40 Days to Lasting Change Day 19
Tricks We Use
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
We go to great lengths to tell ourselves something other than the truth, to keep an illusion going rather than get honest with our reality. We’re willing to use all sorts of methods to justify our choices and actions and to turn off the alarms of awakening. Denial is a powerful tool, and it comes in several forms. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (p. 126). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
Denial is one of those dark words that keep us in a dark place. We almost seem to adjust to the darkness, loving its false promise of protection but it really isn’t protecting just covering us from seeing and being clearly seen. But it’s there, churning and chewing on our hearts. We don’t understand why people don’t understand us but how can you understand someone that is not living in the truth? The author identifies three powerful tools of denial: Disagreement, Defensiveness, and Distraction. With these three tools, the devil keeps alive the story of denial while we are kept in bondage to disappointment and dread. Denial might seem easy but it’s not simple, declaration (confession) is simple but it’s not easy. Only one releases us to live.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 17
Turn Off Denial
Here I am starving to death! Luke 15:17
Denial is turning off the black light in an effort to make the stains disappear. You pretend everything is okay even though everything is not okay. Sigmund Freud defined denial this way: a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept, so they reject it despite overwhelming evidence. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (p. 115). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
Life is too short to be afraid of the truth. In fact, we can’t walk in love and not live in the truth. Love and truth go hand in hand. Where love and truth work together there may be nothing we can’t overcome. The prodigal son had to find the truth through brutal honesty if he was to escape the dirt of his dilemma. Jesus said that if we are His disciples we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. If we want to live free we must face the darkness in our lives being brave enough or hungry enough to turn on the light. We can. Jesus is with us. No more running away but rather running into the Father’s arms.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 16
Honesty That Brings Healing
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Brutal honesty includes telling the truth about yourself to someone else. The Prodigal Son understood that there was no way around it. After telling the truth to himself about his situation and what he deserved, he realized he also needed to be honest with his father. In Luke 15:18, he said: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” He recognized that it wasn’t enough for him to be honest with himself; he also needed to be honest with his father. Most of us don’t practice voluntary confession. Not when it comes to being honest with ourselves, especially not when it comes to confessing to others. Voluntary confession is when we regularly and voluntarily acknowledge our sin and honestly admit our weaknesses to someone in our lives. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (p. 107, 109). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
The author today says, “When we are honest with God about our sins, He forgives us, but when we are honest with others, we find healing. I don’t know about finding healing but that certainly puts us on a track for healing. One thing that we do find in confessing our sins to others is that we find help for sure. Something about confessing our sins, our needs, our wants to others allows us to better experience God’s great love.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 15
Loving All Kinds
“Blessed are the poor.”—Matthew 5:3
When some read the Sermon on the Mount all they can think of is the word “demand” and its noisy chaser “obedience.” But if Jesus teaches us that the essence of all of God’s demands and the face of all our obedience is loving God and loving others—the Jesus Creed as taught in Mark 12:28–32—then even the Sermon on the Mount expresses a discipleship fired by love for God and love for others. (Mcknight, Scot. 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed (Kindle Locations 782-787). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.)
I like this question raised in the devotional today, “What are you known for?” Jesus loves people who love people. The sermon on the mount is a calling to obey, not share our opinion on. God’s loves people who love people and God’s people are to be people who love people. That’s what they are to be known for! But love flows from love. When we know that we are loved we can risk loving others. Maybe the question is, “Do you know that you’re loved?” What do you think?
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 12
In Plain Sight
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Have you ever had a moment when the Holy Spirit opens your eyes, and you see something you had somehow missed before? You have a startling realization that changes everything. A truth is revealed that makes everything clear. Walking the AHA journey is filled with continual moments of awakening as we seek God in our lives. Sometimes we’re looking for awakening. Sometimes it takes us by surprise. Sometimes the awakening is right there in plain sight, waiting for us to let God realign our vision. Sometimes it’s not even our circumstances that change—just the way we see them. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (pp. 86-87). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
The amazing thing about the Spirit-filled life is that the Holy Spirit is continually giving us revelation. Like the devotion says today, sometimes these aha moments come a just the right time if we’re willing to look and listen for God in our situation. That makes this life so amazing.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 11
Let Go of Regret
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1–2
With awakening often comes regret. Once our eyes are opened to the wake of pain trailing behind us, it’s normal to think, what have I done? It’s easy to see how the Prodigal Son would have felt such regret, but what about the father? What memories haunted him? What scenes replayed in his head of happy times past and moments he wished he could change? On those long, bleak days of mourning his son’s departure and waiting for his unlikely return, this patriarch must have asked the universal questions of a parent: What could I have done differently? How could I have stopped him? Where did I go wrong? (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (pp. 80-81). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
We can look back to learn but we can’t look back to live. God is in the redeeming and restoring work. Our future isn’t a God problem, it’s a self-problem. There’s that moment when suddenly, we see where we are and where we could be, and our enemy brings all the guilt and regret to bear down on our minds to keep us in the past. Nothing is more powerful than the power of unforgiveness. Refusing to receive God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves, we are, stuck in the puddle of the past. The questions about the past can be answered later. Right now, we must focus on the future. It’s time to get up out of the puddle of pain and head back to the Father’s house. It’s time to rise out of that rocking chair or regret and run outside looking for tomorrow. Yeah, take those regrets to redeemer and receive some instruction about the rest of this day and this life.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 10
Escaping the Country of the Blind
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Psalm 119:18
We live in the country of the blind. We experience an awakening. God opens our eyes. We’re able to see, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there are people all around us who think we really need to be cured of our sight. We come to church on weekends, and our eyes are opened, and conviction comes in our hearts. We know God has spoken to us, but Monday comes, and we find ourselves back in the country of the blind. Everyone thinks we’re a little bit crazy; we’ve taken this too far, and what would really be best is if we would go back to being blind. This is where we live. And we must continually open our eyes. We must refocus on the heights above and press toward the beauty where God wants to draw us. We must continue to pray David’s prayer, that God would open our eyes—each day—so that we might see what God wants us to see even in this country of the blind. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (p. 78). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
I love this illustration of living in the country of the blind because it’s so true. We get the light of Jesus when we receive the love of Jesus and it seems like most of those around us want to pluck our eyes out so that we can live like they do. Jesus is the light of the world. We were meant to see, believe, and hope. We can’t let the blind make us blind too. Keep walking, climb the mountains, breath the fresh air and take in the beauty of this life. I know, not everyone will come with us and it’s hard, especially when the people we are closest to ridicule and reject us. However, we will never bring them to the light by letting them poke our eyes out. Keep walking, it’s a beautiful life.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 9
Redeeming the Pain
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
It is not, therefore, the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives, for that is as inevitable as death, which is the last loss awaiting us all. It is how we respond to loss that matters. That response will largely determine the quality, the direction, and the impact of our lives.
The question is: When difficult circumstances come your way, when there is a famine in the land like that encountered by the Prodigal Son, how will you respond? How are you responding? If you let Him, God will use those circumstances to wake you up and ultimately draw you closer to Him. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (pp. 70, 74). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
If we will let Him, God will use our circumstances to wake us up. These are not circumstances God created but circumstances we or someone else created. It’s those circumstances of loss which touch the most inner fiber of our being and have a way of revealing what’s really in our hearts and in our heads. As painful as it is, if we will let Him, He will work in those circumstances to wake us up to truth and life. In that dirty, stinky moment beside the hog trough, the Prodigal Son was deeply aware of his loss. His dad didn’t send him there, he went there on his own. His dad didn’t choose his friends he had, and they had chosen to use him and then leave him. In that moment of pain, the son could finally see the priceless love of his father. God doesn’t cause the pain, but He is bigger than the pain and able to use it to save us. Stop blaming and start believing.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 8
Getting What We Deserve
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7
When you are in the Distant Country, it’s only a matter of time before your decisions catch up to you. Those consequences spread like ripples on a still pond after a rock is thrown in. Your choices and actions are the cause, and they bring about effects. God often brings us to a desperate moment through deserved consequences. The weight of possible consequences can help us look back on our poor choices with greater clarity. The moment the consequences of our decisions catch up with us, that is an invitation to cry out to God for help. Don’t wait for the consequences of your actions to come crashing down around you. Heed the warning signs. Wake up. And come back to the Father.
Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (p. 67-68). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
I’m clearly reminded today that living in a distant country puts me in a place of definite danger. That happens physically as well as spiritually. Decisions have consequences, but God is greater than my decisions and my consequences if only I would or could hear the alarm. The danger of hitting the snooze button is that I become disinclined to hear the alarm. That’s true physically, spiritually, relationally, morally, and so on. I don’t know that God brings us to those desperate moments, it seems like those follow our own decisions, but God uses those desperate moments to call us back to Him. Regardless of what we’ve done, God’s arm is no to short to reach us in those desperate moments. I read today that there are no failures with God, only slow successes. Hopefully, we will decide to live no longer in the desperate but in the divine.
40 Days to Lasting Change Day 6
Words of a Friend
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6
We need a friend whom we’ve given permission to tell us like it is—no matter what. Even if we refuse to listen at first, we all need a friend who will tell us when we’re neglecting our family for work. A friend who will say something when our spending gets out of control. A friend who will challenge us to do more than just come to church a few weekends a month. A friend who will question a new relationship we’re beginning. Words from a friend like that can often be the most effective alarms in our lives. The Prodigal Son needed a friend like this, but in the Distant Country, I’m sure they were hard to find. (Idleman, Kyle. 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge (pp. 53-54). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)
I’m thankful today for friends who will speak the truth in love to me. A good friend is one of God’s most precious gifts to us. But a good friend operates in the truth and so a good friend is someone who has a spiritual backbone, truth convictions that they try to live by. Good friends don’t usually fall out of the sky, they are foraged over time and through thought. I’ve found that this happens by spending time with people like I spend time at a store looking for a good suit. When we find the right relationship, it fits. By the way, finding such a friend has meant becoming someone who can be a friend too!