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

Fields of Change

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. – Hosea 10:12

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Character isn’t instantly created. It’s carved out.

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one has been worked, we move to the next. At each stop He encourages us to get busy tilling ground hardened by sin, pulling weeds grown in neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work; and He makes each task fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But change does happen. The Bible gives us insight how. Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail, and Moses in the desert. Recall David’s years of flight from Saul and Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish. Reflect upon Gideon in a cave and Job’s catastrophes. Consider Abraham’s wanderings and Peter’s three denials of Christ. Look at the apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

These stories, and many more like them, recount the ways of God among the men He claims for His own. As you spend time considering them, you will see a pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience all come before spiritual maturity and usefulness. Open up your Bible and search out these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.

– Steve Arterburn

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.  – Henry Ward Beecher

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, when change comes, I pray that I will look to you for insight. As things change in my life and around me, help me to keep my eyes on you and trust that whatever the circumstance, your ultimate plan for me is a good one. Amen
 

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

Roots and Wings

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. – Colossians 3:16

Roots and Wings

We all need two basic things in life. The first is stability to be grounded and secure individuals. Only then can you be relationally healthy. The second is the vision and encouragement to discern and develop your unique gifts and aptitudes. Then you can recognize, pursue, and fulfill your calling. In simple terms, you need roots, and you need wings.

Today I want to focus on the latter—the wings. We all want to be discerning so that we can develop God’s design for our lives. But be prepared . . . it takes time and energy. It takes time to connect with God; to read and study His word, to pray, to talk to God and to listen to God, and connect with other people.

As you connect with God and connect with others, you will see God’s will for your life. It’s when you actively pursue life and pursue God . . . that you’ll see God’s will revealed. Don’t wait for it, move ahead and see it happen.

Steve Arterburn

No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley. – Seneca the Younger

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Silencing Unholy Sounds

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10

Silencing Unholy Sounds

You don’t need to look very far to find that our culture is bombarded by words–billboards, radio, email, text messaging, internet, television, telephones, the list goes on and on. Some messages are, of course, better than others. Nevertheless, there comes a time when we all need a break from the constant bombardment.

But how do you find refuge in a world as frenzied as ours? You can’t just set up your life in a way that you avoid everything coming at you. Yet it will be good for you to find a way to carve out a time and a place for silence in the midst of the frenzy.

The Bible tells us to sit still and be silent, and know that God is God. Take a break from the constant chatter of the world. Sit quietly and attentively in God’s presence.

Try it. See if this spiritual discipline doesn’t break the power of fear and anxiety in your life. See if it doesn’t heighten your awareness of God’s presence. See if, in this silence, you can learn to pay less attention to the noise of the world and more attention to what God is trying to say to you.

Set aside some time this week. Read Psalm 46 slowly and carefully, then sit quietly and let your heart rest in the comforting truth that God is God, and you’re not!

– Steve Arterburn

There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. – Minnie Aumonier

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Humility | Doorways, Not Doormats

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6

Humility Doorways, not Doormats

Humility. What is it anyway? If I’m humble, do I have to roll over and play second fiddle to everyone, all the time? Too often humility has been misunderstood as a negative character trait. I would like to help you get a clear biblical perspective on what humility is and what it is not. Humility isn’t thinking less of your-self; it’s thinking more of God and of others. In other words, humility isn’t about putting our-selves down, but rather, about glorifying God and affirming others.

Consider Jesus. He left His place of highest honor in heaven in or­der to become a man, flesh and blood, here on earth. However, He didn’t tear himself down or deny that He was a person of value and importance. What He did do is lift others up through His humility and show them how valuable they were to God.

So, you see, humility isn’t about being a doormat; it’s about being a doorway–a doorway through which others enter into the presence and power of God. By focusing on building others up and help­ing others connect with God, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.

Think about how you can strive to put others’ interests ahead of your own. I challenge you to show others in your home, your offices, or even in the checkout line at the market, how you and God value them. A good way to begin is by asking yourself what Jesus would do if he were in your place.

– Steve Arterburn

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. – Abraham Lincoln

Silence

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. – 1 Peter 2:15

Silence

Have you ever hung up the phone or left a conversation and felt like you said too much? Have you ever wished you could take back something you said? We often learn the hard way that words can cause pain and create problems.

One way to refine your use of words is by routinely practicing the discipline of silence.

Take a day to monitor your conversations. Spend some time in silence to reflect on how you’ve used and abused words. Do you use words to rationalize, lie, deceive, exaggerate, or manipulate? In silence you’ll remember the words you spoke quickly in anger and slowly in apology, arrogantly in accusation and humbly in confession. In silence you’ll begin to hear and you’ll begin to experience his renewal.

Then you can begin to make changes where necessary. People recovering from heart attacks are often counseled to bring quiet into their lives by speaking less often and more slowly when they do speak. Such discipline has been proven to reduce stress and ease tension. And most importantly it can help you use your words in ways that encourage others and please God.

– Steve Arterburn

Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. – George Eliot

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

Called by Name

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:3-4

Called by Name

There’s no group discount for the kingdom.  Instead, God tugs at your heart as an individual, calling you one by one.  When God calls someone, He calls him or her personally.  It’s a biblical pattern repeated time and again.

The Lord called young Samuel by name until he responded. (1 Samuel 3) Jesus stopped at the fishing boat of Peter and Andrew and said, “Come, follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus halted Saul of Tarsus in his tracks in the middle of the highway, again calling him by name. (Acts 9:1-9)

And so it’s been through all of time. The manner and circumstances of the call are radically diverse, but its personal nature is the same. The Bible compares such a relationship to a shepherd’s intimate knowledge of his flock. The shepherd knows the peculiarities and habits of every one of his lambs.

Jesus Christ knows you intimately. He calls you by name. Listen for Him today!  When you hear Him—respond to Him!

– Steve Arterburn

 A leader takes people where they want to go.  A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be. – Rosalynn Carter

Whom God sets Free is Free Indeed

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. – Psalm 142:7
Whom God sets Free is Free Indeed

Several years ago, four inmates at the Greenville, Mississippi city jail were caught breaking back into their cells!  And according to the district attorney, “It is entirely possible this wasn’t the first time they’ve done this.”  The four apparently found a way for repeated access to the outside world.  Yet according to the police chief, “They didn’t seem interested in escaping, they just missed their amenities of life and went back to get them.”  This particular time, they returned to jail carrying a load of gin and marijuana.  Ironically, these willing prisoners now face felony escape charges.

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.  How many of us have resolved to spend our days in prisons of our own making—prisons we’re able to escape through personal change, but won’t because the prison provides us a semblance of security?

You can be freed from whatever your prison is.  Look for help—first to God, but then to those God has put in your path a trusted friend, pastor or counselor.  And remember God is a God of second chances.

– Steve Arterburn

I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal. – Groucho Marx