Making Peace With The Past

Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19

past.newlife

The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr composed a profoundly simple verse that came to be known as the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Niebuhr’s words are far easier to recite than they are to live by. Why? Because most of us want life to unfold in accordance with our own wishes and timetables. But sometimes God has other plans.

One of the things that fits nicely into the category of “things we cannot change” is the past. Yet even though we know that the past is unchangeable, many of us continue to invest energy worrying about the unfairness of yesterday (when we should, instead, be focusing on the opportunities of today and the promises of tomorrow). Author, Hannah Whitall Smith observed, “How changed our lives would be if we could only fly through the days on wings of surrender and trust!” These words remind us that even when we cannot understand the past, we must trust God and accept His will.

So, if you’ve endured a difficult past, accept it and learn from it, but don’t spend too much time here in the precious present fretting over memories of the unchangeable past. Instead, trust God’s plan and look to the future. After all, the future is where everything that’s going to happen to you from this moment on is going to take place.

The past is past, so don’t live there. If you’re focused on the past, change your focus. If you’re living in the past, it’s time to stop living there, starting now.

– Steve Arterburn

Shake the dust from your past, and move forward in His promises. – Kay Arthur

Whoever you are, whatever your condition or circumstance, whatever your past or problem, Jesus can restore you to wholeness. – Anne Graham Lotz

Discipleship Builds Character

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

disciples of Christ.newlife

When Jesus addressed His disciples, He warned that each one must “take up his cross and follow me.” The disciples must have known exactly what the Master meant. In Jesus’ day, prisoners were forced to carry their own crosses to the location where they would be put to death. Thus, Christ’s message was clear: in order to follow Him, Christ’s disciples must deny themselves and, instead, trust Him completely. Nothing has changed since then.

If we are to be disciples of Christ, we must trust Him and place Him at the very center of our beings. Jesus never comes “next.” He is always first. The paradox, of course, is that only by sacrificing ourselves to Him do we gain salvation for ourselves.

The 19th-century writer Hannah Whitall Smith observed, “The crucial question for each of us is this: What do you think of Jesus, and do you yet have a personal acquaintance with Him?” Indeed, the answer to that question will determine the quality, the course, and the direction of your life today and for all eternity.

Jesus has called upon believers of every generation (and that includes you) to walk with Him. Jesus promises that when you follow in His footsteps, He will teach you how to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30). And when Jesus makes a promise, you can depend upon it.

Today, think of at least one single step that you can take to become a better disciple for Christ. Then, take that step.

– Steve Arterburn

As we seek to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we should never forget that the word disciple is directly related to the word discipline. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is to know his discipline. – Dennis Swanberg   

There is not Christianity without a cross, for you cannot be a disciple of Jesus without taking up your cross.Henry Blackaby  

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. – Ephesians 5:1

Are You Fitting In?

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you. – John 15:19

fittingin.newlife

“Don’t love the world’s ways.  Don’t love the world’s goods,” wrote the apostle John.  When he wrote of “the world,” he meant everything in life that ran counter to staying connected to Jesus; everything that contradicts what the Bible teaches and undermines a life of faith and discipleship.  Indeed, the world has a different take on how we should live.  Many today believe that all ideas are valid; that no one is wrong, because no absolute truth exists.

We are encouraged to believe whatever we want in the name of tolerance and diversity, no one’s viewpoint can be dismissed.  But Jesus presents Himself to us as the Truth, meaning all so-called truths must be measured against Him if they are to truly be considered truths.

Jesus Christ’s message to his disciples is His message to you: Fitting in with the world isn’t the mark of a follower of Christ.

– Steve Arterburn

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Second-Day Anger

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

seconddayanger.newlife

By definition, anger is a temporary emotional arousal that occurs, is handled, and recedes in a matter of minutes, or at most, a few hours. Anger that’s allowed to fester and seethe for days, weeks, months, or years is very unhealthy.

Author and pastor, Calvin Miller calls anger held overnight “second-day anger.” He writes, “This tendency to nurse our anger overnight always builds to a grudge, which eats at the soul and finally rots it with cynicism. Over time, a grudge becomes poisonous bitterness.”

This type of anger accrues increased explosiveness the way an unpaid loan accrues interest. What remains until tomorrow is only bigger, worse that it was yesterday, and tougher to pay down.

There are several reasons we often opt for second-day anger. We think remaining angry when we feel violated helps us maintain a sense of control over the situation. We sometimes like to use our anger like a club to punish the person we feel is responsible for it. But many times we’re simply too proud and or lazy to identify and address it. Be committed to dealing with today’s anger today.

– Steve Arterburn

Anger is one letter short of danger. – Unknown

Self-Centered Anger

Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. – Titus 1:7

selfcentered.newlife

A good deal of human anger springs from selfishness. A man may get angry with his father for not including him in the business; with his wife for not serving the dinner he expected; with his daughter for telephoning in at midnight for a ride home from a party; or with his son for not weeding the garden when he wanted it done.

In the book entitled, Caring Enough to Confront, David Augsburger describes this self-centered anger as “a demand that also demands others meet your demands.” Simply put, self-centered anger erupts when you don’t get what you want, when you want it.

Self-centered anger isn’t what Jesus expressed. He didn’t get angry when someone snubbed Him, but he did when someone cast a slur on His Father or treated others unjustly. He wasn’t ticked at the money-changers for offending Him but for desecrating His Father’s house and disrupting the worship of His people. Jesus never got angry at the wrongs done to Him—including the ultimate wrong—His crucifixion. Instead, He forgave.

We all struggle with self-centered anger. And when we compare ourselves to Jesus, we must learn to call this type of anger what it is: sin. (Remember though, not all anger is sin.) Ask God for forgiveness and ask Him to help you to practice the habit of examining your motives when you become angry so that you can discern self-centeredness from God-centeredness.

– Steve Arterburn

Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. – Robert G. Ingersoll

Understanding Anger

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. – Micah 7:18

understandinganger.newlife

Is it wrong for you to be angry?  In other words, is anger a strictly negative emotion, and always an expression of sin?  Definitely not! Anger is a natural human emotion; a facet of the warning system God has built into our bodies to alert us of problems and prompt us to positive, problem-solving actions.

Furthermore, anger isn’t necessarily an expression of sin.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, and the perfect man, expressed anger at several points in His ministry.  Jesus’ anger is perhaps most clearly seen when He drove the money-changers out of the Temple as seen in Matthew 21 and Mark 11.

It’s usually not our anger that gets us in trouble.  It’s what we do with our anger—where and how we direct it that we so often regret.  Remember, the Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  But it does say, “Be slow to anger.”

I challenge you, though, to consider what anger in your life is natural and healthy, which is sinful and destructive, and how best to direct your anger.

– Steve Arterburn

Life is 10% what you make it, and 90% how you take it. – Irving Berlin

Making the Most of our Mistakes

Instead, God has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong. – 1 Corinthians 1:27

learningfrommistakes

Everybody makes mistakes, and so will you. In fact, Winston Churchill once observed, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” What was good for Churchill is also good for you, too. You should expect to make mistakes—plenty of them—but you should not allow those missteps to rob you of the enthusiasm you need to fulfill God’s plan for your life.

We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world; mistakes are simply part of the price we pay for being here. But, even though mistakes are an inevitable part of life’s journey, repeated mistakes should not be. When we commit the inevitable blunders of life, we must correct them, learn from them, and pray for the wisdom not to repeat them. When we do, our mistakes become lessons, and our experiences become adventures in character-building.

When our shortcomings are made public, we may feel embarrassed or worse, we may presume (quite incorrectly) “everybody” is concerned with the gravity of our problem. And, as a consequence, we may feel the need to hide from our problems rather than confront them. To do so is wrong. Even when our pride is bruised, we must face up to our mistakes and seek to rise above them.

Have you made a king-sized blunder or two? Of course you have. But here’s the big question: have you used your mistakes as stumbling blocks or stepping stones? The answer to this question will determine how well you perform in the workplace and in every other aspect of your life. So don’t let the fear of past failures hold you back. Instead, do the character-building thing: own up to your mistakes and do your best to fix them. Remember: even if you’ve made a colossal blunder, God isn’t finished with you yet—in fact, He’s probably just getting started.

Fix it sooner rather than later: When you make a mistake, the time to make things better is now, not later! The sooner you address your problem, the better. If not now, when?

– Steve Arterburn

Truth will sooner come out of error than from confusion. – Francis Bacon

Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change; and when we are right, make us easy to live with. – Peter Marshall

Look Up and Move On

All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:31-32

lookup&moveon.newlife

The world holds few if any rewards for those who remain angrily focused upon the past. Still, the act of forgiveness is difficult for all but the most saintly men and women. Are you mired in the quicksand of bitterness or regret? If so, you are not only disobeying God’s Word; you are also wasting your time.

Being frail, fallible, imperfect human beings, most of us are quick to anger, quick to blame, slow to forgive, and even slower to forget. Yet as Christians, we are commanded to forgive others, just as we, too, have been forgiven.

If there exists even one person—alive or dead—against whom you hold bitter feelings, it’s time to forgive. Or, if you are embittered against yourself for some past mistake or shortcoming, it’s finally time to forgive yourself and move on. Hatred, bitterness, and regret are not part of God’s plan for your life. Forgiveness is.

– Steve Arterburn

Acrid bitterness inevitably seeps into the lives of people who harbor grudges and suppress anger, and bitterness is always a poison. – Lee Strobel

Anger breeds remorse in the heart, discord in the home, bitterness in the community, and confusion in the state. – Billy Graham

Bitterness is the trap that snares the hunter. – Max Lucado

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, free me from anger and bitterness. When I am angry, I cannot feel the peace that You intend for my life. When I am bitter, I cannot sense Your presence. Keep me mindful that forgiveness is Your commandment. Let me turn away from bitterness and instead claim the spiritual abundance that You offer through the gift of Your Son. Amen

Perfectionism

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? – Hebrews 7:11

Perfectionism

Are you a person who’s never quite satisfied because you can’t attain perfection? I have good news for you! Perfection is unattainable, so you can rest from your efforts. Yes, excellence is a worthy goal, but perfection is nothing but pure fiction! You’re not perfect, and neither is your spouse, your children, your boss, or your coworkers. Not even your dog is perfect.

Nevertheless, if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll be quicker to judge rather than show mercy. Most perfectionists end up correcting other people rather than connecting with other people.

If you struggle with this, remember relationships are always more important than regulation, so be careful not to push yourself and the people in your life toward perfection. Lay down your spears, tear down those walls, and step forward to discover that it’s perfectly fine to be human in every area of life.

– Steve Arterburn

Perfection consists in one thing only: doing the will of God.– St Vincent de Paul

The Marshmallow Test

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Marshmallow

They call it the marshmallow test. Researchers at Stanford University ran a test in the 1960s. A researcher would say to four-year-olds: “I am leaving for a few minutes to run an errand, and you can have this marshmallow while I am gone, but if you wait until I return, you can have two marshmallows.”

A dozen years later, the researchers restudied the same children and found that those who’d grabbed the single marshmallow tended to be more troubled as adolescents, and they scored an average of 210 points less on SAT tests.

We teach our children to say their ABC’s, to say please and thank you, their Bible verses, hymns, and how to tie their shoes and all these are great things. But never underestimate the value of instilling self-control and delayed gratification.

Self-control and delayed gratification are often missing in our training. Usually we fail because we lean on our own power. Remember, self-control is a fruit of the spirit so if you truly seek to operate under the power of the Holy Spirit, self control will be evident in your life.

– Steve Arterburn

What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do. – Aristotle