Handle Life Positively

Handle Life Positively

Chapter Four

Handle Life Positively
Set A Guard At Your Mind's Door 60 The Upward Call 68
Indifference Puts Blinders On Our Christian Eyes 62 The Power Of Possibilities Thinking! 70
The Larger Outlook 64 May We Borrow Your "Yadder"? 72
The Importance Of Thinking And Acting Positively 66 Discussion Questions 74

Matthew 12:43-45; Psalm 19:14; Philippians 4:8

Set A Guard At Your Mind's Door

Have you heard a good joke lately? Can you remember the punch line? Down through the years, I have heard many jokes that I cannot remember. However, there is one joke I heard as a teenager that I wish I could forget. I have analyzed why I remember it in every detail. When I heard it, I was very impressionable. It was a very graphic to all my senses.

Down through the years, at the strangest times, in the most unusual circumstances, that joke kept coming to my mind. It was a real battle for me, at such times, not to rehearse its every detail in my mind. However, I would never repeat it aloud to anyone. I hated the loathsome thing. I would never poison another mind with it.

Finally, while reading Matthew 12:45, the victory came to me. When an evil spirit had been driven out, the unoccupied house had been swept clean and put in order. Then the evil spirit brought in seven other spirits more wicked than itself to live there. I realized that it is not enough to clean my mind of filth, but I needed to fill that emptiness with something clean, refreshing and inspiring. I prayed, "Lord, please give me a substitution to replace those thoughts."

The words of beautiful hymn flooded my mind, "My Jesus I love thee. I know thou art mine. For thee all the follies of sin I resign." I claimed those words, as a wonderful gift from God. Now, whenever that joke (because it is still imbedded in my memory), or any other thought I do not want to entertain, invades my mind, I switch over to "My Jesus, I love thee." Praise God, it works! I highly recommend this method for anyone. Overcoming the evil by replacing it with good, holy, pure thoughts is a key to Christian growth. Find a song or a verse of scripture that becomes part of your tongue, stored in your heart, and imbedded in your mind.

Our thoughts feed on the things that have been hidden in your hearts. Although you may have difficulty remembering all the references, you can no doubt quote word for word many verses that you memorized as a little child. That is a good incentive to teach verses, even whole chapters to our children. Families can memorize not only the words, but the meanings of the verses as they are quoted to one another.

Each of our children earned their way to camp when they were in the Junior Department. First Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, paid their camp tuition for learning one hundred Bible verses, such as the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 91 and John 3. Philippians 4:8 exhorts us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We must first plant such thoughts in our minds and hearts. We can control our thoughts, but it is by choice and selection. Set a guard at your mind's door,

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a filter through which stories, jokes, and thoughts must be filtered before they are allowed to become residents.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my mind be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord. Help me often to utilize the substitution song you have given me."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will laugh and rejoice over happy thoughts and songs God gives me. I will set a guard at my mind's door so unclean thoughts cannot enter, take root and grow.

– Laura Drewer –

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2 Samuel 12:2 Chronicles 7:14

Indifference Puts Blinders On Our Christian Eyes

Our nation was in great pain, as a result of a sex scandal involving our President (the last years of the 20th century). The whole world focused on the investigation and detailed real life soap opera. However, whether he was guilty or innocent really was not the greatest issue facing the country. Our ship was struck but the tip of an iceberg.

The shocking reaction from the people reveals the true cancer which is destroying our nation from within. People were either waiting with itching ears for every detail of the dirty laundry or they were displaying an attitude of total indifference. Even Christians were heard to report that everyone else was saying: "Who cares? We need to be tolerant. His sex life is his own business. It is not interfering with his job. It is not illegal. It's no big deal. It happens all the time. So what? Forget it and let's get on with more important things." We are only deceiving ourselves. Red lights should flash and emergency whistles sound. But we ignore it and return to making daisy chains.

How should Bible-believing Christians react to publicly proclaimed defiance of God's principles? What message is our children receiving when their role models, the leaders of our nation, sin and the people wink at it? Some parents find it difficult to instruct their children in God's standards because of sexual sins in their own lives. They may have confessed to God and are forgiven, but their past has become an obstacle to their Christian growth and their confidence to teach their own children.

Today, by ignoring God's plan and exhibiting an attitude of tolerance and indifference toward sinful sexual relationships, we are reaping the tragic results which plague every community: sexually active teenagers, abortions, unmarried girls giving birth, school dropouts, children raising children, poverty, child abuse, pornography, prostitution, battered women, divorce, adultery, homosexual relationships, rape and on, and on.

The Bible is full of stories of sexual sin. However, unlike the indifferent spirit of today, people then reacted with intolerance. The law was very clear that a man and woman should be stoned. However, when a woman caught in the very act was brought to Jesus, He forgave her and said, "Go and sin no more." His counsel was positive.

Love, counsel, and forgiveness have to start at home. If your past has become an obstacle in your path to serving God, repent and receive His free forgiveness. Then rise up and teach your family God's principles. Reach out in our community and see what you can do to prevent tolerance of sexual sins.

The million men with the 'Promise Keepers' movement who met in Washington D.C., in 1998, repenting of their own sins, and crying out in prayer to God for their nation,

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now need to rise up as one man, standing in the gap and say, "We care! Adultery is wrong!" They need to form a group called Men Against Sexual Sins. When a man and a woman are joined in marriage before God and many witnesses, a promise is given, a vow is taken, and a contract is signed "Forsaking all others, I will keep myself for you alone as long as we both shall live." Sex belongs in marriage alone. Period. Sex is God's wedding present to that couple and it is beautiful.

"Father, please forgive our indifference to the instructions you have given us in the Bible. Restore our nation to obedience to you. Heal our land."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: America will again be known as a Christian nation because Christians will rise up and stand against the wrong by speaking out for the right.

– Laura Drewer –

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Genesis 15:1-6

The Larger Outlook

Three times before that day in the tent, God had spoken to Abram about descendants (Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15-16). They would be as numerous as "the dust of the earth." There in the tent, limited in vision, physically and in faith, with childlessness as the focal point of Abram's thoughts, God comes the fourth time to him and promises: "I am your shield; your reward shall be great." Most of us would have accepted that statement and would have gone merrily on our way. Not Abram. He was interested in something more tangible and visual of what God had promised. "Remember, God, the promises about descendants!" His was a maturing faith.

Knowing that an object lesson rather than a myriad of words would be more effective "He (God) brought him (Abram) outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars if you are able to number them… So shall your descendants be.'"

Tents are rather confining, limited in vision and movement. Our family had a tent in the camping experiences in the Black Hills (SD); Jackson Hole country (WY); and other places. But oh, how the horizons expanded, and sight stretched away into infinity when we stepped OUTSIDE.

OUTSIDE the tent that night Abram looked into the heavens. How long he stood and pondered, we know not. Even though he did not understand everything, he would trust God. He folded the tent of unbelief, laid it aside, and lived in the "OUTSIDE".

We need the tent from time to time. Those segments of confinement and inside-ness, closeted. The closet is needful. Difficulties tend to limit our vision; they become the focal point and burden of our thinking, shutting out the total view of life. So God comes and speaks: "Let's go OUTSIDE!" We do, and there hand in hand with God as we silently view the picture in its totality, the difficulties of life come into proper focus.

Unknown presses on every side, limiting our vision. The 'what if?" questions come from the corners of our crowded mind; – but then, the realization of our commitment to God that He does all things well, enables the vision to clear.

Our work, so burdensome and intense at times, gives rise to a heaviness settling upon our spirits. Then OUTSIDE in the total context, we recognize this particular issue is a part of the whole.

Problems press the soul. Questions come. 'What? Why? How? Why? Once OUTSIDE in fight of the larger outlook, we recognize that God gives enabling grace.

At the point of our test vision God reveals Himself, faith is strengthened. All things come into proper perspective when OUTSIDE, by faith we look up. A tent limits vision; OUTSIDE, the enlarged vision gives hope and clarity.

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"So often, our Father, the cares and frustrations of life press us down, even into a corner. But you come and invite us to go OUTSIDE. What a change! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God enabling me, I will not allow life's burdens to limit my vision. Instead, I will place all things in the context of God's will, and trust.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Philippians 4:4-9

The Importance Of Thinking And Acting Positively

Everyone who reads has their favorite authors and subjects. Currently, Max Lacado is my preferred writer. As for favorite subjects, anything on the grace of God, or any uplifting, positive books grab my attention.

I am presently reading one of the 'positive thinking" books which a friend recommended to me. It is very good and more realistic than many of the other similar type books I have read. This particular author emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive in any given circumstance. Regardless how terrible the situation may be.

While reading this book at the car repair shop (because I had lost some radiator fluid in my Honda) I had the opportunity to put the author's words into practice. "Oh, my," the mechanic said. He has known me for quite some time, so I knew something serious was happening. "I'm afraid you have a crack in your radiator."

"O.K., Tom," I thought, "now's your chance to put this positive focusing into effect." Taking a quick assessment of my situation I became thankful that the car had not broken down and the highway. It was a beautiful day. There was fine music playing in the background and I had a good book in my hands. I was ready for the next step.

Calmly, I inquired about the expense of replacing the radiator. "Let's see," he responded, as he opened a notebook to look up the answer. After stepping over to his calculator he declared, "that'll be $350.00!" Think fast, Tom" a voice said in my head. The only thing that came to mind were the words of a friend who often declares, "It could be worse!" Again I focused on the positive. It could have cost a lot more. I trust the mechanic's judgment and his work. It is only a main or setback and I would get a new radiator.

After we negotiated the price I headed home and they made the necessary repairs. I felt very good about the situation and myself. Perhaps that is why the Apostle Paul wrote, "Whatever is true … noble … right … pure … lovely … admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things" (Philippians 4:8). Focusing on the positive is God's way for us to deal with personal trials. It keeps us from feeling defeated, and gives us courage and hope. Despite the cost, I feel pretty good about this problem. Beside, since I have now written about the experience, it has become a $300 tax write- off! Praise the Lord! There is always a positive side!

"You are so good to me, God. How I love You! Keep my mind and my heart set on You and I will always trust You. No matter what challenge or difficult decision I face today, I win do so with confidence, for You are with me. Thank You, Jesus! Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With God, all things are possible.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Philippians 3:12-14

The Upward Call

An artist once drew a picture of a busy street filled with fast-moving vehicles and eager faced men and women all going toward the sun rising – all save one. One lone man, stooped in form and despairing in attitude, was going in the opposite direction. Under the picture of the lonely man were the words, "Looking For Yesterday." The upward call was lost to him.

Not so with Paul of the New Testament. From a Roman prison he writes: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Pressing on? For a prize? While in jail? Paul recognized that the spirit of man could not be bound though his body may be shackled to two guards. He could still soar by the wings of faith and imagination beyond the man-made limitations to God-beckoning horizons. God was calling him on and upward.

John A.T. Borinson in The End God, says that God is "the One who comes to us 'from the end,' that is, from ahead of us in history, beckoning us onward at the moving edges of growth and commitment. 'He is not here… He is going before you.'" Do you catch those significant words – "going before you"?

A picture: There is a path leading upward being traversed by a father and his young son. The boy is tired, ready to give up, but struggles onward, anyway. But the father lovingly and encouragingly says: "Come on, you can make it; you can! You can!" and then takes him by the hand. Thus God patiently speaks to us.

C. William Fisher in the preface to Don't Park Here! speaks in a way about the horizontal plane of life: "Life is a way, a road, a thoroughfare – not a parking lot. Life is a gym – not a rest home. Life is a school – not a cemetery. Life is an arena – not a bleacher seat. Life is for movement, for development, for struggle, for growth" (p. 9).

Writing of God's initial call to leave a life of sin, A.W. Tozer in Man: The Dwelling Place of God, writes: "He (Christ) calls us to leave the old life and to begin the new. There must never be any vacuum, never any place of neutrality, where the world cannot identify us". (p. 14)

But beyond life's horizontal moment, and the initial call and response to leave the life of self and sin, there is the underlying, upward call of God to the one desiring God's will and way in his/her life. God's call is on an ascending plane. Indeed, the valleys of service and sacrifice are present in following the call of God. Even in these and the "down times" of life, there is the "upward call of God." "Away from the mire, and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along" (G.A. Young).

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Translations and paraphrases of Philippians 3:14 speak of this call as an "upward call", or "a heavenward call." The direction is always upward.

I believe Paul would have vigorously sung all four verses and the chorus each time of Higher Ground (Johnson Oatman, Jr.). "I'm pressing on the upward way, New heights I'm gaining every day: …I want to live above the world… I want to scale the utmost height, and catch a gleam of glory bright; But still I'll pray till heaven I've found, 'Lord, lead me on to higher ground.'"

"Dear Lord, please keep calling and beckoning me onward and upward. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not become so encumbered by even the good things of life today, that the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is lost.

– Floyd Cooper –

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2 Timothy 1:3-14

The Power Of Possibilities Thinking!

I dreamed I was a modern day Robin Hood. No, I was not wearing green tights or carrying a bow and arrows. Please don't even try to picture me like that! In fact, I wasn't even stealing from the rich to give to the poor. I was being chased and found certain survival skills beneficial. Soon others were joining me in this adventure. We were an underground movement who were pursuing lofty and honorable goals. The greatest feeling I had in this dream was knowing I was doing what was right.

Perhaps psychologists would analyze the dream differently, but when I have dreams like that and wake up remembering portions of the dreams, I try to interpret what they mean to me. As the alarm clock returned me to reality, instinctively I knew what my subconscious was saying. Pursue your dreams, seek what is right, and do not allow anyone to hinder you from achieving your goals. Perhaps I was more like Don Quixote than Robin Hood in my dream.

Somewhere hidden inside of my psyche is Robin Hood or Don Quixote. Somewhere there is a person within me who truly desires to conquer the bad in order to attain the good. In a dream, my heart and mind can agree.

It is upon waking that I must make a decision. Do I listen to the voice of my subconscious, throw caution to the wind and follow the desire within? Or do I simply get dressed and go about my day in the normal routine to which I have grown accustomed? I would like to be a modern day Robin Hood. In fact, for many years, Don Quixote was my hero. "To dream the impossible dream" was my quest. Whatever happened to that sense of adventure? Whatever became of the knight in shining armor who fought windmills as if they were dragons?

Those who were chasing me in my dream were those who would try to stop me from becoming what God wants me to be and achieving what He wants me to do. These enemies are my fears. They are powerful enemies. But the desire within must be even greater. When the desire to pursue our dreams is stronger than our fears, we are champions.

Not only do I believe this dream to be my subconscious speaking. I believe it is also God's way of awakening me to His purpose. He has an adventure in mind for me. He has a dream He wants me to follow. Though my enemies chase me, they will not make me fall. The pursuit of a dream is worthy goal. The pursuit of God's dream cannot be defeated!

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"Dear God, You once had a dream for me, but I felt it was too difficult to pursue. The danger and treats were more than I thought I could bear. However, Your dream is still before me. Help me to arise and follow. Remind me that it is better to chase a godly dream than to flee from life's challenges. I need Your strength to do this, Lord. Help me to not be afraid, but to trust Your power and love. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When the desire to pursue our dreams is stronger than our fears, we are champions!

– Thomas Duckworth –

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1 Timothy 6:11

May We Borrow Your "Yadder"?

There was a knock at the back door of our parsonage in Fremont. Upon answering it, there stood my little friend, Ken, and his Indian friend. The first year in Fremont I painted the church, and Ken "helped" me by sitting on the bottom rung of the "YADDER," and visited. Those were enjoyable hours for me and I trust for my friend, Ken, since his home life was not to good.

"May we borrow your 'YADDER'?" asked my little friend. "Why do you want a ladder?" I asked. Unable to understand their reply I asked them to bring to me what they wanted done, but he said he couldn't. I told them that I didn't have a ladder and the one I had used on the church was borrowed. Quick came his reply, "Why don't you go get it?" We talked further, they left, and I went inside the house.

Within four minutes they were back wanting a saw. Before loaning them this tool, I felt further investigation was in order and went with Ken and his friend to a city park one block away. There in the top of a tree was a kite. To these boys the kite was worth the effort to either climb the tree or cut it down. I believe I explained to them their predicament, and values, and they went merrily on their way.

There are valuable lessons from Ken's request, "May we borrow your 'YADDER'?" Determination is certainly written in this want. There is vision – the vision of again flying that kite for which it was made. Vision led to action. Vision – determination – action – are all important ingredients in life! By God's grace and help, these three can put us up the spiritual road a long way.

Paul exemplified Ken's request when he wrote to the Roman Christians: "I have often intended to come to you…" (Romans 1:13). To the Corinthian church he said: "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him… for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of men" (2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 8:21). Timothy received this exhortation: "…aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness". (1 Timothy 6:11)

Oliver G. Wilson in Boundless Horizons says: "One of Christianity's richest blessings is that a man never catches up with his horizons. There is always something not yet attained, some goal not yet reached. No greater tragedy can come to a soul than to have no more unreached goals, no unattained ideals. The man filled with the Holy Spirit has discovered the 'fountain of youth'. Within his soul are songs never yet sung, music never yet penned, poems never yet written. There are aspirations not yet realized that pull him on to the hills of eternal life. Our dreams are the golden ladder by which we climb to higher altitudes of living. They are the lanterns by whose light we pass safely

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through the dark valleys. They are the flames that give us drive and energy for the struggle." (p. 1)

These three: vision, determination, action are important in the church, also.

"Dear Lord, we thank you for the innocence of Ken's request. May I, in my personal life, ever be on the stretch doing your will. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will be alert to the horizons (spiritually, mentally) which beckon me onward and upward.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Discussion Questions

  1. According to Matthew 12:43-45, why is it dangerous for a person to do nothing more than 'cleanse' himself of evil thoughts, in his battle against sin and wrong?

  2. What 'positive steps' have you personally taken to substitute evil thoughts with good thoughts in your mind? Why is it 'futile' to battle evil thoughts, without, at the same time, replacing evil thoughts with good (loving) thought? Tell what you think the following phrase means: "The expulsive power of a new affection". (Note Philippians 4:8)

  3. Tell with what degree of 'conviction' you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Our thoughts feed on the things that have been hidden in our hearts." (Note Psalms 119:9-11) Why is it so important to teach children to memorize Bible verses?

  4. Have you (as a believer) 'set a guard' at your mind's door, a filter through which stories, jokes, and thoughts must be filtered before they are allowed to become 'residents' of your mind? (Note Psalms 19:14)

  5. How should Bible-believing Christians react to publicly proclaimed defiance of God's moral principles (such as principles regarding sexual morality and the sanctity of life – especially the life of the 'unborn')? What message is our children receiving when their role models (the leaders of our Nation) sin and people wink at it?

  6. Should Christian parents, whose own past lives are 'morally stained' because of their former sinful lifestyle, choose not to speak forthrightly about Biblical morality and righteousness to their own younger children (For 'fear' of being thought of as 'hypocritical')?

  7. Because of a widespread attitude of 'tolerance' and 'indifference' toward sinful sexual relationships, what are some of the tragic consequences which our society is reaping today? (Note Galatians 6:7-8)

  8. If 'tolerance' and 'indifference' are both inappropriate (wrong) reactions to widespread sexual perversions in our modern society, what is the appropriate (righteous and God-honoring) reaction towards immoral actions and immoral persons? Is it possible to hate sinful actions without, at the same time, hating the persons who are committing the sinful actions? Why or why not? If Christians are commanded by God to be persons of both 'justice' and 'mercy' (Micah 6:8), how should these virtues be applied to individuals who practice a 'sinful' and immoral' lifestyle?

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  9. Share your personal response (or reaction) to the following statements: "Sex belongs to marriage alone. Period. Sex is God's wedding present to that couple and it is beautiful." (Note 1 Corinthians 6:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Hebrews 13:4; Romans 1:22-28; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; Genesis 2:21-25)

  10. Share from your own 'life experience' (or from the 'life experience' of someone whom you know well) a 'concrete example' which illustrates the truth of the following statement: "Difficulties tend to limit our vision; they become the focal point and burden of our thinking, shutting out the total view of life." Share ways in which God has enabled you to "change your focus" from the narrow and restrictive view of life to the broader and more expansive view of life? How has this more enlarged (and mature and God-honoring) vision of reality helped you to become a more effective and fruitful 'Servant of the Lord'?

  11. Tell to what extent you agree (or disagree) with the following statements: "Focusing on the positive is God's way for us to deal with personal trials. It keeps us from feeling defeated, and gives us courage and hope."

  12. Share an illustration of how you (or someone you know and admire) "soared by the wings of faith and imagination beyond the man-made limitations to God- beckoning horizons". (Note Philippians 3:12-14)

  13. Share your personal response (or reaction) to the following statements which describe one writer's 'Philosophy of Life'. Do you believe this is a Biblically accurate attitude towards life and living? "Life is a way, a road, a thoroughfare – not a parking lot. Life is a gym – not a rest home. Life is a school – not a cemetery. Life is an arena – not a bleacher seat. Life is for movement, for development, for struggle, for growth."

  14. Put a check by those following statements with which you 'agree' in describing your personal 'philosophy of living':

    • ___ a. Life is a series of calamities, to be dreaded and to be endured until death finally brings relief.

    • ___ b. Life is filled with mysteries, inequities, and injustices, bringing much heartache to ones heart and much confusion to ones mind.

    • ___ c. Life is the product of a long evolutionary process, and man is an 'accident' in that process.

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    • ___ d. Life will soon be terminated forever through physical death, so one should 'eat, drink and be merry', as long as he can, until death finally conquers.

    • ___ e. Life has no objective or intrinsic meaning and worth, so each person must create' his own value system and discover his own purpose for existence.

    • ___ f. Life is a 'gift from God' to be cherished and enjoyed, and to be used to bring glory to God and benefit to ones fellow men.

    • ___ g. Life is a 'training ground' to develop godly character, patterned after the supreme example of Jesus Christ whose purpose on earth was to do His Father's will.

    • ___ h. Life is a pilgrimage, accompanied with both joy and sorrow, but meaningful because of God's presence and power.

    • ___ i. Life is an 'upward call from God' to fulfill a meaningful mission of compassion to many hurting persons in a "fallen" world.

  15. Is it your daily prayer that God shall lead you "upward" and "onward" to "higher ground" in your spiritual life? If so, what concretely would it actually mean for you to live on "higher ground" (socially, intellectually, physically, maritally, spiritually)?

  16. Tell when it is 'right' and when it is 'wrong' for you to pursue your dreams and visions. Do you inwardly possess a 'conquering spirit', a 'risk-taking attitude', a 'visionary mind', an 'indomitable will' – all for the purpose of fulfilling your Father's Will (of bringing the "Good News" of Christ to lost and confused people, and of bringing hope and joy to discouraged Christians)? What "love project" are you currently involved in, or would like to be involved in? As a Christian is it 'right' and 'wholesome' for you "to dream the impossible dream"? Why or why not? Do you believe there is great power in "Possibility Thinking"? How can you distinguish between "dreams and visions" which are the product of your own human ambition and imagination, and the product of God-inspired thoughts?

  17. Tell to what extent you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "When the desire to pursue our dreams is stronger than our fears, we are champions"?

  18. Why have you found that your clear 'focus' on goals and dreams is so 'vitally important' for your continued spiritual growth and your mental and emotional well being?

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  19. Share a concrete example from your own life (or from the life of a person whom you know well) which demonstrates the truth of the following statements: "Our dreams are the golden ladder by which we climb to higher altitudes of living. They are the lanterns by whose light we pass safely through the dark valleys. They are the flames that give us drive and energy for the struggle."

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