Seeking God: We are going to fly

Seeking God: We are going to fly

Read: Psalm 30:1-12, John 6:40

Christ:  And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. -John 6:39

I will raise you up. Away from this sinking ship of a life you are leading. But don’t think my power is only food for the end of days. I will raise you up NOW.

eveningskies.jpg

Think: How would I live my day today if I knew that at the end of it I’d be raised up into Heaven?  Would I respond to that annoying person in the supermarket any differently? Would I be as quick to put down the remote and help with dinner? Would my focus inward be turned inside out?

Pray: Dear Jesus, we believe but we don’t act like it. I need raising up of my cold hard heart. Take and share it so that my belief shines brightly for all to see. Amen.

Seeking a church family

Seeking a church family

I’ve been struggling with this concept in my personal life lately. My husband and I recently moved to a new town with new churches and an entire new community. We have not yet settled on a place to attend. We are church-homeless.

Not that we expect the church we decide to call home to be perfect. We aren’t that naive. Instead, we search for the particular features that make us feel at home. Style of preaching. Good music. Professional sound team. Enough people our age.

But when I read Jen’s heartfelt exhortation to us this morning, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m searching for things that make me feel outwardly comfortable and proud to attend a certain place. I never thought about choosing the right kind of people.

They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s who I should be searching for. After all, the church is only a group of people. People aren’t attractive fliers, preachers, music, or donuts. And I want to make my church home a place where those people love Jesus more than anything else.

We are still on our search. (Please pray for us!)

I, like all of you, am going to an imperfect church this morning. I have failed it in innumerable ways, and I’ve felt the sting of disappointment there too. Church is hard.

But every single Sunday, every one, I find Jesus there. I am renewed in tiny or even enormous ways. But largely, when I look around the room, I see the faces of people that are so good, so courageous, so committed and loving, I cannot imagine doing life without them. They are, quite simply, the best people I know. The struggles and addictions and losses they have overcome would flatten you – it’s just a little middle school cafeteria but it is full of bravery. And they love well. They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s enough.

Folks, my prayer for you this morning is that you find your simple church where Jesus is lifted high and people are loved, and plant there with all your might. Your church will be so imperfect. SO. The staff and leaders will not magically make life fulfilling. People will let you down (and you them). Stuff will go sideways and have to be righted. There will be hard conversations and honest confessions and apologies and lots of forgiveness, but the presence of these things doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. It means you are building a church with human people and you love them too much to let it all slip through your fingers without fighting for unity.

May you find grace for your church today. May you find your people and put up a parking lot. And I hope that today, or maybe someday, you’ll look around the room like I do and marvel at what beautiful, wonderful people you are surrounded with, grateful that you get to love God and love each other and love people together, imperfectly.

-Jen Hatmaker, originally posted on Facebook

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Reading: Psalm 31:1-5, Ezekiel 34:15-16

Christ: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full..jpg

Think: God has promised restoration to those who turn to Him in belief. When I’m overcome with fear, does my heart remember my true safety? Or am I quick to forget the power of His promises?

Pray: Dear Lord, Thank you for being our rock and fortress. We entrust our spirits into your hand. Amen.

Seeking God: Running the race

Seeking God: Running the race

Read: Psalm 18:1-19, Hebrews 12:1-2

Christ: Please never doubt that I hear your prayers. Every time you incline your heart to Me in prayer and praise, do it with a sure belief that I will answer you. Do not be discouraged by my timing. Recall how limited your reach of mind is, and how unlimited is Mine. Do not fear or be downhearted when something appears to go downhill, for I have already won.

he heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.jpg

Think: God does not leave us alone with our faith. It is like an engine which is only powered by His grace and He never stops filling it up for us. Not only that, we are not alone to run the road of endurance all by ourselves; by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we ever strive as a family together toward His will. Who are the people that run alongside me in our journeys of faith? How can I cheer them on today?

Pray: Jesus, thank you for hearing us and being so intimately connected with our struggles at every moment. We want to strip off every unnecessary burden and turn away from every sin in order to follow along the road you have set out for us. For you are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Amen.


 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us feedback at purediscipleblog [at] gmail.com. We love to hear from you!

~The PD Team

What do my social media posts say about who God is?

What do my social media posts say about who God is?

It’s one question I don’t think I ask enough.

I spend so much time online that sometimes I feel like I live inside the Internet. I am swept along with each wave of happiness, outrage, hilarity, disgust, and heartbreak that happen across the headlines every day.

And then a year in review pops up. I thought I was safe in His arms, secure, and savoring His Presence. I patted myself on the back for all my goodness. In actuality, rarely do I ever post except when exceptionally indignant or proud of my opinion. Everyone else sees a snarky, sarcastic and scathing “Christian”?  This should not be.

So am I saying that you should care what people think of you based on my online presence?

Yes. And No.

As a believer in Jesus, I say YES. We need to be constantly aware of how we are perceived by others. There is the obvious like hateful words, swearing, crude humor, grumbling. And the more subtle things too, like the things we may say with good intentions? Like choosing to respond to a controversial post in which Jesus’s opinion would be in the minority. When we are unkind people think God is unkind.

15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[a] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 NLT

And in doing just that: responding as Jesus would, we should NOT care what they think. Because we are safe in a Just God’s arms. We have been blessed and chosen by God. As such, we now have the freedom from man’s judgement to share this beauty of freedom with everyone. 

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hebrews 6:19 NLT

I started collecting inspiring images with wisdom written across in beautiful wide strokes. There is an abundance of them online, just waiting to speak some truth into someone’s day and then it occurred to me that maybe other people might appreciate them too. That’s why I started faith curator. It’s just a simple collection of faithful images I think are awesome and glorifying to God. Most images are taken straight from various places online, but I make my own from time to time too. Credit given where it is due.

So now, every time I post something, the question I ask myself is, not how do I look, but to whom do I look? I’m hoping you’ll see Jesus every time.

The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

The only New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever need

The only New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever need

Once again it’s that crucial day when everyone decides whether to make or break their resolutions: January 2.

According to researcher John Norcross in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population makes resolutions each New Year and by February, they have given up. (From Psychology Today)

Can you relate? I sure can. Each year I try to promise to do more, thinking that somehow that will make up for what I didn’t do last year. When it comes to giving up as soon as it gets hard, I’ll admit to being the first offender.

So I find myself wondering at this time of year – What does it actually take to accomplish your goals? I mean, really.

Well obviously, it involves changing our behavior. We can’t do the same thing over and over expecting different results. That’s the definition of “insane”.

But how exactly do we change? I’m searching for a better answer than “work hard”, “keep focused” & “stay inspired”. These nice sentiments don’t have the staying power to drive me when I’m stubborn, tired, or lazy. Cliche sayings will not move me to action. Reminders on my phone will get ignored. (An electric shock might do it, but then I’d just be in a bad mood.)

Here’s the truth: I can’t be interrupted.

“I can’t just stop my train of thought/netflix marathon/enjoyment of (insert guilty pleasure here)…Later” Later, we say. And isn’t that just what happens in every broken plan? Ignored advice? Sin?

Sin has the same beginnings as a broken resolution. The attitude that says, “No, I’m deciding for myself what’s best for me right now” is the same voice in us that decides against God’s plan to bring goodness to our lives. As a result, we find ourselves in a natural rut. Continually making deeper inroads going the wrong direction.

Trying to keep new years resolutions is like Salvation.
It’s not possible without Jesus.

Imagine you’re slipping down a rope hanging off a precipice. Someone holds out a hand from the top to pull you up. You can: (a) Accept the help (b) Swat away his hand and try to climb up yourself (c) Do nothing or give up and let go.

The Bible says that the price for sin is death. That means that if you die having sinned, you will only receive the just reward for what you have done.

In the old testament, the Jews had to sacrifice innocent animals for Israel’s sins. They had to do this every year because this type of sacrifice was not permanent. The animals were innocent, but still part of creation and not able to take away sins. It was only because of God’s mercy that he allowed humans to offer him something for their sins.

However, when Jesus came down, he was “begotten, not made”, Fully God and fully man, not a part of creation, but with the power to bring to life the dead and take away sins.

When He died, He was wholly innocent, a perfect sacrifice which does not need to be repeated every year. That one death was good to pay for every single person who ever was, if they chose to receive it.

That’s why we say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Because no amount of effort will ever do what his work on the cross has done. No amount of new years resolution-effort will ever yield perfect results.

The only way to succeed in making good changes in our lives is to first realize that we cannot do it by ourselves. We are powerless without Jesus. Our efforts alone are nothing but dirty rags. But what if our efforts are coupled with trust in His good plan for our lives? The possibilities are insurmountable.

So starting this year and moving forward, my resolution is to do everything I do for the glory of God because there’s no end to what is possible with Him.

How will you glorify God this year?

puredisciple.org

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

 

On my way home last night I decided to listen to a Christian radio channel. They usually air sermons which I like to listen to while driving. Some of my most profound thinking time happens in the driver’s seat.

However, last night I was surprised to encounter a message focusing on Nazis, Syrians, the wrath of God, and hellfire. Where was the story of brokenness, forgiveness and redemptive love? I still am wondering about the context of that message.

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I’m not advocating that we should never focus on the reality of God’s justice and wrath which will come swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35). A gospel of feel-goodery is just as incorrect.

However it saddens me to think that someone somewhere might have flipped on that channel, and presumed misunderstand the meaning of that message, further spreading ignorance and incorrect beliefs.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 NIV

 

That’s why I draw such encouragement from the Bereans. They are a perfect example of how we as Christians are to receive something we don’t understand. Paul would later exhort the Thessalonians to take the same attitude:

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 MSG

So, how do we respond when a message leaves us with more questions than answers?

  1. We must be humbleDon’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
  2. We must be open-mindedDo not despise prophecies. You don’t know if this is a message from the Lord or not.
  3. We must be cautious: Check out everything and hold to what is good. If the message you hear doesn’t immediately agree with the basic truths of Christianity, suspend judgement and seek help.

This is where being plugged into a local church community helps. Make an appointment with a trusted elder or pastor. Ask them to pray with you and help your understanding. There’s an old Russian saying that goes “There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.”

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

Fans are people who cheer someone on from the stadium, but who you’d never see out sweating on the field. They maybe own jerseys of their favorite players, know all the stats, and never miss a game. But when the team has a bad season they are quick to jump the bandwagon and support a team having a more successful season.

Sadly, it’s how we see many fellow Christians. Maybe instead of jerseys they have t-shirts that say “Jesus is my Homeboy”, or sport one of those snazzy WWJD bracelets. They might go to church but then from Monday morning to Saturday night, there’s no evidence of spiritual fruit or that Jesus is indeed their homeboy. For this type of person, it’s more of a hobby than a lifestyle.

Our church most definitely has a disease. It’s not a new one, and in fact it’s been around ever since the days that Jesus still walked around attracting large crowds. It’s called Fandom and I’m guilty as charged of it.

Up until reading this book I would have told you with proud confidence (red flag #1) that I am most certainly a devoted follower of Jesus, not just a “creaster” (which is what he calls people that only attend church on Christmas and Easter). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you consider yourself a follower of Jesus too. But just sit back and imagine with me for a moment that every assurance of your being on the right path to salvation … is wrong. Just, what if – this whole time I’ve been thinking I was right with God but really was confusing my religion for true relationship with Jesus.

That is the premise of his well-written book – centered around the section in Matthew 7 when Jesus, frustrated with the opportunist attitude of the large crowds following him tells them plainly, “Look, you’re all calling me ‘Lord, Lord’, but the day is going to come when the truth will come out and I’m going to say, I never knew you, away from me!”

Whenever I need a slightly louder version to hammer a verse through my thick head, I turn to the MSG version. Just read Jesus in this translation:

13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

. . .

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Lukewarmness in faith is actually the same as being stone cold in faith. Or as Revelation 3:16 puts it succinctly, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Jesus didn’t just want people to “like” his fanpage on facebook, he isn’t interested in your memorized scripture or impressed in how many charity events you coordinate. He wants your whole heart, soul, mind and life, to transform you until you are so much like him you gleam in perfection.

Although please understand, we don’t earn our salvation. Rather, we are expected to recognize ourselves as desperate and empty-handed and wholly in need of an overhaul, and then to allow God to change us through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to work in God’s will for our good and the good of those around us.

He offers a very helpful set of questions to diagnose fandom, and help separate it from the outward “doing” part of religion. Each section should be read thoughtfully, and soberly. I definitely want to go back with a pen and spend more time answering his questions. Not only does Mr. Idleman address the state of the lukewarm Christian today, his writing style is enjoyable and easy to read. I have to be honest, I initially picked this book up because it was on sale for $2, expecting some punchy and quick encouragement to what I already thought I knew. What I found was a response to the disease of assuming. (you know what happens…) The answer: Don’t assume you’re good to go to Heaven holding your badge collection. The process of sanctification is far sweeter and far more worth the trouble.

You can get Not a fan. at Amazon here or at his site where he has small group studies and an accompanying journal.

How to pray so that God will hear us

We hinder our own prayers when we live blind to our own sin.

Every once in a while it will occur to me that I am living in sin. It’s an ugly phrase, and is often used as a condemnation or judgement on someone else. So what does it really mean to be “living in sin”? Simply put, it is when you deliberately refuse to repent about something, and basically pretend God will forget about it.  By extension, I (wrongly) expect my prayers to be answered my way and give no thought to what God might want for me.

For instance, time theft from work; gossiping about a friend; choosing not to forgive someone. Without a regular examination of my conscience, it is easy to overlook these things, and conveniently forget that as a child of God I am to live a life set apart for the Gospel.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking you get blessings and answered prayers because you examine your conscience. God owes us nothing. What he wants is for us to turn toward him in love and fear.

He can be trusted to heal us, however he chooses to do it

Like a good Father, he knows exactly what I need and when I need it. And sometimes what I need is for my prayers to be rejected.

Isaiah 41:9,10:
“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, You are my servant, I have chosen you, and have not cast you away. Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

How to pray so that God hears us

Confessing our sins shouldn’t be something to avoid or dread. In fact, it is freeing. The way to get God’s attention and tell him we are serious, is to let go. Let go of whatever secret sin you are hiding away. God already knows everything, but he wants to hear it from your lips, and he delights and cherishes a contrite heart.

  1.  Ask Jesus to reveal any sins that would keep him from hearing your prayers. Repent of each one. (Ps 66:18 & Isaiah 59:2)
  2. Pray to have you thoughts bound up so you can hear the Lord (2 Cor 10:5)
  3. Thank and Praise the Lord (Ps 100:4)
  4. Listen to what the Spirit guides you into praying for, and don’t stop praying until the Spirit leads you to stop.

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine