice than receiving it. As a young woman, I actually got pretty good at listening to my mom’s advice, and then doing exactly what I wanted to do (sometimes the opposite of what she’d advised).

The problem wasn’t that her advice was all that bad. Sometimes it was excellent. The problem was, I didn’t have an open, teachable spirit. I was stubborn. (OK, I’ll say it. I was too proud to listen.)

Dr. Gail Bones, in her book Living CrossWise, gives advice on advice. “The Bible is clear,” Gail wrote. “We need to be willing to ask for—and heed—advice.”

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (NIV).

I need to learn how to listen to counsel—with my heart, not just my ears—and then compare it with scriptural truth.

Good counsel might come from an wise counselor (Proverbs 11:14) or from a faithful friend (Proverbs 27:9). Godly counsel can unlock many problems!

“We are equally responsible to be available to share our wisdom by offering godly counsel to those who are coming up behind us,” Gail wrote.

Yes, I also need to learn how to give advice that is wise and biblicalsometimes comforting, sometimes challenging. God counsels us in our struggles so we will know how to counsel others! (See 2 Corinthians 1:4). Counseling comes easier for me than “listening,” but I must be sure what I share comes from the Lord’s wisdom (Isaiah 50:4; 2 Timothy 3:16).

Proverbs 10:11 explains the blessing and encouragement of godly words: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (ESV). There is great power in our tongue (Proverbs 18:21; James 3:1-12).

The Bible’s wise advice on advice is simple: (1) Listen to godly counsel; and (2) Learn to give godly counsel in a godly way.

Can you think of some particularly wise counsel you received that changed your life or helped you become more like Jesus? How can you learn to be a wise adviser?

– Dawn

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tempted? Here Are 15 ‘Inoculations’

2 May

I am a courageous woman … except when it’s time to get a shot at my doctor’s office. I’m like a little kid!

So, as I read about some of the things people do to help make “getting shots” less scary for children, I wondered if these ideas might work for me!Inoculations_HelpfulChoices

  • Practice giving shots to a doll.
  • Ask the doctor to use a numbing cream on the injection site first.
  • Distract! Take a sweet treat to focus on while getting your shot, or put a song on your iPod, or play “I Spy” during the process. Anything to keep from looking at the shot!
  • Remember “owies” survived in the past.
  • Ask for a kid-friendly nurse.
  • Help your child feel more in control. Put her in charge of something (like what Band-aid to apply).

Hmmm…. I could practice jabbing my hubby, take a sedative before going to the doctor … and a cookie … and some music. I could remember past visits, and how I survived the high blood pressure episodes before the shots. I could look for a really smiley nurse. And I could even bring my own Superwoman Band-aid, right? LOL!

I’m basically a needle wimp. Before I married my husband, I went to his aunt’s office for my blood test. When she approached me  with the needle for the test, I passed out! “Oh, she’s a real winner,” his auntie said.

I’m not the only one in the family with “shot jitters.” I took my dog to the vet in April for his annual inoculations. Roscoe has a love-hate relationship with his vet. He loves Moses, our friendly vet; he hates the nasty needles. Poor dear … he just about “trembled himself” off the examination table! I comforted him with hugs and a bit of bacon when we got home. (Hmmm… bacon … I could take that with me to the doctor’s office too!)

Now, I know inoculations—for people as well as animals—are necessary to produce immunity against diseases. They are good for us. Helpful.

So I was thinking today …

I wish I had a one-time inoculation against temptation. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Temptations are so daily. Yes, I have been freed from the penalty of sin, and someday I’ll enjoy freedom from the presence of sin. But in the meantime, during the sanctification process, I have to deal with the temptation to sin. But I do believe there are some proactive, intentional things I can do to reject sin and become more like Christ.

Might we consider them something like “INOCULATIONS” to help in the daily battle against temptation?

So here are my 15 inoculation suggestions:

1. Recognize Your Tendency to SinJames 1:14 explains how we are led astray by our natural desires. So don’t be surprised. Instead, get prepared!

2. Identify the Roots – We spend lots of time examining the “shoots” of sin, but seldom the “roots.” The enemy delights in using the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life  (1 John 2:15-16) to entice us to sin daily. These are the basic roots of all sins. So, what temptation do you really need to resist? Get to the core cause.

3. Figure out the Triggers – A trigger on a gun enables its firing. The power behind a trigger is the thoughts and emotions that arise—usually from a past experience. Triggers that pull us toward a sinful response can be almost anything:  fatigue, an intense desire, something visual that draws us, a sound or smell … almost anything! Because we are made in God’s image, we can respond to triggers in godly ways; but knowing our triggers can help us prepare to deal with them. Don’t try to figure them out alone; listen for God’s voice (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5).

4. Expose any Lies You Believe – Many, if not all “triggers” have a false belief connected to them. For example, if you were once betrayed by a friend, Satan—the Father of Lies who desires to devour you (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8)—would like you to believe you will always be betrayed by friends, and you might react in sinful ways to perfectly normal statements or circumstances. We give “power” to the trigger through the lies we believe.

5. Embrace the Truth from God’s Word – Attack the lies by bringing the light of God’s truth into your situation (Psalm 119:130; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Counsel your heart according to His Word. Discover the commands, values, morals and ethics in God’s Word, and determine to live according to His truth. The Word and Spirit can help us discern lies in our hearts and then “take captive” every thought to make it obedient to Christ (Hebrews 4:12-13; John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

6. Think through the Consequences – “Sin” has wages that are deadly (Romans 6:23). “Sowing to the flesh” reaps “corruption”—a crop of worthless weeds (Galatians 6:7-8), and sin separates us from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2), because He cannot tolerate our sin (Habakkuk 1:13a). Our sin will eventually be exposed (Hebrews 4:13). Sadly, when we tolerate sin, we can become blind to spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14) and develop an insatiable desire (lust) for more sin! (Ephesians 4:18-19).

7. Ask God for Help – Don’t think you can stand against temptation by yourself. Eventually, if not right away, it will catch up with you. Pray for discernment, strength, courage, etc., and especially, sanctification (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; Luke 22:40). Learn to depend on God in prayer.

8. Resist Temptation* with Scripture – Don’t just know the truth that counters lies; use the Word of God to help you choose a new response to your triggers. You can even conquer hurtful memories from the past that entice you toward sinful responses as you renew your mind with scripture (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus used the scriptures skillfully as He battled temptation, and so can you (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12, 2 Cor. 10:4-5).

9. Check Your Armor – Study the parts of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, and learn how to use it. Put on each piece—the offensive and defensive weapons! Why? “That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). There are spiritual forces of evil that are determined to bring you down. You need the armor so you can “stand firm” (v. 13). It’s always too soon to stop fighting the battle.

10. Plan for Victories, Not Defeats –  “Make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). In other words, don’t enable temptation. Don’t plan for defeat. Get rid of those things that lead you into sin, or put safeguards in place to help you conquer in holiness. How? The first part of Romans 13:14 says, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Freedom and victory are entirely possible in Christ (Galatians 5:1; Romans 6:4; 8:31, 37; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 2:10).

11. Look for the Way Out – We’re told to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but sometimes we’re thrown into situations that tempt us to compromise our purity. God’s advice then is to look for a “way of escape”—perhaps by running away, changing the conversation or using truth to diffuse lies (I Corinthians 6:1810:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

12. Replace “Sin Opportunities” – David was tempted to sin (and he fell) with Bathsheba when he stopped ruling in righteousness and allowed himself to be give in to the opportunity for lustful sin (2 Samuel 11:1-4). We fight against temptation by replacing “sinful opportunities” with more worthy distractions or pursuits. Consider some positive activities. Have ready some “quick distractions” (scripture memory cards, a photo of your spouse, a hymn book, etc.) that would help “counter” your triggers. Note: you may need to embrace change in your current surroundings.

13. Seek Help to Win – Remembering we will all give account to God (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13), an “accountability partner” can help us stay on track and encourage us to do right when we are tempted (Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 27:17). Seek the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit—He guides, counsels and helps us in our weakness (1 Corinthians 2:13; John 14:26; 16:13; Romans 8:26); but  when patterns of addiction are present, a godly, biblical counselor can also help.

14. Repent When You Fail – It’s not a matter of “forgiving yourself” for failings; it’s a matter of repenting of sin and receiving the forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:14). Any shame you feel is not from Him—it’s a lie from Satan. The biblical pattern is: recognize, repent, receive (forgiveness) and then recommit to walk in obedience to the Word of God.

15. Thank God for Every Victory – Our ultimate victory is bound up in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14), and our daily victories are possible in Him (Philippians 4:13; Romans 6:14; 8:37).

Did you notice that all of these “inoculations” are a CHOICE?

See all those action words? You do not have to be a victim. You can choose, in every situation, a powerful way to deal with temptations as they come.

Are any of these “inoculations” missing in your life? What can you do to better prepare for your times of temptation?

– Dawn

* NOTE: In some circumstances, we are not dealing with a temptation. God does not lead us into temptation (James 1:13), but He may be testing us to refine us (Psalm 26:2; Job 23:10; Jeremiah 9:7a). John Piper offered a short post on the difference between temptation and testing. Regardless of whether we’re facing a temptation or test, these “inoculations” are useful in helping us make choices between obedience and disobedience.

 

Two Kinds of Wisdom

25 Apr

It’s said, “Wisdom comes with experience.” Could be true …

Dwayne is a strong young man at the construction site and he was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He WheelbarrowMan_Croppedmade a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen, George. After several minutes, George had had as much as he was willing to take.

“OK, Dwayne, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?’ he stated thoughtfully. ‘I will bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won’t be able to wheel back.”

“You’re on, old man,” Dwayne, the braggart replied, smirking. “Let’s see what you got.”

George, the old fellow, reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to Dwayne, he said, “All right. Get in.”

One of the things I’ve learned from experience is that I am not always wise. I want to be, but I’m not. And when I’m not, there’s a good reason for it. Usually, it’s because I drank from a fool’s well, not the waters of wisdom found in the Word.

Whenever I ask women to quote Proverbs 3:5-6 with me, it’s a resounding chorus. We’ve memorized that scripture and love it:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (NKJV)

Analyzing that passage, we see a directive … a warning … another directive that further explains the first one, I think … and a promise. I have counseled my heart with that scripture in many circumstances. Haven’t you?

But when I ask women to quote verse seven, I get blank stares. It says,

Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.

This verse sounds more confrontational … a warning that somehow makes us uncomfortable. After all, how do we know whether we are being wise in our own eyes? And how does that kind of wisdom affect the warning in verse five? If we are wise in our own eyes, are we leaning on our own understanding?

Kathi Macias shed some light on the wrong kind of wisdom. In her March 20 devotional she quoted Judges 21:25 – “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” – and then Kathi reminded readers, “God is the only Author of true morality, the One who declares right from wrong, and He sets a absolute standard to which we must adhere.”

Wisdom for living, then, is seeing life from God’s perspective, including His moral standard. We must not be “wise” in our own eyes. We must fear (reverence, honor and trust) God and then – as biblical wisdom dictates, “depart from evil.” Wisdom that hears God’s truth and then refuses to obey is the “you’re only fooling yourself” sort of wisdom.

FearOfTheLord_WisdomProverbs 9:10 echoes this thought. Authors, speakers and the media spout words of “wisdom,” but we must beware of their words, because true wisdom begins with “the fear of the LORD. And without knowledge of “the Holy One,” there is no understanding. Again, the scriptures say, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Fools despise and will not heed the wisdom of God; they prefer the wisdom of the world that caters to their appetites and preferences – their own ways rather than God’s ways. The prophet Hosea warned God’s people not to trust in their own way – their own plans and strength (Hosea 10:13).

We must be careful – discerning – filtering the world’s wisdom through the Word of God. If it doesn’t align, we must reject “wisdom,” no matter how “intelligent” or “popular” the source. We must always reject ungodly counsel.

As I studied Proverbs 3:7, I asked myself, “What does being wise in my own eyes look like?”

I think we are wise in our own eyes:

  • When we rush ahead and don’t pause to pray for God’s help before we make a decision
  • When we don’t flee temptations because we think, “I can handle this.”
  • When we fail to recognize that God’s grace, not our own strength, is our enabling for victory
  • When we aren’t teachable
  • When we assume our Pastor’s message must be for “someone else.”
  • When we don’t ask trusted, wise Christian friends for advice or counsel.
  • When we care more about how people perceive us than obedience to God’s Word
  • When we’re more self-confident than God-confident

Being wise in our own eyes sounds a lot like self-sufficiency and pride, doesn’t it? We are wise in our own eyes whenever our actions (if not our words) say, “I’ve got this one, Jesus … I don’t need your help right now.” God hates such pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13). Wisdom comes from humility and those who are willing to take biblical advice (Proverbs 11:2; 13:10).

Wisdom is related to our worldview. Either we have a Bible-grounded, Bible-relevant worldview or we don’t.

So, where do you find your wisdom – and how does your source of wisdom affect your attitudes and behaviors?

– Dawn

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