Strengthen Your Faith (2)

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‘Just take your positions and watch the Lord rescue you from your enemy.’ 2 Chronicles 20:17 CEV

When you doubt God, you disappoint Him—because He deserves better. So, you must seek to strengthen your faith, because faith honors God and God honors faith. And He will send opportunities disguised as problems designed to strengthen your faith. When Job lost his health, his wealth, and his children, the Bible says he ‘fell to the ground and worshipped.’ (Job 1:20 NKJV) Job didn’t worship God because of his circumstances, but in spite of them. Notice the two things he did:

(1) He looked up. He recognized God’s sovereign right to decide all things. He trusted God’s loving character and believed He would ultimately do what was best for him. And you must do that too!

(2) He listened for a word. He realized this testing time was also a teaching time, so he declared, ‘He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10 NKJV) Like gold being processed by the refiner, Job trusted God to bring out the best in him. Was it easy to do? No.

We want to cling to the familiar and return to the safety of yesterday, even though we know it’s not what God wants for us. The fears, surprises, and adversity that lie around the bend make us want to cut and run. But if you do, you’ll short-circuit God’s plan for your life. What should you do instead? Take your stand in faith: ‘Just take your positions and watch the Lord rescue you from your enemy.’ Whatever you are going through right now, remember that God is ‘with you’.

Strengthen Your Faith (1)

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‘Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.’ Hebrews 11:2 NLT

The Bible says: ‘Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.’ (Hebrews 11:1–2 NLT) The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews chapter eleven were far from perfect. Noah believed God, built the ark, and saved his family. But when he came out of the ark he got drunk. Abraham was known as a ‘friend of God’, yet he lied to save his own neck and ended up compromising his wife’s safety. When God told Sarah she’d give birth to a child at ninety years old, she laughed—and you’d probably have done the same. And how about Joseph? He was a slave with a prison record who ended up second-in-command when it came to ruling Egypt.

Then there’s Rahab the harlot; we wouldn’t let her sing in the church choir, yet God listed her as a woman of great faith. And how about Jacob, who duped his brother and deceived his father-in-law in business in order to enrich himself? Would you do business with him? Then there was King David, whose womanizing led to murder and national scandal. Even Gideon and Samuel, two spiritual giants, raised children who went astray spiritually. Every one of these people was as human as you are. They faltered, fumbled the ball, and went through times of failure. Their only claim to fame is they believed God and He honored their faith—and He will do the same for you each time you put your trust in Him.

Remember Those Who Have Helped You

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‘You sent help more than once.’ Philippians 4:16 NLT

Charles Swindoll tells the story of the giving tree: ‘When the boy was young he swung from the tree’s branches, ate her apples, and slept in her shade… But as he grew up he spent less and less time with the tree. “Come on, let’s play,” said the tree. But the young man was only interested in money. “Then take all my apples and sell them,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. He didn’t return for a long time, but the tree smiled when he passed by one day. “Come on, let’s play!” But the man, older and tired of the world, wanted to get away from it all. “Cut me down. Take my trunk, make a boat, then you can sail away,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. Many seasons passed—and the tree waited. Finally the man returned, too old to play, or pursue riches, or sail the seas. “I have a pretty good stump left. Sit down here and rest,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy.’ Swindoll continues: ‘I stared into the fire, reviewing my life as I grew older with the tree and the boy. I identified with both—and it hurt. How many giving trees have there been? How many people have given themselves so I might grow, accomplish my goals, and find wholeness and satisfaction? Thank you, Lord, for each one. That night I crawled into bed. I had wept, now I was smiling. “Good night, Lord.” I was a humble man. Thankful I’d taken time to reflect.’

Where Are You Living Today?

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‘To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…be glory…forever and ever.’ Ephesians 3:20–21 NKJV

Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land illustrates three different places you can choose to live:

(1) The place of ‘not enough’. As slaves in Egypt they were forced to depend on Pharaoh for everything. And when you have to keep relying on anyone but God, you’re not truly free. Until you understand that God is your provider, you’ll live with a ‘not enough’ mentality. Elijah was living by a stream in the middle of a famine, and ravens brought him meat each day. Then one day the ravens didn’t show up, and the brook dried up. Why? God dried up a temporary source to drive Elijah back to his true source. Understand this: regardless of what or whom He uses—God is your source. He is called ‘Jehovah Jireh’, which means the Lord will provide.

(2) The place of ‘just enough’. In the wilderness Israel had just enough manna for each day. It’s no fun struggling to just get by. But we appreciate what we have to struggle for, and we learn to trust God more. Plus, living through such seasons builds into us a tenacity to keep moving towards better things.

(3) The place of ‘more than enough’. God’s plan for Israel was ‘a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.’(Deuteronomy 8:9 NKJV) And His goal for you is abundance in every area of life (see 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV). Is that so you can hoard it? No, it’s so you can bless others and fulfill your assignment in life.

So, stand on this Scripture: ‘To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… be glory… forever.’

Handling Panic Attacks

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‘Do not be afraid of sudden fear.’ Proverbs 3:25 NAS

In the Bible panic attacks are referred to as ‘sudden fear’. You can’t breathe, your palms sweat, your chest gets tight, and you feel weak. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you’ll recognize these symptoms. Doctors estimate that in our stress-filled world, about a third of us experience at least one panic attack a year. If you are one of them, here are some things you can do to help yourself:

(1) Breathe deeply. Panic makes you breathe in short, shallow bursts, whereas breathing deeply helps to calm and relax you. So, when you start to feel overwhelmed, stop and breathe the name of Jesus. Try it; it works!

(2) Talk to yourself. Say, ‘By God’s grace I can handle this’ (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). If you respond with more panic, you’ll just end up in double trouble. Allowing yourself to feel panic without reacting to it may sound difficult at first, but it helps you break the cycle and take control of your thinking.

(3) Do something calming. This may be the last thing you feel like doing, because panic attacks make you instinctively think thoughts that feed your fear. So, take a minute and whisper a prayer, quote a Scripture, listen to inspirational music, or talk to a friend. And if your panic attacks continue, there’s no shame in getting professional help. After all, it’s God who gives doctors the skills and abilities to intervene. Here’s a Scripture you should write down and keep handy: ‘You can go to bed without fear, you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster… for the Lord is your security.’ (Proverbs 3:24–26 NLT)

Seven Seconds (3)

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‘I am the good shepherd.’ John 10:11 KJV

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your message may be wonderful and much needed by the hearer, but the look on your face can turn people off before you open your mouth. Ever notice how many people have bad memories of growing up in church? They recall stern, severe, strange-looking people who passed condemnation on the world at large. What a disservice to God!

A little girl once saw a mule looking over a fence. Patting him on the head, she said, ‘It’s ok; my aunt is religious too!’ Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd.’ The word ‘good’ comes from the Greek word kalos, which means ‘winsome’ [attractive, pleasant, engaging]. Jesus’ attitude won people over every time! What we say accounts for 7 percent of what people believe. How we say it accounts for 38 percent. What they see accounts for 55 percent. Amazingly, more than 90 percent of the nonverbal cues we give off have nothing to do with what we actually say! So, if you think communication is just about words, you’re missing the boat, and the chances are you’ll have a hard time connecting with others.

A member of his staff once asked Abraham Lincoln to give a friend of his a job. After interviewing the man, Lincoln turned him down. Asked why, he replied, ‘Because I didn’t like the look on his face.’ The White House staffer protested, ‘That’s not fair! Nobody’s responsible for the look on their face.’ Lincoln replied, ‘That’s where you’re wrong. Everyone over forty is responsible for the look on their face.’ So: what does your facial expression say to others?

Seven Seconds (2)

‘Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.’ James 3:13 NIV

In the first seven seconds, people often decide they do or don’t want to hear what you have to say. It may not be fair—but it’s a fact. In How to Talk So People Listen, communication expert Sonya Hamlin says when it comes to hearing and seeing, sight is the more important and powerful sense. She writes: ‘We remember 85 to 90 percent of what we see, but less than 15 percent of what we hear. Countless numbers of people have lost sales opportunities, ruined job interviews, or been turned down for dates because their appearance didn’t match someone else’s expectations. If you’re wise you’ll ask your family and friends if you’re inclined to display nonverbal cues that capture their attention and take the focus off what you’re trying to communicate.’

One pastor says: ‘I never realized how many nonverbal mistakes I was making until I saw myself on video. Now it’s my regular practice to go back and watch myself to determine not only what I said, but also how I said it. The tape doesn’t lie.’ Great actors can tell a story without saying a word, simply by using facial expressions. And whether you are aware of it or not, you convey a message by the expression on your face. Even people who pride themselves on ‘playing with a poker face’, and on their ability to not let other people know what they’re really thinking, convey an unspoken message of detachment. And that makes meaningful connection with other people well-nigh impossible. If your face is going to ‘talk’—and it is—make sure you’re communicating the right thing.

Seven Seconds (1)

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‘Let your light shine before men.’ Matthew 5:16 NAS

Jesus said, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.’ (Matthew 5:16 NKJV) When you’re in darkness, you see the light before you see the carrier of the light, right? The old saying, ‘First impressions are lasting impressions,’ is true. John Maxwell quotes a communications expert: ‘You’ve got just seven seconds to make the right first impression. As soon as you make your entrance, you broadcast verbal and nonverbal signals that determine how others see you. In business those crucial first seven seconds can decide whether you win that new account, or succeed in a tense negotiation. Are you confident? Comfortable? Sincere? Glad to be there? In that first seven seconds, you shower your audience with subtle “clues”. And whether people realize it or not, they respond immediately to your facial expressions, gestures, stance, and energy. They react to your voice—the tone and pitch. Audiences, whether one or one hundred, instinctively size up your motives and attitudes.’

Whether you’re speaking, selling, interviewing, or dating, your appearance, attitude, and approach make all the difference in the world. People can tell a lot in seven seconds. They may decide they don’t want to hear anything you have to say, or they may be struck by how much they’re drawn to you. Henry Ward Beecher said: ‘There are persons so radiant, so genial, so kind, so pleasure-bearing, that you instinctively feel in their presence that they do you good, whose coming into a room is like bringing a shining lamp there.’

Dealing With Spiritual Depression

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‘Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.’ Jeremiah 15:16 NAS

People in Bible times dealt with depression too. Consider Elijah. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said, ‘Take my life.’ (1 Kings 19:4 NIV). Job said, ‘I loathe my very life.’ (Job 10:1 NIV) The psalmist wrote, ‘My soul is downcast.’ (Psalm 42:6 NIV) Now, when you’re clinically depressed you should seek professional help. But the kind of depression we’re talking about here is when your motivation is drained, your desire to pursue God is gone, your conversations have turned sour, you’re blind to your blessings, your enthusiasm is forced, and you’re in a daze regarding the future.

Here are some possible causes:

(1) Sin. Sin is like a stone in your shoe; you’ll have no peace until you get it out. No holiday, job change, relationship change, or doctor will heal it. But the blood of Jesus will cleanse it (1 John 1:7).

(2) Greed. King Ahab’s obsession with owning Naboth’s vineyard made him miserable and affected his entire family (1 Kings 21:4).

(3) Comparisons. Constantly comparing yourself to others will depress you (2 Corinthians 10:12).

(4) Speaking negatively. ‘The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.’ (Proverbs 18:21 NLT)

(5) Fatigue. Jesus called His disciples aside to rest. Why? Because He recognized that when fatigue walks in, faith walks out (see Mark 6:31).

(6) Unforgiveness. When you refuse to forgive someone, you carry them like an albatross around your neck. So, what’s the remedy for depression? Often it starts with prayer and Bible reading. Jeremiah, who battled depression, wrote, ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.’ (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV)

The Importance of Self-Discipline

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‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’ Philippians 1:10 AMPC

To achieve greater self-discipline, you should:

(1) Start your day by doing the hard things first. And when you get side-tracked, make yourself go back and complete them. For example, make your bed, pick up your clothes, and wash the dishes; don’t make extra work for others. And don’t start several projects at once; the feeling of ‘getting something done’ will help you grow in self-respect and self-discipline.

(2) Make a commitment to be punctual. Tardiness is a hard habit to break. To conquer it you must be willing to call it what it often is—inconsiderate, selfish behavior.

(3) Plan ahead. Everything takes longer than you think, so don’t wait until the last minute and then rush around like a chicken with its head cut off. ‘Living under the gun’ can give you ulcers, whereas allowing extra time is good for your health and peace of mind.

(4) Accept correction from those who care about you, without sulking or retaliating. Until you’re willing to take correction, you’ll never be qualified to give it. The Bible says, ‘Wisdom is found in those who take advice’(Proverbs 13:10 NIV), so if you’re wise you’ll welcome feedback and seek counsel.

Ask God to help you control your unruly thoughts, feelings, desires, and behaviors. Identify the unmanageable areas in your life, stop making excuses, face the truth even if it hurts, refuse to feel sorry for yourself, and set a few attainable goals. In other words: ‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’