Reality Can Hurt

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:7-8

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Discomfort, pain, conflict, spiritual warfare-these are aspects of reality in a fallen world. Healthy faith recognizes them as biblical realities. Healthy faith has you look to Christ for help when you’re in the midst of them.

Having a healthy faith certainly doesn’t mean you’ll always like reality, or that you should become complacent or indifferent to the darker side of life. But it does mean you’ll recognize the way things are. You’ll be able to admit you’ve failed, that you’re a sinner, and you’re stumbling along the way. But you can choose to walk in the light, and enjoy the companionship of family, friends and Jesus Christ himself.

– Steve Arterburn

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me face my realities with faith and hope with the understanding that while today might not be all I hoped it would be, tomorrow and all my tomorrows are in Your hands. Thank you, Lord for your faithfulness! Amen.

The Big One

Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. – Ezekiel 38:7

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St. Augustine defined peace as “the tranquility of order.” At the highest level, Jesus Christ’s return will bring peace through the restoration of order lost in Eden. And the truth is: peace cannot co-exist with chaos.

How much order do you have in your life? However much, my hunch is that it’s directly proportionate to the levels of tranquility and peace in your life as well. Is your desk and garage kept in such a way that you’re able to find what you need when you need it? How about those drawers and closets?

If you can never find what you thought you filed, you’re much less efficient. If you can’t find a tool when you need it and have to buy another, you’re much less profitable. If you have to spend time hunting for your keys, your wallet, or your mail, you’re much more frustrated. And if you can’t find the things you need when you need them, you’re much less prepared and confident.

Be prepared.” These are words used by military leaders, coaches, athletes, musicians, and others whose lives demand excellence. Order puts us at peace, brings tranquility, and readies us for service.

– Steve Arterburn

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, please help me to bring order to the areas in my life that are chaotic. Amen.

Fields of Change

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. – Hosea 10:12

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Character isn’t instantly created. It’s carved out.

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one has been worked, we move to the next. At each stop He encourages us to get busy tilling ground hardened by sin, pulling weeds grown in neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work; and He makes each task fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But change does happen. The Bible gives us insight how. Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail, and Moses in the desert. Recall David’s years of flight from Saul and Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish. Reflect upon Gideon in a cave and Job’s catastrophes. Consider Abraham’s wanderings and Peter’s three denials of Christ. Look at the apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

These stories, and many more like them, recount the ways of God among the men He claims for His own. As you spend time considering them, you will see a pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience all come before spiritual maturity and usefulness. Open up your Bible and search out these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.

– Steve Arterburn

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.  – Henry Ward Beecher

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, when change comes, I pray that I will look to you for insight. As things change in my life and around me, help me to keep my eyes on you and trust that whatever the circumstance, your ultimate plan for me is a good one. Amen
 

Addicted to Love

We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. – Hebrew 6:18b-19  

addictedtolove.newlifeHave you ever thought about being addicted to love? It sounds like a good thing to be addicted to, but clinically speaking, it’s a problem.

Relationship addicts live in a world of paradoxes that leave them feeling like they have no way out. They desperately want to get close to someone, but end up with a person whose problems make close­ness impossible. They seek security, but end up with someone who always leaves the back door open for a quick get-away.

Relationship addicts crave unconditional love, but live in constant fear of abandonment if they don’t live up to their own impossible standards. They want to be free to love, but often trap themselves in a relationship by becoming pregnant or by weaving some other type of emotional spider web. Drowning in the whirlpool of their own emotions, they turn to a rescuer who cannot swim.

When all is said and done, for healing to occur, if you’re a relation­ship addict, you’ll need to come to the end of your own strength and seek God’s help to resolve the hurts of the past and move to­ward a genuine focus on others. Without this, relationship addicts are doomed to a cycle of misery and futility. Remember, you can never fix what only God can fix.

– Steve Arterburn

Aloneness can lead to loneliness. God’s preventative for loneliness is intimacy – meaningful, open, sharing relationships with one another. In Christ we have the capacity for the fulfilling sense of belonging which comes from intimate fellowship with God and with other believers.– Neil T. Anderson

God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are. – Billy Graham 

Accepting Ownership of Our Past

Much is required from those to whom much is given. – Luke 12:48b

Accepting Ownership of our Past

A new life in Christ doesn’t excuse past obligations or erase the ongoing consequences of past sins. When the apostle Paul was in prison he led a runaway slave named Onesimus to Christ. But then Paul sent him back to his master—even though Onesimus faced a possible death penalty for his offense! Paul sent a letter back with the fugitive saying that if Onesimus had caused any harm or stolen anything that Paul would pay for it. Paul recognized that even though Onesimus was now a Christian, and forgiven of his sins, he needed to address the wrongs he’s committed in the past.

Likewise, before you can move ahead, you must face the unfinished business of your past. This may include facing up to some cowardly behavior, crooked schemes, or quick-fix solutions to difficult problems that just didn’t work. While you can be certain that God will meet you where you are, He calls you to take responsibility for whatever sins may have brought you to whatever circumstances you’re presently in. Once you accept ownership of your past, God will help you move ahead. But He’ll do it His way, not yours.

– Steve Arterburn

Nobody ever did, or ever will escape the consequences of his choices. – Alfred A. Montapert

The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up. – John C.Maxwell

Spiritual Gifts

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

Spiritual Gifts

There’s a real danger in thinking your spiritual gifts are blessings God has given you for your own benefit. The problem with this selfish viewpoint is that you see your use of these as an option or luxury that you neglect or use according to your will alone. That’s a far cry from a biblical understanding, which sees your spiritual gifts as expressions of gratitude God wills for you to use in service to others.

The Bible teaches that God gives us spiritual gifts so we can give to others. We use our gifts to continue Christ’s work on earth. The apostle Paul wrote: A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church. His point: your gifts aren’t your possessions. Yes, they’ve been entrusted to you, but actually, they belong to the community of believers. The truth we need to think about is that God has woven a unique design into each of our hearts. And our spiritual gifts are part of that fabric.

So, what are your spiritual gifts? Not sure? Read the Bible’s teaching on spiritual gifts in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Then ask yourself where you’ve felt the greatest satisfaction serving the Lord. Carefully thinking through that question will go a very long way in clarifying this issue; because when you do what you love in order to show God’s love, you’ll find spiritual fulfillment and renewal.

– Steve Arterburn

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’ – Erma Bombeck

Perseverance | Staying the Course

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1

Perseverance

If you’re a Christian, God has already transformed your heart. But He also wants you to enter life in him like an athlete enters com­petition. That’s why the Bible, more than once, likens the Christian life to a race. Our faith in Christ motivates us to run it, and His power provides the strength to finish despite the many times we all stumble along the way. This illustration of a race refers to races where the runner would strip off his tunic and robe so he could run without any hindrance. If someone tried to compete in his robes, he would get tangled up and wouldn’t have a chance at winning. God wants you to finish the race of life well.

Set aside the distrac­tions and the sins that entangle you. Pace yourself. Exert yourself. And remember, many have run and finished before you. They’re that “huge crowd of witnesses” Hebrews 12:1 speaks about, and they’re cheering you on!

– Steve Arterburn

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Letting Go of Hatred

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . . If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this com­mand: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. – 1 John 4:18-21

Letting Go of Hatred

It’s easy to say you love God. But it’s not always so easy to love other people, is it? And what is it that God wants from us? He wants us to love Him and love others. And, God has so intertwined your love for Him with love for others that when you really start loving others with His love, you’ll give up your hatred and prejudice.

If you truly love God and you truly love others, you’ll find that you don’t have the option of hating our brothers and sisters. In fact, He doesn’t even give you the option of hating your enemies. Jesus said, “But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28).

The bottom line is this: surrendering to God means surrendering your hatred as well. Loving people you like is easy. But God calls us to exhibit His love—which was a love that drove Jesus to the cross. That means loving people you don’t necessarily like. That means loving your enemy. You can’t do it on your own. You need to draw from God’s endless supply of His love. Draw from his well, and drink.

– Steve Arterburn

There is only one way of not hating those who do us wrong, and that is by doing them good. – Henri Amiel

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. – Booker T. Washington

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Humility | Doorways, Not Doormats

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6

Humility Doorways, not Doormats

Humility. What is it anyway? If I’m humble, do I have to roll over and play second fiddle to everyone, all the time? Too often humility has been misunderstood as a negative character trait. I would like to help you get a clear biblical perspective on what humility is and what it is not. Humility isn’t thinking less of your-self; it’s thinking more of God and of others. In other words, humility isn’t about putting our-selves down, but rather, about glorifying God and affirming others.

Consider Jesus. He left His place of highest honor in heaven in or­der to become a man, flesh and blood, here on earth. However, He didn’t tear himself down or deny that He was a person of value and importance. What He did do is lift others up through His humility and show them how valuable they were to God.

So, you see, humility isn’t about being a doormat; it’s about being a doorway–a doorway through which others enter into the presence and power of God. By focusing on building others up and help­ing others connect with God, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.

Think about how you can strive to put others’ interests ahead of your own. I challenge you to show others in your home, your offices, or even in the checkout line at the market, how you and God value them. A good way to begin is by asking yourself what Jesus would do if he were in your place.

– Steve Arterburn

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. – Abraham Lincoln

The Blessing of Brokenness

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.  – Isaiah 57:15

The Blessing of Brokenness

Brokenness is actually a blessing, but too often we’re so caught up with wanting to feel better we miss God’s best for us. If you’re struggling . . . if you feel as if your faith is gone . . . don’t miss the blessing that comes with brokenness . . . Here’s a story that illustrates what I mean:

There was a young priest who was about to lift the communion cup and bless the cup. It was made of choice crystal. Just when he lifted up the cup, it slipped out of his hand and smashed in pieces onto the floor. He looked up at the senior priest thinking that he would be ridiculed. Instead the senior priest said, “I never knew there were so many beautiful pieces to reflect the light until the cup was broken. How marvelous and beautiful are all the pieces when the light shines on them!

Like the cup, our broken lives can accentuate the beauty of the light shining through them. For that light is the Lord. What we fear is to be broken or be seen as broken; but as this story  illustrates, it is in our brokenness that the light of Christ dazzles–drawing attention to His beauty, and making our lives beautiful as a result.

And, in the book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge commented, “But you can’t do this at a distance; you can’t ask Christ to come into your wound while you remain far from it. You have to go there with him.” It’s o.k. to be broken; it is in our brokenness that we can bring it to the Lord and experience His touch and healing, and bring hope to our broken heart.

– Steve Arterburn

God can take all the broken pieces and put it back together in a way that is good. – Max Johnson