Danny’s Definition of Success

Helping put together a church service for a group of inmates was a big “get off the couch and do something” moment for Danny. When he did, he got to see what happens when you follow where the Holy Spirit leads.

Danny was accustomed to the big stage, the lights, top notch equipment, and a mass of fans, but a small worship service with these inmates changed his view of success. He saw people who had no “stuff,” but they knew they had the most important thing, a relationship with Jesus Christ. And to Danny, that just made sense. That success is knowing who we are in Christ.

Danny’s Faith Story

Danny had everything he’d sought after in life — he was a great guitarist in a well-loved band, went to parties every night, had a girlfriend, and even a baby girl. But then that baby girl grew up. She saw her dad and was concerned with where he would be spending eternity. That concern from his daughter was a turning point for Danny.

Through a series of conversations with Pastor Kevin and worship pastor, Chris Morgan, Danny decided to take the leap. To forget what he thought were the “good things” in life, and say, “Yes.”

Day 2: Tired of Feeling Misunderstood?

Read: 1 Peter 3:1-8

Remember back before you were married. What did you think it would be like?

We enter into marriage with expectations of the roles we’ll play and the kind of spouse our boyfriend or girlfriend will be. But what happens when life doesn’t turn out that way? Maybe you wish your husband was more involved with the kids or that your wife wasn’t so bossy.

For many couples, marriage looks more like a TV sitcom than the romantic comedy we dreamed about. He tries hard but he still feels like he’s the punchline of a joke, instead of her knight in shining armor. When she speaks she cringes because her voice sounds more like the nagging, wicked stepmother than the princess at the ball.

In the Bible, God shows us a picture of marriage unlike anything we see on TV. Couples are called to mutual submission, honoring each other’s strengths and showing grace for each other’s weaknesses. Rather than competing with each other, they support one another’s desires and dreams.

When Peter calls women the “weaker” partners, he’s not saying they are morally or intellectually inferior. He’s calling men to protect, respect, and serve their wives, to see them as partners in a culture where women were especially vulnerable to attack or abuse.

To women, Peter says, “do not give way to fear” (1 Peter 3:6). The fear that he’ll leave, or drop the ball, or do something wrong will always lead us to the most controlling versions of ourselves. To cultivate “a gentle and quiet spirit” takes courage. The courage to be vulnerable with your spouse, to listen when the Holy Spirit says, “Hold your tongue,” and to trust God to bring change in His time and His way.

Marriage in the Bible is a picture of mutual submission. Submission is a scary word in our modern world. But submission in the Bible is not abusive or domineering. It’s both partners willingly putting the other first out of love and respect for God and each other. It’s choosing to be united rather than being right.

Questions for him:

  • Would your wife describe you as understanding?
  • What’s one thing you could do to try to better understand her point of view?

Questions for her:

  • How much time do you spend focused on how things look rather than how things really are?
  • What’s one thing your husband complains about regularly? How could you take a step to change that thing today?

Questions to talk about together:

  • How is your marriage different than you thought it would be?
  • Ask each other, “What’s one way I could be a better spouse to you?”

Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 5: Who’s really out to get you?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Does it ever feel like the whole world is out to get you? 

While that feeling is real, it’s probably not true. Not everyone is out to get us. It’s more likely that one person is out to get us, and his name is Satan.

Satan is our real enemy, and he will exploit any hostility he finds to shift our focus away from God. If we get in a dispute with a neighbor, his is the voice telling us that everyone knows and they’re all on the neighbor’s side. Soon, we’re convinced the whole neighborhood is against us.

Bitterness builds resentment and makes it harder and harder to hear from God. This is why forgiveness is such a powerful weapon against our enemy. Where the enemy tells us to watch our backs and defend ourselves, God says, “That’s my job. You get to forgive. Leave everything else to me.”

Imagine that for a second. No more looking over our shoulders or plotting how we’ll get back at everyone. Instead of waking up exhausted, we can finally rest our mind and enjoy the day.

Bitterness never hurts the person we’re mad at. In fact, the person most affected by our bitterness is probably us. Allow forgiveness to set you free.


Article courtesy of NewSpring Church

Day 6: What do I do when someone hurts me?

Read: Luke 6:27-36

Even Christians can experience rage. Your body shakes. The heat rises to your cheeks. Your mind can’t comprehend how someone could mistreat someone so badly. You’re seething as you think, “How could they?”

A reality of being a human on planet Earth is that someone, someday, in some way will hurt you. When that happens, what should our response be?

Jesus gives us an answer in Luke 6:27-36. Love people, even when they are not lovable, even when you don’t want to. Give grace, be merciful.

No one knows more about loving people who don’t deserve it than Jesus. No one else can sympathize with you more than Jesus. He was hurt, made fun of, and talked about. Yet, He was willing to die for those who hurt him.

Our goal as Christians is to mirror what Jesus’ response was. Jesus knows all the unlovable people in your life, and He can equip you to love them the way He does.

The best way to begin changing our hearts toward someone is to pray for them (Luke 6:28). Be honest with God about your frustrations. Talk to Him about how hard it is to love that person, and see how God starts to transform your heart and mind.

It’s easy to respond to pain with pain. But only love will lead to healing. The more we love those who hurt us, the more our hearts are opened to letting Jesus heal our pain. Jesus is able to understand your pain, turn your heart toward forgiveness, and help you love. That’s what the grace of Jesus does.

Loving your enemies won’t be easy. It takes an effort to offer mercy as Jesus did, but He promises the reward is worth the work (Luke 6:35). If we will try to forgive and love, we will start to see our hearts soften. Give your hurt to Jesus day after day, and watch how He grows your heart.

Reflect:

  • Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive?
  • Do you need help loving a specific person? Ask God for help and how He would have you respond to that person. 

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 7: Are You Doing Enough?

You’re serving at church, volunteering with local charities, and helping at school. Every second of the day is accounted for, yet so much is left undone. Your days are long, and your body is exhausted. At the end of the day, you wonder, “When will it be enough?”

It’s overwhelming to look at a hurt and broken world. Too often, we see all the needs at once. We want to love others, but in our striving, we leave ourselves burned out and too busy to hear from God.

In Matthew 22, Jesus reminds the religious elite (and all those listening) to make the main thing the main thing. If we’ll focus on loving God and loving our neighbors, it will result in us fulfilling God’s commands.

We don’t have to end world hunger in an afternoon or heal every broken heart in one day. Instead, Jesus says the most important thing we can do is to love Him and love others. That’s our charge.

So rather than getting overwhelmed by all that we can’t do, we start with what we can do. Loving our neighbors can be as simple as cooking an extra lasagna to bring to the new mom next door or the widow across the street.

When we are loving God with our heart, soul, and mind, we are more in tune with His Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is a helper and a guide. We can trust the Holy Spirit to show us opportunities to love people one at a time.

That’s how we make a difference — not by running down a list or striving to hold everything together. We change the world by loving God and showing visible love where He tells us to.

Reflect:

  • Why do you think Jesus put the emphasis on loving God and others instead of following all the laws? 
  • Is there a big need you feel overwhelmed by? 
  • What is one thing small thing you could do to meet that need today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 8: It’s Time To Move Past Your Shame

Read: Nehemiah 8

The people wept over how far they had walked away from God. Then Ezra, a teacher of the law, and Nehemiah, the governor, told them to move past their guilt and shame. Nehemiah and Ezra weren’t giving the people permission to sin. Instead, they were redirecting the people’s attention: Stop focusing on how bad we are, and start focusing on how great God is. Nothing could undo the past. The people’s hearts were repentant, and it was time to move on.

Realizing we’ve sinned causes a specific kind of sorrow called conviction. The good news for every believer is that Jesus made it possible to move past this grief. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Once we’ve confessed our sin to Jesus and repented, it’s time to stop grieving. We may not feel forgiven immediately, but we are. When Jesus forgives us, we are truly forgiven.

General feelings of worthlessness and shame are not the same as conviction, and these feelings are not from God. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When we trust that Jesus’ payment was enough, we receive abundant and everlasting grace.

Jesus really does love and forgive us. To be a difference maker, we must operate in Jesus’ strength, choosing His grace over our shame.

Consider This:

How would it change your week to focus on God’s goodness rather than your past?

Pray:

Jesus, show me anything that displeases you. Help me realize I am no longer condemned.


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 9: God’s Not Scared Of Your Mess

Read: Nehemiah 9

How do you picture God? Is He angry, vengefully looking to punish your next mistake?

That’s a different god than the God Nehemiah describes. God rescued the Israelites from slavery by parting the Red Sea and leading them to the promised land. When they were hungry, God rained down bread from heaven. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. God provided for Israel at every turn.

You would think Israel would be forever grateful. But instead, Nehemiah describes them as entitled and arrogant. They failed to obey commands and forgot the miracles God performed among them. God had every right to punish Israel, but instead, He showed them grace. Though there were consequences for their sin, God never abandoned them. He relentlessly pursued them with compassion, love, and protection. That’s the kind of father God is.

Israel’s story is our story. Even when we are sinful, God pursues us, acting justly and faithfully, even when we do wrong. God is not scared of our mess. He meets us right in the middle of it.

Nehemiah thanks God for His mercy despite the Israelites’ sin. And hundreds of years later, God sends the greatest difference maker of all in Jesus. God chose these people with their messy past to introduce the Savior of the world to the world. He truly is a gracious God! In light of all God has done, the only response is gratitude.

Consider This:

How does looking at your current situation through the lens of God’s grace change your perspective?

Pray:

Jesus, here’s how You’ve been good to me… (List the ways.)


Article courtesy of NewSpring

Jesus Wants You to Get Over Yourself

Sin makes us self-centered, and many of us build entire lives around getting what we want. But when asked about Jesus’s teachings, He said the most important truths were “to love God and love others.” (Mark 12:30-31) And this requires us to “die to self.” (Put ourselves last.)

Our lives take on new meaning when we live in self-sacrifice and according to God’s instruction through the Bible. We no longer consider what we want first (our selfish desires); we consider what other’s need first and how we can serve them just as Jesus would.

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.

Lie: God’s Love Must Be Earned

There are many lies we believe about God. One of the most fundamental lies is that we can somehow earn God’s love by being “good enough.” Generations of people come out of church with that lie. Or stay in church with that lie. Or stay distant from God with that lie. It’s destructive and heartbreaking. Because we can never be “good enough.”

Jesus died for us while we were sinners. He was the perfect one, and He paid our sin debt. God knew we could never do it on our own. That was God’s extraordinary plan all along.

The Capability of God’s Voice Is Restoration

Sometimes we’ve wandered so far and sinned so much that we start to believe God would never want anything to do with us. We stamp “unforgivable” across our foreheads and hang our heads in shame. But Jesus wants to write “redeemed” across our hearts! Our lives can be forever changed and our relationship with God forever restored if we would simply turn to Him and ask.

We’re Designed to Hear God

Perhaps one of the most intimate and endearing titles for Jesus in all of the Bible is that of “Shepherd.” As it pertains to our relationship with our God, we were designed to be like sheep — because sheep need a shepherd to guide them, or the sheep will become lost.

The problem with hearing God’s voice is all the distractions in our lives — all the voices and noise — that compete for our attention. We often need to be still and silent to hear Him best.

Sheep will always recognize their Shepherd’s voice. And so will we.

What Do You Say to Someone Who’s Losing Valuable Time in Prayer?

There are various ways to pray, but confession is always an important component. Pastor Kevin offers an acronym as a guide: P.R.A.Y. (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) Start with a posture of praise. Then approach God with a clean heart through repentance so that nothing stands in the way. Ask God to grant a request, and then yield to His will for whatever outcome He chooses.

What’s Better Than Forgiveness From Sin?

In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation, in this instance, means trials that would lead us to fall prey to Satan’s schemes and cause us to sin.

We should pray daily so that God would help us not to become so undone by our challenges that we would believe the lies of the enemy.

How Pastor Kevin Forgave His Dad

Pastor Kevin shares how he managed to forgive his father, from whom he’s been estranged since age 17. He discusses the three words that helped him process the loss: bitterness, forgiveness, and sadness. The forgiveness removed the bitterness, but it did not remove the sadness of what could have been.

We Need a Shepherd for Eternity

Our physical bodies will die, but our spirits will live on forever. And hard as we may try, we can’t make it to heaven on our own. It doesn’t matter whether we’re good people who do good works every single day of our lives. We need Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to lead us into heaven. Take hold of the rescuing hand of Jesus to spend eternity in heaven.

 

Understanding the Debt Jesus Paid

The idea of being rescued from our financial debt is thrilling. We can imagine how freed up we would feel! The reason we don’t get as excited about Jesus, and His sacrifice for our sin debt, is because we don’t really understand it. It pales in comparison when we measure our financial debt against our sin debt – and Jesus’s offer to “pay it all.” What Jesus did is rescue us for eternity!

Easter isn’t about bunnies, eggs, and baskets. Easter is about eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Has Already Won

We lose perspective when we lose sight of the promises of God. One promise we can forget is that Jesus has already paid the cost for sin.

God has already given us victory! So we persevere in our faith through adversity because we are saved.

Since Jesus has already won the battles, our new perspective towards adversity should be: “God, what are you trying to build in me?” not “Why is this happening to me?

Guiding a Family to Solve Conflict

We can resolve conflict in family by following the guidelines God models for us:

  • There is righteousness: Discuss and determine what is right, not who is right.
  • There is unrighteousness: Acknowledge what is wrong.
  • Someone has to repent: Apologize and return to what is righteous.
  • Someone has to forgive: Absorb the loss and restore the relationship.

When we let the peace of God reign, there will still be conflict, but now we have way to solve it.

Solving Conflict Within Marriage

In Ephesians 5:21-28, Paul gives a framework for marriage to work. This structure helps two people cooperate because Christ is ruling their life!

First they must let God’s peace rule in our hearts, then they are able to have a mutual respect and love for each other. Through this a married couple gains a better way of resolving conflict in marriage.

Keep Battling What Beats You

Humble yourself, get past your pride.

There are places we are vulnerable to peer pressure and signature sins. It’s only when we let God transform those innermost places that we can be defeat what beats us.

A temporary “feel good” fix (like alcoholism, addiction, drugs, pornography, etc…) only starts to make us loathe who we are. Beyond getting over our pride, we have to keep battling what breaks and beats us. This is only done by letting God battle with us.

Blind to Yourself, Deaf to God

A critical spirit will kill any relationship. When you judge others, it’s likely because you’ve become blind to yourself and deaf to God. This means you dismiss what you’re doing wrong and then you magnify the faults of others.

Pray and ask God to help you see things more clearly and tell Him you long to hear from Him. Then, silence the critical spirit inside you.

 

Does Jesus Raise the Bar?

The Pharisees raised the bar God set for righteousness, and the world removes the bar completely. The world removes the bar by allowing everyone to simply decide for themselves how they should live; there’s no right and wrong.

Jesus came to lift us over the bar. He didn’t come to condemn the world. He came to save it! But if you dismiss Jesus, you condemn yourself.