OVERCOMING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS:

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Chronic negative thinking, depression, anxiety, and similar disorders are on the rise all over the world. Fear seems to be a root cause of many of these problems. It’s no wonder people are fearful in a world where it appears nothing is reliable. It can be quite disturbing for a person to realize almost everything in life is ultimately out of his control—from the weather to his bank account balance. All the things people rely on for their security will sooner or later fail them. But the Christian who confesses the sovereignty of an Almighty God who works all things for his good (Romans 8:28) has the antidote to negative thinking.

When a Christian’s thinking is primarily negative, anxious, or doubtful, it’s a sign of a serious lack of faith. The author of Hebrews states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, according to Proverbs 29:25, fear is a trap but trust in the Lord keeps a man safe. Jesus, when boating with His disciples during a terrible storm, asked them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26). Those who struggle with negative thinking should do the same thing they would do with any other sin—confess it (agree with God that negative thinking is wrong because it reveals a lack of trust) and make every effort to change the behavior.

Prayer is a key part of overcoming negativity. Jesus taught that prayer should include praise to the Father and a focus on His holiness (Matthew 6:9; see also Psalm 95:2). As we pray “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6), we focus on the blessings we have received and leave no room for negative thoughts. The Holy Spirit will be faithful to help the repentant believer overcome negative thinking (Matthew 7:7–11).

Daily Bible reading, particularly studies that focus on the promises of God, are of great help in overcoming negative thinking. It’s helpful to remember that, no matter how dismal the present circumstances, Christians have been promised God’s love and victory in Christ (Romans 8:37–39; 2 Corinthians 2:14).

The Scriptures are bursting with admonitions from God to His people to overcome fear and doubt—over 350 commands to “fear not.” As a matter of fact, the one verbal encouragement Jesus gives more than any other is a call to fearless living (e.g., Matthew 6:25; 9:2; 10:28; 10:31).

The struggle against negative thinking is a battle for the mind. The apostle Paul tells believers what to think about: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Besides defining what thoughts should fill our minds, this text implicitly teaches that we can control what we think about. When a negative thought comes, the thinker who has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) has the ability to push it out of the mind and replace it with godly thoughts. This takes practice, but with persistence, it gets easier. Christians must think about what they’re thinking about and not allow their minds to have free rein. In our spiritual warfare, we’ve been given the helmet of salvation—spiritual armor for the mind.

As long as Christians live in a fearful, stressful world, negative thoughts will come. We have the option of either stamping out those thoughts or nurturing them. The good news is, negative thoughts can be replaced with positive ones, and the more that godly substitution takes place, the more peace and joy we can experience.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HEALING FROM THE HURT OF A BROKEN RELATIONSHIP:

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The world is full of people with broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken relationships. The pain of a broken relationship includes a very real sense of personal loss, not unlike bereavement. Sometimes the hurt is so great it prevents people from functioning properly and, in extreme cases, can result in mental breakdown or even a desire to commit suicide. The world puts forward various ways to assuage the pain: taking antidepressants, writing an angry letter and tearing it up, going on a shopping spree, getting a makeover, etc. Some advocate the power of positive thinking. The most common “cure” is time. While the intensity of a heartbreak may wane over time, only a child of God can experience complete recovery because only the Christian has access to the power of the Spirit of God, the One who “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Jesus understands the pain of rejection. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest associates (John 6:71; cf. Psalm 41:9). As we deal with the pain of a broken relationship, we must take our burdens to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). He weeps with those who weep (John 11:35; Romans 12:15), and He is able to “empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).

A broken relationship can be the source of many negative emotions. Christians understand the futility of allowing their emotions to guide them. Jesus Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and has made us accepted in Him (Ephesians 1:3, 6). This acceptance transcends all feelings of rejection we may have because it is not based on “hope so” but on “know so.” We know that God has accepted us because God’s Word tells us so, and as we appropriate this truth by faith, it changes our hearts and lives.

Everyone experiences the hurt of a broken relationship at one time or another. We are bound to be hurt and disappointed, for we live in a fallen world. What we choose to do with that hurt and disappointment can make us stronger in our walk with the Lord. God promises to walk through the disappointments in life with us (Hebrews 13:5), and He wants us to know His provision for us is sure. His grace and comfort are ours as we rest in Him.

Every born-again child of God has blessings in Christ, but we have to choose to utilize them. Living in constant gloom and dejection over a broken relationship is like having a million dollars in the bank and living like a pauper because we never make a withdrawal. It is also true that we cannot use what we do not know. Therefore, every believer should seek to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18) and to be “transformed by the renewing of [his] mind” (Romans 12:2). We must face life armed with a real understanding of what it means to walk by faith.

As believers we are not defined by past failures, disappointment, or the rejection of others. We are defined by our relationship with God. We are His children, born again to newness of life, endowed with every spiritual blessing, and accepted in Christ Jesus. We have the faith that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).

God has prepared for each of us unique opportunities to walk through the “all things” of this life. We can either walk in our own strength and what the apostle Paul calls our “flesh,” or we can walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is our choice. God has provided us with armor, but it is up to us to wear it (Ephesians 6:11–18).

We may suffer disappointment in this life, but we are children of the King, and the rejection we experience is a momentary pain compared to eternal glory. We can allow it to keep us down, or we can claim the heritage of a child of God and move forward in His grace. Like Paul, we can be “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

Forgiveness of others is important to the healing process. Holding on to bitterness or nursing a grudge only poisons our own spirit. Yes, we may have been truly wronged, and, yes, the pain is real, but there is freedom in forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift we can give because it was given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:32).

What a comfort to know the God who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). God is always near to comfort the believer. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). God, who cannot lie, has promised to go through our trials with us: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2).

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). In reality, feelings come from thoughts, so, to change how we feel, we should change how we think. And this is what God wants us to do. In Philippians 2:5, Christians are told, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” In Philippians 4:8, Christians are told to think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. Colossians 3:2 says to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” As we do this, our feelings of rejection diminish.

Overcoming the hurt of a broken relationship requires taking one day at a time, praying for God’s guidance, and reading and meditating on God’s Word. The healing can never come from our own efforts; it comes only from the Lord. It helps to take our eyes off ourselves and focus on God instead. He can make us whole. He can take our brokenness and make us into what He wants us to be. A broken relationship is painful, but the Lord is gracious. He can give our lives meaning, purpose, and joy. Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). Our Lord’s relationship with His children is one that will never be broken.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW IMPORTANT IS PHYSICAL ATTRACTION WHEN LOOKING FOR A SPOUSE?

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There is no doubt that God created men and women to be physically attracted to one another. The sexual component in marriage is important for intimacy between husband and wife for procreation and the survival of the human race. At the same time, arranged marriages—including those in which the couple do not even see each other until the wedding—were the norm in centuries past and are still practiced today in parts of the world.

Solomon described the attraction of the bridegroom for his beloved in chapters 4 and 7 of Song of Songs. He describes her physical beauty and his desire for her. She reciprocates in chapter 8, describing her passion for him and her desire for his embrace. Song of Songs is a beautiful depiction of conjugal love in which physical attraction is a component.

This is not to say that physical attraction is the most important aspect to be considered when looking for a husband or wife. For one thing, beauty should not be defined by the world. That which the world finds beautiful falls well below the standard of beauty described in Scripture. Physical beauty fades with time, but true inner beauty shines forth from a woman who loves God (Proverbs 31:30). Peter encourages women to develop inner beauty that comes from “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Peter 3:3-5). Outer beauty is fleeting; inner beauty is eternal.

The attractiveness of a man should also be that which comes from within. The most obvious example in Scripture is Jesus, who “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Yet the beauty of His grace, as the incarnate Son of God, shone forth from within Him to all who truly knew Him. The strength of character displayed in the Son of Man should be modeled by every man on earth.

Outward beauty is fleeting, but men and women whose judgment is impaired by sin place undue importance on it. God’s perspective is different. “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). A prospective husband or wife should be a genuine, born-again Christian who is growing and maturing in the faith and who is obedient to Christ. Two people having the same purpose in life—to glorify God in all they do—will find that their physical attraction to one another increases daily and lasts for a lifetime.

Prophet Nathan Emol

PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE:

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Preparing oneself for marriage biblically is the same as preparing for any life endeavor. There is a principle that should govern all aspects of our lives as born-again believers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This is not a flippant command. It is the centerpiece of our lives as believers. It is choosing to focus upon God and upon His Word with our whole heart so that our soul and our mind are occupied with the things that will please Him.

The relationship we have with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is what puts all other relationships into perspective. The marriage relationship is based upon the model of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Every aspect of our lives is governed by our commitment as believers to live according to the commandments and precepts of the Lord. Our obedience to God and to His Word equips us to fulfill our God-given roles in marriage and in the world. And the role of every born-again believer is to glorify God in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In order to prepare yourself for marriage, to walk worthy of your calling in Christ Jesus, and to become intimate with God through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), focus upon obedience in all things. There is no easy plan to learn to walk in obedience to God. It is a choice we must make every day to put aside worldly viewpoints and follow God instead. Walking worthy of Christ is to submit ourselves in humility to the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis. That is the preparation every believer needs to be ready for the great gift we call marriage.

A person who is spiritually mature and walking with God is more prepared for marriage than anyone else. Marriage demands commitment, passion, humility, love, and respect. These traits are most evident in a person who has an intimate relationship with God. As you prepare yourself for marriage, focus on allowing God to shape you and mold you into the man or woman He wants you to be (Romans 12:1-2). If you submit yourself to Him, He will enable you to be ready for marriage when that wonderful day arrives.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW NOT TO TAKE OFFENSE IN LITTLE THINGS:

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Trying to not take offense is like trying to not think about elephants. If someone says, “Don’t think about elephants,” we automatically think about them. If we focus on trying not to take offense, we will keep thinking about the offense. This principle applies to just about any sin a person can commit. When we focus on a behavior, even in an attempt to eliminate it, the result is more of that behavior. This is just how our minds work. Thankfully, there is another, better way to address this problem.

People are lured and enticed into sin as a result of desire—wanting is the beginning of sinning (James 1:14). Every sin or bad behavior begins with desire. Desire itself is not bad; there are many good desires. But the desires that lead to sin are wrong desires, the desires based in false perspectives and misplaced expectations about others and ourselves. To eliminate a bad behavior, we must first discover the desire behind it.

For many people, the tendency to take offense at little things is rooted in a false perspective of security. We all desire security and safety; we desire the good opinion of others. We secure those good opinions with performance: what we do, how we speak, how we dress, how we express ourselves, etc. When our security is based on our performance, we may feel threatened when someone expresses something negative about us. The natural response to that threat is to take offense or become angry. Even a casual, flippant, or offhand remark can gnaw at us and steal our peace. The way to prevent taking offense is to address our desire for security. As long as feelings of security are rooted in ourselves, the tendency to take offense, even at the little things, will exist. If, however, our feelings of security are not rooted in ourselves or our performance, our perspective will change and our response to the actions and comments of others will become more balanced.

Remember the acronym COP.

Cover. Twice in the book of Proverbs, we are told to “cover” offenses (Proverbs 10:1217:9). The covering of offense is related to love. First Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins”—and that “multitude” would have to include small slights. In any relationship, there are many irksome things that should just be “covered” for the sake of love. By covering an offense, or not revealing it to others, we are empathizing with the offender and extending the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he did not mean what he said; perhaps we misunderstood. Perhaps the offender was having a bad day or wasn’t thinking straight. Covering the offense of another helps us, too. Remember the elephant? When we focus on the needs of the person who offended us, we no longer think about how offended we feel.

Overlook. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; / it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Forgiveness is an honorable thing. When you cover an offense, you give grace and empathy to the offender. When you overlook an offense, you choose to give something valuable to yourself—the reminder that your security is not based on others’ opinions of you but on the security you have in Christ (see Ephesians 1:5–7).

Pray. Jesus told His disciples on multiple occasions that if they prayed for anything in His name (or, according to His will) they would have what they asked for. Do you believe that God wants you to be angry with others, or forgiving of them? Do you believe that your security is in Him, rather than in yourself? If you pray consistently, asking Him to help you not take offense, He will answer that prayer. If you ask Him to remind you of His secure and steadfast love, He will answer that prayer. You can confidently pray for help in every offending situation (Hebrews 4:16).

In Bethany, as Jesus was reclining at a table, a woman entered the room with an alabaster jar of fine perfume. The woman broke the container and anointed Jesus’ head with the fragrant ointment (Mark 14:3). Immediately, she was criticized; in fact, “they rebuked her harshly” (verses 4–5). The woman could have taken offense at their words. It would have been natural for her to react in kind. But she didn’t have to. Jesus came to her defense: “Leave her alone” (verse 6). The woman’s love of Christ and her meek response to an offense were honored, and “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (verse 9).

To sum up, when we take offense, it is because someone has hurt us or frightened us. God has given us two ways to deal with the offense. First, by remembering that the other person also has things that hurt and frighten him. When we love the offender and focus on his needs (cover and overlook), we will no longer notice the offense. Second, by remembering that, when we belong to Christ, we are fundamentally secure in Him; we do not need to react and defend ourselves, because He has promised to defend us (Isaiah 35:3–4). When we struggle to trust Him or to believe that we are secure in Him, all we need to do is pray for the strength to do so, and we know that He will answer (John 14:13–14).

Prophet Nathan Emol