Hope For Change

Steve Arterburn

Simon the fisherman was reckless, vacillating, and often thoughtless.  He friends could probably think of some apt nicknames for him, but I doubt any of them came close to what Jesus called him: Peter, which means ‘Rock.’  What greater evidence could there be that Jesus accepted Simon as he was but also had a vision for the man he’d become?  And what an amazing transformation took place in that burly fisherman!

Most men can readily identify with Simon Peter.  His intentions were usually good, but he was impetuous in speech and impulsive in action.  When Jesus revealed that his divine mission would involve a painful death, Peter rashly told Jesus to stop talking that way.  At the last supper he brazenly objected to Jesus washing his feet.  When Jesus was arrested he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  And we all know how he denied knowing Jesus three times.

Later in Simon Peter’s life, however, we see what Jesus saw when he called him ‘Rock.’  He was used by God to perform miracles, he preached publicly about Jesus despite opposition, and exhibited strong leadership in the early church.  

In Simon Peter’s life we see hope for our spiritual renewal and transformation.  He wasn’t perfect, but he grew in his life in Christ and God used him to have a profound effect on the world.  

Jesus has the power to transform even the most unlikely people.  Keep this in mind for yourself and for others.

James And Jude

Steve Arterburn

Do you have an older sibling?  It can be difficult to live up to the high standards set by older brothers and sisters.  It can be equally difficult, and sometimes more painful, to live down the reputation of a notorious or embarrassing older sibling.  James and Jude are two men in the Bible who had to deal with both challenges.  Their older brother Jesus was both perfect and, in their minds, embarrassing.

Jesus must have been a hard act to follow, don’t you think?  It may have been difficult for James, Jude, and the rest of their siblings to feel close to their wonderful, though different, big brother.  

After Jesus’ public ministry began, his brothers James and Jude seemed to take a stand-back-and-watch attitude.  One day Jesus would do great miracles and be acclaimed as a hero.  The next, he would present a convicting message and offend the powerful religious and political authorities.  In the end, he angered too many people and was sentenced to death.  He’d claimed to be not only the promised Messiah but also God himself!  No doubt, James and Jude thought their brother had gone off the deep end.

Yet the resurrection of Jesus overcame the doubts of his younger brothers, who later became leaders in the early church.  Both brothers are remembered for the letters in Bible they wrote.

This same power that transformed James and Jude can transform you, too, and turn you from an unbelieving cynic to a faithful follower of Christ.

Overcoming Expectations

Steve Arterburn

One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you.  The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige.  It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.  

Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life?  How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God?  Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.

What do people expect of you?  What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you?  Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations.  When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you.  In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.   

Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’  Is your life busy?  Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids?  Follow the example of Jesus.  Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.