Gifts And Gratitude

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

Gifts And Gratitude

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 (1927–1996)

Our Shield of Togetherness

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Facing Up to Our Wrongs

Alone we’re vulnerable to temptation. Together, however, we form a shield of protection for one another. God wants you and I to grow spiritually in a network of mutual commitment and accountability, where we help each other to think and live in new ways.

The apostle Paul wrote, “In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan” (Ephesians 6:16). The shield of faith was likened to the shields carried by Roman soldiers, which were able to cover the entire body. To advance in battle, a group of soldiers would assemble together, making a wall of shields for protection as they moved forward.

Similarly, we’re told to stick together. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other” (Hebrews 10:25). Our encouragement of one another and our shared faith in God and his Word will serve as the shield we need to persevere in tough times.

Who is standing beside you in the everyday battles of your life? Are you alone on the field or do you have trusted friends on each side? If you’re alone, how is that working out for you? Who has God called you to stand beside?

– Steve Arterburn

If I have seen farther than other men, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton (1642–1727)

Being A Lifer

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36

Being A Lifer

The Christian life is a journey where we get to exercise our faith and our obedience to God’s principles for living. There will be times when you grow  weary, times when you want to throw in the towel. You’ll experience pain, fear, and every imaginable emotion. You’ll win some battles but lose others.

You may get discouraged at times when you don’t see the progress you’d like despite your diligence. But if you persevere through it all, you’ll honor God and find a life worth living.

The apostle Paul’s words to the young disciple, Timothy, tell us a thing or two about perseverance. “Endure suffering along with me,” said Paul, “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army. Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize. Hardworking farmers are the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.” (2 Timothy 2:3-6)

Have you ever thought of yourself as a soldier? or as a trained and skilled athlete? Soldier’s and athletes are disciplined; no cheating and no cutting corners. And like farmers, you work, then wait patiently to reap the benefits of your labor.

– Steve Arterburn

It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” – Eddie Cantor (1892–1964)

Defusing The Anger Trap

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11–12

Defusing The Anger Trap

Would you like to hear one of life’s great paradoxes? The more we learn to be satisfied with what we have and stop comparing our financial score card and trophies with those around us, the better we feel about ourselves. In other words, the biblical discipline of learning and practicing contentment shows the myth of “I-Am-What-I-Earn” to be a lie.

Learning to be satisfied is a good indication that we’ve learned that God is God, and that His fatherly care and infinite wisdom can be trusted.

Furthermore, those who learn to be satisfied and thankful for what they’ve been given will have more time and energy for the kinds of friendships and relationships that will meet their basic needs and honor God. If you think about it, you’ll find that your attitude toward money and possessions either fuels or cools your anger. If you have trouble living within your means, you really have two options: you can push harder to make more, or you can promote an atmosphere of contentment for what you have, and in so doing, relieve the pressure on yourself.

– Steve Arterburn

Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” – Socrates (470–399 BC)

Trust and Obey

If you love me, you will obey what I command.  John 14:15

Trust and Obey

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Simple words from a simple hymn. Yet these simple words contain incredible insight into the essential elements of the Christian life.

Trust and obedience are your allies when you surrender your life to God. “For it’s God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” That’s what the apostle Paul teaches in the book of Philippians. But if we don’t trust that God loves us, that He is all-wise and all-powerful, and that He cares for us; we won’t be very likely to obey Him, will we?

When it comes to our formal theology, we confess a belief which says that obedience is born out of trust. Yet in our day-to-day life, we’re too often disobedient in spite of giving lip-service to trust.

So the question remains: can you truly trust your Lord without obeying Him?

In Luke 11:28 Jesus calls those who hear the word of God and obey it “blessed.” In other words: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

– Steve Arterburn

“Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. ” – Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

Maintaining Focus

Has it ever been easier or more convenient than now for a believer to lose focus on God? If the apostle Paul found himself ‘greatly distressed‘ that Athens was ‘full of idols‘ (Acts 17:16), what would he think after checking out today’s culture? The Internet alone is overwhelming.

Maintaining Focus

A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes an Internet guru who plugged the word ‘God‘ into a popular search engine. He received a number of responses remarkably close to the amount of sites listed for ‘sex.‘ Yahoo Inc. lists thousands of sites devoted to religion and spirituality, compared with thousands about movies and hundreds about home and garden.

And these figures are expanding exponentially. We’re only a mouse click away from countless links, Web pages, and chat rooms, that define God, redefine Him, recast Him into our own image, or explain Him away altogether.

With all this at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We can’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked by falsehoods or temptations that will prove destructive to our faith.

The writer to the Hebrews called this ‘fixing our thoughts‘ and ‘fixing our eyes.’ ‘Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith‘ (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2).

The old adage is true; the eyes are a window to the soul. So what things will your eyes let into your soul today? It’s your call. You get to decide to be the strong, self-disciplined person you know you want to be, or let your eyes lead you to places that you know deep down you don’t want to go. Focus.

– Steve Arterburn

Building a New Life

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


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.

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


Open The Eyes Of Your Heart

The Eyes of Your Heart

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Are you going through difficult times? If it does nothing else for you and to you, it will open the eyes of your heart. Walking through troubled waters is one way that God has of shifting your vision. When your heart breaks, there’s an avenue for God’s compassion to trickle in and envelop your heart with His. You’ll begin to look at others through the eyes of your heart and not through the eyes of quick judgment, harsh conclusions, or self-interest.

Your trip to the grocery store, to church, to Wal-Mart or Starbucks will take on a new hue. You’ll look at people and wonder what their story is; what their childhood was like; what caused them to be so happy or unhappy, why they seem this way or that.

Their job titles will be less important, their type of car won’t impress you, what kind of clothes they wear, or whether they’re wrinkled or stylish won’t matter anymore. You’re more likely to understand that they are in some pain and trying to run from it or trying to hide. Or, you’ll see their smile and demeanor and wonder if they’re truly happy or masking some inner, silent suffering or anger.

Now, you won’t get answers to all that you wonder about people and their stories, but your heart will be softened. You’ll find that you have a level of compassion that most people don’t have. If your heart is broken, let His compassion trickle in to your heart through the brokenness. Let Him open the eyes of your heart today.

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. – Steve Maraboli 

What value has compassion that does not take its object in its arms.Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Powerlessness And How It Can Help You

Most of us hate feeling powerless and indeed, it is not very good for us especially for extended periods of time. It can lead to depression, anxiety, outbursts of anger, alienation from others, physical symptoms and, in it’s trauma form, it can lead to the symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and loss of concentration or memory to name a few)

Sometimes powerlessness comes from circumstances we have little or no control over. Other times it comes from the consequences of our actions. The latter can be even more frustrating because we may say, “I could have done something different”. We ruminate and replay the situation over and over. This can be helpful if we can process it into lessons learned, insight, awareness about others, or ourselves and character growth.

It is interesting to note that sometimes powerlessness can be very powerful. When Jesus surrenders to the cross, His powerlessness redeems the whole world. This is illustrated, again, in the fictional Star Wars movie were Obe Wan allows himself to be slain by Darth Vader only to come back as a ghost to aid Luke in fighting the Empire. The Apostle Paul talks about his powerlessness with an affliction he has and how it helps him grow and be empowered. Joseph’s powerlessness in the Old Testament is the seed for his rise to power in the house of Pharaoh. Despite his brother’s plot against him, he is faithful and God sends him before his family to redeem them in their day of need. After they realize that the brother they sold into slavery is now in power over them, the brothers hear him say “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good”

Dealing with powerlessness is a tricky matter sometimes.

First we must realize that powerlessness in not necessarily, hopelessness.
Powerlessness may just mean you are not in control right now.

Second, it is important to admit our powerlessness to God and others.
This gets us out of the way sometimes and allows God to work in areas where we do not have the ability or opportunity to change things. Telling others about our powerlessness can be a request to help with need and, as a part of that, a place to get emotional support through listening, different perspective, advice, shared troubles/grief and accountability to change course as well as giving us structure.

Third, deal with powerlessness by processing it.
Write down what you are feeling and thinking, what you believe about yourself, the situation, what you may have done that contributed to the situation, what others may have contributed to the situation and what is purely circumstantial. Try to avoid “All or Nothing” thinking. The “All Is Lost” mentality is not very helpful. Slowing things down and evaluating the situation is usually better in the short and long run. Nehemiah puts this into action when he feels powerless at first to deal with greedy nobles who are loan sharking their fellow Hebrews right back into slavery. He slows down his anger and brings the nobles to task.

Fourth, after the initial shock wears off, try seeing where the processing leads you.
What does it tell you about the situation, yourself, others involved, your motives, your priorities, lessons learned, and how you can grow from it.

Over all powerlessness is not something to be desired but it is, essentially, unavoidable in life. How we deal with it and use it to grow and move closer to God and others is the key.

Fro The Past To The Future

Steve Arterburn

God wants to move you out of your broken past and into a better future.  As you cooperate with God’s process of redeeming your past, you need to honestly evaluate your life so you can redirect your course according to God’s design.

Jesus said, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).  The path to freedom always leads through the truth, even the truth about your past.  The apostle Paul examined his past, making an honest review of his earthly accomplishments, his wrongs, mistakes, gains, and his losses.  It was from this broad perspective that he wrote, ‘I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be’ (Philippians 3:12).  

Freedom from the past also involves facing up to times when others have harmed you and turning them over to God.  In a letter to Timothy Paul even states the truth that someone has hurt him but leaves the matter in God’s hands.

When you hand over your past to God with the prayer that he work it out for the best according to his will, you can finally let go of it.  Then you can redirect your course toward a brighter future and help others to do the same through the lessons you’ve learned.