Sharing Your Burdens With God

If God is for us, who can be against us?
ROMANS 8:31 NKJV

The Bible promises this: tough times are temporary but God’s love is not—God’s love endures forever. So what does that mean to you? Just this: From time to time, everybody faces hardships and disappointments, and so will you. And when tough times arrive, God always stands ready to protect you and to heal you. Your task is straightforward: you must share your burdens with Him.

As Corrie ten Boom observed, “Any concern that is too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”  Those are comforting words, especially in these difficult days.

Whatever the size of your challenges, God is big enough to handle them. Ask for His help today, with faith and with fervor. Instead of turning things over in your mind, turn them over to God in prayer. Instead of worrying about your next decision, ask God to lead the way. Cast your burdens upon the One who cannot be shaken, and rest assured that He always hears your prayers.

We are not called to be burden-bearers, but cross-bearers and light-bearers. We must cast our burdens on the Lord. ~Corrie Ten Boom

When you’re enjoying the fulfillment and fellowship that inevitably accompanies authentic service, ministry is a joy. Instead of exhausting you, it energizes you; instead of burnout, you experience blessing.   ~Bill Hybels

God knows what each of us is dealing with. He knows our pressures. He knows our conflicts. And, He has made a provision for each and every one of them. That provision is Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us and empowering us to respond rightly.    ~Kay Arthur

No matter what we are going through, no matter how long the waiting for answers, of one thing we may be sure. God is faithful. He keeps His promises. What He starts, He finishes . . . including His perfect work in us. ~Gloria Gaither

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, whatever “it” is, You can handle it! Let me turn to You when I am burdened and when I am worried. You are my loving Father, and I will always trust You. Amen

The World’s Biggest Loser

Steve Arterburn

At first thought, it may puzzle you, startle you, or even offend you to think of Jesus Christ as the world’s biggest loser. It should. But those reactions don’t make the claim untrue. They only help us grasp just how counter-intuitive, how grand, and how scandalous the gospel really is. Here’s some food for thought, which I hope you’ll take some time to meditate on:

Being conceived by the Holy Spirit—that is, virgin born—was certainly an occasion for scandal. So much so, in fact, that Mary’s husband-to-be, Joseph, nearly terminated their engagement. Our Lord came into this world—his world—under the meanest of circumstances. His parents were insignificant people from an insignificant town. The world had no room for his coming. He was born in a barn, placed in a feeding trough for animals, and welcomed by lowly shepherds.

Jesus’ upbringing was not one of privilege or social prominence. When he began his public ministry, he sought and attracted the so-called dregs of society: the poor, the sickly, the uneducated, tax collectors, prostitutes, widows, and fisherman. His family and friends were perplexed by him. Many others were outraged by him. On the night of his arrest, Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest friends, and abandoned and denied by the rest of them. He was beaten and mocked by the Romans, and stood bloodied before his own Jewish people, only to hear them cry for his death. And then, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, a hill reserved for dumping garbage and executing criminals, Jesus was stripped nearly naked and nailed to a cross. In pain of body and distress of soul, he hung as a spectacle and an object of ridicule, as one who was abandoned by God and despised by humans.

Since that time, Jesus Christ has not attracted many of the world’s perceived winners—those who are rich, powerful, and well-positioned. In fact, it has been the case from the beginning that the church has been composed of mostly those whom the world has not esteemed. Even now, as the peoples of the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing unprecedented advances in their standards of living, they are cooling to the bedraggled Jew from Nazareth while those who suffer—those in Africa, South America, and  Asia—are presently flocking to the Kingdom.

In his amazing mercy and meekness, Jesus Christ has entered into the darkest, ugliest, and most broken places of human existence, and reflected a picture of the human predicament that is quite staggering. But it’s a predicament that we all share. Therefore, he continues to call all those who feel the burden of life East of Eden, those weighed with grief, fear, confusion, regret, loneliness, and addiction. To such as these, Christ is, and will always be, matchlessly beautiful. To the rest, however, Jesus will remain One of little account or consequence; that is, the world’s biggest loser.

Would you like to know Jesus Christ? Please see our New Life Every Day Devotionals and New Life Bibles.

Also, please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Accepting Forgiveness

Steve Arterburn

Many of you struggle with a lingering sense of guilt, even after you’ve asked God to forgive you for your sin and you know in your mind that you’re forgiven. The truth is we need to learn to accept God’s forgiveness. ‘In Jesus Christ, I am forgiven.’ This is a statement you make by faith; and as feelings arise that contradict it, affirm it again and again ‘ ‘In Jesus Christ I am forgiven’.

If you think about it, mistakes aren’t just sources of shame in your life; they’re also avenues for grace. Remember why Christ came. Yes, you are a real sinner. But, you have a real Savior! He came to live and die and be raised again so that your sins would be forgiven.

Don’t let your failures discourage you from making an effort. Grace opposes earning, but it doesn’t oppose effort. Don’t think: ‘If I try harder, I will never fail again.’ Instead, think: ‘Even though I might fail, I’m going to try, and by God’s grace, I will go forward. I’ll make progress.’

When you find yourself struggling with accepting God’s forgiveness, take a look at what the Bible says about forgiveness. Then write a letter of what you would say to your wife, your children, or a good friend who was struggling with not feeling forgiven. When you finish, read the letter to yourself, and ask the Holy Spirit to apply the truth of God’s promises to your heart.

Always Remember

Steve Arterburn

 

Have the benefits of your transformed life caused the memories of your previous lifestyle to fade? Do you remember what you once were before Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit entered your life? Can you recall the darkness before you experienced the light? As you see the lost around you, are you aware that apart from God’s grace, you’d be lost too ‘ right there amongst them?

Men, you should never wallow in, or be a slave to, your past. But, don’t ever forget where you came from, and how you were brought to where you are now. Paul told Titus: ‘Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy’But then God our Savior showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.’

You’ve lived in sin. Your heart was acquainted with pain, hopelessness, and spiritual confusion. Remember, you were saved because of the love and kindness of God’period. You didn’t save yourself. And you weren’t saved because you were good, or because your life was so resplendent that God was put in your debt.

Don’t ever forget this, guys. It will keep you humble and it will give you hope for others.

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!

The Gift Of The Spirit

Steve Arterburn

If you’re a Christian, it means the Holy Spirit is living in you. Sounds great ‘ but what does it mean? What does the Spirit do within you? Listen to what the Holy Spirit promises to be up to at this moment in your life:

Ezekiel 36:26 promises that He’s changing your hearts.

John 14:26 promises that He’s reminding you of what the Father has asked you to do.

John 16:13 promises that He’s guiding you and teaching you the truth.

Romans 8:13 promises the Spirit will turn you away from evil.

Romans 8:26 promises that the Holy Spirit will help you in times of distress and intercede with God for you when you’re confused and wearied.

First Corinthians 12:11 promises that the Spirit has given you gifts to use for the glory of God and the good of others.

Galatians 5:16 promises that the Spirit will lead you to victory over the sinful cravings of your heart.

These are precious promises. Claim them by faith’even if you’re not sensing all them in your life. Rejoice in these promises, and ask God to create in you a heart ready to cooperate with the transformation going on in you even as we speak.

Fields Of Change

Stephen Arterburn

Men, character isn’t something that’s instantly created. It’s carved out. God’s deal goes like this: ‘Reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground’ (Hosea 10:12).

 

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one field has been worked, we move with Him to the next. At each stop He bids us to get busy tilling sin-hardened ground, pulling weeds of neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work, and makes each task fruitful through the effectual power of the Holy Spirit. Even so, this sometimes takes more time than we’d like.

 

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 pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience precede spiritual maturity and usefulness.

 

Men, study these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.  

Lessons from the Desert

Ed Grant

Recently I escaped with a number of other pastors to the Cafa Franciscan Spiritual Retreat Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were there to learn how to be quiet with God. You might think this an easy task for those committed and trained to care for God’s people. Truth be told, those who speak for God need to better learn how to listen to Him. I came away from the experience with a greater determination to make time to hear from God through more relaxed times of prayer and by taking smaller bites of His Word, allowing time to meditate instead of rushing through it.

One of our assignments was to take a walk in solitude around the arid property, wonderfully landscaped with many varieties of cactus. These thrive in arid environments that receive minimal amounts of rainfall and survive by storing it in their thick branches. I took some time to contemplate the cacti, some looking like green pancakes connected at the edge, some looking as though they were victims of a stick-up as they held their hands up, and others resembling elongated bulbs protruding from the ground. I noticed that each was naturally protected with prickly needles or spikes protruding from the branches. These intimidating spikes threatened harm to any creature that dared to take a bite.

Mixed in with the desert flora were lovely palms and other varieties of trees.

There was also a “Healing Garden” on the border of the property where winding paths were shaded by leafy citrus trees: grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangelo, and tangerine. Obviously these trees didn’t belong here. They flourished only because an intricate irrigation system had been built throughout the garden. It was here that the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes to some important truths.

The unbelieving world is like the prickly cactus plants that have adapted to arid conditions, living on the minimal amounts of water. Their limited resources have to be protected from those who would steal them. They have no spiritual resources to share with others. As people perennially thirst they try to find something that will truly satisfy their longing. St. Augustine said it well: ‘O God, You have created us for Yourself and our souls are restless and searching until they find their rest in You.’

Those who have received the Savior into their lives are like the citrus trees and palms planted in the healing garden. They are not native to the desert climate and cannot long survive without regular care and watering. St. Peter refers to us as “aliens and sojourners.” As the author of Hebrews describes the difficult experiences of members of his “Hall of Faith” he calls them ‘aliens and strangers.’ He writes, ‘People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own’ (Hebrews 11:14). We also long for the place Jesus prepared for us when He went to the cross! But for now, the life we have must be sustained through regular times spent with Jesus, the One Who comes to us as Living Water. Faithful, unhurried prayer and a patient meditation on God’s Word are the means through which our love relationship with Him is sustained.

Unlike the desert flora that diligently guard their meager resources and have nothing but their beauty to share with others, God’s Spirit intends something more than beauty and survival for us. He delights to produce a variety of fruit through us for others to enjoy. The fruit miraculously grown in the arid world gives ample evidence to a source the thirsty world longs to experience.

As the high priest led the procession into the temple carrying a golden pitcher of water, he halted, looked to heaven and was about to pour its contents onto the ground. His action would be accompanied by a prayer for the rains to water the earth anew the following year. Suddenly Jesus’ voice pierced the reverent silence of the gathered congregation like a trumpet blast. He shouted in a loud voice, ‘If a man is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’ (John 7:37b-38). Those streams, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, are the source of the life giving fruit Paul has in mind in his letter the congregation in Galatia, called ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22ff.).

May we be like the psalmist who recognized his thirst and went to the One he knew could satisfy it: ‘O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ (Psalm 63:1)

Need a taste of God’s living water, a mini-retreat?  Please join us for a New Life Weekend.

Guilty or Not Guilty: 10 Steps to Guilt Free Living

Steve Arterburn

1. Don’t ignore, but rather respond to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Guilt can be a merciless taskmaster that drives us far from God, or it can gently lead us back to a right relationship with Him, more fully convinced than ever of the Father’s love. How we respond to guilt today can determine our success in life for years to come.

2. Listen to your guilt objectively. If you are feeling guilty, your internal moral compass may be sounding an alarm. Maybe your guilt is justified, maybe not. Don’t embrace false guilt, but rather look at your situation in the light of objective truth and God’s Word. ‘For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.’ ~2 Corinthians 7:10

3. Tell the truth and be truthful about your circumstances. It’s easy to “embellish” the truth about your life, decisions and relationships. God is really into honesty. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ~ 1 John 1:9

4. Live a “no regrets” lifestyle. We often take for granted the relationships, family members and friends in our life. In reality, those closest to you could be swept away in the blink of an eye. Treat each moment as a gift of God’s sovereign grace, and redeem it with love and forgiveness towards others. You’ll sleep well at night!

5. Realize that in some sense, you’re guilty as charged. Guilt can arise from things we say and do that directly violate God’s law. Everybody sins. The fact is, the Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ ~ Romans 3:23. But, God does not leave you under the emotional burden of sin. He has made a way to break free from our sin and guilt.

6. Talk to God about your guilt. God wants to free you from anything that would hinder your full life and liberty in Him. Wouldn’t you help your children in any way you could? God wants to help you resolve guilt issues, but you have to open the lines of communication.

7. Embrace God’s answer for guilt. God works through everything that happens in our lives, including guilt, to draw us to Jesus. ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.’ ~Romans 8:28,29. No matter what you have done, God has made a way home through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, yet He was willing to die on the cross and receive the punishment we deserved. His death on the cross and resurrection secures for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness.

8. Be aware that some guilt comes from your enemy. At times, the enemy of our soul, Satan, uses guilt to keep us from the Lord. The Bible describes Satan as the accuser of our brethren (Rev. 12:10), who appears before God day and night with accusations against believers. These accusations can leave you feeling as if God will not forgive you. If you have repented of your sins but still feel the accuser lurking in the shadows, confront the accusations in light of God’s Word. Jesus said, ‘If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.’ ~John 8:36

Receiving the Gift that Heals: Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

- Read: Psalm 103:2-4; 8-13; Isaiah 44:22; 1 John 1:9 -

We all wish there was a delete key for dealing with the past so we could forget the hurtful things we’ve done. But our memory gets in the way of forgetting the pain our sin has caused others. The only way this pain can be truly removed is through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the basis of our life in Christ. The Christian life is a forgiven and forgiving life. Jesus taught us to pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We cannot give what we do not have, so forgiving is a function of having first received forgiveness. Thus, we live and relate to one another in the forgiveness of our sins.

What does it mean to receive forgiveness? Does it mean what we did is approved of, excused, or denied? Not in the least. Does it mean the hurt we caused is forgotten and not taken seriously? No. Does it mean we’re exempted from any consequences of our behavior? Not at all. Does it mean we’ve fully reinstated into the relationship we damaged as if nothing happened? Usually not.

To be forgiven simply means having our debt canceled. The forgiver, while blaming us for the serious, wounding wrong we did to them, gives up their right for vengeance and extends mercy instead.

Receiving forgiveness is experiencing grace ‘ receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

We all have difficulty receiving forgiveness and feeling it because we have difficulty receiving unmerited favor. We would prefer to have to work at it. Grace goes against who we are because we don’t feel like we deserve love when we’ve messed up. But deserve and love don’t go together. Gift and love go together. If we have to deserve love it’s not a gift; it’s a wage we have to negotiate. Forgiveness is a gift from the forgiver.

Receiving forgiveness is a process that requires several things. First, you have to be guilty of wrong doing. Some of us have difficulty accepting the fact that we did something wrong. We resist being in the ‘I am wrong’ position and owning the fact that what we did caused others to experience serious pain and to suffer the resulting, and often prolonged fallout of this. But you cannot receive forgiveness unless you own up to, take responsibility for, and truly feel remorseful of your wrong doing.

Then you must confess it in specific terms. Proverbs 28:13 says, He who conceals his transgression will not succeed, but He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy. Some guys admit they sinned in global terms, but not in specific, personal terms. They admit they’re weak in sexual sin like every other guy without naming and identifying with the specific wrong they’ve done. We are to be specific. General confessions do very little to convict of sin, convince the one offended of your seriousness, or to bring healing.

We are then to turn away from our sin; remove it from our thoughts, and resolve in our heart that we will not do it again. Isaiah 55:7 says, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. God knows the difference between those who are sincere and those who are trying to temporarily ease their conscience. He is not mocked or deceived. If you come in sorrow, humility and sincerity, His grace is abundant. However, He has little patience for those who would abuse His mercy. Search your heart for true repentance, and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to make the necessary changes.

We also need a forgiver. Forgiveness is relational. It’s an interpersonal process, not an intellectual thing, mind set, or some meditative state. It’s something that transpires between two people. Someone has to give forgiveness for us to receive it. The forgiver needs to be a good accuser by making the offense direct and specific. Once we’ve admitted to and taken ownership of it, the forgiver’s words should be something like those of Jesus to woman caught in adultery, Neither do I accuse you. Now go and sin no more.

The wrong that we’ve done is serious, but true repentance and the forgiveness received is more serious still. Wounds are healed, self-respect is restored, hope for the future is birthed, light removes the former darkness, positives replace negatives, and newness of life made possible.