A GOOD CRY

 

Why are so many people afraid to cry? Why are so many people afraid to show emotion? God made us to be emotional creatures. In fact, emotions make life worth living. To “feel” something is to truly experience it.

People in the Bible seemed to be highly emotional. They didn’t just cry; they wailed. They didn’t just rejoice; they danced. They didn’t just repent; they shaved their heads, put on sackcloth, and sat in a pile of ashes. When they mourned, everyone knew they were mourning. And when they celebrated, they did so with flutes and tambourines.

The key here for the believer is to know the right time and the right place to express one’s emotions and the right way to display them. It is unfair to others to dump your emotions on them when they least expect it and when they aren’t equipped to deal with them. In fact, if you think about it, that’s really what a bad attitude is all about: dumping our emotions verbally and through excessive body language on someone who shouldn’t have to deal with them.

My husband is not my punching bag. My son is not my anger management therapist. Even when my emotions are raging, I should always remember that my words have the power of life and death, and it is impossible to take them back later. So I must learn to release my emotions, but I must learn to release them in the right way and to the right people.

 

VOLUNTARY SURGERY​​​​​​​

 

If all you have known throughout your lifetime is negativity and defeat, your mind may need to be reconditioned to see things in a whole new way. But God specializes in renewing the mind. He is busy, not modifying the thinking of his people, not adjusting it, and not improving it or restoring it. He is busy “renewing” the mind of the person who would be his disciple (see Romans 12:2). He wants to completely tear down what the world and society have instilled in the minds of his children, and he wants to redeem the thinking of those who have turned their lives over to him. God also wants to renew the believer’s attitude: his attitude toward God, his attitude toward himself, and his attitude toward others and toward life itself.

I grew up in an environment that completely warped my thinking. For most of my life, my starting point for every experience was a negative one. My default position was one of defeat, blame, and victimization. But when I got serious about serving the Lord, I decided to change. I decided to do something about myself. And the more I thought about it, the more excited I became about the potential transformation of my thinking, because I quickly came to realize that my thinking controlled my attitude and my attitude controlled my destiny. So allow God to do spiritual surgery on your mind, because that corrective “surgery” will surely correct everything in your life that needs his divine touch.

 

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

In the constant battle that is being waged between the person you are and the person you want to be, obvious questions arise, especially if you are a believer: Is it possible to change my attitude? Is it necessary? And if it is possible to modify my attitude, how can I create a new attitude?

 

Personally, I believe that an individual can change his or her perspective on life. If that weren’t possible, the Christian faith would be ineffective and the Bible would be a book of vain philosophies. But since the Bible teaches us that it is possible to “put off the old man” and to “put on the new man” (see Colossians 3:9-10), I believe that a person, with some effort and a sincere desire to change, can definitely modify his or her outlook on life.

The attitude you now exhibit is actually an acquired trait that can be “unlearned” and relearned the proper way. More than likely, your perspective on life was instilled in you by your family and your environment, and it has been reinforced by a lifetime of destructive thinking and behavior. But now that you are a Christian, you have a choice. You don’t have to accept the attitude the world has handed to you and that your sinful nature has nurtured. You can renounce the attitude of “death” that you normally exhibit. You can repent of it, turn around, and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, create a whole new way of viewing the world.

CONTROLLING YOUR ATTITUDE​​​​​​​

 

When some people look at their lives, they see only problems. When others look at their lives, they see abundant opportunities. While some see only obstacles and impediments on their daily schedules, others see wonderful experiences and the joy of interacting with people. While some see endless repetition and a meaningless existence, others see a chance to smell the roses and to enjoy the wonders of God’s world. Both groups are seeing the same sights and hearing the same sounds. But while one group concludes that life is a bother, the other concludes that life is a reward. And the only thing that distinguishes these two groups are their perspectives, their differing attitudes toward the lives they are living.

If you are submitted to the Holy Spirit, then you have the capacity to control your attitude. In fact, if you look at the full description of the Spirit-led life as it is defined by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, the final, undergirding expression of Spirit-directed living is “self-control.” And the self-controlled, Spirit-led life manifests itself in several obvious ways. It manifests itself through love, not hatred; through joy, not sadness; through peace, not internal strife; through patience, not impatience; through kindness, not cruelty; through goodness, not folly; through faithfulness, not unfaithfulness; through gentleness, not harshness. So learn to submit to the Holy Spirit. His constant tug upon our hearts is designed to take us in a direction that is far removed from life with a bad attitude.

 

SEEK WISDOM

 

The mind is a powerful tool, and it can hold an incredible amount of data. But without wisdom, we are empty as human beings even though our heads are full. We are vessels wandering aimlessly in search of our potential and our destiny. We are lost without moorings. We are tossed by the ever-shifting winds of popular opinion and the ever-changing waves of circumstance. We have no foundation upon which to stand as we attempt to build our lives. We have no ground beneath our feet.

Wisdom, however, is a combination of discernment, judgment, and tact. It arms its possessor with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, between good and bad, and between that which imparts “life” and that which imparts “death.” It equips its owner with the ability to make right judgments with the facts at hand rather than judgments based on unfounded ideals or ungrounded fantasies. And it endows its owner with the ability to sense the time and the manner in which to employ its power. When God’s mind is imparted to us through wisdom, we will have great success in all that we do.

Most turmoil in life flows from folly, and folly flows from a lack of wisdom. To avoid folly, therefore, and to avoid the unrest that accompanies it, seek wisdom. Pursue wisdom and make it your goal in life. Like many of the wonderful gifts of God, this gift awaits those who value it and who follow hard after it.

 

PURE WISDOM

 

According to the biblical book of James, genuine wisdom has seven characteristics, and the first of these characteristics is purity (see James 3:17). God’s wisdom is not contaminated with any other substance.

When we refer to “pure gold,” we are referring to the uncompromised element. The same is true of “pure silver” or “pure sugar.” God wants all of us to be pure. In other words, he wants us to be focused on him and his ways. He will never be content with a tainted heart that is partially committed to him yet polluted with other purposes and affections. He wants all of you. He wants all of me.

Jesus reminded us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV). God won’t share our hearts or our devotion. According to the Old Testament, he is “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV). He broods over you with a godly jealousy, and he wants all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But the good news is that the pure in heart are blessed. They are blessed because “they will see God” (Matthew 5:8, NIV).

If the heart is pure, the mind is at ease. If the heart is pure, the soul is calm. If the heart is pure, the attitudes of the one who possesses that pure heart will always be positive and life will be more rewarding and less problematic. Seek pure wisdom.

 

FOOLISH OR WISE

The oft quoted thirty-first chapter of Proverbs, which describes the virtuous woman, tells us that this model of feminine strength “speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26). The classic woman of God, therefore, is wise. She speaks with intelligence and cleverness. She is cultured in mind and social graces. She is strong in spirit and in heart. She is not one given to profuse speech, but when she does speak, her words serve a noble purpose. They communicate life, and they impart “instruction.”

Foolishness is often exhibited through excessive chatter that really carries no weight while wisdom is expressed through a timely sentence expertly uttered. Foolishness is often exhibited through too many words that are designed to showcase the knowledge of the one who displays it while wisdom simply applies knowledge to the situation without attempting to stroke the ego of its possessor. Foolishness creates confusion, but wisdom solves a lingering problem or puts to rest a nagging sense of uncertainty. Foolishness is obvious, but wisdom is discreet.

The things you know help you grow and they benefit those around you. The knowledge you possess shapes you and makes you the person you are and they impact others positively. Obviously, you can never rise above the level of wisdom you have achieved. Neither can you act upon information you do not possess. But wisdom is the ability to command the knowledge you do possess. It is the quality of utilizing the information you have at your disposal.

 

SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND

One of the most reliable things you can do to lift your spirit and elevate your own soul is to pursue wisdom for your life. But if you lack the wisdom you desire, there is good news for you: God has promised to infuse your life with his wisdom, provided you come to a place where you understand its value and cherish its benefits enough that you are prompted to seek it with all your heart. God’s Word says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

 

The New Testament word used here for wisdom is the Greek word sophia. To have this sophia kind of wisdom is to have the heart and mind of God. To have the heart and mind of God is to think like him and to act like him. This kind of wisdom leads to success in everything we engage. It leads to fulfillment, significance, happiness, and a sense of purpose. But no man, no woman is going to ask for this kind of wisdom unless he or she appreciates its value.

So when a person comes to the point where he cares enough about the riches of wisdom and the benefits that knowledge can provide, that person will start seeking God for the wisdom that he realizes he needs. And God will respond by liberally providing that wisdom to the one who pursues it.

 

COMMANDED TO BE WISE

Hosea said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6, NIV).  Sometimes we Christians believe that God is not going to allow us to suffer. Sometimes we believe that God is always going to protect us from life’s pains. And it is true that God will fight our battles for us when we are viciously attacked and vindicate us when we are wrongly accused. But God will not reward stupidity. In fact, the entire book of Proverbs was written to drive home this point: If you make wise decisions, you will be rewarded accordingly. But if you make foolish decisions, you will face the consequences of your own uninformed choices.

 

 

So God will protect you from the enemy, but he won’t always protect you from yourself. Sometimes, the only way he can teach us the difference between right and wrong is to let us taste the fruits of our own actions and drink the wine of our own ignorance. Through life itself, God reminds us every day that wisdom is essential and that we should value it and pursue it with all our might.

Christian people are not immune to the pains of life, particularly the self-inflicted pains that result from unwise actions. Without wisdom, therefore, even “my people” can be destroyed. Even the strongest and most committed believers can be negatively affected if they reject knowledge and despise wisdom. Consequently, wisdom is exalted in the Word of God, and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge is highly encouraged. In fact, it is commanded.

 

 

THE VIRTUES OF WISDOM

With knowledge comes responsibility, and with responsibility we need wisdom. With wisdom comes success, and with success we achieve our goals, find purpose, and experience the happiness that God created us to know. Wisdom, therefore, is a proven pathway to joy. It is one of God’s most preferred mechanisms for elevating a person’s spirit and enhancing his or her self-worth.

In fact, wisdom is the most important quality for success in life. With it, all other virtues can be acquired. Without it, no other virtues really matter. According to the Bible, wisdom will “keep” you as long as you follow her instructions (Proverbs 4:6, ESV). She will “rebuke” you when you go astray (Proverbs 1:23). She will “enter your heart” when you need her the most (Proverbs 2:10). She will “save you” when troubles threaten (Proverbs 2:12). Wisdom will “prolong your life” (Proverbs 3:2), “bring you prosperity” (Proverbs 3:2), “win you favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4), and “make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6, all references NIV).

Wisdom will increase your confidence and strengthen your resolve. Wisdom will undergird your life with focus and your relationships with substance. Wisdom will elevate your soul. Because wisdom fortifies every aspect of life and sets everything in life on a firm foundation, wisdom can definitely impact the quality of one’s life and the state of one’s mind. Wisdom can also give you patience when endurance is required and motivation when action is needed. Nothing is more valuable than wisdom.

When Life Stinks

When life hands you a pile of sour grapes, just do the following four things:

REST. Stop placing blame. Stop trying to pin your problems on God, on other people, or even on yourself. Stop finding fault. In fact, stop everything and ask God to show you how you should handle the problem from your end while he takes care of the things you can’t control.

REGROUP. Take time to breathe and think. Some problems need urgent attention. If you find a member of your family unconscious on the bathroom floor, you don’t need to pray about that situation. Just call an ambulance. But the vast majority of our problems should not be addressed with a knee jerk reaction. Instead, we should think and pray. We should ask God to systematically walk us through the problem one step at the time until the problem is resolved.

RELAX. Put your emotions on hold. The first response of the average person to any unforeseen challenge is almost always an emotional response. We are inclined, therefore, to make decisions that are based on internal chemical overloads rather than rational thinking or purposeful faith.

RETREAT. Before you do anything or say anything, find a solitary place where you can pray, and then seek the Lord regarding your problem. As you do, you will find that God will take these weighty things off you and take them upon himself. You also will find that God will start working right away to guide you through your dilemma.

GOD’S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

God allows his children to face obstacles so they can learn the reliability of his promises. Even in the midst of a challenge, God never abandons his children. He never forsakes them. And he eventually brings them through. In fact, he brings them through triumphantly. And along the way, he develops faith in their hearts and character in their souls. He makes us better people and better disciples by allowing us to navigate the storms of life.

If we become better as a result of our struggles, God moves us along to the next level of spiritual growth. But if we become bitter, we will be forced to repeat the class. If we become joyful even when things are difficult, God promotes us. But if we become angry, we must go back and repeat the grade. If we learn to forgive, we graduate with honors. But if we become sullen and vengeful, we will just have to get back on the bus and take part in that field trip one more time with the hope of finally learning the lesson we missed the first time around.

We are in this school of discipleship for life, and God is in no hurry. As long as it takes, he will keep teaching us, first through instruction and wisdom and then, if necessary, through the harsh experiences of life. It’s up to you and it’s up to me how we choose to complete the educational requirements that God has set before us.

Faith & Fear

Faith Fear.jpg

If you really think about it, faith and fear are similar. While faith is the inner confidence that good things are going to happen, fear is the inner confidence that bad things are going to happen. In reality, nothing has happened yet. But as you peer into the future and try to visualize the outcome of your current situation, you will either see a positive picture of your future (the result of faith) or you will see a negative picture of your future (the result of fear). So which picture do you see most often?

The Bible tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Well, I suggest that fear is the same thing. Why is it, then, that most people can believe for the negative outcome, but not for the positive outcome? When the last chapter of their situation has not yet been written, why do most people lay out a plot within their own minds that takes them to the worst possible conclusion to their story?

It is typical human behavior to anticipate the worst in our lives, and I must confess that I have often fallen victim to this universal mindset myself. But now that the Lord has taught me to place the circumstances of my life in his hands, fear and depression don’t control me the way they used to. And you can learn to enjoy this same freedom by submitting your challenges to God.

 

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Under The Circumstances

Our challenge as human beings is that we allow our emotions to rule us. We find it difficult sometimes to release things to the Lord. We find it difficult to trust him. He might mess up our plans or rewrite the script to our lives that we have spent years outlining in our own minds.

But God showed me some time ago that this kind of mental anguish is unnecessary. He showed me that he has a plan for my life. And as long as I don’t hinder God’s will for my life through my own rebellious actions, nothing is going to happen to me that is not approved by God or planned by God. And whether God causes those things to happen or simply allows them to happen, everything that happens inside me and around me is going to work to my benefit (see Romans 8:28).

So Christians should make use of their problems, not run away from them. In fact, I have found that seasons of testing can end up becoming some of the most positive seasons of life when our attitudes are right. For instance, if I choose to lay my problems at the feet of Jesus instead of despising those problems, rebuking them, or worrying about them, I get to see God’s love demonstrated in my life in a whole new way. I get to see what the Lord can do to change a bad situation and to accomplish his will in spite of challenging circumstances.

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Parting The Waters

When God parted the Red Sea, most of the people were in a state of panic. They looked in front of them, and there was the sea. They looked behind them, and there was the Egyptian army. They looked to the right and to the left, and there they found more Egyptian soldiers covering their escape routes. So they began to cry out and to blame Moses for their plight.

But Moses refused to panic. He just gave the problem to God, and God found a solution to the problem. And believe me! Even though there were probably more than 2 million Jews there that day and thousands of Egyptian soldiers, not one person anticipated what God was about to do. Nobody except Moses expected the waters to part.

How can you possibly know that God is able to part water until you have a problem in your life? Until you have a problem, you can never know his power, his love, or his level of commitment to you. So stop cursing your problems, and stop wilting in the presence of difficulties. Instead, accept life’s challenges as a natural consequence of living in an imperfect world. Give them to the Lord. Ask him to take care of those parts of the problem you cannot resolve, and ask him to help you take care of the parts that you can resolve. Also ask him to help you soak up all the benefits that the trial was devised to bring to your life when he approved it.