Paying Our Debts

Steve Arterburn

 

Sometimes taking responsibility for our lives means completing unfinished business. Some of us may have left a trail of broken laws and relationships’things that need addressing before moving on. Others may be burdened by debts that inhibit spiritual pursuits. Part of moving forward spiritually is to take full responsibility for wrongs done in the past.

 

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

 

Likewise, before you can move ahead, you must face the unfinished business of the 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 the sins that 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.

More Powerful Than Blood

Steve Arterburn

Family is important. It provides relationships that will be your foundation, through thick and thin your entire life. What’s more, families are where we get our foundation spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. In short, families are the cradles of character.

 

But in Mark chapter three, Jesus demonstrates that as important as family truly is, it’s not what’s most important. The scene took place on a day when Jesus and His disciples were so overwhelmed by the crowds they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus’ mother and brothers approached the house where Jesus was, but couldn’t get in. So they did the next best thing. They sent word inside that they wanted to speak to Jesus.

 

When Jesus heard this, He asked provocatively, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then He looked at the crowd around Him and declared that they‘those who did God’s will’were His true family members!

 

This is one of the many times where Jesus shatters our preconceived notions. Yes, your family is very important. It’s very important to God, and therefore, should be important to you as well. Yet family doesn’t take precedence over the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom makes a total claim upon us and radically reorders our entire existence. Therefore, to exalt anything over our loyalty to Jesus Christ is to make that thing an idol, even your family. Don’t let something good take the place of what’s clearly best.

Mining For Gold

Steve Arterburn

Everyone ever born has a human mother and father, right? Almost. There are three exceptions: Adam and Eve, our first parents, and Jesus Christ, who, as the Apostle’s Creed says, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

 

The opening chapter of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament, consists of an extensive genealogy. You may consider genealogies dull, and maybe skipped right to chapter two. But, there’s gold here if you’ll mine for it.

 

Matthew’s goal is to show us that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, a direct descendent of both Abraham, Israel’s father, and David, it’s greatest king. Along the way, Matthew mentions forty-two fathers and five mothers.

 

You see, Matthew’s culture was certainly patriarchal, and because it was, the mention of these women takes on increased significance. They’re quite a colorful group. Tamar bore her father-in-law’s twins. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner visiting Israel. And Bathsheba’well, we all know about her and David.

 

But women aren’t the only colorful characters here. Trace the men through Scripture and you’ll find most of their backgrounds quite checkered. And it shows that God chose and used not only ordinary people to create the linage of Jesus, but also, profoundly flawed people. My point: God uses men like you and me in mighty ways. Take heart!