Overcoming Criticism

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:25

Overcoming Criticism

Who amongst us enjoys criticism? I know I don’t! In fact, even when criticism is constructive, it’s usually about as welcomed as an IRS audit.

But there’s something even worse than criticism: and that’s critical people. We all know someone like this. You know who I’m talking about, that person who meets every plan with some version of ‘That’s impossible!‘ It’s that person who challenges your enthusiasm or conviction to tackle a big project with a smirk or a head-wag.

But remember: nearly every advance, discovery, or act of courage is precipitated by criticism. There’s really only one sure way to avoid it: by doing nothing. And what kind of choice is that, especially for people of faith. If you expect to be praised you must be willing to be criticized.

– Steve Arterburn

There are high spots in all our lives, and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, he hungers for applause. – George Matthew Adams

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No-Win Situations

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of the mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:27

No-Win Situations

Sometimes we feel powerless for one reason or another. You may be in a situation where other people have power over you. You may feel that you’re trapped by the demands of others and that there’s no way to please them all. It’s a double bind: to please one is to disappoint another. Sometimes when we feel stuck and frustrated with our relationships, we look for a measure of
control by escaping through our addictive behaviors.

When you’re caught in no-win situations, don’t run away through your addictive or compulsive escape hatches. At times like these God is there, and he’ll listen to your woes. He hears your cries and is willing to give you hope for the future.

Admit to God that you’re powerless; surrender to Him and allow His Holy Spirit to invade your life, it’s the power you need to move forward.

– Steve Arterburn

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Being Before Doing

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10

Being Before Doing

Filling our lives with activity and busyness puts us in dangerous territory.  Aside from making us emotionally frazzled and physically exhausted, it’s also threatening to make us both intellectually and spiritually deficient.

I’m not suggesting you live a passive life.  Nor am I suggesting there’s a dichotomy between being and doing.  But I am suggesting there’s a priority.  Why?

– Doing creates and perpetuates the myth that we’re in control; being acknowledges that God’s in control.
– Doing commits us to safety; being acknowledges that the Christian life is one of faith—and that means one of risk.
– Doing engenders spiritual pride; being produces humility.
– Doing is about correcting behavioral patterns; being is about spiritual renewal through knowing God.
– Doing is about reactionary response; being is about thoughtfully, prayerfully, and intentionally bringing what the Bible teaches to bear upon every aspect of life.

What are you “being” as you live your life doing?

– Steve Arterburn

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. – John Lennon

Unfailing Love

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21-23

Unfailing Love

No one is exempt from suffering. The people you think deserve it the least are often the ones faced with it. And you may suffer because those you love make some poor choices. Your wife may leave you, your child may struggle with addiction, or your brother may choose a homosexual lifestyle. Whatever the situation or whenever your heart is breaking, God wants you to give your grief and sorrow to Him. He’s the one who mends broken hearts.

The prophet Jeremiah is a man who watched, as his nation was taken captive, ravished, and almost completely destroyed because of its refusal to surrender to God. It’s no wonder Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. In the book of Lamentations he cried, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:18-20)

But look at the Scripture that follows his weepy, whiny, poor-little-ole’ me tirade. It is printed at the top of this page. What a great example for us.

We all get in to feeling sorry for ourselves. But before you stay there, remember your hope: God’s love is unfailing! And it never ends.

– Steve Arterburn

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. – C.S. Lewis

When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love. – Charles Spurgeon

Love Is A Choice

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has on one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:12-13

Love Is A Choice

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!

– Steve Arterburn

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

Recovery is Like an Onion

If we live by the spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

Recovery is Like an Onion

Someone smarter than me said: “Recovery is like an onion.  All the layers that exist have to be peeled away.” Well, if you’re a connoisseur of onions, you know that there are different varieties.  Some are really powerful and when you barely touch them they produce tears. Others are pretty sweet and they barely affect you when you chop them up.

And so it is with your peeling the layers in your healing process.  Some layers will affect you more than others. But, if you realize that it’s a process, and that God is with you every step of the way, you can face the pain of your past so that you can move beyond it and heal. Also, consider this:  You are in the present. You lived through the reality, whatever and whenever it was, so you can certainly live through the feelings and memories of the reality today.

Make your one desire to be made whole and to be as much like Christ as you can be. When you do, you’ll find God putting on your heart the desire and the courage to carry the message of hope and healing to those who are stuck in their pain.

Embrace the pain of the recovery and healing process. It will remind you that God is in control and you’re being held in his arms, tight and secure as He walks you through it. It means you’ll take some steps of faith, and that will be pleasing to God and healing to you.

– Steve Arterburn

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. – Michael Yaconelli

We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places. – Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt

Close the Gate

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Close the Gate

My friend grew up on a farm, and she once told me that her sole responsibility was to close the gate behind her.  That way the live­stock couldn’t backtrack into a field of alfalfa.  All she had to do was close the gate behind her.

Back then she thought gate closing was boring work—just a whole lot of waiting. Then something happened.  She discovered that while gate closing isn’t prestigious or exciting, it’s vitally impor­tant.

On the path to wellness and wholeness, there are many gates to close.  Closing the gate means not leaving loose ends hanging.

Are there people with whom you have loose ends?  Do you need to return something you “borrowed?” Is there restitution or an over­due apology that might renew a relationship?

My friend’s mom used to tell her, “Close the gates behind you.”  Most often she was talking about more than the field gate—she was talking about all the gates of life. What gates do you need to close?

– Steve Arterburn

The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort—the opening terror. Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing—the opening a wonderfully joyous moment. – Andy Rooney

Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person’s life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you. – Unknown

A Daddy Vacuum

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God – Psalm 68:5

A Daddy Vacuum

I grew up in a family where my father was always there for me. He was a good man. A funny man. A bedrock of faith with a compassionate heart. I was truly blessed to be born into his family. Some of you weren’t so fortunate. Your father wasn’t a positive role model for you. Or, your father deserted your family or died young. You grew up without a father, and just hearing someone refer to “dad” or “daddy” is painful for you. The absence of that all important person in your life left an insatiable void within you.

The role of your father is so important that it can affect how you perceive God as your heavenly father. I hope that no matter how bad your experience was with your father, that you won’t be afraid to see God as your father. Consider and take solace in the words of Psalm 68 promising that God will be a father to the fatherless.

A friend of mine who grew up without a dad describes it as having a daddy vacuum. Is that where you are today? Do you have a vacuum of your dad, or your mom, or maybe your entire family? If so, cling to God’s promise that he’ll be a father to the fatherless. How that looks will be different in each situation. Some of you will take solace directly in and with your heavenly father. To others, God will bring a father-figure into your life to begin to fill that void.

If you have a daddy vacuum, pray for God to fill that void within you, however He chooses. If you don’t have that vacuum, and you’re a man who was blessed like I was to have a dad that loved me and was there for me, look to see if God might be calling you to be a father to the fatherless on His behalf.

– Steve Arterburn

It is much easier to become a father than to be one. – Kent Nerburn

It’s Not About You!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24

It's Not About You

The first sentence of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life is this: “It’s not about you!” Do you believe that? Does your life reflect that? It’s a struggle for me, and I bet it’s a struggle for you.

Consider these situations: You’re in the checkout line and the older gentleman in front of you wants to write a check, but can’t find his checkbook. He locates his checkbook, but now he has no pen. Finally pen in hand, he inquires about the date. The clerk noticing his out-of-state check calls for approval. This short “in-and-out” errand adds additional minutes to your packed schedule. It was probably the most inconvenient experience you’ve gone through. There ought to be a law! Or in the words of my mother, “It’s always something!

Or what about your restaurant experience with the hamburger and no ketchup because the waitress forgot. She is off talking, ignoring your request, and crying about something. The serving station has ketchup but it is her job. So you sit, tap your fingers on the table, and shoot darts at the lady crying at the back of the restaurant.

Did you think to say a kind word to the gentleman to help settle his nerves, or tell the waitress that you hope things get better. You might even leave a bigger tip or offer to pray for her. It’s not about you! Look outside yourself. It’s what we’re called to do. Try it. See if God doesn’t affirm you for it.

– Steve Arterburn

Only God can give us a selfless love for others, as the Holy Spirit changes us from within. This is one reason we must receive Christ, for apart from His Spirit we can never be freed from the chains of selfishness, jealousy, and indifference. Will others see Christ’s love in your life today? – Billy Graham

It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it. – Audrey Hepburn

How Balanced is your View of Jesus?

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals”. – Revelation 5:5

How Balanced is your View of Jesus

The following observation by author Philip Yancey is well-worth meditating upon:

As I studied the life of Christ, one impression about Jesus struck me more forcefully than any other. We have tamed him. The Jesus I learned about as a child was sweet and inoffensive, the kind of person whose lap you’d want to climb on.  Mister Rogers with a beard.  Indeed, Jesus did have qualities of gen­tleness and compassion that attracted little children. Mister Rogers, however, he assuredly was not.  Not even the Romans would have crucified Mister Rogers.”

How balanced is your view of Jesus?  Have you come to the crucial conclusion that His grace is bigger than anything we can possibly comprehend?  And, I hope that conclusion doesn’t come at the expense of His strength. The biblical picture of Jesus is that of a tenderhearted lion.  And conceptions that fall on either side of this picture are caricatures and incomplete.

– Steve Arterburn

Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair. – Blaise Pascal