Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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True vs Truth- No Other Gods Session 3, Post 2

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(Fourth in a series on Kelly Minter’s Bible study, No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols)

I carry an ache with me all the time lately, even though I’m physically fine. I feel it most profoundly at night when I kiss my oldest son goodnight after putting my hand on his head to pray for him. I feel it when I look at the stacks of college-related books and papers sitting on our office counter and each time I review another essay he’s written for an application. My son will become a legal adult in the spring and shortly afterwards, he’ll walk across a stage wearing a cap and gown, signifying the end of his childhood and the beginning of the next chapter in his life. And although this is right and good, the sadness overwhelms me sometimes.

In my twenties, I used to envision the family I would have someday. More often than not, I would picture what my future children would be like as teenagers. Much of the planning my husband and I did focused on the era we’re now enjoying with our two boys. As I think about our oldest son preparing to launch into adulthood, it feels like the wave we’ve been riding since we started our family is about to crash on the sand. After all, the era we’ve been anticipating for years and enjoying thoroughly is going to change forever within the next year. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel a little hopeless, thinking life right now is as good as it gets.

Fixating on this could lead me down a dangerous path of negative thinking.  I could spend so much time dwelling on all of the things that will never happen again that I could miss out on embracing this new season my family is entering.  I have one boy on the brink of adulthood and another who will follow in a few years. Part of parenting means equipping our kids to launch well. So, while it’s true that my kids are getting older and our years raising them will come to an end, the truth is our relationship with them won’t. Beyond parenting, I trust God has many more fulfilling endeavors for my husband and me in the years ahead. Some may involve our kids, but others won’t.

True vs. truth:  it’s a concept that I’ve been thinking about for the last few days as I’ve been working through Session 3 in No Other Gods by Kelly Minter.  She uses the story of Adam and Eve to drive home some powerful observations about what happens when we fixate on isolated things that are “true” but fail to see the larger context of Truth (with a capital “T”).  As you may remember, Satan appears in the garden in the form of a serpent and questions Eve about God’s command not to eat from a specific tree. After he plants seeds of doubt about God’s goodness in Eve’s mind, the serpent cunningly convinces her to disobey God and try the fruit:

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7, NIV)

Kelly Minter points out that while the serpent did deceive Eve, nothing he said was false in that immediate moment:  they did gain knowledge of good and evil and they did not die on the spot (although their disobedience did ultimately bring death into the world).  She quotes Michael Wells of Abiding Life Ministries who says, “Satan will tell us what’s true, but he never tells us the truth.”

I’ve been thinking about that quote all week.  How often do I fixate on what is “true” in the moment, but fail to see the bigger Truth?

There are many times when I let what is true at a certain time deceive me and prevent me from seeing the bigger picture– like feeling sad about my kids growing up but forgetting that I’m doing my job right if they’re actually becoming capable adults. I can lose perspective on other things too– like when a friend unintentionally hurts me, or when the scale doesn’t show the weight I expect to see.  It might be an unanticipated expense that threatens my confidence in God’s provision. It could be feeling despair about the direction our nation and world are headed and failing to remember that God is still sovereign over it all.  The opportunities to focus on the little “t” instead of the big “T” are endless.

Armed with my new knowledge, I regularly pray for the discernment to see the difference between what is “true” and what is “Truth.” I don’t want to be so easily deceived or to get so wrapped up in the small things that I fail to recognize the big picture. Jesus tells us in John 16:33  “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Now that’s Truth with a capital “T” that I can believe, no matter what.

The link below is one of my favorite songs and the video with it shows the difference between what is “true” and what is “Truth.” Click on the link and enjoy “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray.

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The Art of Avoidance- Women of the Word Part 4

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Glancing at the Christmas card as I sorted mail, my stomach lurched.  Something wasn’t quite right. Examining the photo more carefully, I saw that among the smiling faces, one member of the family was conspicuously absent. I realized an old friend must’ve had a major shift occur in her life. Without a letter to accompany the photo, I was at a loss.

Showing the picture to my husband, I began to speculate, “What do you think happened?   Do we have a mutual friend who might know their story?” I couldn’t think of anyone I could contact to ask. My next idea was to scan the family’s social media pages for clues, but I came up with no new information. Then a thought occurred to me—why not just reach out directly to my friend? I was hesitant.  Our paths hadn’t crossed in a long time and I didn’t  want to seem nosy or like I was just after “scoop.” Finally, I reasoned that over two decades of friendship was enough to show her I genuinely cared.

After exchanging several messages, we set up a time to meet. Sitting face to face with steaming cups of tea, we finally had the opportunity to share about our lives. Eventually, we also discussed the mystery behind her Christmas card photo. It was a good conversation with some hard moments, but filled with love, encouragement and compassion. We said goodbye resolving not to let so much time pass before we connected again. It’s one of those friendships I cherish, despite the infrequency of our time together.

I’ll admit, I had been a little nervous to reach out to her, but what would I have missed if I had called a mutual acquaintance to ask for “the scoop” on her instead? How real would our connection have been if I’d found the answer on her Facebook page and had sent a message to wish her well?

No one likes to have hard conversations. We don’t like to talk about situations that make us feel awkward or uncomfortable. Most of us avoid entering into dialogue with someone who doesn’t see things the same way we do. Sadly, this is as true for our relationships with spouses and family members as it is with friends, co-workers and even partners in ministry.

The art of avoidance is part of our nature–there are examples of it all around us and even in the lives of familiar characters in the Bible. And we also see the destruction it causes. A good case in point is Rebekah, the wife of Isaac and mother to twins Jacob and Esau.   Recorded in the book of Genesis, the stories about Rebekah and her family provide a cautionary tale about the dangers of avoiding hard conversations and choosing to manipulate situations in the background instead.

From the time she was pregnant with her boys, Rebekah knew that there would be challenges. When she prayed to ask God why her babies “jostled each other within her”, the LORD answered:

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23, NIV)

As the boys grew, Rebekah favored their second born twin, Jacob, while Isaac preferred their firstborn, Esau. Rebekah wanted to see Jacob fulfill God’s prophecy, but rather than talking with her husband about it, she schemed behind his back. She resorted to creating an elaborate plan to deceive Isaac and ensure Jacob would receive all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son. Ultimately, Isaac discovered the deception, but there is no record of him confronting Rebekah. In fact, the only conversation mentioned reveals Rebekah telling him a half-truth and manipulating him further. (You can read the story in Genesis 27).

Rebekah’s deception seemed to accomplish her desire: Jacob received the birthright and covenant blessings God had promised to the boys’ grandfather, Abraham. But she paid a high price, ultimately having to send away her favorite son so he wouldn’t be killed by his vengeful brother. There is no record in Scripture of Rebekah ever seeing her beloved Jacob again.

I wonder if Rebekah ever considered that God had the power to ensure the prophecy would be fulfilled, even without her schemes. How could she have forgotten that He did the impossible by enabling her to conceive twins after twenty years of being barren? Why was her first inclination to deceive her husband instead of simply talking with him about their differing opinions? Was it too contentious? Too awkward? Too challenging?

Think about all of the effort she expended to avoid a confrontation with Isaac, opting to work behind the scenes instead to get what she wanted. Now think about how it all turned out.   God’s plans were accomplished, but the family fractured itself in the process.

Now consider your life. Is there an issue you’ve been steering clear of with a family member, friend, co-worker or partner in ministry? Are you expending more energy artfully avoiding the situation than you would be confronting it? Let me encourage you to take the first step toward resolving it by praying. Ask God to give you wisdom. Tell Him why you’re struggling. Share your worst fear with Him about this situation. Ask Him to give you courage. Invite Him to show you when and how to deal with the issue in a way that honors Him and brings healing to you and anyone else involved. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Give God room to work and watch Him transform your difficult situation in His perfect timing. Stop avoiding and start living the abundant life He meant for you to have.

Francesca Battistelli’s song “If We’re Honest” invites us to consider the blessing of facing our fears instead of avoiding them. Click on the link and be inspired by the music.

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The Fallacy of the “Epic Fail”

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From the moment I heard the phrase “epic fail,” I chose not to make it part of my vocabulary.   It seemed like everywhere I turned, I would hear people jokingly say “epic fail” to describe anything from burnt toast to a catastrophic train accident. This type of phrase, known as a “meme” (rhymes with “team”), is a cultural symbol or social idea that transmits quickly from person to person and becomes part of the fabric of our language and culture.

The first time my husband and I heard our boys say it, we added it to the list of “banned words” for our household. We didn’t want our boys over-using such a negative and exaggerated phrase to label mistakes, whether they were theirs or someone else’s. If they viewed every mistake as an “epic fail,” we thought they’d be less likely to stretch themselves to try new things.   Failure and mistakes are valuable tools for learning and we didn’t want them emphasized in such a negative way. Over-inflated descriptions like that have a way of defining us, even when they’re said in a joking manner.

When I read Beth Moore’s comments about the word “failure” in Children of the Day, the choice we’d made to ban the term was reaffirmed. She says: “Satan loves to fuel our feelings of failure. Just when we finally muster the courage to act or take a stand for the gospel, he prompts us to believe we blew it. Our feelings of failure can start an ongoing cycle of inadequacy: If we feel like failures, we’ll act like failures and, if we let that condemnation go unchecked, we’ll make our next decision out of the same perceived defeat” (Children of the Day, p. 41).

The Apostle Paul rejected the idea of failure and encouraged the Thessalonians to do the same. Acts 17:1-9 describes his visit to Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy and the riot that started as a result of his teaching. Their visit to Thessalonica ended with the three men fleeing the city at nightfall, leaving the new believers behind to deal with the mess. Still, in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says:

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.   We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6a, NIV).

Paul did not view their efforts in Thessalonica as a failure because regardless of the outcome, he knew that he, Silas and Timothy pleased God by sharing the gospel with pure motives. They didn’t try to put a positive spin on a bad situation; they simply didn’t see it as a failure in any way.

How I wish I could say the same of myself. I’ve often let my perceived failures hinder me from moving forward with something that God is calling me to do. Once my feelings get hurt or my ego is injured, I’m tempted to sit on the sidelines and nurse my injuries instead of getting back into the game and trying again.

I’ve dealt with this repeatedly over the last few years as I’ve been growing and learning as a writer. It can be frightening to share a piece I’ve written and to ask for constructive feedback. Sometimes the observations people make sting. A few times I’ve even been brought to tears and have wanted to give up. However, I’ve begun to embrace those constructive comments and harsh words as opportunities to continue improving. I’m beginning to see my mistakes as tools to teach me. Since the ultimate goal of my writing is to encourage, inspire and challenge people in their faith, I want it to be the best it can be. This means learning from my mistakes and pressing on rather than letting them define me. My prayer is that, like Paul, my focus is not on pleasing my readers, but pleasing God.

When our efforts don’t look successful from a worldly perspective, it’s important to remember that: “Christ’s economy completely redefines failure…We can’t let Satan shut us in or he wins the battle. He’s trying to make wound-lickers out of warriors. When God opens the door again, let’s stand back up, brush ourselves off, and step through it” (Children of the Day, p. 42).

Paul reminds us of the power we can access through Jesus: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV). Don’t let Satan deceive you with the sting of a past “failure” or the fear of a future one. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude and reject the idea of the “epic fail.” If your motivation is pure and your goal is to please God, you will be a success every time, regardless of what the world sees.

The band MercyMe has a fantastic song out right now about rejecting the label of “failure.” Click on the link and be inspired by the catchy tune of “Greater.”

(Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; 2014; Lifeway Press; http://www.lifeway.com)

(For more information about memes, you can visit: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/weirdwebculture/f/What-Is-an-Internet-Meme.htm)


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Being a Person of Integrity

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I still remember the scene like it was yesterday, even though it happened quite a while ago. It was my first year working in a large public high school and I was off to a rough start as the new Leadership teacher. On this particular day, I stood in the classroom watching out the window as a group of students crowded boisterously around a soda machine just outside. The bell rang and as my Student Government kids began trickling in, most of them were grinning and holding frosty cans of soda. One turned to me and explained with glee, “That soda machine outside is broken and the door is open. Everyone’s getting free sodas!”

I turned to the student and said simply, “Hand me that can and go collect them from everyone else.” My tone of voice told him not to question me. As the students began to protest the confiscation, I spoke up, “Can someone tell me who owns the soda machine?”

I met eyes with a few of the kids and they looked away. One spoke up hesitantly, “Uh, I guess the school does.”

I continued, “That’s right. And do you remember seeing a line item on our Student Government Budget that says ‘Soda Commissions?’ Can someone tell me who gets that money?”

Another student raised her hand sheepishly, “Um, our school athletics programs and the Student Government get the money.”

I nodded and continued, “So, when you’re taking those sodas out of the machine, are they free, or are you stealing them?”

Now, I had everyone looking wide-eyed at me. One boy tried to defend their actions. “Well, when you put it that way, I guess we’re stealing them from ourselves and the other students. But the machine was open, so it’s not our fault if people are taking them.”

Barely able to contain my anger, I responded with a measured tone of voice, “You are student leaders and if you see something like that happening, it is your responsibility to lead by example. Rather than joining in what was happening, one of you should have stood by the machine and someone else should have gotten an adult to help. You set the tone at this school and I expect you to act with integrity.”

Another hand shot up, “Uh, Mrs. McCullum, I don’t even know what that word means and I’m pretty sure no one else does either.”

I answered simply, “Integrity is doing the right thing whether anyone is watching or not. It is being a person with a consistent character who chooses to do what is right because it is right and for no other reason.” I paused and thought for a moment before continuing, “I think we’re going to spend some time learning about what a true leader is, even if it means we plan a few less activities this year.”

Since that eye-opening day, I’ve realized that the quality of integrity is rarely discussed and poorly understood by our culture. So, when I saw Kelly Minter touch on it in Week 6, Day 3 of our study, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Whether we’re discussing teenagers in the twenty first century or Levites in 444 BC, integrity is a crucial characteristic that is in short supply in our world. Nehemiah talks about it in two different instances in his story. The first is when he chooses leaders for the city after the wall is built:

“I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.” -Nehemiah 7:2

The second time is when he returns to Jerusalem later and makes some final reforms after the people stray from the agreement they made to care for the temple and the Levites. Nehemiah lists his choice of leaders and explains his decision:

“I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.” -Nehemiah 13:13

Minter explains: “The world doesn’t need more wealth, strength, power, or skill as much as it desperately needs trustworthy people. My heart is never more at rest, my soul never more at peace than when I am in the presence of a person of integrity. I find relational serenity in never having to second-guess what the person really meant, not having to dodge gossip or duck drama. When I have the assurance that a person’s word is true, motives pure, and intents just, I have found a rare treasure indeed…the names we just read through [in Nehemiah 13:13] don’t carry a lot of meaning, but they represent faithful and loyal people Nehemiah could count on.   Our world could be no more in need of such trustworthy souls today.” (Nehemiah, A Heart Can Break pp. 153-4)

Many people have a “public self” and a “private self.” The “public self” shows well and says the right things.   The “private self”, however, is where the truth resides.   It is where authentic thoughts, feelings and attitudes reveal themselves. Usually, it is also where some of the less appealing aspects of our characters exist: the secret struggles with sin, hidden addictions, quiet judgments of others, critical thoughts, self-pity, entitlement, impatience. We may not like to admit it, but we all have those things inside us to varying degrees.

God values integrity and if we are serious about wanting to follow Him, then we need to start removing the façade of our “public selves” and relinquishing our “private selves” for Him to do a little house cleaning. We need to show consistency of character, even when God is the only one who notices.

Here are a few questions to consider as you evaluate where you need to let God refine your character and build a firm foundation of integrity in you:

-Do I say what I mean?

-Do I mean what I say?

-Do I have ulterior motives when I want to get involved in an activity, with a group or with a person?

-Do I treat things people tell me in confidence as sacred secrets not to be shared?

-Do I adapt how I am around certain people in order to fit in?

-Do I roll my eyes or make derogatory comments about people after interacting with them?

-Do I talk about people behind their backs?

-Does my language change based on who I’m with?

-Do I say “yes” to things I really don’t want to do?

-Do I participate in activities or behaviors that I know aren’t pleasing to God?

-Do I ever drop hints, make subtle comments or make digs to let my opinion be known instead of just saying it clearly?

-Am I beyond reproach in how I handle my finances?

-Do I take advantage of people and situations for personal or financial gain?

-Do I justify “white lies” as okay in certain circumstances?

-Am I teaching my children or grandchildren the importance of integrity and demonstrating it in my own actions?

-Do I tell “half truths” or omit certain pieces of information to cover up a wrongdoing or to get something I want?

-Do I turn a blind eye to things I know are wrong happening within my sphere of influence?

-Do I cover up my mistakes or admit them?

-Do I compromise what is right to save myself money, time or inconvenience?

-Do I intentionally conceal things from my spouse?

-Would my behavior, thoughts and attitudes be pleasing to Jesus?

-Do I keep my word?

-Do I follow through on commitments?

-Do I base my decisions on what others are doing or on what is the right thing to do?

-Does what I say I believe match with how I live my life daily?

-Do I speak up when an error is made in my favor?

-Do I take action to right a wrong even if it is inconvenient or costly to me in some way?

-Do people consider me authentic and sincere?

If any of these questions caught your attention, take time to stop, pray and ask God to reveal where your life needs a fresh infusion of integrity. You don’t have to do this on your own strength.  He will supply what you need when you humbly admit your need to Him.  Sometimes this means retraining ourselves to respond differently to a situation instead of letting our “default mode” take over.  Other times it involves breaking unhealthy habits, patterns or cycles.  Trust God to help you take the steps needed to make the situation right, no matter how difficult it is.

Integrity Matters to God

Integrity should matter to us because it matters to God. Here are a few of the many verses that discuss it:

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.” -1 Chronicles 29:17

“May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” –Psalm 25:21

“Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.” –Psalm 41:12

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” –Proverbs 10:9

“Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.” –Proverbs 13:6

Integrity Affects Our Impact on Others

Integrity also matters to others. If we claim to be Christians but lack integrity, our witness is ruined. Our actions often speak so loudly that people can’t hear the words we say.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” –Titus 2:7-8

Let God Supply Your Integrity

If you are feeling convicted or overwhelmed, keep in mind that even Paul had to rely on God’s grace to supply the integrity he needed to minister effectively:

“Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” -2 Corinthians 1:12

I’ll borrow Kelly Minter’s words as my closing prayer in this quest for integrity:

“May we seek to be people that God and others can trust, people whose deeds do not change whether we are in the dark or the light, whether we’ve been entrusted with little or much.” (p. 154)

Click on the link below to hear Francesca Battistelli’s song “It’s Your Life.” Think about how the words apply to being a person of integrity.


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Straining Out Truth From Lies

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Nehemiah was an impressive man with a singular focus.  One of the things I most respect about him was his ability to discern truth from lies quickly and not to second-guess himself or God.  In Nehemiah chapter 6 his enemies hatch a scheme to derail him while he leads the people of Jerusalem in their wall re-building efforts.  The three schemers, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem repeatedly send messengers asking Nehemiah to stop work to come and meet with them.   When he refuses, they finally fabricate a lie to strike fear in him.  They write and tell him there are rumors that he is planning a revolt and offer to “confer together” with him.  I love Nehemiah’s response:  “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’”  (Nehemiah 6:8)  Nehemiah goes on to explain:  “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’  But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.’”  (Nehemiah 6:9)

Nehemiah saw the lie for what it was and didn’t let it upset him.  He didn’t lose his focus or spend time fretting over what other people might be thinking about him.  He didn’t worry about politics because he knew he was doing the right thing and that he had the king’s support.   His only response to their threat was to pray for strength and continue building.

Nehemiah’s story gives a great example for what Satan often does in our lives.  Sometimes we are working steadily toward accomplishing God’s call for us when Satan slips in and sows seeds of deception to get us off track.  Sometimes he uses other people, as he did with Nehemiah, and sometimes he uses our own doubts and insecurities.

We see a clear example of this in the New Testament in a conversation between Jesus and Peter:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’  Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’”  (Matthew 16:21-23)

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends, but Jesus recognized Satan was using him. Peter’s words were dissuading Him from carrying out the very purpose for which He came to earth: to suffer and die for the sins of all people.  Although Peter didn’t understand his error, Jesus recognized that his friend’s “supportive” words were actually clouding His focus.

Jesus knew well that lies and deception came from one source.  In an earlier exchange He has with a group of Jews who refuse to accept Him He says:  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Both Jesus and Nehemiah immediately recognized Satan’s attempts to distract them from God’s goals for them.  Satan isn’t very creative and tends to grab from the same bag of tricks to derail us over and over again. The best way we can arm ourselves from falling for his lies is by knowing the truth of God’s word and having our gaze singularly focused on Him.  Satan wants nothing more than to render us ineffective by succumbing to our weaknesses and insecurities.  Lukewarm, complacent, insecure Christians rarely make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Our best defense against believing lies is being able to recognize God’s voice.  This happens when we spend time with Him and in His word consistently.  Jesus explains this using the metaphor of a shepherd (God) and His flock (us):  “The gatekeeper [shepherd] opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  (John 10:3-5)

There are many times in my life when I haven’t stopped to think about the voices I’m hearing.  Without God’s wisdom and discernment, I easily fall prey to Satan’s lies.  One of the fastest ways he does this is by causing me to focus on myself.  When I wallow in my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity I prevent myself from being used effectively for God’s purposes.  When I find my confidence in Christ and focus on God and what He can do through me, He moves in my life in powerful ways.  This can be as simple as taking my eyes off myself to smile at a stranger or as involved as saying “yes” to a ministry opportunity that is going to stretch me beyond my comfort zone.

A few years ago I attended a silent retreat sponsored through our church.  Included in the materials was a handout called “Three Voices” that provided wisdom for discerning between God’s voice, Satan’s voice and the world’s voice.  It has been like a spiritual and mental strainer for my mind.   All the internal and external voices I hear throughout the day get filtered through it.  I hold onto the voices containing God’s truth and discard the rest.  Over time, I’ve added to the list through my own experiences and observations.  I hope you’ll find it a useful tool as you learn to strain out truth and let the lies wash away.

Three Voices:

God’s Tone of Voice is:  soothing, quieting, peaceful, encouraging, invigorating, inspiring

Satan’s Tone of Voice is:  insistent, demanding, mesmerizing, hurried, rash, accusing, discouraging, doubt-producing, pride-building, vengeful, selfish, self-centered, critical, negative, defeating

The World’s Tone of Voice:  agrees with the world’s standards and attitudes, is driven to be accepted and acceptable, lets the culture set personal standards, compares self to others, believes we are what the world says, is fearful of what others think, seeks value in exterior and measurable qualities, constantly struggles to “measure up”

God’s Motives and Character:  builds relationships, empowers us, give us courage, provides wisdom, gives peace, stretches and challenges us, reassures us, convicts us to bring positive and healthy changes, offers grace, understands, forgives

Satan’s Motives and Character:  destroys, deceives, accuses, divides, isolates, turns people away form God, lies, makes us feel guilty, creates self-loathing, capitalizes on insecurities and doubts, exaggerates faults, magnifies misunderstandings

The World’s Motives and Character:  to please people, to fit in, to satisfy self, to look out for self, to judge self and others, to compare self to others

As you ponder the voices in your own life, let the verses below encourage you:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  –Romans 12:2

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” –Philippians 1:9-11

Click on the link below to hear Jason Gray’s song “Remind Me Who I Am.”  It’s a great encouragement to keep our minds fixed on God’s truth and not to believe the lies that assault us throughout the day.