Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stepping Stones: Unresolved Anger Has Poisonous Roots!

May 9, 2012

Unresolved Anger Has Poisonous Roots!

Transformational Thought
When you feel angry with someone or something, do you express your feelings … or do you hold the anger inside? People who bury their anger usually believe they are doing the right thing by appearing calm on the outside and not blowing up. The reality, however, is that unresolved anger will fester and develop into resentment, bitterness, or even depression.

Some people respond to anger by immediately holding it in, and then releasing it or letting it go a short time later without hurting themselves or others. We can do this by playing ball or scrubbing the dishes while calming down, and then having an honest conversation with the person who upset us. When we handle our feelings like this, the results are often beneficial. But if you tend to hold your anger inside and grow resentful, ask God to help you share your angry feelings with people as they occur. We don’t want to share in a rage or with unkind words. We just want an honest but controlled expression of our feelings.

The Bible teaches that we shouldn't carry anger overnight. Get it settled before going to bed. Otherwise, it’s likely that resentment will grow. We see various Bible passages in which God and Jesus expressed their anger or displeasure, but did so with a heart, motivation, and method that were healthy and purposeful.

As we discussed yesterday, anger is just a God-given warning system … letting us know when a real or potential problem exists. Thankfully, until you actually do something about the underlying problem, your brain will continue to warn you. Not addressing the problem is what allows anger to grow, fester, and come out in harmful ways. Or it can be directed inward and lead to negative self-talk, low self-image, depression, isolation, or self-loathing. The negativity against ourselves may include cutting, excessive piercing and tattooing, addictions, or promiscuity.

Perhaps you are already experiencing bitterness because of unexpressed grievances from the past. The answer: when anger starts to warn you, acknowledge the hurt … forgive or ask for forgiveness … address and solve the original problem. You won’t have to work hard at letting go of the anger … because, when the problem is resolved, that original anger will quickly melt away.

Holding on to bitterness can damage your relationship with God, relationships with others, and your peace of mind. It even harms your health, especially your heart, blood pressure, digestive system, and brain chemistry. Being a problem solver, and forgiving and being forgiven can change all that. Ask God … He will guide and help you. Call our Helpline and we will find a therapist to equip you with Biblical skills to manage and express your anger well.

Today, if you notice that someone is angry, ask them, “You seem angry or upset. That anger is warning you about some problem. Can I help you work on or solve that problem?” Ask yourself the same question as well. WITHIN REACH helps you understand and utilize negative feelings to make great decisions. What you do with your emotions is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, forgive me and help me deal with the resentment and bitterness I have been carrying. Give me the strength and wisdom to move forward by acknowledging the hurt, controlling my anger, identifying the problem, solving the underlying issue, and forgiving. Thank You for the wonderful way You designed me. Help me understand that design better so I can be a great steward of my mind and free will. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the best mirror for my eye exam, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many
Hebrews 12:15


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stepping Stones: Make Anger Your Servant…Not Your Master

May 8, 2012

Make Anger Your Servant…Not Your Master

Transformational Thought
Yesterday we talked about how anger is not necessarily about doing something wrong, dysfunctional, or sinful. But we are still left with the important question, “What causes anger?” We often assume anger is caused by a situation in which we find ourselves. We might think that it’s a rude driver, an unfair criticism, or a friend's betrayal. In reality, the answer is "nothing" around us causes anger, even though these situations are usually followed by our own angry reactions. In fact, the angry feeling is actually our own doing. You see the lenses we use to view situations precipitate the feelings of anger. But we usually blame others for “making” us feel that way.

Let me give an example to help clarify. During a basketball game, if my team scores a last minute, game-winning basket, I am excited. But someone rooting for the other team who experiences the same event may actually be angry or frustrated, or have other negative emotions immediately after the shot goes in. The event, a made shot, doesn’t cause the anger. If it did, everybody experiencing the event would be angry. You see, the difference is the lenses we use as we witness or experience the event. That’s the key ingredient that determines our emotional response.

Understanding this key point is so freeing and eye-opening. Anger (or any negative feeling) is a great warning system. Anger lets us know when something is not going right or when potential danger exists. If I were in the woods and saw a tiger, I would get angry, sad, worried, and frightened. That’s an example of a good warning system letting me know something is not safe, and it pushes me to action. Without negative feelings I would probably walk merrily through the woods and get devoured by the tiger.

When someone insults us or treats us badly, we should get angry. That lets us know a problem exists in the relationship and needs to be addressed. Hopefully, we look at our options and choose how to respond. God has given us free will to control our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Will we choose unkind words or find a way to "get even"? Or will we problem-solve and forgive? It's our choice. No matter what our backgrounds or the current circumstances, we are responsible for our own behaviors and we can’t blame them on our emotions.

Unfortunately, we often let our anger rule us. It becomes the main influence on our decision-making. Anger serves us well as a warning system. But anger is a very poor master when we let it become our decision-maker in any situation. None of us express our feelings appropriately all the time. But the Bible tells us, For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. Philippians 4:13.

Today, notice when you feel angry. Stop and thank God for a great warning system. Then look below the anger to the problem and address it. If you don’t, your warning system (anger) will keep on alerting you until the problem is resolved. Let Jesus help make anger your servant instead of your master. Follow His attitude, actions, and teachings. WITHIN REACH helps you understand your feelings, their role, how you misuse them, and how you can soothe them and then steward them to the max for your benefit and God’s glory. Your response to your anger is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, thank You so much for my anger, and all my negative feelings. It is awesome to know you gave me a warning system that alerts me to problems and danger. When I am wronged in some way, help me to choose the Godly response … the one that is pleasing to You. Teach me to control my anger, to have patience, to problem-solve, and to forgive. Thanks for Your soothing Spirit when I feel angry. Help me to allow You in when I feel this pain. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who teaches me how to handle all things well, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.
Proverbs 19:11

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stepping Stones: Anger … Right or Wrong?

May 7, 2012

Anger … Right or Wrong?

Transformational Thought
Anger: right or wrong? The answer is that anger is right … and the answer is it can also be wrong. Anger is a God-given emotional energy designed for good. But the way we use and express anger-produced energy can often be dysfunctional and lead to sin. But anger doesn’t have to lead to frustration, or worse yet, sin. With God's help, we can control the thoughts and actions that come when an event precipitates angry feelings in us. We can actually utilize our anger in a productive way for a great outcome.

The Bible tells of many times when anger was a positive force for achieving good: Moses' anger when the Israelites worshipped idols resulted in their repentance (Exodus 32:19-35); Jesus' anger motivated him to clear blasphemers and abusers from his Father's temple (Luke 19:45-48).

Actually, it seems like God is angry and jealous during half of the Old Testament, as mankind, especially the Israelites, chronically rejects God, and exalts himself to the throne doing his own thing. Remember why God sent the flood. Consider His response to the Tower of Babel. Think about the me-centered activities of Sodom and Gomorrah and God’s anger. Since we know God never sins, we know anger itself can’t be a bad or sinful thing. So then, what is anger and how can it be useful to us?

In fact, our anger can be a positive force in many daily situations. Appropriate anger in response to our children's wrong behaviors can motivate us as parents to exert firm but loving discipline. Anger against injustices and wrongdoing in our communities can motivate us to do something positive about those situations. Anger energizes and motivates us to take action when we might otherwise be passive in areas of struggle or conflict. Tomorrow, we will dig into anger’s best and most important role in our lives.

But we also need to be very careful, because our anger can also lead to sinful acts of selfishness, unkindness or even aggression. It is our responsibility to use our anger-induced energy in positive ways, even if it's just walking around the block to cool off. Satan knows that we have a lot of trouble handling our emotions, so he is always trying to push our emotional buttons. Most of the spiritual warfare is focused on deception and pushing emotions, especially negative ones. This is why alcohol and drugs, and even caffeine are so dangerous. These substances interfere with our control circuitry, and allow our feelings to surface unchecked. This is why suicides, domestic violence, sexual assaults, and physical fights often happen under the influence.

Today, if you experience anger, stop and remember that anger itself isn’t bad. It’s what you decide to do with your anger that determines a positive or negative outcome. When anger gives you energy to solve a problem, you need to figure out what the problem is … thinking with your head, not with your anger. As we find with most situations in life, how you manage your anger is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, forgive me for the times I have used my anger in sinful ways instead of as a positive force. I know I get irritated easily and for reasons that are me-centered. Help me to control my thoughts and actions and to use my anger in positive ways. Teach me to take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, not to my own desires. Help me to develop eyes that see life more clearly and from a bigger perspective, Your view. I pray this and all prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry … but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. 
Ephesians 4:26-27

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stepping Stones: “Turn To Jesus” Means…

May 5-6, 2012

“Turn To Jesus” Means…

Transformational Thought
Can you believe all the changes since the year 2000? Computers, laptops, iPads, cell phones, texting, the internet, Netflix. And that is only a slice of communications. So how refreshing is this fact … Jesus never changes! When you climbed out of bed this morning, regardless of how you might have felt, or the subtle changes you went through last night, Jesus had not changed during the night, the last decade, or the past 2000 years … or forever. He is trustworthy and consistent, a solid rock in which to ground yourself.

            Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

No matter what your situation, you can turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus … what does that mean? Obviously not just a physical turning, but let’s look at something more practical and powerful. First, we need to turn away from the world’s values, the world’s way of measuring success, its influences, and its decision-making strategies. It means turning away from the desires of our flesh.

What choices are you facing? In every circumstance we all make one very key decision that determines the outcome of that particular situation. That key choice is, “Which lenses will I use to view, experience, and assess this particular event God has allowed to come into my life?” Turning toward Jesus really means understanding, grabbing hold of, and using God’s instruction, forgiveness, grace, promises, and character to form the lenses I will use to view each situation God brings my way. Following Jesus means … choosing His way and His lenses, not yours … choosing to receive His love and all that goes with it … choosing to trust Him.

If you use His lenses, of course you will still have problems and challenges. Remember the trials Jesus endured? But each one of these opportunities (yes, I called them opportunities) will be easier to navigate. And even more, you will get through them in a way that grows you psychologically and spiritually, because it won’t be you who responds to the adversity. Jesus, who lives in you, will be responding. You will perceive and respond in a Christ-like way, thus actually developing the Mind of Christ.

Today, choose to turn to and trust Jesus, doing things His way. Examine your lenses, that is your attitude or worldview. Do you engage in life’s adversities with a Godly perspective, or a me-centered view? God has room to work in your life. He will help you move on past the hurt, pain, and failures of the past. He will give you hope for the future. Use lenses based on who He is and what He teaches. Don’t use those distorted lenses with all the muck you’ve accumulated from this world. Your lenses are your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I do want to trust You … not just verbalize it, but actually trust you in every circumstance. I know You love me and that Your plan for me is the best plan. Please keep me on track … show me the next step … and the next one after that. I know turning to You isn’t physical, it is all mental. Help me turn it all over to You and allow Your perspective to be my lenses. Not just in the good times, but also in the times of testing and discomfort. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one whom I choose to follow, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!
Proverbs 3:5-7

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stepping Stones: Give Me What I Want

May 4, 2012

Give Me What I Want

Transformational Thought
Jesus taught the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. This young man really showed us the classic mentality guiding decision-making that is still prevalent in all our lives today: “I don’t need authority or rules because it’s all about what I need and want … now!” ‘Fess up! We’ve all been there, even in our adult life.

Deciding to set out on his own, he arrogantly, disrespectfully, and selfishly asked his father for his inheritance. Off he went. He proceeded to make more bad choices, squandering his money on wild living. Eventually, the money was gone and he hit rock bottom, feeding another man’s livestock. Even worse, he was so hungry, even the food he was feeding the pigs looked good. He thought of home … even his father’s servants were eating better than he was.

“I think I’ll return home and become one of my father’s servants”, he thought. “I don’t deserve more than that, but I believe he’ll hire me.” Several good decisions happened here: to admit his error, to stop blaming others, and most importantly, to face up to and take responsibility for his actions.

When he approached his home, the young man’s father was actually out waiting for him. When he saw his lost son coming home, he ran out to meet him with open arms, killed the fattest calf, and celebrated his son’s homecoming with a huge party. This powerful message reveals God’s incredible yearning to be with us and to shower us with amazing love and limitless forgiveness.

Don’t we often ask God for our inheritance, meaning our salvation and other spiritual assets, and then say, “Thanks, but I don’t need you anymore? I’m off to satisfy my needs, my way, on my timeline, with no regard for my future growth?” Like the prodigal’s father, God gives us free will. He hopes we choose to follow His instruction, but He is always waiting with forgiveness and open arms when we come to our senses.

Have you made some bad decisions, wandered off and squandered your inheritance, gifts, talents, blessings, and opportunities to do good … felt that your way was better than God’s? We all have, but don’t continue to wallow in the pig slop of your wrong decisions. Return to Him. Enjoy the contentment and celebration of letting Him be your Teacher, Counselor, Coach, Lord, and most importantly, your Father who sacrificed His own Son to adopt you.

Today, many opportunities exist to run with your inheritance and do life on your own. When you get that urge, STOP! Examine the costs. Sleep on it and run it by another person the next day. Pray, asking God for wisdom. Make the right choice to follow the stepping-stones to your Heavenly Father and submit to His authority and guidance. Make good decisions, because you either live with their consequences, or get to reap the rewards of poor ones
. Life is your choice, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I’ve made so many mistakes. I know many of the things I’ve done have not pleased You, but I thank You for this assurance of Your love and forgiveness. Please forgive me and take me into Your loving arms. I need You Father…I need more of You. Sometimes the grass looks greener, but I know shortcuts are never worth it. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who opened His arms on the cross for me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stepping Stones: Map To The Promised Land

May 3, 2012

Map To The Promised Land

Transformational Thought
Hopefully, as you have been with us, you have recognized an area we emphasize consistently: Decision-Making. All of life comes down to choices and decisions. We have many forks in the roads of our daily walks that call for decisions. Amazing as it seems, we make 10,000 decisions each day. And that is actually a conservative estimate according to most scientists.

God gave us free will to make our own decisions. But God also gave us the Best Instruction Book for Living Everyday, the BIBLE. You see, God is all about helping us make great choices so we can enjoy maximum growth and fulfillment. The biggest choice we have to make is whether we will trust Him to guide us, and then trust the guidance He gives us.

The Bible promises us that if we follow God, all things will work together for our and His good. I have found this to be so true. As I trust Jesus to help me make the right choices, I know without a doubt that no matter how things may look right now, in the end they will work out for the best. His way is always the best way … and His time is the best time.

So why should you trust God? First of all, He loves you more than you love yourself. He sacrificed more for you than you ever have or ever will sacrifice for yourself. In fact, He loves you so much that He gave up heaven and then died on the cross … for you. His love is perfect—and nothing can ever separate you from that love. You are that important to Him. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death
nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  - Romans 8:38-39

Second, He knows what is best. He knows what is best for you in the here and now. And more importantly, He knows what is best for you in the future. He sees the whole picture … a perspective we can never have. Today’s scripture beautifully expresses the blessing of trusting Him in all plans and decisions.

And lastly, He is able. He has the power over all things to work out circumstances for your growth. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Today, you will be on the verge of making some knee-jerk decisions that won’t be good ones. Instead, try this. Stop for 5 seconds and choose to trust His way when you get to that fork in your road. “Why?,” you may ask. Well, we laid out our case above. But if that didn’t convince you, look at your own track record. Really, what else are you going to trust? Yourself, other people, material things, your looks, your sparkling wit, your health, your job, the economy, our world leaders, your bank account? Has that strategy really delivered the abundant life and Promised Land Living you’ve been yearning for? Trust Him. You will never regret it. Life is your decision, so choose well!

Dear Father God, forgive me for the times I thought I knew more than You. I know that You love me and want only what is best for me. And I know that no matter how things may look sometimes, Your way is always the best way. Help me to trust You more and choose to do things Your way. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one I trust completely, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That's right—you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
Psalm 119:1-3

The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is WITHIN REACH. The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
Deut. 30:9a, 10-11,14-16

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stepping Stones: Shortcuts: Better Think Twice

May 2, 2012

Shortcuts: Better Think Twice

Transformational Thought
On a recent business trip, I was standing in line at the omelet station of a nice restaurant serving brunch. Four or 5 people were ahead on me in line. Then a well dressed, middle-age man and his teenage son walked to the front of the line to place their orders. A couple of us gave him “The Look.” You know, the “you did something wrong, but I don’t want to be verbal and embarrass you or bring more attention to you.” The man seemed oblivious. Just before an older woman was ready to blow, the chef gently told the man there was a line.

As the man stepped back, I assumed he was just making an honest mistake, so I jokingly asked; “Were you trying to cut in line?” His response saddened me as he bragged in front of his son, “Absolutely … if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

It’s hard to measure, but it sure feels like our society is increasingly turning to shortcuts, and even cheating, to get what we want. And the guy in the omelet line was not only attempting to cheat … he even adopted a slogan to glorify it. If this is what he does in public, he must be even worse when no one is looking. He has no accountability is in place to contain his behavior. What is he teaching his young son?

Then I realized how often “I cut in line” during the day. Sleeping in … taking that extra doughnut or cookie … not confronting a situation that needs it … procrastinating on a less desirable project … judging someone before all the evidence is in … doing a task halfway … leaving a wrapper behind the garbage for someone else to pick up. And these all happened before lunch! I am too embarrassed to tell you my major “short-cuts” … otherwise known as bad habits, addictions, and dysfunctional patterns. These are the shortcuts I take away from God’s plan … how I cheat in life.

It’s unbelievable what we are willing to do to avoid a little discomfort. Then we rationalize that it’s self-protective, when actually, it is incredibly self-destructive. Our shortcuts harm our brain circuitry, our personality and psychological skill maturation. They are especially harmful to our spiritual walk: developing the Mind of Christ. You see, these shortcuts don’t renew the mind, They undermine, weaken, deceive, and brainwash our mind.

Today, examine your behaviors and actions. Are you taking shortcuts … or cheating? Why? Does it feeling “good” or avoid some discomfort worth sacrificing? When you cheat, you are actually cheating yourself. Even worse, you are cheating God out of the best you can offer. Sort of like Cain. Be mindful that even minor infractions eventually trend toward major violations. Conversely, small character- building actions truly renew your mind so you become a powerful lighthouse of good character. As always, the decision is yours … don’t harm yourself by choosing shortcuts, choose well.

O God, I confess that I have been guilty of cheating … in small ways and in big ones. I ask for Your forgiveness, Father. I know You have protected me from the many consequences of my shortcuts. Thank You for Your amazing grace. I pray that You fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that He may guide me to the “right-way” … into “Your way” in all that I do. Help me to recognize that shortcuts are not beneficial to me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who always avoided shortcuts with ultimate integrity and character, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say - AMEN!

The Truth
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Luke 16:10

The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.
Proverbs 29:27