Grief Not Allowed

Grief Not Allowed 

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. - John 16:20

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In our culture, it seems more acceptable for us to be angry than sad. Consequently, many of us stumble through life without understanding our feelings, completely out of touch with our emotions. We may be deeply grieved by a number of circumstances, but we don’t feel safe acknowledging our sadness. It’s socially “okay” for them to vent their anger, but not to explore and discuss the deep hurt beneath it.

When you feel sad, anger seems like a safe retreat. It causes your adrenaline to rush. It commands attention and demands respect. It allows you to stay in control, and it keeps uncomfortable feelings and situations at a safe distance. However your failure to grieve can actually poison you.

The Bible offers no precedent for us to suppress our grief. The Old Testament depicts many people showing real grief. The men of Israel would rip their clothes, sprinkle themselves with ashes, wear black armbands, and spend time in mourning. They would wail before the Lord without feeling shame.

That experience allowed them to express their emotions and then move on without the baggage of repressed feelings. When we don’t grieve, we stuff our disappointments and sadness, and compensate for them with other less-threatening emotions, and at the top of the list is anger. But Scripture gives you liberty to grieve, so when you need to, openly grieve!

To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness. - Erich Fromm

Open The Eyes Of Your Heart

The Eyes of Your Heart

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Forestwander.com

Are you going through difficult times? If it does nothing else for you and to you, it will open the eyes of your heart. Walking through troubled waters is one way that God has of shifting your vision. When your heart breaks, there’s an avenue for God’s compassion to trickle in and envelop your heart with His. You’ll begin to look at others through the eyes of your heart and not through the eyes of quick judgment, harsh conclusions, or self-interest.

Your trip to the grocery store, to church, to Wal-Mart or Starbucks will take on a new hue. You’ll look at people and wonder what their story is; what their childhood was like; what caused them to be so happy or unhappy, why they seem this way or that.

Their job titles will be less important, their type of car won’t impress you, what kind of clothes they wear, or whether they’re wrinkled or stylish won’t matter anymore. You’re more likely to understand that they are in some pain and trying to run from it or trying to hide. Or, you’ll see their smile and demeanor and wonder if they’re truly happy or masking some inner, silent suffering or anger.

Now, you won’t get answers to all that you wonder about people and their stories, but your heart will be softened. You’ll find that you have a level of compassion that most people don’t have. If your heart is broken, let His compassion trickle in to your heart through the brokenness. Let Him open the eyes of your heart today.

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.Steve Maraboli 

What value has compassion that does not take its object in its arms.Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

The Psalms

The Psalms

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. – Psalm 3:3-4

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It’s impossible to adequately summarize the richness and breadth contained in the book of Psalms.  It was Israel’s hymnbook, containing songs of praise to God.  It also contains the cries of God’s people in difficult situations.  And it was a prayer book for Israel.  The psalmists looked to God in moments of private despair, in times of national suffering, and in the joyous moments of mountain-top experiences.

The Psalms are for us right now, today.  They are brimming with honest emotion.  Through them you can learn to pour out your anguish and your adoration, your suffering and confession, your hopes and your fears.  Through them you feel safe asking God why he has or hasn’t acted in a certain way.  Through others you might express your pain, heartache, and discouragement.  Through still others you may praise God as he frees you from oppression and sin.  Each psalm is an expression of the heart.  None of them are neat little packages of answers tied up with pretty bows.  They are living words, a collection of spiritual diaries from people who honestly sought God’s help and His heart.

Do you need spiritual direction or encouragement?  The Psalms can function as deterrents to keep you out of trouble, guides to help you through problems, reminders of the one who actually delivers you, or as beacons of hope to encourage you in perplexing or painful situations.  Read the Psalms and be ushered into the very presence of your loving and merciful God. You’ll be glad you did!

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.Psalm 1:1-2 

Overconfidence/Self-Assurance

Overconfidence/Self-Assurance

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. - Habakkuk 3:19

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Overconfidence is usually viewed as a negative personality trait.  The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is a good example. His youthful boasting to his brothers got him in trouble. Based on a dream, he claimed that the others would someday bow down to him. This, coupled with his father’s favoritism, led to jealousy and broken family relationships.  In the end, his brothers sold him into slavery, cutting him off from his family altogether.

Through years of difficulties and suffering, however, Joseph’s overconfidence was developed by God into a mature self-assurance. This self-assurance made Joseph capable of tackling and succeeding when most other men would have run away. His  integrity, took him from being a prisoner to being second only to Pharaoh. And, as only God could orchestrate, Joseph was in a position to save the young nation Israel during a time of terrible famine.

Overconfidence without God’s perspective will invariably lead you down the pathway to other personal problems and mistakes. On the other hand, self-assurance based on a strong faith will enable you to overcome incredible obstacles and see God’s hand in your life.

Are you overconfident and relying on your strength or intelligence to succeed? Or are you self-assured, knowing that God is the source of any strength, favor, or success? One way leads to trouble while the other God will use for His plans and His glory.

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. - Dr. Seuss

Israel Tour 2014

Imagine a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, praying in the quiet stillness of the Garden of Gethsemane, tracing the footsteps of the Messiah and walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel. . .. You can experience all this and much more when you join Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries on this unforgettable tour of Israel in the summer of 2014.. For more information click here

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.

A Love Story

God used the prophet Hosea to communicate to his people that he loved them and desired a restored relationship with them.  How?  In a most unlikely way.  God commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman named Gomer.  As soon as Hosea and his wife’s children were born, she prostituted herself and, in time, became enslaved.  In response to God’s command, Hosea then redeemed his wife from slavery and restored her to the family.  God intended this demonstration of unconditional love to symbolize his own love for the people of Israel.

God treated his people with mercy and compassion even though they rejected him and his will for them time and again.  But though God was angered by the unfaithfulness of his people he never rejected them completely.  Neither did he condone their sin by extending unqualified mercy.  He allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of their disobedience.  After this, however, he promised to restore them when they repented.

While the story of Hosea’s gracious love for Gomer is the story of God’s love for the wayward Israelites, it’s also the story of God’s love for you.  You, too, choose the way of disobedience that leads inevitably toward suffering and exile.  But as God did with Israel, he often uses the pain of exile to bring you to your senses and lead you back to him.  Then, through God’s unfailing love, you can be restored and enjoy an intimate relationship with him.

Caleb

Steve Arterburn

Do you seek the acceptance of others when you make decisions? You’re not alone. Many men seek approval by often siding with the majority viewpoint.  Unfortunately, in our world system, the majority viewpoint seldom gives God and his Word much consideration.

Caleb, however, was a man who saw things from God’s perspective and stood against the majority opinion.  Do you remember his story?  He was among the twelve spies who entered Canaan.  Ten of these spies–a clear majority–believed that the Promised Land couldn’t be conquered.  They came back with stories of impregnable walled cities defended by terrible giants.  They told the people the task was hopeless, letting their fears and the majority opinion decide the course of action.  But Caleb, along with Joshua, differed with the majority.  Caleb agreed that Canaan was well fortified and the task formidable.  But he also believed that even the greatest of enemies was no match for the mighty God of Israel.  He urged the people to believe in God’s promises.

Sadly the people followed the majority opinion and refused to enter the Promised Land.  It’s easy to focus on the obstacles in our own lives–all those things that make change seem impossible.  But you and I can learn from Caleb.  When the situation appeared hopeless, he knew that victory could come by seeking the God who promised victory.  Caleb knew that self-worth isn’t found in the approval of other people, but only in the loving eyes of God.

Friends for Life

Steve Arterburn

Male friendship has been greatly distorted in our culture.  As a result, many men don’t know how to be or how to make good friends. Can you relate?  Sure, you may have some buddies.  But I’m talking about something much deeper–I’m talking about a friend who knows you–really knows you.  A friend who struggles alongside you, battles for you, and encourages you.

Consider the friendship, for example, of David and Jonathan.  David was anointed King, which meant Jonathan, who was heir to the throne, would never claim his title.  It would be similar to this:  If your dad was the president of a huge corporation and you were serving as vice-president.  But instead of taking your rightful position as president, the CEO chooses your friend instead.  How could a friendship under these circumstances survive?

One reason is because both David and Jonathan counted each other better than themselves.  There are few more graphic pictures of this than Jonathan’s surrender of his robe, his armor, and his position to David (1 Samuel 18:1-4).  ‘You are going to be king of Israel,’ Jonathan tells David, ‘and I will be next to you’ (1 Samuel 23:17).

And even after Jonathan was slain in battle, David continued to honor Jonathan by caring for Jonathan’s son.

Do you have at least one relationship that approaches this level of love and care?  It’s a costly commitment.  The only thing more costly is not having such a friend.

Josiah

Steve Arterburn

Even men who don’t want to be like their fathers often turn out to be amazingly similar in their behaviors and personalities.  Through the power of God and hard personal choices, however, it’s possible to break out of an ongoing spiral of sin and dysfunction.

Take Josiah, for example.  Josiah was a young king who chose to stand against a virtual tidal wave of disobedience fostered by his grandfather Manasseh and his father, Amon.  Breaking from this downward spiral was particularly difficult since Josiah had little knowledge to guide his actions.  The Scriptures containing God’s laws had been lost for years.  But when the high priest discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple, young Josiah immediately initiated spiritual renewal for himself and his people.

As a result, Josiah was able to break the cycle of sin that had captured Israel in its whirl. Josiah was not a perfect man but he was a true champion of spiritual renewal.  He was committed to God and had the courage to pursue both personal and national renewal.

Josiah made the difficult choices necessary in order to ‘cut loose’ from the sins of the past and to build a new life for himself and the people of Judah.  Are you like Josiah?  Do you need to make a break from the past in order to build a new life for yourself? I hope you’ll seek the same powerful God who renewed Josiah.