Categories
Discipleship

God’s Mission for Your Life

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me. . .” Galatians 1:1-2

How can you tell if you about to waste your time?

Before we look forward, let’s look back: In ancient times, the word ‘apostle’ referred to an authorized representative who was sent on behalf of one with authority. A fleet of ships, an ambassador, or a messenger could be described as an apostle. In the New Testament, an apostle was a person who had witnessed the resurrected Jesus and preached the gospel to all the nations1.

What can you learn about God’s mission for your life by looking at Paul’s mission?

First, Paul made this clear: he was sent from God, not a group of people or a person. As a member of God’s family, you have also been sent. You have a mission from God! People can help you discover your mission, but you must not let them determine or define your mission. Allow the author of life to write your story–don’t settle for a second rate copy editor. God has a plan for your life. This doesn’t have to be an empty cliche, it’s a truth that you can build your life on because it’s eternal and unshakable.

Second, Jesus is always at the center of God’s call. The whole truth about God matters. The Father sent his Son to life a perfect live, die an unjust death, and be raised from the dead so that we can enter God’s family through faith. Living out your mission means you are saved by Jesus and you serve others in his name. Many people try to do the right thing, but we are called to do the right thing in the name of Jesus. Let us not forget the One who has sent us!

Finally, Paul mentions “all the brothers and sisters with me.” Paul often writes about the other people with whom he served. Paul didn’t travel the world preaching the gospel and planting churches on his own–he had help. Gods’ s call in your life will always include a call to do life with others. While periods of isolation lead to wisdom, Loneliness as a habit will leave you with discouragement and weak impact. You can’t love God without loving others because God made us to be better together.

reflection

What is God’s mission for your life? Is that too big to consider? I get it! Let’s narrow the scope: What is God’s mission for the next month of your life?

How important is Jesus, how often do you think of him?

When you consider your friends, do they bring you closer to Jesus? Do they help you discover and develop your life’s mission?


Grow Spiritually is a blog by matt mcgill and it exists to help you become more like Christ. If you want to receive the blog in your email, subscribe here.

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash


Categories
Inward life Discipleship Grow Spiritually

Personal Reflection: Romans 12:1-8

Read Romans 12:1-8. Work through the questions at your own pace, don’t feel like you have to answer all of them!

For you personally, how has God shown you mercy? How have you experienced his love?

What are a few ways that you can keep his mercy “in view,” that is, remember it?

In your opinion, why does Paul say “living sacrifice?’ Why doesn’t he just say “sacrifice?”

The first 2 verses talks about bodies and minds, which equates to loving God internally (thoughts, attitudes) and externally (actions). What happens when both aren’t engaged? What does it look like to only worship God with your thoughts but not your actions? What does it look like when it’s just your actions and not your thoughts?

Paul talks about conforming to the world vs. being transformed. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you feel you are conforming to the world? Why did you give yourself this number? Do the same with being transformed.

How does a person renew their mind?

Paul tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. How does pride hurt a person? Where does pride show up in your life?

why does Paul use the body as an analogy? What is his point of that word picture? How does that point apply to your life?

Why does God give us gifts?

What is  something you love about yourself? In your opinion, how do you think God has gifted you?

Categories
Inward life Worship Discipleship

How to have peace in a world with trouble.

Scripture

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Consideration

How can we have peace?

  • Through listening to the words of Jesus.

Why is peace so important?

  • Because this world is filled with trouble.

How do we know that we can trust Jesus?

  • He has overcome the world.

Reflection

  • Where do I put my peace? Is it internal (e.g. my ability), external (e.g. praise from others), or is it eternal (Christ alone)?
  • How easily is my peace stolen? When is my peace most threatened?
  • Who, in my world, is facing trouble from the world and needs support?
  • How can I listen more to the words of Jesus?
Categories
Discipleship

1 Corinthians 15:10 | 20 Questions

Read the scripture. Pick two questions for reflection and prayer.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” — Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1

  1. Generally speaking, what does it mean when one person show’s grace to another?
  2. Being as specific as you can, what is God’s grace?
  3. What do you know about Paul’s past life, before he experienced the grace of God?
  4. Paul knew his identity—past, present, and future. In just a few words, who are you?
  5. Can you make the same claim–that you are who you are because of the grace of God? Why or why not?
  6. How would you complete this sentence? “By the _______________ I am what I am?”
  7. What are all the factors that determine, define, and influence a person’s identity?
  8. What demonstrates or reveals a person’s identity?
  9. Is identity easy to change? Why or why not?
  10. How does a change in identity occur?
  11. What are some internal and external factors that can help change identity?
  12. Assuming it’s had an effect on you personally, how has God’s grace impacted your life?
  13. How can you make God’s grace a regular part of your life…daily, weekly?
  14. What happens when you go too long without experiencing God’s grace?
  15. God’s grace had a powerful effect on Paul’s life. What can keep a person from being impacted by God’s grace?
  16. Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve God’s grace? Why or why not?
  17. How would you respond to this statement: “Grace is always undeserved”?
  18. Who is someone in your life with whom you have a difficult time showing grace? Why?
  19. Is grace necessary for human relationships? Why or why not?
  20. In your experience, how is being forgiven by others powerful?
Categories
Discipleship

Repentance is a contract …

Categories
Inward life Discipleship

A deeper method for personal evaluation

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? ” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Growing spiritually isn’t automatic. Left to our natural inclinations, we’ll move away from God, not towards him.

Personal examination doesn’t need to be complex to be powerful.

Great spiritual progress can be made by simply asking, “God, did I do what God wanted me to do today?” Listen to God, and allow your convictions to come into focus through prayer and reflection.

There are times when a deeper examination is necessary for growth and breakthrough. Before we get started, a few assumptions to get on the same page:

  • I’m defining an action as anything that impacts the world around us. It may be a word, a look, a touch, etc. Illustration1.
  • Every action leads to multiple consequences–some of which we observe and some we don’t. Illustration2.
  • With these assumptions in place, shouting alone in the woods with no one to hear you is not an “action” because there are no consequences.

When I want to examine one of my past actions, the following five questions frame my rear view mirror:

KNOWLEDGE: What unchanging principles impacted my action? How did my understanding of good/evil, right/wrong, wise/foolish, true/false guide my decision?

      Illustration3

WISDOM: How well did I apply the unchanging principle(s) to the specific situation to consider the consequences? Was I able to accurately predict all observable consequences? Did I miss something I should have caught?

Illustration4

DESIRE: What was I my goal, what did I want to accomplish? In a sea of consequences, which few were I looking to achieve?

Illustration5

MOTIVATION: Why did I want what I wanted? It’s possible to want the right things, but for the wrong reasons. This question is subtle, but it’s too important to skip. Two thousand years ago, Jesus criticised the Pharisees for being whitewashed tombs6. The warning is still relevant today: looking good without being good is a real temptation for believers. The motivations of the heart are muddy waters! They are difficult to discern because we often have several reasons, they change constantly and they are often in conflict with one another.

Illustration7

ATTITUDE: What was I feeling before I acted? Emotions are often an invisible game changer when they influence our actions. Feeling joy, peace, confidence leads to the best actions. Shame, sadness, anger rarely lead to good actions.

Illustration8

What’s ideal?

You can’t grade a test without knowing the answers. You can’t judge without a standard. As it relates to our KNOWLEDGE, our perception of truth ought to line up with what God says is true. It’s human nature to think we are right most (or all) of the time. One way we grow spiritually is to give up what we think is true and accept what God says is true.

We want our WISDOM to be accurate. That we take the principles we believe in (which are hopefully God’s principles) and correctly apply them to the current situation. We gain wisdom through prayer, observation, and reflection.

DESIRES are typically very specific because they are tied to the moment of our action. However, following the example of Jesus, we are ought to be serving others. If our act was selfish, we missed the mark. As we look to our MOTIVE, we were either humble or we were not.

Finally, our ATTITUDE ought to be joy, a feeling deeper than happiness because it’s not based on our situations. Joy comes from remembering everything God has done for us and the promise of our eternal future in his presence. This world’s greatest setbacks can’t hold a candle to the indescribable light of living in God’s presence.

What’s next?

The next time you make a mistake, or are surprised by your actions, work through these five questions. It will be slow and feel unnatural. That’s ok. Maybe my questions aren’t a great fit and you need to figure out your own. That’s great, go for it! The goal is to draw closer to God!

Categories
Discipleship

a simple pattern for PRAYER

Relationships don’t just happen. You know this. They take all kinds of work in several different directions. One foundation for a healthy relationship is communication—speaking and listening.

While the best friendships may not require a strict structure, they do need intentionality and authenticity.

We are intentional when we make the time to talk and listen. Intentionality pushes further: we think through what we want and need to say. We also position our attitude to hear the response and take it to heart.

Of course, none of this is important if we aren’t authentic, telling the truth to ourselves and our friend.

What follows is a simple way to pray with intentionality. There are probably thousands of ways to pray—dig through the old writings and you will find them. I’m not suggesting this is the only pattern—or even the best. Take it for what it’s worth, even if it’s a method that you find lacking: fix it and make one for yourself!

 

ACKNOWLEDGE
Thank God for his gifts and blessings
Thank God for who he is (good, loving, powerful, etc.)

ASK
Appeal to God for help and answers
Appeal to God for others

APOLOGIZE
Confess your sins (pride, ego, mistakes, etc.)

ACCEPT
Follow his voice and your conscience

 

 

 

 

Categories
Discipleship

Answering Temptation with Truth

Matthew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

” ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Read the passage two times, make a note of the words, phrases, or verses that don’t make sense. Allow everyone to share their questions without others “answering” or “solving” them.

Without looking at the passage, retell this event in your own words. Once everyone has shared, check the passage to see if anything needs to be added or corrected.

Based on your experience with temptation, how does it work? What are the stages or steps involved? What happens first, second, third, etc.?

In what ways does the spiritual world show up in this passage?

What’s the difference between being “led by the Spirit” and “tempted by the devil? Why did God want this to happen?

Why didn’t Jesus make the bread? He was hungry and later in his ministry, Jesus would feed large crowds of more than 4,000 people and 5,000 people, why wouldn’t he feed himself?

What does this passage teach about the devil?

Where are the physical locations of each temptation? In your opinion, why do these locations matter?

What were the three temptations? Can you come up with some modern-day equivalents?

How does Jesus’ answers address each temptation? In your own words, restate each of Jesus’ answers.

In each of his answers to the devil, Jesus quoted scripture. Why is scripture helpful for fighting temptation?

Satan used scripture in his second temptation, what does this mean? Was Satan wrong or was the scripture wrong?

Why wouldn’t Jesus jump and let the angels catch him (v. 6)? Especially when the angels cam and helped him at the end of this passage…why not let them help in the middle of the event?

CHALLENGE

As you consider the biggest temptations in your life, pick one of the scriptures below for meditation and memorization:

  • “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
  • “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
  • “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

 

 

Categories
Inward life

God says not everyone’s invited. (Isaiah 55:1)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1)

In this scripture, we can see at least three things:

  1. An invitation
  2. It is addressed SPECIFICALLY to those in need
  3. A promise for that need to be met and fulfilled

This means that:

  1. Invitations call for a response
  2. Needs call for recognition
  3. Promises call for trust

Therefore we ought to:

  1. Respond to God’s invitation. Invitations aren’t meant ignored or just opened—they are offered so that they will be accepted. God is calling us to move forward, come closer to him, the well is open and we must go to it.
  2. Recognize our need. Drinking water is so much easier when we feel the thirst! Unfortunately, the soul’s thirst is much easier to ignore than our stomach’s thirst. When we know that our soul needs more, we are quick to respond to God’s invitation.
  3. Trust God’s promise of fulfillment. Trust and hope move us forward. We cannot grow closer to God if we don’t trust his promises. And this trust is ongoing, just like it is in our human relationships. It would be so great if we only needed to trust God once and never doubt again!

These three things—responding, recognizing, trusting—are connected, they aren’t really separate actions. Each one works to strengthen the others.

These few words tell us a lot about God. The invitation is evidence of God’s love—no one is forcing him to draw us closer to his sustaining presence. God knows we are broken, that we are thirsty, and he still loves us. God is trustworthy, the Creator who sustains the universe will also give us the waters we need.

Check out the rest of Isaiah 55 to find out how much his waters will costs us.

Categories
Inward life

When God Abandons You

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.” (Isaiah 54:7)

God is everywhere, but he is in some places more than most. This doesn’t really make much sense and that’s because our finite minds cannot fully understand or explain the Infinite God. Somehow, “more” of God’s presence was in the tabernacle and this scripture speaks to “less” of God’s presence.

So while God is everywhere–there are no gaps in his understanding or attention or power–God does “pull back” and abandon people.

We don’t know how this works, but we do know why God abandons people (in this case, Israel). It’s actually quite simple and unsurprising: God abandons people who are disobedient, those who reject him and his ways.

Another question pops up: How much rejecting does a person need to do before he experiences abandonment from God? I think this is a bad question…or at least the wrong question. This is like asking, “How far can I flirt before I’ve cheated on my spouse?” Scripture doesn’t give us a solid line that fits every person and every situation.

Instead, let us then concern ourselves with absolute obedience and devotion. This will drive us closer to God which is better than wondering how far we can wander from him.

When we fall short, failing enough to be abandoned by God, there is hope. We can trust that we have been abandoned by a God who has deep compassion. He will bring us back. Israel returned home from captivity. Nineveh’s repentance averted destruction. Peter was reinstated. Paul was confronted and called to apostleship.

Let us take hope when we are abandoned by the God of deep compassion, for he will bring us back after a brief moment.