Alter Ego

James 3:13-17

13 If you are wise, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about them, then you will be truly wise! 14 And by all means don’t brag about being wise and good if you are bitter and jealous and selfish; that is the worst sort of lie. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, inspired by the devil. 16 For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

alter ego

I love how the Holy Spirit brings about an emotional association to draw a spiritual connection. The passage in James gives clear meaning to Godly wisdom, Christian living, and Christ-serving. This passage also clearly describes what worldly wisdom looks like and where it comes from – the devil himself!

However, before I could dig into the richness of this passage, I found myself staring at the name “James” – the title of this Epistle. Why? Well, it’s my first name you see. My family jokes that I have an alter ego, and his name is “James.” The name itself brings forth countless stories from my past.

Let me clarify, before my encounter with Jesus and spiritual deliverance, I would most certainly say the enemy used past hurts, rejection, and insecurities to build this alter ego of pride, quick anger, and attitude. This “alternative-self” was beginning to mirror the world more and more while the enemy worked to kill, steal, and destroy through countless lies. Sound familiar?

Sadly, many believers are living the same way today. Songs of freedom ring loudly from their lungs while strife, hatred, gossip, and enmity thrive in the darkest of their souls.

The Bible is very clear about this type of living:

1 Corinthians 3:19, because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. It is written in the Scriptures, “He catches wise men in their own clever traps.”

Job 5:13, He catches wise men in their own clever traps. And the plans of those who try to trick others are swept away.

Job 37:24, That is why people honor God. He does not respect those who say they are wise.

Proverbs 3:7, Don’t depend on your own wisdom. Respect the Lord and refuse to do wrong.

Isaiah 5:21, How terrible it will be for people who think they are wise. They think they are clever.

Ecclesiastes 10:2-3, A wise man’s heart leads him to do right, and a fool’s heart leads him to do evil. You can identify a fool just by the way he walks down the street!

The hardest part to swallow is knowing I used to be that person; the very one being inspired by the devil himself [James 3:15] through jealously, envy, and selfishness. Yet, praise God for redemption, mercy, and grace! Also, I’m truly thankful for sealing old wounds. Only Christ’s blood can do such a miraculous thing. Now, my alter ego is nothing more than a testimony of God’s mercy and grace, which is used to draw others to the Healer!

It’s time that everyone break the chains through Christ’s powerful blood.


[Interpretive Vision]

Topic: Living in Worldly Wisdom

You entered into vulnerability as a skilled hunter; your dagger of deception continues to penetrate the blind and weak. Your backhanded sweetness traps your prey and you sing over them with false reinforcement. You left your teethmarks in my back from endless gossip as I tried to escape but the healed scars now testify to His greatness and your failed attempts. You store praise for selfish gain but your heart is growing paranoid. You trample the truth through your hardened heart and toss the Word onto the ground. You slither into rest with pride as your headrest and bitterness as your pillow. Unforgiveness and selfishness blanket you into false comfort. Until…you awaken in full bondage!

Challenge: May we truly live out James 3:17-18. May we be loving, courteous, patient, merciful, gentle, sincere, peaceful, and forgiving. Then bask in your harvest of goodness!

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Words & Worship

Psalm 19:14

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

sky praise

I just love this passage! God draws me to this verse when my thoughts do not match His and when my words begin to get out of line. This is so important to me that a dear friend from college framed this verse for me decades ago as a graduation gift; it remains on my desk at work to this day.

I am reminded of a very important truth each day when I walk into my office and see this verse staring right back at me. First, my words and thoughts must line up with the God I say I love. As a believer, we are most certainly called to a higher standard. This means that my thoughts – the things I meditate on – must truly be God-honoring. Secondly, my words have eternal impact; they can speak life or death. I must make sure that the words that spring forth are filled and laced with love so that others may be drawn to the Father instead of repelled.

Sadly, some of us appear to understand how to worship the King but fail to love his brother or sister with our words and thoughts out of the same mouth and heart. We are good at raising our hands in worship and lifting our voices but gossip taints the entrance to the throne room. We are good at saying eloquent prayers but the outline of our hearts are burning with bitterness and a haughty spirit. We are good at asking for personal forgiveness while we continue to accuse and imprison our neighbors.

The problem is…this doesn’t match! This is a heart problem. James 3:10 says, “Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers, this should not happen.” This pains me greatly especially when it comes from fellows believers.

Often times, we are looking for attacks to originate from the other side of the battlefield; however, do not be surprised when the fiery darts come from your own camp…aimed right at your back. This is why it is so important to pray a hedge of protection around you along with Psalm 91. Specifically verse 5 says, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”

This is also why it is very important to be a part of a community that you can trust and who will always go to battle for you; life groups are a great way to build this kind of true support. I encourage you to find a group that you can build strong relationships, take off those masks, and build chords of trust. Trust is critical when it comes to the foundation of these groups. Gossip and failure to hold confidence have the potential to create lifelong relational fractures. Spiritual integrity is paramount. 

Finally, I strongly encourage you to always filter your thoughts and words through the Holy Spirit. May you think and speak encouragement and never gossip. May you marinate your words and thoughts with love instead of bitterness and revenge. May you walk in humility and dance in the freedom that being a true servant provides. May you marry true acts and words of worship with your daily life so that freedom may spring forth around you.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Mirror Neurons

2 Corinthians 3:18

18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

jesus_in_our_eyes

I had the opportunity to speak to a group in our community this week on memory strategies. This presentation always starts with a fun lecture on neuroanatomy. Every time I prepare for this presentation, I see God’s fingerprints all over the complexities of the human brain; it truly takes my breath away. God’s handiwork over the human body is truly speechless. I thoroughly enjoy studying and sharing this knowledge with my patients and the community around me.

Also during this week, I was listening to a podcast by Rick Warren who mentioned “mirror neurons.” I thought, “What irony!!” This occurred on the same day that I gave my presentation on neuroanatomy, memory function, and nerve health. The Holy Spirit was prompting me to pay attention and I knew there was obviously a lesson in all of it. When the Creator whispers, you must listen. The life lesson I learned was far-reaching and I most certainly had to share!

You see, mirror neurons respond to actions that we see in others. [STOP!] Let that soak in for a moment. We are truly hardwired by God Himself to nearly imitate or at least emulate the things closest to us and especially the things we focus on. This is why it is so critical to focus on God!

There’s a reason why Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Christ…

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

AH! fixing your eyes on the things of this world will truly make you mirror those exact things! Your brain can’t help it so you must avoid it!

~When you fix your eyes on materialism, your mirror neurons can’t help but reflect the filth of this world through your actions and speech to others. You lose empathy, wisdom, discernment and compassion for others. You only see things that falsely fill your personal “want tank.” Egocentrism becomes your idol and you sacrifice those you once held dear for the things of this world. You are consumed by this world which prevents you from being transformed by the renewing of your mind.

~When you fix your eyes on pride, your mirror neurons can’t help but reflect the evil through your tone and discord ensues. You speak critically of others and lose the type of love Christ demands that we show to all. You see yourself as the Queen of your world; however, your empire is built on human praise that will eventually fall. Your eyes are veiled and you miss the pain all around you. Hurting souls are crying out but the “I” in your ear is deafening. Your worship is tainted as it is filtered through unthankfulness, anger, bitterness, hypocrisy, control, fear, obsession, and envy.

~When you fix your eyes on gossip, your mirror neurons can’t help but reflect the power of death in your tongue for Proverbs 18:21 confirms this very truth. In fact, this verse also states that you will ‘mirror’ (eat) the fruits of your speech. Your false empowerment is also temporary as this too shall fall. The darkest side of your tongue becomes your weapon of choice. Edification is replaced with condemnation. The black hole inside of you vacuums light around you. You are incapable of speaking love and disunity grows around you until spiritual suffocation is complete.

BUT GOD…!

~When you fix your eyes on Jesus, your mirror neurons can’t help but worship! You and all of creation can’t help but sing praises to the King. Your entire body comes into alignment with the perfection of Christ. You desire all things pure and holy. Your fruits sprout and grow in the fertilizer of the King. There is no doubt that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flow from His endless river onto all those around you.

This is why it’s so important to put on the full armor of God each and every day. Ask the Father in heaven to dress you as you would your child. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. The only way to do that is to focus on Him in turn mirroring His every action.

It’s “spiritual neurology” my friends! Your brain is hardwired to mirror the very things you place in front of you. If it’s worldly, you will look like it, talk like it and vomit evil like it. If it’s of God, you will shine like it, love like it and speak life like it. I challenge you to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to you during your prayer time. Allow the Holy Spirit to surgically remove these evils in your life so that you may reflect His holiness.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Goals

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

saying goodbye

I was reminded today that my goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals! You see, in a matter of three weeks, I will lose another spiritual sharpener. I almost can’t even type without the sound of tear-soaked keys. People come and go, but you are never prepared to let those very dear to you leave the close perimeter of your life especially when you have witnessed such spiritual metamorphosis in such a soul.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

Sure, it’s not about me but there are always lessons to learn! Just this year alone, I have watched three precious families and courageous hearts dear to me leave the familiar and venture out into new lands. Now, in just a blink of an eye, we will raise palms to the sky and release another warrior into her promised land. Stunned, shocked, yet rejoicing.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

As I listened to her speak, I heard the same words uttered from my mouth twelve years ago when God called my family back to Louisiana from Plano, Texas. You cannot deny open doors; God doesn’t miss an opportunity to outline the doorframe with tissue I know! I’ve been there before.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

So, I raise a hallelujah for surprise blessings! Yes, it’s not about me but one thing for sure…I’ve grown through her salvation, encouragement, praise, worship, and prayer. May we all learn that no matter where we go the mission remains the same: to love one another and to make disciples. I cannot wait for my dear friend and strong colleague to see God’s footprint as she settles into her new promised land.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

This is what I want to be known for truly. Your mission is where you are! It does not matter if you are working at a hospital, in a school, in a church, or at home…your mission is God’s mission and that never changes. This is also why every church should follow God’s mission and goals. Church goals should always reflect that of discipleship and brotherly love. Goals that fail to include God’s clear command will always end in destruction.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

Inward self-seeking service is rooted in pride. My encouragement and challenge for you this week is to study God’s commands and expectations for the body of believers. Always remember that the life of Jesus was remarkably people-minded because souls were hanging in the balance. I honestly want you to examine your mission field. Have you lost your focus for people? Is your calendar inwardly focused? Have you become just too busy in the world of distraction? It’s not too late to refocus on God, His mission, and His heart for people. It’s why He came and provided the ultimate sacrifice for us. So, it’s time that we all re-examine ourselves, our groups, and our culture. Let’s all agree that Satan no longer can distract us from our mission…to be light and salt in a dark world…making disciples.

~My goals are not your goals but they all must match God’s goals.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Runaway

Matthew 26:36-46

Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

goodbye

I recently read a wonderful devotion covering this passage that made me literally stop in my tracks. Jesus was in true agony! He knew what was coming; He felt every bit of urgency, pain, sorrow, and a million other emotions the night before His crucifixion. We can honestly say He dreaded the cross, but He loved us too much to allow selfishness to take over. In fact, that would have been flat out impossible!

Look at His response in verse 53, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

 

The one thing that Jesus asked during his most desperate time of need was for His disciples to stay near and pray. However, these men could not stay awake. Jesus said to Peter, “You men could not stay awake with me for one hour?” This should pierce us all! Jesus explains why He wants and honestly needs them to stay awake but when He returns for the second time, He finds them asleep again. 

The point:

Jesus was fully man, and He was also fully God (Colossians 2:9). Jesus showed us through His own life here on the earth that we will experience trials and even anguish in this life. It is important to have people praying around you. However, we battle the flesh that keeps us bound in selfishness, self-pity, pride, bitterness, jealousy, greed, and anger. These oppressive forces block your blessings from reaching any further than your own thoughts.

Soon after Jesus’ arrest, the disciples deserted Him and fled (v. 56)…[pause]…we no longer have to wonder why Jesus strongly encouraged these men to stay awake and pray [v. 41 The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.] In His most desperate time, they fled; He was alone.

The solution:

~Pray hard and honestly.

~Pray with others and don’t fail them in their time of need; humble yourself.

~Pray even when you don’t want to; let go of the rebellion.

~Pray until you have nothing else to say; the Holy Spirit is still praying on your behalf.

~Pray until it hurts; God catches all your tears.

~Pray even when the world grows silent; God is always listening.

~Pray when others sleep; God is stretching your dependence.

~Pray when you see them run away; He will bring more back to you.

 

Thankful,

Christian Armetta