Be Optimistic

My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. – Psalm 23:5-6

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Are you an optimistic, hopeful, enthusiastic Christian? You should be. After all, as a believer, you have every reason to be optimistic about life here on earth and life eternal. As C. H. Spurgeon observed, “Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainstream of our joy.”  But sometimes, you may find yourself pulled down by the inevitable demands and worries of life here on earth. If you find yourself discouraged, stressed, or both, then it’s time to take your concerns to God. When you do, He will lift your spirits and renew your strength.

Today, make this promise to yourself and keep it: vow to be a hope-filled Christian. Think optimistically about your life, your profession, your family, and your future. Trust your hopes, not your fears. Take time to celebrate God’s glorious creation. And then, when you’ve filled your heart with hope and gladness, share your optimism with others. They’ll be better for it, and so will you.

– Steve Arterburn

Go forward confidently, energetically attacking problems, expecting favorable outcomes. – Norman Vincent Peale

The people whom I have seen succeed best in life have always been cheerful and hopeful people who went about their business with a smile on their faces. – Charles Kingsley

No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism. – William Ralph Inge

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, I will look for the best in other people, I will expect the best from You, and I will try my best to do my best—today and every day. Amen

Contagious Faith

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

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The stronger your faith, the better you can rise above the inevitable stresses of turbulent times. And the more enthused you are about your faith, the better you can share it.

Are you genuinely excited about your faith? And do you make your enthusiasm known to those around you? Or are you a “silent ambassador” for Christ? God’s preference is clear: He intends that you stand before others and proclaim your faith.

Genuine, heartfelt Christianity is contagious. If you enjoy a life-altering relationship with God, that relationship will have an impact on others—perhaps a profound impact.

Does Christ reign over your life? Then share your testimony and your excitement. The world needs both.

– Steve Arterburn

Don’t take hold of a thing unless you want that thing to take hold of you. – E. Stanley Jones

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. – Charles Kingsley

When we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to God, there is nothing mediocre or run-of-the-mill about us. To live for Christ is to be passionate about our Lord and about our lives. – Jim Gallery

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, let me be an enthusiastic participant in life. And let my enthusiasm bring honor and glory to You. Amen

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

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“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 

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

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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

Only Human or Superman?

Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26

Only Human or Superman

It might be disappointing to you, but the truth is, you’re only human. You may think of yourself as Superman or Superwoman–until you discover a flaw. And the danger then is that you’ll come crashing down and see yourself as completely worthless. But seeing the whole truth about yourself means accepting your humanity and realizing your great  potential in Christ.

The prophet Elijah is one of the great men and heroes of the Bible. If any man had reason to feel superhuman, it was him. His prayers brought a lengthy drought upon Israel–and then brought fire down from heaven–which humiliated Queen Jezebel and her priests who worshiped Baal. But even Elijah could have a bad day. Listen to his reaction after Queen Jezebel threatened him:

I have had enough, Lord . . . Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors . . . I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their  covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:4, 10)

If you’re able to do superhuman things, it’s because God gives you the power to do so. Even those who are used powerfully by God must always realize they are only human. If you fail to see the truth that you’re only human, you’re at great risk during the times when life reminds you of that fact.

– Steve Arterburn

Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield. – Unknown

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Staying The Course

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1

Staying The Course

If you’re a Christian, God has already transformed your heart. But He also wants you to enter life in him like an athlete enters competition. That’s why the Bible, more than once, likens the Christian life to a race. Our faith in Christ motivates us to run it, and His power provides the strength to finish–despite the many times we all stumble along the way.

This illustration of a race refers to races where the runner would strip off his tunic and robe so he could run without any hindrance. If someone tried to compete in his robes, he would get tangled up and wouldn’t have a chance at winning.

God wants you to finish the race of life well. Set aside the distractions and the sins that entangle you. Pace yourself. Exert yourself. And remember, many have run and finished before you. They’re that “huge crowd of witnesses” Hebrews 12:1 speaks about, and they’re cheering you on!

– Steve Arterburn

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

Bearing Each Other's Burdens

We are called to walk alongside others on the journey of discipleship. We serve our brothers and sisters by helping them stay on or return to the path of faithfulness. And we also serve them by making sure we continue in faithfulness. Self-neglect and irresponsibility impose an unfair burden on your brother and sister in Christ, because they’re responsible to help you.

The body of Christ is not a place of self-sufficiency. It’s time we quit believing those lies we’ve been listening to for so long. The Christian faith is not each person looking out for him or herself. Nor is it the survival of the fittest. The body of Christ is a place of interdependency. When you share the troubles and problems of others, you’re fulfilling the law of love. Our burdens bring us together! As you call on others to help you bear your burdens, you will find your love and appreciation growing. Your weaknesses call forth other’s strengths. And when others call on you, you have the opportunity to be an agent of God’s mercy and grace, looking for nothing in return.

Do you know someone who is under a heavy burden at this time? What practical way can you come alongside that person and help him or her bear it? Prayerfully consider what God may be calling you to do, then step forward and do it.

– Steve Arterburn

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens

Gifts And Gratitude

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

Gifts And Gratitude

There’s a real danger in thinking your spiritual gifts are blessings God has given you for your own benefit. The problem with this selfish viewpoint is that you see your use of these as an option or luxury that you neglect or use according to your will alone. That’s a far cry from a biblical understanding, which sees your spiritual gifts as expressions of gratitude God wills for you to use in service to others.

The Bible teaches that God gives us spiritual gifts so we can give to others. We use our gifts to continue Christ’s work on earth. The apostle Paul wrote: A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church. His point: your gifts aren’t your possessions. Yes, they’ve been entrusted to you, but actually, they belong to the community of believers. The truth we need to think about is that God has woven a unique design into each of our hearts. And our spiritual gifts are part of that fabric.

So, what are your spiritual gifts? Not sure? Read the Bible’s teaching on spiritual gifts in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Then ask yourself where you’ve felt the greatest satisfaction serving the Lord. Carefully thinking through that question will go a very long way in clarifying this issue; because when you do what you love in order to show God’s love, you’ll find spiritual fulfillment and renewal.

– Steve Arterburn

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me. – Erma Bombeck

The “Nubbies”

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1

The Nubbies

A psychologist friend recently told me about Cliff—a client he described as “a believer after God’s own heart.” After years of service to The Lord, Cliff’s wife developed aggressive cancer.  Many people joined Cliff in prayer for his wife, but she declined rapidly and died.  Through it all, Cliff didn’t break his determined gaze upon Christ.  Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his experience of pain, suffering, confusion, and grief to push him deeper into the arms of the living God.

Cliff knew two things, and held to them tenaciously.  The first was that God was good.  He didn’t understand the circumstances surrounding his wife’s sickness, or why she had to suffer and die.  But he knew a reason resided with God, and that he would come to understand in the light of eternity.  The second thing Cliff held to was his certainty that God loved him-in spite of everything, no matter what, and through it all.

When you’re in severe pain or distress, life becomes pretty simple. You’re in survival mode, and you have neither the heart nor the strength to spread your emotional energy around.  As Chuck Swindoll might say, “Life gets boiled down to the nubbies.”

When pain or distress boils your life down to the “nubbies”, do what Cliff did.  Keep it simple.  Grab hold of what you know is true about the living God, and hold on like a pit bull.

– Steve Arterburn

The nearer the dawn the darker the night. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

A Better Way

I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. – Malachi 3:6

A Better Way

Too many of us travel through life basing our decisions on how they make us feel and what you experience. We don’t study God’s Word enough and spend too little time in prayer.

Consequently, we have very little knowledge of the Good Shepherd who beckons us to follow Him, no matter how we feel and regardless of our circumstances.

How about considering a transformational alternative? If you place your focus squarely upon Christ, over time it will become second nature to look to Him and not to yourselves. You will not get lost when you enter the dark seasons of life. Jesus will be your unshakable horizon. Your focused gaze upon Him will keep you from altering your direction due to momentary discomfort or the temptation of temporary gratification. You won’t drift off into spiritual shipwreck!

Listen to the Word of God in Malachi 3:6: “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” In a world that is endlessly fickle and fleeting, God is an immovable Rock.

Our faith, when focused on the true God, will not be shaken by adversity or temptation. As long as we hold tightly to Him by faith trusting in His goodness and love we can come through pain and struggle with a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus, rather than a strained faith resulting from a prolonged failure to seek and see our true God.

Start today. Step out in faith. Walk on the water. It’s scary at first, but actually pretty cool once you get out there.

– Steve Arterburn

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.  – J.R.R. Tolkien