Day 1: What Breaks Your Heart?

Read: Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah’s story started with a burden. He saw the condition of Jerusalem’s wall and knew the situation was desperate. Without a wall, people returning to Jerusalem after years in captivity would be unprotected and vulnerable to attack.

Nehemiah was brokenhearted, but he didn’t tackle the problem immediately. Why? He first needed to bring his burden before the Lord.

The state of Jerusalem’s wall reflected the condition of the Jewish people’s relationship with God. Disobedience had left their city and their lives in disarray. So before Nehemiah could fix the brokenness surrounding the city, he asked God to fix the brokenness inside the people of the city. Forgiveness was the foundation everything else would be built on.

Once the people were right with God, Nehemiah began to pray about what was next. All the while, God positioned Nehemiah so he’d have influence with the king and with the people. God had arranged it so a foreign king provided resources to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

Imagine what God is arranging behind the scenes, so you can do more than you ever thought possible.

Look around. What breaks your heart? What has God put in front of you that you can’t ignore? Until our hearts are broken for the situations and people around us, we’ll maintain the status quo.

Once you know what your burden is, go to Jesus in prayer. Ask Him what to do next.

Consider This:

What are you burdened about?

Pray:

Jesus, I am burdened about ___________________________. What should I do next? I want to make a difference. Help me make a difference.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 10: Making A Difference As A Church

Read: Nehemiah 10

When the people in Jerusalem said, “We will not neglect the house of our God,” they committed to observe the sacrifices and offerings required by God’s law. They acknowledged they were regaining a special bond that had been lost. In that declaration, they renewed their commitment to obey God. In Christ, we are all part of the house of God. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” The church is not a building. The church is made up of people (Acts 7:48).

When we say, “We will not neglect the house of God,” it’s an acknowledgement that God has filled our hearts, and our behavior should reflect His love. Living for Jesus is more than showing up to church every week or giving money. When our heart has been truly changed, every area of our lives is affected. And sometimes, like Israel, we need to be reminded of our commitment.

Something special happens when we commit to advancing the church together. The church is made up of individuals changed by Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, making a difference. There is synergy as we pull together with common purpose. We are unstoppable because God is unstoppable in us. Together, we can make a difference in our neighborhoods, cities, and state.

Consider This:

What kind of commitment have you made to the church? Do you need to recommit?

Pray:

Jesus, help me not to forget my commitment.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Lie: Forgiveness Has to be Earned

The Bible is very clear about forgiveness. We didn’t earn our forgiveness (and salvation) on our own — we never could. Forgiveness came only through the sacrifice of God’s only son, Jesus Christ, and it was freely given. In the same way, our spouse, our coworker, our family, or our friend do not need to earn our forgiveness.

We are called to freely forgive others. And in doing so, we free up ourselves from carrying bitterness and anger that only causes strife in our lives. Trust can be earned (or re-earned), but not forgiveness.

In All Things, Love

Pastor Kevin uses three buckets to illustrate the difference between the essentials of our faith, in which we must have unity; the non-essentials of our faith, in which we should have liberty; and that all things — yes all things — are covered by the love of God.

To have great relationships with other Christians, it’s important to understand how the buckets work and how to let people be different from us in the area of non-essentials.

From Living For Self To Living Sent

The Holy Spirit wants to empower us from living for self to living sent.

Living Sent is a disposition that our lives are more about ourselves.

Living Sent won’t change where we go, but it’ll change how we get there. We are living for more than self, we are sent by God into our world!

However, we cannot live sent without the power of the Holy Spirit. When we get on God’s agenda, we have access to God’s power!

What if God wants our lives to be filled with miracles and little less normal?

 

Make Yourself Available to Love

To love people by helping them to carry their burdens, we have to make ourselves available. This can mean taking time from our busy schedules to share our hope and faith, to share financial resources, or to simply share a smile and a hug. We’ll never know the struggles someone is facing unless we slow down and take the time to be available.

Bless Someone

No matter where we are, we can find someone to bless. When we start our day, we should ask God to show us who that might be. It could be a family member, a friend, a coworker – even a stranger. It doesn’t matter whether the blessing is big or small. The recipient will know they matter to God. And we might find that God even blesses us in the process!

How Important Is It to Have Relationships for Prayer?

The Bible tells us “to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” There’s a practical reason for this: we tend to distance ourselves from God at either end of these extremes. In good times, we can grow arrogant. In bad times, we can become desperate. God wants us to be in community with other believers so we can have accountability and support throughout all the stages of our lives.

How Do You Talk with a Non-Believer about Prayer and God’s Will?

Sometimes friends who don’t believe in God ask us, as Christians, to pray for them. When things don’t go as we hoped and prayed, our friends feel disappointment and we feel uncomfortable. Pastor Kevin explains practical, step-by-step ways to pray with non-believers and how to follow up later to initiate conversations about faith.

Home Run Life

4 questions that can transform your life:

1) What makes for a Home Run Life Dream?

  • Success
  • Someone
  • Self Respect
  • Significance

2) What can we learn from Joseph’s Life Dream? (Genesis 37-50)

  • Win Dependence
  • Win Within
  • Win With Others
  • Win Results

3) What is the pattern? (Gods Game Plan for Life & Leadership – Romans 12)

  • Home Plate – Connect
  • 1st Base – Character
  • 2nd Base – Community
  • 3rd Base – Competence

4) How do you run the bases of life? (How will you?)

Choose to Go into Your World and Serve

God’s answer for the people near you, but far from Him, is you.

God just doesn’t use us, He partners with us. The pressure of God isn’t all on us, His spirit is with us. We join Him! It’s our privilege of who we are in Christ.

We join God in reaching those around us. God clarifies this mission to us in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:

“And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.”

 

 

Are We More Like Judas or Jesus?

Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, was broken in his spirit. According to Psalm 109:17, he found no pleasure in blessing. He was all about himself!

By contrast Jesus was and is always about blessing others. We are more like Jesus when we bless others, but we are more like Judas when we only serve ourselves.

To live a life of blessing others, we need to ask ourselves daily: How can I bless someone today?

We’re Here to Train You to Bless Others

PK uses an illustration of visiting a restaurant contrasted to visiting a church.

When we go to a restaurant, our expectation is to be served. The restaurant’s purpose is to serve the customer, not to turn the customer into a waiter.

In contrast, the church’s purpose is to make us “waiters” and not keep us as “customers.” The church is first here to help people come to Christ, then to help us have a spirit of blessing others.

We weren’t meant to a reservoir of God’s blessing, but a river of God’s blessing to others. God blesses us so we can bless others.

PK’s Funhouse Dream

Kevin describes a vision God gave him of a funhouse with a long swirling slide at the end. The funhouse is a representation of life on earth for the unbeliever which ends with the slide going towards eternity in hell.

God used this vision to put a purpose for Kevin’s life: to rescue people. He encourages us to live life like we are at the top of the slide rescuing people.

How Many Souls are “Good Enough” for God?

Sometimes we get distracted in the activity of life and get wrapped up in a material world. This causes us to lose sight of the greatest good.

As Christians we should always re-engage our passion. Our true purpose is to continually reach out into the community of spiritually lost people.

God Applauds Doing Good for One Another

It matters that we do good to one another.

When someone blesses a child, it blesses their parents! That’s how God feels with us. When we do good to one another, He (God) feels good.

  • Love one another (John 13:35)
  • Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Build each other up (I Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Pray for each other (James 5:16)
  • Spur one another on toward love & good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

Christians: Don’t Judge, Do Discern

It’s important for believers to discern the truth about how to live righteously. But using that truth to judge others can do more harm than good in trying to lead others to Jesus.

Figure out what lost people can discern of God and only share information that will invite them to investigate matters of faith further.

Shining your light to the world means leading with love. What people need most is the love of God, not the laws of God.

We (The Church) Have Not Arrived and That’s Okay

You can’t help someone else if you have unaddressed unrighteousness in your life. Only once you’ve learned to live above the bar yourself, can you help someone else over the bar.

None of us in the church have arrived. We are all incomplete and very much a work in progress in our walk with God. The church should be the safest place to be “in flight.” Invite others to join you and make the church a safe, welcoming place.

 

What’s one good way to solve inequality?

From the beginning, God has given us a clear view of equality in the Bible. There is no superior race; we are all one in Jesus Christ.

Revelations 7:9 tells us that, in heaven, people of every race will worship God as one throughout eternity.

While we can’t solve all the world’s problems with inequality, we can each do our part to address it wherever we have influence. Change begins at home. Talk to your kids about equality.

Treat everyone with God-given dignity and respect.

Influence From Obscurity – Hidden Figures Recap

While many of us don’t aspire to life in the limelight, we can probably all agree that it would be nice to at least be recognized for our achievements and treated the same as everyone else. But what do you do when you find yourself working in relative obscurity regardless of your talents and not being afforded the perks and access that you rightfully deserve? Katherine Jackson’s story, as told in the movie Hidden Figures, is one such story.

A brilliant mathematics prodigy, Katherine started high school at age ten and finished college at the age of 18. As talented as she was, there were few job options available for educated African American women at the time, other than teaching. She eventually found full-time work at NASA in the mid-1950s as a human computer, one of a pool of women doing mathematical calculations for the engineers. Her extraordinary abilities soon landed her a more prominent role with the Space Task Group, whose mission was to get a man into space ahead of the Russians. A widow and single mother, Katherine not only had to prove her worth in an all-male environment and for unequal pay; as a woman of color she also had to traverse the minefield of segregation. Undaunted by the odds, Katherine led the way in calculating the launch and landing trajectories that enabled NASA to put a man in orbit, bring him safely home, and eventually put a man on the moon.

Leading Out of Obscurity

As with all the movies in this series, there is something to learned here of living life the way God would have us live it. So what can we learn from the story of Katherine’s influential, yet relatively obscure life? How did she do it? What’s one good way to lead from obscurity?

The Apostle Paul would tell us that no one is as obscure as we feel; God sees our work, so we work for him:

 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” (Colossians 3:23, NIV)

He would also encourage us to endure hardship as you solve more problems. Work at it with all your heart. This is what Katherine did. She continued to work the math with everything she had despite blatant snubs from her male peers and the humiliation of being singled out because of her skin color. And as she solved more problems for the sake of the mission, she found herself becoming less obscure and being given even more responsibility.

Taking on Responsibility

This brings us to another life lesson: What’s one good way to get more in life? Take on more responsibility. Not only did Katherine live out this principle; she instilled it in her daughters as well. Upon coming home and finding her two younger girls fighting the older one for the privilege of not having to share a bed, Katherine promptly informed them that the perk came with the added responsibility of doing all Joylette’s chores. They declined. But Katherine did not shirk the added responsibility of extra work and long hours on the job. She followed the Apostle Paul’s example just as he tells us in II Thessalonians 3:6-13:

“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.”

II Thessalonians 3:6-13

Fight for the mission more than yourself

Again and again we see Katherine accepting the challenges life threw her way. If we were to look to her for advice on one good way to rise to the occasion, she might answer, Fight for the mission more than yourself. Rather than her story being about her treatment as a woman in a man’s world and as a person of color in the 1960s, it’s about her efforts to do everything she possibly could to help the space mission succeed. The Apostle Paul was also on a mission, sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1, NIV)—on a mission to serve others and spread the gospel. His attitude was that of a servant:

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19, NIV)

We, too, our called to be on mission for Christ, living not for ourselves, but as servants for the sake of others. We, too, are called to rise to the occasion by being on mission for God’s Kingdom:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

Addressing Inequality Where You Have Influence

While taking on the posture of a servant feels like a backwards slip into obscurity, as we learned from Katherine’s story, fighting the tide of obscurity and inequality does not mean that we are without influence. In fact, her hyper-focus on the mission’s need to succeed and her ensuing push to be included in all aspects of her job were instrumental in bringing about change in how women and people of color were viewed and treated in her workplace. So while she couldn’t solve the problem of inequality in the whole south, she could address it where she had influence.

And so it is with us. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:26-29 that in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. And in Revelations 7:9, we see a picture of the social landscape of heaven:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9 NIV)

Change can seem daunting and hopeless. But if we focus on addressing inequality wherever we have influence, we CAN make a difference. Both Katherine and the Apostle Paul did just that. They endured hardship, took on responsibility, focused on the mission at hand rather than themselves, and became a force for change in their circles of influence, one person at a time.

Forming Meaningful Connections in Life

In the movies, we often see heroes who outwardly seem to have it all – success, fame and fortune. But what is really going on beneath the surface? Are these people really happy and fulfilled by all their material things?

In Lego Batman, we see a hero who outwardly appears to have it all together and be at the top of his game. But Batman is about to discover the real fight—the one that happens when we take off our mask and look in the mirror. Sometimes, the greatest villain we face is the one looking back at us from the mirror. We live in isolation and loneliness and wonder why even life’s major milestones seem to lack true meaning for us.fa

God gives us wisdom on the topic of connecting in Ecclesiastes, which says, in part, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:7-10)

Having meaningful relationships, living in authentic community is better than being isolated. So maybe instead of being celebrated, Batman should be pitied. He finds himself celebrating alone and even laughter is no fun when there’s no one to share it with.

PK identifies two powerful life lessons for us all in Lego Batman:

1) Life doesn’t work when you work alone!

Batman doesn’t do “ships” – as in relationships – because he thinks he prefers to work alone. But we see that what really matters in life is having authentic relationships with roots. Otherwise, when you stumble in life (and we all stumble), you’ll be on your own. As Batman discovered, when you work alone, you wear a mask even with the people you know. We fear rejection if we are our authentic selves, so it seems easier to remain isolated.

When you work alone, you lack self-awareness. You become BLIND to yourself, therefore you can’t see yourself or how you treat others. Your blindness often becomes your weakness, and your weakness can cause you to stumble and fall.

2) You can’t be a Hero if you only care about yourself.

You can’t be relationally or emotionally connected if you only care about yourself. The isolation we create leads to loneliness, and what good are celebrations and struggles if you have no one to share them with? Isolation and selfishness were never a part of God’s plan for our lives!

In Romans 12, we see God’s direction to us for building strong connections. We read that we are all part of the same body of Christ, although we have different functions and gifts. In verses 9-10, we are told to love sincerely and be devoted to one another in brotherly love. We are to honor one another by offering support, help and hospitality with those in need.

Pastor Kevin points out the proper application:

“I AM the church, I CARE ABOUT OTHERS. This is not telling others to be about me; this is teaching me to be about others. I don’t show up to church for me to be served; I show up for God and to serve others.”

This biblical guideline hits home for Batman when he painfully becomes aware of the reality of his isolation. Batman connects with others in order to do ‘ships’ – as in relationships – when he joins team with Gotham to beat the bad guys. And for the first time, Batman finds himself caring about people other than himself.

Connections that Last

In caring for others, Batman is no longer alone. He’s becoming a true hero. But it’s not enough that he cares. He has to go one step further and really connect. Batman finally allows these relationships to carry over into his personal life as well, no longer living in isolation, but becoming a true friend and being part of a family.

God created us to connect in community. And while sin has pulled apart our world of healthy relationships, Jesus makes it possible for us to re-connect to one another with him as the head of the church. This is why we are called a church family! Are there areas of your life where you can better connect with others?

So Lego Batman is not just a movie fantasy, it’s the reality of what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross, rose to new life, and restores us to our created purpose. Life works best when we live in community with Him and with others. Through connection, we live out our life’s purpose and have an opportunity to grow. Real heroes restore relationships and community.

From self-absorbed to self-sacrificing

What does it take to save a galaxy? You might think of mighty heroes with outrageous powers, or genius warriors with superior weapons. But chances are you wouldn’t think about a group of selfish miscreants made up of an orphan, a murderer, a raccoon, and a talking tree. Yet that’s exactly what Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy gives us. A ragtag group filled with flaws responsible for stopping a wickedly powerful enemy.

Now, like every movie in our At the Movies series, Guardians has a message that echoes the Bible. We see in the New Testament another group of ragtag misfits brought together by Jesus. We call them the Disciples, and they were very much like the Guardians. A mix of people from different backgrounds, brought together for a purpose greater than themselves. And like the Guardians, we see the disciples take a very specific journey.

Read more

How Should Christians Build Relationships With Non-Believers?

Being in the world, but not of it, does not mean that we as Christ followers should isolate ourselves from people who don’t share our beliefs. Jesus spent an enormous amount of time relating to non-Jews, much to the consternation of the religious leaders of his time.

Engaging with non-believers can give us opportunities to demonstrate with our actions and our lifestyles how following Christ can make a difference in how one does life. This does not mean, however, that we engage in activities that are not Christ-honoring in order to reach out to the lost, rather, we invite them into our world and into our lives and into our church and make them a part of who we are.

The church should be a place of insulation and refuge for the lost, not a place of isolation and refuge from the lost.

How Should We Share Our Faith Without Being Preachy?

The desire to share Christ with unchurched friends can be outweighed by a fear of coming across as being too pushy or preachy. It is said that actions speak louder than words, so the life we live and the love we share can be the most effective means of opening the door to conversation.

When our relationship with Christ is evident in how we relate to others, how we date, how we handle money and disappointment, and how we do our work, others will want to know what makes us different. As we answer their questions and share the difference Christ has made in our lives, the next natural step is to invite them into a relationship with Christ as well.

Why Is There a Generational Shift in Authority and Opinion?

Young people have constant access to their friends and acquaintances through smart phones and social media. This leads to less interaction with adults.

Then, when it’s time to make a decision, there are multiple voices competing for attention, and each begins to have equal weight – regardless of whether the advice is helpful and wise.

Embrace the positive aspects of constant communication with friends, but take time to learn from generations who’ve gone before you. They have a wealth of wisdom and experience to share.