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
 

Contagious Faith

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

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The stronger your faith, the better you can rise above the inevitable stresses of turbulent times. And the more enthused you are about your faith, the better you can share it.

Are you genuinely excited about your faith? And do you make your enthusiasm known to those around you? Or are you a “silent ambassador” for Christ? God’s preference is clear: He intends that you stand before others and proclaim your faith.

Genuine, heartfelt Christianity is contagious. If you enjoy a life-altering relationship with God, that relationship will have an impact on others—perhaps a profound impact.

Does Christ reign over your life? Then share your testimony and your excitement. The world needs both.

– Steve Arterburn

Don’t take hold of a thing unless you want that thing to take hold of you. – E. Stanley Jones

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. – Charles Kingsley

When we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to God, there is nothing mediocre or run-of-the-mill about us. To live for Christ is to be passionate about our Lord and about our lives. – Jim Gallery

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, let me be an enthusiastic participant in life. And let my enthusiasm bring honor and glory to You. Amen

Serving

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. – Colossians 3:23-24

Serving

At the heart of the Civil War was a large portion of free people who concluded that slavery shouldn’t be. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain was one of those men. In the movie Gettysburg he says, “This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you’ll see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.”

Throughout history, God has been calling men and women to give of themselves so others can be free. Are you willing to make sacrifices for others?

– Steve Arterburn

For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice ‘ no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service. – John Burroughs

Time in the Cocoon

I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:13-14

Time in the Cocoon

If you tear open a cocoon to set a butterfly free, the creature’s wings will be severely underdeveloped. This is because the very act of struggling to leave the cocoon strengthens the butterfly’s wings, preparing it for flight.

We too have times of transition and metamorphosis, yet our remedy is not unlike the butterfly’s. If we try escaping God’s cocoon before He’s done transforming us, we risk undermining and delaying what He’s trying to do.

So when you’re experiencing time in the cocoon, relax!

In the stillness, you hear God. In the waiting, your character is formed. If you wait upon God and allow Him to release you from the cocoon, you’ll be strong and prepared to fly in ways you never could have if you’d left the cocoon too soon.

– Steve Arterburn

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. – Richard Buckminster Fuller

Instant Gratification

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:14

Instant Gratification

The Old Testament character, Esau–the older of twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah–is remembered as the foolish man who sold his birthright for a little bread and some stew. Do you remember the story? Esau returned home famished and asked his brother Jacob for some food. Jacob agreed on the condition that Esau sell him his birthright–an honor reserved for the oldest son in the family.

I think if Esau lived today he would’ve loved credit cards. He wouldn’t have hesitated for a moment at the idea of mortgaging his future for the opportunity to grab a bunch of hunting gear and camping supplies now. As long as he could take his purchases home with him immediately, he’d be satisfied.

But credit cards ultimately come due . . . with interest. And when you choose the immediate over the significant, tears are often the result when the payment is due, but tears won’t be accepted as payment.

Steve Arterburn

Instant gratification is not soon enough. – Meryl Streep

Only Human or Superman?

Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26

Only Human or Superman

It might be disappointing to you, but the truth is, you’re only human. You may think of yourself as Superman or Superwoman–until you discover a flaw. And the danger then is that you’ll come crashing down and see yourself as completely worthless. But seeing the whole truth about yourself means accepting your humanity and realizing your great  potential in Christ.

The prophet Elijah is one of the great men and heroes of the Bible. If any man had reason to feel superhuman, it was him. His prayers brought a lengthy drought upon Israel–and then brought fire down from heaven–which humiliated Queen Jezebel and her priests who worshiped Baal. But even Elijah could have a bad day. Listen to his reaction after Queen Jezebel threatened him:

I have had enough, Lord . . . Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors . . . I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their  covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:4, 10)

If you’re able to do superhuman things, it’s because God gives you the power to do so. Even those who are used powerfully by God must always realize they are only human. If you fail to see the truth that you’re only human, you’re at great risk during the times when life reminds you of that fact.

– Steve Arterburn

Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield. – Unknown

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The Morning Watch

Every morning He wakes me. He teaches me to listen like a student. The Lord God helps me learn . . . – Isaiah 50:4-5

The Morning Watch

Each new day is a gift from God, and if you are wise, you will spend a few quiet moments each morning thanking the Giver. When you do, you’ll discover that time spent with God can lift your spirits and relieve your stress.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Surrender your mind to the Lord at the beginning of each day.” That is sound advice. When you begin each day with your head bowed and your heart lifted, you are reminded of God’s love, His protection, and His commandments. Then, you can align your priorities for the coming day with the teachings and commandments that God has placed upon your heart.

So, if you’ve acquired the unfortunate habit of trying to “squeeze” God into the corners of your life, it’s time to reshuffle the items on your to-do list by placing God first. And if you haven’t already done so, form the habit of spending quality time with your Father in heaven. He deserves it . . . and so do you.

– Steve Arterburn

How paltry must be the devotions of those who are always in a hurry. – William Law

How motivating it has been for me to view my early morning devotions as time of retreat alone with Jesus, who desires that I “come with Him by myself to a quiet place” in order to pray, read His Word, listen for His voice, and be renewed in my spirit. – Anne Graham Lotz

I suggest you discipline yourself to spend time daily in a systematic reading of God’s Word. Make this “quiet time” a priority that nobody can change. – Warren Wiersbe

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, help me to hear Your direction for my life in the quiet moments when I study Your Holy Word. And as I go about my daily activities, let everything that I say and do be pleasing to You. Amen

 

Biblical Servanthood

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men. – Ephesians 6:7

Biblical Servanthood

Biblical servant-leadership is something we need to strive for in all areas of our lives. So today, I want to provide some guidelines for understanding a biblical picture of faithful servanthood within the community of Israel.

  • The faithful servants of Israel cared about those they served, and constantly sought new and better ways to serve them.
  • Faithful servants developed new skills to better serve.
  • Faithful servants did all they could to build the esteem and prestige of those they served; and this prestige, in turn, brought the servant prestige as well. He took great pride and honor in his role as a bondservant. And he, though perhaps wise in his own right, treated the thoughts and opinions of those he served as being as valuable as his own.
  • Faithful servants performed menial, thankless jobs in order to make room for those they served to exercise their gifts. The servant made allowances for the weaknesses of those he served as if they were his own. And in that way, he actively protected them from shame.
  • A faithful servant didn’t dawdle in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation when his own sin caused any damage or shame to those he served.

Not a bad life, actually. Of course, to us Americans, this scenario may seem a bit strange. You might ask, “Who’d ever surrender his freedoms to enter such a relationship?” But, in fact, you did—when you accepted the Lordship of Christ in your life. You serve him by serving others.

– Steve Arterburn

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. – Albert Einstein 

The humblest occupation has in it materials of discipline for the highest heaven. Frederick W. Robertson

Building a New Life

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Building a New Life

Your past sometimes gets in the way of your vision for the future, doesn’t it? If you allow yourself to dwell on the areas where you’ve failed or on losses and disappointments that hurt you, you might find it difficult to look forward to the future God has for you.

King David is a man who dreamed of building a magnificent temple. When he commissioned his son Solomon to do the work he said, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God is with you.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)  Many years later the apostle Paul said, “We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21)

Just as David dreamed of building a magnificent temple, you can dare to dream of building a new life. God has the blueprint already drawn up: just follow it by faith. You may be afraid that you will start and fail, but in the words of David, “be strong and courageous, and do the work.” As someone once said: Beginning is half done. In other words, take the first step, it’s the toughest.

What dreams have you been quietly suppressing? Perhaps you have dreamed of becoming a missionary? Maybe you have dreams of adopting. Or dreams of starting a new career. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about building deep friendships or making an impact on your community. Don’t be frightened. When God begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it.

– Steve Arterburn

It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars. – Garrison Keillor

The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. – C.S. Lewis

The Psalms

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. – Psalm 3:3-4

The Psalms

It’s impossible to adequately summarize the richness and breadth contained in the book of Psalms.  It was Israel’s hymnbook, containing songs of praise to God.  It also contains the cries of God’s people in difficult situations.  And it was a prayer book for Israel.  The psalmists looked to God in moments of private despair, in times of national suffering, and in the joyous moments of mountain-top experiences.

The Psalms are for us right now, today.  They are brimming with honest emotion.  Through them you can learn to pour out your anguish and your adoration, your suffering and confession, your hopes and your fears.  Through them you feel safe asking God why he has or hasn’t acted in a certain way.  Through others you might express your pain, heartache, and discouragement.  Through still others you may praise God as he frees you from oppression and sin.  Each psalm is an expression of the heart.  None of them are neat little packages of answers tied up with pretty bows.  They are living words, a collection of spiritual diaries from people who honestly sought God’s help and His heart.

Do you need spiritual direction or encouragement?  The Psalms can function as deterrents to keep you out of trouble, guides to help you through problems, reminders of the one who actually delivers you, or as beacons of hope to encourage you in perplexing or painful situations.  Read the Psalms and be ushered into the very presence of your loving and merciful God. You’ll be glad you did!

– Steve Arterburn

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.Psalm 1:1-2