by Paul Negrete
From Self-Awareness to Christ-Awareness
When speaking of emotional intelligence self-awareness is key. Here are three definitions of self-awareness. 1) “Self-awareness involves monitoring our stress, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.” 2) “Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.” And finally, 3) “If you're self-aware, you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and your actions can affect the people around you.” Self-awareness can be seen as a kind of “emotional proprioception” - understanding where you are emotionally and physically in relation to the world around you.
Life moves at such a rapid pace. Things change from moment to moment. It can be easy for us to lose our bearings from time to time. Stress and anxiety often hide undetected beneath the surface of a mindset that everything is under control; suddenly coming to light in the least expected moment and by the slightest of provocations. Another difficult emotional challenge can be understanding how some of our normal behaviors are unintentionally being misinterpreted causing others distress. Self-awareness, then, is the ability to take a personal inventory, to understand the state of our person in relation to the environmental, social, emotional, and spiritual stimulus that is impacting our lives, and to further understand how we, in turn, are affecting others.
Self-awareness is a trait that is often found in people who exhibit qualities personified in transformative leadership models. Relational success can be directly linked with the ability to be self-aware. The difficulty lies in the fact that we are often overwhelmed with information that may be difficult to disaggregate and that is obscured by an individual’s personal perception. We may simply lack sufficient pieces of key details to be able to derive true understanding at the moment. To say that we should be self-aware is one thing, to practice it at all times is a completely different problem.
Practices such as mindfulness attempt to tackle the difficulties found in addressing the need for self-awareness. “Mindfulness is… [a] systematic mental training that develops meta-awareness (self-awareness), an ability to effectively modulate one's behavior (self-regulation), and a positive relationship between self and other that transcends self-focused needs and increases prosocial characteristics (self-transcendence).” The theory of mindfulness is rooted in Zen Buddhism. Secular practitioners of this philosophy will use eastern meditation exercises that are focused on seeking “inner truth” or “stillness” through relaxation and breath training to enhance the state of mindfulness. In the United States, the practice of mindfulness was introduced in 1979 by Jon Kabit-Zinn in an effort to aid clinical patients with pain and stress management.
As Christians, we are called to be mindful, or self-aware, in a way that is uniquely distinctive. Peter was pointedly admonished by Jesus for not being “mindful” of the things of God. Later Peter would write warning believers to be, “...mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior…,” in the hope that we would not become negligent in looking for the return of Jesus. The call of many of the Biblical writers was to be aware of the attacks of Satan to lure us away from our hope in Jesus.
The Bible is clear that we as humans will never be of ourselves fully self-aware. In the last of the seven churches of Revelation Jesus warns the people that they are unaware of their true spiritual condition stating, “...you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked….” The Psalmist asks God to help reveal the true condition of the heart. The Bible goes on to further share with us that most often what we need to be aware of, that which impacts us the most, has to do with a reality that can only be disclosed through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
One of the key aspects of the ministry of Jesus is to reveal the truth of our hearts. Essentially, for the Christian, the path towards self-awareness is actually a journey to Christ-awareness. The more we seek to know Jesus the more He reveals our true nature, our spiritual condition, and the purpose He has for our lives.
When we seek to know ourselves through our own eyes, we may miss the greater understanding of the fullness of our identity in Christ. Regardless of whether or not our self-awareness is strong or weak, apart from God it will always be painfully incomplete and lacking in fulfillment in comparison to what it could be in Him. There is a God who can reveal even the secret things of ourselves and of the human condition. We should ask the Holy Spirit to help us to understand the mind of Jesus through the plan of redemption. It is in this effort that God can reveal the true-self to us.
It is inevitable that there will be times when life becomes overwhelming. As much as we may try to keep everything straight and to be aware of all of our thoughts, feelings, and how we are impacting others, we are limited. We need help. My prayer is that in whatever condition or situation we may find ourselves, that we may always have the presence of mind to call out as David did, “Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” The greatest awareness you can ever attain is not of yourself but rather of God’s love for you. The more we seek Christ and desire to know Him, His gift to us in return is to reveal the most extraordinary truth about ourselves - our beginning, our present, our end, and our eternal destiny.
7 Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33 (NKJV)
8 2 Peter 3:1-9 (NKJV)
9 1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)
10 Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
11 Revelation 3:17 (NKJV)
12 Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)
13 Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
14 Luke 2:34-35 (NKJV)
15 Matthew 6:33; Jeremiah 29:11; 1 Peter 1:29; John 16:7-15 (NKJV)
16 Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)
17 Daniel 2:19-23 (NKJV)
18 Phillipians 2:5-11 (NKJV)
19 Psalm 61:1-2 (NKJV)
20 Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV)
by Andrew Carpenter
Stephen Duneier’s list of life accomplishments is quite impressive. After graduating from New York University Stern School of Business, one of the top financial programs in the world, he has been an Exotics Derivative trader, the Currency Options Manager for Bank of America, the Global Head of Emerging Markets for AIG International, and the founder and CIO of two award-winning global hedge funds. These accomplishments are just a summary of his professional career. Duneier has also taught himself German, acquired auto racing licenses, became an aerobatics helicopter pilot, marathon runner, world-renowned yarnbomber, and a Guinness World Record holder for crocheting the world’s largest granny square.
It is tempting to look at the list of accomplishments in Duneir’s life and conclude that he possesses some sort of special talent or character trait that has helped him to become so successful. The truth of the matter is that Duneier possesses no such talent or trait. From Kindergarten until his second year in college, Duneier was, at best, a C- student. What changed was that he decided to take a look at his self-management habits. By making small tweaks to his decision-making process, he was able to increase his margin for success. Instead of not studying at all, he decided to read small portions at a time of an assigned reading and to take breaks in between. Little by little, small decisions in his self-management process began to produce large results. From that time forward, he became a straight A student. He then decided to apply this theory to other areas of his life.
Duneier realized that a marginal improvement in self-management and decision making would make a dramatic difference in the outcomes of life. For instance, Duneier had an hour and a half round-trip walk to work every day. During his walk, he would listen to music on his iPod. One day he decided that he wanted to be more efficient with his time, so he stopped and bought a German-language CD set and downloaded it to his iPod. He soon realized that he wasn’t disciplined enough, so he removed all the music and left just the German language learning set on his playlist. Within a few months, he was able to have conversations in German while vacationing with his family in Germany.
To this day, Duneier will tell you that he is still the same undisciplined C- student with no special talent. The difference in his life was the change in his self-management, taking large tasks and breaking them down into small decisions that would increase his odds of success.
Self-management can also be described as self-control or self-regulation. Simply put, self-management is the ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively. Many times we think of self-management or self-control as the ability to keep ourselves away from all of the things that are bad for us. What is powerful in Duneier’s story is that it wasn’t his ability to say no or a special character trait that made the difference; it was his thoughtful approach to taking large tasks and breaking them down into small decisions to increase his odds of success. His self-management wasn’t magical, it was practical.
A Biblical example of practical self-management would be Joseph. Frequently people look at Bible characters as people who possessed magical abilities to become successful. However, Joseph was not successful because he possessed magical power, but because he decided to apply good decision-making principles to his self-management practice. Joseph experienced the trauma of being sold into slavery, he was unjustly accused of sexual assault, and he was thrown into prison and forgotten by those who made promises to help free him. Yet, these experiences taught Joseph to be the great leader he was. He learned humility as a slave, business management as the head of Potiphar’s household, and people management skills while managing a prison full of criminals. Despite the awful circumstances of his life, his self-management practice allowed him to find success and eventually see that what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.
As life presents circumstances that seem overwhelming and too big to overcome, take the time to evaluate your self-management process, identify the small decisions that will help increase your chances for success, and remember the stories of hope that can help give us strength.
If you would like to learn more about Stephen Duneier and how he changed his life, you can watch his Tedx Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQMbvJNRpLE
by Alyssa Cheung
In Matthew 4: 1-11, we read of Jesus being tested in the wilderness. After fasting for 40 days and nights, Satan presented 3 temptations to Jesus. In the first temptation, Satan tells Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Here, Jesus’ hunger is being targeted. He responds to the tempter by saying, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In this moment, Jesus clings to the promises of God. He waits on God’s provisions and forgoes a quick fix to His hunger. Throughout the Bible, the wilderness represents a place of preparation and waiting on God. It’s a place to learn to have self-control, patience, and trust in God’s mercy.
In the second temptation, Jesus is taken to the highest point of the temple and is told, “If you are the Son of god, throw yourself down...for angels will catch you.” Jesus responds with, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” He refuses to take advantage of His relationship with God. In the last temptation, Satan promises splendor and glory if Jesus bows down and worships him. In verse 10, Jesus tells Satan, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
Throughout these temptations, Satan begins each test with “IF you are the Son of God…”. In all 3 temptations, Satan is targeting Jesus’ identity. He is trying to get the Son of God to doubt who He is, but we see Jesus practicing self-control and biblical self-talk by clinging to God’s word. He knew He was the Son of God. The question that Satan presented was what kind of Son of God Jesus would be. Jesus knew His calling and at that moment He needed to decide how He would live to that call. Implementation of God’s call can be hard in our lives and it is at these moments where self control matters the most.
In comparing the temptations presented in Genesis and Matthew, we see parallels of how man faced temptation and how Jesus faced temptation. Genesis 3:5-6 tells of how Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. The serpent claimed that eating of the fruit would open the woman’s eyes and make her like God. Where man first failed, Jesus first conquered. So in moments where you feel your own willpower and self-control being tempted, cling to the example of Jesus. He was tempted and overcame those temptations to provide an example for us. He paved the way to allow us to overcome temptation as well. In Matthew 28:20, we are reminded of the promise that Jesus is “...with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus has already gone ahead of His followers, where He has faced the most challenging tests in the most difficult places. There is no test or temptation so great that Jesus has not already overcome. As you walk and remain close to God, there is no temptation so great that He won’t help you overcome.
By Alyssa Cheung
Last week we discussed the importance of self-talk. This week’s devotional will focus on exactly how one can improve one’s self-talk, moreso how to adopt a biblical self-talk. In thinking about biblical self-talk, I am reminded of David in Psalm 42. In verse 5, David is reflecting on why his soul is downcast and disturbed, but he pours his hope in God and tells his soul to praise Him. We see again in Psalm 103 that David is commanding his soul, all of his inmost being, to praise God and not forget His benefits. To list a few, David writes that God forgives all sins, heals all diseases, redeems life from the pit, and provides love and compassion. David’s list continues throughout the entire chapter of all the good that God provides and reiterates over and over to praise the Lord. What I love about this chapter is that David begins and ends it the same way, “Praise the Lord, my soul”. This is what biblical self-talk is about, a self-controlled conversation within the soul that wills it to praise God in even the darkest times; to focus on the glory of God when all we want to do is self-talk ourselves deeper into anguish. Colossians 3:2 states “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” while Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Therefore, when you find yourself, your mind, wandering into the spiral of negative self-talk, refocus your thinking to biblical self-talk and focus your mind on the wonders and glory of God.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him, as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
1 Corinthians 10:31
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (and self-talk), do all to the glory of God.
By Alyssa Cheung
According to Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, willpower (also called self-control) comes from the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain behind your forehead. It is responsible for decision-making and regulating behavior. In other words, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for one’s willpower and self-control. In order to make sound decisions, the prefrontal cortex must be properly looked after, meaning providing it with nutritious food, water, and good rest.
However, the thing with willpower and self-control is that they become depleted throughout the day with use. Willpower is finite; there is only so much that we can use. Think of willpower as a muscle. With overuse, lactic acid builds up and the muscle becomes fatigued and sore. However, with the proper tips and tools, our self-control and willpower, just like a muscle, can be trained and strengthened. In Galatians 5:23, Paul lists willpower as one of the fruits of the Spirit. To strengthen and achieve a healthy level of willpower, one must begin by changing their self-talk. According to David Stoop, author of You Are What You Think, self-talk is a powerful force that can be used for positive change and is one’s belief system or pattern of thought.
To experience self-control we must control our thinking, which requires examining every thought that enters our mind and evaluating if it is worthy of finding a place in our belief system. Spoken words, either aloud or in the privacy of our minds, are powerful. McGonigal states that negative self-talk is what can lead us to repeat activities and habits we are trying to change. Many people believe that negative self-talk is the motivating factor that can bring about the change we want to see. However, this form of thinking is incorrect. The key to greater willpower and self-control is not by being harder on ourselves. This can actually lead to having worse self-control. Proverbs 13:3 states that “he who guards his mouth preserves his life”. In order to guard our mouth and mind, an enhanced awareness is essential. Titus 2:11-12 states
“for the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”.
McGonigal, K. (2011). The willpower instinct. New York, NY: Penguin Group
Stopp, D. (2003). You are what you think. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell
By Mario Negrete
Matthew chapter 4, verses 1-11 tells us the story of, perhaps one of the most crucial moments in earth’s history. Some may say that this moment was extremely critical to the survival of the human race because it is the only thing that truly gives us hope in these troublesome days. Matthew 4:1-2 begins to describe the setting of this intense battle between Christ and Satan, one that would set the tone for the rest of Christ’s ministry on earth as well as the gospel ministry that would proceed throughout the course of history. The reason why this moment was so intense is because Jesus was at a moment where his mental and physical strength was depleted, and all He could do was rely on the promises of The Word of God. If Christ were to give into to His “humanity” and fail this test in any way, then the adversary could make the claim that there was absolutely no hope for the human race when it came to his snares that lead to death, destruction, and eternal hopelessness. There would no hope for the addict, no hope for the criminal, no hope for those living a “double life”, no hope for anyone trying to change anything negative about their life into something positive, and no hope for any person living on planet earth today during these difficult moments.
The Spirit had led Christ into the wilderness so that He could fast and pray over the work that He was about to do. The enemy was fully aware that The Savior was at His weakest moment and recognized that the moment to assault Christ with the mightiest of his tricks and deceptions was at hand. The devil knew that if he succeeded, absolutely no one could overcome his lies and, one by one, he would be able lead the world into its certain peril. The “lesser light” gives us insight on how The Redeemer was able to resist and repel each challenge that was presented to Him. “The Desire of Ages”(DOA) tells us that the devil came into the understanding that there was “…seen in men a working power that withstood his dominion.” (White, Pg.115) “The daily sacrifice” (confession and atonement for sins through the merits of Christ), study and meditation on the gospel, prophecies, and the law (bible study), and prayer (communication with the Lord) was the only way that God’s people could resist any form of selfishness and accomplish complete meekness towards the will of God.
Staying healthy and exercising is an important part of combating illness. For this week's devotional, we are presenting a video made by Doug Batchelor and Dr. Neil Nedley, in which they share the importance of exercise in combating COVID-19, along with 7 other practices you can do at no extra cost.
by Hannah Gallant
Do hard things for Jesus.
That’s a phrase my best friend picked up while she was preparing for a triathlon. I loved how quick she was to accept challenges that would teach her to persevere. I loved how she knew that her commitment to doing hard things for Jesus was an act of self-sacrifice. She was willing to train physically, but in her commitment to doing hard things for Jesus, she really meant that she was willing to train spiritually.
She knew that choosing to do hard things for Jesus was about more than just that triathlon. After all, it was a low stakes, weekly summer camp sprint triathlon with a cheap medal and a free ice cream as a prize for first place. And she only started training one week before.
"Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." Revelation 2:10
Of course it wasn’t about the triathlon. It was about the race of life. It was about setting her eyes on the real prize, which is much farther away than the end of a sprint triathlon. And our training and perseverance in the little things—daily tasks at work, home, and school, learning to manage our time, preparing for a 5K Boba Run—are what help train us for the longest race each of us will run.
“Christian life is more than many take it to be. It does not consist wholly in gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need also of courage, force, energy, and perseverance. The path that Christ marks out is a narrow, self-denying path. To enter that path and press on through difficulties and discouragements requires men who are more than weaklings.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 497
We aren’t saved by our good works or our own drive to push through life—we are saved by faith in Jesus’ sin-cleansing sacrifice. But that doesn’t give us permission to live lackluster lives for Christ.
We must choose the path of training that requires great effort, even though that path may come with much suffering and pain. Jesus knew that if He suffered on this earth, then His followers would suffer too. But He also promised us the Holy Spirit, One who would help us to endure the bitterest trials of our lives, just as He persevered through the most awful trial that led Him unto His death.
But we aren’t training for death. We’re training for eternal life.
By Paul Negrete
What is motivation? According to my Mac dictionary motivation is, “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” A more technical definition of motivation found in Psychology Today is, “the desire to act in service of a goal. It's the crucial element in setting and attaining one's objectives.” Motivation is the drive or desire we have for completing our targeted objectives
Everyone has a certain level of motivation capacity. It is true that some people have more motivation than others. Research shows that differences in motivational capacity are significant, apparent even at age four and reliably correlate with motivational behavior during adolescence and adulthood. The human COMT gene has two alleles, MET and VAL. An allele is a molecule that exists in two forms, both having an identical chemical composition, but differing in how the atoms are bound together. These phenotypes are equally represented in the human population. Humans with MET allele respond more quickly to changes in their environment, are more efficient in processing information, and have far higher levels of dopamine neurotransmitters in their frontal cortex. (Martin, 2016)
According to Martin (2016), “The dopamine neurotransmitter is critical to our reward system, which is a driver of motivation-related decision-making.” Dopamine’s presence in the brain’s frontal lobe has an effect upon the brain’s executive functions, including self-awareness, self-regulation, planning, concept formulation, goal setting, and mental flexibility. In short, half of the human population is born with significantly greater motivational capacity. However, rarely and if ever do people use their entire motivation capacity. In other words, you can probably push all of your life and never exhaust your motivational threshold.
By Mario Negrete, Jr.
“Since the mind and the soul find expression through the body, both mental and spiritual vigor are in great degree dependent upon physical strength and activity; whatever promotes physical health, promotes the development of a strong mind and a well-balanced character.” E.G. White, Education: Ch.21, The Study of Physiology
It was late June, about 8 o’clock in the morning, and the hot summer sun was already beating down on everyone and everything that was underneath it. A varsity high school soccer team was preparing for their upcoming season in August. School was already out for summer vacation. While most of their classmates and young people their age were sleeping comfortably in their beds, the members of the team had decided that they would prepare for the upcoming season each morning during the week, all summer long. They were deeply motivated to prepare and anxious to get the season started. The previous season, they had lost a heartbreaker in overtime in the semifinals. Determined to come back even stronger the following season, the team made a pact to work hard and improve over the summer to reach the finals and win the championship.
Day one of the summer work out session, the players and coaches arrived early and ready to put in work. The players were excited to work on their skills, but the coaches had other plans. The players had noticed that the coaches had not brought any soccer balls to the training session. The players were puzzled and asked the coaches why they had not brought any soccer balls. The coaches answered stating that before they could even begin to work on skill and strategy, the team needed to work on strength and conditioning. The coaches then explained to the team that the main reason why the team had lost such a close game in overtime was that the team was physically exhausted, which then caused a mental breakdown throughout the team and one mistake lead to another and before they knew it, the opposition scored the winning goal. Physical strength and conditioning, the coaches strongly emphasized, were the foundation pieces to building mental and spiritual strength. The rest of that week and throughout the summer, the team ran a mile each day and worked out in the weight room because they came into the awareness that a strong and healthy body results in a strong and healthy mind.
Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
The Lord knew what He was doing when He created us. His plan was for us to be strong and healthy because that discipline and care towards our body would help us in training our mind and spirit to be strong as well because it would allow us to be the best possible “players” or “workers” on God’s team. God be with you as you build on the foundation for mental and spiritual strength, and that is a strong and healthy body.
By R.D. Gallant
On a trail in the beautiful mountains of Northern California, 26-year-old Jim Walmsley made a terrible mistake. Jim was running a race called the Western States 100. This race is known as one of the most famous and renowned ultra marathons in the entire world. Although being an accomplished runner, this was Jim’s first 100 mile race. As the day began, Jim crested over the first peak after climbing 2,500 feet and running 4.5 miles he was nearly 20 minutes ahead of his closest competitor. For the rest of the day, Jim set a blistering pace through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. At one point he even was running so fast that the aid stations meant to help provide for him didn’t even open by the time he reached them.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer
Jim held the lead in the race and maintained his pace for the first 93 miles of the course. He had built up a substantial lead but all of a sudden Jim vanished. Up until that point Jim was on pace to shatter the course record of 14 hours 46 minutes. After reaching mile 93, Jim stopped seeing course markers and he eventually arrived at the winding Highway 49. Eventually he realized that he had run a full 2 miles off the marked course. While 2 miles doesn’t seem like a lot, when you are running that fast and for that long, each step is filled with agonizing pain. By the time he realized his mistake his resolve was gone and he felt drained of all his energy. Jim was lost and he didn’t know what to do.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer
As Jim was preparing to run the hardest 7 miles of his life, he was unable to clearly see where he was supposed to go. His race had begun with an incredible start but Jim was unable to complete his amazing accomplishment because he had not planned correctly. Most runners in the race, after reaching the point of near complete exhaustion choose to run with a pacer. Pacers are able to help you along the journey by leading you in the path you should go. They can also provide encouragement when every step is filled with pain. Jim got lost, missed out on setting a new course record, and barely finished the race because he had not planned according to the struggles he knew he was going to face.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer
Our lives can be a lot like the 100 mile race that Jim was running. There are twists and turns, ups and downs. After a while, it can be easy to get exhausted, discouraged, and even lost. There are two ways we can plan so that we don’t fail. In Proverbs 3:5-6 the bible says,
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
When we are planning in life, if we trust God to give him our whole hearts, not lean on our own navigation, He will make the journey easier for us. Secondly, Jesus also says in Luke 9:23,
“And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
If we plan to follow Jesus then He will make sure that we are able to bear the load and complete our journey. As we have begun our 12 week training plan, lets plan to trust God with our mind, heart and body and follow Jesus wherever He may lead us.