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Category Archives: Attitude

Warren Wiersbe on How To Be Victorious Over Fear

Being Victorious Over Fear (Series: Encouragement for Difficult Days)

A lady once approached D. L. Moody and told him she had found a wonderful promise in the Bible that helped her overcome fear. Her verse was Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Mr. Moody replied, “Why I have a better promise than that!” And he quoted Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.” Mr. Moody did have a greater promise.

These words from Isaiah 12:2 are worth knowing in these days when it is so easy to become frightened. Jesus told us that in the end times men’s hearts will fail them for fear of the things about to happen; and I believe we are seeing some of this take place today. Psychologists are writing books and magazine articles about overcoming fear.

There are some kinds of fear that are good for us. We warn our children not to go near the busy streets, and we put within them a healthy fear of being struck by a car. Eventually, of course, that infantile fear will be replaced by mature common sense; but until that happens, we dare not take any chances. In fact, the fear of punishment is one basis for discipline. It may not be the highest motive for doing good, but at least it helps us to get started.

The Bible often talks about the fear of the Lord. It tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and that “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.” This fear, of course, is a proper respect and reverence for God. It is not the cringing fear of a slave before a brutal master, but the proper respect of a son before a loving Father. It is the kind of fear that opens the way to abundant life in Christ. The kind of fear Isaiah 12:2 is talking about is the fear that paralyzes people-the fear that gets into the heart and mind and creates tension and worry, and that keeps a person from enjoying life and doing his best. I meet people every week who are afraid of life, afraid of death, afraid of the past, afraid of the future-in fact, people whose lives are being enslaved by fear.

Jesus Christ never meant for us to be the slaves of fear. It is exciting to read the Bible and discover how many times God says “Fear not” to people. When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, their first words were, “Fear not.” When Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and asked Jesus to depart from him because Peter felt he was a sinful man, Jesus said, “Fear not, Peter.” When Jairus received the bad news that his daughter had just died, Jesus said to Jairus, “Fear not, only believe….” Jesus Christ wants us to conquer fear; and He is able to help us win the battle. What causes fear in our lives? Sometimes fear is caused by a guilty conscience. When Adam and Eve sinned, they felt guilty and became afraid; and they tried to hide from God. Shakespeare was right when he said, “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Whenever we disobey God, we lose our close fellowship with Him, and that spiritual loneliness creates fear. We wonder if anybody knows what we have done. We worry about being found out and hope no tragic consequences come from our sins. The solution to that problem, of course, is to seek God’s forgiveness. God promises to cleanse our sins if we will but confess them and forsake them.

Often fear is caused by ignorance. Children are afraid in the night because the shadows look like giants and bears and ghosts. But even adults can get frightened when they really don’t know what is going on. Anxiety about the future, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, can sometimes create fear. Another cause is our own feeling of weakness. We are so accustomed to managing things ourselves that when an unmanageable crisis comes along, we feel helpless and afraid.

Sometimes fear comes, not before the battle or even in the midst of the battle, but after we have won the victory. Often

there is an emotional letdown, and fear rushes in. Abraham had this experience in Genesis 15 after he had waged war against four powerful kings and won the victory. That night as he lay down to sleep, Abraham wondered if those kings would return and challenge him again, and perhaps bring back superior forces. It was then that God appeared to Abraham and said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). But when we study all the cases and try to understand the root cause of fear, one truth stands out clearly: the real cause

of fear is unbelief. After stilling a storm that had frightened His disciples out of their wits, Jesus said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Fear and faith can never be friends; and if we are afraid, it is a sign that we have no faith. This is why Isaiah 12:2 says, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

The secret of victory over fear is faith in God. There is no problem too great for God to solve, no burden too heavy for God to carry, no battle too overwhelming for God to fight and win. God is big enough to conquer the enemies that rob us of our peace and leave paralyzing fears behind. Isaiah 12:2 doesn’t say, “When I am afraid, I will trust“; it says, “I will trust, and not be afraid.” Faith is not simply medicine to kill the disease; faith is spiritual power to keep us from being infected in the first place.

Notice what the prophet puts first: “Behold, God is my salvation.” If you want to overcome fear, get your eyes off yourself and your feelings, and off the problems that have upset you, and get your eyes on God. The Jewish spies in the Old Testament became frightened when they investigated the Promised Land, because they saw giants and high walls and felt like grasshoppers in comparison. The enemy soldiers were big, and the walls were high, but God was far above all of them. Had the spies lifted their eyes just a bit higher and seen God, they would not have been afraid. So the first step in overcoming fear is to look by faith at God. Worship God, get a fresh glimpse of His greatness and glory, and realize that He is still on the throne. The second step is to lay hold of God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. When you read the Bible, you find your faith growing. You discover that God has always been adequate for the needs of His people.

The third step is to pray and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Tell God about your fears-tell Him that your fears are really evidences of unbelief-and like that concerned man in the Gospel story, ask God to help your unbelief. Surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit of God, because the Spirit can work in you to take away fear

and give you peace. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The Holy Spirit within you can give you power for your weakness; He can generate love; He can give order and discipline to your mind. The Holy Spirit is God’s psychologist, so turn yourself over to Him.

One of the ministries of the Spirit of God is making Jesus Christ real to us. As you pray and read the Word, the Spirit will give you a spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ, and He will become very real to you. Even in the midst of storms and trials, Jesus Christ comes with peace and courage for you.

There is no reason for you to be afraid. Fear will only rob you and buffet you and paralyze you. Jesus Christ can take away your fear and give you peace. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

About the Author:

Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, and is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” Interestingly, Warren’s earliest works had nothing to do with scriptural interpretation. His interest was in magic, and his first published title was Action with Cards (1944).

“It was sort of imbecilic for a fifteen-year-old amateur magician to have the audacity to write a book and send it to one of the nation’s leading magic houses,” Warren says. But having a total of three books published by the L.L. Ireland Magic Company—before the age of 20—gave him a surge of confidence. In later years, he applied his confidence and writing talent to the Youth for Christ (YFC) ministry.

Warren wrote many articles and guidebooks for YFC over a three-year period, but not all his manuscripts were seen by the public eye. One effort in particular, The Life I Now Live, based on Galatians 2:20, was never published. The reason, Warren explains with his characteristic humor, is simple: it was “a terrible book…Whenever I want to aggravate my wife, all I have to say is, ‘I think I’ll get out that Galatians 2:20 manuscript and work on it.’” Fortunately, Warren’s good manuscripts far outnumbered the “terrible” ones, and he was eventually hired by Moody Press to write three books.

The much-sought-after author then moved on to writing books for Calvary Baptist Church. It was during his ten years at Calvary that Expository Outlines on the New Testament and Expository Outlines on the Old Testament took shape. These two works later became the foundation of Warren’s widely popular Bible studies known as the Be series, featuring such titles as Be Loyal (a study on Matthew) and Be Delivered (a study on Exodus). Several of these books have been translated into Spanish.

His next avenue of ministry was Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church, where he served for seven years. He wrote nearly 20 books at Moody before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he and his wife, Betty, now live. Prior to relocating, he had been the senior pastor of Moody Church, a teacher at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a producer of the Back to the Bible radio program.

During all these years of ministry, Warren held many more posts and took part in other projects too numerous to mention. His accomplishments are extensive, and his catalog of biblical works is indeed impressive and far-reaching (many of his books have been translated into other languages). But Warren has no intention of slowing down any time soon, as he readily explains: “I don’t like it when people ask me how I’m enjoying my ‘retirement,’ because I’m still a very busy person who is not yet living on Social Security or a pension. Since my leaving Back to the Bible, at least a dozen books have been published, and the Lord willing, more are on the way.”

Wiersbe’s recent books include Your Next MiracleThe 20 Essential Qualities of a Child of GodClassic Sermons on the Fruit of the SpiritClassic Sermons on Jesus the ShepherdKey Words of the Christian LifeLonely PeopleA Gallery of GraceReal Peace: Freedom and Conscience in the Christian Life, and On Being a Leader for God.

The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe’s classic encouraging devotional: The Bumps Are What You Climb On: Encouragement For Difficult Days. Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1996.

 

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JOHN MAXWELL’S ACRONYM FOR H.O.P.E.

HOPE

H.O.P.E. = HOLDING ON, PRAYING EXPECTANTLY

I listened patiently as he poured out his problems. His work was not going well. Some of his children were sowing their wild oats and he was worried about them. The straw that finally broke his back was that his wife decided to leave him. There he sat, all slumped over in despair. It was the last sentence of his story that alarmed me. He said, “I have nothing to live for; I have lost all hope.” I began to share with him that hope was the one thing he could not afford to lose. He could lose his business, his money, and maybe even his family, and rebound on the court of life if he kept his hope alive.

If hope is so important, what is it? Tertullian said, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” Hope is holding on when things around you begin to slip away. Hope is praying expectantly when there are seemingly no answers. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan tells of a man whose shop had been burned during the disastrous Chicago fire. He arrived at the ruins the next morning carrying a table. He set the table amid the charred debris and above it placed this optimistic sign: “Everything lost except wife, children, and hope. Business will be resumed as usual tomorrow morning.”

Many men become bitter toward life because of the unfortunate circumstances in which they find themselves. Many quit. Others have taken their own lives. What makes the difference in the outcome? Talent? No! The only difference between those who threw in the towel and quit and those who used their energy to rebuild and keep going, is found in the word hope.

What does hope do for mankind?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is the darkest.

Hope motivates when discouragement comes.

Hope energizes when the body is tired.

Hope sweetness while the bitterness bites.

Hope sings when all melodies are gone.

Hope believes when the evidence is eliminated.

Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.

Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.

Hope endures hardship when no one is caring.

Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.

Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.

Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.

Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.

Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.

There is nothing to do but bury a man when his hopes are gone. Losing hope usually precedes loss of life itself. You don’t need a better environment; you just need more hope. It’s the one thing in your life that you cannot do without!

SOURCE: John C. Maxwell. Think On These Things: A Fresh, New Way To Look At Life. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1979, pp. 127-128.

 

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FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

Sunset over water

We cannot control the length of our life,

but we can control its width and depth.

We cannot control the contour of our countenance,

but we can control its expression.

We cannot control the other person’s annoying habits,

but we can do something about our own..

We cannot control the distance our head is above the ground,

but we can control the contents we feed into it.

God help us do something about what we can control,

and leave all else in the hands of God!

SOURCE: John Lawrence. Life’s Choices: Discovering the consequences of sowing and reaping. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Press, 1975. p. 115.

 

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Zig Ziglar: Having Your Best Attitude

“The Best News”

 

There are many different attitudes. Roberto De Vincenzo, a golfer from Argentina, beautifully displayed one of the best ones many years ago when he won the Masters golf tournament but was denied the coveted green jacket.

I say he won it because he had the lowest score at the end of four days. But his playing partner who kept the score had inadvertently written that he had made a five in on one of the holes when in reality he had made a four.

De Vincenzo signed the card, and when an incorrect card is signed, the player is disqualified. He had not cheated, but the rules stood. What was his reaction when he learned he was disqualified? Did he blame his playing partner? No, he said he made a stupid mistake. He accepted full responsibility himself. Now what kind of man is he?

Some time later he won another tournament. After they gave him the check, he spent a great deal of time in the dressing room. He was in no particular hurry. When he got out to the parking lot, it was empty except for a young woman. She approached him saying she didn’t have a job, her sick baby was at the point of death, and she didn’t have the money to pay the hospital or the doctors. De Vincenzo signed his tournament winnings over to the young woman and went on his way.

The next week he was in a country club. One of the PGA officials told him he had been a victim of fraud—that the woman didn’t have a baby and was not even married. De Vincenzo said, “You mean there is not a sick baby at all?” The official said, “That’s right.” De Vincenzo said, “You have just given me the best news I’ve heard all year.”

Where’s your heart? What’s your attitude? How would you have felt under those circumstances? Who had the greater problem—the golfer or the young woman? I think it is obvious isn’t it? How many of you think De Vincenzo really brooded the rest of his life over that woman who had beaten him out of that check? I don’t think he gave it another thought. He was truly glad that there had not been an ill child. Now that takes compassion, it takes heart, but it also takes wisdom.

When is maturity in attitude reached? Is attitude a head thing, a heart thing, or both? Maturity in attitude is reached when you fully understand what you can change and what you can’t change, and you respond accordingly. De Vincenzo couldn’t change the figures on his score card retrieve the money he had signed over to the lying woman. Fussing and fuming would not change the reality of either mistake. He chose to accept what had happened and move forward. By doing so he saved his partner any further embarrassment and grief over the mistake. He showed everyone who witnessed the other incident his true character and was not made to look like a naïve fool by an official who was all too proud to have the scoop.

People with a good heart are exposed most readily in times of stress and ill fortune. De Vincenzo was more interested in the needs of his golfing partner and the wlfare of a baby than he was in claiming to have been wronged. A heart like his, one that is honest, expects the best and holds no malice. It is developed over a lifetime.

Roberto De Vincenzo at some point decided he was responsible for his circumstances in life, that he had control over how he responded to disappointment, and that a good attitude and a trusting heart offered many more rewards than their counterparts. Make the same decisions for yourself and relax into a more fulfilling life.

 Message! 

It’s not what happens to you; it’s how you handle it that will determine whether you are happy or miserable.

 About Zig Ziglar:

Zig Ziglar was born in Coffee County, Alabama on November 26, 1926 and was the tenth of 12 children. In 1931, when Ziglar was five years old, his father took a management position at a Mississippi farm, and family moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi, where he spent his early childhood. In 1932, his father died of a stroke, and his younger sister died two days later.

Zigler served in the Navy during World War II (circa 1943-1945). He was in the Navy V-12 College Training Program, attending the University of South Carolina. In 1944 he met his wife Jean, in Jackson, Mississippi; he was 17 and she was 16. They married in late 1946.

Ziglar later worked as a salesman in a succession of companies. In 1968 he became the vice president and training director for the Automotive Performance company, moving to Dallas, Texas.

In 1970, Ziglar went into the business of motivational speaking full-time, with an emphasis on Christian values. Until then, he called himself by his given name, Hilary, but now satarted using his nickname, Zig, instead.

Until 2010 (aged 86) Ziglar traveled around the world taking part in motivational seminars, but has been somewhat limited recently due to a fall down a flight of stairs in 2007 that has impaired his short-term memory and physical abilities.

Through the ups and downs of life Ziglar has maintained his optimism and encouraged thousands of people to be their best in the particular endeavors to which God has called them. Zig Ziglar is one of the most inspirational people on the planet today and is a terrific example of someone who has embraced the struggle of life giving God the glory each step of the way.

The article above was adapted from Chapter 5 in the very encouraging book by Zig Ziglar entitled Zig Ziglar’s Life Lifters: Moments of Inspiration for Living Life Better. Nashville, TN.: B&H, 2003.

 Zig Ziglar’s Books:

Ziglar, Zig; Ziglar, Tom. Born to Win: Find Your Success Code. Dallas: SUCCESS Media (2012).

Something Else To Smile About: More Encouragement and Inspiration for Life’s Ups and Downs. Nashville: Thomas Nelson (2010).

Ziglar, Zig; Norman, Julie Ziglar. Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life’s Terms. New York: Howard Books (2009).

The One-Year Daily Insights with Zig Ziglar. Tyndale House Publishers (2009)

Inspiration 365 Days a Year with Zig Ziglar. SIM (2008)

God’s Way is Still the Best Way. Nashville: Thomas Nelson  (2007).

Better Than Good: Creating a Life You Can’t Wait to Live. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers (2006).

Conversations with My Dog. B&H Books (2005).

The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar. New York: Random House (2004).

Confessions of a Grieving Christian. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group 2004).

Courtship After Marriage: Romance Can Last a Lifetime. Nashville: Thomas Nelson  (2004).

Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson  (2004).

Zig Ziglar’s Life Lifters: Moments of Inspiration for Living Life Better. B&H (2003).

Selling 101: What Every Successful Sales Professional Needs to Know. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers (2003).

Ziglar, Zig and Hayes, John P. Network Marketing For Dummies. Foster City, Calif: IDG Books (2001).

Success for Dummies. Foster City, Calif: IDG Books (1998).

Something to Smile About: Encouragement and Inspiration for Life’s UPS and DOWNS. Nashville: Thomas Nelson (1997).

Great Quotes from Zig Ziglar. Career Press (1997)

Over the Top. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers (1994).

Five Steps to Successful Selling. Nigtingale-Conant Corp. (1987).

Top Performance: How to Develop Excellence in Yourself and Others. New York: Berkley Books (1986).

Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World. Nashville: Oliver Nelson (1985).

Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale. New York: Berkley Books (1982).

See You at the Top. Gretna: Pelican (1975).

 About Golfer Roberto De Vincenzo

The world will always remember Roberto De Vicenzo for what he lost, not for what he won-for that careless mistake he made at the 1968 Masters, signing an incorrect scorecard that had him making a par and not a birdie on the 17th hole that Sunday afternoon-and, thus, his uttering of the immortal golf quote, “What a stupid I am.” Yet there is so much more to De Vicenzo’s career and the contributions he made to golf around the world than what occurred in the scorer’s tent at Augusta National that should not overshadow the man’s legacy. Roberto De Vicenzo won more than 230 golf tournaments, including the 1967 Open Championship at Hoylake, where he held off the Sunday charges of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to become, at 44, the oldest winner of the world’s oldest golf championship.

Facing success and catastrophe and treating those twin imposters the same inspired British golf writer Peter Dobereiner to use the Rudyard Kipling quote when giving De Vicenzo his due. In Dobereiner’s words, “By that standard, De Vicenzo is a giant of a man because he faced the greatest triumph and the most devastating disaster which the game of golf can provide.” The United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America agreed, presenting De Vicenzo with the Bob Jones and William Richardson Awards, respectively, in 1970.

All the trophies he captured didn’t mean as much to De Vicenzo as the friends he made traveling the globe. He won national opens in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Holland, France, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina, a country he represented 17 times in the World Cup. Essayist Jack Whitaker once said that if golf were war, Roberto would have conquered more countries than Alexander the Great. But golf was not war to De Vicenzo. And that is what made him so loved.

Born in Buenos Aires April 14, 1923, De Vicenzo learned the game as a caddy’s assistant. He turned professional at age 15 and won his first of nine Argentine Open titles six years later. Three-time Open Championship winner Henry Cotton once said there were very few professionals in the business who would not take the play through the green of Argentine golfing master Roberto De Vicenzo, and his game never left him. At 51 he won the PGA Seniors’ Championship and in 1980, at age 57, the inaugural U.S. Senior Open.

He believed in hard practice, routinely hitting 400 balls a day and maintaining a slow pace. “If you hurry,” he would say, “then nothing seems to go right.” He’d visualize a shot, pick a club and hit. His method was simple to watch, and it held up under pressure.

It did that final round at the Masters in 1968. What’s lost behind that staggering mistake made by fellow competitor Tommy Aaron and signed for by De Vicenzo is that Roberto shot what has been called one of the greatest rounds in major championship history. He took only 65 strokes around Augusta National that day, including a bogey at the 18th, on his 45th birthday. His 31 on the front side started with an eagle 2 at the first and tied the course record. It should have been good enough to tie Bob Goalby and set up a playoff which, had he won, would have given Roberto De Vicenzo both the Open Championship and Masters titles at the same time.

 

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Dr. Ted Engstrom on The Power of a Positive Attitude

Our attitude at the beginning of a job will affect the outcome of the job more than anything else.

Our attitude toward life determines life attitude toward us.

Our attitude toward others will determine their attitude toward us.

Before we can achieve the kind of life we want, we must think, act, walk, talk, and conduct ourselves in ways characteristic of who we ultimately wish to become.

The higher we go in any organization of value, the better the attitude we’ll find.

Holding successful, positive thoughts in our minds will make all the difference in the world.

If we always make a person feel needed, important, and appreciated, he or she will return this attitude to us.

Part of a good attitude is to look for the best in new ideas. So look for good ideas everywhere. We will find them in the most wonderful places: on the bumpers of cars, on restaurant menus, in books, in travel, out of the innocent mouths of children.

Don’t broadcast personal problems. It probably won’t help you, and it cannot help others.

Don’t talk about your health unless it’s good.

Radiate the attitude of well-being. Don’t be embarrassed to share visions, desires, and goals.

Treat everyone with whom you come in contact as a fellow member of the human race—with all the rights, duties, and privileges thereof. The Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ted W. Engstrom (1916-2006) led several major evangelical institutions – including World VisionZondervan Publishing HouseYouth For Christ International, and Azusa Pacific University. He wrote or co-authored over 50 books and specialized in mentoring and developing leaders. “His ability to integrate the gospel with everyday life was absolutely inspiring,” said Dean R. Hirsch, head of World Vision International. “Dr. Ted made work and faith walk together.” This excerpt was adapted from Motivation to Last a Lifetime: Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.

 

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Creating A Positive Environment With Our Words

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER

Encourage each other

By Dane Ortlund

Our words to one another about one another not only describe reality. They also create reality.

“You idiot!” does not simply assess what is objectively true to the speaker. It also produces, in the one spoken to, death and darkness. Not only do our words reveal what is true of us, they also generate reality for another. Specifically, our words are either death-bringing or life-giving. Either depleting or nourishing, draining or filling.

The gospel is a message of life, of nourishing, of filling. Because of Christ’s work in our behalf, we are set free from sin, adopted into God’s family, welcomed in. The “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13) is a word that gives life. And the great privilege we have when we gather with other believers—other obnoxious believers, other theologically imprecise believers, other spiritually sleepy believers, other frustrating believers, other sinning believers—is of passing on horizontally a taste of what we’ve been given vertically. Amid all my sin and messiness, in Jesus, God has given me a word of welcome, a word of love—“the word of life” (Phil. 2:161 John 1:1). Loved with this word of grace, I love others with words of grace.

After all, when Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,” what is the “therefore” referring to? What is fueling such encouragement? One of the greatest exultations in all the New Testament about the hope of the gospel: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess. 5:9–10).

Having been shown life through the word of the gospel, we give life through the words we use.

That’s easier said than done. All day long, words are flowing out of us. Passing another and saying hello in the hallway at work, chatting over lunch, greeting our spouse at the end of the day, tucking a child in with a good night story, speaking with a salesperson at Best Buy, talking on the phone while driving. We also use words without employing the larynx: emails, tweets, Facebook comments, handwritten notes stuck on the fridge. Even in this article I am using words: Are they bringing life?

In the hurricane of words that make up any given day, how do we walk in wisdom such that our words inject sanity, calm, and life rather than destruction? In two ways.

First, by saying nothing.

One major way we give life to others with our words is by not using any. It feels awkward to sit with someone depressed or overwhelmed with life and to say nothing. But what comes out of our mouth as medicine can, in fact, sicken rather than strengthen another’s heart (Prov. 23:8). A sufferer, when the pain is raw, needs warm presence, not fixing words. Paul said, “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), not “provide theological answers to those who weep.” That Romans 8:28 comes before Romans 12:15 in the canon does not mean it should in our counseling and friendships.

Second, by saying something.

All our words tumble out impelled by one of two motives. I am using words either for myself or for you. All my speech is either fueled by self (no matter how smiling it is) or by love (no matter how painful it is).

The question, then, is why do you speak the words you do? Why do you speak the way you do? What is the aroma of your words? Are you spraying bullets, forgetting God has set down the gun rightly aimed at you? Do you speak to others the way you wish to be spoken to? What kind of speech has given you life as you consider meaningful relationships in your past? Do you ever—ever—look another human being in the face and say to them the following words: “May I tell you something I admire about you?” (It is one of the great secrets to Christian community that speaking a word of grace to another builds up you as much as the other.)

In your short life, you have a million tiny opportunities, including a hundred today, to inject a small but potent dose of life and light into another. As you consider doing this, you will immediately find a good reason presenting itself that seems to clearly mitigate your impulse to build another up. Some weakness, some corresponding fault, will arise in your mind, cancelling out your reason to encourage that person. Indeed, with some people in our lives, we honestly have difficulty finding anything encouraging to say.

Once more we remember the gospel. God did not allow our own faults to mitigate His word of gospel life to us. We have given Him every reason to withhold that precious word from us. Instead He lavishes us with assurances of undeserved love. We come alive. We breathe again.

John Owen wrote that God “loves life into us.” Will you love life into another?

*SOURCE: July 1st, 2013 @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/encourage-another/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Dane Ortlund serves as Bible publishing director at Crossway Books in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of Defiant Grace: The Surprising Message and Mission of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Attitude, Devotions, Encouragement

 

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Brad Johnston on The “Learning” in Contentment

content

My favorite weekly meeting is Wednesday at 6 a.m. at Perkins Restaurant.

There I recently had one of those jump-off-the-page-of-your-Bible experiences. Call me dumb, but I had never processed the fact that three times in Paul’s famous “contentment passage” in Philippians 4 – which I have quoted anecdotally dozens of times – the Apostle specifically uses the word “learned” (in Philippians 4:9 and 11, 12 ).

The men’s prayer breakfast is not a big one, as prayer breakfasts go. But it is a faithful one, an intimate one. Men from our church gather like clockwork each week for the sole purpose of lifting our hearts together before the Throne of Grace. We make 3-4 specific prayer requests for the week, and then lift one another’s burdens to the Lord in prayer before a hearty breakfast. Our prayers are far ranging, kingdom focused prayers for the advance of God’s reign in this world. It is not a place where we sit on our hands, but where we take the Kingdom by storm.

But recently  God has landed the prayer breakfast guys in the school of contentment. He has simply overwhelmed us with his presence and blessings and pressed us to “come back” to a place of joy and satisfaction — of thanksgiving! In my analysis, the Lord has been teaching us a contentment that can be described as intense pleasure in who Jesus is, and what he has done/is doing/will do for his people. We have been discovering something of the end that Paul has in mind when he calls to learn contentment. Three observations about how God leads us into biblical contentment.

First, he has called each one of us to action. Contentment is not passivity. Each of the men at prayer breakfast wear various hats: in the church, as the head their families, and in their professional labors. Men must sometimes leave early because of pressing matters on their plate. We aspire to be like the Apostle Paul, who was engaged in the work to which he was called. What he believed was visible in his lifestyle and he called those to whom he ministered to “learn by practice” what they had seen Paul practice.

Second, God has called each of us to flexibility. In a variety of ways each of us has had unexpected developments in our lives recently. It has really pushed us to understand better what Paul meant in Phil. 4:11 that “whatever situation” is a place where God will minister his grace by prompting me to trust in his wisdom and rest in his provision. The guys have discussed in recent weeks the places of apparent chaos and of disappointment. The wonder of Paul’s Calvinistic convictions is that he could never step outside of God’s personal and transformative gaze. Whether in Tarsus, Jerusalem, or the far flung wilderness of Asia Minor Paul knew that because God was God, therefore Paul could never step off his grid. His heavenly Father was intent on teaching him the positive aspects of the Tenth Commandment every day and in every — at a very personal level!

Finally, God has called us to be fixated on Christ. Paul no doubt had specific episodes from his ministry in mind when he said “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:12). As he pushed forward in his itinerant ministry year after year things didn’t always go as planned. Colleagues abandoned him. Logistics did not work out. Travel plans were stymied. And yet through it all the Apostle’s faith shone through: “all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It has been such an intense pleasure to explore this theme of contentment with the guys over our waffles and eggs recently. Through different circumstances and at different times he has brought each of us to that place of peaceful contentment. We are simply overwhelmed at the blessings the Lord has poured out into our lives. It doesn’t usually mean we stay there. But we are learning, learning, learning that instead of grasping and fighting for what we desire, we can rest contentedly in God’s absolute sovereignty. Instead of fixating on something material, or urgent, or created, we can reorient our fixation upon Jesus Christ. Then we can quietly do what we can in God’s kingdom, and leave the results up to him.

Soli Deo gloria.

SOURCE” http://gentlereformation.com/?p=336235

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Attitude, Devotions

 

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LEARNING ABOUT THANKSGIVING FROM THE PSALMS

Eight Themes in Thanksgiving

By James Faris

Thanksgiving Fall Image

As our nation reflects more on the nature of gratitude at this November, here are eight themes in thankfulness from the Psalms that guide us to a more God-glorifying gratitude:

(1) We give thanks for who the Lord is. We give thanks “due to his righteousness” (7:17), “to his holy name” (30:4), “for your name is near” (75:1), “for he is good” (118:1), and “to the God of gods” (136:2). Do we know God’s name and his attributes? Grateful hearts do.

(2) We give thanks for what the Lord does. We give thanks saying “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (9:1),  “thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!” (107:31), and “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (118:21). Do we know God’s works – what he has done? Thankful hearts are remembering hearts.

(3) We give thanks vocally. We raise our voices “proclaiming thanksgiving aloud” (26:7), saying “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (69:30), and “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (95:2). Can anyone else hear your thanks? They should.

(4) We give thanks wholeheartedly. Our voices only reflect our hearts as we say “my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (28:7), “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart” (111:1), and “I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart” (138:1). Does our gratitude flow from our inward being? A Spirit-filled heart overflows with thanks.

(5) We give thanks corporately. Individuals say “I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you” (35:18), “With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.” (109:30), and “the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.” (122:4). Do we gather with the saints to thank him corporately? God delights in his people singing thanks together, and we sound a whole lot better together.

(6) We give thanks evangelistically. We proclaim “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations” (57:9, 108:3). Do we express our thanks to God before those who do not believe in him? When they hear, they just might give thanks, too.

(7) We give thanks eternally. Our heart cries out “O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (30:12), “we will give thanks to your name forever” (44:8), and “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise” (79:13). Are we consciously warming up to give thanks eternally? We might as well get started now!

(8) We give thanks actively. Words lead to action: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High” (50:14), and “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you” (56:12).  Are our sacrifices merely with the lips, or are our sacrifices of thanks living sacrifices? A thankful heart always leads to a changed life.

*SOURCE: http://gentlereformation.org/2013/11/14/eight-themes-in-thanksgiving/

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Attitude, Encouragement, Holidays

 

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John Piper on “Thanksgiving Toward the Past, Faith Toward the Future”

Piper J famous quote

A Parable: The Anvil

Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Let’s begin with a parable today. Once upon a time in land before there were any cars or modern machines – a time when horses and carriages and wagons were common on the dirt roads – there was a blacksmith shop with a large, heavy, well-worn anvil. One day a little farm boy, who had never left the farm, came with his father to town for the first time. Everything was new and different. As he walked with his father down the unpaved main street, he heard a loud clang . . . clang . . . clang. He said to his father, “What’s that?” His father said, “Come, I’ll show you.” He took his son to the door of the blacksmith’s shop. And there the boy saw a huge man, a strong man, lifting a big, heavy hammer with a long handle and a large head on it high in the air, as if to chop down a tree, and then crashing it down on a glowing piece of metal on top of the anvil. He hit the anvil so hard that it made the boy wince with every blow. His father explained to him that this was a blacksmith who made all kinds of metal pieces for wagons and carriages and plows and tools and horseshoes.

But the little boy was fixed on one thing: the long, heavy hammer and the great metal anvil. They met each other with such a loud sound and with such a force that he thought surely this anvil could not last long. The big, strong blacksmith paused for a moment to catch his breath, and saw the boy standing in the doorway. “Aren’t you going to break that thing?” the boy asked, pointing at the anvil. But the blacksmith smiled and said, “This anvil is a hundred years old and has worn out many hammers.”

The Bible: Forged in the Furnace of Truth

Here’s the point of the parable. The Bible is an anvil that has worn out a thousand hammers. In every generation, new, huge, heavy hammers are forged against the truth of the Bible. And strong men lift the hammers and pound on the Scriptures. People with no historical perspective – like little boys who’ve never been to town – see it and say, “Surely the Bible will be destroyed.” But others who know their history a little better say, “This Bible was forged in the furnace of divine truth and has worn out many hammers.”

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). And Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Why is this? Why has the Bible worn out a thousand hammers? Why does the Bible survive generation after generation as a living and powerful book in the lives of millions of people? The answer can be found in two observations: one is that God endures from generation to generation. And the other is that the Bible is the Word of God.

In Psalm 90:1-2 Moses says, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” And in the New Testament, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The reason the Bible has worn out a thousand hammers is because it is the Word of God who endures from everlasting to everlasting, and because its central character is Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Bubbles and Fads

There are two reasons why I point this out. One is that I want to build my life on something that lasts. And I think most of you would share this desire. I don’t want to build my life on sand. I don’t want to spend my life chasing bubbles that shimmer with beauty and pop as soon as you catch them. I want to build my life on something durable – something like an anvil that breaks a thousand hammers.

The other reason why I point out the indestructible toughness of the Bible is to contrast it with the incredibly short shelf-life of the ever-changing remedies and treatments and schemes of hope in our day. Schemes of hope that leave out of account God and Christ and sin and salvation and repentance and death and heaven and hell. They leave these great realities out of consideration as if they were non-realities or inconsequential, like unicorns and Cyclopses and flat-earth theories. These treatments and remedies and schemes of hope put themselves forward with great forcefulness. But how many people notice how short is the life of God-neglecting promises of hope?

Let me illustrate what I mean, and I give credit here to David Powlison in an article titled “Biological Psychiatry” (The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 17/3, Spring, 1999, pp. 2-8). I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but there has been a sea change in the world of mental health in the last five years or so. When was the last time you heard anybody talking about codependency? Just twelve years ago this was all the rage. Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More and John Bradshaw’s Homecoming were best-sellers. Wherever you turned, from books to talk shows to seminars, the diagnosis of our problems was the same: dysfunctional families of origin. Past emotional pain and emptiness were the primal causes of our present misery and misbehavior. And the remedy? Psychotherapy with sensitive non-judgmental counselors and support groups with those who felt your pain and understood your woundedness.

That was in its heyday of the eighties. But then something changed. Something always changes. Diagnoses and remedies that are not built on the full embrace of God’s Word must always fade. These things slip up on you. And you suddenly realize: hmm, those kinds of books aren’t being written any more. People don’t seem to be talking with the same confidence they used to about the dynamics of the wounded soul. What ever became of codependency?

What’s happened? Well, there’s a new excitement, a new scheme of hope. The new scheme is more biological and less psychological. In the place of the needy, hurting, wounded soul has now arisen the dysfunctional brain. It’s not the family of origin now that has center stage, but hormones and genes and chemicals and neurotransmitters. And what are the new books today? Harold Koplewicz’s It’s Nobody’s Fault, that explains the problems of human life in terms of neurotransmitter shortages; and Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac, that says we have entered an era of “cosmetic psychopharmacology.”

Here’s the way David Powlison describes the shift:

The world did change in the mid-90s. The action is now in your body. It’s what you got from Mom and Dad, not what they did to you. The excitement is about brain functions, not family dysfunctions. The cutting edge is in the hard science medical research and psychiatry, not squishy soft, philosophy-of-life, feel-your-pain psychologies.

Psychiatry’s back. . . . Biology is suddenly hot. Psychiatry has suddenly broken forth, a blitzkrieg sweeping away all opposition. The insurance companies love it because drugs seem more like “medicine,” seem to be cheaper than talk, and promise more predictable results. Psychotherapy professionals are on the defensive. (Powlison, “Biological Psychiatry,” p. 3)

The point is this: I want my life to be built on something more durable than a 15-year-long therapeutic fad. And make no mistake: the present craze with genes and hormones and neurotransmitters and the Human Genome Project and genomic mapping and chemical therapies – this excitement too will fade and we will move on to something else. And in its wake will be left vast disillusionment. No fulfilled life. No fountain of youth. No utopia. No comfort at death. And millions of people will be left with the question: is there a more durable hope to build my life on? Is there a diagnosis of my condition and a remedy for my flaws and a promise for the future that will not pass by like a fad in one generation, and leave me feeling like an out-of-date fool using leeches to cure my headache?

Or to ask it another way: When Ritalin has calmed you down and Prozac has cheered you up, then what? The promise of these things seems so big, when it fact the pay-off is so small. All the things that never change, all the things that last, all the really big things in life and eternity still wait to be addressed: God, Christ, sin, redemption, repentance, faith, forgiveness, death, heaven, hell, eternal life.

The Eternal Realities of the Bible

Which brings us back to where we started: there is a rugged, unchanging, solid anvil called the Bible. It has outlived all fads and broken a thousand hammers of criticism. It doesn’t sweat the small stuff very much; its message deals with the big things that never change from generation to generation. And what is the message?

The message of the Bible is this. It has to do with four great realities: God, sin, Christ, faith.

1. God

“In the beginning God . . .” – the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). There is a personal, infinite, eternal, just, loving, holy God who made this universe and everything in it to reflect his glory – his greatness and beauty and power and wisdom and justice and mercy. He had no beginning. He is absolute Reality. He depends on nothing. He says that his name is simply, “I am” (Exodus 3:14). This great, personal, eternal God made you to know him and to enjoy him and display him in the world. The prophet Isaiah said, “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made” (Isaiah 43:7). The first great reality is God, who made us to enjoy and display his glory.

2. Sin

But the second great reality that the Bible teaches us about is sin. If the purpose of our existence is to know and enjoy and reflect the glory of God as our highest value, then sin is our failure to do that. The apostle Paul puts it like this in the greatest letter ever written, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Notice two things: sin is about everybody and sin is about God. All of us have sinned. There is no exception. And sin mainly has to do with our relationship to God, not man. Sin hurts people. But that’s not the main reason it is evil. The main reason is that God is worthy of our trust and obedience and worship and our joy, but we treat him like a raincoat, leaving him in the closet forgotten until it rains hard enough outside. God is not a raincoat for bad days. He is the Giver of the sunlight and the Creator of the clouds and the Sustainer of every breath you take and the Judge of all the living and the dead.

Therefore, our neglect of God is a great evil and we are guilty of sin in his presence. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We are under the sentence of God’s eternal judgment. And we will perish unless God himself provides a Redeemer to save us from our sin and from his wrath.

3. Christ

Which brings us to the third great reality of the Scriptures: the central character of history, Jesus Christ. O for a thousand tongues to describe the greatness of the God-Man Christ Jesus! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:1-3, 14).

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, eternal, without beginning, but with the Father from everlasting to everlasting, truly God. And yet, he was made flesh, that is, became human. Why? Because without a human nature he couldn’t die. But his aim in coming was to die. He lived to die. Why? Why would God send his Son to die? Because God’s heart toward us is not only wrath flowing from his justice, but also mercy flowing from his love. And to satisfy both justice and love, God substituted his Son to die in our place. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He came to give his life as a ransom to rescue sinners from hell.

This is the center of Christianity. God sent his own Son to provide a substitute for all who would be saved from sin. A substitute life, and a substitute death. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life of faith and obedience to God. And he died a totally undeserved, horrific, and obedient death by crucifixion. Therefore, all of us who are saved by him from the wrath of God are saved because our sin is laid on him, and his righteousness is credited to us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This is the center and heart of Christianity. This is the deepest need of every human being that no medicine and no therapy will ever touch.

4. Faith

Which leaves one last great Biblical reality to mention. What must I do to be saved by Jesus Christ from my sin? How can I obtain forgiveness and acceptance with God? How can I prepare to die so that on the other side of this life I will have everlasting joy in the presence of God – and in that hope become the kind of risk-taking, humble, loving, sacrificial person that the world so desperately needs?

The answer of the Bible is: Trust Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him [that is, trusts in him] should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Trust him that everything he says he has done, he has done; and everything he says he will do, he will do; and everything he says he is, he is. Trust him, and you will be saved.

And you will live the rest of your life in the place of greatest healing. Where is that? It is the solid, durable, invincible, anvil-like place between thankfulness toward the past and faith toward the future. The aim of psychotherapy and the aim of medicine is to give us healing. But there is no place of greater, deeper, more lasting healing than to be in Christ with sins forgiven and heaven secured, living moment by moment looking back with thankfulness on all that God has done for us, and looking forward at all God promises to do for us because of Christ.

It’s a great place to live. I invite you, I urge you, trust Christ and take your eternal place between bygone grace and future grace where gratitude and faith, thankfulness and confidence fill the soul and make it well.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. SERMON PREACHED ON NOVEMBER, 21, 1999

SOURCE: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/thanksgiving-toward-the-past-faith-toward-the-future

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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BOOK REVIEW: R.C. SPROUL’S “CAN I HAVE JOY IN MY LIFE?”

WHY PUTTING JESUS FIRST RESULTS IN JOY

CIHJIML? Sproul

Book Review by David P. Craig

In this insightful book Sproul helps the reader discern what true biblical joy consists of. It is not based on our circumstances, or even our personality. Sproul writes, “The key to the Christian’s joy is its source, which is the Lord. If Christ is in me and I am in Him, that relationship is not a sometimes experience. The Christian is always in the Lord and Lord is always in the Christian, and that is always a reason for joy. Even if the Christian cannot rejoice in his circumstances, if he finds himself passing through pain, sorrow, or grief, he still can rejoice in the Lord, and since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice always.”

R.C. helps the reader by taking you to key passages of Scripture from Philippians, James, Romans, and the Gospel of John and gleans principles on the ground and source of our joy as being in Christ – who never changes and will never leave nor forsake us. The primary enemy of our joy is anxiety. Fear and anxiety rob us of our joy. However, if we understand who Christ is, and what he has done for us it deepens and opens up a new dimension of joy in us.

The acronym J-O-Y is used to demonstrate that Jesus first, then others, and then you – is actually a good way to practice the habit of joy in our lives. If we focus on Jesus – who is perfect, never changing, loving, and so forth – instead of our imperfect selves, or the imperfections of others and changing circumstances we can maintain and equilibrium of and growth in the genuine joy of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us as Christians. According to Sproul the reason that joy is often so elusive s because we put ourselves first, and Jesus last.

I love what Sproul has to say about Jesus’ own joy: “Jesus is the only person in history who spelled the word joy without putting the letter ‘j’ first. He put Himself last in order to make it possible for us to participate in joy.” The greatest joy anyone can possibly have is knowing and being like Jesus – trusting and believing in His redemptive work on our behalf. By participating (abiding) in our new life with Christ as forgiven, reconciled, children of God we have everything we need to live in peace and joy with God, others, and ourselves. Joy is possible because of Jesus alone. Even our continued struggles with sin, doubts, guilt, and so forth can never take away His righteousness in exchange for our sins and His gift of eternal life. Since our names our written in the Lamb’s Book of Life we have reason to rejoice no matter what our circumstances are – because ultimately we win in Him. We can always rejoice “in the Lord” – because the Lord has an infinite supply of unchanging perfections for us to delight in.

 

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