In Turbulent Times, Consider the Possibilities

For nothing will be impossible with God.
LUKE 1:37 HCSB

Are you afraid to ask God to do big things—or to make big changes—in your life? Is your faith threadbare and worn? If so, it’s time to abandon your doubts and reclaim your faith in God’s promises.

Ours is a God of infinite possibilities. But sometimes, because of limited faith and limited understanding, we wrongly assume that God cannot or will not intervene in the affairs of mankind. Such assumptions are simply wrong.

God’s Holy Word makes it clear: absolutely nothing is impossible for the Lord. And since the Bible means what it says, you can be comforted in the knowledge that the Creator of the universe can do miraculous things in your own life and in the lives of your loved ones. Your challenge, as a believer, is to take God at His word, and to expect the miraculous.

Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.   ~Matthew Henry

God specializes in things thought impossible.   ~Catherine Marshall

If all things are possible with God, then all things are possible to him who believes in Him.   ~Corrie Ten Boom

Do we not continually pass by blessings innumerable without notice, and instead fix our eyes on what we feel to be our trials and our losses? And, do we not think and talk about our trials until our whole horizon is filled with them, and we almost begin to think we have no blessings at all?   ~Hannah Whitall Smith

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, give me the courage to dream and the faithfulness to trust in Your perfect plan for my life. When I am worried, give me strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Today, Father, I will trust You and honor You with my thoughts, with my prayers, with my actions, and with my dreams. Amen

The Need to Forgive

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 HCSB

It has been said that life is an exercise in forgiveness. And it should be added that forgiveness is an essential step in overcoming tough times.

Christ understood the importance of forgiveness when He commanded, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV). But sometimes, forgiveness is difficult indeed.
When we have been injured or embarrassed, we feel the urge to strike back and to hurt the ones who have hurt us. But Christ instructs us to do otherwise. Christ teaches us that forgiveness is God’s way and that mercy is an integral part of God’s plan for our lives. In short, we are commanded to weave the thread of forgiveness into the very fabric of our lives.

Do you invest more time than you should reliving the past? Are you troubled by feelings of anger, bitterness, envy, or regret? Do you harbor ill will against someone whom you simply can’t seem to forgive? If so, it’s time to finally get serious about forgiveness.

When someone hurts you, the act of forgiveness is difficult, but necessary. Until you forgive, you are trapped in a prison of your own creation. But what if you have tried to forgive and simply can’t seem to do so? The solution to your dilemma is this: you simply must make forgiveness a higher priority in your life.

Have you sincerely asked God to forgive you for your inability to forgive others? Have you genuinely prayed that those feelings of anger might be swept from your heart? If so, congratulations. If not, perhaps it’s time to move past your own particular tough times by freeing yourself from the chains of bitterness and regret.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   ~C. S. Lewis

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, forgiveness is Your commandment, and I know that I should forgive others just as You have forgiven me.  But, genuine forgiveness is difficult. Help me to forgive those who have injured me, and deliver me from the traps of anger  and bitterness. Forgiveness is Your way, Lord; let it be mine. Amen

God's Protection

Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.
MICAH 7:8 HCSB

Have you ever faced challenges that seemed too big to handle? Have you ever faced big problems that, despite your best efforts, simply could not be solved? If so, you know how uncomfortable it is to feel helpless in the face of difficult circumstances. Thankfully, even when there’s nowhere else to turn, you can turn your thoughts and prayers to God, and He will respond.

God’s hand uplifts those who turn their hearts and prayers to Him. Count yourself among that number. When you do, you can live courageously and joyfully, knowing that “this too will pass”—but that God’s love for you will not. And you can draw strength from the knowledge that you are a marvelous creation, loved, protected, and uplifted by the ever-present hand of God.

Whatever hallway you’re in—no matter how long, how dark, or how scary—God is right there with you.   ~Bill Hybels

God helps those who help themselves, but there are times when we are quite incapable of helping ourselves. That’s when God stoops down and gathers us in His arms like a mother lifts a sick child, and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.   ~Ruth Bell Graham

Life is literally filled with God-appointed storms. These squalls surge across everyone’s horizon. We all need them.   ~Charles Swindoll

God will not permit any troubles to come upon us unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.   ~Peter Marshall

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes, I am worried, weary, or heartbroken. And sometimes, I encounter powerful temptations to disobey Your commandments. But, when I lift my eyes to You, Father, You strengthen me. When I am weak, You lift me up. Today, I will turn to You for strength, for hope, for direction, and for deliverance. Amen

In Turbulent Times, Guard Your Thoughts

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 HCSB

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 English clergyman William Ralph Inge observed, “No Christian should be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism.”  Inge’s words are most certainly true, but sometimes, you may find yourself pulled down by tough times. If you find yourself discouraged, exhausted, or both, then it’s time to ask yourself this question: what’s bothering you, and why?

If you’re worried by the inevitable challenges of everyday living, God wants to have a little talk with you. After all, the ultimate battle has already been won on the cross at Calvary. And if your life has been transformed by Christ’s sacrifice, then you, as a recipient of God’s grace, have every reason to live courageously.

Are you willing to trust God’s plans for your life, in good times and turbulent times? Hopefully, you will trust Him completely. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes it clear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NKJV).

A. W. Tozer noted, “Attitude is all-important. Let the soul take a quiet attitude of faith and love toward God, and from there on, the responsibility is God’s. He will make good on His commitments.” These words should serve as a reminder that even when the challenges of the day seem daunting, God remains steadfast. And, so should you.

So make this promise to yourself and keep it—vow to be a hope-filled Christian. Think optimistically about your life, your profession, your family, your future, and your purpose for living. 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.

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, I will focus on Your love, Your power, Your promises, and Your Son. When I am weak, I will turn to You for strength; when I am worried, I will turn to You for comfort; when I am troubled, I will turn to You for patience and perspective.  Help me guard my thoughts, Lord, so that I may honor You this day and forever. Amen

Self-Esteem According to God

For you made us only a little lower than God,
and you crowned us with glory and honor
.
PSALM 8:5 NLT

When you encounter tough times, you may lose self-confidence. Or you may become so focused on what other people are thinking—or saying—that you fail to focus on God. To do so is a mistake of major proportions—don’t make it. Instead, seek God’s guidance as you focus your energies on becoming the best you that you can possibly be. And when it comes to matters of self-esteem and self-image, seek approval not from your peers, but from your Creator.

Millions of words have been written about various ways to improve self-image and increase self-esteem. Yet, maintaining a healthy self-image is, to a surprising extent, a matter of doing three things:

1. Obeying God

2. Thinking healthy thoughts

3. Finding a purpose for your life that pleases your Creator and yourself.

The following common-sense, Biblically-based tips can help you build the kind of self-image—and the kind of life—that both you and God can be proud of.

Being loved by Him whose opinion matters most gives us the security to risk loving, too—even loving ourselves. ~Gloria Gaither

As you and I lay up for ourselves living, lasting treasures in Heaven, we come to the awesome conclusion that we ourselves are His treasure! ~Anne Graham Lotz

Your self worth is more important than your net worth.    ~Anonymous

The Creator has made us each one of a kind. There is nobody else exactly like us, and there never will be. Each of us is His special creation and is alive for a distinctive purpose.   ~Luci Swindoll

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, help me speak courteously to everyone, including myself. And when I make a mistake, help me to forgive myself quickly and thoroughly, just as I forgive others. Amen

Make Peace With the Past

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
JOHN 14:27 KJV

Some of life’s greatest roadblocks are not the ones we see through the windshield; they are, instead, the roadblocks that seem to fill the rearview mirror. Because we are imperfect human beings who lack perfect control over our thoughts, we may allow ourselves to become “stuck” in the past—even though we know better. Instead of focusing our thoughts and energies on the opportunities of today, we may allow painful memories to fill our minds and sap our strength. We simply can’t seem to let go of our pain, so we relive it again and again . . . with predictably unfortunate consequences. Thankfully, God has other plans.

Philippians 3:13-14 instructs us to focus on the future, not the past: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Yet for many of us, focusing on the future is difficult indeed. Why? Part of the problem has to do with forgiveness. When we find ourselves focusing too intently on the past, it’s a sure sign that we need to focus, instead, on a more urgent need: the need to forgive. No amount of anger or bitterness can change what happened yesterday. Tears can’t change the past; regrets can’t change it. Our worries won’t change the past, and neither will our complaints. Simply put, the past is, and always will be, the past. Forever.

Can you summon both the courage and the wisdom to accept your past and move on with your life? Can you accept the reality that yesterday—and all the yesterdays before it—are gone? And, can you entrust all those yesterdays to God? By God’s grace, you can.

So if you’ve endured a difficult past, learn from it, but don’t live in it. Instead, build your future on a firm foundation of trust and forgiveness: trust in your Heavenly Father, and forgiveness for all His children, including yourself.

If you are God’s child, you are no longer bound to your past or to what you were. You are a brand new creature in Christ Jesus.   ~Kay Arthur

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, free me from anger, resentment, and envy. When I am bitter, I cannot feel the peace that You intend for my life. Keep me mindful that forgiveness is Your commandment, and help me accept the past, treasure the present, and trust the future . . . to You. Amen

Faith Moves Mountains

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 JOHN 5:4 NKJV

Because we live in a demanding world, all of us have mountains to climb and mountains to move. Moving those mountains requires faith. And the experience of trying, with God’s help, to move mountains builds character.

Faith, like a tender seedling, can be nurtured or neglected. When we nurture our faith through prayer, meditation, and worship, God blesses our lives and lifts our spirits. But when we neglect to commune with the Father, we do ourselves and our loved ones a profound disservice.

Are you a mountain-moving person whose faith is evident for all to see? Or, are you a spiritual underachiever? As you think about the answer to that question, consider this: God needs more people who are willing to move mountains for His glory and for His kingdom.

Every life—including yours—is a series of wins and losses. Every step of the way, through every triumph and tragedy, God walks with you, ready and willing to strengthen you. So the next time you find your character being tested, remember to take your fears to God. If you call upon Him, you will be comforted. Whatever your challenge, whatever your trouble, God can handle it.

When you place your faith, your trust, indeed your life in the hands of your Heavenly Father, you’ll receive a lesson in character-building from the ultimate Teacher. So strengthen your faith through praise, through worship, through Bible study, and through prayer. And trust God’s plans. With Him, all things are possible, and He stands ready to open a world of possibilities to you . . . if you have faith.

Trials are not enemies of faith but opportunities to reveal God’s faithfulness.  ~Barbara Johnson

It may be the most difficult time of your life. You may be enduring your own whirlwind. But the whirlwind is a temporary experience. Your faithful, caring Lord will see you through. ~Charles Swindoll

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, sometimes this world is a terrifying place.
When I am filled with uncertainty and doubt, give me faith. In life’s dark moments, help me remember that You are always near and that You can overcome any challenge. Today, Lord,
and forever, I will place my trust in You. Amen

Continuing in the Father's Strength

Excerpted from the book More Jesus, Less Religion by Steve Arterburn

After many years of service to Christ, Cliff’s wife developed a quickly spreading cancer. Many people joined Cliff in fervent prayer for his wife, but she failed rapidly and soon died. Through it all, however, Cliff did not break his determined gaze on Christ. Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his deep experience of pain and suffering—and even depression and confusion—to push him even deeper into the arms of the living God.

This grieving servant of God knew only two things to hold on to, and he held on to both with all his might. The first was his unshakable conviction that God was a good God. And while he didn’t understand this particular circumstance or why his wife had to suffer and die, he did know that God was good and that there had to be a reason he would come to understand one day. Second, he knew beyond all doubt that God loved him. In spite of everything. No matter what. Through it all.

Cliff clung to those twin truths, refusing to take his eyes off the Lord even when he was wracked with grief. 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 around your emotional energy. Instrument certified pilots know what this is all about. When visibility drops to nil and storms rage around them, it is second nature for them to focus on the ‘artificial horizon’ gauge on their instrument panel. No matter what their senses might tell them or what weird phenomena they see through the windscreen, they know that gauge will give them their true position and keep them flying level. They may feel as though they are in a steep dive–’or even flying upside down. Yet their eyes must lock onto that gauge, and they must respond accordingly. When it comes to survival, it doesn’t really matter what they feel like; what matters is what their instruments say.

Many travel through this world basing every decision on how they feel and what they experience. They do not study God’s Word or spend time with Jesus; they have no real knowledge of this Guide who begs us follow him, no matter how we feel and regardless of our circumstances. If we stay focused on him, if it becomes second nature to look to him and not to ourselves, we will not get lost in the dark. Jesus will be that instrument that keeps us headed toward the horizon. Our faith in him can keep us from alternating our direction based on momentary discomfort–and it can prevent needless tragedy.

So it was with Cliff. Although his emotions sometimes raged and other times fell dead flat, although his thoughts were at times confused and he felt his equilibrium slipping, he focused on the ‘Jesus gauge.’ He knew that no matter how his circumstances changed, his Lord would neither change nor fail. As the Lord told Israel, ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendents of Jacob, are not destroyed’ (Malachi 3:6).

As a consequence of such focus, Cliff enjoyed a daily supply–an artesian well–of God’s love through those days of sorrow and distress. He was not only comforted himself, but he became a surprising source of comfort to others.

Our faith, when focused on the true God, will not be shaken by adversity or unexpected turbulence. As long as we, like Cliff, hold tight to our faith in God’s goodness and love, we can come through pain and struggle with a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus, rather than a faith strained beyond its limits because we failed to focus on the true God.

For more help please see More Jesus, Less Religion.

Also, please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Set Self Aside

Excerpted from the book 21 Days to a Great Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Have you ever found it difficult to make needed changes in
yourself for the good of your marriage? 
Today you’ll meet that obstacle in person: it’s you!  We know, because we battle ‘self’ in our own
marriages.  So let’s take ‘self’ to the
mat together.

Remember the days before you were married?  Remember the freedom of doing whatever you
wanted, whenever you wanted?  You
answered only to yourself, and that was pretty much it.

Then you fell in love. 
All of a sudden you had to say no to yourself with respect to freedoms,
choices, and preferences that you enjoyed in your previous life.  You had to consider someone else’s feelings
and desires, which can be a painful way of life.

This way of life is called self-denial.  Simply put, self-denial is the practice
of postponing, or even giving up, activities and attitudes that block love and
connection.
  In great marriages,
self-denial is a daily way of living, relating, and thinking.  And it’s one of the most important keys to
love.

 

What Self-Denial Looks Like

A loving and well-thought out attitude of self-denial will
mean giving up things like these:

The comfort of detachment.  Love requires the effort of making an
emotional connection, even when you least feel like it.  It’s very natural to disconnect when you’re
stressed, tired, or upset with your spouse, and at times you do need ‘me’
time.  But more often, you need to deny
yourself the choice of withdrawing from the relationship.  Getting out of your comfort zone and
connecting on the relationship’s terms, not your own, helps generate love and
close feelings.

Your dreams and desires.  At times, one partner will need to postpone a good dream or
legitimate desire for the sake of connection. 
For example, a wife might delay developing her career while she raises
the kids.  Or a husband might live in a
city that is not best for his career, but best for the marriage and family.

The right to demand fairness.  When both partners insist on playing fair,
they enter into legalistic, loveless emptiness.  Give more than you receive in your love life, and deny yourself the
demand of fairness.  Don’t get put out
if you end up going to the basketball game with him more than he goes to the
symphony with you.  Love gives up
keeping score in order to gain connection and compassion.

Saying whatever you want.  Learn to deny the strong urge to say to your mate exactly what
you feel when you feel it.  Partners
hurt each other deeply when they assume carte blanche to say anything to each
other.  Instead, first ask yourself,
‘How would I feel if he said that to me?’ 
This sort of approach also includes denying yourself the privilege of
confronting every little thing your mate does. 
As Proverbs 19:11 says, ‘A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his
glory to overlook an offense.’

Self-denial is like the economic laws of saving and
investing money: Those people who can be patient and wait will always reap the
greatest payoffs in the long run.

 

For more help see all of our books and CDs on Marriage.

Also, join one of our marriage groups at our next New Life Weekend!

Charity

Excerpted from the book The Joyful Christian by C. S. Lewis

In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone
must work, it gives as a reason ‘in order that he may have something to give to
those in need.’ Charity’giving to the poor’is an essential part of Christian
morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats is seems to be
the point on which everything turns. Some people nowadays say that charity
ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be
producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite
right in saying we ought to produce that kind of society. But if anyone thinks
that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then that person
has parted company with all Christian morality.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.
I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other
words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the
standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably
giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I
should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do
and cannot do because our charitable expenditures exclude them. I am speaking
now of ‘charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your
own relatives, friends, neighbors, or employees, which God, as it were, forces
upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering
of your own position.

For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in
our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear’fear of
insecurity. This must often be recognized as a temptation. Sometimes our pride
also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the
showy forms of generosity’such as tipping and hospitality’and less than we
ought on those who really need our help.

 

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries