Giving Thanks – Day 6

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7:17

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday this year I am reminded of all the things that I have to be thankful for. I have a loving, personal God who cared enough about me to send His own Son to die for me, so I could live with Him eternally. God has blessed me with a beautiful wife, both inside and out, who loves me and supports me. He has given me a wonderful family, and wonderful friends that I can count on day and night to be there for me. And I have a great job, where I can take what I used to struggle with and turn it around to help others struggling with the same thing.

Entitlement says,
‘I don’t have it,
I deserve it,
so I’m going to take it.’

And yet I also realized that I don’t take nearly as much time as I should to thank God for all of His wonderful provisions for me. Often I take them for granted, as if I deserve them, as if they were owed to me. At the EMB Workshop, Joe talks about this sense of entitlement as being one of the roadblocks to recovery. He says that when we feel like we deserve something, and don’t look at it as a gift, that we are setting ourselves up for failure and for relapse. You know what I mean. ‘My wife’s been cold lately, and I deserve sexual gratification, so getting on the internet one time isn’t going to hurt anything.’ Being thankful for what you have is the opposite of entitlement. Entitlement says, ‘I don’t have it, I deserve it, so I’m going to take it.’ Thankfulness says, ‘I have it, I probably don’t deserve it, and I’m going to share it and be grateful for it.

Thankfulness says,
I have it,
I probably don’t deserve it,
and I’m going to share it
and be grateful for it.

I heard a sermon at my church one time by a man named Jim Burns, who heads up the organization ‘Youth With a Mission.’ The title of his message was ‘Thank Therapy,’ and he shared that each day he tells the Lord twenty things that he is thankful for. It could be as small as that his car started that morning. It could be that he even has a car! Or it could be that he has the opportunity to influence thousands of people around the world with the ministry that God has given him. They don’t have to be big things, but they are all things that keep Jim from having the sense of entitlement. How about you? As this Thanksgiving season approaches, how about giving ‘Thank Therapy’ a try. Look for good qualities in your wife and others, share those qualities with them, and thank them for being in your life. And thank the Lord for them, and all the things He has given you. It could turn out to be the best Thanksgiving Holiday you’ve had in a long time!
– Dave Boyle

God is in Control

And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. – Isaiah 6:3

God is in Control

Did you know there is now a modern day version of the Golden Rule? It says that “He who has the gold sets the rules“.

Who sets the rules for you? Your supervisor? The company president? The government? Whoever sets the rules has great power. Sometimes we feel like that particular person has too much power and control over our lives. We long to be that person who has the gold and sets the rules.

On the highest level, God is the one who sets the rules and has the greatest power over us. We make choices in life, but He is the ultimate boss. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told us to “maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

It’s good to know that God is kind and just. In our daily decisions, we need to follow God’s rules that are found in the Bible. Hopefully, you follow those rules in grateful response to Christ and what He’s done for you, not in an effort to earn your way into heaven.

Sometimes when people around us are flaunting their power, it’s easy to forget who is ultimately in control. I challenge you today to obey God’s rules for your life. Turn your situation over to God. He is in control.

– Steve Arterburn

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’ ” – C. S. Lewis

“Anything under God’s control is never out of control.” – Chuck Swindoll

What is the Antidote for Greed?

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7

What is the Antidote for Greed?

Are you as dumbfounded as I am by the cases that have made their way into our judicial system? Remember a few years ago when a woman sued Starbucks for 114 million dollars. What horrible thing happened to cause such a law­suit? Did she lose a limb? Was she burned over 90% of her body? Did she slip and fall and become a paraplegic?

As it turns out, Starbucks emailed a coupon for a free iced coffee to a limited group of employees who were encouraged to forward it to friends and family. As you can imagine, the promotion turned into a forwarding frenzy far exceeding what Starbucks could handle, so they decided to stop honoring the coupons. But one woman felt “betrayed,” and sought a $114 million to help ease her pain.

It’s easy to recognize her greed. But what about the greed in our hearts? Do you know what the only antidote for greed is? Giving. And the Bible is clear. God loves a cheerful giver.

– Steve Arterburn

“Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” – Mother Theresa

Relinquishing Prejudice

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. – 1 Peter 3:8

Relinquishing Prejudice

Have you allowed your upbringing or experiences to prejudice you against a particular group of people? Women? Men? The poor? The rich? Asians? Jews? Black or White?

Prejudice leads to hatred and a lack of compassion toward others.  To the contrary, God’s people are to be known for their love and compassion. Surrendering your life to God means recognizing and relinquishing your prejudices.

Take a look at the Old Testament figure, Jonah. He hated the people of Nineveh for their cruelty toward his people, the Israelites. He would’ve loved to have gone to Nineveh and declare God’s judgment against them. But God told Jonah to go and warn them of destruction so they might avert God’s wrath. Jonah wanted no part in this mission of mercy. He tried to run away, but God placed him in difficult circumstances. When he reluctantly obeyed and preached to the Ninevites, they changed their ways. And not surprisingly, Jonah was upset at God’s mercy on the Ninevites.

God practically had to force Jonah to let go of his prejudice and hatred. This was necessary so he could share God’s mercy with the people he hated. Your spiritual transformation will be stunted until you let go of your prejudices toward any people group. Seeing your own prejudices doesn’t come easy. You need to ask God and those close to you to help you see areas of prejudice in your life. Once you see them, confess them and ask God to change your heart.

– Steve Arterburn

“We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.” – Maya Angelo

“Prejudice is a product of ignorance that hides behind barriers of tradition.” – Jasper Fforde

Aging Gracefully

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12

Aging Gracefully

I have some friends who are adrenaline junkies. It’s a drug they need to survive. They mountain bike, bungee jump, heli-ski, hang glide, surf giant waves, and parachute out of airplanes. I often wonder why they feel the need to risk their lives in the ways they do. Maybe they do these things as medication against depression and anxiety or maybe it’s a way of proving that the inevitable isn’t going to overtake them.

We can jump out of airplanes to prove that we’re not dead yet, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you are getting older and with that comes limitations. Aging does that to everyone. You can see that as a death sentence, but a better way to look at it is as the beginning of a new phase or season of life.

Every end is a new beginning, and that’s true for the seasons of our life. Just as Fall gives way to Winter, and Winter to Spring, there’s something to look forward to with each season of your life.

– Steve Arterburn

“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.” – Mark Twain

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.” – Unknown

Love-Hate Relationships

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3

Love-Hate Relationships

Almost every person has at least one—a person you love, but also deeply resent or hate.  It could be a parent, spouse, sibling, boss, a rebellious child, neighbor, friend or even God.

Living in a love-hate relationship isn’t easy.  It requires some very complicated and refined coping skills.  The problem, however, is that too many people go on, day after day, merely coping with the situation.  Either they’re unaware that they can do more than cope, or they are unwilling to do it.

Those resigned to merely cope with the situation are not happy people.  Whether they stay in the relationship or leave, they render themselves powerless to change. They lose faith in the power of God to change the situation.  They give up on prayer as a means to facilitate change.

But our challenge goes beyond prayer.  The beginning of a solution rests in your decisions—your decision to do something—to take action.  Set boundaries.  See a counselor.  Join a group.  Confront in love.

Remember, “no decision” is a decision.

– Steve Arterburn

“The man who rolls up his sleeves seldom loses his shirt.”Stephen Covey

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

James and John – Two Changed Men

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. – 1 Peter 1:22

James and John - Two Changed Men

What words would your friends or family use to describe you? Jesus referred to two brothers, James and John, as Sons of Thunder.  Why? We’re given a glimpse of their fiery personalities in the book of Luke. After the Samaritan people rejected them, James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the village. Jesus rebuked them for their impulse to retaliate.

Yet that’s not the end of their story. Jesus worked in these brothers’ lives so that they became known not for anger and revenge, but for love and forgiveness. James was the first of the twelve disciples to give his life for his faith. He was killed in Jerusalem by the order of Herod Agrippa. John is referred to as the “disciple Jesus loved.” He went on to write powerful words on the importance of love and became an important leader of the church.

Though the two brothers had once been ambitious for their own personal gain, they ended up ambitiously sharing God’s love with others for their spiritual gain. The brothers discovered that when you understand and experience God’s love, you are free to live and grow. And as you grow and share with others, you will be used by God to touch the lives of many in need of God’s healing help.

Can you relate to the anger and selfish ambition of these men? If so, be encouraged by God’s work in their lives. He wants to do the same in you!

– Steve Arterburn

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C.S. Lewis

A Glimpse of Glory

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. – Colossians 3:1

A Glimpse of Glory

Praise is the outward expression of your deep joy! We praise God in worship on Sunday morning. We praise our team when they do well at sporting events. We praise our kids when they achieve a goal or do something special.

Isn’t cheering someone’s success and accomplishments an invigorating experience? You’ll find the same energy within your spiritual life when you consider the mighty acts of God in history, as well as His acts in your own life. It will allow you to celebrate the joy and wonder of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Praise not only is an expression of your joy in the Lord, but it also gives you a taste of what heaven will be like. If you read the last book of the Bible, Revelation, you’ll see what I mean. There’s a lot of praise and worship going on. I think God wants us to learn that a praiseful attitude in this life, is preparation for the next.

Few things will strengthen your faith more than when you cultivate a rich understanding of God through worship. Praise Him by remembering His faithfulness to you throughout your years and by looking forward to His promises. When you worship Him, your faith will be strengthened, your heart encouraged, and your vision of who God is and how He works will grow.

– Steve Arterburn

“Praise now is one of the great duties of the redeemed. It will be their employment forever.” – Albert Barnes 

Joy in God’s Presence

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

Joy in God's Presence

Do you spend time in God’s presence praying, singing praises to Him, and bowing before Him? These are things that each of us benefit from.

Do you feel too macho or too proud to bow or sing to God? If that’s the case then look with me at a real man in the Old Testament. The psalms of King David are songs that still give us direction and hope. David was a man who knew his own sinfulness yet was able to sing, “What joy for those you choose to bring near, those who live in your holy courts. What joys await us inside your holy Temple.” (Psalm 65:4)

God wants you to know you are welcome and valued before Him. The joy you find in His presence each day will help you stay tuned in to His desire for you. Worship and prayer will remind you of how great and holy God is. You’ll gain a new appreciation for how gracious God is to forgive you and allow you into His presence.

When was the last time you prayed and sang to Jesus? If it’s been a while, try it. You’ll experience something very special. You’ll continue the process of being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

– Steve Arterburn

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” – Helen Keller

Where to Start Spiritual Renewal

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7  

Where to Start Spiritual Renewal

You’re a person who wants to walk with God but you’re having a tough time. So, what do you do? Where can one start in the search for spiritual renewal?

Start with the realization that spiritual renewal comes from God. Don’t seek the experience of spiritual renewal, but seek the one who renews your spirit.

When people came to Jesus to have their needs met, very often He redirected their thinking. He taught them to lift their eyes from their own daily necessities and seek God first. He told them, “He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” (Matthew 6:33). In the same way, the psalmist in Psalm 111, encourages his listen­ers to look to God first, who will then meet their needs. He writes, “Who can forget the wonders He performs? How gracious and merciful is our Lord! He gives food to those who trust Him; He always remembers His covenant.” (Psalm 111:4-5)

So it is with your spiritual hunger. Spiritual renewal doesn’t come from seeking spiritual renewal. That only results in a temporary emotional high lacking the true substance that God can provide. Instead, seek God and surrender your will to His. Let it be your first thought each morning when you start your day.

– Steve Arterburn

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot