Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Five Steps to develop a RIGHT Spirit

Good morning! This is the day that that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. My heart is full of praise and thanksgiving today. I have been trying to develop a discipline of naming one thing each day to thank God for that I have taken for granted. When you slow down enough to do that, you will be amazed at the blessings of God that you very seldom thank God for. He blesses us more than we can ever name or mention. God is SO GOOD!

I have been studying the life of King David in my personal devotion. He was a godly man, with a heart after God. However, he was very much human as well. He failed miserably when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. And then, as if that weren't enough, he arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, thus adding murder to his dirty laundry list. What happened to this great, anointed man of God? How could he go from leading a nation back to God, writing numerous Psalms of praise to God, to being an adulterer and murderer? I believe the answer is found in Psalm 51:10:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Somehow, this man who loved God with all of his heart, who God said, "has a heart after me" about developed a WRONG SPIRIT. It can happen to any of us, if we don't guard against it.

Proverbs 4:23
Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.

We must "keep and guard" our heart so it won't develop into a WRONG SPIRIT. We have all heard things such as: "He is just MEAN-SPIRITED" or "she has such a SWEET SPIRIT" or "I believe he has a WRONG SPIRIT." My question for each of us today is, "What kind of spirit are you known for?" Do you have a tendency to get offended rather easily? Do you see the best or worst in people? Are you known for being judgmental, or harsh? Do you have a problem saying things that you really shouldn't? If so, you probably have developed a WRONG SPIRIT and need to have your RIGHT SPIRIT renewed!

Today, I want to give you FIVE STEPS TO DEVELOP A RIGHT SPIRIT. We will use an acrostic of the word RIGHT:

Refuse to be offended (Hebrews 12:14)

Hebrews 12:14 (AMP) Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.

(BBE) Let your desire be for peace with all men, and to be made holy, without which no man may see the Lord;

(CEV) Try to live at peace with everyone! Live a clean life. If you don't, you will never see the Lord.

(ISV) Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

(MSG) Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God.

Notice the words mentioned in these verses: strive, desire, try, pursue, and work at. Each of these words are showing the importance of REFUSING to become offended. Just about every day of your life you can become offended if you want to. You have to STRIVE and WORK at not being offended. I know of people that quit church because they have become offended. My friends, that is an attack of the enemy of your soul. Sure, you may have a RIGHT and a REASON to be offended, but YOU must choose to be above and beyond that. It is time for God's people to grow up and MATURE in the Lord. I say this with as much love as I can. Walk in the Spirit, and you will REFUSE TO BE OFFENDED. Jesus refused to be offended by those who abused Him. He is our great EXAMPLE. How do you refuse offense? By memorizing and speaking out the Word of God that I have just listed for you. Live it!

Inspect your HEART daily (Psalm 139:23-24)
Psalm 139:23-24
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; (24) See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong-- then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! (24) And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Ask God, as David did in the above verses, to search your heart daily. When the Holy Spirit points out something that is wrong in your heart and spirit, don't make excuses for it, CONFESS IT and REPENT of it. Then move on!

God's Attitude towards people (Phil. 2:1-11)

Philippians 2:1-11 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care-- (2) then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. (3) Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. (4) Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (5) Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. (6) He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. (7) Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! (8) Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. (9) Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, (10) so that all created beings in heaven and on earth--even those long ago dead and buried--will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, (11) and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Don't expect people to serve you, you make up your mind to serve them. BELIEVE THE BEST in people, even if you don't personally like them. Ask God to help you here, "Lord I want to see _________ the way that you see him/her"

Hide God's Word in your HEART (Psalm 119:11)

Psalm 119:11 (AMP) Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

(CEV) I treasure your word above all else; it keeps me from sinning against you.

(ESV) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

(KJVR) Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

(MSG) I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won't sin myself bankrupt.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, three different times He said, "It is written…" He quoted the Word of God that he had HID (by memorization) in His HEART. If Jesus saw the need to overcome temptation and the devil through memorizing and quoting God's Word, I believe I need to make that a priority in my life as well. To help us do that, I will be putting a memory verse every day at the end of my blog for each of us to remember together!

Tongue SPIRIT controlled (James 1:19)

James 1:19 (AMP) Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.

(GNB) Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.

(KJVR) Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

(MSG) Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.

One of the most sobering verses in the Bible:

James 1:26 (AMP) If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person's religious service is worthless (futile, barren).

(CEV) If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and everything you do is useless.

(KJVR) If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

(MSG) Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air.

According to James 1:26, if I don't allow God to help me TAME my tongue, then my RELIGION is useless, worthless and empty. I don't want to stand before God in this condition, so I better ask God to help me SHUT MY MOUTH at times. I believe that we could all use some help in this area. Help me Jesus!

I love you guys, and pray that we develop a RIGHT SPIRIT to replace a WRONG SPIRIT that I may have developed in my: marriage, work, family, friends, or church. With God's help, He can RENEW a right spirit within me! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's verse to "hide in my heart":

Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with
thy free spirit.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven Ways to praise God

Good morning! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I am so thankful for the great day we had yesterday at First Assembly. God challenged, changed, and refreshed His people. He is a good God who is worthy to be praised.

In today's blog, I would like to give a brief review of the message that I preached in our services yesterday entitled, "Seven Ways to Praise God."

Let's start off thinking about the Children of Israel. They were a people who lived in a continual state of God's supernatural provision. This provision was tangible, for they could see these blessings every day with their own eyes.

Let's assume that the Israelites numbered about 3,000,000 people, which is what many Bible scholars estimate. In that case, do you know how much manna was needed to feed the children of Israel in the wilderness? One scholar has estimated that they needed 4,500 tons of manna every day! If this is true, and if you take into account that God fed His people every day for 40 years, this means 65,700,000 tons of manna supernaturally appeared on the ground over a period of forty years!

This manna appeared so regularly, so faithfully, so "day in and day out," that after a while, the children of Israel didn't even think too much of it anymore. Supernatural provision became so commonplace among them that they forgot how supernatural it was and began to accept it as a normal, regular occurrence. During those forty years, young children were born and grew up thinking it was normal for 4,500 tons of manna to appear each morning out of thin air (see Exodus 16)! Can you imagine that? They were so used to the blessings of God; they failed to develop an attitude of gratitude. We have blessings every day that I'm afraid we take for granted. In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are seven Hebrew words that tell us how to praise God. Let's look at each of them today:

1. Towdah (towdah), it's the sacrifice - Praising God in spite the fact your world is in a vice - It's praise that pushes through the wall of all adversity - An offering that flows to heaven in our time of need. By way of application, it is apparent in the Psalms and elsewhere that it is used for thanking God for "things not yet received" as well as things already at hand.

Psalm 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (TOWDAH) Regardless of your circumstance, whether it is good or bad, God is GOOD. Praise takes our focus off of our problem and places it on our good and faithful God. This first way to praise God tells us that in EVERY situation we can and should praise God. It is sacrificial praise. But for there to be a real sacrifice, something has to die. So, when we offer this sacrifice of praise, we die to our: fears, worries, doubts, anger, offense, frustrations, aggravations, and we put our focus on God above everything else that is pulling our attention away from God. That is TOWDAH.

2. Yadah (yadah), that means to lift your hands (lift your hands) - In response to what the Lord has done throughout the land - An outward sign of what's inside for all the world to see. This is the demonstration of our love and submission to the Lord by the raising of our hands. Lifting your hands to the Lord in total submission and devotion.

Psalms 63:4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

Psalm 7:17 I will praise (YADA) the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

Daily, we should pause long enough to lift our hands towards heaven in YADA worship. When we do, we are declaring our total submission, devotion, and surrender to God and His plans.

3. Barouch or Barak (barouch), that simply means to bow - In the awesome presence of the Lord and all His power - To just be overwhelmed' cause you hardly can believe - That you've been given favor by His Holy Majesty. It implies a continual, conscious giving place to God, bring attuned to walking in the Spirit. At times it is translated as BLESS.

Psalm 72:15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised (BARAK).

Psalms 95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

Every day we need to make sure we offer BARAK praise to God. This is where we kneel, or bow before Him in His presence. It is amazing how this will quiet your heart in the midst of a storm.

4. Shabach (shabach), it is what we call the shout. It's praise that's given way before the answer comes about. A loud adoration, jubilation, and shout proclaiming with a loud voice the glory, triumph, mercy and love of the Lord.

Psalm 117:1 "O praise (Shabach) the Lord all ye nations: Praise (Shabach) Him all ye people."

It is the shout of faith. As the children of Israel were marching around Jericho and her walls, they were told to shout for God had given them the city. They began to shout, BEFORE the walls fell down. They shouted praise unto God before they saw the answer. That is, again, the shout of faith.

5. Zamar (zamar) Means TO SING WITH INSTRUMENTS, A SONG OF PRAISE. It also means, to touch the strings or parts of musical instruments and to make music.

Psalm 57:7 ....O God my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise (ZAMAR).

There is power in praise and worship music. I love to pray while listening to CD's of praise music. I keep it in my truck, and regularly sing while going down the road. It is amazing how godly music can lighten your heart. King Saul learned the importance of praise music when he was king. He would have a heavy, dark spirit come over him and he would call David to come before him and play on his harp music of praise to God. Listen to what would happen:

I Samuel 16:23 (MSG) After that, whenever the bad depression from God tormented Saul, David got out his harp and played. That would calm Saul down, and he would feel better as the moodiness lifted.

Yes, there is power in praise and worship. If you are battling in your mind and spirit right now, why don't you take the time to turn on some praise and worship, and begin to offer ZAMAR praise to God, and feel yourself calm down in the wonderful presence of God.

6. Halell (halell), Halal is a primary Hebrew root word for praise. Our word "hallelujah" comes from this base word. It means "to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to rave; to celebrate.

Ps 113:1-3 Praise (halal) ye the Lord, praise (halal) o ye servants of the Lord, praise (halal) the name of the Lord.

Ps 150:1 Praise (halal) the Lord! Praise (halal) God in his sanctuary; Praise (halal) him in his mighty expanse.

This is the celebration praise. If you have repented of your sins, asked Jesus into your heart, and are developing a relationship with Him, that is something to celebrate. Every day, we should celebrate the fact that we were on our way to hell, but now I am on my way to heaven. That's good news, and that is SHOUTIN' GROUND!

7. Tehillah (tehillah), A spontaneous new song. Singing from a melody in your heart by adding words to it. Singing straight to God. This type of praise takes some time. It is where you set aside your watch, phone, schedule and just wait in God's presence. What a time of refreshing this brings into your soul.

Psalm 22:3 Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises (tehillah) of Israel.

My prayer is that beginning today, that we all make sure to praise God in all seven of the abovementioned ways. For God truly is deserving of all of our praise! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty

Friday, September 21, 2007

How to Break-free from a bad habit (#5)

Good morning! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. What a beautiful day that the Lord has blessed us with. I love Fridays! That means some good stuff is getting pretty close: High School Football, Razorback football, and most important of all, Sunday services! I hope you will be able to attend this weekend as I plan to preach a message entitled, "Seven Ways to Praise the Lord." We will be looking at Seven Hebrews words in the Bible that teaches us about praise and worship. I look forward to meeting together with you.

We come to the last day and part of our study on breaking bad habits. Let's review.

Begin today                                                      Refuse to blame others                                                             Examine MY life                                                                     Ask Christ to take control of my life                                                                 Keep away from temptation                                                                 Focus on something better                                                                     Restore broken relationships        

Now, let's look at the last two steps.


God never meant for you to go through this life on your own. You get some outside help who can encourage you, who can spur you on, who can keep you motivated, keep you accountable. That's why God gave us the church. If you're going to be what God meant for you to be in life, you cannot do it alone because God did not design you to be a Lone Ranger. He meant for you to have support.

The Bible says this in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
"Two are better off than one, because together if the one falls down the other can help him up. If someone is alone and falls, there's no one to help him."
You have to have support. That's why you keep falling in that same cycle, over and over, because you're trying to do it on your own.

At First Assembly, we have many of opportunities to give you support. In the first place, if you haven't done so already, why don't you just join us? Stop being a spectator and become a participator.
Stop being a consumer and start being a contributor. Stop being an attender and become a member. Join the church family. Get committed to Christ and His church. I encourage you, if you've been receiving spiritual food here at First Assembly and you're not a member, what are you waiting on? Then we have many Sunday School classes and departments. You need Sunday School. It is very important. Your children need Sunday School. You were meant to have people around you who, in a crisis, can hold you up. If you're serious about changing, you need support.

James 5:16
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed
." Does anybody like this verse? If I were God I wouldn't have put this verse in the Bible. It's too hard. But since I'm not God, I guess I'm going to obey it. Because God is God and I'm not. That's what it means to be a true Christian. It means when God says something in His word, if I understand or if I don't, if it makes sense to me as a human or if it doesn't make sense, I'm going to do it. Why? Because God knows more than I do. The Bible is not a book where you read it and go, "God says this but I know better. I'm going to do this other thing because I know what will make me happy." The true Christian says, "I don't care what it says, if God says it, I'm going to do it. I'm going to obey it because He's God and I'm not."

God says to confess your sins to each other. Notice the rest of the verse, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." I do like the healing part. I like the physical healing. I want to be physically healed. I want to be emotionally healed. I want healing in my relationships. I want healing in my spirit. I want healing socially. God says if you want the second part, you do the first part.

I know some of you have a bad habit and you need to deal with it. I know you're saying you're going to change, ask God for help, but you want to skip this step. "I'm not going to tell anybody about it. It's just going to be me and God. We'll work it all out because I don't need anybody else to break this habit." As your pastor who cares about you, I want to say this to you, "Good luck! It's not going to happen. You're not going to break free." God designed us to need each other. He didn't put this verse in the Bible by accident.

Here's what you've got to decide: Am I going to pretend I've got it all together? Or Am I going to admit that I don't have it all together so I can get it all together? As long as you pretend you've got it together, you're never going to get it all together.


1 Corinthians 1:4
"Christ helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others in trouble, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God."

God never wastes a hurt. He wants to take your greatest weakness, your greatest area of failure and He wants to heal you and turn it into your ministry to help other people. Who can better help somebody who's going through the pain of divorce than somebody who went through the pain of divorce? Who can better help somebody who's addicted, than somebody who's been set free from addiction? Who can better help other issues such as -- pornography, homosexuality, infidelity -- than somebody who's been caught in that trap, and been set free? God wants to heal you and then God wants to use you. And nothing feels greater than that.

Galatians 6:1-2
"If a person is trapped in some sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ."
This says we're to carry each other's burdens. If you know somebody in your life, in your family, a friend, somebody you care about, and they're messing up their life with bad decisions, stupid decisions, or bad habits, you must care enough to confront them in love. You cannot say, "It's none of my business... That's their private life... I've just got to take care of myself..." If you care, if you want to be like Jesus, you must say, "I love you enough that I am not going to let you mess up your life and just stand by and watch you blow it from a bad habit that's killing you, from stupid decisions."

I urge you in the name of Jesus Christ, speak the truth in love, live the truth, share it with other people.

Some of you are thinking, "It's hopeless. I've tried it all. I've listened to tapes. I've been to the seminars, made the decisions, prayed. I'm just never going to change." You're wrong. You haven't tried these nine steps. And you haven't done every one of them. Let's close with God's promise.

1 Corinthians 10:13
"God keeps His promise. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. At the time you are tempted He will give to you the strength to endure it and so provide you with a way out."
God says "I will never allow more on you than I put in you to bear it up." If you want to be free, take these steps. It starts with a decision.

As we close this study out, please pray this prayer in your mind. God will hear you. "Jesus, You know how much I'd like to change some things in my life. I've got some habits that are really causing me problems. Some of them I'm really ashamed of. You know how I've tried to change in the past. I've failed repeatedly. I can't do it on my own power. I just can't change on my own. Today, Jesus, I admit that I need Your help. I need You to be my Savior and I ask You to be my Lord. I need the power of Your Holy Spirit to change my life. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen."

I BELIEVE that you are going to be FREE in Jesus name! If you have a testimony of God's liberating power in your life, I would love for you to share it in the comment section below. It will encourage many people. I hope to see you in our services Sunday! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty





Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to Break-free from a Bad Habit (#4)

Good evening everyone! It has been a whirlwind of a day, and I am just now getting around to posting my blog. I apologize for that.

We have been looking at nine steps to break a bad habit in your life. We are using an acrostic of the word BREAK-FREE. So far this week we have covered:

Begin today Refuse to blame others Examine MY life Ask Christ to take control of my life Keep away from temptation Focus on something better

Let's look at the next two steps:


What does that have to do with my bad habits? Everything. Our bad habits always affect those around us. Especially those closest to us. What I do, my habits, don't just hurt me. They hurt other people.

There's a phrase you hear a lot today in the media: "What I do in my private life, doesn't effect my public performance." There's a spiritual, Greek word for that -- bologna! It's not true. Your character does influence everything you do. What I do privately does influence me publicly.

Let's say you hired a tutor for your children. The tutor said, "I want you to know that privately I'm a pedophile and a molester, but it will not affect my public performance." You'd have some questions. If you hired an accountant and he said, "Privately, my hobby is lying, cheating and stealing. But it doesn't affect my public performance as an accountant." That's crazy!

Your bad habits and my bad habits do hurt the people around us. We cause grief to others and we cause guilt to ourselves. Anything that's out of control in your life is hurting other people.

Romans 12:18, "As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone." He's saying, as far as your responsibility goes, have all the bridges restored and relationships rebuilt. Live at peace with everybody. Usually this involves clearing up unresolved issues. It may take some time. You make a list of the people you've hurt with your bad habits -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- and you go to those people and you ask forgiveness and make amends. You ask them to help you. Make restitution where possible. Maybe some of you need to go back to a former spouse and say, "I never really did admit this, but I need to admit I was a major part of this break-up and here are the reasons why. I'm sorry and I want to ask you to forgive me." That doesn't mean you're getting back together. You may have already re-married. But it does mean you're cleaning up the past.

Why would you do anything that difficult?

This step in the nine steps is the most difficult step. None of us want to admit that my problem caused you pain. It's humbling and that's the idea. The Bible says that God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble. Grace is the power to change. You don't get grace by being proud. You get it by being humble.

Why should you go back to the people that you've hurt with your habits and ask them to forgive you? Because a clear conscious is absolutely essential for lasting change. I'm not talking about if you want to change for three months or six months or a year. I'm talking about permanent change in your lifestyle and your life for the rest of your life. You've got to take this step. Say, "God, I admit it," and then you go to the people and say, "I admit it."

There is a law of human behavior called The Law of Diminishing Intent. You may have never heard that term. It means that as time passes, our best intentions fade. We get in a very predictable cycle of phases:

  • Phase one is desperation.
    I've got to change! It's the point where you become so upset with something in your life that you go "Enough is enough! I'm not living like this anymore. I'm changing. I've got to change!" Desperation.
  • Phase two is determination.
    I'm going to change! You make the decision. You sign the commitment card. You do whatever it takes. I'm going to change! You step across the line.
  • Phase three is effort. That's where you, out of sheer human will power start going, "I'm changing!" And by sheer human will power you do start changing yourself. You start making the changes in your life. That lasts three months, four months, a little longer. But it's not going to last forever. Will power runs out.
  • Phase four is pride. That's where you start thinking, "I've got this thing licked. It wasn't that hard. Look at what I'm doing. I'm having victory here. I've got it licked." The Bible says "Pride comes before destruction". Inevitably you fall. "Let him who stands take heed lest he fall."

So then we start the cycle all over again. We wait until things get so bad and we says, "I have got to change" -- Desperation. Then Determination: "I'm going to change!" Effort: "I am changing." Pride: "Look at me! I'm doing it!" Then you fall.

When you do this five or six times then you start feeling ashamed. You don't even want to talk to God about it any more. You've stumbled so many times, you're embarrassed, you're ashamed and you think, "I'm going to give up!" How do you break that cycle? Why don't you tell God right now that you are tired of the way you are, and that you truly DESIRE to change? He will give you the strength, and He will bring people into your life to help you. That will be where we start tomorrow! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to Break-Free from a Bad Habit (#3)

Good morning! I pray that you are enjoying the blessings of God today. God is so good, and faithful to us.

This week, we have been looking at nine steps to break-free from a bad habit. We are using the word break-free to accentuate each point. Let me do a quick review:

Begin today                                                      Refuse to blame others                                                             Examine MY life                                                                     Ask Christ to take control of my life

That brings us to today's steps.


This is just common sense. A no brainer. You need to avoid the situations where you are tempted. If you don't want to get stung you stay away from the bees. Another way to put it is, "If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you're going to get a hair cut."

Romans 13:14 "Don't give any chance to the flesh to have its fling." If you want to stop drinking, you don't stock a wet bar in your house. If you're having a problem with lustful thoughts, there's certain movies you don't go to see, certain TV shows you don't watch. You don't find yourself frequenting certain book stores or the magazine racks in the airline terminals. You just avoid that kind of stuff. Stay away from it.

Proverbs 24:27
"Plan carefully what you do. Avoid evil."
The secret to overcoming temptation is to plan ahead, decide in advance that you're not going to give in. If you wait until you're in the tempting moment to decide what you're going to do, you've already lost. The emotions swell up and the feelings are there, all the senses are engaged. You're going to miss it. You have to decide in advance.

For instance, if you're a single adult and you say, "I'm going to go by God's moral standard about sex." It's very clear. God says, "No sex outside of marriage." He's real clear about that. It causes all kinds of problems. You say that's your standard. You don't wait until you're at the end of a date, standing at the door to decide, "Am I going to be pure?" You don't wait until you're sitting in the back seat of a car -- teenager -- to wonder, "What's going to be my moral standard?"

When I was a youth pastor, I use to tell kids, "You've got to plan your date. If you don't plan your date, the sexual temptation will instantly come in." -- "What do you want to do? "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't know, do you want to make out?" "Great idea! Nothing else to do." When you date, you're either going to go by your plans or your glands. One of them is going to win out in your life. You plan to avoid temptation in advance.

Ephesians 4:27
"Don't give the devil a foothold."
That means don't put yourself in places where you're going to be tempted. That may mean that you have to drop some friends. Any friend who's leading you in the wrong direction is no friend of yours. It may mean that you have to change jobs. If you are in a situation at the office, if you're on the verge of an affair, or you're already in one, quit your job. You can't just be strong and say, "It's over!" Quit your job because your soul is more important than your salary.
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul
." Get out of the situation. Burn your bridges. Keep away from temptation


If you want to overcome a bad habit you've got to focus on something better. Proverbs 4:23 (Good News) "Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts." The spiritual battle for temptation is fought in your mind. Whatever captures your attention is going to capture you.

The Bible does not teach resisting temptation. It teaches resisting the tempter. The more you resist something, the more it persists. You resist the devil, and he WILL flee from you. There are times that you RUN from the temptation. The Bible says 2 Timothy 2:22 to "flee youthful lust…" In temptation, what you do is refocus rather than resist. If you're saying, "I don't want that piece of pie. I don't want that piece of pie..." What are you focusing on the whole time? The piece of pie! This is why diets do not work. The whole time you're on a diet, what are you focusing on most? Food. What do you think about most? Food. You think far more about food when you're on a diet than any other time in your life. That's why they don't work. Instead you need to focus on something else.

When you are tempted you don't say, "No, no..." -- just change mental channels. Get up. Walk around the room, walk outside, read a book, call a friend, take a shower. Do whatever you have to do to cut yourself off from the tempting source. Refocus on something else. The Bible Proverbs 4:23
(GN)"Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts."

Some of you are thinking, "What's wrong with a few little thoughts? They're not harmful. It's just a harmless fantasy." You're kidding yourself. The Bible says your thoughts determine your life and if you think a truth or think an idea over and over and over, it's inevitably, eventually, going to come out in your behavior. You say, "I can watch this kind of stuff. It doesn't bother me. I can think these kinds of thoughts. I can listen to this." You're kidding yourself. It's like adding little pebbles to that scale in your mind. Pretty soon it's going to tip and you're going to stumble. Your thoughts determine your life. In fact, if you didn't have any thoughts, you wouldn't have any life. It's not harmless.

Philippians 4:8 (GN) "Fill your mind with things that are good and deserve praise. Things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable." Fill your mind with good things. This is the Principle of Replacement. The Principle of Replacement is built on the concept, the idea, the truth that nature abhors a vacuum. Vacuums are not a natural state -- at lease on this planet. So nature immediately seeks to fill a vacuum.

When you say, "My gas tank is empty." It's not really empty. It's just been replaced with air. When you run out of gas, you don't have a vacuum in there. It's not really empty. Your gas tank is either filled with gas or with air. One replaces the other. So your gas tank is never really empty.

You may think, "My mind is empty" (or maybe your kids think that). But it's never really empty. It's always filled with something. So when you say, "I'm going to stop thinking this way." It doesn't work. The whole time you're focusing on what you don't want.

The way you get rid of a bad thought is replace it with a good one. When we push the Word of God in the front, the bad idea goes out the back. Replace it. Paul tells us, "Fill your mind with good things."

This is one of the ways you grow spiritually, by reprogramming your mind with new thought patterns. Replace old ways of thinking with new ways of thinking. Put off the old man, put on the new. The Bible says in Romans 12:2
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Focus on something better.

I love you guys, and thank God for the Victory and freedom that we have through Jesus Christ! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Break-Free From a Bad Habit (#2)

Sorry that I am posting very late today. It has been a very busy day, but one that started off with a powerful move of God in our staff meeting. During prayer, we had two Word's of Knowledge spoken over our meeting. God refreshed us in an awesome way. I will share more about it in our Sunday services.

Yesterday, we began to look at some steps on how to break-free from a bad habit. We are using the word Break-free to accentuate each point. Let's continue this discussion.


After I assume personal responsibility, I take personal inventory. I do an internal audit. I take an honest appraisal of myself. This is the principle we find in book of Lamentations 3:40
"Let us examine our ways and test them and return to the Lord."
God says, on a regular basis, I need to do some personal inventory. I need to ask myself questions like, "Where am I most tempted? Where am I likely to fall? What are my weaknesses? How long have I had these problems in my life? Where am I vulnerable? Where am I coasting?" Anytime you're coasting you're headed downhill. You need to look at yourself and take a frank evaluation of your faults, failures and temptations. If you're going to change anything in your life, you've got to stop pretending. You've got to stop faking it, wearing a mask. You've got to stop covering up your faults because hiding a hurt and hiding a habit intensifies the pain and only causes it to grow deeper.

Notice what the Bible says in Psalm 32:4-5. David says, "My dishonesty made me miserable and it filled my days with frustration until I finally admitted my sins and I stopped trying to hide them and God forgave me and now all my sin is gone."
This step -- examining my life -- is not a once in a lifetime, once for all shot. Healthy people repeat this over and over. They are constantly taking their spiritual pulse. They are constantly examining their lifestyle. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:26
"Ponder the path of your feet." They are constantly saying, "What am I doing with my life? Where am I headed? What is the direction of my feet?" You do it on a regular basis. Constantly I'm asking myself, "Where am I vulnerable? As a Pastor, I ask myself regularly, where am I vulnerable? What are my weaknesses? What could trip me up and cause me to miss God's will for my life?"

The Bible says in I Corinthians 10:12
"Let him who thinketh he stands take heed lest he fall."

If you want power in your life, you must walk with integrity, you must walk with humility. Those two things keep you on track. The Bible says evaluate your life. Why?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "Our heart is deceitful and desperately wicked."
That means I can't even figure out my own motives, much less yours. You don't know why you do what you do much of the time.

When the Bible says, "the heart is deceitful," that means given any situation, I am capable of any sin. Given the right situation, you are capable of any sin. The moment you say, "I'd never do that" what you're doing is setting yourself up. One of the greatest weaknesses in life is an unguarded strength.

A few years ago, a young teenage boy from Germany, flew a single propeller plane right into Red Square in Moscow. In one of the most heavily guarded military places of the world, he flew a plane right in the middle of it. One of the greatest weaknesses is often an unguarded strength. Examine yourself.


Many people will tell me, "I'd love to change. But I can't. I've listened to the tapes. I've read the books. I've gone to the seminars. I've prayed in the quiet time. I've made the public commitment. I've signed the paper. I've prayed. I've cried. But I just can't change."

You can't on your own. You need a power outside yourself. You need a greater power to change the things you can't change. That's why you need Jesus.

I'm not just talking about being a Christian. I'm saying, you need Jesus not just for salvation. You need Christ every second of every minute of every hour of every day if you're going to change and be the person God meant for you to be. He needs to be in control.

Something is always going to control your life, one thing or another. You're always going to let something control you. Some of you are controlled by the desire to make money. Some of you are controlled by the desire to have fun. Some of you are controlled by the desire to be popular or famous. We can be controlled by the expectations of others. We can be controlled by a substance. Some of you are controlled by alcohol or drugs or prescription drugs, for that matter. You may be controlled by fear. You may be controlled by worry. You may be controlled by guilt. You can be controlled by somebody else.

Anything that you allow to control your life that isn't God, the Bible calls that an idol. And in one of the Ten Commands, God says no idols. Anything that you center your life around that isn't Jesus Christ is your god. For some people, their god's their hobby because their whole life revolves around their hobby. Then you wonder why you're under tension all the time. You don't have a strong enough center to hold your life together. Anything other than God that's number one and at the center of your life is not strong enough to hold it all together.

The Bible talks very honestly about what's called the "power of sin". We don't use this phrase today very much. You don't hear very many people talking about the power of sin. Instead we talk about addictions and victims and dysfunction -- psychological terms. But it's the power of sin.

So how do I break free? Freedom comes from choosing Christ as your master. Romans 6:12-13
"Don't let sin control your body any longer; don't give in to its sinful desires. But give yourself completely to God -- every part of you -- to be used for His good purposes." In America, most of the time we want to give God the problem but we don't want to give Him anything else. We want to give God the situation that's hanging us up but we don't want to give Him our whole lives.

The Bible says if you want to break free, if you want to change your life, you've got to give yourself completely. That means I've humbly said, "God, I admit it. I've blown it. You're God and I'm not. And I need Your help. I submit myself to do what You want to do. I want You to be the Lord of my life, Jesus."

We use the word "Lord" all the time -- Make Jesus the Lord of your life... Jesus is Lord ... Lord Jesus. What does it mean to be Lord? We don't understand this term because, in America, we live in a democracy, not a kingdom. We do not live in a feudal system where you have kings and queens, lords and ladies, vassals and counts and serfs and knights. What we have are presidents and things like that.

So what does it mean to be Lord? Lord is just the old fashioned term for "the big boss... number one... the guy in charge... the CEO, the chairman of the board..." When you say, "Jesus, I want You to be Lord of my life," what you're doing is putting a sign over yourself that says, "Under new management." I think that's the best definition of Christian -- Under new management. All of a sudden, I'm not calling the shots -- He's calling the shots. Jesus Christ doesn't want to be a part of your life, He wants to be the CEO, the chairman of the board. He wants to call the shots. He doesn't just want to be resident in your life, He wants to be president of your life. That's what it means to give yourself completely.

When I do that, what happens? Power. Power to change your life. Power to break bad habits. Power to do the things that you never thought you could ever change in your life up to this point.

I love the Phillips paraphrase of Romans 13:14 "Don't give any chance to the flesh to have its fling."

I believe this week as we continue to look at God's Word, you are going to BREAK-FREE from the habits and bondages in your life. Please feel free to post your comments below. Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty L. Blann

Monday, September 17, 2007

How to Break-free from a Bad Habit

Good morning! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. Every one of us have SOMETHING to rejoice about. God is so good and faithful to us!

As I type this blog, my heart is overjoyed at the day we had yesterday. We celebrated our 60th Anniversary as a church (First Assembly of God-West Memphis, AR), and what an awesome time it was. Our service in the Family Life Center included a song sung by former choir members, and it was beautiful, as well as emotional. We then had a 27 minute slide presentation that took us down memory lane, along with many displays from years and decades gone by. Former Pastor, Bruce McCarty then preached the sermon and did a great job. After the service, we then went to Eugene Woods Community Center and had a great time of fellowship and food. Those of us that are a part of First Assembly of God in West Memphis are so blessed to have such a rich heritage and history. Once again, we were reminded in many ways, of how faithful God has been to us. He doesn't change, and is the SAME yesterday, today and forever. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in making our celebration such a HUGE success. We couldn't have done it without you.

This morning in prayer, the Lord began to deal with me about the importance of breaking bad habits. I am going to spend this week discussing "How to BREAKFREE from a bad habit."

Every one of us has bad habits. I've got a lot of them. You've got some, too. Some of our bad habits are obvious. Some of them are kind of hidden. It doesn't matter. Either way they mess up our lives and keep us from being all that God wants us to be.

What do you do when you want to break a bad habit? One of the things is go over to a book Store and look at all the self help books because there are thousands of books out there that will help you overcome bad habits. They may tell you some things to do but they don't have the power, they don't have the energy to bring about genuine, lasting change. You've read some of these books. I have, too. They'll say things like, "Take control of your life." Right! I can't take control of today, much less my entire life. Telling a person, "Shape up! Get rid of all your bad habits. Take control of your life" is like saying to a guy who's fallen off a skyscraper, "Stop falling!" He'd love to stop falling, but he doesn't have the power.

"... they are slaves of destructive habits -- for a man is a slave of anything that has conquered him." 2 Peter 2:19 (GN)

2 Peter 2:19 (NIV) They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

Today, we're going to begin to look at God's way. What the Bible says about "How to break a bad habit." Nine steps to break your bad habit. I put these nine steps in an acrostic so you'll remember them. They spell out BREAK FREE. We will look at the first two today.


Proverbs 27:1 says "Never boast about tomorrow. You don't know what will happen between now and then." In other words, don't start next month, don't start next week, tomorrow. Start today. Every day that you procrastinate on changing a bad habit it gets more deeply ingrained. Every day you put off changing the things you know should be changed in your life, they become more habitual. They become stronger with delay. God says, "Don't wait! Don't put it off. Do it today."

Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Living Bible) "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" There's never a better time than now. You need to quit saying, "One of these days I'm going to get my act together... One of these days I'm going to get right with God ... One of these days I'm going to do what I know is the right thing to do..." "One of these days" is "none of these days". Do it now.

Think of a habit you'd like to change. We're going to start now.


You'll never break out of any bad habit until you accept responsibility personally and you say, "This is my problem." It's human nature that we love to blame everybody else for all the problems in our lives, all of our unhappiness. Our favorite phrase in America today is, "It's not my fault." We like to excuse and accuse. We excuse ourselves from all of our faults, our failures, our flops, and flubs and we love to accuse everybody else and point out their irregularities, their sins, their malfunctions, and their dysfunction and on and on. We accuse and excuse. It's human nature. We hide and we hurl. We hide our sins, we hide our faults and then we hurl little bombs at everybody else. Verbal bombs...

The most bizarre, the most insane thing is when we blame God for our problems. God lets us have a free will and then we make all kinds of stupid decisions and we get ourselves into a mess. And when we get into a mess we say, "Why did You do this, God?" We blame Him for problems that we bring on ourselves. God says, "You're the one who did it. I gave you the free will and your decision was to do that. You're reaping the results."

This is not a new problem. Notice what the Bible says: Proverbs

"Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then they blame the Lord." This was true of Adam. Remember the devil tempted Eve and she ate of the fruit and then she gave it to Adam. God came to Adam and said, "What's going on?" God knew exactly what was going on. He just wanted Adam to admit what was going on. Adam, when he sinned, took it just like a man. He blamed his wife. In Genesis, he said, "The woman you gave me." "It's your fault, God. I didn't ask for this woman. You gave her to me. If she wasn't in my life, of course I would have been perfect."

Who do you blame for your unhappiness? Your kids? Your spouse? A former spouse? An employer or employee? A fellow church member? A parent? Or are you blaming God for your problems? The devil? -- "the devil made me do it!" -- society, government, the environment?

If you want to break free of bad habits, if you want to be the kind of person God wants you to be, if you really want to change your life -- lasting change -- you must begin today and you must accept responsibility. Refuse to blame other people. "Blame" is spelled B - LAME.

Why don't you right now, wherever you are, just stop for a moment and ask God to do a couple of things: #1 To forgive you for the times that you have procrastinated or blamed others for your habits and problems. #2 Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind habits that God wants to break in your life THIS WEEK.

I believe that this is the week of VICTORY for some that are reading this blog. I am praying with you right now, for Jesus to be allowed to SET YOU FREE! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life (#4)

We have been looking at steps to manage stress in our life. Today we come to the final step, and the all-important one.


You have to check your schedule and your finances and your words but at some point you have to go a little bit deeper and check your heart. You have to ask the question, "Why do all of our strategies for dealing with stress and lessening stress and getting rid of stress, all the magazine articles written, all the books written lining shelves…why don't they work for me?" While practical strategies for dealing with stress are important, at some point, we have to get to the heart of the matter. That creates stress too.

Proverbs 12:25 "An anxious heart weighs a man down." There's weight that comes with anxiety that's in our heart. We take stress and we push it out, we get rid of it. We quit the job. We change our lifestyle. We move to a new place. And then slowly but surely the stress creeps back into our lives. Why does that happen? Because there's some holes in our heart that allows the stress to come creeping back in. You cannot change the internal, by only changing the external. In other words, if I have a disease in my body while I live in West Memphis, and I think the answer is to move, I don't care if I move to California, I will still have the disease in California. Let me say it again, you cannot change the INTERNAL by simply changing the EXTERNAL.

How do I know it's a hole in my heart and not just some practical problem that I need to deal with? If you only have to deal with it once, it's just practical. If you have to deal with it again and again, there's a heart problem. If you overload your schedule one time and you learn the lesson and never do it again, it's a practical lesson. We all make mistakes. But if you overload your schedule again and again and again and you tell yourself "I'm never going to do that again," and yet you do it again, there's something going on in your heart. You have to ask yourself why?

Let's look at three things that we need to be aware of as we check our heart.

  • Watch out for the attitude of pride. That's the attitude of "I can do it all."

Why do we keep over scheduling and over committing? I think it's because we really believe we can do it all. There's a church version of this that says, "I believe that God can do it all through me." It's pride either way. Because the truth is, I can't do it all. You and I have limits. God is able. God can do everything. I believe that all of us can do great things, greater things than we can imagine. We can do great things, but we can't do everything. No one can do everything. Even Jesus on the earth in bodily form, couldn't do everything. When He said "It is finished" there were still people who were sick, still problems in his family (some of His brothers still were not believers)…but He did what He could do, nothing more or less.

Proverbs 16:18 is about this attitude of pride that we all struggle with, "Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall." Some of us experience the drama of that verse everyday of our life. We wake up and think, "I can do it all!" and at the end of the day we think, "Why couldn't I get it all done?" The pride of "I can do it!" the fall of "It didn't get done." To deal with stress you have to deal with this attitude.

Proverbs 3:7-8
"Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality."
It is not healthy to be impressed with yourself. It's a great stress reliever to admit a few things. It's a great stress reliever to admit that I'm more likely to be wrong than right. And that the goal of life is not to prove that I was right but to eventually be right. That's a great stress reliever.

Do you know how much stress it creates when, at the back of your mind, you sort of know you're wrong (like in an argument with your husband or wife) yet you keep trying to prove yourself right even though you know you're probably wrong. Doesn't that create great stress?

It's a great stress reliever to admit I may not get everything done on my To Do list today. I know some of you. You wake up everyday and you've got 102 things to get done on your To Do list. You think, "If everything goes just right today I can get it all done." When was the last day that everything went just right? One day back in 1987? But that's only one day in your life. Things go wrong in our days so we have to admit and not to have pride to think I can control my day or know everything that's going to happen in a day but to say, "I may not get everything done." When you admit that, then you do the most important things first. First of all, things that have to do with your relationship with God, and then your family, and then the most important things in your company. You focus on those priorities first because you realize, "I may not get it all done." It is a great stress reliever to admit that you have limits.

Our greatest example in this is Jesus Christ. Jesus, God, came to this earth in human form and He intentionally decided to limit Himself to one place at one time. He didn't have to do that but He decided to do that. When you look at Jesus walking this earth, there were a lot of people He didn't get to heal that needed healing. There were a lot of people who needed talked to that He didn't get to talk with. There were a lot of things that needed to get done that didn't get done. He just spent time in one little country, one little place, with a few people. Yet did it stress Him? No. In fact, the Bible says He often got away to lonely places and prayed during His time of ministry. He knew the stresses of life were so great He needed time alone with God even with all there was to be done.

I look at that and think, If Jesus Christ recognized that He had limits, who am I to think that I don't have limits? It's a great stress reliever to let go of your pride and admit, "I've got some limits. I'm not right all the time. I'm not going to get everything done." Pride is one of the hard issues you have to deal with.

  • A second heart issue is the issue of envy. That's the attitude, "I can be it all."

I can't be everything everyone is, all the best of everyone. I see it in everyone and I want to be it. Proverbs 14:30 warns us about envy
"A heart at peace gives life to the body but envy rots the bones."
That's quite a picture. God has given all of us enough time to be the person He's made us to be. So we're trying to be that person but then we notice another person who's not us, who's different than us and we like the person they are and so we think, "I'd like to have their talent as well as my talent." So we try, in envy, to take their talent in too. Then we notice a person who's getting a lot of notice for what they're doing. We envy that and think, "I'd like to be them too." We try to take their thing into our lives as well as our thing. So pretty soon we're trying to be not just ourselves but four or five or six people. God has given us enough time to be the person He's made us to be and when I envy others and try to be others, inevitably it's going to put too much weight and too much stress on my life. It's the stress of "keeping up with the Jones'"— the envy. And Mr. Jones just had a quadruple bypass surgery because of the stress in his life and we're trying to keep up with that. Envy rots the bones. It's an incredible stress inducer in our lives.

If I want to reduce stress, I've got to patch that hole in my heart, the hole of envy.

  • The third – greed. Pride says, I can do it all. Envy says, I can be it all. Greed says, I can have it all.

The Bible does not say it's wrong to be rich or to be poor. It talks instead about having an attitude of contentment whether you're rich or poor. It talks instead about how most of us are going to go through times in our lives when we're rich and poor. God wants to teach us in both times. But the Bible, and particularly the book of Proverbs, warns us greatly about this "get rich at any cost attitude," about the love of money and what it does to our lives.

Greed is an attitude that none of us want to admit to but it's something that surrounds all of our lives and so affects all of us. We live in a pretty materialistic world. We live in a pretty materialistic country. Because of that we all have to deal with the influence and effects of materialism and greed in our lives. There's nothing wrong with growing your company. There's nothing wrong with increasing your income. How do you know if it's greed? How do you know if it's materialism? One test: If you think, "I have to have it to be happy," that job, that increase, whatever. Whenever you think about some thing – I have to have that to be happy, that's when you cross the line over into greed. The Bible warns us greatly about this attitude. Proverbs says in 23:4
"Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to control yourself." If that's not blunt enough, Proverbs 25:16 says it this way, "If you find honey, don't eat too much or it will make you throw up."
That's blunt! But that's the truth! That's what greed does to us. I can't have it all.

The funny thing about our pride and our envy and our greed and the stress that comes out of that, we take that stress that comes into our lives and we look at whatever successes and achievements we had in our lives and because the stress was so great and hurt us so much, we tell ourselves, "I achieved that, that success came into my life, because of the stress." We actually say the stress is what helped me achieve that. Proverbs tells us that stress never helps you. It hurts you. Whatever victories, whatever achievements, whatever accomplishments you have in your life they haven't happened because of the stress. They happened in spite of the stress. If you could let go of the stress just think of what could happen in your life, think of how God could use you!

I may be able to change my schedule and I may be able to change my finances and I may even be able to work on my words, but only God can change a heart.

Only God can patch these holes in our heart. Stress happens when I carry a greater load than I was designed to bear. Pride and envy and greed and attitudes like this are caused when I take on a greater load than I was designed for and inevitably there is stress that happens. I need a heart change. Stress occurs in our lives when we live in a way that we weren't designed to live. The greatest stress, the greatest way we live outside of our design specifications is in Genesis 1 & 2 in the Bible. It says that you and I were designed to have a relationship with God. God made us to relate to Him. Of all of His creation, He made us more than anything to have this relationship with Him. If I live outside this relationship with Him, I have great stress in my life.

I've got good news for you. God doesn't want you to live that way. He has an answer for this. Jesus, when He came into the world, one of the things that He said is in Matthew 11:28
"Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest." Come to Me. Talk to Me. Trust in Me. Not as some executive consultant for your life but as a new CEO in your life. Trust in Me as the manager, the director, the leader of your life.

I know some of you that have read this today, you're exhausted. You're depleted. You're really wondering how you're going to make it through one more week. Jesus Christ says to you, "Come to Me. All of you who are weary and worn out and carry heavy loads and I will give you rest."

I love you guys, and pray that you will meditate on the life-changing, life-refreshing Word of God. Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life-(Step #3)

Before we get to step number three in managing the stress in my life, I would like to share what was on my heart when I awakened on this Tuesday morning. Six years ago, I was in the Family Life Center of First Assembly of God in Huntsville, Arkansas at a Ministerial Alliance meeting. I was the Senior Pastor of First Assembly, and was the Ministerial Alliance President for the Madison County Alliance. We had just completed our prayer together, and was discussing some business matters, when my secretary, Holly Edens, walked in with a grim look on her face and handed me a note that read, "Two planes have flown into the World Trade Center in New York. It was a terrorist act." Those words shocked all of the pastors that were at the meeting. We dismissed with prayer, and then I walked up the hill to our parsonage and was absolutely dumbfounded by the chaos that I witnessed. Within minutes, both towers fell, and thousands of people were killed. In the days to come, as a nation, we grieved for the loss, and were angered by the complete disregard for the sanctity of human life that our enemies had shown. Now, six years later, may we never forget those who were killed, and the families that are still effected, and will be for the remainder of their lives. But most of all, may we pray for our great nation, and for her leadership. Why not pause right now, with me, and do that?

Thank you, now let's continue our look at the "Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life." We all have stress in our lives, but there are some steps that you can take to manage the stress. Step #1 was to Check your Schedule, look for ways to be a better steward your time. Step #2 was to Check your Finances, instead of increasing your LIVING, increase your GIVING. Now, step #3.


Proverbs 16:24 tells us the power that words have to bring health to our lives. "Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and health to the body."
Whether I'm speaking these kind words or hearing these kind words, they have an impact on my life.

The opposite is also true. All of us have experienced the stress that comes into our lives because of words. For example: It's a quiet evening at home – no stress, real calm – and all of a sudden someone says something that has a little bit of an edge to it and somebody else responds with a little more of an edge. It gets worse and worse. You're on the down escalator of communication. When you're on that, what was a quiet peaceful evening all of a sudden becomes the this huge anxiety in your life. Words can create incredible stress.

One of the most famous Proverbs of all, Proverbs 15:1 tells us why this happens "A gentle answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger."
That's why it happens. When I say something that has a little bit of edge to it, a little harsh, it stirs the pot of anger a little bit in a family. What do we usually do when somebody's harsh with us? The first response is for me to grab the spoon and stir it a little bit more. Then somebody else grabs it and stirs it a little bit more. Pretty soon we're both stirring as fast as we can. It's a terrible experience.

Yet, the Bible says here's an answer. A gentle answer stops the stirring. It turns away wrath. The word "gentle" there doesn't mean quiet and meek and you can't hardly hear the person. The word "gentle" means able to be honest enough about yourself to admit where you're at fault. It means, I've got enough humility to be able to say that.

Check your words and you realize in our communication how much stress conflict can bring. But it's not only conflict. Have you noticed how much stress a single word can bring into your life? Have you noticed how much stress the word "yes" can bring into your life? "Can we have office party at your house this Fourth of July weekend?" Yes! Stress! "Can you get this thirty day project done in ten days?" You want to impress the boss, show everyone you're superman – Yes! Stress! "Mom, Dad, Can I go out with Billy "Bad to the bone" Jones?" No! You've got to draw the line somewhere. You can't say Yes to everything. Yet sometimes, because we want to impress people, sometimes because we haven't learned how to say No, sometimes because we feel inadequate, sometimes because we feel like we're superman or superwoman, we say yes to everything we can. And because of that the stresses start to pile up.

What is the one decision that you and I can make about our mouth that can drastically reduce the anxiety and stress load in our lives? Shut your mouth! I say that in the kindest way. I say that to myself as well as to you. When you shut your mouth it drastically reduces the stress. You shut the mouth and you listen to the other person. You hear what they have to say before you start responding immediately. It's amazing to me how I respond to what they weren't really trying to say in the first place. If I had of just shut my mouth for a few minutes I would have known.

Listen to what the book of James 1:19 in the New Testament has to say about that. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."
That's how those things build on one another. Shut your mouth. Don't say yes so quickly. Count to ten. Wait a day. Consider it before you say yes to it.

Proverbs 17:28 says that people who are wise don't talk a lot. That's one of the signs of wisdom. I love the way this verse ends. "A truly wise person uses few words. Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent. When they keep their mouth shut they seem intelligent."

For less stress shut your mouth. Check your words.

I love you guys, and my prayer for you today is that you will meditate on this Word of God. Please feel free to leave comments and/or a testimony of how God has helped you in this area. Blessings!


Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty



Monday, September 10, 2007

Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life-(Step #2)

Good morning! This is the day that that the Lord has made, are you rejoicing in it? Even if you think that you don't have many reasons to rejoice, step back and take another look. God's blessings surround us, we just get so used to them, that we can take them for granted at times.

We had a great day yesterday in church. I felt the Lord change my mind as far as what to preach right in the middle of the 8:15 am service, while I was sitting on the platform. I preached on, "Snakes, Suitcases, and Strangulations." Let me give you a brief synopsis before we get to step #2 in managing stress.

I felt that many people walked into our services yesterday struggling with three things that were attacking the peace of God in their lives:

Snakes=Represents those things that come at you all of a sudden. Life is going well, when SUDDENLY life changes. (Acts 28:1-10)
Suitcases=Represents the weights of this life: things that can become heavy, and almost unbearable. (Galatians 6:1-5)
Strangulations=Represents the worries and anxieties of life. The word Worry is derived from the old German word wurgen, meaning to CHOKE. Worry can choke the life out of your faith. (Matthew 13:22 & Philippians 4:4-8)

I also had an acrostic of WORRY:

Weights of this world
Occupational hazards
Relationship Strains
Resource depletions (Finances)
Yesterday's leftovers

It is for certain that "Snakes, Suitcases, and Strangulations" can and will attack God's peace in your life. Also, all of the things mentioned in the acrostic can cause worry, but thank God for the "peace of God which passes all understanding."

Friday we began to look at Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life. Step #1 was to Check your schedule. Now, let's look at Step #2.


Money comes without instructions. There's no instruction book attached to a dollar bill. However, the book of Proverbs is a pretty good instruction book. It's got some pretty good guidelines for how to use money. As you look through the book of Proverbs, it reveals the fact that money is like a wild stallion. If you let it control you, it's going to take you on a wild ride for the rest of your life. But if you learn to tame it, you find the strength and the energy that's there; that can make a big impact on your life. Proverbs teaches us how to tame this thing called finances. We'd all agree when you take on too much financially it causes great stress. When you don't have enough financially it causes great stress. When you make irresponsible decisions financially it causes incredible stress.

Two simple principles from the book of Proverbs.

Principle #1
Proverbs 22:7 "The borrower is servant to the ender." That's just a principle of life. When I recognize that principle it helps me have less stress. In a country where consumer credit is now at an unprecedented 1.23 trillion dollars, there's a lot of serving going on out there. Because of this we need to recognize this principle every time we make a purchase. The borrower serves the lender. You make all your purchases with this principle in mind. Instead of asking when you make a purchase, "What am I getting?" ask, "What am I getting into?" Think, "How long am I going to have to serve to complete this purchase?" Statistics show that the average American has to serve one day out of five to pay off consumer debt now. That's where we're at. That's how much it's gotten hold of us. The borrower serves the lender.

To have less stress you've got to reduce your debt. Too much debt causes incredible stress. It keeps you awake at night. It's easy to say but it's tough to do. Couple of facts about reducing your debt that I hope are an encouragement.

1. The truth is, it's going to take you just about as long to get out of debt as it took you to get into debt. The encouraging thing about that is be patient. It's going to take time. Don't expect it to happen overnight.

2. Don't do this alone. Get help. Get encouragement.

If you had a physical problem you'd have no problem going to a doctor asking for help. But when we have a financial problem sometimes we don't talk to anybody about it. Sometimes we don't even talk to each other about it in a family. If there is anything that you refuse to talk about, anything you won't talk about as a family but you know it's there, it's causing incredible stress. Secrets, things we won't talk about, are huge stresses in our lives. So for less stress you've got to reduce your debt.

But that is only half the equation. I know some people who have no debt but they're very stressed about their money still. Holding on to it, making sure it goes here or there, people stealing it, what's happening with it.

Principle #2
Proverbs 11:25 "A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." You've got to reduce your debt and you've got to increase your giving. It is very stressful to hold on to your STUFF so tightly that no one else can get hold of them. You don't know how stress relieving it is to begin to let go of your things enough to recognize, "I want to bless someone else. I want to encourage someone else with what God has given me." A generous man will be blessed, will be refreshed. The tighter I hold onto things, the tighter the grip they have on me. If I loosen my grip on things, they begin to loosen their grip on me.

So to reduce stress I reduce my debt and increase my giving. The obvious question is which do I need to do first if I need to do both? Do them at the same time. Don't do one without the other; it doesn't work. If you think, "I'll get the debt problem done first and then I'll start giving," it never works. You still feel the same amount of stress. It takes both parts of this equation in order to reduce the stress in our lives. (Malachi 3:6-12)

My prayer is that you will meditate on Step #2 today, and think about the two principles from Proverbs throughout the day. We are on a journey to relieve our life of unneeded stress.

I love you guys, and pray you have a blessed day!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty L. Blann

Friday, September 7, 2007

Four Steps to Manage Stress in My Life-(Step #1)

Good afternoon! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! I am running about four hours late today on posting this blog. I apologize and will try to do better Monday. I have been talking about anxiety and worry the past week. One of the things that adds anxiety to your life is stress, and one of the things that adds stress to your life is anxiety. I would like to continue looking at this area of anxiety by discussing "Four Steps to Manage Stress in My life." Now, for you melancholic personalities, this may drive you crazy, but we are taking one step at a time; one a day. I want to do it this way so we can focus each day that particular step, and ask God to help us with this one, before we move on to the next one. I am very excited about this study, and believe that God is going to speak to our hearts through it. All right, let's get started.

I want to begin with a little list of some of the things that happen in our lives when we begin to encounter stress to see if you can recognize yourself in any of these. These are symptoms of when stress has gotten really bad, when you're facing stress overload in your life. See if any of these Top Ten symptoms fit you.

1. Decision making becomes more difficult, both major and minor decisions.

2. Excessive daydreaming.

3. Increased use of cigarettes, alcohol or prescription drugs

4. Thoughts trail off while speaking or writing

5. You live with a fear of heart attack or another sudden illness.

6. Sudden outbursts of anger or hostility.

7. Paranoid ideas and mistrust of friends.

8. You dream of escape all the time.

9. Frequent spells of brooding and feelings of inadequacy.

10. Reversals in usual behavior.

If any of those ten fit you, you're a victim not just of stress but of stress overload. The funny thing about that is, we have come to accept normal stress, like that's ok. We're going to begin to deal with both today. Whether you're overloaded with stress or facing normal stress, how do you deal with stress?

Harris Survey says that one in three Americans say they live with stress every day of their life. Six of ten of Americans say they experience great stress once or twice a week. An article in Newsweek some time ago talks about the fact that stress has an accumulation factor in our lives and once you've felt stress the next time you experience stress it has a greater impact on you. As you go through your life, stress accumulates. It has more and more of an impact on us throughout our lives. That is why we can go through something and handle it fairly well, but then something else happen, that is minor and we EXPLODE. That is the accumulative nature of stress.

I want us to look together at some wisdom from the book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament of the Bible, about stress. Proverbs has great wisdom for all the practical areas of our lives and it has incredible wisdom to give us about how to deal with stress. What I'd like to do based on Proverbs, is go through a simple checklist of four of the greatest things that cause more weight in our lives. As we look at this checklist, think about some practical ways that we can begin to reduce stress right now along with some ways that we can continue to reduce it down the line

If you want to have less stress…


Stress comes from too great a weight and many of us have too much in our schedule. Anyone with an overcrowded schedule is going to have too much stress.

We all struggle with overcrowding our schedules and too much to do. I come to you as one fellow struggler to another and say, How do we deal with this overcrowded schedule? Proverbs 17:24 talks about what happens in many of our days when it says "An intelligent person aims at wise actions but a fool starts off in many directions."
That's the beginning of many of our days. We can't aim at two targets at once but we start off in twenty different directions at once and so at the end of the day we have this feeling of "How come I couldn't get it done?" We have so much to do we can't get anything done.

Dr. Richard Swenson in his book The Overload Syndrome quotes a mom who says, "I am so tired. My idea of a vacation is a trip to the dentist. I just can't wait to set in that chair and relax."

If you're feeling that way, you're overloaded. Your schedule is too full.

One popular magazine put it this way, "Technological advances have expanded the business day. Leisure time has shrunk. Bathing suited businessmen walk the beaches on Sundays with cellular phones stuck to their ears planning the next morning's meetings. Laptop computers find their way on vacations. The family icons in the 1990's were working couples picking up their children on the way home to dinner prepared by caterers or fast food chefs. Grieving time has shrunk. The divorce rate hovers nearest its highest in history, yet there's no time to pick up the pieces. 'Just snap out of it!' yells the therapist as he slaps his patient in a newspaper cartoon. The caption: 'Timesaving, single visit psychotherapy.'"

What's the result of all this busyness in our lives? Ecclesiastes 5:3 says it this way, "Being too busy gives you nightmares."

It has an impact on our lives, an impact on the way that we sleep, an impact on what we're going through. This busyness in our lives is overwhelming our lives. One in three Americans say, "I am rushed all the time." Something's wrong when we say that. We used to say, "Go with the flow." But it doesn't help to just go with the flow any longer because the flow is going faster and faster. And we don't know how to stop. Busyness, this rush, is a part of our work but it's also a part of our families and it's also a part of our play. How do we stop? How do we lessen the stress in our schedules?

Psalm 90:12 is a prayer, "Teach us to make the most of our time that we may grow in wisdom." God, teach me to use my time so that I may grow to be more and more a wise person, the kind of person You want me to be.

One idea for time improvement, for less stress of an overcrowded schedule: All of you have a schedule that's already overcrowded. There's already too much in it. For less stress don't add anything to your schedule without subtracting something from your schedule. If it's already overcrowded and you try to add something in, something's going to be subtracted anyway. So you don't add anything without intentionally subtracting something from your schedule.

Realize you can't do everything. Don't fall prey to the myth of the five percent more. This myth is "I can do five percent more." We all think we can do five percent more. So when an opportunity comes along at work we say, I'll do five percent more there. But that's not all there is. There's the thing with Little League that you'll do five percent more. There's basketball. The family vacation. Another project at work. All, "I'll do five percent more." Pretty soon with five percent at a time, it's fifty percent more, a hundred percent more. Then another opportunity comes our way and what do we say, "I can do five percent more!" Simple addition. If you're going to add five percent to an already crowded schedule, subtract five percent.

That's painful. It is difficult to do, but you'll be so glad you did it. Do it now. Right now in your mind decide, "I'm not going to add anything more to my schedule without deciding to subtract something." That one decision will make an incredible impact on our overcrowded lives.

One step further: decide right now, on this Friday afternoon to subtract something. Pray for God's wisdom as you do this. (Why not pray right now "Lord, please help me to have the courage to check my schedule, and be willing to subtract what I need to subtract)

Don't decide to subtract family time for golf, for instance. That is not a wise move. Subtract five percent and you will be amazed at the lessening of stress in your life. If you're going to have less stress, you and I are going to have to check our schedules.

I hope you will meditate on this truth this afternoon and through the weekend. Take it to God in prayer. God's Word tells us to bring everything to Him in prayer:

Phil. 4:6-7 (LB) "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand."

John 14:1 Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God -- trust in Me."

The good news is that you can be honest before God about your stress and your schedule and He will give you direction. Remember, He is your Shepherd, and because of that, "I shall not want." I want to close with a quote from John Hagee about the Shepherd providing for us:

"I shall not want for joy, for in His presence is the fullness of joy. I shall not want peace, because He's the Prince of Peace. I shall not want assistance, because He is my burden bearer. I shall not want for prosperity, for He maketh my cup to runneth over. He supplies all of my needs according to His riches in glory. I shall not want health or healing, because He is the Great Physician. I shall not want a friend, because He is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. I shall not want for anything at any time, for He has my all and all. He is everything the heart desires. He's everything your mind can imagine. May the Lord add His blessing to the reading of the Word." –Pastor John C. Hagee

I love you guys and hope you have a great "stress-free" weekend. I hope to see you Sunday morning in church for one of our morning services: 8:15 or 10:30. The title of the message I will be preaching is from Revelation 21:9-27 entitled, "The Ultimate Homecoming." Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty L. Blann