TAWG After Camp: You are Loved

It’s now been over a week since we were all at camp together. School is about to start back up again for many of us. Others have work. Our old routines are beginning to settle back in, and what we learned at camp may be feeling a bit foggy by now.

So much can change even in a week. You know what doesn’t change? God loves you, and He is with you.

He wants to see you succeed.

He wants to help you grow.

He never gives up on you.

He is walking with you through every situation, no matter how difficult.

 

Have you ever felt abandoned or alone? Have you ever felt like someone who is very close to you had pulled away from or forgotten you? Even our most cherished human relationships can include pain and difficulty. But let’s look at Isaiah 49:15-16 and consider how our relationship with God goes even deeper.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

There is no other human relationship quite like that of a mother and a child. Yet even that relationship does not compare to the love and tenderness of God. Look at the verses again. God tells us that He will never forget us. Never, no matter what we do.

Take comfort in that today. As you seek to move forward and continue in the things you learned at camp, be aware that you might slip up. But God still loves you. As you go back to school, friendships and circumstances may change. But God hasn’t forgotten you. As you live with and love your family, there may be bumps along the road. But God is always with you.

You are loved. You are cherished. You matter. God has not forgotten you, and he never will.

Want More?

  • Romans 8:38-39
  • Psalm 27:9-14
  • Jeremiah 29:11-13
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
  • Psalm 34:8
  • Psalm 31:19
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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: 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: 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