What would cause you to renounce your citizenship? What would cause you to lose your religious affiliation? Ruth lost her husband and her brother-in-law! She then chose to identify with the God and people of her mother-in-law. With this significant decision, she was allowing God to form her identity, in turn, God guided her to become a significant figure in Israel's history, even in the lineage of Jesus.
In the past three weeks, we have read about a few of God's chosen leaders: a nomad Bedouin man married to his half-sister, a murderer on the run in a foreign land and finally, a weak man with poor self esteem.
This week, the discussion is about God's selection who happens to be a boy who herds sheep, enjoys poetry, song writing and playing musical instruments. I'm not so sure that any of these candidates would have been hired by churches in our culture today!
From these four examples, it appears that God delights in selecting ordinary men and ¨women¨ like you and me, and transforming their lives to become the extraordinary people He created them to be.
Judging from Gideon's reaction when the angel of the Lord called him a "Mighty Warrior," he not only seemed shocked, but also he basically responded by saying "You are talking to the wrong person!"
I think it is safe to say, Gideon's self esteem and sense of identity were not in alignment with God's plan for his life and future. Are yours?...
What does God have in store for you?
What has He been doing to prepare you to live in your true identity?
The little boy who was placed in a basket, floated down a river with crocodiles, survived a death sentence, was raised and trained in the house of a King, became wise and powerful, also committed murder then ran, leaving behind all he had ever known.
Moses demonstrated that he was strong, resourceful, yet also may have struggled with anger and fear. And God chose him to lead.
Why would God make that choice? Not based on who Moses was but who he was going to become with God. We are told that "Moses was very meek, in fact, of all the men on the planet, he was the meekest."
Abram & Abraham are the same person!
He is known as the Father of faith in three major world religions: Islam, Judaism & Christianity. He began as a simple man (Abram) with faith willing to follow God wherever He asked.
Why did God change his name to Abraham?
What took place in Abram that caused a change in faith and identity?
Who are you? According to the bible and based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, you are: Christ's Ambassador, a Child of God, a Royal Priesthood, Redeemed, Chosen by God, Living Stone, Precious to Him, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, Forgiven, Minister of Reconciliation, a New Creation, the Righteousness of God, Justified, More than Conqueror... and so much more! How does this impact your daily life?
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Isaiah 14 says concerning Satan, that before he fell from heaven he stated, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God... I will make myself like the most high.” Jesus commented to his followers in Luke 10, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven.”
What happens to us when we consider ourselves above others and become arrogant in an area of life? 1 Peter 5 says “God opposes the proud.” How are you and I doing in this area when it comes to pride... vs. humility?
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What is your break point? When do you say, “Enough is enough!” Chuck Reinhold, my mentor in Young Life, use to say, “I sure am glad my youth leader didn’t quit when he reached 100 kids.” He would comment, “I met our leader in the halls of my high school and came to Club when there was about 120 kids. What if he’d stopped returning to the hallways to meet more kids and called it quits early in the game? What if you were one trip away from more lost people coming to faith? Paul encouraged the followers in Galatia, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for at the proper time we will see a change if we do not give up.”
Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia concerning the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We don't use the word "fruit" when describing our actions in today's vernacular. A more fitting word might be "evidence." Is there evidence that you are inviting the work of God's Spirit as He seeks to make the traits of Jesus come to life in your daily attitude: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness & Self-Control?
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To say that Paul felt strongly about the importance of spiritual growth would be an understatement. He used an interesting comparison when attempting to convey his concern: "for I am in the pains of a woman in childbirth that Christ would be formed in you." (Galatians 4:19) Paul obviously lacked firsthand knowledge of such severe pain, and yet he wanted to demonstrate the importance of the changed life and his own passion to see people become more like Jesus. How are we doing when it comes to the reality of Jesus being seen in and through our lives?
What does it mean to be one of God's children? Galatians 4:7 says, "So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." You may answer the question differently based on how you were treated by your parents as a child. Even if you had incredibly loving parents, all would pale in comparison to God's love and grace.
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"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming the curse for us..." (Galatians 3:13) What does it mean when we differentiate between the new and old covenants of the Bible? What did Jesus change by dying on the cross?
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When you have a disagreement with another individual, how do you handle it? When Paul did not agree with Peter, he "opposed him to his face" (Galatians 2:11). Do we bottle up similar feelings, talk to other people about the person we are not getting along with or speak with them face to face?
Paul asked a question when writing to the church in Galatia, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?" (Galatians 1:10) It is an excellent question for all of us to consider - Who do we seek to please in life? Small children usually begin by trying to please themselves and their parents. Depending on family size, kids may also seek to please their siblings. As teenagers, adolescents often times shift to please their peers. What motivates us to please God? Have you ever stopped to consider your motivations?
Ever been fishing without catching anything? BORING! Imagine doing that all night long with zero fish to show for your time and energy. This was Peter's experience when he first met Jesus and yet Jesus demonstrated His power and provision, telling Peter how and where to fish for results. It is interesting that Jesus did the exact same thing in Peter's life after His resurrection in John 21.
During the last meal that Jesus shared with His close followers, all of his friends pledged their allegiance to their master. Good intentions do not always equal the right actions. When they met with opposition in the Garden of Gethsemane, every single follower abandoned their confession and their Lord. Peter took it a step further by denying Jesus 3 times before the next morning. How do you act or react when you fail Jesus?
In the epic light saber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, Obi-Wan makes a strange remark to his opponent. Just when the fighting was getting tense, Kenobi said to Vader, "If you strike me down, I'll be more powerful than you can ever imagine." Vader didn't understand the remark or he may not have made the final strike. In a similar regard, Jesus announced to His close followers, "...It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you." - John 16:7 Jesus began to reveal to His friends the person of the Holy Spirit and what was yet to come after His death and resurrection.
How does a couple stay close over time? How do parents remain close while raising their children and how do adult children stay connected with their parents? How do you remain close friends with those you have known for a lifetime? When you experience different seasons in life and relationships begin to drift, how do you respond?
Relational drift can happen with regard to our faith and relationship to God just as easily. Why does it happen and how do we change the dynamic when we recognize we’re not as close as we once were? Jesus talks about the importance of remaining close to Him, comparing the relationship of a vine to a branch.
Years ago I sat across the aisle from my 3 oldest children while we were flying a transatlantic jumbo jet. My children were probably around the ages of 5, 7 & 9 and I recall watching their reactions when we encountered severe turbulence. My eldest daughter Courtney felt the bumps and laid her head against the window. She was asleep in a matter of minutes as that was her way to deal with some things. My son Murphy was seated across the aisle from me and he ...began nervously asking me questions, “Are we over water?” “If we crash now, how do we get the life jackets under our seats?” “Will we survive?” His questions may have rattled a few people sitting close by. I looked as he dug his fingers into the arm rests. In stark contrast, my youngest son Connor put his hands up as though he was on a roller coaster. “This is fun!” he exclaimed. Three children from the same family with such drastically different responses to a storm.
John 12:37 says, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.” Imagine that many saw the amazing things that Jesus did and were strengthened in their faith, while others found ways to question Him and it made their faith weaker. How do you respond to trials or positive circumstances? Do they strengthen or weaken your faith in the One who created you?
Between chapters 9 - 11 in John's Gospel account, Jesus refers to Himself or is described as one of many titles and descriptions: The Good Shepherd, the Gate, the Light of the World, the Son of Man, the Way to Salvation, The Shepherd who knows His sheep, the Son who knows His Father, the Resurrection and the Life, the Messiah... In the same 3 chapters, He opens the eyes of a man born blind and raises the dead. Who is Jesus in your life?
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