Rule of Life Series: Study

Proverbs 9:9-10

I know, I know – you see the word study and instantly your eyes dart away. I remember being in high school. It wasn’t THAT long ago for me. I didn’t always want to study, either. But today we’re talking about how the discipline of studying can help us in our relationship with God. And it is just that – a discipline. It’s not always easy, but it is vitally important.

If you’re anything like me, one of the reasons you don’t particularly enjoy studying for school is because everyone tells you that you have to. Your teachers, your parents, even sometimes your classmates.

God doesn’t do that. He doesn’t tell us that we have to study. That’s right, we could freely choose not to. But God does tell us what happens if we choose to study His Word. In our passage for today, He says that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

God lets us know what will happen if we choose to submit ourselves to Him and learn from His Word. As Christians, it’s that closeness of relationship that we should crave. We should WANT to know more about God and grow closer to Him.

Now, I’ll be honest, have I always wanted to read my Bible when I wake up in the morning? No, sometimes it just seems so early and my eyes are feeling groggy. But I’ve made it a habit. Now, one of the first things I do every morning is read my Bible and talk to God. I crave it. I need it. But you have to start somewhere.

If studying God’s Word is difficult for you, here’s an idea. Try reading through the book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters, so it fits easily into any month. Whatever day you start on, just go find that same numbered chapter in Proverbs and start there. Then read one chapter every day. That’s it. It’s a great way to get started with daily Bible reading if you’ve never done it before or you’ve taken a long break.

Remember, God doesn’t give us homework. He just wants to know us and He wants us to know Him. For that relationship to thrive, we have to make consistent Bible study a part of our regular routine.

 

Want More?

Psalm 119:15-16

Hebrews 4:12

Joshua 1:8

Proverbs 4:10-13

Acts 17:11

Rule of Life Series: Silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” 

-Mother Teresa

There is a lot that could be said about silence but it seems that it would make sense for us just to experience it, and learn from it.  Silence is hard to come by with so many distractions pulsating through our minds, but it is necessary.  It should be a daily practice because it causes us to become vulnerable.  It is precisely because of this that silence is so hard to practice, but it is also what makes it so powerful.

Find time for silence today, and every day this week.  One day this week set aside a large portion of time that you will dedicate to silence.  No phone. No music. No distractions.  Just you and God.  Let your mind rest in his presence and listen.

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13

Pray through Psalm 121 to guide you into a time of silence.

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to the hills

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is you keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you form all evil;

He will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forevermore.

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

Rule of Life Series: Worship

Romans 12:1-2, Psalm 150

Worship is a lifetime’s worth of exploration.  We worship the name of Jesus, offering our souls and bodies to be transformed that our whole beings may be filled with His presence as we are living temples of the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the word worship, what comes to mind?

Many of us think about singing in a church service, or bowing down to someone or something.  Worship is more than these acts; worship is life.  We are all worshiping something with our life whether we know it or not.  Some worship money, others worship self.  There are a number of things that people worship, but how many of us are truly worshipping God with our lives?  What exactly does this look like?

Whatever your main focus is in life is what you are worshiping.  If you are more concerned about money than anything else that means that you are most likely worshiping money.  If you love sports and are constantly watching Sports Center, checking updates, and watching games, you may be worshiping sports.  It all comes down to how we spend our time and what is most valuable to us in life.  Sometimes we may be spending our time doing good things, but if we are not living for God’s glory then we are not worshiping God.  It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your actions.  If you are doing things for your glory then you are not allowing God to receive the glory.  This is a tough reality for Christians to be faced with but it is necessary.

Too often Christians aren’t allowing God to be God.  Instead, we make ourselves to be God without really recognizing it.  We don’t intend to do this, but sometimes this just occurs.  Let God be God.  Live for his glory and not your own.  Worship God with your life, rather than focusing so much on your own desires.  This is not an easy task, but this is what God desires from us.

Take some time this week to reflect on your life.

  • What are you spending a majority of your time doing?
  • How do we find time for God in our crazy schedules?
  • What can this look like for you from day to day?
  • How do you allow God to be God?
  • What needs to change in your life today?

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

-St. Augustine

“That is what worship is all about. It is the glad shout of praise that arises to God the creator and God the rescuer from the creation that recognizes its maker, the creation that acknowledges the triumph of Jesus the Lamb. That is the worship that is going on in heaven, in God’s dimension, all the time. The question we ought to be asking is how best we might join in.”

-N.T. Wright

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: Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:17-20

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation with us. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you of behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Reconciliation-the restoration of friendly relations, the action of making one view or belief compatible with another, or returning to faith or harmony after conflict.

In the verse above we learn that we are ambassadors of Christ, entrusted with the message of reconciliation. This means that we should be striving to return harmony to broken relationships. We should be seeking ways to repair broken relationships between families, friends, communities, and God. There is a need for reconciliation wherever you go. We are all broken people, human beings with flaws, so we must learn to forgive and seek forgiveness. We must let God into our lives so that his grace and love can restore us.

One of the most critical aspects of reconciliation is listening. We must listen to others, getting to know them and where they come from. We have to learn stories and build deeper relationships. Once we begin to understand those that are different than us then we may begin the process of reconciliation, and this process must be done with gentleness and grace.

Too often today people listen defensively, meaning that they are developing their response while the other person is speaking. This is not really listening, and it will lead nowhere.  There are never-ending arguments and fights occurring on social media, the news, among peers, and on numerous other platforms that are corrupting our minds, and preventing genuine transformation from occurring. This happens too often within the church and among Christ followers as well. It is giving the world a false image of what it means to follow Christ.

Slow down and listen. Build relationships. Work towards reconciliation. Reflect on this idea of reconciliation. Pray about it. This process takes time. It requires patience and persistence. Be encouraged and allow the Spirit of God move.

  • Where is there a need for reconciliation in your life?
  • How can you achieve reconciliation within these broken relationships?
  • What does reconciliation mean to you?
  • Where does this nation, this world, need reconciliation? How can you help?
  • What must change within you so that you can reconcile any broken relationships in you life?

Ask God to guide you as you reflect on these ideas and issues. Be still and listen. We live in a broken world with broken people. Let the Spirit give you strength and encourage you today.

Sometime this week check out these stories of reconciliation. These stories are profound and difficult to grasp, but so powerful. Let them transform you.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?_r=0

 

Want More?

Romans 5:10

Ephesians 2:4-5

Ephesians 4:32

1 Peter 4:8

Colossians 3:1-17

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: Trust

Luke 16:1-15

Read verses 10-13 a few more times. Pray through them, and reflect on the words of Jesus.

To live a life of trust, both trusting and deserving of trust, is a mark of a life of integrity.

God wants us to trust wholly in Him, and He desires for us to be trustworthy as well. This means that not only do we trust, but we must also be able to be trusted. We must be vulnerable and transparent with God, as we should also grow in transparency with others.  Building up trusted, honest relationships and communities is critical to a life of following Christ. We cannot succeed on our own. We need support from others and from the Holy Spirit to help push us forward, moving in the direction of grace.

To be a trusted individual you must be honest and live a life of integrity. The ancient philosopher Socrates described integrity like this:

…credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.

What he means by this is that once you break your trust with a person your integrity begins to drop. You begin to lose credit with others, and the more you do this the more challenging it becomes to gain their trust. I love the last sentence of his advice here, “…endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” In order to be you must do. In order to be a Christ follower with integrity, and appear as one, you must live out what you believe and say. James 1:22 calls for us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”

It is hard for people to trust someone who is a hypocrite, someone who doesn’t live out what they say and believe. Christians must live a life of integrity and honor so that they can gain the trust of others. It is true that no one is perfect and we all fall short. This should not stop us from pushing forward and seeking forgiveness.

God desires for us to trust him, putting aside all of our fears and worries. He is present with us, walking with us every day. We have no reason to be anxious with God by our side.  God also desires for us to be trustworthy. We should be a light and comfort to others as well. We need to build up communities of integrity so that we can be transparent with each other, working through life together.

Are you a trustworthy person?

How can you regain the trust of others?

How do you live a life of integrity?

How is God honest with us?

Are you honest with God?

How will living a life of integrity transform how other view you and treat you?

 

Want More:

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Proverbs 3:5-6

Isaiah 43:2

Matthew 6:25-34

Colossians 3:9-10

 

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: Sanctification

Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

To be sanctified is to be holy, or set apart.  It means that we have accepted to follow Christ, and we are choosing to pursue his will for our lives. Frederick Buechner describes sanctification like this:

In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul, it is only when we discover that God really loves us in all our unloveliness that we ourselves start to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sins, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few is any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy—the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person starts to become a healing person, the loved person starts to become a loving person.  God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

This is a great image of what it truly means to be sanctified by God. Now read Romans 6 to get the full picture that Paul paints of sanctification. Read through this chapter a few times and reflect on the words that Paul says here.

  • What must you do to be sanctified?
  • How does this look from day to day?
  • What changes do you need to make today in order to better follow after Christ?

Take some time to pray and ask God to guide you in this challenging process.