Overcoming your Thoughts

Reading for today:

Ezra 3-4 … 1 Corinthians 3

If you were to get the Bjorksnas dresser from Ikea with all of its 678 (just a guess) pieces, are you the kind of person who would meticulously follow the instructions or are you more of a ‘this looks about right’ kind of person?

Twice in today’s passage, Ezra records that the people returning from exile did things “in accordance with what is written”

“Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests along with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his brothers began to build the altar of Israel’s God in order to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2)

“They celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed, and offered burnt offerings each day, based on the number specified by ordinance for each festival day.” (Ezra 3:4)

What makes this even more impressive is what we find out in between these two verses:

“They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.” (Ezra 3:3)

Even though they feared…

They did all these things, so careful to faithfully follow the specific instructions of their God, despite their fear. Impressive.

We’re doing a study in our Wednesday night class right now on a book about changing your thoughts, which leads to a changed life.

The place we’re at in our study currently is teaching us that at the root of any behavior that we might wish to change is a lie that we have (probably unknowingly) believed. We are learning how to identify those lies and create new neural pathways in our brains to (hopefully) eventually develop new behaviors. (If you’re interested, btw, the book is Winning the War in Your Mind, by Craig Groeschel .)

Typically, when we start to practice taking that new pathway, it can feel weird…it can feel uncomfortable…it can even feel scary. But it’s only in acting when we feel scared or uncomfortable that we are able to overcome the existing pathway and create a new one.

This scientific knowledge confirms what the Bible has told us for generations, which is that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

The only way to overcome a falsehood is with the truth. And in order for truth to really permeate our mind it has to become personal to us.

Simply printing out a Bible verse and sticking it to your mirror isn’t going to cut it. Take that verse, pull out the truth as it applies to the lie you are believing and write a declaration.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You struggle with trusting God, so you decide to hang up the verse that says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” to remind yourself of the truth that you can trust God to take care of you.
  • Instead, consider taking that same verse and personalizing it by writing out a statement like this, “God loves me more than I love myself. He knows me more than I know myself. He has my best interests at heart and He can be trusted. If He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him for us all, I can trust that he will graciously give me all things as well.”
  • And then even shorten it further, perhaps, to put to memory, “I can trust that God will graciously give me all things.”

Write it. Speak it. Think it. And as you begin to practice a new behavior, rooted in truth, it may feel scary. But press through and keep at it!

Renew your mind and overcome the lies that hold you back from living the life that God intends for you to live.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 3-4 and 1 Corinthians 3

Seeker Sensitive?

1 Corinthians 14

i Corinthians 14 25

Any Princess Bride fans out there?  There’s a scene in the movie where one character keeps using a word and another character says to him, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There’s a lot of talk about whether churches should make their services more ‘seeker sensitive’ or ‘seeker friendly’.  Believe it or not, Paul actually addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  And I believe his view is a resounding ‘YES’ to the question of seeker friendly churches.

However, I think our definition of seeker sensitive and Paul’s definition are vastly different.

Typically, a seeker friendly church service does anything possible to avoid causing guests to feel uncomfortable.  We want them to come back, after all.

Here’s what Paul thought,

“If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in…he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged…So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

Understand that this teaching comes in a section of Paul’s letter in which he’s digging in to exactly how the Corinthian church should ‘do’ church services.  He talks about speaking in tongues, sharing prophecies, and what an orderly service might look like.  While specifics of church services may have changed over the years, I believe the principles that Paul is teaching remain true.

I’ve heard the opinion that in order to be more seeker friendly, churches should not mention the names of God or Jesus.  The Bible may be referenced, but only generally because giving verse references may cause outsiders to feel…well, like outsiders.

How can God convict someone that they are a ‘sinner and will be judged’ if we aren’t clearly and boldly preaching the Bible?

Churches should be the most loving, welcoming, friendly places in a community.  But there should be no doubt when entering that one is in a Christian environment, surrounded by people who live their lives by the instruction of God’s word.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could master the art of boldly yet kindly speaking truth?  Maybe if we did, we’d have more visitors fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

-Susan Landry

 

 

The 5 W’s of Coaching the Dream Team

Matthew 10

matthew 10 32 33

 

WHO will go?

Peter

Andrew

James

John

Philip

Bartholomew

Thomas

Matthew

The other James

Thaddaeus

Simon

Judas

 

In today’s reading we observe Jesus delivering the ultimate pep talk to the “Dream Team” – excluding one. (Spoiler alert: by the end of the Book of Matthew it will be abundantly clear that one of these gentleman will be ejected from the team.) This pre-game speech comes on the heels of Jesus overwhelmed with the needs of the people he’s encountered in the past few weeks. He needs help, so he enlists these 12 with quite a rallying cry. They will soon be experiencing “on the job training” and his instructions are enduring.

 

WHERE will they travel?

Jesus makes it explicitly clear just where the “Dream Team” is to deliver his message: the lost sheep of Israel. (verse 5) “Don’t go to the Gentiles or any Samaritan village.” It was not quite time to take this radical message to the other communities. Perhaps Jesus thought the message would be better received first within Jewish circles since prophecies had been foretold for HUNDREDS of years regarding his coming? (Or not.) Doesn’t take long before the hometown crowd turns from cheers to jeers as the game progresses and one of those “Dream Team” players plots to sabotage the whole tournament.

 

WHAT will they say?

“The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (verse 7) This is the message the disciples are to deliver. They will proclaim this message of power and authority given to them by Christ himself when they demonstrate these actions: 1) Heal the sick. 2) Raise the dead. 3) Cleanse those who have leprosy. 4) Drive out demons.

 

Sure Jesus… Need anything else?

 

As you might imagine, this is quite a directive, and he wasn’t quite done instructing. “Travel light” was just the tip of the iceberg. For the rest of the chapter Jesus spells out what to keep an eye out for. He tells you not to get discouraged even though you should expect to be unwelcomed, flogged, arrested, hated, persecuted, abandoned and lied about by your family, and most likely, killed. Where can I sign up?

 

WHY & WHEN will this occur?

My favorite verses of why this is all to occur shoots from verses 16 & 17. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Beth Moore, a renowned Bible teacher recently tweeted it best,

“What I think has happened here is that in our discipleship, we are not teaching what is normative in the believing life. When we carry our cross and we follow Jesus, we are walking into a storm. We were told that in Matthew 10 we will be ‘sheep among wolves,’ not wolves among sheep.”

Beth goes on to further tweet that “sheep among wolves” means Christians will be “persecuted,” “criticized,” “imprisoned” and even killed for speaking the truth.

“We have been very proud of the fact that we have not subscribed to a prosperity gospel. But what we have subscribed to is a pampered gospel where we are so afraid of suffering and we are so afraid someone is going to criticize us and hurt our feelings.”

 

Hello. That sounds just like January 15, 2019, and speaks to WHEN. Once again we see that God’s word is timeless and a double-edged sword for all generations cutting to the heart of the problem. Whatever it takes, no matter how unpopular, we must contend for the gospel. Just like Jesus called the disciples to move out of their “comfort zones,” we too must grow a thicker skin. Beth’s final tweet about this subject sums it up:

“All that stands between us & an astonishing work of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Quit being scared of rocking a boat that has run aground on an island of compromise. Walk on water.”  

 

What would our lives and our futures look like if we invested our earthly time and resources into eternal values?  How would you live if you were completely confident that every act of love, service, or unselfishness would carry reward where it mattered (and lasted) most – even if nobody in your neighborhood, church, or community ever noticed? “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Verse 42).

 

We are now mid-January. How many of us have long forgotten our resolutions for the New Year? Jesus was trying to teach his “Dream Team” to not focus on the here-and now. Instead of looking for New Year’s resolutions we can keep, what if we tried finding some that could actually keep us.

Sign me up. Lord, please teach me to play on your team!

-Julie Driskill

Better Than Nothing

acts 7 53

Read Acts 7 then watch this!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oArDFU_IESQ

 

If you grew up watching Disney movies, then you most likely have heard Thumper’s most famous tagline. It’s easy to remember and fun to say while trying to mimic Thumper’s voice. “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”

This line is misleading. It gives the impression that the only things we should say should be nice. (Or at least considered nice.) It is wise to use caution when saying less than nice things; however, they are still necessary for the edification of the church. If Jesus spoke nicely about everything where would we be? He probably would not have done everything he did, He might not have died and been raised if he was nice to everyone.

Speaking truth is not always easy or fun. It is often the most difficult thing to do. In Acts chapter 7 Stephen is speaking things against the temple council and their actions with handling Jesus. Stephen tells them they care more about what their ancestors have to say than God. He also calls them out on worshiping the temple and not God.

If that wasn’t enough Stephen says this “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” Did you catch it? He called them stubborn and heartless! Ouch, that’s not very nice. What would Thumper’s father say about that one?

Here is my take away, sometimes the truths we need to say aren’t always nice or well received but are needed to break down walls, so the holy spirit is able to change others and ourselves. That change we experience from the truth being told is way Better Than Nothing.

Here is my second takeaway, TACT is important. That is why I like to follow up with a compliment after the truth has been said.

Thanks, everyone for reading this week.  I hope to see you at FUEL!

Jesse Allen

 

Be Bold!

Acts 3-4

Be Bold Image

Monday, June 5

Peter and John were arrested for teaching about Jesus.  In 4:18, it says the Sanhedrin (the rulers, elders and teachers of the law,  making up Israel’s supreme court)  called them in again and commanded them to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John replied, and in verses 19-20, they said:  “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”  What do we do today?  Do we listen to authorities rather than what God tells us to do?  Are we too tied up in being politically correct to say this or that or just plain don’t say anything at all just to be ‘safe.’  I think many people today don’t want to ruffle any feathers so they just sit quiet.  Do you stand up for what God says, or keep your mouth shut?

 

This just makes me think about being bold and not being afraid to speak the truth.  You should pay more attention to what God would desire, rather than being afraid you might offend someone.

 

In 4:23 it says: “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”  So when we see something that doesn’t agree with a teaching from God, are we silent, or do we speak up and explain what is right in God’s eyes.

 

In verse 29 it says:  “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  Peter and John asked the Lord for extra boldness to speak His word.  Perhaps we should request the gift of boldness when it pertains to speaking up for what God instructs is correct.  This week let’s look for more opportunities to be bold.

-Jason Railton

 

Choices and Truth

 

Jeremiah 24-26

jer-26

Monday, March 6

I had two major thoughts when reading Jeremiah today…

1) We are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

2) Speaking a tough truth is hard to do!

God has rules for us to follow.  In fact, He has an entire book of what rules we need to follow and examples of how to follow them.  And yet here we are… still breaking the rules.  And no one is forcing us to break them, it’s all on us!  Jeremiah 25:7 says “But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

We make choices every single day.  Some are good, some are bad.  But we have the freedom to choose how we will live our lives.  What we do not have is freedom from the consequences of what we choose.  Sinner or saint, Christian or not, at some point we will all have to stand before the throne and answer for our choices.  God makes it clear, He explains exactly what will happen when we don’t follow His rules.  Nothing is going to spare us from the wrath His cup will pour out (25:15) except for our own choices.  I would much rather have God’s eyes watching over us and building us up (24:6), wouldn’t you?

Chapter 26 tells us about how Jeremiah prophesied the hard truth to the people of Judah.  He told them that their city would become desolate and deserted (26:9).  Obviously, they did not take that too kindly and ended up threatening his life!  But Jeremiah did not back down from the truth he knew he was speaking.  He opened himself up, he told them to do whatever they wanted to him but that it wouldn’t change his message (26:14-15)!  Because of this, God protected him and they spared his life.  Now let’s jump down to Uriah’s story.  He preached the same message as Jeremiah did to the same people, yet his life was not spared in the end.  The difference?  Uriah fled when they threatened him.  He was afraid of what people were going to do to him.  He lacked the same faith and trust in God’s protection that Jeremiah had, and he suffered because of it.  So, how can this apply to your life?  Speak truth and don’t back down.  God’s got your back, even when it seems like you’re on your own against an angry city!

-Sarah Blanchard

 

(Photo Credit: quotescodex.com)