Steps to getting well

Steps to getting well

John 5:6 NIV

Jesus asked a sick man an unusual question: “Do you want to get well?” For thirty-eight years this man’s condition had immobilized him, bought him the sympathy of others, and perhaps given him a reason to say, “I’m not responsible.” But all of us are responsible for two things: our attitudes and our choices. The fact is we’ve all been hurt in some way. But if you’re still focused on it twenty years later you’re not a victim by circumstance, but by choice. What exactly is a victim by choice? Someone who thinks negative attention is better than no attention at all! Jesus said, “If you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins” (Mark 11:25 NCV). Those words presuppose someone has hurt you. They also hold you responsible for your reaction to that person. Jesus taught that if you don’t forgive, you can’t receive forgiveness yourself when you need it. Whatever others may have taken from you in the past, if you remain bitter they’ll take more from you in the future. Maybe you’re thinking, “If only they’d come back and ask for forgiveness.” Is that what you’re waiting for? Don’t waste your time! The key to happiness is in your hands, not theirs. And that key is forgiveness. Are you waiting for someone to say, “I forgive you” before you can forgive yourself? What if they never do? Here’s the formula for freedom: (1) Apologize if you need to. (2) Make amends if you can. (3) Forgive yourself. (4) Move on. Do you want to get well? These are the steps.

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The blessing comes by “doing”

The blessing comes by “doing”

Psalm 119:166 NKJV

In his book Traveling Hopefully, Stan Mooneyham writes: “I will go, when – I will give, after – I will obey, but first – one can always find reasons for delay, and sometimes they may even seem to be valid reasons. A close friend of mine and I were called to preach about the same time, and we went to university together. I was out mutilating homiletics in rural Oklahoma churches during those four years of study, but my friend insisted he wouldn’t preach his first sermon until he had received his PhD. That was over thirty years ago. I am still mut ilating homiletics, but my friend isn’t preaching at all. He never did. Preparation is important, but doing is a vitally important part of preparation. In the Old Testament we hear much about offerings of ‘first fruits.’ God’s portion came right off the top. Nowadays we are more likely to be known by and for our ‘lastfruits.’ Near the hold button on the hotline to heaven, these classic words would be appropriate: ‘If not I, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?’ Are you waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ to come before you step out in faith and obey what God has told you to do? Obey God. Now! It’s not enough to say you believe God’s Word, you must obey it. It’s not enough to accumulate Bible knowledge, you must apply the knowledge God has given you to your daily living.” James writes, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves …a doer… will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22, 25 NKJV). The blessing comes by “doing.”

Soul food: Deut 3-4Matt 12:1-14Ps 46Prov 16:20-22

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A truly challenging commandment

A truly challenging commandment

John 15:12 NLT

Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (v. 11 NLT). What are these “things” that you must do to have His joy in life? Jesus tells us in the next verse: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” You say, “That’s a truly challenging commandment!” Yes, and you’ll have to do a lot of growing and maturing in order to keep it. But to enjoy the life Jesus wants you to have, you must commit yourself to doing it! God created all kinds of people with diff erent temperaments and personalities, so clearly He loves variety. When God made the first person He said, “It was good.” So not only are there varieties of people, but there’s “good” in everybody and you’re supposed to look for it. Much of our unhappiness in life is caused by people not being what we want them to be or doing what we want them to do. What’s the answer? How can you enjoy each day if you’re going to have to deal with annoying people? By making up your mind to love them. You don’t have to like their ways, but you have to love them in spite of their ways. But when you think about it, that’s how God treats you, right? Here’s a key to loving annoying people: Annoying people are usually annoyed about something in their life. When you treat the source of their pain, they’ll begin to feel better and treat you better.

Soul food: Deut 1-2Matt 11:20-30Ps 42:6-11Prov 16:17-19

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Reasons to be thankfull

Reasons to be thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us, but grumbling does. No one had more cause to grumble than Joseph. Abandoned, enslaved, betrayed, and estranged. Those are the chapter titles for his life story. Yet when he talks about it you won’t hear a tinge of bitterness. Instead, you’ll hear the opposite. In naming his two sons, he makes them living, breathing, lifelong testimonies of his gratitude to God. “Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, ‘God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.’ Joseph named his secon d son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief'” (Genesis 41:51-52 NLT). Notice two things. First, Joseph looked at the past and gave God thanks for what He had brought him through. And you need to do that too. Whether it’s stuff others did to you, or stuff you did to them, God’s grace brought you through it. There’s only one good reason to bring up the past, and that’s to remember how God guided, protected, and blessed you in it. Second, Joseph looked at the present. “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.” Do you remember a time when you thought you wouldn’t make it? And when others thought you wouldn’t make it, too? Look what the Lord has done in your life! In spite of the obstacles and the opposition He has blessed and taken care of you. Turn off the complaining faucet and turn on the thanksgiving faucet. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God…for you.”

Soul food: Acts 27-28Matt 11:10-19Ps 42:1-5Prov 16:16

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Stay focused (1)

Stay focused (1)

Proverbs 4:25 NIV

Years ago an airliner crashed into the Florida Everglades. On its approach to the Miami airport, the light indicator for proper deployment of the landing gear failed. They flew circles over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked to see if the gear truly had not deployed, or if the bulb in the signal light was defective. When the flight engineer tried to remove the signal light assembly it wouldn’t budge, so the other members of the crew joined in and tried to help him. As they struggled with the light assembly, none of them noticed that the aircraft was losing altitude. As a result the plane flew right into the swamp, killing 101 people on board. All was lost because the crew fiddled with a six-dollar lightbulb and took their eyes off what mattered most. In life you’ll be tempted to choose what seems urgent over what seems important. As you try to keep your eye on the ball, this dilemma will constantly threaten your focus: “How do I choose what is best over what is merely good? Or the long-term perspective over the short-term one?” You must not lose focus; your task is too important. Solomon bottom-lines it: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left” (Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV).

Soul food: Acts 22-23Matt 10:32-42Ps 65Prov 16:8-9

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Spend more time in prayer

Spend more time in prayer

1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV

In Catherine Marshall’s book A Closer Walk, her husband Leonard LeSourd writes about the beginning of their marriage. “Catherine had huge adjustments to make. She sold her Washington dream house to move to Chappaqua, so I could continue to commute to my job at Guideposts in New York City. My children – Linda, ten; Chester, six; Jeffrey, three – had been through a deeply unsettling two years, adjusting to a variety of housekeepers. They had mixed feelings toward moving into a new house, and especially toward ‘the new mommy that Daddy’s bringing home .’ Catherine’s son Peter, who was nineteen, was going through a period of rebellion at Yale…Catherine and I had so many things to pray about that we began to rise an hour early each morning to read the Bible and seek answers together. Her current journal lay open beside us in these predawn prayer times, recording our changing needs, and His unchanging faithfulness.” As the pressures of life mount, you need to pray more, not less. Jesus rose before dawn to pray. Sometimes He prayed all night. Other times He left the demands of the crowd to pray. Why? Because your power, peace, joy, and effectiveness are directly related to the time you spend in prayer. Then why don’t we pray daily? For the same reason people join a gym in January and quit by February. Prayer requires discipline that only you can put in place. But it brings great rewards. Hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote: “Oh, the pure delight of a single hour, that before Thy throne I spend. As I kneel in prayer, and with Thee my God, I commune as friend with friend.”

Soul food: Acts 20-21Matt 10:21-31Ps 14Prov 16:6-7

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How “hungry” are you?

How “hungry” are you?

Psalm 107:9 NIV

Successful people are often just people who were a little hungrier and thirstier for success than the rest of us. What we desired, they pursued. Napoleon was born in poverty. His classmates made fun of him in school. But he devoted himself to his books, excelled in his studies, and became the brightest student in class. Before his life was over, he conquered much of the world! If a seedling tree has to fight its way up through rocks to get to sunlight and air, then wrestle with storms and frost to survive, you can be sure of one thing: Its root system will be strong and its timber resilient. Nature itself teaches us that it’s impossible to succeed without going through adversity. If you’re successful and haven’t experienced hardship, you can be sure someone else has experienced it for you. And if you’re experiencing adversity without succeeding, there’s a good chance somebody else will succeed because of the price you paid. Either way, there’s no achievement without adversity. The acid test of character is determined by what it takes to discourage you and make you quit. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan tells of a man whose shop burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Next morning he arrived at work carrying a table which he set up amid the charred ruins. On it he placed a sign that read, “Everything lost except wife, children, and hope. Business as usual tomorrow morning.” Solomon said, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings” (Proverbs 22:29). You say you want to succeed? The question is – how “hun gry” are you?”

Soul food: Acts 18-19Matt 10:11-20Ps 146Prov 16:4-5

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Choose your battles wisely

Choose your battles wisely

Exodus 18:23 NLT

A good general knows it’s a mistake to try and fight on too many fronts at once; that when you’re “spread out too thin” you’re vulnerable! And the same is true in life. To avoid undue stress, you must refuse to let every little thing upset you. In other words, choose your battles wisely. Don’t make mountains out of molehills. Before you devote time, energy, and emotion to an issue, ask yourself how important it is, and how much of your time, effort, and energy is appropriate. Try to discern what really matters and focus on those things. Learn the differ ence between major matters and minor matters. Moses was becoming exhausted because he personally handled every problem, dispute, and crisis that arose among the Israelites. Perhaps he thought he had to do so, since he was the leader of the nation. But his father-in-law said to him, in essence, “You take care of the big things and leave the small stuff to someone else.” He went on to say, “‘If you follow this advice…you will be able to endure the pressures’…Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions” (vv. 23-24 NLT). Stop and think about it: Your life already has plenty of stress and strain, so why add more if you can avoid it? When you’re tempted to take on a “battle,” step back and decide if it’s worth it and what it will require from you. Don’t go to war when there are no spoils.

Soul food: Acts 16-17Matt 10:1-10Ps 140Prov 16:3

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Be wise; don’t compare!

Be wise; don’t compare!

2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

Jesus said: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:10-14 NKJV). Whereas the Pharisee thought of himself as the best-dressed man in town, God saw his garments of self-righteousness as “filthy rags” and rejected him (See Isaiah 64:6). An unknown poet wrote: “I dreamed death came the other night and heaven’s gates swung wide. With kindly grace an angel ushered me inside. And there to my astonishment stood folks I’d known on earth; some I’d judged and labelled as unfit or of little worth. Indignant words rose to my lips but never were set free; for every face showed stunned surprise – no one expected me!” We are all saved by grace, not works (See Titus 3:5). We don’t get into heaven based on our performance, but on Christ’s performance on the cross. That being true, don’t try to lift yourself up by putting someone else down. Don’t assume that you have the right to judge their character, heart motives, or spirituality. When you do that, the Bible says you are “not wise.”

Soul food: Acts 8-9Matt 8:28-34Ps 118:10-18Prov 15:31-32

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Forgetting and reaching forward

Forgetting and reaching forward

Philippians 3:13 NKJV

As long as you’re holding on to the past, you’ll never be able to take hold of the future. The past can be an unbearably heavy burden when you try to carry it. The way to let go of it is to stop thinking about it. Get it off your mind and out of your conversation. Satan will constantly remind you of your past because he wants you to remain stuck in it. But you don’t have to. You can choose your own thoughts. You say, “I can’t help thinking about it.” Yes, you can! Before he met Christ, Paul destroyed churches and put Christians to death. Now h e was going back into some of those same towns, and who was waiting for him there? Widows. Orphans. People whose lives he’d devastated. Had Paul not been able to move beyond that, he’d never have fulfilled his God-given assignment. Now, Paul didn’t suffer from amnesia; he could remember the actual events. But knowing God had forgiven him, and that he’d forgiven himself, he chose to forget the past. “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Note the words, “but one thing I do.” When you decide to forget, God will enable you to do it and give you the grace and peace to move on. Indeed, He will make you stronger and wiser as a result of it. If you’re struggling with guilt, condemnation, shame, blame, or regret about your past, let God forgive you, set you free, and enable you to move forward.

Soul food: Jer 51-52Matt 7:1-14Ps 137Prov 15:15-17

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