The Hamster Wheel Trap

The Hamster Wheel Trap
--from November 5th  --

Day 1

(Today’s devotion written by Pat Neuschwanger)
Read Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 6:33; James 4:7-10

The sermon describes a vicious cycle, one that is personal for me, and I’m sure for many of us. Maybe it’s human nature, but whatever it is, that vicious, worldly cycle seems to be the place we end up if we don’t take action to change it. 

But isn’t that the very fundamental point that we need to take to heart? God’s gift of grace is FREE!! It is unmerited. In other words, we could never earn it, even if we tried for eternity, we could never achieve that standard. 

But God.

He has given us that gift. But we must take action to accept it. Matthew 6:33 tells us that we need to take action (“Seek first the Kingdom of God…”).  The recipe for that is all over the Bible, and one of the places it is spelled out for us is James 4:7-10.

There are more examples in other devotions this week, but for today, we’ll focus on James 4:8. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” Again, action is required on our parts. There are many ways we can draw closer to God… prayer; reading , studying, meditating on His Word, worship, to name a few.

Have you taken ownership of your faith and asked God to change your heart? (Part of the “Take it Home” from the sermon)

Have you made a decision to change your own behaviors to prioritize spending personal time with God daily?

If not, is there something you need to lay before God’s throne?

Day 2

Read James 4:1-10

James is exaggerating a cycle that we can all relate to on some level.  What does cause quarrels and fights among us? It is the endless struggle of our own will and desires and that of those that are getting in our way, holding us back, or causing us to miss out.  I want all the things that are just out of grasp from my hands, so I have to work more time to get more money, but then I am met with the struggle of managing my time.  So I borrow what I don’t have, so I can get what I don’t want.  But then I am enslaved to what I wanted and the cost to get it.  Before you know it, I need more time to enjoy what I just got, because that is why I got it!  But even what I got has more levels to it and the next one is going to be better, and now I need that.  This is the endless cycle that James is describing here.  I am certain that all of us can catch even some of the thoughts wrapped up here.

(The cycle from the sermon Sunday: 1. We desire  2.We don’t have  3.We can’t obtain what we desire  4.We fight and quarrel  5.We ask for more  6.We spend what we have on ourselves)

Where do you see that cycle in your life specifically?  

How is this cycle against God’s plan and how does it tend to mess with the Matthew 6:33 perspective from yesterday’s devotions?

How are you passing on this cycle to the next generation?

How does this become your prayer for today?

Day 3

Read 1 John 2:15-17

John talks right along the same lines that James hammered on.  So it is certainly something we should pay attention to.  I really like how John lays this out for us because I struggle with what these guys really mean when they talk about loving the world.  John tells us that whatever it is that is being talked about here, can’t be experienced without taking from the love of God.  Not that it takes the love of God from us, but that it is what we replace the love of God with.  He explains this all in three categories that we will focus on for this devotion:  the desires of the flesh- or our love for things that are of this world and gratify our fleshly desires, the desires of the eyes- or the things that we are visually drawn to and create coveting inside of us, and the pride of life- or the desire to get status and influence by elevating ourselves in some way.

What are some examples that you struggle with of the desires of the flesh and how have you struggled with them?

What are some examples of the desires of the eyes that you have struggled with and how have you dealt with it?

What are some examples of the pride of life that you see as something that has been enticing and that you have struggled with personally?

How does this all become your prayer for today?

Day 4

Read 1 Peter 5:1-11

The real context of this verse is Peter giving instructions to the elders or pastors in the church.  That doesn’t leave it totally void of teaching and understanding for everyone else, but it is important to acknowledge that context.  The flavor of what is being talked about here lands really close to what we have been talking about this week in James 4:1-10.  For church leaders, Peter really felt the need to talk a lot about humility.  Is that really a struggle for pastors?  Just go on Youtube and look up any given large church in America, and then see what the thumbnail, or the video's main picture that is supposed to catch your attention, contains.  It will almost always contain a picture of the pastor.  Do you think this tends to feed or expose some sort of lack of humility that can crop up? One of the biggest problems in church leadership exists in the church as well, an unwillingness or lack of accountability because we miss the idea of humbling ourselves under other people.  

This is the idea that Peter is talking about here.  You are not expected to be, nor is it healthy for you to be a one-person show.  You need transparency, you need to allow others into your life, and you need to be open to people speaking against some of the ideas that you hold.  This is the heart of humility.  That is the trait that exists at the core of the Gospel as well.  

In the last week, who has been given the place to speak something tough into your life?

If you have not had that experience in the last week, why is that?  Was it truly because there was nothing to speak to, or do you close off your life to other people?

What is the area that you wish someone would speak into your life?

Who is a person that you feel has great consideration of you as a person, but also you have given full reign to speak into your life?  Would this person feel the same way?

How does this become your prayer today?

Day 5

Read James 4:1-10

In the sermon, there were two halves: the first of that endless cycle in the beginning of this text.  But the second is the remedy or the disciple’s way of living in light of the reality that we don’t need to live in the cycle.  Today, let’s focus on the second half and be reminded of what this looks like in our everyday life.  To be fair, it is not the most appealing idea at first glance, but it is the proven way to life.  It is the example lived out by Jesus.  So we are in good company!  But the victory of a real life, is wrapped up in the most un-American idea that you have to go through submission and humility.  The way of the servant is the most noble and best way to reach the top of life!

(the God ordained way to the top, from the sermon, 1. Submit to God, 2. Resist the Devil  3. Draw near to God  4. Cleanse your hands  5.Purify your hearts  6. Humble yourself before God)

At this moment in your life, what stage do you feel that you are struggling most with in this process?

How do you draw near to God?

What do you think it means to purify your hearts?

How does this become your prayer this week?

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