God’s Plan

Love Everybody, Always

Jesus Is For You

Jesus is for you!

He’s for you in a number of ways.

Jesus is for you… relationally. He wants to give you knowledge and power to do relationships right.

He wants you to do relationships in your family right.
He wants you to do relationships in your neighborhood right.
He wants you to do relationships at school right.
He wants you to do business relationships right.

And if you will let him, he’ll give you the knowledge and the power to do relationships right from now on for the rest of your life.

Jesus is for you… morally. With his knowledge and his power, he will help you build your character. He will help you with regard to ethics and morality. With his power and knowledge, you can make wise decisions in regard to finances, relationships and business.

Jesus is for you… spiritually. Jesus looks at you and he wants you to do your life right spiritually.

He wants you to do your relationship with God the father the way he did his with God the father when he was on this earth.
He wants you to live with total security in God’s love.
He wants you to rest in the promises and goodness of God.

Jesus is for you… eternally. Jesus says, “With my knowledge and my power, I want you to learn how to die.

“I want you when you’re about ready to die, when you’re lying on a hospital bed and you have your family and friends around you, I want you to die with dignity. I want you to die with hope.

“I want you to be able to look at your family and friends around your bed and say, “This is not the end. This is graduation day; from this place into an eternity that has been gained for me by what Jesus Christ accomplished.”

If you could just get our arms around this, that Jesus Christ is for you in every imaginable way, it could change your life.

He demonstrated his ultimate commitment that he is for you when he paid the penalty for your sin and mine by dying on the cross.

And he asks you one question – “Are you for me?” Jesus is for you. Are you for him?

The Stones Cry Out Devotional

Scripture: Luke 19

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, but that’s not what it was called back in Jesus’ time. It was actually called lamb selection day. It was part of the Passover celebration where five days before Passover you would go and pick out a lamb that you and your family would offer as a sacrifice.

It may seem foreign to us, and actually kind of sadistic to have the family select a little lamb that they’re going to sacrifice in a few days. But that’s how it worked. That was the system they had for thousands of years. And it was a joyous celebration because the lamb chosen would be the one that would represent the sins of your family.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! — John 1:29

Why did Jesus enter the city in the way He did? He was showing more about his kingdom and his kingship and his way of ruling by saying what he’s not. People expected:

  • a lion of war and he comes as the Lamb of God.
  • a mighty war horse and he’s on a donkey.

Jesus is saying, quite dramatically, that, “I am not the type of king you think I am. My kingdom is different than any kingdom of this earth.” It’s the up-side-down kingdom.

  • Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve.
  • The first will be last, and the last will be first.
  • The proud will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He wept over a people who don’t recognize him.

Takeaway:

Consider what Jesus might be weeping over in your life. Is there something in your life you keep hidden from Jesus, that causes sadness, pain or guilt? Give it to Jesus, today.

Questions for personal reflection or group study:

  1. Jesus is on his way to celebrate Passover. What is Passover and what significance did it have for the Jews? What earlier time did Jesus spend in the Judean desert? (Luke 4: 1-12) Think about a trial you’ve been through, how do you feel about revisiting where that trial took place?
  2. When Jesus enters the city he discovers that his friend Lazarus has died and he weeps with Mary and Martha, then raises Lazarus from the dead, why? What reaction did the Pharisees have?
  3. Palm Sunday was previously called “Lamb Selection Day” part of the Passover celebration. What was the significance of this holiday and why did God chose this day for Jesus to make the triumphal entry?
  4. Read Luke 19:29-34. Jesus sends his disciples to bring him a young donkey. Why not a majestic steed, after all he is God and can ride whatever he wants? What is his message to the people here?
  5. There are a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament and this is one. Read Zachariah 9:9-10, how do these verses speak of Jesus?
  6. Jesus is “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, according to John the Baptist (John 1:29). This is part of the upside down kingdom, why? What other examples did Matt give?
  7. The Pharisees, hearing the crowd cheering, told Jesus to rebuke or quiet them. Jesus replied that if he did the stones would cry out; why? What is Jesus’ message to all of us here?
  8. Evaluate your life. Would you recognize Jesus if he were sitting next to you? Jesus weeps for a dead friend and for a city that doesn’t recognize him; what is he weeping about for you? Is your heart hard toward him? Is your life for Jesus louder an everyday celebration of worship to God?

 

Perserverance

What do you think of when you think about perseverance? Perseverance is a life skill that can be developed, like working out at the gym to build core muscles and improve energy. What is perseverance? It’s not about quitting when things get difficult. It’s not finding the closest exit door. It’s about remaining under pressure and continuing to do something, in spite of difficulties and obstacles. But humanly speaking, how can that be accomplished?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:1 ‘Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.’

That little phrase “we do not lose heart” literally means “we do not burn out.” But how can we persevere when things get rough? What steps can we take, especially when things may not change for the foreseeable future? How can we ‘not lose heart’ during life’s difficult moments? Matt provided specific elements to help us continue to persevere, and avoid burnout:

Purity (renounce secret and shameful ways)
Integrity (not using deception)
Consistency (your walk is consistent with your talk)
Accountability (be accountable before other people)
Trying to do God’s job for Him
Overlooking Satan’s involvement in our lives
Promoting yourself
Focusing on doing rather than becoming

Takeaway:

Perseverance — to remain under pressure without being crushed.

Questions for personal reflection or group study:

Read 2 Corinthians Chapter 4

  1. What does it mean to persevere in life and what images come to your mind? Where are you on your journey in persevering to see and relate to God as your heavenly father?
  2. Matt describes perseverance as, “to remain under pressure without being crushed”. In what situations are you experiencing this right now or in the past?
  3. Read 2 Cor. 4:1. In this verse “lose heart” refers to burnout. Burnout is when I rely on my own competence, my own plans, and my own image of perfection. Ponder this and see if there are areas in your life you are trying to self-manage, that you should relinquish to God.
  4. What would your life look like if you were to: 
    1. Rely on God’s competence
    2. Live under God’s plan
    3. Celebrate my weaknesses (knowing that’s when God’s strength is made perfect in me)
  5. Burnout can take the following forms:
    1. Trying to do God’s job for him v.3 – Paul understood that only God can take the veil away from someone’s heart, only God could open up someone’s heart to the Gospel, and only God could change a person’s attitude, only God could change circumstances. What is your God guided role here?
    2. Overlooking Satan’s involvement in our lives v.4- Paul tells us that Satan is actively involved blinding the minds of the unbelievers to the good news of Christ. How can we be mindful of Satan and what actions keep him from messing with our life
    3. Promoting yourself v.5 – Some of you might be on the edge of burnout because you’re trying to be a star rather than a servant. Think about what reversing that looks like and write a prayer for that change.
    4. Focusing on doing rather than becoming v.6 – If we lose our focus on Christ in order to focus on something else, we have a duty-driven religion rather than a love-inspired relationship. Rank yourself on where you are in those extremes. God wants to be face to face with you how can you become His?
  6. What does pressure in life allow God to demonstrate in your life? (Verse 7)

Face to Face

Have you ever had an all access pass to an event or concert? This pass or wristband means you get to go behind the scenes and meet people up close and personal. Face to face! When Justin experienced this, he got to see the depth of who these people really were. Through these experiences, those face to face moments changed him deeply.

We all can have a ‘face to face’ all access pass with God. Being face to face with God brings freedom, reflection and transformation.

Scripture

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God living spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

The spirit of God wants to spend face to face time with you. The spirit of God that was moving over the surface of the waters in Genesis. The spirit of God that parts the red sea, the spirit of God that raises Jesus from the dead, that spirit of God… that Holy Spirit wants to have face to face time with you.

He wants each one of us. Get some face to face time in with Him…. So how… how do we have a face to face relationship with God…. With the living spirit of God?

Justin covers three steps on how to have face to face time with God:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Connect
  3. Worship

Takeaway: Being face to face with God brings freedom, reflection and transformation.

Questions

1.      Have you ever had an “All Access Pass” or a similar privilege? Going behind the curtain allows us to see someone face to face, including God. What 3 things are brought about by meeting God this way?

2.      Read 2 Cor. 3:17-18. It refers to a time when Moses received the ‘Access Pass’ and was allowed to be in the presence – face to face – with God; how was he transformed?

3.      Being face to face brings an intimacy, and the God of Moses and Jesus is a living presence who wants to meet us face to face. Reflect on that for a moment and write what that means to you.

4.      First, Acknowledge Him: you must see and recognize Him. What does John 14:15-17 say about the Holy Spirit and His relationship with you?

5.      Connect with Him: Read John 15:1-8 [the illustration of the vineyard with God as the gardener and his followers as the vine who produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control]. Take a minute to reflect on relationships in your life and the fruit you are producing.

6.      Worship the Spirit: what are some things that Justin suggested that speak personally to you? Choose one or two to focus on this week and record the results of your discovery.

7.      Freedom in Christ: the reward for being a Christ-follower is the full focus on Christ and to refer all parts of your life to Him, trusting that He alone will meet your needs. How do you find freedom in Christ? Is there a veil you need Jesus to remove?

Resolving Conflict

Conflict does happen. It’s a part of life. Wherever you have two people trying to develop community, you’re going to have conflict. And one of the primary reasons we need to learn to resolve conflict is the unity of the church is at stake.

Conflict is when people argue or there’s anger, or differences of opinion, or different ideas. People are united by life but divided by conflict, but it isn’t God’s way for us to live like that.

Conflict is inevitable. Disunity is unacceptable.

The unity of the church is unspeakably precious to God.  In John 17:23 – Jesus prays: May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

5 principles for resolving conflict:

  1. Identify the issue.
  2. Clarify your intentions.
  3. Verify your love.
  4. Forgive without probation (The goal in the midst of conflict should be reconciliation and not revenge.)
  5. Anticipate Satan’s schemes.

To overcome conflict, live by this principle from Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.


Questions for further study:

Read 2 Corinthians 1:23

  1. Are you in a relationship with another where a chalk line has been drawn and there is unresolved conflict? Read John 17:23 (see above). What is Jesus saying about the importance of unity?
  2. Pray about your relationships. Which come to mind as ones that need conflict resolution?
  3. Paul disappointed the people of Corinth when he had a change in plans. This was a big letdown involving disillusionment and pride, resulting in discord. Is pride involved in your conflict with others? Identify what the hurt is and pray about releasing it.
  4. Paul looks at the issue, identifies the problem with what he’s done, and clarifies the situation in his letter to the Corinthians. Can you examine your conflict to  identify the issues from the other person’s perspective?
  5. Paul let the Corinthians know he had a change of plans. What reasons did Paul have not to visit there again and were they God honoring?
  6. In 2 Cor. 2:4, Paul pours out his love for these people. What does loving the other person look like in your conflict? How can you honor God and the one who has wronged you?
  7. Jesus’s prayer from John 17:23 is “Father, make them one.” Using the 5 principles above, write out the steps you’ll take to resolve a current conflict, even if it’s not your fault.
girl reading bible at dusk on lake

Sincerity

How would you feel if your life was held up to the light today?

* Would you feel a little threatened?
* Would you say, “No problem, I don’t have anything to hide?”
* Would you share the confidence the Apostle Paul had when he wrote, “I’ve conducted myself in the world and, especially in relations to you, with integrity and sincerity that comes from God?”

We are only fooling ourselves when we think we are able to keep our inconsistencies covered.

When the writers of Scripture speak of sincerity, they talk about having our inside be
consistent with our outside: Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:13

How then can anyone be confident there won’t be discrepancies between character and conduct? In this teaching, Matt explained three key points:

* Sincerity requires a clear conscience.
* Sincerity requires honest communication.
* Sincerity requires faithfulness to your commitments.

Prayer

“Jesus, help me to walk with integrity. Show me where my inside and outside are not consistent. Give me the strength to honestly communicate and to be faithful to my commitments. Let it be so!”

Further Study

1. Who and what come to your mind when you hear the word “sincerity”? Is your definition different than the literal one, “To be found unstained when examined by sunlight.”?

2. What patterns need to change to let the light of Christ shine through your life?

3. God sees our actions and motives, so we can’t fool Him, but we often don masks for others. What are some of the masks we wear and how can we have an honest response in their place?

4. What does honest communication with God and others look like? Where are the boundary lines, or are there any?

5. What triggers self-protective communication, and how can you respond honestly but kindly?

6. What can we say when we are hurt or wronged that helps remedy a situation rather than hiding our real feelings?

Look Ahead devotional

This week Matt discussed how we start our day. Most mornings, do we hit the snooze button? Pull the pillow over our heads? Do we have an ALARM clock or an OPPORTUNITIY clock?

Matt said we can take Jesus up on the greatest offer we’ll ever receive: to welcome Jesus into our lives, thoughts, actions, plans, and feelings. Every part of us! And that includes mornings.

He also talked about how we end our day. Maybe you haven’t thought of it before, but in scripture we read that the day actually begins at sundown the evening before. Do we go to sleep peacefully, trusting Jesus to walk with us every moment? Or, are we stressed out thinking about our kids, bills, to-do lists, job, school project, shortcomings, and how we thought our lives should have turned out?

Jesus invites us to start the morning asking God for wisdom, guidance and strength, and plan to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from life. In the evening, ask Him to wash your mind and heart and submit to God’s control of your life.

Teaching Scripture References for personal study & reflection

Matthew 28:20

Colossians 3:17

Matthew 6:34

Lamentations 3:22-23

Psalm 74:16

Psalm 118:24

Genesis 1:5

Psalm 3:5

Psalm 127:2

Matthew 4:4

Romans 8:38-39

Philippians 4:13

1 John 1:5

Action Plan

Tomorrow night when you lay your head down on the pillow, do a little review of the day. Thank Jesus for going with you in the day. Decide if you’d like to spend another day with Him and go for it!

If you would, invite Him to join you, because He’d love to be in every moment of your life. This could change your life in 2018.

open bible

5 Questions to Help You Read the Bible

If you’ve spent some time reading the Bible and trying to study God’s word, you’ve probably experienced this situation: You begin reading a passage and the first few verses are uncomplicated and straightforward. “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.” Got it. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you come across a verse that leaves you with a furrowed brow. You read the words again and again but are left asking yourself, “What does this mean?”

This dilemma can leave you feeling like you are in high school trying to understand Shakespeare again. Our obstacles in understanding scripture are similar to when we were in the classroom. We’re separated from the context of the Bible by thousands of years. Our culture and language are drastically different from the biblical authors. Although these challenges can seem daunting, there are some steps we can take to help us better understand God’s word when we face this kind of challenge.

First, we can look for clues within the context of the passage, asking ourselves:

  1. Who is the author talking to and why?

Is he addressing a particular situation of the nation of Israel or in the church? Is it a personal letter to a single person? Is the audience before or after Christ came to earth? Figuring this out allows us to recognize what this verse would have meant to the original audience.

  1. What is the larger passage talking about, looking at the verses before and after?

If we attempt to remove a single verse from its position, then its meaning can be significantly distorted. Conversely, if we consider what the surrounding verses are addressing, it will be easier to discover what the difficult verse is talking about.

  1. What type of writing is this?

Maybe you’re reading a personal letter, a narrative, or possibly a psalm of poetry.  We certainly don’t read a news article the same way we read a poem. We approach these writings differently because of their different genes. Scripture is the same way. Keeping the genre of the verse in mind will be beneficial.

  1. What words are important?

Are there any conjunctions, like “and” or “because” connecting this verse to the earlier verse? Do you spot words like “if” and “then”? These words communicate connection or causation and will help you understand your verse and how it fits into the larger passage.

  1. Where else does the Bible talk about this? 

Some verses may also have parallel passages, like the stories in the Gospels or passages in the New Testament quoted from the Old Testament. Looking at these passages will also aid in your pursuit of the message in this verse.

As you answer these questions, you will be able to discover the meaning of those difficult verses. However, if the meaning of your verse is still foggy after considering these questions, a study bible is a good resource to utilize. Faithlife offers a great, free study bible here.  A study bible, online or printed, will usually include summaries of the historical background of each book and insights on individual verses.