Next Steps

In Luke 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the desert for forty days. During that trial Jesus endured three temptations, temptations that are still utilized by the enemy to tempt us today. It’s a mistake to think that Jesus was the only one to walk through temptation. So which of the three are you falling into?

1). The temptation to allow your physical cravings to rule you. The first temptation Jesus walked through was the temptation to turn stones in the wilderness to bread (Luke 4:3). The reason this was a temptation was because Jesus had gone without food for forty days, causing him (obviously) to become physically hungry. The temptation was to allow his physical cravings to rule him, as opposed to his spirit (also referred to as a soul or the will). Do you allow your physical cravings to rule you? Are you driven by a need for food? A need for pleasure (that dopamine hit that causes so many addictions)? A need for sex? Are you allowing something other than your soul/spirit/will to rule your life? If so, you’re falling for a temptation that Jesus was tempted with as well.

2). The temptation to give your heart to someone or something other than God. Jesus’ second recorded temptation in Luke 4:5-8 was to bow down and worship the devil in exchange for the world. Satan wanted Jesus’ worship, he wanted his heart. Jesus made the right choice, but do we? Be honest with yourself, if an objective third party viewed your life and your heart, would they say your heart truly belonged to God, or is someone or something more important? Does your heart belong to a relationship? A hobby? A career? A sports team? Material wealth? An addiction? Where’s your heart? The temptation is to give it to someone or something other than God. Jesus faced that temptation as well.

3). The temptation to try and manipulate God. The final temptation recorded in Luke 4:9-12 was the devil tempting Jesus to speed up the mission, to force God to save him in a spectacular fashion in front of a crowd, to manipulate God’s actions and manipulate other people’s beliefs. Jesus refused because he would not put God to the test. How often do we try and manipulate God, to try and get Him to bless what we want to do? How often do our prayers sound like requests to get God to sign off on what we’ve already decided we want to to? Who’s really in the driver’s seat in your life? You or God? Do you humbly submit to God’s will in your life, or are you trying to manipulate Him? Are you putting Him to the test?

The temptations of Jesus are still played out everyday in the lives of Christians. May we make the same choices that Jesus made.

If you’re going to set goals for yourself, why not set good ones? Goals can be targets that inspire effort and achievement or elicit shame and guilt. You need to set the right goals. Here are five characteristics of good goals to set for yourself:

C – Challenging. Goals need to push you to achieve what you haven’t yet achieved. If your goal is to do something you can already easily do, then it’s not challenging. If you can drop five pounds at the drop of a hat, then it’s not challenging. Set a goal for ten or fifteen pounds.

A – Achievable. Goals need to be set far enough out in the horizon to give you direction but not so far off that you can’t see it anymore. If you’re $20,000 in debt with $2,000 a month in income, getting out of debt in three months isn’t achievable. It needs to be challenging yet realistic.

M – Measurable. This is where many good goals go to die. For a goal to be worthwhile it has to be measurable or you’ll never know when you’ve achieved success. “I want to be more loving” or “I want to be happier” aren’t good goals because there is no way to accurately measure if you’re in fact more loving. This part of goal setting will take the most thought, making the goal measurable, but it is absolutely vital.

P – Purposeful. Setting a goal to binge watch every episode of your favorite Netflix show might be achievable but that doesn’t make it purposeful. If you go to the trouble of setting goals, be sure to set goals that line up with the purpose and direction God has set for your life.

S – Specific. This plays off of measurable and ensures that your goals are as specific as possible, because non-specific goals aren’t really goals at all. If you want to pay off debt, put specific target dates and dollar amounts down. If you want to read more books, write down the number and type of books and the date you want them read by. Specifics are key to setting good goals.

If you want more information on goal setting check out my other posts 7 Types of Goals You Should Set For Yourself This Year and 3 Keys to Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

In my last post we talked about three ways that blame is incredibly destructive and harmful in your life. In this post we’ll talk about two things you have to do to stop playing the blame game.

You’ve probably had a conversation with someone where you’ve told them they needed to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for their lives. Sometimes that works, many times it doesn’t. If you want to stop the blame game, you have to address the core reasons why people blame: pride and fear. People blame others because they’re too prideful to admit that they could do wrong. As long as pride runs rampant in your life, you’ll never possess the humility needed to accept responsibility for your actions. If you want to stop living a life of blame, you’ve got to learn to humble yourself. Look at the humility Paul showed when he took responsibility for his actions, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

An even deeper motivation for blame is fear, fear that if you accept responsibility for your actions, the weight of the guilt and shame would crush you. When Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden and blamed others for their actions, it was out of fear of God’s punishment. The antidote to fear is love, as John says, “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). God as our Heavenly Father relentlessly pursues us, but it’s not to punish us; it’s to embrace us in love. When we immerse ourselves in the love and grace of our Heavenly Father, the fear of punishment will dissipate from our lives and we can live a life free from the destructive side effects of blame.

“I didn’t do it!” A little white lie, a little deflection, a small choice to blame someone else. Not a big deal, right? We all blame, whether it’s the dog that ate our homework or the sibling that broke mom’s lamp, we grow up learning to blame. But blame doesn’t stop when we grow up. We blame our unhappiness on circumstances outside our control, our broken marriage on our ex-spouse (obviously), and our general failure as adults on our less than ideal childhood. We blame. So why is it a big deal? Here are three reasons why blame is so destructive in your life:

1. Blame destroys relationships with other people. When you blame you don’t just blame bad luck, you blame a person. How do you feel when someone blames you for their issues? Do you feel closer to them? Do you say, “Man, I’d be more than happy to take responsibility for your screw ups.”? No, we say, “grow up and take responsibility for your life.”

And by the way, when you blame others, who sees through it? Everyone. No one says, “Wow, maybe it really was all my fault.” When someone blames others, everyone sees right through it. When you blame others, you’re not fooling anyone. All you’re doing is destroying good relationships around you.

2. When you blame, you stay the same. Let’s say today you’re in town and while walking through a parking lot you trip over the curb. It’s a hard fall, cuts and scrapes and bruises all over the place. In a day or two, what’s going to form over those cuts and scrapes? Scabs. Disgusting to look at, but they serve a very important purpose. They form a protective shell over the injured area, giving your body the time it needs to heal.

Now, how many of you have picked your scabs off before you were supposed to? How many of you heard from your parents or have told your kids, “Don’t pick off the scabs!”? Why? Because unless it scabs, it will never heal. As ugly as a scab is to look at, it’s necessary for the healing process.

Our mistakes, our sin, our poor choices, they’re the cuts and scrapes and bruises in your life. And the guilt, the remorse, the shame, those are the scabs, the part that exposes your inner ugliness but gives you the necessary motivation needed to repent, to change, to make things right.

So when you constantly blame others for your actions, you’re constantly shifting responsibility. You’re constantly picking off the scab before you have a chance to heal. If you constantly blame, you’ll stay the same. You’ll never get better, you’ll never fully heal. When you blame others, the person you’re ultimately hurting is yourself.

3. Blame props open the door and allows Satan free access to your life. This is why blame isn’t innocent, it’s incredibly dangerous. When you blame others, you’re lying to yourself, you’re lying to others, and you’re lying to God. When you blame you’re lying. And lying is Satan’s native language.

We all have a native language, and I’m not just talking about English. For some of you, if I started talking about video games, you would light up. Video games are your native language. If I talked about college football or sports, hunting, your kids, the Kardashians. We all have native languages. Here’s what Jesus said about Satan’s native language:

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

Do you know what happens when you consistently speak Satan’s native language and allow him free access to your life? I’ll put it this way: nothing good. We’ve all seen the end result, an older adult, broken and bitter, no close relationships left, sad and alone, and they still won’t change because nothing is ever their fault. That’s the outcome when you blame.

So how do you stop the blame game? That’s the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!