Categories
Grow Spiritually

When Evil Abounds

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

This was the prophet’s cry when he was surrounded by evil. He paints a grim picture:

  • There was no fruit from his labor
  • He had no community with other faithful people
  • The day was ruled by violence and corrupt leadership
  • Judgment from God was coming, but it had not yet arrived
  • No one could be trusted: not neighbors, friends, or even family

It’s hard to imagine a darker picture.

Naturally, we don’t know the full depth of Micah’s experience. Was he fearful, anxious, depressed? I think these are safe assumptions. However, we do know where he found the strength to continue: Micah watched for God, putting his hope in him. He waited for his savior, crying out to him because Micah knew God cared enough to listen.

Our world is under constant attack from evil. Some of the evil comes from you and me, some of it comes from the enemy of God. In days like these, where the news cycles choose to focus on the great and terrible injustices, we are more aware of the deeply disturbing actions people undertake to hurt others. Awareness is a good thing.

Well, awareness is good when it leads to change.

Consider these questions so that you can be more like Micah:

  • ATTENTION: where is your focus?
  • HOPE: what are you expecting to happen?
  • WAITING: Is God your savior, or are you trying to fix things apart from him?
  • TALK: Are you praying to God, because he does listen, or are you wasting your words elsewhere?

On this side of eternity, evil will always abound. This is tragic. Heartbreaking. Overwhelming. And the evil seems to multiply, like cockroaches in the dark, when we pretend it doesn’t exist.

Categories
Grow Spiritually

Coronavirus Discipleship

Pretty much every kid I know has a ton of free time on their hands. I knew their video games would only last for a few days–nothing new has come out in a while!

Anyhow, I want my kids to read the Bible. I want them to love reading it. They’ll have to find that for themselves–but I can provide a little bit of structure to experience the Bible on their own.

So I kept things simple. I assigned a reading, had them read it twice, then write out “the best verse,” and at least one question. I didn’t give any criteria for “best verse.” 3 kids came up with two questions. 1 came up with three. The one remaining only came up with one question.

The reading for today was Galatians chapters 1 and 2. Two of my five boys picked their best verse to be one with the word “circumcision” in it. They thought it was funny. And they weren’t not wrong. (is that how the kids say things these days?)

Anyhow, everyone came up with some good questions. I didn’t answer any of them. I said that if they wanted an answer they needed to come up with their own answer first. I required the questions…so there’s a good chance the questions weren’t real questions…that they didn’t really want an answer more than they wanted the latest digital trinket on Fortnite. Answering a fake question makes the answer giver feel good but usually doesn’t do any good. A real question needs no prompting, contains some urgency, and is motivated by courage. Some day my kids will ask real questions. Hopefully, I’ve built enough trust that they bring them to me.

I posted the following file on social media and a few people asked me to share it online. Here is a link to a zip file that contains the Word document and the PDF.

DOWNLOAD

Categories
Grow Spiritually

have you had enough?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

WHO is invited?

“…all you who are weary and burdened…”

Jesus calls the tired and the stressed to join him. This weariness is more than a physical reality, Jesus is talking about something much deeper and therefore difficult to deal with. Jesus is calling everyone who is struggling under:

  • The pressure to perform and meet unrealistic expectations
  • Shame and guilt
  • Unhappiness and a lack of joy
  • Anger and rage
  • Pretending to be something you aren’t
  • Discouragement and depression

If you feel like you are being buried alive,  Jesus is calling your name, inviting you to a better life.

WHAT is expected?

“Come to me … Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”

Every invitation must be accepted–Jesus won’t force you to trust him. He won’t make you live a life that honors him. Once you see your weariness in the mirror, it is your decision with how you will respond. Will you continue as you have, or will you go to Jesus?

Going to Jesus is simple. It begins with an attitude that says, “Jesus, I am not enough, but you are.”


The natural next step is to reorder your life to look like Jesus. In Jesus’ day, a yoke was a wooden beam that kept two animals aligned–headed in the same direction, at the same pace. We align our lives with Jesus by learning from him–reading the Bible, time in prayer, listening to sermons, singing worship songs–these are some ways you can learn from Jesus.

WHY should we obey?

“…I will give you rest … I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Only in Jesus can we find what we need: rest for our souls. Everything in this world works against peace and tranquility: we are constantly on the move, making sure we keep busy. We make mistakes and rather than learning from them, we let them define us. We are isolated, even in an age where technology promises connection. We are never without our screens and a moment alone, without media, feels wasted. In our world, where can we find soul-rest?

Another question to consider: where can you find true gentleness and humility? The world makes big promises up front, but inevitably it fails to deliver. A friend betrays us, an authority abuses power, and help it is hard to find.

Living God’s way is difficult–but it’s more devastating to live the world’s way.

Jesus has extended the invitation.

He has called you to align your life with his.

Can you think of any reason why you shouldn’t? Can you think of any good reason why you shouldn’t?

Photo by Khachik Simonian 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
Grow Spiritually

Where does your gospel come from?

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11–12)

Lord, help me to keep a constant focus on the Gospel–salvation through your Son. Forgive me when I neglect the foundation of our faith.

Lord, help me to hold to the Divine Gospel, which has no human origin, warn me when I am tempted to change it.

Lord, help me to preach the Divine Gospel, making the most of my opportunities to preach in love, be it service or speech.

Lord, help me to be more thankful to you for revealing yourself. Help me to position my heart to hear you speak.

Categories
Grow Spiritually

Reflection: considering the parable of the four soils

Scripture

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Luke 8:4-8; 11-15

Q. As you reflect on this teaching from Jesus, how are you challenged and encouraged?

Q. “A farmer went out to sow his seed.” What are all the ways you could have access to God’s Word? Are there any changes you ought to make so that you would be positioned better to hear God’s Word?

Q. The path represents those people who hear God’s Word, but their heart is too hard to let the truth sink in. On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is your heart? Why? What situations, people, or thoughts work to harden your heart?

Q. The rocky soil represents those people who hear God’s Word with joy, but their heart is too shallow to let the truth sink in and grow roots. At the first sign of trouble, they give up. On a scale of 1 to 10, how “rocky” is your heart? Why? What situations, people, or thoughts work to make you give up on your faith?

Q. The thorny soil represents those people who hear God’s Word, but their heart is too distracted by worry and riches. Good actions grow, but are choked up by the thrones. On a scale of 1 to 10, how distracted is your heart? Why? What situations, people, or thoughts work to choke out the good things in your life?

Q. Consider the first three soils from a positive point of view. What can you do to soften your heart? How can you better persevere and outlast the difficult times? How can you have a greater focus on Jesus?

Q. Do you know anyone with a heart that is “hard,” “shallow,” or choked by “thorns?” How can you encourage that person?

Categories
Grow Spiritually

How to be cut back so you aren’t cut off.

Reflections from John 15

Would you rather be cut off or cut back?

Cut back.

What has Jesus called us to do?

Remain in him. 

How do we remain?

Make sure his word is in us and obey his commands.

What is his command?

To love one another. 

What is love?

Love is sacrifice, it is the opposite of selfishness.

What happens when we love like Jesus?

We have complete joy and our prayers are answered. 

Why are we now friends with Jesus?

We are no longer called “servants” because we know the full plan of God: to love others as Jesus loved.

Categories
Grow Spiritually

Breaking Through Frustration and Failure

Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they have been born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:5-6

The kingdom of God is open to everyone, but there is only one opening: being born of the Spirit.

What is true about the beginning of life in the kingdom is also true as we continue in life

What is true about ENTERING life in the Kingdom is also true about ON-GOING life in the Kingdom. We BEGIN through the Spirit, let us also CONTINUE in the Spirit.

The flesh does some things, and they are important. But the Spirit does things the flesh can not, and these are the most important things.

When we are faced with repeated frustration and failure, this can be an indicator from God that we are working too much on our own power. We need to work differently, through the power of the Spirit. This begins with confession and a renewed commitment to trust God. In this humility, we wait for God to make our convictions clear. Then we obey.

God has given us great gifts–the flesh can accomplish much, as long as it’s submitted to the power of the Spirit.