The Struggle Against Worldliness

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
ROMANS 12:2 NASB

We live in the world, but we should not worship it—yet at every turn, or so it seems, we are tempted to do otherwise. As Warren Wiersbe correctly observed, “Because the world is deceptive, it is dangerous.”

The 21st-century world we live in is a noisy, stress-filled, distracting place, a place that offers countless temptations and dangers. The world seems to cry, “Worship me with your time, your money, your energy, your thoughts, and your life!” But if we are wise, we won’t fall prey to that temptation.

C. S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.” That’s good advice. You’re likely to hit what you aim at, so aim high . . . aim at heaven.

The Lord Jesus Christ is still praying for us. He wants us to be in the world but not of it.   ~Charles Stanley

Our fight is not against any physical enemy; it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We must struggle against sin all our lives, but we are assured we will win.   Corrie Ten Boom

The more we stuff ourselves with material pleasures, the less we seem to appreciate life.   Barbara Johnson

All those who look to draw their satisfaction from the wells of the world—pleasure, popularity, position, possessions, politics, power, prestige, finances, family, friends, fame, fortune, career, children, church, clubs, sports, sex, success, recognition, reputation, religion, education, entertainment, exercise, honors, health, hobbies—will soon be thirsty again! ~Anne Graham Lotz

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, this world is a crazy place, and I have many opportunities to stray from Your commandments. Help me turn to obey You! Let me keep Christ in my heart, and let me put the devil in his place: far away from me! Amen

The Need to Forgive

All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another,  forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
EPHESIANS 4:31-32 HCSB

It has been said that life is an exercise in forgiveness. And it should be added that forgiveness is an essential step in overcoming tough times.

Christ understood the importance of forgiveness when He commanded, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV). But sometimes, forgiveness is difficult indeed.
When we have been injured or embarrassed, we feel the urge to strike back and to hurt the ones who have hurt us. But Christ instructs us to do otherwise. Christ teaches us that forgiveness is God’s way and that mercy is an integral part of God’s plan for our lives. In short, we are commanded to weave the thread of forgiveness into the very fabric of our lives.

Do you invest more time than you should reliving the past? Are you troubled by feelings of anger, bitterness, envy, or regret? Do you harbor ill will against someone whom you simply can’t seem to forgive? If so, it’s time to finally get serious about forgiveness.

When someone hurts you, the act of forgiveness is difficult, but necessary. Until you forgive, you are trapped in a prison of your own creation. But what if you have tried to forgive and simply can’t seem to do so? The solution to your dilemma is this: you simply must make forgiveness a higher priority in your life.

Have you sincerely asked God to forgive you for your inability to forgive others? Have you genuinely prayed that those feelings of anger might be swept from your heart? If so, congratulations. If not, perhaps it’s time to move past your own particular tough times by freeing yourself from the chains of bitterness and regret.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   ~C. S. Lewis

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, forgiveness is Your commandment, and I know that I should forgive others just as You have forgiven me.  But, genuine forgiveness is difficult. Help me to forgive those who have injured me, and deliver me from the traps of anger  and bitterness. Forgiveness is Your way, Lord; let it be mine. Amen

Make Peace With the Past

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
JOHN 14:27 KJV

Some of life’s greatest roadblocks are not the ones we see through the windshield; they are, instead, the roadblocks that seem to fill the rearview mirror. Because we are imperfect human beings who lack perfect control over our thoughts, we may allow ourselves to become “stuck” in the past—even though we know better. Instead of focusing our thoughts and energies on the opportunities of today, we may allow painful memories to fill our minds and sap our strength. We simply can’t seem to let go of our pain, so we relive it again and again . . . with predictably unfortunate consequences. Thankfully, God has other plans.

Philippians 3:13-14 instructs us to focus on the future, not the past: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Yet for many of us, focusing on the future is difficult indeed. Why? Part of the problem has to do with forgiveness. When we find ourselves focusing too intently on the past, it’s a sure sign that we need to focus, instead, on a more urgent need: the need to forgive. No amount of anger or bitterness can change what happened yesterday. Tears can’t change the past; regrets can’t change it. Our worries won’t change the past, and neither will our complaints. Simply put, the past is, and always will be, the past. Forever.

Can you summon both the courage and the wisdom to accept your past and move on with your life? Can you accept the reality that yesterday—and all the yesterdays before it—are gone? And, can you entrust all those yesterdays to God? By God’s grace, you can.

So if you’ve endured a difficult past, learn from it, but don’t live in it. Instead, build your future on a firm foundation of trust and forgiveness: trust in your Heavenly Father, and forgiveness for all His children, including yourself.

If you are God’s child, you are no longer bound to your past or to what you were. You are a brand new creature in Christ Jesus.   ~Kay Arthur

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, free me from anger, resentment, and envy. When I am bitter, I cannot feel the peace that You intend for my life. Keep me mindful that forgiveness is Your commandment, and help me accept the past, treasure the present, and trust the future . . . to You. Amen

Continuing in the Father’s Strength

Excerpted from the book More Jesus, Less Religion by Steve Arterburn

After many years of service to Christ, Cliff’s wife developed a quickly spreading cancer. Many people joined Cliff in fervent prayer for his wife, but she failed rapidly and soon died. Through it all, however, Cliff did not break his determined gaze on Christ. Instead of allowing the tragedy to shake his faith, he allowed his deep experience of pain and suffering—and even depression and confusion—to push him even deeper into the arms of the living God.

This grieving servant of God knew only two things to hold on to, and he held on to both with all his might. The first was his unshakable conviction that God was a good God. And while he didn’t understand this particular circumstance or why his wife had to suffer and die, he did know that God was good and that there had to be a reason he would come to understand one day. Second, he knew beyond all doubt that God loved him. In spite of everything. No matter what. Through it all.

Cliff clung to those twin truths, refusing to take his eyes off the Lord even when he was wracked with grief. When you’re in severe pain or distress, life becomes pretty simple. You’re in survival mode, and you have neither the heart nor the strength to spread around your emotional energy. Instrument certified pilots know what this is all about. When visibility drops to nil and storms rage around them, it is second nature for them to focus on the ‘artificial horizon’ gauge on their instrument panel. No matter what their senses might tell them or what weird phenomena they see through the windscreen, they know that gauge will give them their true position and keep them flying level. They may feel as though they are in a steep dive–‘or even flying upside down. Yet their eyes must lock onto that gauge, and they must respond accordingly. When it comes to survival, it doesn’t really matter what they feel like; what matters is what their instruments say.

Many travel through this world basing every decision on how they feel and what they experience. They do not study God’s Word or spend time with Jesus; they have no real knowledge of this Guide who begs us follow him, no matter how we feel and regardless of our circumstances. If we stay focused on him, if it becomes second nature to look to him and not to ourselves, we will not get lost in the dark. Jesus will be that instrument that keeps us headed toward the horizon. Our faith in him can keep us from alternating our direction based on momentary discomfort–and it can prevent needless tragedy.

So it was with Cliff. Although his emotions sometimes raged and other times fell dead flat, although his thoughts were at times confused and he felt his equilibrium slipping, he focused on the ‘Jesus gauge.’ He knew that no matter how his circumstances changed, his Lord would neither change nor fail. As the Lord told Israel, ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendents of Jacob, are not destroyed’ (Malachi 3:6).

As a consequence of such focus, Cliff enjoyed a daily supply–an artesian well–of God’s love through those days of sorrow and distress. He was not only comforted himself, but he became a surprising source of comfort to others.

Our faith, when focused on the true God, will not be shaken by adversity or unexpected turbulence. As long as we, like Cliff, hold tight to our faith in God’s goodness and love, we can come through pain and struggle with a deeper and richer relationship with Jesus, rather than a faith strained beyond its limits because we failed to focus on the true God.

For more help please see More Jesus, Less Religion.

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

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.

The Truth About Anger

Excerpted from the book More Jesus, Less Religion by Steve Arterburn

Despite what you may have been taught, even anger can be a
legitimate emotional response to a broken world.Christ became angry, expressed it, and did something about
it.Consider the story from the gospel
of Mark.The text says, ‘a man with a
shriveled hand was there.Some of them
were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see
if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of
everyone.’Then Jesus asked them,
‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or do evil, to save life or to
kill?’But they remained silent’ (Mark
3:1-4).

What a terrible silence that was!It reeked with hypocrisy, hatred, jealously, and a stubborn
refusal to believe.The text says, ‘He
looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts,
said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’
He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored’ (verse 5).

Now Jesus knew very well what sort of world he would enter
when he stepped through the gates of heaven to be conceived in the womb of a
teenage girl and born in Bethlehem.He
was under no illusions about the intransigence, cruelty, hatred, and
woodenheaden obstinacy he would encounter during his earthly sojourn.He knew very well that the sins of earth
would cost him his life.Even so, when
he came nose to nose with such sin and stubbornness in his teaching ministry,
it caused him deep frustration’even to the point of burning anger.

What then does Scripture have to say about anger in our
lives?It can certainly be sinful and
out of control, even dangerous.But it
doesn’t have to be.The Bible gives us
guidelines for expressing that anger in a healthy way.Paul writes, ”In your anger do not
sin.’Do not let the sun go down while
you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold’ (Ephesians
4:26-27).What great counsel!Yes, you and I will experience surges of
anger from time to time.And that anger
isn’t necessarily sinful.The key lies
in dealing with that anger before it finds a place to lodge and take root in
our hearts.We need to deal with
relational problems right away and not allow them to fester or seethe within
us.That’s where Satan finds a foothold
in our lives.

James reminds us to be ‘slow to become angry.’Why?
Because ‘man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God
desires'(James 1:19-20).In other words, anger should not dominate
our lives so that we’re living with a perpetual chip on our shoulder, ready to
fly off the handle at the slightest provocation.But neither James nor Paul says we should never be angry.

Of course, in some expressions of the Christian faith, anger
is a no-no for both men and women.Some
believe that everyone must be completely nice and pleasant at all times
and that anyone showing anger is not a good Christian; he or she should work on
the sinful attitude at the heart of the anger.
But such a belief distorts how Christianity and reality are to be
joined.Everyone, Christian or not, is
going to get angry.The sooner this
anger is expressed and resolved, the better.
Yet many angry Christians don’t acknowledge they are angry, even as they
seethe with bitterness and resentment.
Their denial of their feelings is both ineffective and unnecessary.

Without our anger we are unable to cleanse the temple of God and maintain its sanctity. Without anger, we cannot get those people who violate the sanctity of our beings out of our lives. Without our anger, we are relegated to playing the role of enabler and victim.

Anger can be a mechanism of self-defense; those who deny its
presence are vulnerable to manipulation and all forms of exploitation.People who don’t have the right to be angry
become powerless, unable to stand for what is right.

Some of us are walking paradoxes: The emotions we are
willing to show don’t match what we’re actually feeling.We are in a constant state of denial when it
comes to our emotions.Women, though
angry on the inside, feel safe if they only show their misery and
depression.Men, feeling sad and
depressed, will not risk being labeled weak by expressing their sadness.So they mask their depression by pushing
people around through their anger.

Genuine healthy Christianity, however, is able to embrace
who we are as human beings.God knows
your struggles, your heartache, your brokenness.He doesn’t reject you because you have needs or feel strong
flashfloods of emotion.Instead, he
wants to point you to godly resources to meet those needs’and ultimately, to
himself.He made you.Who understands you better than he?God created us as emotional beings.He created us with needs.The key is that he wants every one of those
needs to point us back to him.

Genuine Christian experience encourages believers to
‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn'(Romans 12:15).It validates and honors the whole range of human emotion.

In healthy faith there is no need to hide our feelings. We
can rejoice that God has given us emotions by which to experience the extremes
of life.We should acknowledge them,
confess them when they are based on a wrong view of God, and express them as
they develop.

Healthy faith allows us to embrace all aspects of our
humanity.It acknowledges our capacity
to sin and make mistakes.There is no
illusion of perfection, no need to be perfect or to hide when we fail.Healthy faith allows us to experience God’s
mercy and grace’and pass it along. As
Paul noted, we who experience suffering and hurt and then feel the comfort of
Christ are the ones best qualified to administer first aid to others.

We become wounded healers…just like Jesus.  Need some help with your anger? 

Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

At The Cross

Steve Arterburn

As you travel the long, difficult road that God’s calling you to walk, you must bear a cross.  That cross represents the burdens you bear as a follower of Christ.  But the way of the cross always leads to resurrection and a new life.

As God leads you to do his will you may wish there were some other way.  You may feel fear, a lack of confidence, deep anguish, and a host of other emotions that threaten to stop you in your tracks.  Regardless of your feelings, you mustn’t let them cause you to turn away from the path God sets before you.

Jesus understands your fears and your struggle to persevere.  He had similar emotions.  The night he was arrested, he cried out, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death’ (Matthew 26:38).  He wondered if there was some other way and prayed three times for the suffering to be taken away, if possible.  But he always ended his prayer, ‘Yet I want your will, not mine’ (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus found the grace to accept God’s plan.

You may be overwhelmed as you consider the cross you’ll have to bear on the way to a new life.  But during such times of struggle, you can go to Jesus for encouragement and express your deepest emotions.  As you cry out for help, you can be confident that you will be given the strength you need to do God’s will rather than your own.

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.

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.