Called by Name

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:3-4

Called by Name

There’s no group discount for the kingdom.  Instead, God tugs at your heart as an individual, calling you one by one.  When God calls someone, He calls him or her personally.  It’s a biblical pattern repeated time and again.

The Lord called young Samuel by name until he responded. (1 Samuel 3) Jesus stopped at the fishing boat of Peter and Andrew and said, “Come, follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus halted Saul of Tarsus in his tracks in the middle of the highway, again calling him by name. (Acts 9:1-9)

And so it’s been through all of time. The manner and circumstances of the call are radically diverse, but its personal nature is the same. The Bible compares such a relationship to a shepherd’s intimate knowledge of his flock. The shepherd knows the peculiarities and habits of every one of his lambs.

Jesus Christ knows you intimately. He calls you by name. Listen for Him today!  When you hear Him—respond to Him!

– Steve Arterburn

 A leader takes people where they want to go.  A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be. – Rosalynn Carter

Whom God sets Free is Free Indeed

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. – Psalm 142:7
Whom God sets Free is Free Indeed

Several years ago, four inmates at the Greenville, Mississippi city jail were caught breaking back into their cells!  And according to the district attorney, “It is entirely possible this wasn’t the first time they’ve done this.”  The four apparently found a way for repeated access to the outside world.  Yet according to the police chief, “They didn’t seem interested in escaping, they just missed their amenities of life and went back to get them.”  This particular time, they returned to jail carrying a load of gin and marijuana.  Ironically, these willing prisoners now face felony escape charges.

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.  How many of us have resolved to spend our days in prisons of our own making—prisons we’re able to escape through personal change, but won’t because the prison provides us a semblance of security?

You can be freed from whatever your prison is.  Look for help—first to God, but then to those God has put in your path a trusted friend, pastor or counselor.  And remember God is a God of second chances.

– Steve Arterburn

I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal. – Groucho Marx

A Better Way

I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. – Malachi 3:6

A Better Way

Too many of us travel through life basing our decisions on how they make us feel and what you experience. We don’t study God’s Word enough and spend too little time in prayer.

Consequently, we have very little knowledge of the Good Shepherd who beckons us to follow Him, no matter how we feel and regardless of our circumstances.

How about considering a transformational alternative? If you place your focus squarely upon Christ, over time it will become second nature to look to Him and not to yourselves. You will not get lost when you enter the dark seasons of life. Jesus will be your unshakable horizon. Your focused gaze upon Him will keep you from altering your direction due to momentary discomfort or the temptation of temporary gratification. You won’t drift off into spiritual shipwreck!

Listen to the Word of God in Malachi 3:6: “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” In a world that is endlessly fickle and fleeting, God is an immovable Rock.

Our faith, when focused on the true God, will not be shaken by adversity or temptation. As long as we hold tightly to Him by faith trusting in His goodness and love we can come through pain and struggle with a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus, rather than a strained faith resulting from a prolonged failure to seek and see our true God.

Start today. Step out in faith. Walk on the water. It’s scary at first, but actually pretty cool once you get out there.

– Steve Arterburn

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.  – J.R.R. Tolkien

The Morning Watch

Every morning He wakes me. He teaches me to listen like a student. The Lord God helps me learn . . . – Isaiah 50:4-5

The Morning Watch

Each new day is a gift from God, and if you are wise, you will spend a few quiet moments each morning thanking the Giver. When you do, you’ll discover that time spent with God can lift your spirits and relieve your stress.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Surrender your mind to the Lord at the beginning of each day.” That is sound advice. When you begin each day with your head bowed and your heart lifted, you are reminded of God’s love, His protection, and His commandments. Then, you can align your priorities for the coming day with the teachings and commandments that God has placed upon your heart.

So, if you’ve acquired the unfortunate habit of trying to “squeeze” God into the corners of your life, it’s time to reshuffle the items on your to-do list by placing God first. And if you haven’t already done so, form the habit of spending quality time with your Father in heaven. He deserves it . . . and so do you.

– Steve Arterburn

How paltry must be the devotions of those who are always in a hurry. – William Law

How motivating it has been for me to view my early morning devotions as time of retreat alone with Jesus, who desires that I “come with Him by myself to a quiet place” in order to pray, read His Word, listen for His voice, and be renewed in my spirit. – Anne Graham Lotz

I suggest you discipline yourself to spend time daily in a systematic reading of God’s Word. Make this “quiet time” a priority that nobody can change. – Warren Wiersbe

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, help me to hear Your direction for my life in the quiet moments when I study Your Holy Word. And as I go about my daily activities, let everything that I say and do be pleasing to You. Amen

 

Time for Renewal

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. – Ezekiel 36:26

Time for Renewal

Even the most inspired Christians can, from time to time, find themselves running on empty. The demands of daily life can drain us of our strength and rob us of the joy that is rightfully ours in Christ. When we find ourselves tired, discouraged, or worse, there is a source from which we can draw the power needed to recharge our spiritual batteries. That source is God.

God intends that His children lead joyous lives filled with abundance and peace. But sometimes, abundance and peace seem very far away. It is then that we must turn to God for renewal, and when we do, He will restore us.

Are you tired or troubled? Turn your heart toward God in prayer. Are you weak or worried? Take the time—or, more accurately, make the time—to delve deeply into God’s Holy Word. Are you spiritually depleted? Call upon fellow believers to support you, and call upon Christ to renew your spirit and your life. When you do, you’ll discover that the Creator of the universe stands always ready and always able to create a new sense of wonderment and joy in you.

– Steve Arterburn

God specializes in things fresh and firsthand. His plans for you this year may outshine those of the past. He’s prepared to fill your days with reasons to give Him praise. –  Joni Eareckson Tada

In those desperate times when we feel like we don’t have an ounce of strength, He will gently pick up our heads so that our eyes can behold something—something that will keep His hope alive in us. – Kathy Troccoli

Repentance removes old sins and wrong attitudes, and it opens the way for the Holy Spirit to restore our spiritual health. – Shirley Dobson

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, You are my rock and my strength. When I grow weary, let me turn my thoughts and my prayers to You. When I am discouraged, restore my faith in You. Let me always trust in Your promises, Lord, and let me draw strength from those promises and from Your unending love for me. Amen

Spiritual Disciplines

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men. – Ephesians 6:7

Spiritual Disciplines

The word “discipline” tends to put people on the defensive because it’s often mistakenly associated with the idea of punishment.  That’s unfortunate, and very inaccurate.  The Latin root of the word discipline means student.  That’s why Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline as “training or experience that corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects, especially the mental faculties or moral character.”  And that’s why Jesus calls those who follow Him in faith His disciples.

Through the centuries, Christians have stimulated their life in Christ by practicing what are called “spiritual disciplines.”  But as our culture has increasingly lost the ability to be informed by its past, and as society grows ever more permissive and lax, the “spiritual disciplines” have been forsaken and almost forgotten.

I’m talking about daily Bible reading—alone in a time of devotion, and together with your family.  Concentrated, intentional, and regular time of prayer, alone and with fellow believers.  Taking time to care for the sick, the widows and the orphans.  Serving our neighbors in need as a response to Christ’s love for us.

Consider adding one Spiritual discipline to your life this week.

– Steve Arterburn

The best servant does his work unseen. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Accepting Life

The Lord says, “Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land.” – Isaiah 43:18-19
Accepting Life

If you’re like most people, you like being in control. Period. You want things to happen according to your wishes and according to your timetable. But sometimes, God has other plans . . . and He always has the final word.

Oswald Chambers correctly observed, “Our Lord never asks us to decide for Him; He asks us to yield to Him—a very different matter.” These words remind us that even when we cannot understand the workings of God, we must trust Him and accept His will.

All of us experience adversity and pain. As human beings with limited comprehension, we can never fully understand the will of our Father in heaven. But as believers in a benevolent God, we must always trust His providence.

When Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, as described in Luke 22, He poured out His heart to God. Jesus knew of the agony that He was destined to endure, but He also knew that God’s will must be done. We, like our Savior, face trials that bring fear and trembling to the very depths of our souls, but like Christ, we too must ultimately seek God’s will, not our own.

Are you embittered by a personal tragedy that you did not deserve and cannot understand? If so, it’s time to make peace with life. It’s time to forgive others, and, if necessary, to forgive yourself. It’s time to accept the unchangeable past, to embrace the priceless present, and to have faith in the promise of tomorrow. It’s time to trust God completely. And it’s time to reclaim the peace—His peace—that can and should be yours.

Acceptance means learning to trust God more. Today, think of at least one aspect of your life that you’ve been reluctant to accept, and then prayerfully ask God to help you trust Him more by accepting the past.

– Steve Arterburn

Prayer may not get us what we want, but it will teach us to want what we need. – Vance Havner

I am truly grateful that faith enables me to move past the question of  “Why?”– Zig Ziglar

What’s Wrong With Grownups

Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. – Colossians 3:21

Whats Wrong With Grownups

What’s wrong with grownups?” This was a question posed by a Sunday school teacher to a class of ten-year-olds. See if you recognize yourself in any of these complaints:

  • Grownups make promises, then forget them, or say it wasn’t a promise, just a “maybe.”
  • Grownups don’t do the things they tell their children to do—like pick up their things or always tell the truth.
  • Grownups don’t listen. They decide ahead of time what they’re going to answer.
  • Grownups make mistakes, but won’t admit them. They pretend they weren’t mistakes at all—or that somebody else made them.
  • Grownups always talk about what they did and what they knew when they were ten-years-old, but they don’t try to think what it’s like to be ten-years-old right now.

If you’re like me, right now you’re thinking, “Ouch!” Children are perceptive, and they are much more pure in heart than we give them credit for. Take time for them, be honest with them, don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry“.

– Steve Arterburn

Nothing you ever do for a child is wasted. – Garrison Keillor

Children are the brightest treasures we bring forth into this world, but too large a percentage of the population continues to treat them as inconveniences and nuisances, when they’re not treating them as possessions or toys. – Charles de Lint

Easter in Narnia

He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25:8

Easter in Narnia

In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the lion, Aslan, offers himself as a sacrifice for a little boy, a traitor named Edmund. When the lion rises from the dead he says:

. . . [the Witch’s] knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

Does that story sound familiar? It should; it’s the story of Easter. Jesus Christ gave his life for traitors whom he loved, was raised from the dead, and therefore broke the curse of death.

– Steve Arterburn

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” – Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Jesus Didn’t Hurry

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Jesus Didnt Hurry

One of my staff members has a habit of reminding me that Jesus was never in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry, hoping for quick answers and looking for motion in the direction I want to go. But then I hear him say it again . . . “Jesus was never in a hurry.

I’ve thought about that and it makes me think of using a crock pot. The most tender, juicy meat you can fix is in a slow cooker. And, that’s how it is with healing. Healing is a process that won’t be hurried. It’s a slow cooker experience. And if you accept that, it will take the pressure off you to finish it up.

God desires for you to pay attention to Him and His creation in your life each day. When you race through life doing everything as fast as you can, you miss some pretty awesome things along the way. Every challenge, every growth opportunity, every surprise that comes your way is an opportunity for your to look for God.

Healing can be slow, but it doesn’t mean you’re not growing. Allow it to slow cook and you’ll have a tastier recovery filled with some mouth watering nuggets of wisdom. Let the Master Chef do His job with you.

Jesus was never in a hurry. Why are you?

– Steve Arterburn

Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away. – Ann Voskamp

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday. – A.A. Milne