Food for Thought

Last week, I finished up a 2 month long bible study of Matthew with a group of 5 participants, some of whom had never done a bible study before.  Going in, I wasn’t sure who would be attending, but I was eager to explore the Word with anyone.  The first night, I tried to gauge what experience each participant had with the Bible, and it was varied.  Some had grown up hearing the KJV, and so chose read from that as their bible of choice.  One gal went through ½ of the class and then said she struggled getting through her readings, and asked about other translations.  I gave her a NKJV, which I received as a gift, and she was grateful, as she felt she understood it better than her previous version.  I just encouraged them to use something that worked best for them, and to explore other options if they wanted.  We had good discussions for an hour each week and I always learned new things in reading, sharing my understanding, and listening to their stories as well.  I encouraged them to continue reading more, and wish I could keep going with them as well.  What was your first bible study, and how has your interest in the Bible changed since then?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’  Matthew 4:4

This past week, I was walking through a mall and noticed that there was a bible reading marathon going on.  I saw 3 different people reading at different tables out in the open and wondered, what is the purpose, other than to raise awareness?  But that was it.  If I had not been in the Bible in a while, I might be encouraged to do so, by seeing this.  Or I could participate, as there is often something more motivating about being a part of a group of people doing this than just sitting solo and reading my bible in public.  When was the last time you saw someone sitting and reading a bible in a public place?  I don’t usually see anyone reading at all in a public place anymore, as everyone is too busy going somewhere.  One of the three readers was a young friend close to 20, who I waved to while towing 3 kids along with me.  Shortly afterward, he stopped by where we were standing, and I chatted with him and encouraged him in his reading, both at the event and in private.  It was a pleasant surprise to see this!

 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Reading always brings you closer to God when you listen.  In my experience, the only time I’ve spent in the word that hasn’t been very fruitful was when I was reading just to try to read through it so I could say I did.  In other words, my motive was more to get through it, than to grow through it.  I wasn’t taking in much of what I read through some Old Testament sections, as I was just trying to get through part to finish the bible in a year.  I’ve read some Old Testament scripture that on the surface seems boring, but when gone through with an open spirit, asking God what He has for me in those passages, good things result.   I know some friends, who just have a difficult time when reading, and they prefer to listen to the scripture read to them out loud, and that is more helpful.  I’ve done this at times, like when driving, and often pick up new things in this way also.  There are several apps, websites, and other audio resources where you can listen for free.  There are countless sources for the Word for most who have access to the internet, or who have a smartphone.  Yet there are some countries, like China and North Korea, where access is still restricted, and print bibles are not easy to get.  I have a missionary friend who is currently working to translate the Bible into several Roma (Gypsy) dialects in Eastern Europe, as one does not exist in their native tongue.  What can you do within your sphere of influence to promote people getting into the Word?  May you find joy and grow every time you engage with God and His Word!

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:11

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Prayer Life

It is easy to go days without prayer or get in such a religious habit that our prayers are empty.  Yet there is nothing more important we can do to grow in Jesus than prayer.  To be clear prayer is not one directional, it is more than us giving our requests to God.  Prayer is intended to be conversational. 

John 10:17 My own sheep will hear my voice and I know each one, and they will follow me.

  1.  Get a Rhythm
    One of the keys to being strong in any area of their life is consistency.  The key to consistency is doing it at the same time. I have learned to just start somewhere.  Start on the way to work or take 5 minutes before you go to work.
  2. Start With Praise
    My two year old gets this better than me.  She loves to pray.  She has one prayer language. Thank you for… She never asks for anything just lives in gratitude.  Start your prayers with listing what you are thankful for.  You have something.  It might seem small but let your heart grow in gratefulness.  
  3. Pray Scripture
    Sometimes I do not know how to pray. The book of Psalms is a book of prayers.  Go pray Psalm 1, 23, 126, or 51.  Go read the words in red and ask God to make it live in you.   We know God’s will is in His Word.  When we turn it into prayer we are praying according to His will. There are promises and blessings found in praying His Word. 
  4. Get a Prayer Script
    I have a list of things I pray everyday. I pray for my family, the prayer of Jabez, the freedom found in the crucifiction, our government, and Vibrant Church to name a few everyday.  I will sit a little longer in certain places on different days and certainly go outside the list. This is not religion for me but places where I have conviction to be consistent in prayer. 
  5. Keep a Journal
    There is something special about writing our prayers down and looking back at them a year later. You have record of God moving in your life.  If you want to see how God moves in your life, keep a prayer journal.

Know God wants to talk to you more than you want to hear Him.  He is for you and not against you.  He has a plan for you and it is found in prayer.  So today take one step.  Talk to the God who loves you. 

Live a Better Story

Brandon

 

Difficult Verses: Romans 6:1-6

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing some of the difficult and challenging verses we encounter in scripture. Today I want to share some verses that, if we really think about them, should challenge us to our very core. 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:1-6

Here are three big challenges from this passage: 

  1. We’re not just supposed to carrying on sinning: Sometimes I feel we take advantage of God’s grace. I’ve often heard the phrase (and even thought it myself): oh well, God will forgive me anyway! The theology is right (God will forgive), but the thinking is all wrong. God didn’t save us so that we could just keep on living a life of sin. He saved us to change us both NOW and FOREVER. While God will forgive our continued sinfulness, He expects more from us. He expects us to ditch our old lives of sin to follow Him. He expects us to stop living for ourselves and according to the ways of the world, and instead follow His awesome ways. 
  2. Christ had to die to save us: This is one of those things that’s become such a part of Christian culture that we don’t think about it anymore. But, lets back-up a second and look at this as if we’re hearing it for the first time. This is radical! The only way for us to be saved from the eternal death facing us was by God dying on the Cross as Christ Jesus. This is something WAY beyond our ability to earn, and something God couldn’t just hand us. Instead, God had to suffer and die so that we may live eternally with Him in a perfect Heaven. Do we really take the time to grasp this? Do we sufficiently give God the glory and the honor for this? 
  3. We are something new: Do we really understand what it means to walk in newness of life? God wants something different and greater from each and every one of us. He just doesn’t want us to take the gift of eternal life, go home, and keep it to ourselves. He makes us new to make an impact on our world. He wants us to BEHAVE differently so that our behavior improves the world. He wants us to SERVE others so that our service impacts the world. He wants us to THINK differently, so that our thoughts may be guided by His perfect thoughts. 

You’re Strong

Romans 15:1-6 (NASB) ‘Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on M e .” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘

Our entire temporal life will be spent beneath burdens of one sort or another.  We are designed and made that way.  The trouble with most of us is that we choose, too often, to pick up and carry the wrong ones.  When we do that, the only result is trouble.  

God wants us to walk along side one another, offer support and ease the load of our brothers and sisters.  That in no way means that we are to ease every single one.  The fact of the matter is we’re not equipped to handle each and every burden that plagues those we love.  It’s up to us to look around, take inventory of the burdens we see, evaluate our gifts and discern the burdens and the ways in which we can effectively and efficiently alleviate them.  It requires keen observation, but most importantly humble, yet precise self evaluation, as well a deeply rooted relationship with God in order to hear from Him the areas and burdens He calls us to. 

Another important piece of this is the carrying of your burdens by others.  It’s not your place or mine to determine what burdens of ours others should be taking up for us.  That is for God and them to work out and up to them to heed His call, not for us to judge.

You are gifted.  God has blessed you with strengths in areas to bear up those without.  Take the time every day to ask God to reveal these opportunities to you, and then move.  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

 

7 Chances

It has been quite a week and I have had many opportunities to grow.  Counting this past day, I have had two flat tires over an hour from home on 2 different vehicles.  Fortunately, in each case, I was only delayed a while, and not injured or stranded.  I also had more car repairs than anticipated on one of the vehicles (unrelated to the tire).  My wife was gone for 5 straight days and nights, so I took time off work to full-time parent three young children without much of a break, and learned the value of patience, and sleep, and having any kid-free time to get anything done.  I found my patience growing thin at times, like when I specifically tell a 4 year old what to do/not do and within 5 seconds, he does the opposite.  I understand that self-control and memory are not the best yet, but you wonder after practicing something dozens or hundreds of times if they will ever get it.  And they do, at times, but maybe I should be asking the same of myself.  Will I ever get it right? 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Whether a child, or an adult, if someone disobeys what you ask of them, or sins against you, how many times are you willing to try again and give them another chance?  I know some people have told me stories about how a business or someone had done them wrong, and they hold a grudge for years and vow never to trust them again.  You see this in business, in communities, and even within churches and families. There are no lines unforgiveness does not cross.  There are definitely situations where trust may have to be restored, when personal safety is put at risk, but the power forgiveness has in breaking these boundaries also knows no limits.  There are times when I am more patient and forgiving with my own family than with strangers, and there are times when the opposite is true, depending on the situation.  Anyone can get test your patience if you give them enough time.  Who are you most patient with, and who are you least likely to forgive? 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Matthew 18:21-22

I don’t know about you, but Peter seems fairly generous in saying he is willing to forgive someone seven times, before closing the door.  Have you ever had someone hurt you seven times, especially knowingly in the same way each time?  At some point you may give up hope of seeing something different.  You may have different expectations from those who claim to be Christians and those who are not, but at some point, they may start to lose your trust.  Who is the most patient and forgiving person you know?  Have they acted this way toward you, or everyone in their lives?  Compared to our Lord, we all have room to grow.  Is there anyone else who is more patient with us in our sin, yet still has hope?  Through the example of Christ, we can gain a better understanding of grace, and patience, and love, and forgiveness.  He is the living example to us of what is possible with all these things.  Think of how many times he had to demonstrate this with Paul, and Judas, and each disciple, likely on a daily basis. 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8-9

If God is so willing to forgive us, when His children ask, is there a limit to how many times he will allow us to sin against Him?  As Paul shares with us in Romans 6, if we are truly submitted to our Lord and have a knowledge of the sin in our lives, then our desire will be to obey Him and to crucify our old sin nature.  When we persist in sinning against God and others, then our desire is not based in love, but only in serving our sinful desires.  Our true nature is revealed.  Brothers, let us use this knowledge to submit more of our lives each day to the transforming power of God’s love and forgiveness, so that we may act likewise toward others in our lives.  Forgiveness not only has the power to break the control of sin in our lives, but also to break the bondage that past sins and others have inflicted on us.  Forgiveness sets us free to a new grace-filled life in Christ each time we practice it.  May you know the joy found in this each time you experience forgiveness!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

Yours in Christ,
Clark

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