Loving And Being Loved

Steve Arterburn

Spiritual growth is a fragile process.  Without vigilance and encouragement from others, you live with the prospect of slipping back into sin.  In the face of this, you need help from others who have courage and sensitivity toward your situation.  Harsh condemnation will not help you, but neither will friends who flatter you with falsely positive words.  Working with faithful support is what you need.

Consider John’s short letter in the book second John.  In this letter, John balances condemnation and encouragement, proving himself to be a wise counselor and a great example to us.  Recognize the past successes of others and affirm your brothers and sisters in Christ.  At the same time, be willing to point out hazards ahead when you see them.  Share your hard-won wisdom with warnings when necessary.  Pointing out the obstacles ahead and encouraging others to be careful is the loving thing to do.  

Loving one another is the most basic act of obedience to God.  It’s also an essential element in your spiritual growth.  At times, you may tend to focus inward and become self-centered.  We live in a dog-eat-dog, every man for himself world.  But that’s not Christianity.  Remembering to be loving toward others will not only please God, but it will also help you to think of others and build good relationships.

Praying for Others

Steve Arterburn

Here’s a great principle of prayer: You can do a great deal for people after you pray for them but little of lasting value until you pray for them.  

I don’t think I need to argue about the value of praying for your spouse, kids, and friends.  But sometimes in our busy culture it’s tough to clear your mind and get started.  So let’s look to a man who knew the value of prayer.  The apostle Paul begins many of his letters with a helpful pattern.  

If you look at his letter to the Philippians, for instance, you’ll see it begins with a blessing of grace and peace.  Grace is the reason for our salvation and peace is the result.  Paul then gives thanks for the Philippian believers.  Cherish the work that God’s doing in and through others.  Next Paul makes requests to aid the spiritual growth of his friends.  He wants them to grow in their love, knowledge, and understanding of Christ.  Last, Paul prays that they’d behave in a manner that honors God in light of coming judgment.  This isn’t a fear tactic but a reminder to live for the ultimate goal of heaven, not the short-term rewards of comfort and pleasure.  

God loves it when we come to him in prayer.  Will you select one person that God has placed on your heart, and write a prayer for them?  For help, look to Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Refusing To Lie

Steve Arterburn

If you truly desire to be the person God created you to be, then you must learn to be truthful and turn away from lying.  Lying can easily become a way of life.  You lie to your kids to keep them from nagging.  You lie to your boss to make yourself look good. You can even lie to yourself.  

Are you trying to cover up your problems and pretend they don’t exist’including your problem with lying?  Like it or not, you must face reality.  When you do, you will see the pain caused by your lies.  You’ll see how they’ve hurt you and your loved ones.

Think about these verses from First Peter and Colossians:  ‘If you want a happy life and good days keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies’ (3:10).  ‘Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds.  In its place you have clothed yourself with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you’ (3:9-10).

If lying is second nature to you, it may be difficult for you to change, but you must!  You must learn to guard your lips and your thoughts from lies, which will hurt you as well as others.  Then you can press on in your spiritual growth to be the person God created you to be.

Lessons From Luke

Steve Arterburn

Luke was one of the most prolific writers of the New Testament. He gave a detailed account of the life of Jesus in his Gospel and a description of the early church in the book of Acts.

Luke was also a doctor, and his writing reveals his great compassion for people. Even his efforts to write his two books were motivated by a concern to help a friend grow in faith. His concern for the spiritual health of others was matched by his concern for their physical well-being. Throughout his books he made a point to notice the physical suffering of people and the care that those people received. He recounted how Jesus and his apostles again and again brought spiritual and physical healing into hurting and broken lives. And he noticed how Jesus paid special attention to the helpless in society. Jesus made a special point of helping outcasts, prostitutes, and hated tax collectors. Luke’s compassionate heart led him to emphasize the compassion of Jesus for those rejected by society.

Luke is a man who didn’t aspire to greatness or try to grab the spotlight. His goal in life was to serve and care for others. We need men like Luke in our lives, don’t we? Perhaps even more, however, we need to learn how we can become instruments of healing in the lives of the people around us. Shed that tough exterior, friend, and share the compassion of Christ today.

Releasing Worry to God

Steve Arterburn

Forgiving those who’ve committed wrongs against you doesn’t necessarily guarantee and easier life. You may still have to deal with a difficult boss, wife, in-laws, or kids. You still have to deal with the every day stresses of life. There are pressures beyond your control that will wear you down if you aren’t careful to release them to God. So what can you do?

Our brother in Christ, the apostle Paul, gave us a strategy to help us deal with the troubles of daily life. He wrote: ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7).

This verse gives you the image of a guard patrolling your heart and mind. When the guard of prayer is in place it will keep out the pressing anxieties of life. If this guard isn’t in place, pain and worry will result.

What pressures are weighing on you? Are you talking to God about them or are you numbing yourself through things like video games, porn, alcohol, overeating, or overspending? Just as you must continually forgive, you also have to continually release your worries and specific needs to God. He will, in turn, protect you and give you the peace that passes all understanding.

Building Character In Silence

Steve Arterburn

Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him. Psalm 37:7 HCSB

Here’s a simple little prescription for character-building: carve out a little time for silence every day. Here in our noisy, 21st-century world, silence is highly underrated. Many of us can’t even seem to walk from the front door to the street without a cell phone or an iPOD in our ear. The world seems to grow louder day by day, and our senses seem to be invaded at every turn. But, if we allow the distractions of a clamorous society to separate us from God’s peace, we do ourselves a profound disservice. So if we’re wise, we make time each day for quiet reflection. And when we do, we are rewarded.

Do you take time each day for an extended period of silence? And during those precious moments, do you sincerely open your heart to your Creator? If so, you will be blessed. If not, then the struggles and stresses of everyday living may rob you of the peace that should rightfully be yours because of your personal relationship with Christ. So take time each day to quietly commune with your Creator. When you do, those moments of silence will enable you to participate more fully in the only source of peace that endures: God’s peace.

If the pace and the push, the noise and the crowds are getting to you, it’s time to stop the nonsense and find a place of solace to refresh your spirit. Charles Swindoll

Silence is as fit a garment for devotion as any other language. C. H. Spurgeon

Jesus taught us by example to get out of the rat race and recharge our batteries. Barbara Johnson

Growth takes place in quietness, in hidden ways, in silence and solitude. The process is not accessible to observation. Eugene Peterson

The Lord Jesus, available to people much of the time, left them, sometimes a great while before day, to go up to the hills where He could commune in solitude with His Father. Elisabeth Elliot   Character builder

Want to talk to God? Then don’t make Him shout. If you really want to hear from God, go to a quiet place and listen. If you keep listening long enough and carefully enough, He’ll start talking.

Listening To Guilt

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

All of us have made mistakes. Sometimes, we are swept up by events that encourage us to behave in ways that we later come to regret. And sometimes, even when our intentions are honorable, we make errors in judgment that have long-lasting consequences. When we look back at our actions with remorse, we may experience intense feelings of guilt. But God has an answer for the guilt that we feel. That answer is His forgiveness.

Sometimes, long after God has forgiven us, we may continue to withhold forgiveness from ourselves. Instead of accepting God’s mercy and accepting our past, we may think far too long and hard about the things that ‘might have been,’ the things that ‘could have been,’ or the things that ‘should have been.’

Are you troubled by feelings of guilt, even after you’ve received God’s forgiveness? Are you still struggling with painful memories of mistakes you made long ago? Are you focused so intently on yesterday that your vision of today is clouded? If so, you still have work to do’spiritual work. You should ask your Heavenly Father not for forgiveness (He granted that gift the very first time you asked Him!) but instead for acceptance and trust: acceptance of the past and trust in God’s plan for your life.

If you find yourself plagued by feelings of guilt or shame, consult God’s survival guide: His Holy Word. And as you do so, consider the following Biblically-based tips for overcoming those feelings of guilt once and for all:

1. Stop doing the things that make you feel guilty: How can you expect not to feel guilty if you should feel guilty? (Acts 26:20) 2. Ask God for forgiveness. When you ask for it, He will give it. (1 John 1:9) 3. Ask forgiveness from the people you have harmed: This step is hard, but helpful. And even if the other folks cannot find it in their hearts to forgive you, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you asked. (Proverbs 28:13) 4. Forgive yourself: if you’re no longer misbehaving, it’s the right thing to do. And today is the right day to do it. (Romans 14:22) 5. Become more diligent in your daily time of prayer and Bible study. A regular time of quiet reflection and prayer will allow you to praise your Creator, to focus your thoughts, to remind yourself of His love, and to seek His guidance in matters great and small. (Isaiah 50:45) 6. Get busy making the world a better place. Now that God has forgiven you, it’s time for you to show your gratitude by serving Him. (Matthew 23:11-12)

Guilt is a gift that leads us to grace. Franklin Graham

Character builder
If you’ve asked for God’s forgiveness, He has given it. But have you forgiven yourself? If not, the best moment to do so is this one.

Only Human or Superman?

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Some of you might not like seeing the truth that you’re only human.  You may think of yourself as Superman’and then you discover a flaw.  Then you come crashing down and see yourself as completely worthless.  But seeing the whole truth about yourself means both accepting your humanity and realizing your great potential in Christ.

The prophet Elijah is one of the great men and heroes of the Bible.  If any man had reason to feel superhuman, it was him.  His prayers brought a lengthy drought upon Israel’and then brought fire down from heaven’which humiliated Queen Jezebel and her priests who worshiped Baal.  But even Elijah was vulnerable to having a bad day.  Listen to his reaction after Queen Jezebel threatened him. This is from the book of Kings:

‘I have had enough, Lord’Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty.  But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets.  I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me too’.

If you’re able to do superhuman feats, it’s because God gives you the power to do so.    If you fail to see the truth that you’re only human, you just might find yourself at risk when life reminds you of that fact.

Reaching Back with Repentance

Steve Arterburn

 

 

Most Americans admire those who practice ‘rugged individualism.’ But in our emphasis on individual freedom, we often lose sight of our corporate responsibility. As Christians, we’re individuals but we’re also part of a people. We’re called to benefit from the work of others, to suffer with others, and to bear responsibility with others. This may not seem fair, but it’s a fact.

 

You see, our ties reach all the way back to Adam and Eve. We need to be saved because, as it says in the book of Romans, ‘Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone.’ But Roman’s goes on to say that this very principle of corporate connectedness makes salvation possible through our unity with Christ, for ‘Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life’.

 

When the Israelites returned from their exile, they realized how both they and their ancestors had failed God’s commands, and they were overcome with grief. In that repentant grief, however, they heard the good news of grace, and this revived and renewed their love for God and their desire to obey him.

 

Ask God to bring to mind any sins or wrongdoings you, or even your family, has committed so you may confess and let go of them. It’s a powerful exercise, but seeing God’s mercy over all your sin can be one of the most liberating experiences ever.

 

Being A Lifer

Steve Arterburn

 

 

The Christian life is a life-long adventure. It’s a sustained journey ‘ a walk of faith. There will be times when you grow weary, times when you want to throw in the towel. You’ll experience pain, fear, and suffering. You’ll win some battles but lose others. You’ll get discouraged when you don’t see the progress you’d like, despite your diligence. But if you persevere through it all, you’ll be victorious.

The apostle Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, and his words provide great illustrations 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’.

What do these words mean to you? As a soldier, you’re in a war you can win only if you aren’t distracted from the battle you enlisted to fight. Like trained and skilled athletes, you must be disciplined; there is no cheating and no cutting corners. And like farmers, you must do your work in every season, then wait patiently to reap the benefits of your labor.

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries