Ra’s Writings

Spiritual Life Articles

Written by Ra Lovingsworth

Repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The call to repentance is to be given in all generations, because repentance serves as a means of grace to pull us away from a life devoted to sin, selfishness, and self-sufficiency; and to draw us toward a covenant relationship with the God of all creation, Who has chosen to reveal Himself as Abba, Father. Therefore, it is about you O man, woman, and child to recognize that you have been created by God Almighty for His pleasure, and that you will discover your highest pleasure and purpose in union with Christ Jesus who is the direct embodiment of Yahweh God (Deut. 10:14-15; Ps. 16:1-11; 63:1-8; Heb. 1:1-4) who came to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and the power of sin through His sacrifice on the Cross (Col. 1:13; Heb. 2:10-18; 7:26-27; 9:11-15, 23-28; 10:1-14).

Just as a father and mother rejoices to see their children take responsibility for their own actions, and begin taking the necessary steps towards being a mature and conscientious adult—so also does God rejoice (Jer. 32:41) over those who acknowledge His greatness and seek to submit their lives to His holy will through the way of faith and repentance. I have heard over the years that some people tend to think that all the commandments and rules that God sets out in the Bible are just so many, and that it crushes their heart when they think about it. However, we must adjust our thinking and begin to realize that the commandments of God are designed to not only please our Maker, but are designed for our good and protection. The inevitable consequences of sin cannot be understated. Oftentimes, our pain and suffering in life is a result of our own decisions. For example, if we take some time and contemplate the heartaches, pain, guilt, disease, and death that could be prevented by waiting until marriage to consummate the union that occurs between a man and a woman—we would soon realize that we and future generations could greatly benefit from a life that is submitted to God’s will and ways. God’s commandments are not designed to restrict us, but designed to fulfill us in such a way so as to minimize the consequences of pain and suffering that inevitably result from our own actions. When God and His kingdom become our first priority in our life we begin to re-structure our thoughts, words, and actions in alignment with God’s natural and spiritual law.

The first preaching of Jesus was a call to repent (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15), and in each of these cases the call to repent that is given by Jesus Christ in the Greek text is found in the present tense, active voice, imperative mood, and in the plural which signifies that all people at all times are to actively repent continuously; namely, those who hear the call to repent are to mandatorily live a life of repentance which means to continuously turn from sin through the intellect, emotions, and will and turn towards God. This repentance is not portrayed in such a way that it might be a good idea to repent, or perhaps that it would help you in some form, but the call to repent that Jesus makes is a command declaration that all people at all times must repent. Martin Luther who in 1517 posted his infamous 95 Theses at Wittenberg begins in his first Thesis when he said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”[1] Martin Luther is correct in stating this because of the present tense and active voice in the Greek text (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15), because the child of God that has been set-apart by God (John 1:12-13) does not practice sin as a lifestyle (1 John 3:4-9), but is commanded to pursue a union and abiding with God through denial of self and submission to God’s will (1 John 3:24; 4:4, 7, 12-16; 5:1-3, 20; John 15:1-17; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 9:23-27; James 4:6-10) by living a life that continuously turns away from sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), and in turning away from sin turns to God as his refuge, rock, shield, and great deliverer (Psalm 18:1-2; 27:5; 91:1-16; Romans 6:13). Thus, it is crucial that every child of God immerse themselves in the Word of God, because it is Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) which provides us with the necessary knowledge for that which is pleasing to God as well as that which is abhorrent to the Most High. Yet, let all the world open their ears to hear and know, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9), and because of this, repentance is to be witnessed and experienced as a way of life, whereby the heart that has been regenerated by God’s Spirit continues to pursue and please His Maker by continuously turning one’s heart, mind, and affections towards the God of Glory wherein one’s treasure is truly secure (cf. Hosea 6:1-6; Romans 5:1-5; 8:5-13; Matthew 6:19-21).

Do you regard the lovingkindness of God better than life itself?
Do you seek God early in the day?
Does your soul and flesh thirst and long after God your Savior?
Do you look towards God to see His power and glory?
How often to you lift up your voice in praise and worship in self-abandonment?
Are you satisfied with God and with His goodness?
How often do you remember God on your bed?
Do you meditate on God in the night watches?
Do you rejoice in God who gives you life and breath each moment?
Are you consciously seeking to follow closely the God of Truth?

These questions emerge from Psalm 63:1-8. And if you answer no just as I do, then….repent and seek the forgiveness of God and seek to be united to Him through the Lord and Savior of Jesus Christ.

[1] Nichols, Stephen ed. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2002, p.23.

Written by Ra Lovingsworth

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

~ Ephesians 2:4-7

What does it mean to be raised with Christ? Is this something that only happens when we pass from this life to the next through what is commonly called physical death? The answer is a simple—no. A revelatory notion in Scripture is that we can indeed be dead [to the life of God], when in fact our physical bodies are still alive [in this world]. Whereby Jesus says, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22); or Paul when he says, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6).

So although we can be dead [to God] and yet alive [according to the flesh]; yet, we can also be dead according to the flesh [i.e. old man—Romans 6:6-9] and also alive with God. For we are to be “united together in the likeness of His [Jesus] death” (Romans 6:5), because “If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). However, although we are still in the physical body, we are not in the fleshly consciousness of setting our minds on earthly things (Romans 8:5-6; 2 Corinthians 10:2-3). This is what it means to actually experience what Christ Jesus says when “we are not of the world” (John 17:14, 16), but “we are in the world” (John 17:11). To not simply believe that we are strangers upon this earth, but to actually know our identity in Christ so strongly that our faith is fixed upon the Rock that is unshakable (Psalm 61:1-4).

When we think about being raised with Christ it should be made clear that we can be raised with Christ now while we live in the flesh, although we do not war according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3). What does this mean? It means very literally that there is an aspect of you sitting in the heavenly places in Christ—now (Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:1-4). Thus, this spiritual reality is what Paul groaned for and earnestly desired in order to be clothed with (2 Corinthians 5:2-4). Therefore, we too should deeply desire to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, now in this moment. This refers to our ability through the grace of God by having our “senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14), and by “yielding the peaceable fruit of righteousness by being trained” from the Holy Spirit via our life experiences to “be transformed by renewing our minds” (Hebrews 12:11; Romans 12:2).

To be raised with Christ refers to the work of God moving through our lives, which manifests in such a way so as to literally “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). But “how” do we seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness? We do this by actively and consciously pursuing God, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). How do we acknowledge God in all of our ways? We do it by “guarding our hearts with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23). How do we guard our hearts with all diligence? By seeking to acknowledge and prioritize our lives by seeking Yahweh with our thoughts, emotions, will, words, actions, that is, with our entire being at all times by mustering as much strength and intensity (Isaiah 64:7) as we can to love Yahweh our God and to seek His counsel and strength. Let us not simply come to the cross of Christ, let us also get on the cross and be crucified, namely, we must die to ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 5:24). Additionally, we do this by walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16, 22-25) seeking to embody spiritual fruit in order to love God and humanity in truth (Mark 12:29-31; John 13:34-35; Galatians 5:6, 13-14), and to worship God in the beauty of holiness by means of spirit and in truth (Psalms 29:2; John 4:23-24). However, to be raised with Christ, it is the Father who draws us that we may die with Christ (John 6:44; Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:20; 3:1), because it is the Father who has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). Once we have truly been “born from above” or regenerated by the Spirit of God we are now truly free to serve God in the newness of life by seeking our true Life from above which is hidden with Christ in God.

But how do we live this life where God comes first in ordering our thoughts, emotions, words, and actions? From my experiences in life it comes from two specific changes in one’s being. First, it comes from literally being “born from above” (i.e. born again) – which is revealed by knowing, growing into, and daily experiencing who you truly are in Christ, which is the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9; Titus 3:4-7). In a word it is by having a new life and a new identity. Second, it comes from a renewed will (Psalms 16:8; Romans 12:1-2) that longs to please Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9). This “renewed will” is not divorced from this new identity, but it naturally seeks through careful study to imitate our Heavenly Father’s characteristics and holy attributes embodied in Christ Jesus—no matter the cost or sacrifice.

Written by Ra Lovingsworth

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart, too, will rejoice; and my kidneys will rejoice when your lips speak upright things. Let your heart not envy sinners, rather those in fear of Yahweh always. For there is a latter end, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:15-18

In contemplating and seeking to interpret the imperative command to fear the Lord it is necessary to search the Scriptures to discover the various nuances involved in carrying out this biblical injunction. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments reveal that “fear” is a necessary experiential attitude that the people of God are to have toward Yahweh—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For the modern mind terms like fear and jealousy seem to have a negative connotation; however, these terms have important theological connections both to our attitude towards God (i.e. fear) and God’s attitude towards His people (i.e. jealousy). Fear can be a debilitating emotion when people are dealing with phobias of snakes, spiders, and elevators, but fear can also be a positive force towards preserving life such as seeing a shark at the beach, seeing a poisonous snake in the woods, or hearing a gun shot. Yet, the biblical definition regarding the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil and do good (cf. Psalms 34:11-14). However, there is a distinction which must be made, namely, (a) our personal way of defining good and evil (Proverbs 1:31), or (b) the ways and laws of God (Psalms 19:7-9; 119:1-176). Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God must speak for itself regarding the paths of life and death.

The Scripture declares that the beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of knowledge both have their roots in the fear of the LORD Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). In the Torah the command is given to honor the elderly and to fear your God—Yahweh (Leviticus 19:32). Additionally, the fear of Yahweh is necessary in order to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments; and that this fear will prolong our days (cf. Deuteronomy 6:1-3). “The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God for our good always, to keep us alive as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24). We see from these verses that the fear of the LORD (1) is for our good, (2) it prolongs our days, and (3) it enables us to keep the commandments, statutes, and judgments of God.

God’s covenant children are humbled and tested from time to time in order to do us good in the end (Deuteronomy 8:1-5, 16; Hebrews 12:5-11), so that we may walk in His ways and to fear Him (Deuteronomy 8:6). Yet, the spirit and essence of the Law is revealed in this word…“And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways and to love Him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul…you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your very all (Deuteronomy 10:12; 6:5). Thus, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). So the Scriptures declare that God requires us to fear Him, yet not in an incapacitating fear, but in a way that gives true life to our souls through submission to His will by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our spiritual growth in progressive sanctification is a constant training in learning how to fear Yahweh always (cf. Deuteronomy 14:23; Proverbs 23:17). However, what is the fear of the LORD? What does it actually mean? How can I actually learn to fear Yahweh always?

The fear of the LORD represents an awe of the majesty of God – Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 22:23; 25:14; 33:18; 103:17. As we contemplate the universe above and the majestic beauty of the earth, the myriad creatures, the complexity of DNA-RNA, and to our bodies from organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles, namely all things being held together by God’s Sovereign Decree. So we declare with the Psalmist, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14)

The fear of the LORD represents a fearful dread – Psalm 96:9; 102:15; Proverbs 1:29; Isaiah 8:11-15; Malachi 1:6; 3:5; 2 Corinthians 7:9-12; Hebrews 10:26-31. Once we have received new life through Jesus Christ by His one offering, He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14), and in this new life there are times when our affections are turned away from God and our desires conceive and give birth to sin (Genesis 4:7; James 1:14-15). Thus, a life of repentance (Mark 1:15) is necessary to restore our confidence (1 John 2:28). Yet, there are times when we are to recognize the power of justice (Psalm 50:21) against unrighteousness, and this healthy dread is necessary from time to time so we do not degrade the holiness of God into a common thing. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) in Chapter 14.2 on Saving Faith states, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings (cf. Ezra 9:4; Isaiah 66:2; Hebrews 4:1), and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” (WCF 14.2).

The fear of the LORD represents a continuous consciousness of God – Deuteronomy 14:23; Psalm 36:1; Proverbs 2:1-5; 23:17; Malachi 3:16. To have a fear of God actually means to be aware of God. To be aware of God reveals an immediate knowing that we are subordinate to God since we are His creation. To know that we are subordinate to God means that all “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13). However, this conscious awareness of God can have a blend of the dread and fear associated to Yahweh’s holiness, as well as an intimate nearness of His Fatherhood and provision from the majesty of His glorious works. Additionally, there are eight processes given in Proverbs 2:1-4 which ultimately lead to an understanding of the fear of Yahweh and the discovery of the knowledge of God. These eight processes are (1) receiving God’s Word, (2) treasuring His commands within, (3) inclining our ear to wisdom, (4) applying our heart to understanding, (5) crying out for discernment, (6) lifting up our voice for understanding, (7) seeking wisdom as if it were silver, and (8) searching for wisdom as if it were hidden treasures. These eight actions have been summed up by Jesus when He commands us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13).

The Fear of the LORD represents the instruction of wisdom, namely, the way of life – Joshua 24:14; Psalm 34:11-16; 103:17; 128:1-4; Proverbs 14:25-27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 29:25; Jeremiah 32:37-41. The commandments, laws, ordinances, statues, judgments, testimonies, and words of Yahweh are revealed and given unto us so that we may learn to do good and seek justice (cf. Isaiah 1:16-17), seek peace (cf. Psalm 34:14), to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (cf. Micah 6:8), while also departing from evil, and keeping our tongue from corrupt communication and our lips from speaking deceit (Psalm 34:13-14; Ephesians 4:29-5:7). God has ordained what is good and evil, and the paths that He has commanded us to walk in are for our good and well-being, and length of days; therefore, we are to fear God because reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Deuteronomy 5:16; 29, 33; 6:3, 18, 24; Proverbs 6:23).

As we begin to absorb the sweetness of God’s Word and allow it to dwell richly within us we will cry out to be “cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” we will begin to experience the “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The fear of the LORD is an important factor in our spiritual communion with God, because (a) it gives us wisdom in the way we should walk (Psalm 34:11-14), (b) it gives the ordering of the right relationships we should have toward ourselves (Proverbs 1:31; Jeremiah 17:9-10), others (Psalm 118:8-9), and with our Creator (Psalm 27:1-3; Habakkuk 3:17-19), (c) the fear of the LORD Yahweh is a means of grace for communion with the Most High God, and (d) the Holy Spirit which indwells all adopted children of God, also represents the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:1-2). Therefore, allow the fear of the LORD to be a driving force for your obedience to God. Let us go forward and “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Written by Ra Lovingsworth

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.”

2 Corinthians 13:5

“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:18-27

Chesbon Ha’Nefesh is the Hebrew phrase that literally means “accounting of the soul.” “Chesbon” is a Jewish technical term that is used in the field of accounting, which implies a thorough and exacting examination of all accounts received and paid, and “Ha’Nefesh” refers to “the soul.” These two words combined refer to the Biblical examination of oneself, namely the need to take a careful examination of our souls. For the purposes of this work, I am mainly interested in conveying to you various ways to take an accounting of yourself in order to grow and develop your spiritual life with the Lord. However, these principles can be extracted and used in other contexts of life; e.g. parenting, mentoring, counseling, business, leadership, and personal reflection.

The accounting of our souls represents a structured and comprehensive examination of our life. With the key fueling questions of WHAT and WHY? What is your worldview, why? What do you believe life is about…why? What else, why? What else, why? What are your strengths, why? This examination includes, but is not limited to: our (a) worldview, (b) beliefs, (c) identity, (d) values, (e) strengths, (f) weaknesses, (g) capacities, (h) environment, (i) purpose in life, (j) goals, (k) motivations, (l) family history, (m) personality traits, (n) roles, (o) careers, (p) physical health, (q) personal relationships, etc.

Your life is a systemic whole, which means that your feelings influence your thoughts, and your thoughts influence your feelings. Your decisions influence both your thoughts and feelings, and vice-versa. Similarly, people who study micro-expressions understand that certain eye movements and facial expressions correlate with certain affective and cognitive states. Thus, our systemic nature of heart, mind, soul, and will become evident via our thoughts, words, and behaviors. Within the context of our lives and discerning where we are going – it is the decisions, thought-patterns, and emotional feelings that we tend to regularly experience which will influence us in the future of how we live, move and have our being. Therefore, habits can be changed, emotional and thought patterns can be changed, beliefs can be changed, identities can be changed, and unhealthy behaviors can be changed completely in union with the grace of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

To complete this examination properly we will have to become aware of the various distinctions taking place inside of our being. Namely, you will become intimately aware of your fears, prejudices, assumptions, beliefs, emotional states, internal dialogue, and decision making processes. What you must realize is that the core drivers of your behavior are your thoughts, beliefs, desires, emotions, environment, and will. It is necessary to become aware of how these other levels of ourselves can be altered in order to influence new positive outcomes that are congruent and in harmony with God’s Word. This can be one of the most difficult parts of our spiritual growth, because it causes us to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. David cries out, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13). Again, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 13:23-24). What is crucial to understand is that we must come to understand and know within ourselves, and say with Jeremiah “O Yahweh, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Yahweh, correct me, but with justice; not in your anger, lest You bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:23-24). Taking an accounting of ourselves is never done completely within one examination, nor is it done correctly in our own strength. It is obligatory that we openly confess any and all sin and forsake it (Proverbs 28:13), and genuinely seek and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to open up new areas that need cleansing, healing, and reconciliation so that all members of your being are set apart and sanctified for the work of the Lord (Romans 6:11-19; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Titus 2:11-15)

Sin has distorted our perceptions, our beliefs, our values, our identities, and our relationships. Although this work will take time and conscious effort to know and excavate who you are, what you stand for, why you are here on earth, where you are going…….and why. The reward and fruit of knowing who you truly are in Christ enables you to say with Paul that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

So if you are committed to honor God with your life, and letting your profession and confession of Jesus Christ is Lord be the ruling standard of your life, then you are obligated to count the cost, deny yourself, and pick up your cross (Luke 9:23-26, 62) in order that you may honestly “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and turn toward God and ask, seek, and knock for the desire to change, and the strength to endure because Christ Jesus is truly our life, our strength, our peace, our wisdom, our redemption, our sanctification, our joy (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:14; Deuteronomy 10:21). Since our thoughts and emotions are primary drivers for behavior it is crucial to redirect our hearts and minds to God again, again, and again in order to create new habits of the heart and mind so that we may seek God as our source for everything. Below is the Biblical foundation for the need of going through “the way” towards an accounting of your soul, and of your life. True humility is an accurate understanding of who you are in God’s plan, as well as your own weaknesses. The verses that follow present a Biblical foundation for the need to take an “Accounting of the Soul.”

2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.

1 Corinthians 3:10 – According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 – Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

1 Thessalonians 4:4 – That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.[1]

Galatians 6:2-4 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

James 1:23-24 – For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

Lamentations 3:39-41 – Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to Yahweh; let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.

1 Timothy 4:16 – Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Proverbs 4:18-27 – But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.

Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways of man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and He ponders all his paths.

Proverbs 14:8, 15 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.

Proverbs 25:28 – Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

Proverbs 20:5 – Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:27 – The spirit of a man is the lamp of Yahweh, searching all the inner depths of his heart.

Psalms 26:2 – Examine me, O Yahweh, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.

Psalms 119:59 – I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.

Psalms 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Deuteronomy 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself (lit. souls), and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.

Luke 17:3-4 – Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.

Luke 21:34-36 – But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

John 3:19-21 – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Job 13:23 – How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin.

Ezekiel 20:43 – And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed.

Malachi 2:14-16 – Yet you say, for what reason? Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For Yahweh God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says Yahweh of Hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.

Let us consider these verses well, because the Word of God is not simply poetic speech to be admired, but it is a Living Word that is designed to be implanted within us in such a way so as to take root and grow, and to bear forth much good fruit (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Therefore, let us take heed to ourselves…Do we truly call out and desire to be cleansed of every wicked way? Do we sincerely desire to please God in all things? Why or why not? These questions and others will serve as guide-posts for our spiritual growth. The accounting of our souls enables us to examine what we actually stand for.

Basic questions to initiate examination.

Who are you? – Identity

Where are you from? – Origins

What do you hold as important, or who do you hold as important? – Values

Why are you here on earth? – Purpose in life, passion

Where are you going? – Future, vision, hope, faith

What is life all about? – Worldview(s), beliefs

What can you contribute? – Capabilities, capacities, strengths, weaknesses

What has shaped who you are now? – Culture, environment, family history, genetics, past

What are your priorities in life? – Life organization

These questions and others are designed to be asked over and over, this isn’t about simplistic answers to check off the box.

We each go through life and inevitably absorb our cultural values and norms on an often unconscious implicit level. The media (i.e. music, television, movies, Web, video games, social media, etc.), our peers, our family, and our schools are all involved in the formation of our psyche and because of this we accept certain beliefs, values, and worldviews at an unconscious implicit level. What I mean by this is that most of our beliefs, values, and worldviews are outside of our conscious awareness. Additionally, if you were to question yourself it would likely reveal only a superficial knowledge about yourself. This manifests itself when we truly begin to question ourselves on “why” we believe what we believe, or “why” we value what we value. How often do people go through life without coming to realize what is really important, what they stand for, and why they are here only to have a heart attack, stroke, or be diagnosed with cancer – which opens them up to question themselves and what is really important in life.

From examining my life and learning from the lives of others, I have come to discover that all life is about relationships, communication, and perception. Relationships with God, family, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, money, career, health, government, guns, various groups, food, ourselves and of course the list can go on. Since communication (verbal, nonverbal, and internal dialogue) serves as the primary interface for connecting with our relationships; then it naturally follows that perception is the primary filter for (a) what we see and (b) how we see it, (c) how we generate meaning, and (d) express ourselves [i.e. communication] in our relationships. So yes, in a very abstract sense all life is about relationships, communication, and perception; however, in a practical and concrete sense life is about much more than this. Having researched the fields of biblical studies, leadership, and psychology and meeting many people from all walks of life, it has become clear that leadership and life are inextricably wedded together. The leadership I am referring to is “self-leadership;” therefore, we must effectively learn how to utilize our “will” that has been regenerated in order to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Thus, as we submit our will to the will of God as revealed in His Word (James 4:1-10), and His Inspiration given through the Holy Spirit we learn to participate in the handiwork of God in our lives (Ephesians 2:10).

Life, here on planet Earth, presents its inhabitants with myriads of problems and life experiences. As a result of these experiences and problems, we create self-schemas which provide the scripts and rules we use that frame our perceptions to make sense of ourselves, our place in the world, along with the roles and functions we accept and internalize as part of our identity. In many ways our self-schemas serve us well, and at times they don’t because limited notions of ourselves and others can often continue to perpetuate behaviors, stereotypes, and beliefs that do not awaken and honor the dignity of every man, woman, and child into their greater potential(s) of why we are here on this planet to begin with.

Now what does all of this have to do with life, relationships, communication, and perception? In short, it has to do with our personal ability of leading ourselves under and in union with the Lordship of Christ Jesus, while being able to effectively engage with the world and the situations we find ourselves in, and in such a way so as to live, move, and have our being in the “new life of God” while also being a light, encouraging others, and building up the Body of Christ so that the Lamb of God may receive His due reward.

Therefore, we go about leading ourselves and submitting our will to the will of God in the context of actively and consciously seeking to submit all of our energies and being unto the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. We cannot submit ourselves unto God unless we are actively seeking to consciously do so. This is where we consciously lead ourselves in union with the grace of God, to “present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13b). In short, this means living a life of holiness in thought, word, and deed and being obedient in the two great commandments, namely, to love Yahweh our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Thus, as we lead ourselves in union with Christ by actively denying ourselves, picking up our cross, and seeking “to guard our heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23) we “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Examining ourselves and leading ourselves is not something we do apart from the grace of God, but it is our reasonable service to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, and to not be conformed to this world system (cf. Romans 12:1b-2a).

You who read these words take heed to yourselves and, “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:13-25).

[1] The term vessel has been a matter of debate among scholars, the two implications is that one should know how to posses or master oneself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-21), the other interpretation is taking one’s spouse as the vessel (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).

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