Rule of Life Series: Prayer

Luke 11:1-13

I was on my lunch break the other day, when I came upon a park. This park actually used to be a landfill. Now it serves as a preservation area. The only reason I knew about it was that I had gone there with my mom a few months earlier. She loves birding, and it is a prime spot for seeing certain species of birds.

I had about 15 minutes left on my lunch break before I needed to head back to the office. It was a beautiful, sunny day. So I stopped to take a walk. The wind was rustling the leaves in the trees that are scattered across the hills and grasslands of the park. It was there I spoke to God.

I talked to Him about all the anxieties that had been plaguing my mind. I thanked Him for his presence. I asked for guidance. I took some time to listen too. When I was done, I couldn’t help but wonder why I don’t do this more often.

In our passage for today, Jesus gives his disciples an example of how to pray. We’ve heard it many times before. For many of us, prayer might seem routine. Granted, we don’t pray enough. But it’s as everyday as waking up and brushing our teeth.

While there’s something to be said for developing good habits and for making prayer a part of our daily life, I wonder when exactly we lost our fascination with prayer. We’re talking to the Creator of the universe for goodness’ sake!

I walked under the sun with the wind at my back and I was amazed at the presence of God. He’s always there. We have these opportunities around us all the time. He wants to meet with us. Talk with us. Listen to us.

But we have to take the time to meet with Him.

 

Want More?

1 John 5:14

1 Chronicles 16:11

James 5:13

Psalm 141:2

Psalm 145:18

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Rule of Life Series: Unity

John 17:20-23

Jesus Christ is the perfect picture of unity. He and the Father are one. As followers of Jesus, he offers that same unity to us. It is the mystery discussed in Colossians 1 – Christ in us.

We talk about it in church all the time, but let it sink in – as a follower of Christ, he dwells in you. You are never separated from Him. At first, it might even sound a little weird to say that Christ dwells in you, but that is only because our weak attempts at describing the situation don’t do it justice. As Christians, we are always in unity with Christ.

That begs the question, then – why are there so many divisions in Christianity?

It is true, unity is something that isn’t always clear in the modern Christian faith. But our passage for today shows that wasn’t Jesus’ intent. It seems the common theme of Jesus’ gospel was love. A love that makes unity possible. Jesus’ prayer in today’s passage was that the disciples would live in the same unity with the Father that He did.

There is a great deal of darkness in the world today. Many problems and issues face us, and the temptation is to argue with and ridicule one another. Jesus came to bring people to the Father. By doing so, He brought them together. He calls us to do the same.

Now, it’s very clear that Jesus did not hold back when he saw injustice in the world. Many times, he saved his harshest words for those in religious positions of power. Likewise, we should also not stand idly by as injustice occurs.

Therefore, true unity comes only as we bring people to Jesus. The closer we draw to Him, the closer we are to the Father because Jesus is in complete unity with the Father. Let that be our prayer this week, that we would be one with Christ as we seek to bring others closer to Him.

 

Want More?

Colossians 1:25-27

Ephesians 4:11-13

Psalm 133:1

Romans 12:16

Ephesians 2:14

Rule of Life Series: Community Discipline

Hebrews 12:11-13

Life in community is a common theme in the Bible. “Love your neighbor” and the practices of the church in Acts show us that community is a good thing. We are supposed to live at peace with those around us.

But what happens when our community hurts us?

To live in community is to be vulnerable. We open ourselves up to others. We share life together and help each other through struggles. We encourage and lift up one another. We love each other.

But sometimes communities can be broken by sin. Boundaries must be in place. That’s what today’s passage talks about.

Nobody likes discipline. It isn’t fun. It’s meant to be a deterrent to sinful behavior. But a good community has boundaries in place to protect its members. What’s interesting about our passage is how it distinguishes between the moment of discipline and the after effects.

As we’ve already discussed, the moment of discipline is anything but fun. It hurts. We sometimes feel shame and guilt. Hopefully, it causes us to reconsider whatever action brought on the discipline. But what does our passage have to say about the after effects of discipline?

“Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

True discipline yields peace. Our communities should have boundaries in place that make that possible.

So, what communities are you a part of? Your church, your family and your school are all communities you interact with on a daily or weekly basis. They probably have strong boundaries in place.

But what about your friend group?

Do you and your friends set up boundaries so that you won’t put yourselves in bad situations? You and your friends should be building each other up. That means having rules in place so you won’t fall into temptation.

Pray this week and ask God to help you live in peace with each community you’re a member of.

 

Want more?

Proverbs 19:20

Colossians 3:12-14

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Rule of Life Series: Sacrifice

Mark 10:17-23

When I think of the word “sacrifice,” my mind tends to drift to the sports arena. Recently, like many of you, I assume, I was enthralled by the achievements of the world’s greatest athletes in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Many of the athletes were my age or younger. I’d see them perform these amazing feats and wonder how they do it. Then we hear stories of the many hours of practice and the physical pain they put their bodies through to prepare for this one event. All to win a gold medal.

And that’s how we often view sacrifice – working harder to achieve a goal. Giving up our time and energy to perform better. It’s all focused on performance.

What I find interesting in today’s passage is that Jesus isn’t focused so much on performance as he is on priorities. In fact, Jesus doesn’t ask the rich man to work any harder. He tells the rich man that he has followed the commandments well. But now he must follow Jesus. That means making Jesus his one priority. The rich man looks at all his wealth and simply cannot make the sacrifice.

Where is Jesus asking to you sacrifice something?

Keep in mind, that question doesn’t mean He’s asking you to work harder. He’s not looking for you to up your game at all. He simply wants you to follow Him. You see, Jesus is the one doing the performing. He’s the one who put in the work. He died on the cross for us! We simply need to follow his leading in our lives.

The problem is…many times that doesn’t seem simple to us. That’s because, when we’re faced with following Jesus, we realize that means sacrificing “other” things in our lives. We like our priorities the way they are. But Jesus calls us to rearrange those priorities.

So, practically, what does this look like? Well, it might be as simple as getting up 10 minutes earlier to do your devotions. We all like our sleep, but maybe that early morning time is when God wants to speak truth into your life. Make the sacrifice.

Sometimes, the sacrifice is bigger. Maybe you got invited to a party with some friends that you know are into some bad stuff. It all comes down to where your priorities are. Do you want to make a good impression on your friends, or do you want to follow Jesus?

You see, many times in those situations, we’re taught to “do the right thing.” Don’t go to the party because it wouldn’t be right. That’s true, but there’s actually a higher reason to follow God in that situation. Look back at our story for today. The rich man had already been doing all the right things…but it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. He wasn’t following Jesus.

So, when you’re faced with tough decisions and you need to make a sacrifice, remember that God doesn’t ask us to work harder. He asks us to follow. Yes, we have to make sacrifices, but we make them because they bring us closer to Jesus. Be prayerful this week about how God may be asking you to make sacrifices in your own life. And remember, make Him your priority and follow.

Want More?

Hebrews 9:28

Luke 9:24

Mark 10:45

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Rule of Life Series: Being Set Apart

Mark 6:30-33

Many times, we view the word separation in a negative way. We associate it with loneliness or detachment. From an early age, we struggle with the idea of being separated from other people – especially those close to us. There’s a lot of baggage that comes along with separation.

But what if I told you that separation – or rather, being set apart – has positive qualities too? In the right context, separation is vital for your spiritual growth.

Look at our passage for today, Jesus and the disciples had been travelling the country doing ministry. It was to the point where people were now starting to recognize them. They were celebrities. Life was getting pretty hectic.

That’s when Jesus tells them to set themselves apart. To get away for a little while and recharge. To rest. When was the last time you did this? When did you take some time to be by yourself? No phone. No computer. Just you and God.

What makes this different than the negative type of separation we’re used to hearing about is the intention behind it. This is the choice to set yourself apart for renewal and growth.

I’d encourage you to set aside some time this week to be set apart. If Jesus encouraged the disciples to do it, we probably should as well.

Want More?

Matthew 6:6

Luke 5:15-16

Mark 1:35

1 Kings 19:11-13

Rule of Life Series: Desire and Choice

Read John 15:12-17

Think about the word “choose.” You choose every day. You make choices about what clothes to wear and what food to eat. You choose what to do with your time, and you choose who you spend your time with. We all make choices.

Some choices are simply more significant than others. The day I chose to marry my wife has much more impact on my life than the lunch choice I made today. In today’s TAWG, we’re looking at the most impactful choice on your life – one you didn’t even make.

In our passage for today, God says that we did not choose Him. Instead, He chose us. What does this mean?

It means that God desired to be with you before you were even born. He loves you so much! In fact, His love for you is so great that He chose to send His only Son to die for you. That’s a big choice.

It’s important to remember that we are not ones making that initial choice. Sometimes it’s easy to think we initiate our relationship with God. What I mean by that is we think that a prayer or an action of ours was the beginning of our walk with God. What this verse tells us is that God initiated that relationship long before we even thought about beginning it.

So, where do we fit in then? I’m glad you asked!

The Choice is Yours

We still get to choose. Just because God made the first choice in this relationship doesn’t mean that we are locked in from there on. We can make the choice whether or not we want to accept God’s invitation to relationship. We can choose how much we let Him in. We can make many choices. This is because God has given us free will. Look back at our passage.

In verse 14, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” It’s interesting that Jesus uses the word if there. That means, there is the option to not do what Jesus commands. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t have to say if.

So then, we know that God has made the first choice – to love you and desire to be with you. Now, the choice is yours. Will you accept his invitation?

This certainly applies to salvation – will you accept that initial invitation to relationship? That’s a huge choice! If you have questions about that, ask either your parents or your pastor. They can help you.

But this also applies to our daily lives. Will we choose each day to follow Jesus? To take up our cross and follow his teachings each day. Will we love God and one another? Will we choose to be in a close relationship with Him each day?

I invite you to ponder these questions. Think about how amazing it is that the Creator of the universe chose you. He loves you and He desires you. Now, think about the choices you make each day. Are you following God or not? It sounds like a simple question, but the way we choose to answer it will literally change our lives.

 

Want More?

Matthew 16:24

Luke 9:23

James 2:5

Deuteronomy 7:6

Psalm 65:4

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

During camp, our TAWG lessons covered the Fruit of the Spirit. But there were a few we didn’t get to. This week, we’re taking a look at the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit. We hope these posts give you some good “food” for thought.:)


As we end our TAWG series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we’ve come to the fruit of faithfulness. Read Galatians 5:22-23 once more to remind yourself of the Fruits of the Spirit.

Faithfulness seems like the perfect fruit to highlight as we transition back home from camp. Camp is a “mountaintop” experience. The struggle, then, is in coming back down to earth. We’ve all been there – you make a decision at camp only to be faced with the same old struggles and temptations when you get home. It sometimes causes us to doubt what happened at camp. We think, “If I really made that decision, I wouldn’t be struggling right now.”

Wrong!

Jesus never said the Chrisitian life would be easy. Take some time and read John 16:33. If you don’t have a Bible nearby, here’s a link to the verse online.

Instead, Jesus calls us to faithfulness – day in and day out. So what is faithfulness? The textbook definition reads – “the quality of being faithful; fidelity.” Pretty obvious, right? But the idea here is that you are being loyal every day. Every day you show up ready to follow. Faithfulness is focused much more on the mundane than the mountaintop.

This means that as we come home from camp, our focus should be there as well. Instead of looking back and relishing in all the amazing things that happened at camp (though I hope there are many), focus your energy on following God each day. I know, it’s hard. Again, Jesus didn’t tell us this would be easy. But it’s what we’re called to.

So what does this look like? Well, there are some key tools that any Christian needs to implement to live a faithful lifestyle. You know them as well as I do:

  • Prayer
  • Personal time with God
  • Fellowship with other believers
  • Reading God’s Word

There are certainly other disciplines that apply, but these are some of the basics. Look at that list. We can all improve on each one. No one is perfect. But try to zero in on one area in particular where you can improve on a daily basis. Then…

…start today!

If you want to pray more, write down some prayer requests and pick a time of day. Each day at that time, spend a few minutes in prayer. Personal time with God can come at any time of day, it doesn’t have to be in the morning. Pick a time that works for you. Or maybe you want to spend more time with fellow believers. This is where church comes in. Get involved in your youth group. For reading God’s Word, it could be as simple as reading one verse a day. Even a little bit of interaction with the Bible can be so filling!

Obviously, these disciplines can merge together. Maybe, as part of your alone time, you read the Bible and pray! Great! But remember that none of these disciplines will look the same for everyone. Talk to God and figure out how each one works best for you. Maybe, instead of reading, God just wants you to sit in stillness and silence with Him. That’s great too!

Laura Bulgrien talked about faithfulness out at camp. She told a story about a time when God spoke to her. She longed to serve in overseas missions, but she found herself working at a desk. It was hard for her to see the impact she was having. But God clearly told her that if she wasn’t willing to be faithful in the “small” things, she’d never be faithful in the “bigger” things.

What small things can you be faithful in today? How has God been speaking to you since camp ended?

The bottom line is: camp only goes so far. At the end of the week, camp is over. Now you’re back home and school is about to start. This is where the rubber meets the road. God is calling you to faithfulness. Will you answer?

Want More?

  • Matthew 16:24
  • Lamentations 3:23
  • Psalms 36:5
  • Psalms 119:90
  • Luke 16:10

Tomorrow, we’ll be starting a new TAWG series. Check back to see what’s next. And if you’d like to see our other TAWG sessions on the Fruit of the Spirit, you can find them below.

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Camp Debrief