When Ruth's mother-in-law urged her to return to her people after the death of her husband, she had a different plan in mind. Refusing to leave her husband's mother alone, she responded, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Are we more apt to do right by ourselves or by others?

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This old adage is especially true when a young shepherd boy, full of faith, is the one throwing the stones! There is something about a David sized person defeating a Goliath sized obstacle that captures every human. We want to tackle the Goliath sized challenges, and yet it is always easier to head in the opposite direction. What can we learn from this young faith-filled stone thrower?

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When you believe God wants you to do something, how long do you turn the thought in your mind before you act? Many people in the Bible faced uncertain choices regarding whether or not to trust God, but few were quick to act. Moses tried to talk his way out of it, Gideon said he was too weak, and Sarah outright laughed. How do you respond?

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When any of the "Mission Impossible" movies opens up, the lead spy receives instructions for a mission that needs to me completed. Somewhere in the recorded mission is always the phrase, "if you should choose to accept it..." There is always a choice. In Mission Impossible the orders come from IMF. As followers of Jesus we are called to live life on mission. Our orders come from the Holy Spirit and similar to IMF, we always have the choice or whether or not we want to carry out the mission. God did not create robots. Instead, He created us in His image with the choice to follow or not to follow.

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Who is difficult for you to love? Jesus commands us to love others as we love ourselves. The Bible says we should love our brother, so perhaps we say, "That's fine, I love my brother, but not my neighbor." Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, so we are not off the hook. Then I may be tempted to say, "I love my neighbor, but not others who have offended me." Jesus then challenges His followers to love their enemies.  In other words, "LOVE EVERYONE!" There is no human we pass on our busy days who God lets us off the hook with. We are commanded to love everyone, to be the flavor of the world, and shine light in the darkest places.

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I was struck this week about the simplicity and community found in the first church. The practices which defined the early church were: Teaching about Jesus and faith in everyday life, authentic time together, sharing meals, practicing hospitality, praying together, inviting God to do miracles, sharing their resources, and purging excess material possessions to provide for anyone in need. In addition, they met together on a daily basis in both public places and in their homes. They celebrated communion, remembering Jesus' sacrifice for their sin. They did things in a spirit of humility and were grateful to God for His love. As a result of their lifestyle people in close proximity benefited immensely and the group was constantly growing. The movement was so attractive that others couldn't help but want to be part of it. The Lord was responsible for growth, spiritually and numerically as the early church lived lives marked by practical unconditional love. How about us?

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"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." (1 Peter 4:8-9) How do you do when it comes to loving others? On a scale 1-10, (10 being the most loving), what score would you give yourself? Jesus set the bar at loving others the way we each want to be loved. What would that look like if you applied that to the people you know at Bridge? 

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Imagine being at a crowded dinner party and seeing someone you are totally in love with. Overcome with compassion you drop to their feet and begin to wash them. You are so in love with this person, and caught up in serving, that you give no thought to the other guests. Realizing you do not have a towel to wipe the grime that is coming loose, you begin to use your own hair. Can you even begin to picture such an interaction?

It is difficult to imagine such an act of service motivated by love. Believe it or not, a woman actually loved Jesus that much (Luke 7:36-49). Her act begs the question, "How much do I really love Jesus?" Do my daily actions reflect a desire to please Him, or am I more concerned with what others think of me?

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If you had to sell cars, what brand would you sell? Which brand automobile are you sold on? If you were convinced that Volvos were the safest car on the road and you owned that brand, would you be able to sell Dodge? It is difficult to sell the car you do not drive, unless of course you do not like your vehicle.

Are you SOLD on Jesus? What does driving with Christ in your life look like on a daily basis? How does He impact your life and inform your decisions? 

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Why, if Jesus told His disciples on numerous occasions that He would die and rise again, was He so completely misunderstood?  Sure, it's easy for those of us who have read the gospel accounts to know how the crucifixion turns out, but how would we have responded or felt on that first Easter Saturday? For those who witnessed the death of Jesus Christ firsthand, how could they make sense of any of Jesus' promises? For those who had hoped in His leadership, the road had hit an abrupt dead end. Imagine the first Easter Sunday without knowing what you know now. Allow the greatest love story in history to impact you as though you had no idea what God might do.

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The cross forms an intersection. This intersection represents the relationship of God and man. Without the cross there is no relationship because none are righteous without His sacrifice. As we spend this next week and a half leading up to Easter, let's consider what the cross means, and the reason Jesus would willingly offer His life in that regard. Take some time to read and prayerfully reflect on the following verses and passages: Isaiah 53:6, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18, John 3:16 & Mark 15.

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Imagine I said to you, "You are about to have a very difficult day, but don't worry, I'm at total peace with it." How would you feel? How do you respond to mixed messages? Someone says something positive, but their facial expression does not match their words, and you wonder how to interpret it. As we finish our last few weeks reading through the gospels, we see Jesus' earthly ministry coming to a close. He did His best to prepare His followers for His departure yet they were confused. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “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.” In other words, Jesus warned His followers of pending trials, yet told them to be at peace. How is that possible in your life? When trials come your way, how do you respond?

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As we move into the later period of Jesus' ministry on earth in our daily readings, Jesus warns His followers that He will soon be leaving. While His disciples were somewhat confused about His death and resurrection, Jesus comforted His friends by letting them know that help was on the way. The Holy Spirit (also know as the Holy Comforter) would soon be with them. While they may not have fully comprehended what was about to transpire, it made sense later. How close do you feel to Jesus on any given day?, What role does the Holy Spirit play in your life? 

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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?

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