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

Revolution Series: The Woman at the Well

Read John 4:1-42

As you read, pay attention to the different people in this story and how they change. What stands out to you? What is odd or unusual about this story?  How does Jesus present a revolution to this woman? To his disciples?

There is a lot to learn from this passage.  We see Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman, which would be very strange at that time. Jesus’ disciples noticed this odd behavior.  We learn about the living water of Christ Jesus.  We observe a changed woman who can’t help but tell others about what has happened to her.  The others heard her and they, too, were changed. What an incredible story!

Take time to reflect on these main points from the passage.  We can learn a lot from both Jesus and the woman in this story.  Think about how significant it is that the woman is changed, shares this news with others, and then they change as well.  Isn’t this Christ’s call for our lives? “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  How are we presenting the love of Christ to others?  How excited are we about this Living Water that Christ offers?  How much faith do we have in Jesus?

Let these words become truth.  Let them motivate you into action.  Love unconditionally. Listen without distraction. Be welcoming to all because you never know what may come from even the simplest interaction.  Be a light.  Be honest and true to others.  Allow Christ to work in you and through you.

Take a little more time to think though the significance of this story and what it means to you today.  How will this story change you?

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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

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.