Jeremiah

Steve Arterburn

Jeremiah was called into the prophetic ministry when he was young man.  Humble and eager to serve God, he became a man of prayer and deep spirituality–a man who faced his trials with courage.

During his forty years of ministry, Jeremiah would suffer intense persecution.  He was thrown into a dungeon, beaten, put in stocks, and threatened.  Tradition teaches that he was stoned to death.  Despite the opposition he faced, however, he remained true to the messages God gave him.  He confronted the Jews with their rebellion and called them to confess their sins, accept responsibility, and ask God for forgiveness.  As God directed him, he also spoke words of comfort to a people facing disaster.

Jeremiah was also a man of great compassion.  He openly expressed his grief over the sinfulness of his people.  In fact, he’s known as the weeping prophet.  He shed many tears for the sin of his people and the destructive consequences he knew they’d face.  After Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were exiled, Jeremiah wrote the book Lamentations to express his sorrow over the pain and loss of his people.  There were times when Jeremiah openly and honestly complained to God about the work God had given him.  Yet even in the midst of his sadness, Jeremiah never lost faith in God’s power to judge righteously, to reward liberally, and to restore his broken people.

Standing Against Financial Trends

Steve Arterburn

It takes a great deal of courage and conviction to stand against the financial trends of the day. For example, the over-the-top housing boom of 2004 and 2005 gave most people an excuse to pull the windfall equity out of their houses and spend the money on unnecessary purchases. Or they sold their newly appreciated’and previously adequate’home and moved on up, garnering for themselves a larger piece of the pie, and a bigger mortgage to boot. There’s certainly nothing wrong with selling at the top of the market. But the trend in society is not to save windfalls, or even hard-earned excesses, but to spend them impulsively.

 

It’s true that Jesus said in the book of Matthew that we’re to take no thought for tomorrow. But these words were given in the context of Jesus saying, ‘Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well’ (v. 33). Therefore, the question is: what does it mean to seek God’s kingdom first?

With regard to money, it means to live by the teaching of Scripture: Live modest, frugal, generous lives; work and save diligently as an expression of faithful trust; acknowledge that everything comes from and therefore belongs to God; adopt the attitude of a steward’a manager of that which God has entrusted to you’and seek His approval for what you do with that which is His.

Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’