Friday, August 31, 2018

Self-Control: How to Get a Grip on Yourself

Have you ever totally lost your cool and flown off the handle? In the heat of the moment, you felt completely out of control. It was almost like a demonic force had taken possession of your body, mind, and mouth.

Perhaps you’ve struggled with self-control as it relates to an addiction of sorts or to some embarrassing excess in your life. Maybe it has felt nearly impossible to get a grip on yourself, because you struggle to muster up the necessary willpower and self-discipline, which seem to evade your reach.

It’s not uncommon as human beings to find ourselves saying and doing foolish things, which are obviously not very well thought through. We act both impulsively and compulsively. And when it’s over and too late, we sorely regret what we’ve done. It’s extremely exasperating, not to mention embarrassing.

We can often be our own worst enemies when it comes to holding back our tempers, maintaining proper sobriety, curbing our physical and sexual appetites, and avoiding impulse buys. Self-restraint is much easier said than done! So many times I’ve wanted to smack myself on the forehead and shout at myself, “What is the world ever possessed you to say/do that – you big dummy?!”

Many of my counseling clients confess various humiliating indiscretions and improprieties like affairs, pornography, gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, angry outbursts, or even shoplifting. Shame and remorse usually accompany these deep personal regrets and compunctions.

I’m not sure about you, but I can definitely relate to the apostle Paul’s frustration when he exclaims in Romans 7:15, 18-19 (ESV), "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."

Self-control is mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:23 as the final fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps he saved the most difficult one for last in his well-known list. He knew from personal experience and, no doubt, from observation of others just how difficult it is to achieve this Christian virtue in view of the inordinate amount of willpower it requires. 

During the late hours of the evening in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to his drowsy disciples, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41, ESV). 

In 2 Peter 1:6, the apostle Peter admonishes his readers to supplement spiritual knowledge with self-control. Knowing what is right versus doing what is right are two very different things. So how may we go about exercising better self-control in our lives?

First, consider the consequences of your actions. 
Think it through before reacting. How will speaking or acting in a certain way impact other people, and what might the eternal ramifications be for yourself? Hebrews 11:24-25 (ESV) says, "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin."

Second, keep your eyes focused on Jesus, the founder and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2). 
Look to his perfect example of meekness and self-restraint when facing severe stress in his own life. He consistently said “No” to the devil and “Yes” to God!

Third, surround yourself by trusted friends who will help to hold you accountable to yourself. 
Confession and prayer are powerful tools that are good for the soul and efficacious (James 5:16).

Fourth, come up with a viable alternate strategy in advance. 
Preparation and practice make more perfect. Rather than being caught off guard in situations that bring out the worst in you, develop a playbook in your mind so that you are more likely to respond appropriately when you’re blindsided. Joseph ran from sexual temptation when it had him in its sordid grip (Gen. 39:12).

Fifth, and most importantly, put your faith in Christ and don’t rely on your own strength or insight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

The challenge to develop greater self-control and mastery over our depraved human urges and impulses is a never-ending quest. It is an important part of living a grace-filled, Christ-centered life.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Power of Humility

In the past few years, humility studies have come into vogue in the field of psychology. Researchers have rediscovered the psychosocial benefits of humility in personal mental health and relationship satisfaction (

Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., says, "Humility has been linked with better academic performance, job performance, and excellence in leadership. Humble people have better social relationships, avoid deception in their social interactions, and they tend to be forgiving, grateful, and cooperative. A recent set of studies also shows that humility is a consistent predictor of generosity. People who are humble tend to be more generous with both their time and their money" (

The above findings should come as no real surprise to Christians in light of the teachings of God's Word. However, without a doubt, we live in a narcissistic world. Self-promotion and self-aggrandizement are part-and-parcel of our secular culture. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest and YouTube tend to perpetual this societal epidemic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Finding My Oasis in Jesus

What comes to your mind when you think of the desert? Back in January, my wife and I were blessed to experience the Judean Wilderness first hand. It was amazing to see the Qumran community, Masada (one of Herod’s mountain fortresses) and the Dead Sea. But, wow, was it ever barren and dry there!

Usually, when I visualize the desert, the following things and images are conjured in my imagination: intense heat, endless sand dunes, surreal landscapes, mirages, carcasses, scant vegetation like cacti, camels, Bedouins living in tents, little water, venomous snakes, poisonous lizards, and death.

Although some people may consider deserts to be beautiful and mysterious places, those landscapes are dangerous deathtraps. As Christians, there are times it may feel like we’re stuck in and surrounded by a never-ending desert.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Calling All Dads!

As my children are growing older and becoming increasingly more self-sufficient and independent in their lives, I find my respective role to gradually be changing. For instance, these days it seems they need me less as a corrector and more as a confidante; less as guardian and more as a guide; less as a chaperone and more as a coach; and less as a manager and more as a mentor. While their needs are surely shifting, they still need me to be in their lives in different, though equally important, ways than when they were younger.

You see, dads never stop being dads no matter how old their children are. We must remain available to our kids as they grow older, hit important milestones, and experience various challenges and struggles in their lives. It’s a life-long commitment. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Making of a Family

God in his great love and infinite wisdom gave us families. In our families we are intended to discover our identity, strength, nurturance, and growth. However, there is no such thing as a perfect family. Because humans are flawed and sinful creatures, our families often struggle with many problems.
Let’s face it – living in families can sometimes be tough! Selfishness, stubbornness, and sin have a way of creeping into our homes and often taking over.
When I stand up to preach on Sundays, I’m looking at dearly beloved people in the congregation, despite the reality that they often come from broken homes resulting from divorce, single-parent households, blended/step families, and families in which grandparents are caring for their grandchildren.