Old Habits

Steve Arterburn

All of us have felt the tug of an old habit or former way of life.  And I’m sure you’ve known the frustration it creates as you long for the familiar, even though it may be destructive or may lead you outside God’s will.  At times, the challenge may seem too hard.  Your old life beckons, tempting you with familiar sources of comfort.

Did you know that many Jewish Christians of the first century thought about returning to the Jewish faith?  Some of Jesus’ teachings didn’t seem to line up with the teachings of the Jewish rabbis.  Was Jesus really the Messiah?  Did following him mean they had to give up their old, familiar forms of worship?  Would it be wrong to go back to their old beliefs and traditions?  Did it make sense to follow this new way when it led to harsh persecution?

The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed these concerns of the Jewish Christians.  In this book, they are encouraged to hold onto their faith, to encourage one another and to look forward to Jesus’ return.

What old habits are haunting you?  Addiction? Lust?  Anger?  Spiritual renewal requires that you seek God, surrender your life to Jesus Christ, and follow his ways.  From time to time, you will almost certainly feel a temptation to return to your former ways of life.  But God is more than able to help you overcome and empower you to grow.

Your Alter Ego

Steve Arterburn

Did you know that service is a way of saying thanks to God?  You can never truly pay back the overwhelming love and support your parents may have shown you.  But you can pass the love on to your children.  In the same way, you can never repay God for granting you life in Christ and for blessing you, but you can pass his love onto others in practical ways.

One of the great barriers to service, however, is pride.  Pride causes men to scoff at the thought of putting others first.  Pride teaches you to calculate how every action will further your own reputation or advance you toward your goals.  Pride makes you keep careful record of who is next in line for something good.

The apostle Paul had much to say to us about sacrifice.  Chapter twelve of the book of Romans portrays several specific areas in which you can be a living sacrifice and serve God in the world.  As a living sacrifice, you surrender using your gifts solely for your own advancement.  You seek to bless others instead and sacrifice your time and resources for their benefit.  In the process, your life will be shaped into the image of greatest man who ever lived:  Jesus Christ.  Where do you sense God calling you to serve?  Let your motivation for service flow from a heart that’s thankful to God for the grace he’s shown you.

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!