In this week's daily readings there are two passages that reference Jesus and sheep (John 10 & Matthew 18). In Matthew, Jesus references a good shepherd leaving ninety-nine healthy sheep for the one that goes missing. God values the "one." In John's reference, Jesus describes Himself as the "Good Shepherd" and says that His sheep know His voice. When you pray, are you able to discern the voice of Jesus from your own thoughts?
"For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." These were the words spoken by Paul in Romans 7:18. In Matthew 16 of this week's readings we saw Peter encouraged by Jesus, who called him the "Rock" in verse 18. Moments later Peter makes a horrible comment, and Jesus goes from calling Peter the "Rock" to "Satan." How is it that we want God to do a work in our lives but we can so quickly turn away (like Paul & Peter)?
Jesus invites His followers to actively pursue Him. What does asking, seeking, and knocking look like in our lives today? Jesus has a promise associated with each action, but the ball is in our court.
What does your commitment look like? As a Jesus follower, do you consider yourself fully in, partially in, or on the fence? What does "fully in" look like? When Captain Cortez landed in Veracruz in 1519 he commanded his men to burn the ships! It was do or die once they eliminated their only way back home. Join us this Sunday at 5pm at Bridge as we consider our commitment to Jesus.
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What areas are difficult for you to trust God with? What if you dove in and said, "Enough is enough. He is faithful, therefore I will trust Him." What would that trust look like? This week we are looking at the Roman soldier who had such an unshakeable faith that he even amazed Jesus.
Someone has an irritating habit, while another person has always rubbed you wrong. A family member never stops talking, and a person at work is always gossiping and saying things behind your back. How do you deal with these people? How do you respond to the neighbor who plays their music too loud, or to a co-worker who never uses deodorant? What sorts of things push your buttons and make it difficult for you to love people in your life?
In September of 1965, the Byrds hit the charts with their hit single: "Turn, Turn, Turn." The song was straight from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. While King Solomon wrote about the seasons of life, it is important to pause and consider the season we are living in. How do we trust God on our journey, no matter what the season? How do we look to Him when life gets messy, and He invites us to turn His direction as an act of trust?
When reading through the Christmas story, there is tremendous attention placed on the birth of Jesus, and even on the love of His Father sending His Son. However, when we consider the third part of the trinity, where was He at the birth of Jesus? As you continue to finish the daily chapter readings this week, see if you can find the footprints of the Spirit.
Ever make a mistake and suffer regret? If there was a rewind button on life, would you use it? If there was a time machine and you could use it once to go back in time, and do one thing differently, what would it be? While we cannot change our past, we can allow it to inform our future.
Do you remember? Do you remember when you first heard the Christmas story? Do you recall the excitement as a child that surrounded Christmas? What are some of your favorite childhood holiday memories? It's easy to forget what it's all about amidst the hype and busyness which comes at this time of year. Take some time to pause and consider how much the Father loves you as He was willing to send His son Jesus.
This is the season to rejoice; to be reminded of God's greatest gift in sending his son - Immanuel (God with us). We are finishing our readings from Philippians chapter 4 this week. Paul encourages his readers to "rejoice always". How are you doing when it comes to rejoicing in any, and every, situation? James steps it up a notch in James 1:2, saying "Consider it pure joy... when we face trials of many kinds."
It's easy to rejoice when life is going our way, but rejoicing as Paul did from a dark prison cell is a different matter. Let's give thanks in this season to the Lord for all He has blessed us with, rejoicing in the trials, and the blessings. Merry Christmas!
How badly do you and I desire to know Jesus? I don't know about you, but I'm convicted by Paul's words in this week's reading from Philippians 3. He expresses his desire to know Jesus, stating, "I consider everything garbage compared to knowing Christ." He penned those words from a Roman prison cell. He meant business, and put his money where his mouth was.
I'm inspired by Paul's life, and I want to desire Jesus as he did. I'm not always convinced that this is seen in my actions.
What motivates us to help others? Have you ever done the right thing with the wrong motive? It is even possible to have mixed motives, "I want to help, but I also want some kind of benefit." From a Roman prison cell Paul reminds Jesus followers to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit." It is one thing to consider our actions, and another, to understand the motives behind our actions.
What are you thankful for? Are you one who tends to see the glass as half empty, or half full? There is almost always something that we can worry or complain about. At the same time, there is always something that we can give thanks for! Would you consider yourself someone who leans more on the thankful side, or more on the complaining side? During this week of Thanksgiving, let's give thanks to God for everything, and everyone, that He has blessed us with!
Is desire a bad thing? What is the difference between desire and temptation? What should we desire in life? "Thou shall not covet" is one of the top 10 commands. When does desire cross over into coveting?
Our culture is obsessed with sexuality. We see it in the movies, on television, and in music videos. We hear about it in books and in songs. Most relationships, whether on TV, or in an animated Disney movie, hold a healthy tension between a man and a woman and the possibility of romance. Is anything wrong with this? After all, sexuality was God’s idea in the first place.
What do your communication skills look like? Do you consider those you are communicating with? When there has been miscommunication, are you quick to make it right? How big a priority do you make it when there is strife in a relationship? Apparently Jesus believes that it is important enough that He would rather that we deal with it than go to church. I didn't say it, He did... For this reason He said, "Leave your gift at the altar and go be reconciled with your brother. After, return to offer your gift to God." (Matthew 5:24).
RAISE THE ATTITUDE BAR
In my first year of college I was on the track and field team. We were only a division 3 school, but competition was still exciting. As a runner who solely participated in two races: the 100 meter and 4 X 100 meter dash, I was often bored waiting around for the rest of my team. However, I was very intrigued with the high jump athletes. Just when you thought one had jumped as high as humanly possible, another would step up to the line and say, "Raise the... bar." Anyone can tell the official to "raise the bar." However, once those words are spoken, an official moves the bar higher, and you are then expected to put your money where your mouth is, and jump over the bar.
Many people try to do the right thing and to live an obedient life, which is no simple task. An even greater challenge is to do the right thing, and to do it with a loving, humble attitude. Paul, when writing to the church in Philippi, raised the bar when he challenged Christ followers with these words, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:5) What is your attitude like?
How do your thoughts dictate your actions? When you face a situation, such as a car pulling out in front of you and are choosing how to respond, your brain filters historical data in order to make a decision. In order to respond accordingly, your mind filters what people have told you about the situation, the consequences involved if you do not respond appropriately, historical data in relation to other car related collisions that you may have experienced... in your life time, and even what you believe God wants you to do in that given situation. The amazing thing to consider is that the human brain is able to make these calculations and process the data in nano seconds so that you might make the best choice. Add to that process, the promise that you have been given the mind of Christ, if you have invited Him into your life (1 Corinthians 2:16). If all of that is true, then why do we often times make bad choices?