A Moment of Peace in an Unexpected Place

By Jess Griggs

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16:11

I have been running on empty these last few weeks. Ok, months. Let’s just say it hasn’t been a good year. The pattern was the same - I woke up every morning somehow more tired than when I went to bed, and proceeded to stumble through my day, barely keeping my head above water. Every little thing stressed me out. I found myself unable to handle small changes, viewing them as an attack on my personal time. Some nights I walked in the door, put on sweatpants, shut off my phone and parked it in front of the TV until bedtime. I literally could not handle any more human interaction.

And then I felt guilty for feeling so stressed. I don’t even have kids, how can I possibly complain about a busy schedule? But I couldn’t shake the feeling of drowning, and now I had the added burden of shame, tied like a cement block around my neck.

Nothing Seemed To Work
I cried out to God for rest and peace. I prayed for a spiritual Sabbath, for a breakthrough of some kind. I listened to sermons online about finding rest, I forced myself to meet with friends and tried to explain the slump I was in. My words didn’t seem to suffice, and neither did their wisdom. I went to church with an open heart, wanting, hoping, praying to find just a glimpse of God there. Instead, I ran into people who demanded more, more, more. They wanted my money and my time and my energy. One Sunday, I was having a conversation with a lady after the service, and some switch just flipped. I had hit my emotional capacity for the day, and raced out of the door before anyone could see me burst into tears. (If you’re reading this, my sincere apologies for being so rude.)

Unexpected Peace
And then I found a moment of peace, in the most unexpected place: On a crowded King County metro bus, at 7:15 am, barreling down I-5 on my way to work one morning last week. I was listening to a Josh Garrels song, "Farther Along," and reading Psalm 16. 

"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices. My flesh also dwells secure... You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy." Those words echoed within me, and for the first time in months I felt like I could breathe again. 

It dawned on me that I had been "doing" all of the right things, but I lost sight of the one who provides the strength to get it all done. I had been operating out of my finite and limited ability, and yet kept piling more and more on. My reaction was sinful as well. Instead of asking God for more of himself, or for a clearer focus on the ultimate goal of it all, I asked for rest. I needed a break. I needed some peace and quiet. I need... I need...

He Came To Give Life
God does not promise an easy life. In fact, he guarantees hardship for his followers (2 Timothy 3:12). But he does promise rest for those who would come to him first (Matthew 11:28). There is no rest guaranteed for those who watch TV all day, or read more books, or listen to more sermons. Distraction does not equal rest. Nor is there rest for those who think they can just plow through, and tough it out. Jesus came to free us (Galatians 5:1). He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10), not to shackle and burden us with shame. He promises life, and gives us the tools to grasp this concept; we need only to get up and do it.

So it is not enough for us to "want" to "feel" better. We must take action by digging into God’s word, pouring out our hearts to him in prayer, and by cultivating and putting the fruits of the spirit into practice (Galatians 5:22-23). Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we don’t know how we’re going to make it through the day. I suppose that is why we are called to walk by faith, and not by sight.

Posted on May 3, 2016 .

How To Worship In the Dark

by Jess Griggs

O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. - Psalm 88:1-3

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms, "The Prayer Book of the Bible." He said their purpose is to guide the church in worship, as well as instruct the individual Christian in prayer and meditation. With that in mind, when we come across a psalm like Psalm 88, we ask ourselves, how did this one get included in the Bible? Why is it even in here? Darkness and despair are not scarce topics in the Psalms, or even in the Bible as whole. However, most of the other psalms end in a hopeful note, or at least note of surrender or self realization. Psalm 88 ends with the ominous line, "My companions have become darkness."

How can we learn and view this as worship? How can we worship in the dark?

Leading by Example

Just as Nehemiah "sat down and wept and mourned for days (Nehemiah 1:4)," the Psalmist here is lamenting his woes. He cannot bring himself to look up and see the light at the end of the tunnel, for his anguish is too heavy a burden to comprehend. The words of this psalm are a brave and bold battle cry. "Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves (vs. 7)," "I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow (vs. 9)," "Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (vs. 12)." This is a man in pain. More importantly, this is a man talking to God in and through his pain.

I think too often we are afraid of what God thinks of us. We fool ourselves into thinking he doesn't already know the thoughts and feelings we experience, and so we put on a mask. We are afraid that maybe if God sees the "real" us, he'll recoil, and take back his grace. Or maybe we are not ready to face the darkness in our own hearts, so we turn on the TV, buy another car, join another cause, anything to distract us from the reality of our own situation. The first step is to acknowledge, "This is where I'm at. This is how dark it feels." And God knows. And he loves you for it.

The Truth

The truth I so desperately want to communicate to you today, dear Christian, is that God is not afraid of the dark. Jesus spent time in the darkest place of all after dying the cruelest death and having the stone rolled over his tomb. He endured this darkness so that even when we feel abandoned and overwhelmed, spending every last ounce of strength just to keep our heads above water - we are never alone. He is there with us. Psalm 139 tells us that God "hems" us in, going before and behind us, and that such knowledge is too wonderful for us. We are surrounded, even in the darkness, by the only one who has overcome the grave. Let him lead you to worship.

Posted on April 12, 2016 .

Mission Failure: It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Worship

When trying to motivate other people, (or even ourselves) into a living a more purposeful, missional life, we often fall into the trap of, "If they only knew how many kids are starving in India, or memorized all the verses commanding us to care for the less fortunate, or [fill in the blank], surely they would jump to action!" We mistakenly link "engagement" with "knowledge," and are frustrated when we come up empty handed.

 

Not the root issue

Just as sinful behavior is the outward symptom of the deeper need for Christ, so apathy is the outward symptom of the deeper need to glorify Christ above all else. When we simply tell a non-believer to stop sleeping around, or stop getting drunk, or stop cheating on their spouse, we are ignoring the larger issue. Yes, those behaviors need to change, but the only true change can come from confessing their need for a savior, and accepting the payment made for their sins by Jesus Christ on the cross. Anything less is simply putting a Band Aid over a mortal wound.

 

So What Is The Issue?

If we only supply the knowledge and opportunity without first seeking to change the heart and attitude, any changes will not last. As with most every pitfall in this Christian life, we run into trouble when we take our eyes off the prize; that is, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). The issue here is worship, not knowledge. We know there is a need out there, and we may even know what we need to do, but without the desire to actually do anything, we never succeed in starting the mission in the first place! We talk about the things we love. We are willing to invest and sacrifice for the things we deem worthy - marriage, kids, watching every Seahawks game from start to finish, regardless of how many other plans we have to cancel, etc. So how can we transfer this love and sacrifice back to the only One who is worthy of it?

The Weight of Worship

The majority of people who lose sight of their mission (myself included) also tend to downplay the reality of hell. "When we minimize the severity of God’s judgment for sin, we are less inclined to stand in awe of the marvelous salvation Christ as provided for us," (Trevin Wax). This truth is what drives our worship! Only when we are able to see the depths of our inability and brokenness, can we truly begin to understand the reality of grace. Not only did God make a way for us to simply not burn in hell for our sins, but he has prepared a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3). Take some time to meditate on these truths today, to acknowledge the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23), and the reality of hell (Revelation 21:8), and to praise the One who saved you (John 3:16), who loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and who is completing a good work in you (Philippinas 1:6).

Posted on March 28, 2016 .

Mission Failure: It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Worship

When trying to motivate other people, (or even ourselves) into a living a more purposeful, missional life, we often fall into the trap of, "If they only knew how many kids are starving in India, or memorized all the verses commanding us to care for the less fortunate, or [fill in the blank], surely they would jump to action!" We mistakenly link "engagement" with "knowledge," and are frustrated when we come up empty handed.

 

Not the root issue

Just as sinful behavior is the outward symptom of the deeper need for Christ, so apathy is the outward symptom of the deeper need to glorify Christ above all else. When we simply tell a non-believer to stop sleeping around, or stop getting drunk, or stop cheating on their spouse, we are ignoring the larger issue. Yes, those behaviors need to change, but the only true change can come from confessing their need for a savior, and accepting the payment made for their sins by Jesus Christ on the cross. Anything less is simply putting a Band Aid over a mortal wound.

 

So What Is The Issue?

If we only supply the knowledge and opportunity without first seeking to change the heart and attitude, any changes will not last. As with most every pitfall in this Christian life, we run into trouble when we take our eyes off the prize; that is, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). The issue here is worship, not knowledge. We know there is a need out there, and we may even know what we need to do, but without the desire to actually do anything, we never succeed in starting the mission in the first place! We talk about the things we love. We are willing to invest and sacrifice for the things we deem worthy - marriage, kids, watching every Seahawks game from start to finish, regardless of how many other plans we have to cancel, etc. So how can we transfer this love and sacrifice back to the only One who is worthy of it?

The Weight of Worship

The majority of people who lose sight of their mission (myself included) also tend to downplay the reality of hell. "When we minimize the severity of God’s judgment for sin, we are less inclined to stand in awe of the marvelous salvation Christ as provided for us," (Trevin Wax). This truth is what drives our worship! Only when we are able to see the depths of our inability and brokenness, can we truly begin to understand the reality of grace. Not only did God make a way for us to simply not burn in hell for our sins, but he has prepared a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3). Take some time to meditate on these truths today, to acknowledge the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23), and the reality of hell (Revelation 21:8), and to praise the One who saved you (John 3:16), who loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and who is completing a good work in you (Philippinas 1:6).

Posted on March 28, 2016 .

Mission Failure: It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Worship

When trying to motivate other people, (or even ourselves) into a living a more purposeful, missional life, we often fall into the trap of, "If they only knew how many kids are starving in India, or memorized all the verses commanding us to care for the less fortunate, or [fill in the blank], surely they would jump to action!" We mistakenly link "engagement" with "knowledge," and are frustrated when we come up empty handed.

 

Not the root issue

Just as sinful behavior is the outward symptom of the deeper need for Christ, so apathy is the outward symptom of the deeper need to glorify Christ above all else. When we simply tell a non-believer to stop sleeping around, or stop getting drunk, or stop cheating on their spouse, we are ignoring the larger issue. Yes, those behaviors need to change, but the only true change can come from confessing their need for a savior, and accepting the payment made for their sins by Jesus Christ on the cross. Anything less is simply putting a Band Aid over a mortal wound.

 

So What Is The Issue?

If we only supply the knowledge and opportunity without first seeking to change the heart and attitude, any changes will not last. As with most every pitfall in this Christian life, we run into trouble when we take our eyes off the prize; that is, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). The issue here is worship, not knowledge. We know there is a need out there, and we may even know what we need to do, but without the desire to actually do anything, we never succeed in starting the mission in the first place! We talk about the things we love. We are willing to invest and sacrifice for the things we deem worthy - marriage, kids, watching every Seahawks game from start to finish, regardless of how many other plans we have to cancel, etc. So how can we transfer this love and sacrifice back to the only One who is worthy of it?

The Weight of Worship

The majority of people who lose sight of their mission (myself included) also tend to downplay the reality of hell. "When we minimize the severity of God’s judgment for sin, we are less inclined to stand in awe of the marvelous salvation Christ as provided for us," (Trevin Wax). This truth is what drives our worship! Only when we are able to see the depths of our inability and brokenness, can we truly begin to understand the reality of grace. Not only did God make a way for us to simply not burn in hell for our sins, but he has prepared a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3). Take some time to meditate on these truths today, to acknowledge the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23), and the reality of hell (Revelation 21:8), and to praise the One who saved you (John 3:16), who loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and who is completing a good work in you (Philippinas 1:6).

Posted on March 28, 2016 .

On Mission: Finding God's Purpose Through Work

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By Jess Griggs

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word, “Mission,” I automatically think of feeding orphan children in Africa, and watching the masses surrender their lives to the Lord. The truth is that we are all created with a purpose, a goal, a mission, if you will. Some of us will be called to the ends of the earth. But my guess is that most of us are caught up in the daily grind. So how can we find our mission, even in the hum drum nine to five?

I read a study the other day that said the average person will spend 70,000 hours at work in their lifetime. Most of us have probably felt a nagging feeling that none of it matters. At one time or another we've all been tempted to despair; it's too stressful, the boss is a jerk, it's boring, it's pointless, it just pays the bills, it'll look good on my resume one day when I actually apply for my dream job, etc., etc. I don't know about you, but 70,000 hours is way too much time to spend feeling trapped or discouraged. The Bible addresses the issue of work and mission on the very first page. Let's look to Genesis 1 for wise counsel and a new perspective on joy and mission, even in the workplace.

Work Gives Us Purpose

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” - Genesis 1:27-28

The truth here is simple: God created humans to work for their food and to earn their rest. This idea can be confusing and ever complicated when we think about our calling, or when we get too caught up in what we think we should be doing. We were designed to contribute, and to produce. Whether that's a 9-5 or a nightshift, at a cubicle or behind a register, work is an important aspect of who we are as humans, and as Christians.

Work Is A Privilege

So we were created to work. This is all well and good, but it doesn't really fill you with excitement. In Genesis 1:26-28, the word "dominion" is used. Usually we associate power and authority to that word - it makes us think of kings and kingdoms. That is exactly what God has entrusted to us! He has given us a portion of his creation to rule over, and we are to take care of what he has generously given to us.
Our jobs give us opportunities to have dominion over what God has given us, from swivel chair and spreadsheets, to apron and dishes. It is a privilege to have authority over this little corner of our lives, but it is also a huge responsibility. We are given permission to reign over God's land, as his image bearers, and we are to follow his instruction on how to rule.

Work To Do Good And Bring Order

Now the age old question, how can we possibly bring glory to God in our workplace? Is this really what my “mission” is? Looking back in Genesis, we see how God worked to create the world. The world was dark, formless and void (Genesis 1:2), but God brought light, goodness, and order. His dominion and authority blessed the world, and gave us all an example to follow.

God didn't complain about his creation, or dread the long hours he would have to put in for things to be just right. In fact, in Genesis 1:3, it says that "God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good." Be joyful in your job!

God Blesses Our Work

In Genesis 1:28, God blesses Adam and Eve. After he created the world, and gave Adam the ability and authority to rule over every living creature, God blesses mankind. God's blessing enables us today to let God fill the void and dark spaces in our lives and in our offices, and allows us be a light to others in whatever capacity we can be. This is the true joy of work - not that we have accomplished anything, but that we can serve others and bring glory to God in any and every situation.

Hope For The Future

Maybe you're stuck in a dead end job, or you feel like you're just going through the motions most days. If you're sitting in the darkness, waiting for direction and motivation at work - take heart! We have a great Hope in Jesus, and we know that there are far greater things to come in our future. Jesus gives purpose to our lives, and a joy and hope in all that we do. My prayer for all of us is that we would be aware of how God is leading and directing our lives, and that we would have a heart to join our desires with his. How amazing is it that our God wants us to be fulfilled? Thank you Lord for giving us a mission here on earth, and that you have not hidden it from us!

Attitude Check

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By Jess Griggs.

If you've been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that prayer is an essential element to your spiritual life. You've probably heard such trite phrases as, "why wish upon a star when you can pray to the one who created it?" and, "I'm too busy not to pray." These are all well and good, but altogether unhelpful when it comes right down to actually having a meaningful conversation with the God of the universe. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try and stick to the plan, our prayers seem unfruitful and discouraging. Have you considered that maybe you have the wrong mindset from the very beginning? Here are a few all too common attitudes towards prayer that will ultimately choke out your communication with God.

 

1. Focusing on yourself

Has your prayer life become a list of wants and needs that you recite before God? Maybe you feel like your prayers have become boring and repetitive, or like you've run out of things to pray for. The world is so much bigger than you, and it is full of people and problems, and social issues, and righteous causes. There is a great need for you to take the needs and requests of your friends and family members before the throne of God. Not that God doesn't care about you, and the details of your life; He does, a great deal. But you have been strategically placed where you are, right here, right now, and you have the unique opportunity to be a prayer warrior. So don’t let your prayers be only all about you. They should be all about God, and the works He is doing in His Kingdom.

 

2. Worrying if your prayers are worthy

Too often, we forget that God actually likes us. Our prayers are not a try-out to get into the "holier than thou" club, and the outcome is not based on how many times you said "Father God," or quoted back scripture. Prayer is about communication, and building a relationship with your Creator. He loves you, not for your eloquence or your wit, but simply because you are His. So treat Him like your best friend - talk to Him about the silly stuff, thank Him for the beauty of the sunrise, or for the creature comfort of that morning cup of coffee. Talk to Him about the heavy stuff, about the pain and the uncertainty. Be honest with God when things are difficult. One of the most simple yet gut-wrenching prayers I've heard was just, "God, I can't stop this particular sin. I don't even want to. Help me want to stop." What a raw prayer!

 

3. Not taking time to listen

We've all had to deal with people in our lives whoonly ever talk about themselves. They never really engage us in conversation, but more use us as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, or complain about their week, or brag about their kids... the list goes on and on. More often than not, we are that person when it comes to prayer. We beseech the Almighty to move is powerful hand and fix our problems, but rarely do we seek His guidance and then actually listen to what He would have us do, how He would have us act. The conversation is not one-way, and if you've never made space for God to speak into your life, this may be just what you need to jumpstart your prayer life.

 

4. Making your prayer life an idol

My prayer time is usually spent writing in my prayer journal, which has been a great benefit, but also has a few pitfalls. One huge benefit of writing down my prayers is that I have a tangible way to collect and organize my thoughts. This easily becomes a pitfall when I find myself more in love with my words than with the One they were written for. Another benefit is that I have a record to look back on and see how God answered my prayers in unexpected ways. This sometimes leads to checking prayer off my list of things to do simply so that I don't have a missing date in my journal. Never let the obligation of prayer outweigh the holiness of prayer. A good way to avoid making your prayer life an idol, is to switch up your routine. Pray on your knees, pray out loud, write your prayer on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror, pray on the way to work, pray in a group, wake up early to pray, go on a walk and pray - keep it fresh!

 

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. - Luke 11:9

 

Worst of all…

The worst attitude towards prayer is to believe that it doesn't work. This post was in no way intended to silence those who have doubts, or who are afraid they are "doing it wrong." Rather, this is hopefully a helpful way to troubleshoot your prayer life if and when you are going through a dry spell. The best thing you can do is to jump in head first, and pray as the Lord burdens you to pray. The Christian who prays has access to a powerful weapon.

Posted on February 18, 2016 .

A PRAYER FOR THE DIRTY DISHES

By Jess Griggs.

Praying before the evening meal is a tradition as old as prayer itself. Pre-dinner prayers come in all shapes and sizes. During big family gatherings, my aunts and uncles and cousins and step siblings and half siblings and the whole herd of extended and mixed families would circle up around the table, hold hands and sing a prayer before the festivities began. In college, my room mate and I would go out for McDonald’s, and before unwrapping the greasy and cheap heart attack on a bun, she would send up a quick prayer asking the Lord to change the molecular formula of the double cheeseburger to that of carrot on the way down to her stomach. 

Our instinct is to pray for the blessings set before us; in a time of plenty, we raise our praises and thanks. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact we are told multiple times throughout scripture to give thanks (Psalm 136), to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6) and to remember his good works (Psalm 105:5). 

We also cry out when our plates are empty, and our stomachs are groaning. Out of our desperate need, we fall to our knees and pray to God for a crumb and drop of water. This, too, is a biblical response. God wants us to come to him with our needs (Mark 11:24), and to boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

However, when we pray only out of our abundance or out of our need, we are living out an incomplete theology of Christianity. Life is not commonly lived in the extreme highs or extreme lows; it is lived in the morning commute, paying the bills, switching the laundry, and grocery shopping. If you’re not the kind of person who finds the love of God in the mundane tasks of life, you won’t be the kind of person who truly sees the beauty of the blessings, or trusts the sovereignty of suffering.

Psalm 50:23 talks about offering thanksgiving as a sacrifice, and how it is glorifying to God. The same idea is echoed in Hebrews 13:15, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.” What does it mean for praise to be a sacrifice? It seems like these two terms are at odds with one another, but in the spiritual realm, they are very much intertwined. We often think of praise as a reward – we praise the dog for fetching the ball, or we praise a co-worker for doing a good job. But we should not base our praise of God on his perceived job performance. This kind of praise does not cost us anything.

In times of despair, it is more difficult to offer praise, but even in these times we are shown what truly matters – people, not things; identity in Christ, not in accomplishments; finding fulfillment in the eternal Kingdom, not in this temporary world. During these intense trials we can see a stark difference between the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom, and our decision to follow Christ is validated.

But what about a Monday afternoon in February, when you haven’t seen the sun shine in three months, and you’re sitting at your desk staring at all the things you have left to do for work, and your mind wanders to other tasks you need to get done that evening, and what to cook for dinner, and when was the last time you had the oil changed in your car anyway? Do we praise God even in these moments? Are we able to look past the routine and be present in this moment? I want to challenge you today to be diligent in finding opportunities for praise, even in the mundane Monday afternoons. Be aware of how God is already working in your office, in your family, in your community, and prayerfully consider how you can be involved and further the gospel in each of those situations.

I would also like to challenge you to not just pray for the meal you are about to receive, but for the dirty dishes it brings as well.


Father thank you for the abundance these dishes represent,
Let them be a reminder of the blessings you have sent:
Food sufficient for the work of the day,
Time and space to cook and play.
We ask for strength to finish the task at hand,
And to be content with the master plan.
When we feel overwhelmed with our many chores,
Remind us that it is not our power but yours.  
Keep us safe until we can gather ‘round the table again,
To you be the glory forever, Amen.

Posted on February 10, 2016 .

LETTING GO: A GAME PLAN FOR KILLING SIN

By Jess Griggs

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. - Philippians 3:12

Sin. The struggle is real, am I right? John Piper once said, "It is both a relief and a heartache to know that all true believers have sin remaining in them in this life."  The daily, hourly, moment-by-moment battle against sin is tiresome, and it may be tempting to become complacent, or to justify the "little" sins, and even the big sins. We fall into a pattern of comparing our dirty laundry to others' and we lower the bar for our satisfaction. What is often difficult to realize, is that this is actually robbing us of joy. We are not called to "look upon thy neighbor, and make sure your sins are not as bad as theirs," no; we are called to look "to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, (Hebrews 12:2)."

So we fight our urge to become complacent, and we fight our "old self" and refuse to give into temptation. But how?

The Head Game
Killing sin is more than just avoiding temptation, you must prepare your mind and your heart for what you will encounter on the battlefield. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my axe." This principle of preparing for battle was something that took a while for me to learn as a young Christian. I remember getting so frustrated at myself for slipping up, or giving into temptation. “Why can't I just make better choices?” I wasn't equipping myself with the right tools to fight; I was relying on my will power, which as I found out was not very strong. Scripture memorization, prayer, and immersing myself in the truth of God's word are what finally gave me the ability to start making better choices. These things are a way of life, and even after years of putting them into practice, they still hold such profound mysteries for me. Which brings me to the next point...

The Heart Knowledge
It is one thing to know something, and another thing to believe it. Something happens when we pray and memorize scripture and meditate on the truths found in God's word - the head knowledge sinks down into our heart of hearts, and we not only know that Romans 8:28 says that God works out all things for good, for those who are called according to his purpose, but we believe it, and we act upon that belief, rejoicing in trials, keeping the faith even when it seems to our human understanding that all hope is lost. When it comes to killing sin, here are four truths to repeat to yourself:

The old, sinful me is decisively already dead (Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3). Christ has already defeated your sin nature, your “old man”, and you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:31-38). Don't believe the lie that this is just who you are, or that sin is unavoidable.

Sin is the enemy. Develop an attitude of righteous anger towards sin. Sin killed Jesus; it dishonors your Father, and seeks to destroy you forever.

Today is a new day, Lord, and I am yours. Use me for your purposes. Start each day anew, declaring your entire being, heart, mind, and body to God. Invite him into your day, and ask that your eyes would be opened to opportunities to do good. Part of killing sin is the "put off, put on" principle. Don't just stop doing the bad habit, but pick up a good habit. 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8

Practical Steps
So what now? You're working on the head game, which will produce the heart knowledge, but what about those choices that you need to make, and the sin you need to kill? Here are few practical steps to consider:

Don't put yourself in tempting situations (Romans 12:2). The best way to assure you'll be able to say no to temptation is to remove it all together. Don't prove your purity by visiting a porn shop and declaring how you no longer struggle with lust, or flaunt your sobriety by sitting in a bar and trying not to drink. Flee temptation!

Of course sin comes at us from all angles, and some sin is more private and subtle in nature. There is no way to remove yourself from a situation where pride might interfere. We all fail everyday, but it is important to have a right attitude about sin. It is to be taken seriously, and not ignored. Therefore we are called to confess and admit failure (1 John 1:9). More than that, however, we are told to seek forgiveness (Matthew 6:12). Conviction is a healthy and right feeling from the Holy Spirit, but shame is a tool used by the devil. The seriousness of our sin is real, but so is the redemption from our sin, and our absolute freedom from its hold on us.

Surround yourself with good influences. Join in fellowship with other believers, receive love, joy, and acceptance, as well as correction, accountability, and tough love. Proverbs tells us time and time again to seek wise counsel. "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." - Proverbs 13:20.

In all things, in every decision, choose God. Make the choice to see the way out of sin that God has promised us, and choose to let go of the sin that is weighing you down. 

Posted on January 26, 2016 .

LAYING ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT AND SIN

--By Jess Griggs

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:1-2

If ever there were a verse to put on a motivational poster to spur us on in the faith, this would be it. And what an appropriate verse for the start of the new year! Most of us think of setting goals and resolutions, taking on long reading lists, or finally traveling overseas. We want to live a better life, full of rich experiences, so we keep adding to our to-do lists. New Year's usually doesn't bring on the desire to let go (unless we're talking about losing those 15 extra pounds that just won't budge...) but that's exactly what we're called to do in this passage. 

Laying aside every weight and sin
Most of us are familiar with sin, and even have a good sense of what sins we struggle with personally on a daily basis. These are the big ones, the obvious distractions and pitfalls, the lust, slothfulness, and anger that get in our way. But Hebrews 12 doesn't say just to get rid of the bad stuff, it explicitly says to "lay aside every weight." Sometimes this looks like letting go of what you perceive to be good, in order to obtain what is ultimately best; namely, Christ, and being a vessel for his glory. 

For example: being driven. The Bible has tons of verses about working the land (Proverbs 12:11), providing for family (1 Timothy 5:8), eating the fruit of your own labor (Psalm 128:2), and toiling for profit (Proverbs 14:23). This good and right desire for strong work ethic can become an idol, and what started out as "working heartily for the Lord," turns into working heartily for the paycheck, or for your own personal glory. Now I'm not advocating for everyone to up and quit their job for fear of it becoming an idol, rather I'm drawing attention to how even good things can easily ensnare when they are placed above God in our hearts and lives. The thing to lay aside then is not the job or the work ethic, but the attitude of greed. Lay aside the desire for more money and more fame, and focus on the only One who can satisfy - the perfecter of our faith.

The joy set before him... the cross
Verse 2 has a jarring dichotomy of two images, "Joy" and "The Cross." If ever two things were in opposition to one another, it would seem to our understanding, that this would be it. The cross was excruciating in every way, and yet in Christ's obedience he was honored and rewarded in heaven, so much so that his sacrifice covered all of our sin. And this is the example set before us, this is the founder of our faith that we look to and learn from. 

Therefore, it is our joy to sacrifice and lay aside anything that hinders us. Here are a few practical steps to take today as you gaze upon the cross, and consider how to get back on track this year:
Pray for God to bring to light the hindrances in your life. If you're anything like me, it's easy to push the little things to the front of the list, but you often keep the bigger offenses, the secret sins and guilty pleasures buried down deep. Pray for the courage to confront these issues head on, knowing that you have already been forgiven by the grace of God.
Confess the sin, the weight, the hindrance out loud. Putting a name to the thing keeping you from running the race is powerful, and bringing God into the conversation will give you insight on how best to let it go. 

Be accountable. Invite others as appropriate into this area of your life. Give them permission to challenge you, encourage you, and pray for you.

“God never witholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful - "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”
- Elisabeth Elliot

Posted on January 19, 2016 .