The Key to Success

The Key to Success

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. - Psalm 42:1

Key to Success

Looking for an edge in life?  Consider this: God is the key to any success you may have in learning to control your desires.  He must be your strength, your counselor, and your sure foundation.

Why is God so important?  Because He’s the source and fulfillment of all human life, including yours.  In other words, you were created by God as well as for God.  We often forget the latter.

St. Augustine made this beautiful confession nearly seventeen centuries ago:  “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in You, O Lord.”  It was true for him then, and it’s true for you now.

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2)
“Whoever drinks the water I give Him,” said Jesus, “will never thirst…[it] will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 14)
“I am the bread of life,” said Jesus, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Behind all your cravings is a craving for God.  And this craving can only be filled through a relationship with Jesus Christ—your true food and drink.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo


 

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

boundaries.newlife

No one has perfect boundaries. At times we all take on what’s not ours, or don’t take on what is ours. God has provided help in repairing and developing our broken boundary-setting abilities. Just as we need to exercise and work with an atrophied leg after it comes out of its cast, setting appropriate boundaries is an ability we must learn. Here are some ways to develop boundaries:

1. Ask God to help you become a truth-teller, even of hard truths. Proverbs 10:18 tells us ‘He who conceals hatred has lying lips.’ Often, people with shaky boundaries may feel resentful about the supposed power of others over them, not realizing they have surrendered that power to them. When people with shaky boundaries begin to feel like they don’t have choices, they will also feel angry and resentful. Often the first step to reclaiming their ‘brand’ is to admit the anger to themselves, God, and others.

2. Find people who celebrate your separateness. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17). Separateness helps relationships. It isn’t possible to learn to develop boundaries in isolation with unsupportive people. When we try, we repeat our original boundary injury. That is, we find ourselves in a controlling relationship with an unsupportive person and attempt to set a limit on the relationship. The person rejects it, and we find ourselves alone. Most of us would choose being in a bad relationship rather than no relationship. We need to find maturing, caring people who will respect our boundaries just as much as they love our attachment.

3. Practice disagreement. Truth telling always involves differing opinions. You can’t find out who you really are without first knowing who you aren’t. A sign that you’re beginning to set boundaries is that you will rock some boats. There’s most likely a problem if no one ever reacts negatively to you.

Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets’ (Luke 6:26). It’s a disconcerting thought that for us to recover spiritually, some people will probably get upset with us! Yet these are usually people who have a difficult time relating to adults with boundaries of their own.

4. Take responsibility for your mistakes. People with boundary problems sometimes see themselves as out of control of their lives. They feel helpless to change their own problems and others’ treatment of them. This can lead to a blaming or rationalizing attitude. ‘If I can’t control my life, then my problems aren’t my fault,’ might go the thinking. Taking stewardship over your life means learning to admit when your problems are the result of your irresponsibility rather than finding excuses. People who ‘own’ their problems tend to mature much faster than those who excuse or transfer blame. The excuser has nothing to fix, and consequently, no opportunity to grow.

5. Learn to respect others’ separateness. One indication of a boundary deficit is an inability to live with the ‘no’ of another.

I once worked with a couple that experienced this problem. Every time the wife disagreed with the husband, he would head toward the door exclaiming. ‘That’s it! ‘the marriage isn’t going to work out.’ Panicked, she would chase after him and apologize for the ‘sin’ of having an opinion. When we learn to accept another’s boundaries, we are saying, in effect, ‘If you don’t give me what I want, God and I will find another way to get my need met.’ It keeps the other person out of a position of indispensability, which is actually a form of idolatry. If our need to be understood, listened to, or loved can’t or won’t be met by the person we’d like, we are to find someone else to help meet that need. That’s why there is a multiplicity of believers in the Body of Christ: when one friend is busy, we are to call on another. This allows us to support the boundary-setting freedom of others in the way we’d like to. If we want others to accept our freedom, we must respect theirs.

Excerpted from “Hiding From Love” by John Townsend

Love Is A Choice

Love is a Choice

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:12-13 MSG

love_one_another.newlife

Love is a choice. Either you choose to behave lovingly toward others . . . or not; either you behave yourself in ways that enhance your relationships . . . or not. But make no mistake: genuine love requires effort. Simply put, if you wish to build lasting relationships, you must be willing to do your part.

Christ’s words are clear: we are to love God first, and secondly, we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). These two commands are seldom easy, and because we are imperfect beings, we often fall short. But God’s Word commands us to try.

The Christian path is an exercise in love and forgiveness. If we are to walk in Christ’s footsteps, we must forgive those who have done us harm, and we must accept Christ’s love by sharing it freely with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.

God does not intend for you to experience mediocre relationships; He created you for far greater things. Building lasting relationships requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness. If that sounds a lot like work, it is’which is perfectly fine with God. Why? Because He knows that you are capable of doing that work, and because He knows that the fruits of your labors will enrich the lives of your loved ones and the lives of generations yet unborn.

Do you want love to last? Then you must understand this: Genuine love requires effort. That’s why those who are lazy in love are often losers in love, too!

No man truly has joy unless he lives in love. - Thomas Aquinas

It is when we come to the Lord in our nothingness, our powerlessness and our helplessness that He then enables us to love in a way which, without Him, would be absolutely impossible. - Elisabeth Elliot

Love is extravagant in the price it is willing to pay, the time it is willing to give, the hardships it is willing to endure, and the strength it is willing to spend. Love never thinks in terms of ‘how little,’ but always in terms of ‘how much.’ Love gives, love knows, and love lasts. - Joni Eareckson Tada

To love another person is to see the face of God. - Victor Hugo

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:11 NASB

 

Hope In God

Hope in God

And for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10

hopeinthelord.newlife

The one thing I need more than anything is hope; we all want something to hope for and someone we can trust. God alone is able to perfectly fulfill both needs. You’ll never regret placing your hope and confidence in Him.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 tells us how enemies threatened the nation of Judah, and many turned to Egypt and other human powers for deliverance. But the Lord said, “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they go right on producing delicious fruit.”

Placing your hope in programs, the government, your job, or the economy (anything but God) is like expecting a tree to flourish in the barren desert. Your thirst continues because these things or people are unable to satisfy your deepest needs. But placing your hope in the Lord changes everything.  Jesus said, “The water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14) Where is your hope? Is it in things, which will come and go, or is your hope in the living God?

Do not look to your hope, but to Christ, the source of your hope.- C.H. Spurgeon

Hope in God’s promises, therefore, is not a wishful longing but a faith-filled confidence for the future. It is simply impossible to trust one of God’s promises and not anticipate its coming true. To know God is to trust Him. And to trust God is to trust His promises. And to trust God’s promises is to be sure of their fulfillment. This assurance concerning the future, anchored in God’s promises, is what the Bible calls “hope.” - Scott Hafemann

What are Safe Relationships?

What are Safe Relationships?

safe.relationships.newlife

I (John) have a fitness fanatic friend named Mark who evangelizes me on the gospel of health whenever he has a chance. He’s a lovable guy, but he’s the kind who always finds a way to change the conversation to exercise, diet, and vitamins.

We were having breakfast one day, and he began talking about his struggles with his wife, Diane. They were going through a painful period and having lots of conflict. Instead of giving advice, I listened and tried to understand what Mark was going through.

As we talked, he expressed everything from sadness to frustration to anxiety. By the time we finished, however, his face had relaxed, and he could actually smile and joke around.

‘You look like you’re feeling better,’ I said.

‘Absolutely, I’m more encouraged’, Mark said. ‘Wheat toast, fruit, and herbal tea make me a new man’! Then he looked at me and grinned sheepishly. ‘Uh, and it might have helped to have someone to talk to,’ he admitted.

Though Mark wasn’t sure about that fact, I am. What happened at breakfast is that I acted as a safe person for Mark to confide in. Just as surely as we were taking in our breakfast to sustain us physically, so we were talking to sustain ourselves emotionally. We were enjoying the great benefits of a safe relationship.

What is a safe relationship?

We like to think of a safe relationship as one that does three things:

1. Draws us closer to God.

2. Draws us closer to others.

3. Helps us become the real person God created us to be.

The Bible refers to these three areas of spiritual growth. We fulfill the greatest commandment, to love God (Matt. 22:37-28). We keep the second commandment, to love each other (Matt. 22:39). And we grow into the particular person that God created us to be, accomplishing the tasks he has designed for us (Eph. 2:10).

When we asked people to describe a ‘safe person’ to us, they gave us these descriptions:

A person who accepts me just like I am.

A person who loves me no matter how I am being or what I do.

A person whose influence develops my ability to love and be responsible.

Someone who creates love and good works within me.

Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow.

Someone I can be myself around.

Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the inside.

Someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.

Someone who allows me to become the me that God intended.

Someone who helps me become the me God sees in me.

Someone who touches my life and draws me closer to who God created me to be.

Someone who helps me be like Christ.

Someone who helps me to love others more.

We would all want people in our lives that help us in these ways. But the problem is, how do we recognize them? What do they look like?

We all struggle on different sides on the ‘safe relationship’ issue. Some do not even think we need relationships with other people. They think the Lord is enough and that you should only trust in him. Others think that they must depend only on themselves. Still others believe that the Bible teaches the value of relationships, but then they find themselves in hurtful relationships over and over again. They pick hurtful friends, spouses, churches, work partners, spiritual leaders, and dating relationships. They seem to not have the ability to find and like safe people. Having a seemingly astounding talent for finding people that will ultimately hurt them, they repeat patterns over and over again, and then become discouraged about relationships in general.

So for us to begin to utilize safe relationships, we need to first understand what a safe person is and why we need that kind of safety. The best example of a safe person is found in Jesus. In him are found the three qualities of a safe person; dwelling, grace, and truth.

As John wrote: ‘The Word became flesh and lived for awhile among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and the only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

John Townsend & Henry Cloud

Surround yourself with safe people at one of our weekend workshops. Our check out some of our excellent resources.

Soul Hunger

Soul Hunger

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’ – John 6:35

breadoflife.newlife

Soul hunger is the same whether we live in the White House or a homeless shelter; whether we’re the latest star, sex symbol or a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother; whether we’re Bill Gates or Fred Sanford. Whoever we are, wherever life has taken us, how­ever much we have or lack, we hunger for more; something richer, deeper, prettier, tastier, faster—something that satisfies.

Some people acknowledge their hunger and seek to satisfy it in so­cially acceptable ways: education, career, family, friends, or public service. Others grow desperate and angry, and attempt to satisfy their hunger in socially unacceptable ways: promiscuity, the misuse of drugs and alcohol, or even violence.

Whichever category we best fit, our need is the same: God. And the only way to find God is by surrendering to Him. It might not be easy for you to do, but it’s very simple to surrender. I invite you to try it.

If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled. When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage. - John Owen

 

 

 

Be a Joshua

Be a Joshua

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

single-rose-petal-in-focus-f5

All through the Old Testament book of Joshua, the Lord says, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid.”  What a message for us! As I read through the book I was amazed at how when the Lord spoke to Joshua, Joshua never stood before the Lord with excuses.  He didn’t attempt to refute why he couldn’t capture the territory the Lord had already given him. He never grumbled and complained about his childhood or his feelings of inadequacy or his anxiety or anything else you can think of. He simply moved forward in faith.  As a consequence he led the entire nation of Israel to conquer and settle in the Promised Land.

If you would arise each day with the same simple faith of Joshua, a faith that simply trusted the Lord as shown by your actions and behavior, just think about what area of your life you could capture.  You could turn the tables on the enemies of your past . . . on the abuse and neglect and fear and hurt.  You can capture that enemy territory.

The Lord has already captured that area of your life for you. He wants to hand it over to you so you can obtain victory! In what area of your life do you need to see the walls come tumbling down?

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela 

Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. – John Wayne 

Accepting Yourself

Accepting Yourself

Oh Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:8

selfacceptance.newlife

Many people seem to go about life with a kind of bravado . . . bold confidence and self-assurance. The truth, however, is that most of us wish we were different somehow. If only you were as outgoing as Jack . . . if you were as physically fit as Mary . . . if you had the financial sense of Tom . . . a full head of hair like John . . . or the quick wit of Connie. While it’s okay to admire good traits in others, often this desire to be like someone else is actually a form of covetousness, or envy. So, how about learning to accept yourself as God has made you.

Before you can truly accept yourself, however, you need to see the truth about yourself, recognizing both the gifts and the limitations that God’s given you. If you don’t, you will constantly struggle to be someone you’re not.

One way to appreciate how God has made you is to read Psalm 139. The psalmist rejoices, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it.”  (139:14)

Each of us is unique and special . . . embraced and accepted by God himself . . . even though not one of us is perfect. Spiritual renewal cannot begin until you’re willing to accept yourself as God made you. Once you accept the truth about yourself your focus can change . . . and you can bring great glory to God himself. He, after all, is the one who made you, and He is the reason we live.

I am somebody. I am me. I like being me. And I need nobody to make me somebody. – Louis L’Amour

The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.- Mark Twain

Those who wait upon the Lord . . .

Those who wait upon the Lord . . .

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

thosewhowait.newlife

Chinese bamboo is a remarkable plant. Once a bamboo seed is planted it requires daily watering and care. But for five full years, the exterior shoot will grow less than an inch.

At the end of five years, however, the bamboo will perform an incredible feat. It will grow ninety feet in only ninety days! Now ask yourself this: When did the tree actually grow? Throughout the first five years, or during those last ninety days?

You may be like Chinese bamboo. You may be working, dreaming, planning, and persevering, yet feeling as if God’s taking forever to flower your dream into any visible result.

Be patient. The most important growth is underground—hidden deep in your character. Those who wait upon the Lord won’t be put to shame; and in due time, God will reveal everything He’s grown in you.

 If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius. – Joseph Addison

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. – John Quincy Adams

Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. – Barbara Johnson

Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.- 1 John 3:18

forest.newlifeIf you’re like me, you live a life in community, but your community isn’t likely one to include your neighbors. I know people who have lived in their neighborhoods for years and still don’t know their neighbors’ names. Busyness blocks out the world immediately around them.

A friend of mine recently shared a story with me. She said that she’s lived in the same neighborhood for twelve years and never really reached out to any of her neighbors. Having learned that one of her neighbors was battling cancer and leukemia, she thought that the time had come to express care, concern, and love to her.

So, she wrote a note, wrapped up a little stuffed bunny, and approached her neighbor’s house. Her heart was pounding. Was she opening herself to ridicule? She knocked on the door, wondering how this little gift and expression of care would be received. When the neighbor came to the door, she could tell that this hand delivered expression of love really moved her. The whole 10-minute process, doing exactly what God wanted her to do, was a blessing to both and an expression of the love of God to her neighbor.

Do you need to step out of your comfort zone and express love and concern to someone? Just look around you; the opportunities are there. We just close them off in our hurry to have a day without interruptions. Express some care and concern for someone today.  Lend someone a helping hand. Spend time (and money if necessary) to be an agent of God’s love. You know you need to do it!

The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits… [The Scripture] teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love. – John Calvin

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. – A. A. Milne

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries