Monday, April 15, 2024

Give to Get

 


Give to Get – that seems to sum up so many aspects of how the Kingdom operates.  Rather than hoard to amass, we are told on multiple occasions in multiple ways, that the secret to getting more from God is to give away exactly what it is you want more of.

 

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous man will prosper; He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed

 

Things to think about:

·       Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

·       Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy

·       John 12:25 - The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

·       Matthew 6:14 - If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Why is it this way?

·       It acknowledges that God is the Source of all the things we need and that He has a limitless supply of what we need

o   Philippians 4:19 - And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

·       We can only give what we have been given

o   Deut. 8:18 - But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

·       Others need to be enriched by what God has bestowed on us

o   Proverbs 11:25 - A generous man will prosper; He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed

·       As we learn to turn our eyes from what we want to what He wants and what others need, we find that our capacity to give increases.

o   Proverbs 11:24 - One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

·       Where have you seen these principles play out in your life?

·       Is God calling you to loosen your grip on something?

Monday, April 1, 2024

Peace

 


Is your spirit disturbed within you?  Are you at war with yourself? Are you in conflict with others?  Do your circumstances keep you on edge? Do you find you are impatient?  Are you engaging in unhealthy habits?  Are you unable to find peace?  I think some or all of these hard questions can be true of us at times.  God knows this and doesn’t find fault rather He provides the solution.  Let’s look at what Scripture has to say about Peace, how to find it, and what to with it.

 

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

Things to think about:

God is Peace

·       Isaiah 9:6-7 - And He will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end.

God Gives Peace

·       John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

·       Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

·       Phil. 4:16Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God Calls us to Live in Peace

·       Matthew 5:9 - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

·       Romans 12:18 - If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

·       What aspect of today’s study hits home the most for you?

 

·       Where are you struggling to find peace in your life?

 

·       What can you do differently today to receive God’s peace?

 

·       What can you do differently today to share God’s peace?

 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Look Up




Daniel 4:34 -  "At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever."

Things to think about:
  • If you have time, read Daniel 4 in its entirety.  It provides all of the context that leads up to Nebuchadnezzar's comment above.
    • Nebuchadnezzar (hereafter referred to as "the king" because I can't keep typing his whole name :-)) had a dream that he didn't understand.  Daniel had already correctly interpreted one dream and so the king went to him again for wisdom.
    • Daniel warned him to turn from his sin and wickedness so that perhaps he could avoid the ruin that his dream foretold (verse 27)
    • 12 months later the king was full of pride and boasting of his wealth and power (vv 29-30)
    • while the words were still on his lips, the prophecy of his dream was fulfilled. He was separated from all people and lived like an animal for seven "times" (years?) (vv 31-33)
  • Finally the king raised his eyes toward Heaven and his sanity was restored. He praised and honored God (v 34)
  • God provided the king with a very clear warning from a trustworthy source.  He even gave him 12 months to get it together.
    • Why is our tendency to ignore the truth about ourselves?
    • Are you getting warnings currently about things you need to change?
  • I'm glad I'm not rich and famous.  I am sure my nature would have me being boastful and conceited.
    • do you ever waver on Who is the source of your well-being? Isn't it easy to believe it is the work of our own hands?
  • Daniel's warning was to "Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed." (verse 27)
    • sins of commission and omission. As we have seen on many occasions, God's heart is with the poor and oppressed.
  • When the king finally raised his eyes to Heaven his sanity was restored.
    • Is your life driving you crazy? 
    • How can putting God first restore your sanity?

Sunday, March 10, 2024

"Hey God, Do You Know What You're Doing?"

 


When things aren’t turning out the way we wished they would, or are taking too long, or in some ways aren’t meeting our expectations, we can sometimes wonder if God really knows what He’s doing.  Wars, diseases, misfortunes, crime, injustice, and any other number of things can push us in the direction of questioning God’s thinking, motivations, or ability. We have the story of Lazarus in the Book of John where Lazarus dies and several people are essentially telling Jesus He blew it.

 

John 11:32 – “…Lord, if You had been here,

my brother wouldn’t have died.”

 

Things to think about:

·       Even if we won’t say it out loud, haven’t we all silently wondered, “Lord, what are You doing (or not doing)???”

·       In John 11, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha (and a good friend of Jesus’) falls sick and dies while Jesus is in another town.  The sisters sent word to Him that Lazarus was sick and beckoned Him to come see about him.

o   But Jesus said that his “sickness isn’t unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of Man may be glorified through it.”  He then stayed two more days before going to Bethany where Lazarus and his family lived.

o   By the time He got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

·       Now comes the second guessing!

o   John 11:20 – Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now, I know that whatever You ask of God, He will give it to You.”

o   John 11:32 – Then, when Mary came where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have dies.”

o   John 11:37 (the Jews) said, “could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

o   When things aren’t going the way WE want, rather than question our wisdom, we question God’s

·       Job 30:20-21 – Job speaking says, “I cry to you, and you don’t answer; I stand up, but you just look at me. You are cruel to me and attack me with the strength of your hand.”

·       Is it possible, just maybe, that something is going on that is beyond our limited reasoning abilities???

o   Elihu, a young man in the story of Job, confronts Job and his three friends

o   Job 33:12 - “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal. Why do you complain to Him that he responds to no one’s words?”

o   And again, Elihu says to Job in verses 29-30 – “God does all these things to a person - twice, even three times – to turn them back from The Pit, that the light of life may shine on them.”

·       And when we don’t understand, this is the beginning of faith.  God is at work, doing something more awesome and important than our feeble minds can comprehend.  And He always does it out of love and for our own good.

o   Isaiah 55:8-9 - “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

o   Psalm 36:7 - How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Pain is Never Pointless

 



Trials are part of life. Whether it's work, health, relationships, finances, or something else, we all have unresolved problems. The answer to thriving through them is knowing that there is a purpose in them that you can seize.  While there are many aspects we could explore here (sharing in Jesus’ suffering, empathy, learning a needed lesson, discipline, natural consequences of poor judgement, etc.), let’s look at how we grow stronger and more hopeful as a result of trials.

Romans 5:3-5 - we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

Things to think about:

·       The only way to learn patience is to be around people and situations that drive you crazy

o   Similarly, character development is only forged in the fires of trouble

·       Scar tissue is tougher than untouched skin.  Callouses are harder than unworked hands.

o   A weak man is easily bruised and injured.  

·       Unlike Bible stories where we already know the end, when we are in the midst of a difficult situation, we don’t know if it is going to end today, tomorrow, next year, or never.

o   But what we do know is that it’s not for nothing

o   Romans 8:28

·       Perseverance is a quality anyone can develop.  It is simply saying, “Today, I won’t quit.” And then saying it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…

·       You may have heard it said that “Character is the sum total of your habits.”

o   We judge a man not by what he says but by what he does consistently over time.

·       Why does Character lead to Hope?

o   Because we see that God always provides what we need if we don’t give up

o   And when we can recall times past when He has delivered us, it gives us a real reason to believe (Hope) that He will do it again

·       Hope is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. As you develop it in yourself, you can share it with others.

o   A lack of hope is the greatest poverty one can experience.  We can endure almost anything, but without hope, we are totally and utterly lost.

o   Proverbs 13:12 - Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

·       Let's do more than grit our teeth, let's grip our faith.

To Be Known

 


Sometimes I worry that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t think that much of me (maybe you already know me and this describes you!)  In our passage, Jesus says that He knows you.  Let’s unpack what it means to be known and why it matters so much.

 

John 10:14 – I am the Good Shepherd.  I know My sheep and My sheep know me.

 

Things to think about:

·       Words matter – a lot. In the Greek, there are two words for the verb “to know”

o   Oida – to be familiar with

o   Ginosko – to be intimately familiar with    

§  This is the word Jesus used here and is the same word He uses when describing how He and the Father know one another

·       In our case, He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly

o   The woman at the well – John 4

·       You are probably familiar with the three words used for our one English word, love

o   Eros (physical), phileo (fraternal), agape (unconditional)

o   He ginoskos you and He agapes you

§  When I first wrote this, it read He agapes you “anyway”

§  But I got thinking, that’s wrong.  He made you and loves how He made you.

·       We tend to focus on our flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes

o   We have an enemy who encourages this kind of thinking

o   Jesus focuses on our good points, our purpose, how He wants to be with us for eternity

o   We’re not in the Scratch and Dent section

§  We’re behind the glass where He has His most precious masterpieces

·       How does reflecting on how well Jesus knows you, affect how you feel His love for you?

·       The flipside of all of this is that He says we know Him

o   When you really get to know someone, you spend time with them

o   You see how they respond in various situations

o   You listen to the words they say

·       What can you do this week to get to know Jesus a little bit better?

Monday, February 19, 2024

Bread Crumbs

 


I’m always amazed at how God never misses a detail.  Whether it’s knowing every star by name, the number of hairs on your head, or chasing down the one lost sheep, it seems nothing is too trivial for His attention.  Another place we see this is when Jesus fed the 5,000 in John 6.  Once everyone had their fill, He told His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  Why bother with the crumbs?  Why not just let the birds scavenge the leftovers?  We don’t have a definitive answer, but today’s study seeks to uncover some possible reasons.

 

John 6:12 - “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

 

Things to think about:

·       We all know how He took 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish to feed 5,000 men (and scholars estimate the number could have actually been closer to three times that many counting women and children).

·       So why bother with the leftovers?  Couldn’t He just whip up another miracle as the need arose?

·       Everything God gives us is precious and not to be wasted

o   This principle goes way beyond the way God meets our material needs. Think about things like:

§  His grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness

§  How can we be better stewards of these gifts?

·       God’s nature is to be extravagant and to have our cups brimming to overflowing

o   Just because there’s a lot doesn’t mean we ignore the rest of the blessing once our personal needs are met

·       There were twelve basketfuls picked up, one for each disciple

o   The servant’s needs are always met

o   If you’ve ever been on a mission trip, how were your needs met while you were serving others?

·       There are a lot of people in the world that are left behind, overlooked, and forgotten

o   Who are the “crumbs” in your sphere of influence?

o   How do you think God would have us act towards them?

o   How do we make sure that “none are wasted”?

o   Small acts of kindness fill up baskets of changed lives

Monday, February 12, 2024

The Power of Questions

 


When words are printed in red in the Bible, I tend to pay more attention.  After all, if Jesus said it, there’s something to be learned!  As I have been reading those red-letter words in the Gospel of John, I noticed that Jesus often uses questions.  Let’s look at three questions He asked and see what we can learn from His model.

 

John 1:38 – What do you want?

John 5:6 – Do you want to get well?

John 18:4 – Who is it you want?

 

Things to think about:

·       I guess the first thing to say about Jesus’s questions is He wasn’t actually seeking information.  As the omniscient Son of God, He already knew the answers.  The questions were more for the benefit of who He was asking.

o   Why are questions effective tools to drive a deeper discussion?

·       The first question in John 1:38, What do you want?, was posed to His first disciples.  They were following Him after John the Baptist pointed at Him and said Jesus was the Lamb of God.

o   They were curious about where He was staying and wanted to spend some time with Him

o   Everyone comes to Jesus with their own motivations.  Are you merely curious or are you after something deeper?

·       The second question, Do you want to get well? was asked of the invalid who was always missing out on the chance to get in the healing waters near the temple. 

o   The man was disabled for 38 years and Jesus wants to know if he wants to get well???

§  Mankind has a disease much worse than this poor man, a terminal illness called Sin.  God will not force Himself on us but rather asks if we want to be healed.  Only those who say Yes can pick up their mats and walk into eternal life

·       The third question, Who is it you want?, is the most important one. 

o   It is the essence of Christianity because Christianity is about Who

o   This happened when He was being arrested and Judas identified Him as the man they were in search of

o   They replied, Jesus of Nazareth” to which He responded, “I am He.”  They fell to the ground and again He asked, “Who is it you want?

·       The question for everyone ever born is the same one, “Who is it you want?

o   Do you want yourself and to have your way?

o   Do you want others and their affection and approval?

o   Or do you want the living Son of God Who came to take away your sin so you can be with Him for eternity?