Healthy Relationships Build Character

Steve Arterburn

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV

When you become involved in relationships that require you to compromise your values, you’ll make yourself miserable. Why? Because emotional distress is contagious.

In a perfect world filled with perfect people, our relationships, too, would be perfect. But none of us are perfect and neither are our relationships . . . and that’s okay. As we work to make our imperfect relationships a little happier and healthier, we grow as individuals and as families. But, if we find ourselves in relationships that are debilitating or dangerous, then changes must be made, and soon.

If you find yourself caught up in a personal relationship that is bringing havoc into your life, and if you can’t seem to find the courage to do something about it, don’t hesitate to consult your pastor. Or, you may seek the advice of a trusted friend or a professionally trained counselor. But whatever you do, don’t be satisfied with the status quo.

God has grand plans for your life; He has promised you the joy and abundance that can be yours through Him. But to fully experience God’s gifts, you need happy, emotionally healthy people to share them with. It’s up to you to make sure that you do your part to build the kinds of relationships that will bring abundance to you, to your family, and to God’s world.

Not everybody is healthy enough to have a front-row seat in your life. Susan L. Taylor

Don’t just grab at the first thing that comes along. Know when to refuse something that won’t go anywhere. Will Rogers

You are justified in avoiding people who send you from their presence with less hope and strength to cope with life’s problems than when you met them. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Show me a guy who can’t say ‘No,’ and I’ll show you a guy with lots of problems. Red Auerbach

Character builder
Remember: It’s tempting to follow the crowd, but usually it’s better to follow your conscience.

Silence

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Have you ever hung up the phone or left a conversation and felt as if you said too much? Have you ever wished you could take back something you said? We often learn the hard way that speaking without thinking can cause pain and create problems. And too much talking clutters and consumes precious time.

One way to refine your use of words is by routinely practicing the discipline of silence. Now, if you’re a married guy and your wife is continually requesting that you talk more; this isn’t an excuse to avoid conversation with her. Instead, this silence is an invitation to prepare yourself for meaningful conversation.

Consider taking a day to monitor your conversations. Spend some time in silence reflecting on how you’ve used and abused words. Do you use words to rationalize, lie, deceive, exaggerate, or to 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 be able to listen; you’ll begin to hear what the Lord is saying and you’ll begin to experience his renewal.

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.

5 Positive Parenting Principles

Excerpted from the book Top Ten Dangers Teens Face by Steve Arterburn and Jim Burns

Parenting isn’t easy.Life is difficult at times.But through the years we have found the five
following principles essential for a safe family environment.

Take
Time to Relax and Enjoy Each Other
.
Rest soothes, heals, and gives perspective.Why is it that, in a world of instant everything and more
timesaving gadgets than all of us can possibly use, we’re usually stressed for
time?

Overcommitment
and fatigue are two of the greatest distractions from positive parenting.Our children need our time and
attention.What kids often remember
most is those times mom and dad took time to play with them.Here’s our advice:Parents, quit working so hard.
Save energy for yourselves and your family.If it means moving to a smaller house or making a smaller car
payment, then do it.Life’s too short
to settle for fatigue, lack of intimacy, and busyness in the place of
meaningful relationships with your spouse and children.

What are you
doing this week that will be an absolutely enjoyable experience for you and
your children?If you don’t have a plan
stop what you’re doing and create one.
Time is too short not to celebrate with your family.The yard can wait.The dishes can wait.Turn
off the TV.Grab a few moments of joy
and laughter.

Discipline
With Consistency
.Discipline is a
training process.The primary purpose
of parental discipline is to teach responsibility rather than to evoke
obedience.This means consistently
helping your children understand that most of life involves choices and
consequences.Discipline in the home
should consist of setting clearly defined limits with your children.The vast majority of kids we meet in crisis
claim not to clearly understand family limits.
Most of those kids come from homes where discipline isn’t consistent.

Parents need
to emphasize consequences.From the
earliest ages through adulthood, we all live with consequences’some good and
some bad.When it comes to family
issues, the consequences almost always are the results of our actions.If a child runs through the house and breaks
a vase, the best discipline is having to clean up the mess and help pay for a
new vase.When the act is outright
defiance, parents should not be afraid to use a stronger form of
discipline.The consequences for attitudinal
rebellion should be quick, clear, and felt.
If parents fail and allow rebellion to go uncorrected, when the child
becomes a teenager, he or she will have difficulty understanding that rebellion
will result in not-too-pleasant consequences.

Express
Affection
.Every household is
different when it comes to showing affection.
Many parents unconsciously withhold hugs, touches, and embraces simply
because ‘it wasn’t done that way when I was growing up.’Even in some of the most caring homes, many
parents stop touching their children once the children reach grade school.When they stop touching an important part of
showing God’s love also stops.

As parents and
significant adults in the lives of children, all of us should constantly model
the love of Jesus Christ.Every day
you should tell you kids, ‘I love you.’

This positive reinforcement and reminder of unconditional love will give
them the ability to go on during tough times and say no to temptation.Every day you should show physical
affection
.It’s incredible what a
meaningful and appropriate touch, hug, embrace, kiss, or even a ‘high five’
will do to a young person’s self image.
Touching brings a real sense of meaningfulness and security.Every day you should listen to your kids
and pray with them.

4. Build
up a Shaky Self Image
.Building a
positive, healthy Christ-centered self-image in your children is one of the
primary tasks of all parents.Children
who grow up in an environment full of put-downs, negative nicknames, and
criticism often become critical adults whose self-esteem is less than
adequate.Time is valuable.And the only quality time is quantity
time’you need to spend time with your kids.
Set family time and stick to it.
In addition, you need to encourage your kids.Your kids need you to believe in them, praise them, and be
available to them.We’ve got to catch
them doing something right and tell them in order to build up their
self-esteem.Also, help your kids
practice thankfulness.Happy people are
thankful people.Get your kids focus
outside themselves.Kids with low
self-image are extremely self-absorbed.
Yet when kids are challenged to serve and become other centered, their
self-image will improve.Use every
opportunity to get your children involved in missions and service projects.

5. Love
Each Other.
This principle seem
obvious, but at the same time, half the people reading this are single parents
or have been remarried.Children are
much more secure in their lives when they know their parents love each other. If you’re marriage is suffering, please seek
counseling.A relationship in which
there is love, time, and energy is one of the major factors in keeping a family
together.We challenge you to stop
investing your energy elsewhere and to put it back into your marriage.With the proper amount of work, most
marriages can succeed.


For additional help please see: Raising Great Kids, How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs, and Internet Protect Your Kids.

A Family Blessing

Steve Arterburn

When Jesus began His public ministry at about thirty years of age, He left the security of home for the uncertainties of life on the road. But during His travels, there was one place he loved to visit: that little house in the village of Bethany where His friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. The three were siblings, and we learn how close Jesus was to them when Lazarus died.


The sisters sent a message to Jesus that Lazarus was sick; but by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead, and they were mourning his death. Martha and Mary rushed out to meet Jesus and expressed their frustration that He hadn’t come earlier.


The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw how sad the sisters and other mourners were, that ‘He was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled.’ He was indignant because He, Jesus, who created life, was dealing with death—a stark contradiction of everything that He is and stands for. Jesus was saddened by Mary and Martha’s grief, and by Lazarus’ suffering. Jesus wept openly for His friend, prompting onlookers to say, ‘See how much he loved him.’


Are you grieving the loss of someone you love? We would consider it our great privilege to share the love and wisdom of Christ with  you. Please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Integrity Equals Security

Steve Arterburn

Proverbs 10:9 contains a wonderful promise for you’a promise worthy t think on. The text reads like this: ‘The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.’

 

In other words, the immediate, day-to-day benefit of the man who walks with an undivided heart before God is security. 

 

And why wouldn’t it be? The man this text describes has undivided loyalties. His choices are clear. He has no hangovers of character to nurse. When he’s away on business, he’s the same person as when he’s at home. He’s the same guy on Friday and Saturday nights as he is on Sunday morning. He’s a father who says what he does and does what he says. He’s a husband his wife can trust, respect, and follow.

 

This is a man who has matured beyond the point of needing instant gratification. Imagine it! Feeling good is replaced by feeling right about yourself before God. And when you feel right about yourself, no matter what your circumstances or your mood, you are content and connected to God, your family, and your purposes as God’s man. Now that’s security without stress. That’s the blessing of walking with integrity before God.

 

Now let me ask you this: does that sound as good to you as it does to me? It’s God’s desire for your life, men. So let it become your desire as well. Let it become your prayer, your passion, and your pursuit.

The Gift Of The Spirit

Steve Arterburn

If you’re a Christian, it means the Holy Spirit is living in you. Sounds great ‘ but what does it mean? What does the Spirit do within you? Listen to what the Holy Spirit promises to be up to at this moment in your life:

Ezekiel 36:26 promises that He’s changing your hearts.

John 14:26 promises that He’s reminding you of what the Father has asked you to do.

John 16:13 promises that He’s guiding you and teaching you the truth.

Romans 8:13 promises the Spirit will turn you away from evil.

Romans 8:26 promises that the Holy Spirit will help you in times of distress and intercede with God for you when you’re confused and wearied.

First Corinthians 12:11 promises that the Spirit has given you gifts to use for the glory of God and the good of others.

Galatians 5:16 promises that the Spirit will lead you to victory over the sinful cravings of your heart.

These are precious promises. Claim them by faith’even if you’re not sensing all them in your life. Rejoice in these promises, and ask God to create in you a heart ready to cooperate with the transformation going on in you even as we speak.

The ‘Sweeper’

Steve Arterburn

Guys, have you ever noticed that when a woman is feeling stressed or angry, she’ll often call a friend? Have you also noticed when guys feel those same things, we usually do just the opposite?

When it comes to dealing with emotions, most men run for the hills’alone. We tend not to be as good as our female counterparts at facing our feelings, let alone talking about them. Most of us have been trained to treat our emotions like dirty laundry ‘ we don’t want anything to do with them.

When our emotions surface, our internal ‘Sweeper’ moves to action. The sweeper is that part of our subconscious who methodically and logically eliminates the threat that rogue emotions present. The ‘Sweeper’s’ job is to prohibit any situation from heating up too much and to sweep stray emotions back under the surface, where we think they belong. The Sweeper’s job description looks something like this:

  • Hide and mask anger
  • Internalize pressure
  • Bury losses
  • Deny wounds
  • Withdraw in the face of hard truth
  • Deflect mistakes
  • Blame others
  • Hide struggles
  • Push others away
  • Excuse me from feeling the hurts of others

Men, does this sound familiar? If so, I think it’s time you put your Sweeper up for review, and seriously consider cleaning out his office. The ‘Sweeper’s’ so-called services are, in fact, doing you a great disservice.

Finding the Balance

Steve Arterburn

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her actions. Matthew 11:19

Have you ever flirted with danger? Recently six officials in the White House were told by their doctors that their “stress levels were so high, they were flirting with danger unless they slowed down.” While actual people were not named, it reminded me that each of us flirts with danger at times.

Like when driving your car, you step on the gas and fly down the highway towards your next meeting risking your safety and risking that you won’t have a tire blow out, let alone see a policeman with a radar gun. Or maybe you put your money in some volatile investment, or you keep piling on the work and don’t know how to say “no”, and risk burnout.

One of the key ingredients to lowering our stress level is finding the proper balance in our life. It keeps us from flirting with danger. In the Bible, wisdom and folly are described as two different women. Folly calls out, “Let all who are simple come in here! Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious! But little do they know  that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” On the other hand, Wisdom says, “Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still.”

Each day, we choose whether to flirt with danger by living in an imbalanced state or to walk in wisdom. I challenge you today to think about what you are doing and to walk in wisdom.  

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Burnout

Steve Arterburn

For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of
rest, holy to the Lord.
Exodus
31:15a

 

Are you burned out, or in danger of burn out? Has your life gotten so
busy that it takes every ounce of energy on a daily basis simply to keep from
falling behind? And you’re not doing a very good job of that?

 

If so, I understand’it’s not a good feeling. Like the dilemma of
having a tiger by the tail: let it go and it’ll gobble you up; hold on and
you’re in for a wild ride. According to recent polls, the
American workforce is burdened by a great deal of stress; 77 per’cent reported
feeling occasional burnout, which, by the way doesn’t discriminate by age,
gender, or other common groupings.

 

The first thing I would recommend this week if you’re feeling burnt
out is that you honor that commandment about the Sabbath. Take a day where you
spend time worshipping God and the rest of the day away from anything close to
your daily grind. Take a walk. Go to a park or the beach. Stop receiving input
and give your mind a rest.

 

‘Until a man has found God, he
begins at no beginning and works to no end.’
– H. G. Wells
(1866-1946)

In Times of Grief

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. Philemon 7

From the book Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff

When someone you know is grieving, you want to express your love and concern. But, how do you know what to say? Sometimes there just aren’t words. But it’s important that you spend time with your friend or family member. What’s as important as anything is just showing up.

What do you say to someone who is suffering? Some people are gifted with words of wisdom. For such, one is profoundly grateful. But not all are gifted in that way. Some blurt out things that don’t really make sense. That’s o.k. too. Your words don’t have to be wise. The heart that speaks is heard more than the words spoken. And if you can’t think of anything to say, just say, ‘I can’t think of anything to say. But I want you to know that we are with you in your grief.’

Or even just embrace. Not even the best of words can take away the pain. What words can do is testify that there is more than pain in our journey on earth to a new day. Of those things that are more, the greatest is love. Express your love. How appallingly grim must be the death of a child in the absence of love.

Sharing in someone’s grief is no time to worry about your own discomfort and uncertainty about what to show. Believe that God will give you the words, the touch, the hug that will comfort. And you’ll be glad you shared in the moment and gave strength to a hurting soul.

‘Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.’ - Billy Graham (1918-)