Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dealing with Difficult People

Here is my message on dealing with difficult people from Matthew 7. Listen here.

We all deal with difficult people in life. Chances are, we may even be a difficult person to somebody.

Consider this when dealing with difficult people.
  1. You probably aren’t going to change this person.
  2. So what we are going to look at has a whole lot less to do with how to change other people and a whole lot more to do with our reaction to difficult people.

Who we are determines how we view others

Are you patient?
Are you forgiving?
Are you jealous?
Do you problems controlling anger?
Are you generous with other people’s shortcomings?
Do you talk too much and not listen enough?
Are you overly critical of others?

All these characteristics and more determine how we view others.

Matthew 7:3-5

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

The flaw for us is expecting perfection from others. Expecting the impossible. While being oblivious to our own shortcomings.

What do you need to change about yourself to get along better with others?

Or, what is the log in our own eye that needs to be removed before we start worrying about the speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye?

Never use a hammer to swat a fly off someone’s head

Overaction can be a destructive sin.
Continual overreacting will lead to the death of a relationship.

We all have over-reactions we wish we could take back.

  • We are created in the image of God.
  • God desires and we desire restoration in our lives.

The Psalmist tells in Psalm 145:8 what God is like.

The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

  • How are you merciful? Willing to let people off the hook for not being perfect?
  • How are you compassionate? Do you hurt when others hurt?
  • Are you slow to get angry? Are you will to try to reconcile rather than escalate?
  • Are you filled with unfailing love? Sometimes love doesn’t depend on the other person – sometimes it depends on you.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.

Has your temper got you into trouble recently?

Here are three ways not to overreact:

Total Picture

Instead of putting others in their place; we must put ourselves in their place.

Listen – Observe - Reflect

Timing

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” –Lady Dorothy Nevill

Ecclesiastes 3:7

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

  • We have all spoken too soon and hurt somebody.
  • We have all been hurt by somebody who has spoken too soon.

Tone

What we say is important. How we say it is just as important.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

Caring for people should precede confronting them

Conflict is like cancer: early detection increases the possibility of a healthy outcome.

Two things about conflict we all need to know:

  1. Conflict is unavoidable
  2. Confrontation is difficult

Matthew 7:12

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Never let the situation mean more than the relationship

Do we put situations ahead of our relationships?

Matthew 7:24-27

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house (these are the situations), it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock (this is the relationship). But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, (we don’t have a solid relationship) like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, (the situations) it will collapse with a mighty crash.

We go to a higher level when we treat others better than they treat us

A question we must ask: Do I treat others better than they treat me?

Luke 6:38

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

How is what Jesus tells us different than what culture tells us about giving?

Culture tells us to treat others like they deserve to be treated.
Jesus gives us a better way…treat others better than they deserve to be treated.

Keep a fair-sized cemetery in your back yard, in which to bury the faults of your friends. –Henry Ward Beecher

How are you doing at going to a higher level of burying the friends of your faults?

A successful person in life is the one who can lay a solid foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him or her.

We all will have bricks thrown at us. What are you doing with your brinks?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vision

Last week I wrote that The Water’s Edge Leadership Team will be focusing on seven initiatives in 2011. The initiatives are:



  1. Increasing discipleship for all of us as we learn, experience, and practice what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
  2. Developing and deploying leaders. We have many community and business leaders in our congregation whom we are currently underutilizing in leadership roles at The Water’s Edge. New leaders walking alongside our existing leaders will allow us to continue growing, learning, serving, being, connecting, and loving.
  3. Growing participation at the 9:00 worship service. Our biggest achievement in 2010 was starting a new worship service. This service has allowed us to grow again. Our goal is to glorify God through worship and make both services as meaningful as possible to all participants.
  4. Discerning a clear vision that excites us, challenges us, and unifies us.
  5. Improving opportunities for middle school and high school students (especially students from families who are new to us in recent years) to connect with each other, to connect with God, and to serve our community.
  6. Developing a plan to acquire a permanent facility. Although Russell Middle School and Millard West High School have been excellent facilities for us, we cannot be renters with the school district forever. Four years ago when we had about 120 adults and children, we were very mobile. Today with 500 adults and children on most Sundays, we are much less mobile.
  7. Expanding financial stewardship. It will take additional financial giving to resource us for where God is leading us in the future.
Last week I shared some thoughts on increasing discipleship, expanding our leadership base, and growing participation in the 9:00 worship service. I will cover student ministries, a permanent facility, and financial stewardship in the near future. This morning I want to share about vision.

Proverbs 29:18 says: Where there is no vision, people will perish. In life, we are not limited so much by our age, our looks, our current resources, or our abilities, we are limited by our vision. Helen Keller once wrote, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” A God-honoring vision has four characteristics: 1) It is stimulating and challenging to our mind, 2) It excites our heart, 3) It is what we will build our lives by, and 4) It is what we will become.

I don’t exactly know exactly what the vision is going to look like, but I know it will build on our current strengths and challenge us to trust God as we move forward in a daring direction. I know it will involve prayer and reading / applying the Bible to our daily lives. I know it will involve small groups: encouraging, learning, sharing, serving, and growing together. I know it will include inviting new people to join us on the journey. And I know if will involve serving the poor and marginalized here in Omaha and throughout the world.

I’m excited about our future together and believe the best it yet to come…

Craig

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Conversations with God

1 Timothy 2

Chapter 2 teaches about prayer. What did you learn about prayer in verses 1 to 8?

Some of Paul's teachings are:

  • Ask God to help others
  • Give thanks for others
  • Pray for government, business, and civic leaders
  • Prayer is pleasing to God
  • Prayer is an act of worship
  • Prayer should be us getting God's approval for our will, rather discovering God's will.
  • Prayer should not be self-serving

Spend some time praying and implementing one or two of the practices you learned about.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Second Chances

1 Timothy 1

Mentor

Paul is writing to Timothy, his spiritual son. (verse 2) Paul was a mentor to Timothy.

Think about where you are in your spiritual journey. Some of us may be at the place where we need a mentor. Others may be at a place where we can be a mentor. Many of us could do both. Think about somebody you can help or be helped by on the journey of being a Christian disciple. Challenge yourself to be a mentor or be mentored by another.

The Purpose of Instruction

Note the threefold purpose of Paul's instruction (verse 5):

  1. All believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart
  2. A clear conscience
  3. A genuine faith
Paul describes the three major tenants of the Christianity: love, forgiveness, and faith as essential. He urges of practice of Christianity rather than a discussion of religion. (verse 6)


A Second Chance

Paul notes failures in his past. (verse 15) Paul continues by writing that God gave him a second chance. (verse 16) Paul took God up on God's second chance and his life was never quite the same again.

  • How are you doing on taking God up on the second chance God gives us?
  • Write down some of your past mistakes on the left side of a sheet of blank paper.
  • Write down some of the opportunities in front of you on the right side of the same sheet.
  • Cut the sheet of paper in half. Throw the mistakes away. Post the opportunities where you can see them daily.
Where we see a river God sees a bridge. Take God up on God's second chance.

Do Good

Have you ever wondered why we do things we know are wrong? Verse 19 talks about clinging to our faith and keeping our conscious clear. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.
  • Spend some time praying to think and act in ways that will leave our conscious clear.
  • Pray to accept the forgiveness our faith offers from times in the past when we have spiritually stumbled.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Feeding Sheep

John 21

Love overcomes denial and betrayal. In John 18, Peter denied Jesus three times. In John 21, verses 15 to 17, Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus three times. Peter affirmed three times he did. This exchange is a powerful witness to love overcoming hurt.

Think of some relationships you have that are strained or broken. Note the pattern of Peter and Jesus.

  1. Peter affirmed his love to Jesus.
  2. Jesus asked Peter to do what was most important to Jesus: feeding his sheep.

Effective communication helped restore the relationship.

Pray for effective communication and reconciliation (or at least understanding) to happen in the relationships you thought about that are strained and broken.

Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep. This was what was most important to him. Taking care of the flock. Since Jesus was going to be gone, he entrusted the work of the Church to Peter. The relationship had been restored. Not because of Peter's work (it hadn't happened yet), but because of Jesus and his ability to trust again and believe the best in others.

Jesus wants us to feed sheep as well. To have our place in the Church.
  • Who has God put in your life so that you can care for them?
  • What are you feeling compelled to do to serve others?
  • Make a plan to care and serve others this week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Faith and Blessing

John 20

It might be easier to believe in Jesus if we had a definite sign or witnessed a miracle. Reread verse 29. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway. Jesus is talking about two things. The first is faith: seeing without believing. The second is a blessed life. The key to a blessed life is faith. Faith is a gift from God. It is something we accept.

Pray for the ability to accept the faith God gives. The same faith that opens the door to a blessed life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Overcoming Betrayal

Listen to my sermon this morning on Matthew 26: Overcoming Betrayal.

Recovering from betrayal is one of life’s biggest challenges.

  • The affair of a spouse.
  • A family member stealing from you.
  • A friend sharing your secret with others.
  • A loved one calling you bad names.
  • Being physically harmed by somebody you love.
  • A parent letting you down.

Then you should have died! Died, rather than betray your friends, as we would have done for you! –J. K. Rowling


All for Not Much

Matthew 26

14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Judas betray Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver. We do the same. We give up everything for very little. All for not much.

  • A destructive behavior gives us an escape from reality
  • A sexual affair gives us 30 minutes of pleasure
  • A pill makes us feel good for a few hours
  • A little bit of money allows us to buy something
  • Belittling others may give us a little self-esteem or power

We betray for a lot less than 30 pieces of silver. All for not much.

The Bite of a Lamb

Matthew 26

47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss. 50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

Betrayal happens from those closest to us. Judas betrayed Jesus not with a knife, but a kiss. Ironically, we hurt and are hurt by those we love the most. It is not the bite of the wolf that hurts us. It is the bite of the lamb that really hurts.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Matthew 26

74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

Peter in the Greek means rock. Solid. Steady. Foundational. Peter was all those and more. He was the one who stuck with Jesus until the end. Almost. Then he denied Jesus. Three times. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Choosing comfort and security over friendship and faithfulness. The moment Peter denied Jesus, tears ran down his face like rain down a rock. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Matthew 27

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” 5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

Judas died. We may not experience physical death upon betraying another. But will will experience death.

  • Death of a dream.
  • Death of a relationship.
  • Death of our character and integrity.
  • Death of our self-worth.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Overcoming Betrayal

How do you want to be defined?

  • Hurt or healing?
  • Broken or becoming whole?
  • Betrayed or beginning again?

1. Don’t return betrayal with a betrayal. A betrayer faces devastating long-term consequences and that is the last thing you need right now.

Romans 12:19 – Revenge belongs to the Lord

Matthew 5:39 – Jesus says turn the other cheek

2. Give yourself time to heal.

Romans 12:12 – Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

3. Start where you are and don’t get frustrated about where you are not.

Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

4. Know that you control your recovery and you can change how you feel.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come.

5. Realize the betrayal was done by an imperfect person and that the betrayal probably has very little to do with you.

Peter and Judas were imperfect. Jesus didn’t deserve betrayal. Their denial and betrayal was about them and not Jesus.

6. Seek the help of others. Don’t take this journey alone.

Galatians 6:2 – Bear each other’s burdens and fulfill the Law of Christ

7. Seek the help of God. God is interested in your recovery and has the power to do something about it.

Luke 4:18 - The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.

8. Pray to let go of the anger and bitterness that is controlling you.

  • Broken Healing
  • Busted Recovering
  • Bitter Whole
  • Angry Free
  • Resentful Hopeful

9. Embrace the lessons learned.

  • Never betray another because you know the pain
  • Create environment where betrayal isn’t likely in your future
  • Know that if you can overcome betrayal you can do anything

10. Trust again. Distrusting everybody is no way to go through life.

We have to distrust each other. It is our only defense against betrayal. –Tennessee Williams

Not trusting is no way to live. Trusting opens the door to betrayal, but it also opens the door to love and grace.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Together Forever

John 19

As Jesus was dying he noticed someone. Reread verses 25 to 27. Jesus noticed his mother. He knew he still had a responsibility with her. In his pain and agony, both emotional and physical, he cared for Mary. He asked John to take care of Mary and John took her into his home. The family unit is our most important human relationships.


  • How are you doing in your family?
  • As we are thinking about betrayal this week, think about forgiveness and reconciliation in your family that needs to happen.
  • What practices can God help you implement to be more faithful and more blessed in these relationships?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Leadership Update at The Water's Edge

The Water’s Edge Leadership Team met last Saturday. We spent four hours studying the Bible, praying, dreaming, and planning. Seventeen of us shared our experiences and dreams. We remembered back to the days at Russell Middle School four years ago when a hundred or so of us gathered to worship together. We remembered our limited resources, our challenges, and our opportunities. We still have limited resources and challenges, but the opportunities in front of us are limitless. With God as our primary resource, we resolved that no challenge exists that is too big and no dream is too big either. The next four years are going to be even more exciting than the first four years.

We looked at seven areas we want to further develop and resource in 2011. I will occasionally share some of these areas with you over the next year and extend invitations for you to serve, give, grow, connect, lead, pray, dream, and develop. If you have an idea to help move us forward, I would enjoy hearing from you about how we can be better together!

One of the seven areas we will be developing is increased discipleship. The Water’s Edge has grown greatly in terms of worship attendance and the number of volunteers. We want to make sure our growth in discipleship is consistent with other areas of development. My dream is that by the end of 2011, each of us will feel more connected to God, more connected to others, and understand more clearly and practice more fully what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In 2011, I want to encourage you to participate in the daily Bible readings and also try out a small group. We also need pioneers who are willing to co-lead new groups. This ministry isn’t for everybody, but it is for some. Contact Jill Schumacher (jill@watersedgeomaha.com) for more information on joining or starting a small group.

Another of the seven areas is leadership development. It takes more leaders to lead hundreds of people than it does dozens of people. We know we have many underutilized leaders and people resources that worship with us on Sunday mornings. If you are feeling led, as you read this, to utilize your leadership skills, gifts, and experiences to serve God and others at The Water’s Edge, I would like to meet with you. Email my assistant (staci@watersedgeomaha.com) and I will set up an appointment to meet with you, hear your story, and provide you opportunities to lead.

The final of the seven areas I will address this morning is our 9:00 service. Our biggest accomplishment in 2010 was adding a new worship service. The service started in September and is identical to our 10:30 service. Last Sunday we had 92 people at the 9:00 service and 375 at our 10:30 service. If we didn’t add the new service, we wouldn’t have room for everybody! We want to make both worship experiences as meaningful as possible for people. If you regularly attend the 9:00 service I want you to pray about volunteering once or twice a month. I also encourage you to invite people to our worship services, especially our 9:00 service as we have plenty of room to grow!

I’m looking forward to growing, serving, and sharing in 2011 and beyond with you.

In Christ,

Craig

Bitten by a Lamb

John 18

Peter was as close to Jesus as anybody. Reread verses 25 to 27. Jesus was not denied by an adversary or a stranger. He was denied by a friend. He wasn't bitten by a wolf. He was bitten by a lamb.


  • How do you think Jesus felt when his friend denied knowing him?
  • How do you feel when others hurt you?
Spend some time in prayer. Ask God for the power to be a faithful friend – in the good times and the tough times. Ask God for the ability to get over times when people have hurt you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Resolution to Reality: Who Am I?

Here is the sermon from January 16th. We value reputation: who others think we are. God values character: who we really are. The challenge is to stop projecting an image and start being authentic.

Prayer

John 17

Jesus is praying in chapter 17. Note who Jesus is praying for and what he is praying about.

  • What in this prayer surprised you?
  • What did you learn about prayer as you read this chapter?
  • Spend some extended time in prayer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slip

John 16

Jesus concludes the John 16 with the following: I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.


In life a temptation exists to attempt avoiding tough times. By attempting to avoid trials and sorrows of life it is also possible we also avoid life itself. Kierkegaard writes: To dare is to risk losing your footing for a moment. Not to dare is to risk losing yourself.

Better to have an occasional slip along a meaningful journey than it is to never explore or adventure the gift of life.

To say yes to love means we also say yes to possible betrayal, hurts, and ouches. The moment we love another is the same moment we give somebody permission to hurt us. But, loving with the possibility of betrayal seems to be a much better option than not giving or experiencing love, doesn't it?

As hard as we try to avoid difficult times, they will still happen. Beyrayal befalls. Ouches occur. Hurts happen. But Jesus still says: Take heart, because I have overcome the world.

  • Are you missing out on life because of a fear of failure, rejection, and hurts?
  • Pray for the ability to take risks.
  • Pray also for God’s comfort and God's peace during the trials and sorrows of life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parakletos

John 14

Think about betrayal. A time you have been betrayed. Then consider the words of Jesus from verse 1: Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.

Betrayal hurts. The pain lingers. The scars don't disappear. But Jesus still says: Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.

When a loved one or a trusted one or a loved one who is trusted turns on us--God is remains with us. Jesus knows life is too short to be too troubled for too long.

Betrayal hurts. Jesus heals.

Scars last. God's presence lasts longer.

Trust God. Let Him carry your burdens.

  • What burdens do you continue to carry you know you should let go?
  • Pray for God to take your troubles and bear your burdens.


Verses 25 and 26 teach that God is with us to teach us everything and to remind us of the teachings of Jesus. The Greek word for Advocate / Counselor / Holy Spirit is parakletos which means the one who goes alongside.

  • During your time reading the Bible in the past few weeks, what has the Holy Spirit been teaching you?
  • What difference can it make in your life to understand that God goes alongside of you?
  • Pray to make yourself open to the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

From Resolution to Reality: Abide

From January 9th at the 10:30 worship experience.


The Path of Blessing

John 13

Knowledge is not enough. Discipleship is not just about knowing. Discipleship is about practicing and doing. Verses 1 to 17 tell the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet in this culture was a radical act of hospitality and love. In verse 14 Jesus tells his disciples to wash each other's feet just like He has washed their feet. As we are recipients of God's hospitality and love, we are also to be givers of radical hospitality and love. In verse 17 Jesus says: You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

  • Think about somebody you can show radical hospitality and love to this week. Make a plan on how that is going to happen.
  • Pray for the knowledge to learn the teachings of Christ and the wisdom to follow His teachings.
  • Prepare to be a blessing to others and to be blessed by God.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Image Management

Revelation 3

Verse 1 talks about the difference between reputation (what others think of you) and character (who you are). We are often more concerned with our reputation. God is more concerned with our character.


  • Is who others think you are pretty much the same as who you actually are?
  • If not, is the tension of image management wearing you down?
  • What in this teaching and Craig’s sermon challenged you?
  • What adjustments in your life are you planning to make?

Verse 20 says: Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

One of the interesting things about this verse is that Jesus will not force His way into our lives. He knocks. We are invited to open.

  • Jesus continually knocks at the door to your heart. What is preventing you from opening the door to a deeper relationship with Him?
  • Pray for deeper fellowship with God through a personal relationship with Jesus.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Judge and the Lifeguard

John 12

In verse 3 Mary put expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. In verse 4 and following, Judas made an observation that this perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to marginalized people.
  • Does Jesus’ response in verses 7 and 8 surprise you?
  • Jesus notes worship is the highest priority for humans: to give, relate, serve, and connect with God. What are you giving up in your life (Mary gave expensive perfume) to worship God fully?


Verse 47 gives us the reason Jesus came to the world: For I have come to save the world and not to judge it. Many see God as a judge, wearing a robe, sitting above, and being isolated from people. This image leads us to believe God is aloof and uncompassionate. This metaphor is simply not the teaching of Jesus in John 12. In Christ, God is more like a lifeguard: saving people who are drowning in all sorts of trouble. Jesus was a person filled with compassion and hope. He died his life so that we could be saved. Not aloof, not isolated. But interested and present.

  • How have you seen God in the past: more like a lifeguard or a judge?
  • What are you drowning in now?
  • Pray for Jesus to save you and open yourself up to his offer of salvation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Boiling Point: Bible Reading Plan

In about five to ten minutes per day, you can read through the entire New Testament in one year. Stay consistent and make focused Bible reading a daily habit.

Read the selected chapter each day. If you haven’t started—start today!
  • Spend some time in prayer reflecting on how God spoke to you through the reading.
  • Read the study guide for the day you are on to dig a little deeper into a few selected verses.
  • Respond to the questions and prayer guides as you apply the biblical teachings to your life.
  • Read Sunday’s Bible passage and review the study guide before worship.
By the end of this series we will have read through John, 1 Timothy, and 1 Thessalonians.

Check online daily for discussion and additional resources at http://abcdfinnestad.blogspot.com.

Monday, January 17th - John 13

Knowledge is not enough. Discipleship is not about knowing. Discipleship is about practicing and doing. Verses 1 to 17 tell the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. This was an act of love. In verse 17 Jesus says You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing. Pray for the knowledge to learn the teachings of Christ and the wisdom to follow his teachings.

Tuesday, January 18th - John 14

Verse 25 and 26 teach that God is with us to teach us everything and to remind us of the teachings of Jesus. During your time reading the Bible in the past few weeks, what has the Holy Spirit been teaching you? Pray to make yourself open to the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, January 19th - John 16 (for John 15 see January 9th)

Jesus concludes the John 16 with the following: I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. In life there is a temptation to try to avoid tough times. By avoiding tough times we also avoid life. As hard as we try to avoid these difficult times, they will still happen. But Jesus says take heart, because he has overcome the world. Are you missing out on life because of a fear of failure, rejection, and hurts? Pray to God for the ability to take risks. Pray also for God’s comfort in the trials and sorrows of life.

Thursday, January 20th - John 17

Jesus is praying in chapter 17. Note who Jesus is praying for and what he is praying about. What in this prayer surprised you? What did you learn about prayer as you read this chapter? Spend some extended time in prayer.

Friday, January 21st - John 18

Peter was as close to Jesus as anybody. Reread verses 25 to 27. How do you think Jesus felt when his friend denied knowing him? How do you feel when others hurt you? Spend some time in prayer. Ask God for the power to be a faithful friend – in the good times and the tough times. Ask God for the ability to get over times when people have hurt you.

Saturday, January 22nd - John 19

As Jesus was dying he noticed someone. Reread verses 25 to 27. Jesus noticed his mother. He knew he still had a responsibility with her. In his pain and agony, both emotional and physical, he cared for Mary. He asked John to take care of Mary and the Bible says that John took her into his home. The family unit is our most important human relationships. How are you doing in your family? What practices can God help you implement to be more faithful and more blessed in these relationships?

Sunday, January 23rd - Overcoming Betrayal - Matthew 26

Peter denied Jesus in verses 69 to 74. Judas betrayed Jesus in verses 47 to 49. In verse 75 we see that Peter left, crying bitterly. In chapter 27, Judas hung himself and Jesus was killed. Denial and betrayal have severe consequences and leave brokenness all over the place. Repeat the reflection time from January 21st and seek to think more about this painful area in life. How do you think Jesus felt when his friend denied knowing him? How do you feel when others hurt you? Spend some time in prayer. Ask God for the power to be a faithful friend – in the good times and the tough times. Ask God for the ability to get over times when people have hurt you.

Monday, January 24th - John 20

It might be easier to believe in Jesus if we had a definite sign or witnessed a miracle. Reread verse 29. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway. Jesus is talking about two things. The first is faith: seeing without believing. The second is a blessed life. The key to a blessed life is faith. Faith is a gift from God. It is something we accept. Pray for the ability to accept the faith God gives. The same faith that opens the door to a blessed life.

Tuesday, January 25th - John 21

Love overcomes denial. In John 18, Peter denied Jesus three times. In John 21, verses 15 to 17, Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus three times. Peter affirmed three times he did. This exchange is a powerful witness to love overcoming hurt. Think of some relationships you have that are strained or broken. Note the pattern of Peter and Jesus. 1) Peter affirmed his love to Jesus and 2) Jesus asked Peter to do what was most important to Jesus: feeding his sheep. Effective communication helped restore the relationship. Pray for effective communication and reconciliation (or at least understanding) to happen in these relationships you thought about that are strained and broken.

Wednesday, January 26th - 1 Timothy 1

Have you ever wondered why we do things we know are wrong? Verse 19 talks about clinging to our faith and keeping our conscious clear. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. Spend some time praying to think and act in ways that will leave our conscious clear. Also, pray to accept the forgiveness our faith offers from times in the past when we have spiritually stumbled.

Thursday, January 27th - 1 Timothy 2

Chapter 2 teaches about prayer. What did you learn about prayer in verses 1 to 8? Spend some time praying and implementing one or two of the practices you learned about.

Friday, January 28th - 1 Timothy 3

We learn about attributes of church leaders in chapter 3. Paul pleads for excellence from Timothy. Check yourself on Paul’s list. How are you doing? Pray for development in one or two areas on this list.

Saturday, January 29th - 1 Timothy 4

Augustine said the most powerful sermon we can ever preach is the life we live. In verse 12, Paul urges Timothy to be an example in five areas: teaching, the way he lives, his love, his faith, and his purity. Examine each of those areas in your life. How are you doing? Pray for God to use you as a positive example for others.

Sunday, January 30th - Dealing with Difficult People - Matthew 7

Reread verses 3 to 5. How does Jesus speak to you in that passage of Scripture? What is it you need to work on to get along with others? Reread verses 24 to 27. Jesus teaches us to put people in front of relationships. How have situations in the past hurt some of your most important relationships? Did these situations need to adversely affect your relationships?

Monday, January 31st - 1 Timothy 5

Paul knows well the power of words. Verse 1 is Paul’s encouragement to use words to build up rather than tear down. Paul writes Timothy to not speak harshly, speak respectfully, and talk to others like they are family. We have all been hurt by words and we have hurt people with words. Are your recent words used to build others up? Encourage somebody today. Respond gently to criticism or conflict today. Pray that God will use your words to glorify Him and encourage others.

Tuesday, February 1st - 1 Timothy 6

Reread verses 6 to 10. Paul is teaching Timothy about contentment and true wealth. What does the Bible say will not give us contentment? What does the Bible teach in this passage about contentment and true wealth? Pray for contentment in your life.

Wednesday, February 2nd - 1 Thessalonians 1

Note how Paul, Silas, and Timothy start the letter in verses 2 and 3. They thank God for their Thessalonian friends and they pray for them constantly. Take some time to be thankful for you family and closest friends. Take some additional time praying for them.

Thursday, February 3rd - 1 Thessalonians 2

Reread verse 12. We discover the reason we are called into God’s Kingdom: to share God’s glory. How are you doing at sharing God’s glory? In the first part of verse 12, Paul urges the Thessalonians to live worthy lives. Consider that your actions have an affect on others. Also think about who God is leading you to share His glory with today.

Friday, February 4th - 1 Thessalonians 3

In verses 3 and 4, Paul covers a teaching of Jesus we previously covered in John 16: the world is full of trouble. Like Jesus, Paul urges us not to avoid trouble, as that is impossible, but to effectively deal with trouble by remaining strong in our faith (verse 7). Pray for strength in the future to turn to God during times of trouble instead of turning away from God or questioning God. God wants nothing more than for us to be with Him when we need Him the most.

Saturday, February 5th - 1 Thessalonians 4

It is easy to live a life to please others or to please ourselves. Chapter 4 is about living a life that pleases God. What in this chapter challenged you about living a life that pleases God? Pray for guidance on some next steps for you to take on living a life that is more pleasing to God.

Sunday, February 6th - Conquering Lust - 1 Thessalonians 5

Return to yesterday and reread chapter 4, verse 3. God wants our lives to be free of sexual sin. Chapter 5 talks about being children of the light and not of the dark. Pray for the ability to do what is right in all situations. Paul concludes the book with a challenge for the church to be the church. Reread verses 12 to 18. What did you learn about the church? What inspired you? Ask God to help you move to the next level in life and ministry.

Tears of God

John 11

Tears of God




Verse 35 gives us a picture of Jesus we only see one time: Jesus wept. This short verse gives a picture of who God is and who God is not. Instead of being an aloof powerhouse, God is compassionate, interested, and involved. These attributes of God give us the opportunity to be real and authentic with God.
  • Are you holding anything back from being truly yourself with God?
  • The challenge today and in the days to come is to be as authentic with God as possible.

Rolling Stones


Verse 41 is one of the great verses in Scriupture: So they rolled the stone aside. It seems incdential at first. But nothing about it is incidental. The stone was rolled aside and Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. Death for Lazarus had been defeated. Later, it was Jesus laying lifeless in the tomb. On Easter morning, another stone was rolled from another tomb. This time it was Jesus himself who came limping out of the tomb. Death for the world had been defeated.

God still rolls stones away from tombs and raises the dead to life every moment of every day.

  • Think about areas of your life that need to die: Jealously, anger, greed, etc...
  • Dream about the new life that is possible: Gratitude, patience, generosity, etc...
  • Ask God to roll stones from your life so that new life is possible.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Abundance

John 10



Verse 10 is another of the most profound teachings of Jesus: Satan comes to steal and destroy while Jesus comes to give life.
  • What is Satan trying to steal from you?
  • In what ways are you allowing Satan to destroy the life Jesus is trying to give you?
  • Any type of gift needs to be accepted. Review January 9th. What relationship do you see in abiding in Jesus and accepting the gift of life Jesus offers?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comfort and Alffliction

John 9

We all experience pain in life like the man in verses 1 to 7. When we suffer try not to get caught up on questions like, “Why did this happen?” Instead ask God for His strength and the help of others to deal with the pain. Think about ways God can be glorified (verse 4) through your sufferings.

  • What is your reaction to suffering? Do you turn to God?
  • Has God been glorified through your suffering? How?

In verses 35 to 41, Jesus discusses spiritual humility. Jesus notes he can spiritually heal people who know they are sinners. He also says he come to challenge those persons who think they have earned God's love and grace. (verses 39 to 41) A common non-biblical phrase for this: Jesus has come to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

Pray that God uses uses you today to comfort somebody who needs to be comforted and to challenge somebody who needs to be challenged.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rocks

John 8

The story of Jesus forgiving a guilty woman (verses 1 to 11) is relevant to all of our lives. The woman was caught in adultery. The penalty was simple: Men in the community would throw rocks at her. Can you imagine the fear of the woman as she was confronted by the men? The church leaders asked Jesus what he would do. He knew the tradition and he know the law. But he knew grace and forgiveness as well. Jesus knew waht was best for the men and for the woman. Jesus gave them men permission to throw rocks at her, but one condition existed: The one who was sinless among the men would throw the first stone. After the men walked away without throwing stones, Jesus offered the woman forgiveness in verse 11. He followed up by telling her to go and sin no more.



Don't go around throwing rocks unless you are perfect. Don't go around throwing rocks.

Jesus teaches people to examine themselves before evaluating others. It is easy to point out flaws in others. Looking at the shortcomings of others can make us feel better about our own failings. It takes character to examine oneself.
  • Do you judge others for who they are and who they are not?
  • If so, what good is this doing you?
  • Is it difficult to extend forgiveness to others?
Pray for the ability to be less critical of others. Pray also for the ability to forgive others.

Remember the Rock who no longer remembers.

Jesus forgave the woman. It didn't matter to Jesus who she was. It only mattered who she is and who she can become.
  • Have you accepted God's forgiveness in your life?
  • How does being forgiven by God change you?
  • How are you going to respond to Jesus when he says: “Go and sin no more”?

Monday, January 10, 2011

From Resolution to Reality: Blank Page

Here is my message from Sunday, January 2nd.

Shades of Gray

John 7

People were making fun of Jesus in verses 3 and 4. Notice the response of Jesus – it was filled with grace.

  • How do you respond when others make fun of you?
  • Pray for the ability not to escalate arguments and make a bad situation worse.

Jesus makes an important point in verses 16 to 18: His message is from God. He knew what the world needed more than anything else was to hear from God.

Sometimes Life is Filled with Shades of Gray

Verses 21 to 24 is an interesting teaching from Jesus. He defends the time he healed on a Sabbath. As followers of Christ it is easy to look at the letter of the Law. Jesus compels us to always pay close attention to the spirit of the Law. Keeping the Sabbath is good. Healing a person is good. Jesus couldn't keep the Sabbath and heal a person. So he chose to heal. The Gospel shouldn't be thought of as a rigid, dogmatic set of rules -- rather it should be thought of as a radical set of a teachings that allow us to transform our world and the world. We don't live in a black and white world. Our world has many shades of gray.

Verses 40 to 43 illustrate a common theme many of us deal with daily: doing what is popular vis a vis doing what is right. Jesus didn't have a high approval rating. Many disliked him. He wasn't a people pleaser. He was failthful to God. And he was good with that.

  • Are you more likely to do what is right or what is popular?
  • Which is a higher value for you: pleasing people or being faithful to God?
  • Pray for the ability to discern and do what is right, rather than what is convenient.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Abide

John 15

We can make the mistake of trying to do more in life. Our culture teaches us that doing is essential. We are often evaluated and judged for what we do. Yet Jesus teaches in verse 4 that apart from God we can do nothing, much like fruit separated from its life source. The teaching of Jesus is to abide in God, to remain close to God, and to be near God. Life is first about being and the doing comes out of our being.


  • What in this teaching from Jesus and Craig’s sermon challenged you?
  • What adjustments in your life are you planning to make?

Jesus notes (verse 8) that a disciple produces fruit and producing fruit happens when we abide and are connected to God. We abide and remain in God by following God's Commandments. God has gives humanity the Law because He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we embrace God's love, trust in His Word, and abide with God by following God's Law, we are disciples who will live a fruitful and a blessed life.

Verses 12 to 17 display that Jesus never separates the love of God from the love of people. Jesus begins by talking about the human relationship with God (verses 1 to 11) and continues with human relationships (verses 12 to 17) concluding with simple command to love each other. This text makes a full circle when the reader realizes that abiding in God is keeping the commandments and the commandment is to love each other.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nothing to Work With

John 6

The story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people teaches us one of the great truths of life: God can take what we give Him and turn it into something great.

The young boy in verse 9 gave Jesus what he had and Jesus multiplied the offering. If the boy hadn’t given this offering then Jesus would have had nothing to work with.


Are you holding back giving your financial resources, your time, your talent, and your energy to Jesus? What steps are you going to take to begin a lifestyle of giving more to God and trust he will begin to do more through you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

We live in a beautiful world. A baby’s smile can warm the hardest heart. The embrace of a friend. Freshly fallen snow. The kindness of a stranger. Laughing with others. A full moon. A person becoming who God wants them to be.

We simultaneously live in a world that doesn’t make sense. Innocent people get killed. Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, famine, drought, and hurricanes happen. People get sick. People get depressed, anxious, and the human mind can succumb to many other kinds of dysfunction. Relationships get strained and some painfully end.


That’s the world. Simultaneously beautiful and terrible. Job knew this better than anybody. When the devastating losses started piling up on top of each other, Job asked the question we all ask: “Why?” His friends tried to convince Job that his trials and his losses were his own fault. They were a bunch of theological imposters who were too busy explaining things to stop and actually listen for a few moments.

Job eventually realized he was asking the wrong question: “Why?” didn’t seem as important as “Where is God?” And Job looked. He looked in front as far as the eye could see in all directions and didn’t see God anywhere. If Job only knew where God was then Job would finally get some answers and maybe a little comfort. But Job was having as much luck finding God as a kid would have finding a needle in a haystack.

Job’s friends started talking again. But finally God had enough. It was time for some sense in the world that sometimes makes little sense. God rarely spoke so forcefully as he did that day with Job: Were you there when I created the world? Was it you who scooped out the oceans and stopped the powerful waters dead in their tracks? God was just getting warmed up, but Job already got the point.

“Where is God?” was replaced by “Who is going to help me through this?” All other questions evaporated like fog on a warm morning and all explanations of why shriveled like a dry plant under the hot sun. Job knew the right question and he even knew the only response.

Beautiful things happen in the world. Terrible things happen too. Like school administrators going to work one day and getting shot. Like a teenage boy making a bad choice that ends the life of another and his own life as well.

If you are looking to make sense of the world, you are going to be looking for a long time and you aren’t going to have much luck. But God is still with us. He hasn’t abandoned us and He never will. He simply and repeatedly points us to the cross, the most terrible of all terribles, a time when God acted most lovingly, to show us that hopelessness can turn into hopefulness, brokenness can transform to blessedness, and death leads to resurrection.

Who? God.

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Healing, Hope, and Wholeness

John 5

In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus healed a man who was unable to walk. An important identity of Jesus was healer.




Read verse 7. The man feels trapped and hopeless. In verse 8 Jesus gives him hope.

In what areas of your life do you need healing, feel trapped, and maybe even experience hopelessness? Ask God for healing in these areas of your life. Also ask God to use your hurts and experiences to help others who share similar hurts.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Woman at The Well

John 4

The story of the woman at a well found in John 4 is a profound teaching that Jesus embraces all persons. The woman was a Samaritan (an unpopular mixed race) and had a bad reputation. Jewish men would not have talked to this sort of woman. Not an issue for Jesus. All people mattered to him.




Do all people matter to you?

Pray for the heart to embrace all people regardless of social position, past history, beliefs, gender, and race.


Act by loving somebody regardless of their social position, past history, beliefs, gender, and race.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For God So Loved the World

John 3

Frederick Buechner writes on Nicodemus:

Jesus told Nicodemus that unless you got born again, you might as well give it up. That was all very well, Nicodemus said, but how were you to pull a thing like that off? How especially were you supposed to do it if you were pushing 65? How do you get born again when it is a challenge just to get out of bed each morning?

Just then, in the midst of them talking, a gust of wind happened to whistle by, making the dying embers of the campfire burst into flame, and Jesus said that being born again was like that. It wasn’t something you did. The wind did it. The Spirit did it. It was not something you do. It happens.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus said; and that’s when Jesus let him have it. Maybe Nicodemus had six honorary doctorates and half a column in Who’s Who, Jesus said, but if he couldn’t grasp something like this, he’d better go back to kindergarten.

“I’m telling you like it is,” Jesus said, “I’m telling you what I’ve seen. I’m telling you that there are people on Medicare walking around with the love-light in their eyes. I’m telling you that there are ex-cons teaching Sunday school. I’m telling you that there are undertakers scared silly we’ll put them all out of business.

I’m telling you that God has such a thing for this loused up planet that he’s sent me down here so if you don’t believe your own eyes, then maybe you’ll believe mine; maybe you’ll believe me, maybe you won’t come sneaking around scared half to death in the dark anymore but will come to, come clean, come to life.

What impressed Nicodemus even more than the speech was the quickening of his own breathing and the pounding of his heart. He hadn’t felt like this since his first since his first child was born.


In verse 2, Nicodemus went to visit Jesus in the dark. He was ashamed others might look down on him because of his spiritual seeking.

  • When have you been embarrassed or ashamed by your faith or by seeking more faith?
  • Do you worry about what others think of your spirituality?
  • If this is an issue for you, take a few moments and pray to God for strength in being open and honest with others about your faith.
Verse 6 continues the theme of new life. Review your responses from January 1 and 2.

  • What is working well about becoming “new”?
  • What isn’t working so well?
  • What adjustments are you going to make?


Verse 16 is the most well known verse in the Bible. For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. The Greek word for world is cosmos. It means everything, including you.

How does being loved by God make a difference in your life? Pray for the ability to accept God's love and to let this love transform you into the person God wants you to become.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Day Jesus Got Mad

John 2

Water into wine

Verses 1 to 12 is the wonderful story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana in Galilee. Jesus took something of value, water, and turned it into something of greater value, wine. He performed a miracle.


Jesus continues to do this type of miracle every day in the lives of ordinary people: taking something of value and turning it in to greater value.

  • What are some traits about you that are valuable?
  • How can these experiences, learnings, skills, and availability be more useful to you, to others, to the world, and to God?

Pray to Jesus to turn your good into great; average into excellent; and mediocre into magnificent.

The day Jesus got mad

In verses 13 to 22, Jesus got angry. Anger is not necessarily a bad thing. Anger can lead us to fight for justice for the oppressed. Anger can also be destructive for us and for those around us. Anger is only one letter away from danger.

  • How do you deal with anger?
  • Does injustice in society lead you to actions that will make the world a better place?
  • Do small annoyances irk you and lead you to lash out against others?
  • Does your anger cause you to hurt those closest to you and yourself?

Pray to God for a healthy response to times when you get angry.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Spiritual Eyeglasses

John 1

John starts out much different than Matthew and Luke. Mary and Joseph are not mentioned in the story. John merely says the Word become flesh and lived here among us. (verse 14) Jesus wasn't recognized or accepted. (verses 10 and 11)

Spiritual eyeglasses give us a clear vision of who God is, who others are, and who we are.

Verses 15 and 30 are a verses about humility. John the Baptist was an excellent preacher, but he was content for Jesus to have a much higher place. Humility makes intimacy with God possible by diminishing and eliminating self-idolatry. Biblical humility has less to do with personal modesty than it does having a high view of God, a generous view of others, and a healthy view of self. Spiritual glasses give us a clear vision of who God is, who others are, and who we are. God will do great things through us when we are content to do the tasks God wants us to do.

Think of a few things God is asking you to do in your life. Ask God for the skills and strength to be faithful in doing these things regardless of whether you get recognition or not.