Page 23 of 26

What Makes You Happy?

I had to laugh when I read this USA Today newspaper headline: "Psychologists now know what makes people happy." I didn't know happiness was a secret to be discovered by my noble profession! Curious, I kept reading. What were these exciting new findings?



If you are a student of the Bible, you won't be surprised. Research only validates God's way of doing things.

  1. The happiest people are those who spend the least time alone and pursue intimacy and personal growth. When I read this, I immediately thought of Jesus. He was proactive when it came to community. He poured His life into a faithful band of followers and developed an intimate circle of 12 men. And through those men, He established the church. The early church was all about community, intimacy and personal growth.


  2. Happy people don't judge themselves by what others do or have. That is, they don't compare themselves with others. The Bible is clear that we are not to measure ourselves by the yardstick of others, only by the Word of God. As we obey God's Word and choose to please Him, blessing and contentment follow.

  3. Materialism is toxic for happiness. The parable of the rich young ruler in Matthew bears this out. Despite this man's riches, he wanted something more—eternal life. Jesus stressed the importance of keeping the commandments but told him something more was required. He must sell his possessions and follow Him. Sadly, the young man chose material possessions over Christ and walked away feeling "sorrowful."

  4. Optimism is important, even in dark times. Because of Christ, hope abounds. Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims, "'Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You'" (NKJV). In the last chapter of Job, after Job suffers much and has been tested, he cries out, "'I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You'" (Job 42:2). Over and over, we are given biblical examples of people who refused to be downtrodden because of circumstances or events. Their hope was in the Lord. The end result is rest and peace.

  5. Actions matter. It's not just what you believe or your outlook on life that contributes to happiness. People who give to others and aren't self-absorbed are more satisfied with life. No surprise here. God gave His only begotten Son, the ultimate sacrificial gift. Giving is a biblical principle whether it involves finances, service, food, shelter, time or talent. The result of giving is blessing.

  6. Happy people know their strengths and use them. We are stewards of God's gifts and are to use them for His glory. When you move in those gifts and do what God has equipped you to do, you are happy. Psychologists call this moving in the "flow." People of faith "flow" in the Spirit.

  7. People who feel gratitude are happy. We are eternally grateful for Jesus and His sacrifice and for all God has done in our lives. Out of that genuine gratitude flows happiness.

  8. The strongest link to happiness is a willingness to forgive others. The benefits of forgiveness are well documented psychologically. And for the believer, forgiveness is not an option; it is a command from Jesus. We forgive others because He forgave us.

The search for happiness will fall short if it doesn't lead to the One in whom contentment can be found. Authentic happiness is unrelated to events, money, power, fame or anything else our culture associates it with. Happiness is a choice, as the Scriptures declare: "Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 144:15).







This new year, make it a goal to choose happiness by following the guidelines above. Look to God for your satisfaction and learn to trust in His sovereignty and omniscience. Obey Him and believe that He works all things for your good. Remember, His joy is available to you, and it is that which gives you strength. read more

Seeds of Promise

Paging through a botanical magazine last winter, I found myself marveling at the beautiful flowering trees and exotic plants pictured inside. In a moment of sheer inspiration, I decided it would be awesome to have more in my yard than one scruffy pine tree surrounded by a few faded wood chips. Whether impetus or impetuous, this surge of enthusiasm compelled me to order the "Jasmine flowering tree" so exquisitely displayed on page 5.



I was jazzed. In fact, I couldn't wait to get my plant.



Weeks after I had placed the order, however, my excitement was beginning to wane. "Where's my tree?" I wondered. "Spring will be over next week, and I still don't have an award-winning landscape!"



Finally, a package from California arrived. Staring blankly at the way-too-small parcel, I decided it must be the invoice or perhaps the all-important stakes needed to support my new tree. As I opened the little brown box, I simultaneously surveyed the area around me, looking to see where the rest of my delivery was hiding.



After carefully unveiling the mysterious arrival, I stared motionless into the shallow carton. Finally, in disbelief and agitation, I drew out a package of tiny, unimpressive seeds.



My initial excitement quickly dissipated. "You've got to be kidding me," I moaned. "They actually expect me to plant these dead flakes?" I simply could not imagine that I would have to WORK to obtain this tree.



Suddenly I came to a sobering realization: That's how many people would like to go through life—wanting results without doing the work, expecting a harvest without planting the seeds. Unfortunately in God's kingdom it doesn't work that way. In fact, most of what God accomplishes on Earth today starts in seed form.



When God wanted to send a deliverer to save mankind, He sent a seed and placed it in a plain human package. No wonder those who had so long awaited the coming of the Messiah were less than impressed to see an ordinary baby instead of a king.



And what about the teachings of this infant grown to full stature? He taught that the kingdom of God was like a seed which, when planted, would grow gradually: "first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head" (Mark 4:28, NASB).



In other words, Jesus told us that the dealings of God would almost always involve a maturing process. God gives us seedlings of promise that must be nurtured and cared for until they can stand tall like an oak tree.



So many times we get discouraged when we don't see quick results from our labors. We may even become so frustrated that we are tempted to stop and quit. But God's Word helps us remember this principle: The plantings of the Lord begin in seed form.



In Old Testament times when Zerubbabel was rebuilding the temple, people laughed and scoffed as they compared the fledgling work to the majesty of the original built by Solomon. But through a messenger the Lord sent reassurance: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin" (Zech. 4:10, NLT).



Right now you may have a beautiful picture in your heart of what you long for. You may even have dared to ask God for great things and have sensed His promise to you of success.



But when you opened your hands to receive, all you found was seeds—small, unimpressive conceptions. Don't be discouraged! Remember that seeds contain life and have within them the very essence of your promise. If you plant them in good soil and invest yourself in the nurture and development of them, they will grow and bloom forth with fruit.



Today, hear the Holy Spirit whisper to you, "Do not despise the day of small beginnings, for I delight to see the work begin." Plant your faith, my friend, and watch and see what God will do. read more

It Didn't Look Like Christmas

It was 1957, Christmastime. Elvis was my favorite singer. And Christmas was my favorite holiday—except for this year. Daddy's job with the Santa Fe railroad had moved our family—Daddy, Mother, my two younger sisters and me—from our small, friendly town in Kansas to a strange, dusty town in the southwestern desert.



Instead of celebrating a white Christmas with the typical warm and fuzzy sights, sounds and smells I had known each year at Grandma and Grandpa's big festively decorated house, I was thrown into a strange brown land with neighborhoods of small row houses near the train tracks and neighbors who spoke little English. read more

Treasures of the Heart

The Christmas season is so hectic we can sometimes feel like contest winners who are given 15 minutes to grab $500 worth of free groceries. But though not every activity we engage in during this special time is a spiritual one, we can learn to treasure the moments of preparation by keeping the right perspective.



First, there's the planning. How am I going to afford it all this year? This question bounces around inside my head like tennis shoes in a dryer for about a month before the season actually begins. When I'm driving or showering I click out the number of names on my list and how much I can spend on each person, how I can make or bake some gifts to offset the cost of others, which names must go to the top of the list, who will just have to understand, and so on. At some point in my mental calculations, the Holy Spirit breaks through and reminds me that where God guides, He provides.



Then there's the bake-a-thon. Every evening after work the kitchen fills with a cloud of flour. Nuts are chopped in one corner of the room, trays are stacked in another, gingerbread boys and sugar cookies are decorated on the kitchen table, and rows of filled, jellied, balled and candied cookies are cooled and stacked on another counter. They may not be perfect, but I'm comforted by the knowledge that man does not live by bread alone!



Next the tree must be bought and old decorations dragged out of their boxes. My son is delighted to find the special ornament he made in school last year—long since forgotten. He solemnly tells the history and genealogy of each hand-made item. "We got this one when I was very, very young," he—still a young boy—tells his even younger sister. "And I made this one before you were born."



The tree must go up. And no matter how perfectly full and even-branched it looked on the lot, I can't seem to turn it to find the perfect vantage point. Plus, the bottom of the trunk, instead of being straight, appears to be shaped at a right angle to the rest of the tree. Someone is going to need muscle surgery after holding it up until it is finally braced into the stand! But once the tree is in place, I realize my Herculean efforts paid off—the end result is a delight to my children and a perfect symbol of the Trinity.



Before you know it, it's Christmas Eve. I'll send the children on an errand to some corner of the house while I search through packages to find new socks for them to wear to church. Bows will be tied, faces washed, shirts buttoned, and belts fastened, and we'll rush off to church for the candlelight service.



I'll straighten my daughter's burning candle over and over, worried that hot wax will drip on her arm. I'll tell my little boy to shush a thousand times—until the beauty of the candlelit church and singing choir fills us with a silent sense of awe.



But that's not the end of the preparations. Driving home, I'll worry about putting toys together. Instructions become destructions in my hand. It's a good thing the Master Carpenter is there to direct me!



I'll reassure my daughter for the millionth time that Santa will not get burned when he comes down the chimney. We'll fill plates with cookies, and the children will argue over which ones are Santa's favorites. We'll carefully decide where to place the notes and cookies so Santa won't miss them.



After the children have been shooed to bed a dozen times and warned that Santa won't come if they're awake, after the last bows have been fastened to the packages, when the whole house sparkles with the aura of candlelight and shiny wrapping paper—I'll rest.



I'll stare into the glowing embers of a dying fire and recall the sweet scenes of the previous weeks, the treasures of my heart: my daughter's hair filled with flour and her tongue hanging out of the corner of her mouth as she vigorously rolls cookie dough with her toy roller pin; my son's eagerness to give me the gift he made at school; the excited squeals when we lit up the tree; the children wrapping tiny gifts they bought with pounds of paper and tons of tape.



And in those moments of reflection, I'll think about the reason we did all the planning and shopping and baking and decorating in the first place. I'll think about the most important treasure of my heart—Jesus—and I'll thank God for Christmas.



This year, don't let all the demands of the holiday season get you down. Try to treasure each memory you're making, and in the midst of your busyness, take time to reflect on the greatest treasure of all—Jesus, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. read more

An Uncluttered Christmas

I used to be a consummate Christmas shopper. By the time December hit, I was way ahead of the game. I would have a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and toys to die for tucked away on a shelf just waiting to be wrapped and stowed lovingly under the tree. I found that shopping ahead spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped me avoid the last-minute holiday shopping rush.



Sounds like a plan, doesn't it? I thought so, too, until several years ago. Something happened that made me rethink my supposedly brilliant strategy.



It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse! The tree looked bulimic — only I was the one who had binged. Brilliantly wrapped packages were bulging from every available nook and cranny.



I slumped to the floor and thought, "We have only two children. There's enough here for 10!"



My husband and I stared at each other. We realized that things had gotten out of hand. We had to ask ourselves: What message are we giving our children?



One by one we started dismantling the swollen pile. This present can wait for a birthday, this one for next Christmas, this one for a special reward for hard work.

Finally the stack looked sensible.



Right then and there, we made a decision. In the future, Christmas gifts would be limited to three types: (1) A gift really desired; (2) a needed item; 3) something educational. Of course, our children hated the idea and hoped we would eventually come to our senses.



We haven't.



And we've seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of "wants." There is a new emphasis on cherished gifts. This represents a stark contrast to the disturbing trend among kids today to feel entitled to get whatever they want, whenever they want it.



As I've listened to children move through the hallways of our house, I've heard the chatter of "more." "We have more videos than you." "I have a CD player in my room." "You don't have your own phone line?" "I'm asking for a laptop." "You need a cell phone to look important."



They get it from their parents. My favorite is the mother who proudly boasts that her daughter will outdo everyone in the neighborhood. She will have the best of everything -- before everyone else. The daughter knows this strategy and is horrified if anyone beats her to the material punch.



Not understanding her conscious intention to overload her daughter with "stuff," I naively asked, "Aren't you worried you're spoiling her?" The blank stare she gave me was enough to answer my question.



One summer the hot ticket was a scooter. Everyone on our block ran to the stores to buy one. My kids asked, but they knew what was coming: "Tell me again why I should run to the store to buy you a $100 item?"



Materialism not only distorts the meaning of Christmas but also creates ungrateful kids. It's time to stop the madness. Instead of a new scooter, take your kids to a soup kitchen and let them serve. Visit a homeless shelter or a hospital children's ward, and put things in perspective.



I know what I am saying isn't new, but we need to hear it regularly. It's so easy to indulge our kids this time of year. But we need to examine our motives.



Is our overindulgence related to guilt from being absent or unavailable? Is it an attempt to communicate love, compete with others, create an identity or look successful? Is it the result of idol worship, a lack of self-restraint or misguided thinking?



When I see kids quickly open presents and throw them off to the side without even a thank you, I know something is wrong. When little Suzie tells me Christmas was no fun because she didn't get what she wanted, I am concerned. The Grinch hasn't stolen Christmas; our ungratefulness has.



Christmas is about God's giving His Son as a glorious gift to mankind. Don't clutter that gift with so many others that He gets lost in the fray. This season teach the children in your life to cherish the gift they already have — Jesus.

 

Subscribe to this newsletter here. read more

Holy Dissatisfaction

Did you feel guilty on Thanksgiving-the day of all days to express heartfelt gratitude to God—because you aren't TOTALLY content? Perhaps you offered up the obligatory thanks for family, home, job, health and the hearty meal as you sat around the holiday feast, but inside, you were aware that your heart is not quite full to the brim with satisfaction—and you aren't sure what to do about it.

What could possibly be wrong? read more

Reflecting the Lord's Bountiful Love

I opened the front door and came face to face with a rather large gift basket wrapped in clear cellophane with a gigantic velvet orange and brown bow. It was so big that it blocked the face of the deliveryman.



The sight of such a gift was too wonderful for words! As a young married couple, Terry and I were going through hard times, with little money for extras, much less the basics!

The arrival of this surprise basket of goodies was not only timely, but a miracle!

Just who was behind this? read more

Bring on the Towels

Have you ever had mixed thoughts and emotions about your spouse? I have-just this morning, in fact.

Today started out as any other day, but for some reason things just affected me differently than they usually do. I got out of bed and began my regular devotional time with the Lord, reading the Word, studying a powerful book, and praying. When I stood to my feet, I was filled with peace and gratitude.

"I feel great!" I thought to myself. And off I went to begin what I thought was going to be a wonderful day.

The kitchen was first on my agenda. I don't know why, exactly, but I have a plaque over my stove that reads, "A kitchen is the heart of the home." When I was growing up, my mother always kept a clean kitchen, with a pot of something deliciously fragrant simmering on the stove.

The only thing fragrant about my kitchen this morning was a hot, empty coffee pot, left sitting on the coffee maker with the switch in the "on" position, by my husband.

"I get so tired of this," I thought. "Why do I have to clean up his mess?"

I picked up the pot and carried it over to the sink. There I discovered the spoon he'd used to stir the sugar in his cup. It had been set beside the sink and now lay in a brown, sugary puddle. I grabbed a cloth and began to wipe the counter-muttering the whole time.

"That man!" I said in frustration. "Why can't he just put the spoon in the sink where it belongs?"

I decided to tackle the bathroom instead. You can probably guess what I found-beard clippings and blobs of toothpaste in the sink, and puddles of water on the counter top. I turned to grab a towel.

As I did, I looked at my towel, folded neatly in thirds over the rack (Mom said double is allowed, too, but not as nice looking). My husband's towel was bunched and crumpled, as if he doesn't care at all about being neat. I stood there staring.

After a few moments, I started to unravel and re-fold his towel. But something happened to change my whole mind-set and along with it, my feelings. I looked from his towel to mine, back and forth.

I felt myself begin to soften. I started to appreciate and praise God for our differences. Feelings of love, softening my heart, began to manifest. I tenderly touched his towel, leaving it as it had been.

Then I went back into the kitchen to clear the table, where he had been sitting and drinking his cup of coffee. My eyes caught sight of his open Bible and a yellow highlighting pen. I remembered the early morning I discovered him sitting in the same chair with closed eyes and folded hands, offering up a silent prayer to God. read more

Why Me, Lord?

Have you ever asked God why? "Why me, Lord?" "Why not pick somebody else for this?" "Why am I always the one going through the fire?"



In the good times we say, "Lord, I love You." We quote, "Oh, in the volume of the book it is written of me I delight to do Your will, O Lord." Then we add, "Father take me, mold me, use me. Take my life, and let it be consecrated to Thee." read more

The Key To Freedom

When my oldest sister got engaged, I jumped right in to help. I was happy that she was so happy and eager to share in her joy. But what I saw as helping, my future brother-in-law viewed as interference. Our relationship went from bad to worse; my pride had been stepped on and I was hurting. I was treated like the scum of the earth, which only served to fuel my anger at his arrogance.



The more I thought about him, the angrier I became. Soon it was all I thought about. I was angry, bitter and stressed. My thoughts turned to revenge—surely there was some way I could hurt him back. I would have been perfectly pleased if he would have just dropped dead. read more

The Best is Yet to Come

Have you ever read the book of Acts with longing to be back in that time so you could experience the miracles and the move of the Holy Spirit? Don't worry; right now, today, God is turning that water into wine. In fact, He has saved the best wine for last, and the glory of the latter house is going to be greater than the glory of the first (see Hag. 2:9). We are going to walk in such miracles that there will be no comparison. I would rather be in this move of God than to be in the book of Acts, because this wine tastes better.



In the book of John we read that miracles are manifestations of the glory of God: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him" (John 2:11, KJV). You may say, "Well, Brother John, why do you need miracles?" The answer is simple: We need the glory.



"Well, Brother John, why do we need the glory?" The answer is because it is only the glory that will change us into the image of Jesus Christ. Prophecy comes, miracles come, the glory comes and then change comes. We are changed into His likeness.



It is the glory of God that will change us into the image of Jesus Christ. There is no way we can come into contact with the glory of God and not be affected with a positive change.



I am sure that most people have not yet truly come into contact with the glory of God. How do I know? Because people can regularly attend church year after year, hear the Word, and go through all the religious motions, yet they never seem to change into the image of Jesus Christ. They stay the same. They are stuck.



People can pray, read their Bibles, and still never experience the change that God desires—until they come into contact with the glory of God. But the glory of God has not been manifested in a lot of churches; they have neither the unction nor the anointing of God.



It doesn't matter how much people may want to change. They need something more so they can reach the fulfillment of their desires. And that something more is the glory of God. Scripture says that we are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (see 2 Cor. 3:17-18).



We must have the glory of God in our services in order to experience change. What is the glory of God? It is the tangible, manifest presence of God. What do I mean by that?



Most people understand that God is omnipresent; people realize that God is everywhere. People therefore know that God is present whether you feel Him or not. The Bible says the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, beholding the evil and the good. And yet, chances are you are not going to feel the presence of God in a bar. Instead, you are going to feel the presence of demons, sin and darkness.



The glory of God is something you can feel, sense and see. In the Old Testament, the glory of God was manifested in a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. It was also manifested sometimes by smoke, although it was not literal smoke but rather the palpable strength of His presence.



When the glory of God comes, when the tangible anointing and presence of God are in a building or in a person, a person cannot help but be changed. When this happens, you are able to sense the presence of God beyond the faith realm. The influence of God is very heavy because He is manifesting Himself. His manifest presence brings a change.



People cannot come into contact with the glory and presence of God and not be changed.

I want you to notice that the best is yet to come. The Lord has kept back the good wine until the end of the age. You talk about miracles, signs and wonders—you haven't seen anything yet!



We need to pursue the glory and the presence of God. Let's decide today to pursue Him and His glory so that He can change us into His image and experience the best that is to come.

Adapted from God Still Speaks by John Eckhardt, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. This book combines instructive, narrative teaching with powerful truths that helps bring moving in the prophetic easily achievable, while sparking your zeal to pursue the presence and glory of God and be forever changed. To order a copy click on this link: read more

Can Florence Come Out and Play?

It had been a week since my dear mother passed away at the age of 89. As a minister and follower of Jesus Christ, I knew Mother had gone home to be with the Lord. God's Word had promised heaven for all believers in Jesus (see Rom. 10:9,13). Hours before her death, I had even witnessed the miracle of my blind mother waking up from her coma, to see again—and to see a glimpse of heaven.

However, a week later, as I walked through the rooms of her house, I was sorrowful.

Would this sadness ever lift? As Mother's unofficial caregivers, my husband, Terry, and I, had come to stay with her—personally and painfully witnessing Mother, the picture of "spit and spunk"—her term for "full of life"—decline to the picture of a jaundiced corpse. Whenever I thought of Mother, it was this picture of death that would come to mind. It was so sad a picture, so unlike Mother, that it overpowered me, making me sorrowful.



On this day of visiting Mother's house, I finally cried out to the Lord: "Lord, give me a new picture of Mother I can live with—one that assures me You have restored her to joy again!"



My brief prayer request was cut short by the ringing of the front doorbell. It was Pat, a neighbor who had known Mother for years.



Pat offered her condolences about Mother's illness and death. Then, without skipping a beat, she looked me squarely in the eye and announced: "I must tell you something about your mom—or Florence, as all the kids on the block called her. Did you know that the young kids, my son included, liked to knock on her door and say, 'We're here by special invitation—can Florence come out and play?' And she always did!"



A new picture was forming in my mind—Florence, just one of the kids, full of life stepping out to play. By special invitation, mind you!



Then a curious thing happened. My jaw suddenly began to drop and quiver, not from fighting off any more tears of mourning—but from fighting a good belly laugh that was greater than the tears. I could just see it now! "Can Florence come out and play?"



Like a dam bursting, I gushed out a laugh that took me to the ground. I grabbed Pat's shoulders for support, but ended up taking her with me. Picture two mature ladies in white polyester leisure pants rolling around in raucous holy laughter on the wet green grass—in broad daylight. I'm sure this wasn't a pretty sight. But something beautiful was happening. The Lord was showing a daughter in mourning a new picture. Her mother, Florence, stepping joyously into eternity—by special invitation.



God understands our sorrow, and He can give us joy in the midst of it. He also wants to lift the burden of sadness. When we simply ask, He will turn our mourning into joy—and sometimes even laughter in a white leisure suit. read more

Never Give in to Self-Pity

One of the best examples of self-pity is the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda (see John 5). Jesus knew his full condition and then, through Peter, asked the man if he wished to be healed. The man began to explain why he had not and could not be healed. Jesus seemed to quit listening to his self-pity and healed him anyway.



Self-pity is the opposite of confidence and worth. Self-pity happens when we feel we are warranted to receive but get passed by. This can occur in our natural or spiritual life. Self-pity helps define our moment or, may I say, cause us to miss our moment. We feel we are deserving or entitled to a blessing, and we lose faith when we see a blessing slip past our life. read more

Can God Trust You With His Stuff?

When God is first in your life and your greatest desire is to do His will, then every resource you have is available to Him because you understand it all belongs to Him anyway. The moment God sees you are a person who can be trusted with possessions, you suddenly qualify to receive more than you had before!


Do you know what made Abraham great? He trusted in God. Even to the point that when he didn't have a clue what God was doing, he still trusted Him. Abraham's ability to trust the Lord is what made it possible for him to go so far as to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God required it. Abraham understood that the child God had given to Sarah and him was actually not theirs at all.



Isaac came from God, and he belonged to the Lord. If the Lord required him to be sacrificed, then Abraham was simply responsible to manage the task that he was given. Not every chore you are asked to do in your role as a manager will be pleasant, but your willingness and obedience will determine how much God can trust you. In Genesis 22:12, the angel of the Lord told Abraham, "'Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me'" (NKJV).



Was Isaac precious to Abraham? Without a doubt! He was so loved that Abraham named him the son of laughter. However, although Isaac was terribly loved, Abraham knew he could trust God with what he loved the most. It was this kind of trust that enabled Abraham to be the recipient of blessings that others could only dream about.



Abraham was called "the friend of God" (James 2:23). He was blessed in his life to the point where you would have to number the stars in the sky and the sands in the earth to calculate all that he received. He was described as being very rich in livestock, silver and gold. Abraham was increased in his life, and the lives of his descendants and heirs were increased because God could trust him.



When your priorities are centered in your source, and God can trust you with His resources, your priorities will get you where you want to go.



The next priority in your life, after the Lord, should be other people—those in the world around you. For me, that list includes, in this order: my wife and children, my extended family, and my church. Once you've decided to reconnect with God, the next place to start reconnecting is at home.



The desire to live for ourselves is an epidemic. It seems we have adopted this mindset: if it is to our benefit and someone else's detriment, so be it. What is so horrifying about this mindset is that it means no relationship is safe.



There has been a notable increase through the years of the disenchantment with marriage. Without a doubt, the root of divorce is selfishness. But consider these latest trends in our society: parents are harming and abusing their children, children are being arrested for atrocities committed against parents, and siblings are being indicted for murdering their brothers and sisters—all for the sole purpose of having what they want when they want it. From all appearances, it seems there is no limit to selfish men.



The evening news carries one story or another of a mother or a boyfriend or a relative who is being arrested for some monstrosity committed against a defenseless child. Why? Because other people no longer have a place of priority in our lives. We have truly lost touch with one another. We have devalued life to the point that it is considered expendable for the sake of convenience.



However, if you are ever going to be the person of influence that you were created to be then others will need to take their proper place of priority in your life. You can begin by identifying ways that you can be a blessing to others. Place their needs in front of yours, and consider it a joy when those around you succeed.



Answer these questions honestly: Where do others fit in your life? Are you there for them, or are they there for you? You will never truly know the power that relationship possesses until you decide to be there for the other person—no matter what. Can God trust you with His stuff? read more

armsoffather

The Truth About Love

Do you realize that there is a connection between love and power? We know this is true because God's Word says that "love comes from God" and that "the hand of the Lord is powerful " (1 John 4:7; Josh. 4:24, NIV).



The Bible also tells us that "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and describes the ways God expresses His love to us. God says of Himself in Jeremiah 9:24, "I am the Lord who exercises kindness." Paul writes to the Corinthians of the "meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:1). And Isaiah 63:15 refers to the Father's "tenderness and compassion." read more

How to Destroy A Relationship in An Instant

The Bible tells us "when words are many, sin is not absent" (Prov. 10:19, NIV). That's because the tongue can cause quite a storm. Though only a small member of our bodies, it is very unruly and can create havoc in just moments.



Like a swirling tornado of ruinous words, a tongue twister can wipe out a relationship in seconds. One brief "touchdown" from this destructive verbal cyclone can instantly blow the roof off a peaceful household or tear down a bridge of trust that took years to construct. As dangerous and untamable as a rogue wind, the tongue, when unleashed, can create devastating -- even irreparable -- damage.



But what can we do about it? The Bible also declares "the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8, "The Amplified Bible").



Does that mean we are helpless to control it? No! Though the tongue may be as impossible to tame as the wind and waves, we do have a responsibility. In fact, the apostle James wrote, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26, NIV).



We may not be able to "tame" the tongue so that it permanently obeys us, but we are instructed to "keep a rein on" or "reign over" the tongue. Our religion is worthless and ineffective if we cannot measure our words and discipline our tongues to speak only those things that are edifying, gracious and truthful. Sometimes keeping silent is better than even good words. "He who holds his tongue is wise," Proverbs says (Prov. 10:19).



The Bible is full of scriptures that teach us about the incredible force of the tongue and our obligation to "reign over" it. It is clear that God is concerned about the way we speak.



But there's more. It is not just the actual choice of words God is interested in; it is the motive behind the words. The condition of the heart, which cultivates our speech, is His primary concern.



Jesus confirmed this truth in one of His dialogues with the Pharisees. He told them, "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34).



Jesus didn't mince words. He let us know that if we store up evil things in our hearts, the poison will overflow into our mouths and be released through our conversations. Conversely, if we store up good things in our hearts, the flowing river of our words will be uncontaminated and full of life.



The Lord made it clear that it is not what enters into our mouths that defiles us, but what proceeds out of our mouths (see Matt. 15:11). In other words, we are not corrupt because we speak bad words; we speak bad words because of the corruption in our hearts. Our mouths and our hearts are linked together in an inseparable way. If we are unsurrendered in our hearts, we will be unsurrendered in our speech. God's solution is for us to submit both heart and tongue to Him.



That is why David wrote, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Ps. 19:14). Solomon, too, acknowledged the connection between the head and the heart when he admonished: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips" (Prov. 4:23-24).



Since the real heart of the issue then, is the issue of the heart, it is important that we guard our hearts with all diligence and continue to submit to God's probing and testing. He alone knows our true condition. As long as we seek to please Him, as David did, and allow Him to purify our hearts, we can avoid the devastation tongue twisters bring. read more

Stand Strong in the Storm

I love trees! I have always loved trees. So it was only natural that after my husband, John, and I moved into our new house, I developed the habit of sitting in our screened room in my spare moments and staring at the majestic live oak in our backyard.

On one occasion when I was enjoying its beauty, a typical Florida storm began to form. The wind built to a high intensity in moments. As I watched the branches of the mighty oak sway in the strong breezes, I made some observations. read more

What Would You Do?

"You have the choice of resigning or being terminated, effective immediately." My heart sank. The president of the company had just walked into my office, pointed his finger at me and uttered those words. How could this be happening to me, and what was I going to do? As the director of a retirement community, I lived on the property, so I was losing my job AND my home.

What was the incident that had cost me my job? Reading the Bible and praying for a needy Christian resident on my day off. As a result, I was suddenly without a job, homeless, threatened with a lawsuit, betrayed and slandered. Great fear bombarded my mind. WHAT was I going to do? read more

What's That Noise?

I came home from a women's leadership meeting at church one night to find everyone had already gone to bed. Feeling hungry, I went into the kitchen and fixed myself a bowl of fresh blueberries. They were in season and they were magnificent.

Then I heard it. It was a strange noise I had never heard before. It sounded like the lower notes of a cello and it was occurring at five- and 10-second intervals. Not only was this unusual but my dishwasher and the entire kitchen counter would vibrate at each interval. read more

Are You Like Your Father?

One of my most poignant memories of my late father is of him seated at his desk with his Bible open, studying. My dad wasn't a highly educated man, but he was devoted to Jesus Christ and had an insatiable hunger for biblical knowledge.

I remember watching him many times as he pored over passages and prayed for understanding. Years later, I had the privilege of getting a seminary education, and one day during a class lecture, I thought of him.

Surrounded by my fellow graduate students in a stately lecture hall, my eyes began to water. I was imagining how much my father would have loved being in this class.

He never made it to seminary, but because he held out before me the example of someone who "trembled" at God's Word, studying it became my own desire. I observed what he did, and I sought to emulate him.

My behavior was not unusual. Children who are nurtured and trained in the safety of their parents' love seek to embrace the parents' qualities throughout their lives.

Not every one of us has the experience of love and protection in an earthly sense. But in a spiritual sense, we can all attest to having that experience with our heavenly parent--God, the Father.

We are commanded to imitate Him: "Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]" (Eph. 5:1, The Amplified Bible). As His beloved children, we should resemble Him and act like Him.

There's a good reason for this. Our nation and the world are longing to see the reality of God in the lives of His people.

The apostle Paul wrote, "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed" (Rom. 8:19, NIV). There are many for whom a demonstration of the reality of the One we worship is long overdue.

If only they could see Him reflected in His church! If only our brokenness didn't cause us to reflect so poorly on our precious Lord!

What is the creation waiting to see? I believe above all things, the unsaved desire to see the reality of Christ's sacrificial love.

Sadly, it seems harder for us to exhibit unconditional love toward those in the family of God than to those on the outside. We hear too many stories about brothers and sisters who are wounded by other members of the body of Christ.

This kind of behavior isn't lost on those who are looking for God. The unbeliever may not have any great knowledge of who (or what) God is, but he or she is quite adept at identifying who (or what) He is not. I believe the biggest beef unbelievers have with us is our lack of real, sacrificial love for one another.

We simply must love one another more. Now is a moment when hearts are being taken captive to fear. Men and women are desperate to know if there is any hope--any security out there.

Let's tell them, "Yes, there is hope, peace, protection!" Better yet, let's show them the evidence of the hope we have: Let's show them how we love one another. read more

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit