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


 

Understanding Depression

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.
PSALM 42:11 HCSB

The sadness that accompanies any significant loss is an inevitable fact of life. In time, sadness runs its course and gradually abates. Depression, on the other hand, is a physical and emotional condition that is, in almost all cases, treatable with medication and counseling. Depression is not a disease to be taken lightly. Left untreated, it presents real dangers to patients’ physical health and to their emotional well-being.

If you find yourself feeling “blue,” perhaps it’s a logical reaction to the ups and downs of daily life. But if your feelings of sadness have gone on longer than you think they should—or if someone close to you fears that your sadness may have evolved into clinical depression—it’s time to seek professional help.

Some days are light and happy, and some days are not. When we face the inevitable dark days of life, we must choose how we will respond. Will we allow ourselves to sink even more deeply into our own sadness, or will we do the difficult work of pulling ourselves out? We bring light to the dark days of life by turning first to God, and then to trusted family members, friends, and medical professionals. When we do, the clouds will eventually part, and the sun will shine once more upon our souls.

Emotions we have not poured out in the safe hands of God can turn into feelings of hopelessness and depression. God is safe. ~Beth Moore

Self blame over the past leads to depression in the present and poor decisions for the future.   ~Barbara Johnson

Feelings of uselessness and hopelessness are not from God, but from the evil one, the devil, who wants to discourage you and thwart your effectiveness for the Lord.   ~Bill Bright

Don’t let aridity distress you: perfection has nothing to do with such things—only with virtues. Your devotion will come back when you are least expecting it.   ~St. Teresa Of Avila

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, You have promised to lift me up from the pit of my despair, and You have promised to place a new song on my lips.  If the darkness envelops me, Father, remind me of those promises. And give me the wisdom to accept help from the people You have placed along my path. Amen

Seeking God and Finding Happiness

But happy are those . . . whose hope is in the LORD their God.
PSALM 146:5 NLT

Do you sincerely want to be a happy Christian? Then set your mind and your heart upon God’s love and His grace.

Happiness depends less upon our circumstances than upon our thoughts. When we turn our thoughts to God, to His gifts, and to His glorious creation, we experience the joy that God intends for His children. But, when we focus on the negative aspects of life, we suffer needlessly.

The fullness of life in Christ is available to all who seek it and claim it. Count yourself among that number. Seek first the salvation that is available through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then claim the joy, the peace, and the spiritual abundance that the Shepherd offers His sheep.

True happiness consists only in the enjoyment of God. His favor is life, and His loving-kindness is better than life.   ~Arthur W. Pink

Pleasure-seeking is a barren business; happiness is never found till we have the grace to stop looking for it and to give our attention to persons and matters external to ourselves.   ~J. I. Packer

No matter how hard he searches, nothing beneath the skies and nothing above the skies can make any man happy apart from God.   ~C. H. Spurgeon

God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him.   ~A. W. Tozer

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, I am thankful for all the blessings You have given me. Let me be a happy Christian, Father, as I share Your joy with friends, with family, and with the world. Amen

Beating Stress One Day at a Time

This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
PSALM 118:24 NKJV

Face facts: just getting by in these turbulent times can be stressful . . . very stressful. You live in a world that is brimming with demands, distractions, and deadlines (not to mention temptations, timetables, requirements, and responsibilities). Whew! No wonder you may be stressed.

What can you do in response to the stressors of everyday life? A wonderful place to start is by turning things over to God.

Psalm 118:24 reminds us that this day, like every other, is a glorious gift from the Father. How will you use that gift? Will you celebrate it and use it for His purposes? If so, you’ll discover that when you turn things over to Him—when you allow God to rule over every corner of your life—He will calm your fears and guide your steps.

So today, make sure that you focus on God and upon His will for your life. Then, ask for His help. And remember: No challenge is too great for Him. Not even yours.

Life is strenuous. See that your clock does not run down.   ~Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

There are very few certainties that touch us all in this mortal experience, but one of the absolutes is that we will experience hardship and stress at some point.   ~James Dobson

If you’re willing to repair your life, God is willing to help. If you’re not willing to repair your life, God is willing to wait.   ~Marie T. Freeman

Prescription for a happier and healthier life: resolve to slow down your pace; learn to say no gracefully; resist the temptation to chase after more pleasure, more hobbies, and more social entanglements.   ~James Dobson

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, You never leave or forsake me. Even when I am troubled by the demands of the day, You are always with me, protecting me and encouraging me. Whatever today may bring, I thank You for Your love and Your strength. Let me lean upon You, Father, 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

Studying God’s Word

Stephen Arterburn

When we receive an email or letter from a good friend, we usually find ourselves doing two things: first, we read the letter with eager anticipation’hanging on every word; and second, we read the letter over and over again’hoping each time to gain insight into, and intimacy with, it’s author. The same should be true with regard to God’s Word, for in it we find a message directed to us by One who loves us. And by reading that message intently and repeatedly, we can know the One we delight in truly and more accurately.

In Psalm 119:105, David likens Scripture to a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Men, the Bible is our map or instruction manual to godliness, and we need to keep it close by and read it often. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves walking in darkness. And if that happens, we’re sure to stumble and fall.

Furthermore, how badly we stumble and how hard we fall will likely be proportionate to how long it’s been since we’ve feasted on God’s Word. King David knew this truth, so in Psalm 119:103 he exclaims to his beloved Lord, ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’

Like David before us, we need to feast lovingly, enthusiastically, and consistently upon God’s Word. Just as you need physical food in order to sustain your body, you also need spiritual food to sustain your soul.

Studying God’s Word

When we receive an email or letter from a good friend, we usually find ourselves doing two things: first, we read the letter with eager anticipation hanging on every word; and second, we read the letter over and over again hoping each time to gain insight into, and intimacy with, it’s author. The same should be true with regard to God’s Word, for in it we find a message directed to us by One who loves us. And by reading that message intently and repeatedly, we can know the One we delight in truly and more accurately.

In Psalm 119:105, David likens Scripture to a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. The Bible is our map or instruction manual to godliness, and we need to keep it close by and read it often. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves walking in darkness. And if that happens, we’re sure to stumble and fall.

Furthermore, how badly we stumble and how hard we fall will likely be proportionate to how long it’s been since we’ve feasted on God’s Word. King David knew this truth, so in Psalm 119:103 he exclaims to his beloved Lord, ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’

Like David before us, we need to feast lovingly, enthusiastically, and consistently upon God’s Word. Just as you need physical food in order to sustain your body, you also need spiritual food to sustain your soul.

The Saddest Word: 25 Great Promises from God

Excerpted from “When You Are Unhappy and Upset” by Mike Yorkey

When You’re in Distress:
1. Psalm 51:12 – God gives joy.
2. Isaiah 26:3 – God will give you peace.
3. John 15:9-11 – Christ wants your joy to be full.
4. John 15:11 – Christ’s joy will remain in you.
5. Philippians 4:6-9 – You can have peace

When You Need Help:
6. Deuteronomy 10:18 – God promises to provide justice, food, and raiment to the fatherless.
7. Deuteronomy 14:29 – God promises sufficient food for the fatherless.
8. Psalm 10:14 – God promises to help the fatherless.
9. Psalm 40:17 – God knows you and will help you.
10. Psalm 46:1 – God is a very present help in trouble.
11. Psalm 68:5 – God promises to be a father to the fatherless

When You Feel Your Efforts Are in Vain:
12. Psalm 30:5 – Your weeping won’t last forever.
13. Proverbs 22:6 – If you train your children in the way they should go, even if you don’t see signs now, they will not depart from it when they grow up.

When You Can’t Take It Any More:
14. Psalm 18:32 – God girds you with strength.
15. Ephesians 3:16-20 – God will strengthen your inner self.
16. Philippians 4:7 – God will keep your heart and mind.

When You Don’t Feel Smart Enough:
17. Proverbs 2:6-7 – God stores up wisdom for you.
18. Proverbs 3:5-6 – God will direct your path.

When You Have Your Own Needs:
19. Isaiah 54:5 – God tells Israel that He is her husband (a great promise for singles).
20. Matthew 21:22 – God will answer your prayers.
21. Philippians 4:19 – God will supply your needs.

When You Have Failed:
22. Joshua 1:8-9 – You can be successful if you make the right choices.
23. Psalm 37:4-5 – If you trust Him, He will work things out.
24. Colossians 1:13-14; 2:13 – God will forgive you.
25. Ephesians 1:6 – You are accepted in Christ.

Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’