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In step


Conquering What?

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."1

Stephen Muncherian, in his sermon, "Oh, For One Good Lawyer" told about former heavy-weight boxer, James "Quick" Tillis, a cowboy from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. Tillis recalls how, on his first day in Chicago, after getting off the bus, he stood outside the Sears building and, putting his two suitcases down, looked up at the Tower and said to himself, "I'm going to conquer Chicago." When he looked down, his two suitcases were missing!2

That's Chicago! Having lived there when I went to college and looked up at and been to the top of the Sears Tower, I can empathize with Tillis.

We can be confident, excited, and positive one moment and be disillusioned the next. That's life. We live in a broken, sinful world and disappointments come to us all. We put our trust in people and get ripped off. We get hurt deeply when someone we love turns against and attacks us. We get our hearts broken when we are abandoned, rejected, or have lost a loved one through death.

Pain comes to us all. The important thing is that we don't allow these circumstances to make us resentful and bitter. God wants to use these situations to help us grow and make us better persons. Satan wants to use them to discourage us and make us bitter. Indeed, the negative circumstances of life can make us bitter or better. The choice is ours.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, no matter what happens to me help me always to remember that while it rains on the just as well as the unjust my life is ultimately in your hands, and that all things do work together for good to those who love and put their trust in you. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


His appointment
For reading & meditation: Proverbs 22:17-29
"Listen to this wise advice; follow it closely, for it will do you good ' Trust in the Lord." (vv.17-19, TLB)

Are you afraid of loneliness? If so, then it is likely that there is a greater fear than that in your life - the fear of "a corn of wheat afraid to die". Settle that fear, and all other fears are as nothing in comparison. When our attitude is that of complete and utter surrender to God and confidence in the outcome of His purposes, then we can face anything that comes - good, bad or indifferent. An extremely prominent minister who was greatly used by God got caught up in a spiritual conflict because he had his eye upon a position in his denomination which he desired for himself.

He shared his desire with a prominent laymen and tried to get him to use his influence in securing the position. The layman said: "I do not think it right to use my influence in the way you ask. The decision must be with those who have been selected for that purpose." The minister was deeply upset by his friend's remarks and became extremely bitter and morose.

In due course the position was given to someone else, and the minister, unable to cope with the disappointment, withdrew from the ministry and now lives in a big house all by himself - terribly alone. He was "a corn of wheat afraid to die". Had he been willing to die to the desire for self-aggrandisement, position and prestige, he would have seen the disappointment as "His-appointment".

Now he is lonely with the loneliness that comes to all who fail to realise that God always gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him. My Father and my God, I see that there is no greater loneliness than the loneliness that comes from being locked into my own purposes and my own desires. Help me to be continually centred in You and not in myself. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen


My Father and my God, I see that there is no greater loneliness than the loneliness that comes from being locked into my own purposes and my own desires. Help me to be continually centred in You and not in myself. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen


The World's Greatest Treasure

I recall hearing how the Duke of Norfolk once sent a priceless family treasure to the King of England as an expression of his love and esteem. It was the Portland Vase, a rare antique which had been handed down for generations. Wanting to share this treasure with the nation, the King had the vase placed in the British Museum.

Sometime later came disaster. In the Duke's own realm his chief servant plotted to overthrow the Duke and take his place. He was subsequently caught and dismissed.

Eaten up with resentment, the servant vowed to get even with the Duke. Remembering the Duke's priceless gift to the King of England, he went to the British Museum in London to find it. When no one was in sight, he climbed over the barrier, picked up this priceless treasure and smashed it into a thousand pieces.

"Save every piece," the King said when hearing of the tragedy. "This is my most treasured gift. We'll search for someone who can repair it no matter what the cost." Eventually, a man was found who, with painstaking skill, sorted each broken fragment, and meticulously placed it back where it belonged.

Though I cannot vouch for its authenticity, this story offers a graphic illustration of God's dealing with mankind. Biblical accounts tell of an angel who lived in heaven. Second only to God, he was brilliant, beautiful, and majestic. His name was Lucifer, son of the morning. He, too, had a problem with pride. Plotting to overthrow God, he said, "I will ascend into heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will set enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will make myself like the Most High."1

Lucifer, now identified as Satan, the Devil, was caught and dismissed from his pinnacle of power and cast out of heaven.2 Filled with bitter resentment, he was determined to strike back at God. This is when he changed to a being filled with evil and determined to destroy the apex of God's creation—mankind. He did this by causing mankind to sin and consequently be separated from a God of purity and holiness—in whose presence no sinner could ever survive.

But because God is also a God of infinite love he sent his Son, Jesus, to save broken humanity by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and mine, so we could be freely forgiven and placed back into God's "masterpiece" of creation.

When Jesus healed all the sick who came to him, and forgave the prostitute, the thief, the despised tax collector and all who asked for forgiveness, he was picking up the broken pieces of his creation and lovingly placing them back into God's master design. All were of infinite value to him.

And when God found me, another piece of broken humanity—a fallen, lost sinner—he picked me up, forgave my sin, healed my spirit, and placed me back into his great plan. Today, Christ the Savior is still seeking the lost and calling young and old alike everywhere to come to him for forgiveness, to receive his gift of eternal life, and to be placed back into his divine plan. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened," Jesus said, "and I will give you rest."3

Christ's invitation includes you too, dear reader. Today he is calling you to come to him for forgiveness, wholeness and the gift of eternal life. This indeed is the world's greatest treasure.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you gave your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to save me from the consequences of my sins and to forgive me, and thereby place me back into your master plan for my life. I confess that I am a sinner and, believing that your Son, Jesus, died to pay the penalty for all my sins, I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Please help me to become the person you want me to be and always live to faithfully serve you. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


The Greatest Loneliness
For reading & meditation: Psalms 119:17-32
"I will obey thee eagerly, as thou dost open up my life." (v.32, Moffatt)

Now that we have seen how crucial is the spiritual principle that life is preceded by death, we move on to consider some of the areas into which God leads us so that this principle may be put to work. If, as we said, this principle is "the deepest law in the universe", then we should not be surprised when God provides us with opportunities to demonstrate its effectiveness. The first area we consider is loneliness. Is this a situation in which you find yourself at the moment?

If so, then you can respond to it in one of two ways: you can rebel against it and wallow in self-pity, or you can face it in the knowledge that God is with you in your loneliness and will help you turn it into something positive. Geoffrey Bull, when speaking of his lonely life in Tibet in his book When Iron Gates Yield, said: "The Lord had appointed me to stand in solitude upon the threshold of crisis, yet the only loneliness I had need to fear was that of a corn of wheat afraid to die." A corn of wheat afraid to die - that is the greatest loneliness.

Just as there is one sin - the sin of making yourself God (all the rest are sins), so there is just one loneliness - the loneliness of being alone with a self that is not surrendered to God. You see, if you do not understand the principle that going God's way is always the best route to spiritual fruitfulness, then loneliness will hold tremendous terror for you. I say again: there is no greater loneliness than a self that is afraid to die.

O God, if You see that I am "a corn of wheat afraid to die", then uproot that fear - in Jesus' Name. May I echo the psalmist's words: "I will obey thee eagerly, as thou dost open up my life." Amen.


What You Love to Do? Do That!
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life . . .
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace—Matthew 11:28-29

We’re all built by the same creator. And we’re built by him to “come home,” every so often. This coming home is integral to the lives we're meant to live. God’s built us to need, and to receive, his loving care. He’s built us to be restored, by him. (Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 11:28).

The thing is, many of us men don't know how to come home. We’re each designed to do it uniquely, so it takes some discovery. Few of us do that. If we do discover how, though, and if we begin to come home regularly, we live in a condition of abundance. We get filled up—and are able to overflow onto others, onto spouses, children, friends, people in need. We are able to give, for we’ve first received. We’re able to love and serve as we were meant to. We’re able to be who we were created to be and to do the work we were created to do.

If we neglect the task of discovery, if we fail to learn how to come home, we operate instead in a condition of depletion. We tend to try to pull what we (think we) need from other people. We tend to try to take from them, rather than overflow onto them.

Make a list of ten to twenty things—things you truly love doing. Avoid obligations or things you “love” because other people might think you’re cool for doing them. List things that move your heart, calm your heart, or make it beat fast. List things that restore you, excite you, connect you to God, things that allow you to truly worship him in the doing. Once you have your list, commit to inserting your things generously into your daily, weekly, monthly calendar.


God of remarkable surprises
For reading & meditation: Psalms 18:20-40
"O thou Eternal, thou wilt light my lamp ' thou wilt make my darkness shine." (v.28, Moffatt)
If you have not yet taken hold of the truth we have been discussing over the past few days, then grasp it with both hands today: the greatest loneliness is the loneliness of "a corn of wheat afraid to die". If we are afraid to die to our own purposes and allow God's purposes to become supreme, then we finish up pleasing ourselves but not liking the self we have pleased.

And again, being willing to face any situation that comes with the conviction that God will make it contributive enables us to face life with an inner fortitude and poise. Understanding this truth and being willing to apply it to all circumstances and situations is one of the greatest safeguards against emotional or personality problems. In fact, I would go further and say that it is one of the greatest defences against reactive depression that I know. I say "reactive" depression because there are some forms of depression which are chemically based and result from malfunctioning of the body's chemical systems.

Reactive depression is the depression that comes from the way we interpret the knocks and hardships that crowd into our lives. And what greater hardship can there be than loneliness? The Bible teaches us, however, that God will never allow one of His children to find themselves in any situation where He is not able to help them - loneliness included. Someone has referred to our heavenly Father as "the God of remarkable surprises". What a fascinating description - and how true. In the midst of life's loneliest moments, God has a way of approaching us and revealing Himself in ways that we would never have conceived possible.

Father - surprise me. In some way today, let the wonder of Your concern and care for me break through the ordered routines and duties of my life. Pull aside the curtain and give me a fresh glimpse of Your face. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


Communication: Key to Effective Relationships Part I

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."1

"Hey, Dad, what do you think of that?" asked one of my sons on one occasion when I was driving him to school.

"What do I think of what?" I asked as I had no idea what he was talking about.

"That ad on the radio," he replied rather surprised.

The radio was at a reasonable volume but I didn't hear a word the advertiser said. Why? It's because we all have what communicators call a mental filter system. In other words we have a tendency to hear only what we want to hear and filter (or block) out everything else. This is called "selective attention."

This is only one reason why relationships can be so difficult … too often we don't listen to what the other person is saying and hear only what we want to hear. This can leave partners very frustrated. "I said such and such," one says and the other replies, "No, you didn't." "Yes, I did." "No you didn't." And the self-defeating cycle continues.

Not only do we have selective attention, we also have selective exposure in that we mostly expose ourselves only to those things we want to see and hear. Like the wife who leaves the book, Seven Ways to Fulfill Your Wife's Needs, on the TV hoping her husband will read it! Chances are he won't see it, let alone pick it up and read it.

To make matters worse, another filter we use is selective perception which means that we perceive or see things the way we want to see them—often based on our needs, interests, wants, or self-concept. For instance, the man dying of thirst in the desert sees mirages of desert springs. Or if I have a poor self-image and you give me a compliment, I will think you are lying or wanting something.

To be concluded …

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be always truthful, not only with you, but also with myself and others, and always speak and communicate the truth in love. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Lonely - but not alone
For reading & meditation: John 16:19-33
"' you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." (v.32)

We spend one last day looking at the issue of loneliness. Our meditations on this subject have made one thing clear: it is in the periods of loneliness that we most abandon ourselves to God and learn how to depend upon Him utterly and completely. The more I read the biographies of those who have achieved great things for God, the more I realise that their deep knowledge of Him came, in part, out of moments of profound loneliness. It was in such moments that "the God of remarkable surprises" revealed Himself and gave them an understanding of His grace and power such as they could never otherwise have known.

Is it not true that God's glory bursts through most powerfully when the sky is at its darkest? Does not His strength uphold us most when we are feeling weak and inadequate? And does not His love penetrate most deeply when we feel unloved or isolated from others? When we are prepared to die to our own interests and are willing to follow our Lord fearlessly along the path which He sees is best for us, we experience, not just temporal, but eternal rewards. The seed that falls into the ground and dies is the one that yields a rich and bountiful harvest.

Many of us fail to be fruitful in our Christian life and experience because we are afraid or unwilling to face the issues which demand a whole-hearted commitment to the will of God. We save ourselves - and then what? We finish up by not liking the self we have saved. Make no mistake about it - God's way is best, even though a thousand hardships beset the path.

O God my Father, give me the courage of Jesus who, despite His loneliness and isolation, went on to achieve Your perfect will. Quicken within me today the sense that when I am walking with You I may feel lonely, but I am never alone. Amen.


Communication: Key to Effective Relationships Part II

"Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your 'Yes' be yes, and your 'No,' no, or you will be condemned."1

If you are a parent, I'm sure you have noticed the profound difference in the response when you call your kids on a hot day to tend to their chores or call them to come in for their favorite cold drink and a chocolate ice cream!

We adults aren't that much different … a little more subtle perhaps, but as the communicators remind us we all pretty much hear only what we want to hear and see only what we want to see. To complicate matters even more, because of selective distortion, we see things the way we want to see them. That is, we see things not the way they are but the way we are.

Selective distortion means that we distort messages to make them match our values and/or perception of reality. For example, the more dishonest I am with my inner self (my true emotions and motives), the more I will distort all messages to make them match my values and/or perception of reality. I will even distort God's Word to make it say what I want it to say.

In other words we all see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, see things the way we want to see them, distort them to make them match our perception of reality, and finally, because of selective retention, we remember only those things we want to remember—everything else is conveniently forgotten.

These dynamics happen not only in political races, but also at every level of society and affect all our relationships. While political campaigns fortunately pass, relationships are with us forever.

For effective relationships effective communication is vital. This includes avoiding the distortion of reality and speaking the truth truthfully as well as listening without distorting what we are hearing.

There are many words of advice one could give regarding how to communicate effectively, but the bottom line is this: be real! For instance, the more unreal or in denial I am (the more repressed and dishonest with my true emotions and motives), the more I will distort all facts, messages, and communications to make them match my perception of reality. On the other hand, the more real, honest, and truthful I am, the clearer I will see all other truth, including God's truth, and the less I will distort these.

The fact remains, without access to the truth—including one's own inner truth—there are no authentic relationships and no effective communications.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be real and always honest with my true emotions and motives. And please deliver me from any form of distortion when listening to others and in all that I say. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Knowing God
For reading & meditation: Psalms 142
"When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way." (v.3)
We referred yesterday to our heavenly Father as "the God of remarkable surprises". We must stay with that thought a little longer and draw from it further inspiration. Who hasn't seen the scenario in the old silent movies in which a victim is tied to a railway track by a handlebar- moustached villain? But the story isn't over: invariably, moments before the train comes thundering around the corner, someone rescues the hapless victim from what looks like certain death - and often in the most surprising manner. Have you not often found a similar scenario in your own life?

Just when it looks as if you are facing what seems like unmitigated disaster, the "God of remarkable surprises" turns a desperate situation into an opportunity for unparalleled joy. How does He do it? Just when we are feeling as if there is no one in the world who cares and that we will not be able to get through the day, He draws close to us and wraps the warmth of His presence around us in a way that makes the experience of temporary isolation worthwhile.

You see, sometimes our knowledge of God is just theoretical - we know Him in our heads, but we dont really know Him in our hearts. In the depths of loneliness, however, this undergoes a deep change the theory is turned into reality. Someone has defined loneliness as "the surprising opportunity to know God". It is. When there is no one but God - those are the times when we learn to know God - and really know Him. The experience of loneliness is not easy to go through, but believe me, it is worth far more than the cost.

Father, something within me still shrinks away from the challenge that You are putting before me. Help me to understand, however, that in order to know You - really know You - I must be willing, not just to trust, but obey. Amen.


Father, something within me still shrinks away from the challenge that You are putting before me. Help me to understand, however, that in order to know You - really know You - I must be willing, not just to trust, but obey. Amen.


Solve the Scripture Problem
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path—Psalm 119:105

We must read Scripture, brother. God chose those words for you and for me. “Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us” (Romans 15:4 MSG). God chose those words, carefully, so we could read them. And he designed us to need to read them. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Most of us can do better—reading Scripture more and with more regularity. Figuring out how is the problem. But it’s a problem we should approach with excitement and intentionality and optimism, not with guilt or reluctance or resignation. It’s a problem we should approach with creativity, recognizing our unique designs and identities, our unique preferences and tendencies—for the solutions to the problem are as unique and varied as we are.

Don’t know where to start? Try one of the many reading plans on the free YouVersion mobile app. Can’t find time? Try listening, in the car or at the gym, to one of the several audio versions on the free Bible.isapp. Struggle with consistency or motivation? Try the daily reminder feature of the free BibleGateway app or the tracking and/or group accountability features of the free Bible Companion and ReadingPlanapps. Don’t like archaic language? Try The Message version, available free on YouVersion and BibleGateway. Can’t remember what you’ve read? Try the free Fighter Verses memorization app. Something else? Work those masculine problem-solving skills to forge your own solution. Then, execute it.

And, remember, this is about a relationship, not about rules or the “right way.” It’s about making a little room for God to speak to you through Scripture. It’s about connecting with God, today.

* Gather Ministries has no commercial relationships with the makers of the mobile apps mentioned above.


From Holy Ground
For reading & meditation: Psalms 27
"One thing I ask of the Lord ' that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life '" (v.4)

We said yesterday it is in times of deepest loneliness, when there is no one there but God, that we learn to know Him most fully. Not long after my conversion in my mid-teens, a preacher I greatly admired came to stay in our home. I had the opportunity to sit with him for many hours asking him some of the spiritual questions which, up until then, had greatly perplexed me.

During one period of discussion I said to him: "Tell me, what is the secret of your great and powerful ministry?" It was quite a while before he answered, and as I waited I pondered what his answer might be. Would he say, "It is the way I use words", or "My skill at chiselling attractive and appealing phrases", or perhaps, "My insight and understanding of the Scriptures"? It was none of these. He said quite simply: "If there is any power in my ministry, it has come out of walking with God through the valley of loneliness."

I cannot remember in the whole of my life ever hearing a more compelling and moving statement than that. It introduced me to a truth that I myself had to learn - that the route to knowing God often passes through the valley of profound loneliness. The depth of character that is developed through loneliness is something that not only enriches the life of the individual concerned, but spills over into the lives of many others also. In periods of loneliness, the Master draws us into His presence so that later, when we speak to others, they sense we are speaking to them from holy ground.

O God, help me to commit my will to Your will, not to be borne but to be done. If knowing You - really knowing You - means walking through the valley of loneliness, then lead on, dear Lord - I will follow. Amen.


Wait! Wait! Wait!
For reading & meditation: Psalms 31
"How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you '" (v.19)

As we move on we start to think about some of the red furrows of life from which we often draw back. At such times we become "a corn of wheat afraid to die". But as we are seeing, where there is no death, there can be no life. Outside the furrow we remain safe, warm, comfortable - and unfruitful. First we shall consider what I am calling "divine delays" - those periods of life to which God leads us when it seems that nothing is happening and that His purposes for our lives are temporarily shelved.

Perhaps you are at this point at this very moment. If so, don't panic - God's delays are not His denials. Our Master has a purpose in everything He does. You must believe that, even though your fears scream the opposite. One of the most difficult things to do in the Christian life is to wait for God's purposes to come to pass. Sometimes they take so long to materialise that we find ourselves getting vexed and frustrated. Have you heard about the Christian who prayed: "Lord, give me patience ' and I want it right now"?

Wouldnt you rather do anything than wait? A man told a Christian counsellor I know: "Waiting for God to bring His purposes to pass is the biggest problem I face in my Christian life; there is something within me that would rather do the wrong thing than wait." As waiting for God to bring about His purposes is more the rule than the exception in the Christian life, we had better learn what God has in mind when His red light flashes out the signal, "Wait! Wait! Wait!"

O Father, teach me to trust You when Your plans and purposes for my life are seemingly delayed. I confess that impatience is one of the most difficult things for me to "die" to. I cannot do it on my own. Help me, my Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Taming Your Anger - Part I

"If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the Devil."1

Your test seems to indicate that you have some buried anger," said the counselor to his client. "Do you think this could be true?" he asked.

"Me! Angry? Certainly not," replied the client. "I'll punch you in the nose for saying that!"

When it comes to anger we all have a tiger of sorts within. At times it provides great courage and motivation. It causes some of us to lash out and hurt others. At other times we are so afraid it will get out of control we bury it so that nobody, including ourselves, will ever know it exists.

Many of us were taught that anger is bad and to show it is immature. The mature person, however, doesn't deny his anger. He has learned to express it in appropriate ways.

Even though some people never show their anger, everybody gets angry sometimes. Anger is a God-given emotion. Of itself it is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. It's what we do with it and how we handle it that counts.

In fact, there are many things we ought to be angry about, such as social injustice, child abuse, greed, and even legalistic religion that makes rules more important than people and keeps people in needless bondage.

Jesus was very angry with the religious people of his day for this very reason. When he healed a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were so furious they plotted to kill him. To them, religious observances were more important than the needs of people. We read that Jesus "looked around at them in anger…distressed at their stubborn hearts."2

Think too of Florence Nightingale. She was very angry about the terrible conditions suffered by wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. She used her anger creatively to bring about major changes in nursing care. This is a creative and healthy use of anger.

To be continued.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to so live that I will always recognize and resolve my negative emotions as quickly as possible, and do so in creative and helpful ways—and never ever become bitter or nurse grudges. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


The desire for God
For reading & meditation: Psalms 42
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God '" (v.2)

Yesterday we looked at the words: "Whom have I in heaven but you?" Now we examine the second part of that text: "And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psa. 73:25b). Personally, I find these some of the most enchanting words in the whole of the Old Testament. The first part of the verse is put in a negative, and the second in a positive form.

Having looked around and seen that there is no satisfying substitute for the Almighty, the psalmist goes on to make the positive assertion that from the bottom of his heart he desires to know God. He has come to see (so I believe) that it is more important to desire God for who He is than for what He does or what He gives. In a sense, the psalmist's entire problem arose out of the fact that he had put what God gives in the place of God Himself.

The ungodly were having a good time while he was having a bad time. Why was he having to suffer like this? His trouble was that he had become more interested in the things God gives than in God Himself, and when he didn't have the things he wanted, he began to doubt God's love. Now, however, he has come to the place where he desires God for Himself.

The ultimate test of the Christian life is whether we desire God for Himself or for what He gives. Each one of us must ask ourselves: "Do I desire God more than forgiveness? More than release from my problems? More than healing of my condition? More than gifts and abilities?" How tragic that our prayers can be full of pleadings that show, when they are examined, that we are more interested in enjoying God's blessings than we are in enjoying God.

O Father, forgive me that so often I am concerned more with Your gifts than I am with You - the Giver. Help me to long after You, not because of what You give me, but because of who You are. In Jesus' Name I ask it Amen.


Taming Your Anger - Part II

"If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the Devil." 1

One of the worst things we can do with anger is to deny and repress it. Long-term repressed anger turns into hostility and contaminates everything we do. And there is probably nothing more destructive to personal relationships than unresolved buried anger or hostility.

Even worse, when triggered, it can have fatal results. According to The Bulletin, an Australian magazine, in one year 80 percent of the homicide victims in one state were killed by family members or intimate friends. Most of these fatal attacks were the results of quarrels in everyday situations.

Hostility can show itself in any of a number ways: a negative, critical attitude, nagging, sarcasm, gossip, resentment, hatred, slamming doors, shouting, taking it out on the children, kicking the cat, aggressive driving, childish "I'm hurt!" crying, rebellion, denial of sex in marriage, deviant behavior (prostitutes, for example, are often angry at their fathers or men who abused them), putting people down, constantly running late, passivity, withdrawal, rage, and even criminality—or becoming saccharine sweet in an attempt to deny that they are angry. The list is endless.

Or, as Dr. Cecil Osborne explains in his book, The Art of Understanding Yourself, repressed anger may eventually come out in the "form of some psychosomatic illness: ulcers, asthma, arthritis, colitis, dermatitis, heart ailments or any one of a score of others."2

Hostility attacks people. Healthy anger is directed against wrong(one word-)doing, is connected with love, and is the right amount of anger for the given situation. A helpful question to ask yourself if you think you might be overreacting is: "Should I be this angry?"

People who overreact to situations often have a lot of repressed anger. The immediate situation which out-of-proportion anger brings out doesn't cause it, it triggers what is already there.

The Bible also says, "If you are slow to get angry, you are wise. But if you are quick-tempered, you only show foolishness."3 This isn't an excuse for denying one's anger, as denial can be equally foolish and destructive.

Being quick-tempered is usually overreacting, another sign of unresolved anger.

Again, as the Bible reminds us: "So get rid of your feelings of hatred [anger]. Don't just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty."4 Also, "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the Devil."5

How then do we resolve anger? We'll answer this question in tomorrow's Daily Encounter.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to always be in touch with my true feelings whatever they are, and be honest about them to myself and to you, and learn how to resolve them in healthy and loving ways. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Taming Your Anger - Part III

"So get rid of your feelings of hatred [unresolved anger]. Don't just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty."1

First, be honest and admit how you are feeling and don't pretend you are something that you are not. This only worsens and complicates matters and doesn't resolve anything.

Second, accept yourself as a normal human being who sometimes has angry feelings.

Third, ask God to help you admit your true feelings and to lead you to the help you need to resolve them in healthy ways.

Fourth, accept responsibility for your feelings and don't blame others for your feelings. What the other person has done to us is their issue, but how I respond is always my responsibility. Also, don't blame the devil. When I get angry, the devil doesn't make me do it. I can get angry all by myself. Neither is my anger a demon as some would have me believe. As the Bible says, when we don't resolve our anger we "give a mighty foothold to the devil." So, when we resolve our anger, he, the devil, loses his foothold!

Fifth, determine to resolve your feelings the same day or as quickly as possible

Sixth, express your feeling creatively—perhaps to an understanding friend first or to an "imaginary" substitute, and where necessary, to the person at whom you are angry. This is not an excuse to lash out at others. The goal should always be to "speak the truth in love."2

When expressing anger we need to verbalize the emotion. Talking about the anger doesn't resolve it. The emotion needs to be released—not as an attack, nor to blame another for it, but as an expression of our feeling—realizing that our anger is both our problem and our responsibility. When this is done adequately, the anger dissipates.

It is neither true nor helpful to say, "You make me mad." This is blaming the other person for your reaction and puts him or her on the defensive. It is more helpful to say, "I need to talk to you about such and such. I feel very angry about this. I know my anger is my problem and I may be overreacting, but I need to talk to you about this matter." That is, use "I" messages, not "you" messages.

Anger can also be expressed in writing, as David did in the Psalms.3 I have done this many times, after which I have torn up the piece of paper. Where necessary I have very carefully re-written those feelings (to speak the truth in love) and personally shared them with the other person or people involved.

Resolving relationships is very important. Christ reminds us that if we have any conflict with another person, we are to put things right before bringing our gifts to God.4

Seventh, before expressing anger, check to see if you are feeling afraid or threatened, because anger is often used as a defense against feeling afraid. If fear is the problem, talk about that.

Eighth, if you can't resolve your anger in any of the above ways, be sure to see a highly trained, qualified counselor. I know this can be costly but we can't afford not to resolve our anger. Otherwise the adverse effects caused by unresolved anger and especially hostility will be far more costly in terms of relationships, and emotional and physical health.

Last, when you have resolved your anger, forgive, forgive, forgive! This will forever free you from all who have hurt you.

For physical, emotional and spiritual health we need to be in touch with all our feelings (positive and negative), and use and express them in creative ways. This, too, is the way of love, for unresolved anger turns into resentment and builds barriers between friends, loved ones and even God, and blocks out love.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you again for your Word which gives positive instructions for healthy and productive living. Help me to apply it to my daily living, and resolve and get rid of all negative emotions. And help me to do this in healthy ways and always to speak the truth in love. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


No satisfying substitute
For reading & meditation: John 6:60-71
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." For reading & meditation John 6:60-71(v.68)

We come now to what is without question the topmost rung of the ladder which the psalmist began to ascend when he entered the sanctuary of God. Here, in view of his experience, he can do nothing but give himself to the adoration of God. This is what he says: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psa. 73:25).

The inevitable consequence of working through our problems in the presence of God is that we worship Him. Countless times I have seen people fall upon their knees at the end of a profitable counselling session and worship God. In fact, this is one of the great purposes of Christian counselling - to enlighten people about their spiritual resources and help free them to draw closer to God. The psalmist has found that there is no one in earth or heaven who can do for him what God has done.

He has come to realise that when he plays truant with the Almighty there is simply no way in which he can make sense of life; that, as Othello put it: "Chaos is come again." Have you come to this same place in your own life? Can you say that you have seen through everything in this life and have come to the conclusion that nothing can satisfy you but God? Then you are in the happy position of the disciples who, pausing to consider how they could replace Jesus, said "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." They saw, as hopefully you have seen, that there is no satisfying substitute for Jesus.

O Father, how can I ever be grateful enough for the realisation that no one can do for me what You can do? You are my centre and my circumference; I begin and end with You. May the wonder of it go deep within me today and every day. Amen


What of the future?
For reading & meditation: Philippians 1:3-11
"' he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (v.6)

We saw yesterday how the psalmist sensed that despite his doubts and failures he was still accepted by God. But there's more - he realises also that God's restraining hand has been constantly with him: "You hold me by my right hand" (Psa. 73:23). What was it, after all, that prevented him going over the brink? It was the protecting hand of God.

God Himself had put it in his mind to go into the sanctuary and had thereby turned him round. Realising that, he thinks of the future. What is the future going to be like? His conclusion is that the future is going to be just as secure, for: "You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory" (v.24). Can you sense the psalmist's security as he contemplates the future? He is saying, in effect: "You are doing this now, holding me by my right hand, protecting me, restraining me, restoring me and delivering me, and I know You will keep on doing this right up to the time when I meet with you in glory."

How does God guide us? Through circumstances, through reason, through the fellowship of Christians, but mainly through the Scriptures. The Word of God, when we consult it, unfolds reality, dispels illusion and guides us safely through the snares and problems of this earthly way until we eventually arrive in glory. The psalmist had seen the end of the ungodly and it had helped to change his perspective. Now he sees the end of the godly and thus his perspective becomes even more clear. And what is the end of the godly? It is glory!

O Father, let the prospect of coming glory fill and thrill my soul this day and every day. Help me never to forget that no matter how hard and difficult my earthly pilgrimage may be, it is as nothing compared to the glory that lies ahead. Amen.


Dare You to Pray This . . .
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me—Psalm 51:10-11

In the aftermath of adultery and murder, King David pleaded with God. He begged God not to cut him off (Psalm 51:11). You see, David had experienced what it’s like to know God, what it’s like to spend time with him, to listen to him and trust him, to love and be loved by him—and he dreaded losing that closeness and goodness and truth. So, in desperation, he invited God to do something new in him. He invited God to rebuild his heart, in any way he would like (Psalm 51:10). He gave himself up. He gave himself over . . . to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for him. He decided to trust God more than he trusted himself.

How about we do that too? We may or may not be guilty of adultery or murder, but we’re all sinners. We all carry sin’s taint. “If we say we have no sin . . . the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). So how about we too invite God to do something new in us? How about we too give ourselves over to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for each of us? And, how about we do it, as men, together? We’ll be better for it—God’s brilliant, he’s good, and he loves us. Might it be scary? Sure it might. Might it be a little painful even? Sure it might. Will it be one of the best things we ever do? Absolutely it will.

Pray right now:

“Do a new work in me, God. You’re brilliant and good, and you love me. So do whatever you’d like. And, whatever it is, I’m in. I’ll trust you more than I trust myself.”