My two oldest kids are getting baptized this summer, here’s a link to a collection of scriptures and questions for their reflection.THE-GOSPEL-and-BAPTISM
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In thisJohn 16:33
worldyou will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
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.
- 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?
owcan I listen more to the words of Jesus?
Ezra had money problems: he had too much. He also needed to travel a great distance–four months from Babylon to Jerusalem–which exposed him to theft. He trusted God for protection, but he also took diligent steps to minimize his risks. Ezra divided the treasures among 12 priests and said:
“Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” (Ezra 8:29)
Essentially, Ezra said, “Hold on to this stuff, because we’re going to count it all when we get to Jerusalem.” God graciously protected the travelers from thieves, and the 12 people were faithful in their stewardship. Once they got to Jerusalem, Ezra writes:
“Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.” (Ezra 8:34)
The newly rebuilt temple was dedicated to the Lord, paid for by the money Ezra bought. Good times. This part of the story was great (spoiler alert: the next part, not so much).
In our lives, we have accountability for everything but the most important things. We are accountable to our parents (for their rules), teachers (for their assignments), and bosses (for our work). When we drive, we’re accountable to the law and those hidden cops who are keeping the highways safe. Society has built in accountability…for the little things.
But we’re not accountable for the big things. I’m talking about the conditions of our heart: our motives, fantasies, and desires. This kind of accountability has to be chosen, and it’s easy to ignore and fake.
Accountability makes us stronger. Eventually we’ll be held accountable to God. But for the current chapter of our lives, we get to choose it.
What is it about your life, that you are most excited about?
What are you proud of?
What accomplishments are you eager to share?
Boasting—whether it happens in conversation with others or in the solitude of our hearts—is the act of declaring what we think is good. Some examples:
“My kid scored the winning run.”
“My car is awesome.”
“My income is incredible.”
“My wit is quick.”
Isaiah talked about empty boasting:
“We have heard of Moab’s pride —how great is her arrogance!—of her conceit, her pride and her insolence; but her boasts are empty.” (Isaiah 16:6)
Jeremiah talked about the right kind of boasting:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me…’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Empty bragging springs from a heart independent from God. Self-sufficient achievements are expressions of prides, arrogance, and conceit. Boasting in the Lord glorifies him.
“My kid scored the winning run. He had very little success all season and this really boosted his spirits.”
“My car is awesome. It’s really old and it’ll probably break down a lot, but I’m thankful I have one. Now my parents don’t have to drive me around any more.”
“My income is incredible. I never thought I’d make this much, it’s more than I need and feel that God is calling me to support your ministry.”
“My wit is quick. My neighbor was really angry, I had no idea what to say. In that moment, God gave me the right words to say.”
Genuine boasting in the Lord puts the spotlight on him.
There are at least two aspects of overconfidence: perceived and actual.
Externally, some people are viewed by others as too confident. These people might be humble on the inside, but people don’t see it. This is a reflection of their foolish lack of self-awareness.
Naturally, some people are too confident on the inside, and their pride is a reflection of their heart.
Most of the time, internal overconfidence is expressed externally. Sometimes, people seem prideful but their hearts are humble.
Both diseases of overconfidence are inconceivably difficult to self diagnose–all those pesky self rationalizations get in the way.
Unfortunately, I haven’t just observed this, I’ve experienced it firsthand. Understanding the symptoms of overconfidence could lead to greater humility.
Perceived overconfidence exchanges inspiration with intimidation or indifference.
When we see the right amount of confidence in others, we are inspired and appreciate their passion. Your favorite singer doesn’t step on the stage sheepishly.
Actual overconfidence exchanges surrender for self-sufficiency .
Rather than trusting God, the self-sufficient place their trust in their own skills and achievements.
Are people intimidated by you? Are they indifferent and apathetic to your ideas? Who gets the spotlight in your heart, is it God or you? Talk to someone in your life to get an outside perspective.
“The Lord has established Zion, and in her his afflicted people will find refuge.”
(a) Where do you find refuge when you are tired, exhausted, hurting or devastated?
(b) Where has God created refuge for you? In what prayers or places or people can you find his power and presence and protection?
(c) How can you get from (a) to (b)?
(d) What is keeping (c) from becoming a reality?
A prayer written by Tom Holladay: as a summary of his sermon, which you can find here.
Lord—I want things to change—really change—in my prayer life.
I pray from time to time, I want to learn to pray all of the time. Teach me to pray.
I pray casually, I want to learn to pray earnestly. Teach me to pray.
I pray for a change of my circumstances, but forget to pray for a change in my character.
I pray for my needs to be met, but forget to pray for my love to increase.
My prayers often stretch no further than tomorrow when I want them to reach towards eternity.
Teach me to pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What I love about this prayer:
- It’s based on scripture, you can see how it’s connected here.
- It’s personal yet aspirational without being judgemental. What I mean is that it talks about where we are “at” and where we need to go, without condemnation. It’s not bad to pray from time to time…but it’s better to pray all the time.
- It was a practical application of everything he talked about in the message.
Scripture: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)
Prayer: Loving Father, you give me everything I need. Help me to rest in your love, to rely on your grace. I worship you with all that I am, forgive me for the times
Reflection: Be careful where you place your confidence. If you are successful, influential, or popular—or long for these things—these are pit traps for your confidence, for they will falter when you need them most and leave your soul with a deep hunger.
Only the boundless love of God, his endless forgiveness, can satisfy our deepest thirst.