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One and Not Done: The Gift of a Second Chance - Friday

Posted on Fri, Oct 31, 2014

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Seriously. Stop and think about it for a second … your biggest mistake ever. I’m not going to make any guesses as to what that mistake might be, but I think it’s safe to assume we all have at least one event, one day, or one decision we would really like to have back. 
 
If someone were to ask the Apostle Peter, “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?” there’s little doubt what story would come to his mind. Peter’s mistake wasn’t cheating, or stealing or lying, he outright denied Jesus, the Son of God and his closest friend … and he did it on three consecutive occasions. We’ve all made mistakes. And we’ve all made big mistakes, but this ranks up there as one of biggest mistakes of all time. 
 
Sometimes it takes a while for the full weightiness of our mistake to settle in. Not for Peter. The Gospels tell us that Peter’s denials took place around a fire where people were huddled to keep warm. Three times they asked Peter if he knew Jesus. Three times Peter denied Jesus. And then immediately after Peter’s third denial we read, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord … and he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).
 
Peter was devastated and heartbroken that he had denied Jesus. And in that moment of dejection he must have been asking himself, “Is there any hope for someone like me? Is there any hope for another chance? Is there any hope that this could be redeemed and somehow used for good? And as Peter found out, the answer to every one of those questions is YES!
 
In John 21 we read that after Jesus rose from the dead, he met his disciples in Galilee. The disciples were on a boat fishing and suddenly realized there was someone on the shoreline cooking fish on an open fire. Before long they discovered the person on the shore was Jesus. As soon as they figured out who it was, Peter jumped into the water and swam to Jesus. And then around a fire, at the very place Peter denied Jesus three times, Peter was given three opportunities to confess his love for Jesus. Three times Peter rejected Christ. And three times Peter recommitted himself to Christ. 
 
Jesus is always willing to give his followers a second chance. One and not done! Because of grace, the place of our greatest fall can become the place of our greatest call. Just like with Peter around a fire, the very place where we have experienced the most hurt, the very place we have caused the most damage, can become the very place Jesus meets us to begin a redemptive work.
  • Memorize Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

One and Not Done: The Gift of a Second Chance - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Oct 30, 2014

As a teacher, it’s not uncommon for me to look out into a classroom and see blank, confused faces staring back at me. It usually happens when my subject matter is abstract or complex—like the Trinity or the Incarnation. Whenever I encounter a sea of confused faces my first thought is always, “I need an analogy!” Analogies are powerful teaching tools because they allow the student to understand a new subject based upon its relation to a familiar subject. Analogies stretch our imaginations and force us to actively generate new ideas and connections. 
 
As the ultimate teacher, God knows how powerful analogies can be. In fact, the Bible is full of analogies and metaphors that tease our minds into active thought.  Perhaps the most profound analogy in the scriptures is the marriage between Hosea and Gomer. Hosea was a prophet who lived in the eighth century BC. Even though Hosea was a holy man, God called him to marry a woman he knew would cheat on him and who would one day give birth to another man’s children. 
 
When I first heard about this story I was shocked and asked, “Why?!” Why would God call this noble man to marry such a sinful woman, to have his heart torn out again and again, and to have his reputation ruined? And then the pieces came together—it’s an analogy. Just like Hosea went into his marriage relationship with Gomer knowing she would be unfaithful, God went into his covenant relationship with us knowing we would be unfaithful. Because of his wife’s unfaithfulness, Hosea sent Gomer away, but he eventually went down to the brothel to purchase her back, and to invite her into intimacy with him again. And God has done the same for us! Our sins are like adultery that separate us from God, but God was willing to come down to earth and purchase us back so that we could live in intimacy with Him again. 
 
There’s no doubt this analogy seems extreme (not to mention exceedingly unfair to Hosea). But there’s also no doubt how powerfully it portrays God’s covenant relationship with his people. God’s people are rebellious, but even when we are faithless, God is faithful. It’s just who He is. God’s people are sinful, and our sin breaks his heart, but even in the midst of our adultery, God comes to us and offers us both forgiveness and an invitation to intimacy with Him. 
 
God is the great redeemer. He is the great forgiver. There’s nothing you have done or could do that could change his love for you. 
 
If God’s love ever becomes too theoretical or too abstract for you, press pause, think about Hosea and Gomer, and slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together. Yes! That’s how great His love truly is. 
  • Memorize Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

One and Not Done: The Gift of a Second Chance - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Oct 29, 2014

We all know what it is like to make a mistake and get caught. We also all know what it is like to make a mistake and not get caught. Somehow or another, certain things just get swept under the rug and forgotten about. When our mistakes are kept secret there is rarely ever change in our lives.  But when our mistakes are exposed -- when we are exposed -- a window of grace is opened that creates nearly unparalleled opportunities for transformation. That’s what happened in the life of King David. 
 
David was once a humble shepherd boy. But after becoming king, pride and power went to his head. David began to think he was invincible. He began to think he could get away with anything. He began to think his actions wouldn’t have consequences. Have you ever found yourself in a position like that?
 
As you may know, David decided to sleep with another man’s wife. The result of the affair was an unexpected child, and in order to preserve his own reputation, David had the woman’s husband killed in battle. In a few short months David tarnished a marriage, split a family and took another man’s life … and he thought he got away with it. 
 
Eventually David’s sins were exposed. When everything was finally uncovered, David cried out to the Lord and said, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin….Create in my a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:1-2, 10).
 
And do you know what happened? God answered David’s prayer! In spite of everything David did, God gave David a second chance. God offered David forgiveness and grace. And not only was David forgiven, David was changed. He became a different man, a better man. 
  • What does all this tell us? No one is too far gone! No one has committed too many sins for God to forgive. 
  • If there is any sin in your life that has been swept under the rug, decide today to bring it out into the open. Confess your sins, and seize this window of opportunity not just to be forgiven, but to be transformed. 
  • Memorize Lamentations 3:22-23“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

One and Not Done: The Gift of a Second Chance - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

Sometimes in life you don’t just need a second chance or a third chance, it feels like you need 1,000 chances. That was the case for a guy in the Bible named Jacob, whose entire life was marked by one mistake after another after another. Here’s a highlight reel from the book of Genesis:
 
Jacob was less adventurous and entrepreneurial than his brother (25:27).
 
Jacob conned his brother out of his birthright (25:32).
 
Jacob deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing (27:5-29).
 
Jacob ran away from home because his brother planned to kill him (27:41).
 
Jacob married two women, and then added two concubines to his family (29:15-24).
 
Jacob cheated his employer out of the best livestock (30:25-43).
 
Jacob’s sons destroyed an entire city, killing all the men, kidnapping all the women and children, and stealing all the property (34:13-30).
 
It’s one thing to accept God’s forgiveness for the comparatively minor mistakes we make—white lies, traffic violations, and errors that come from immaturity or ignorance. But it can be much harder to accept God’s forgiveness for major sins—addiction, adultery, divorce, abuse, malicious deceit—the type of sins that can trainwreck not only your own life, but also the lives of those we love most. That’s why looking to Jacob’s story can be so helpful.  
 
Jacob’s entire life was riddled with mistakes. He took wrong turns all along the way. Jacob was a liar and a cheater who repeatedly robbed from his own family. He deceived everyone he knew. But nevertheless, God still showed him grace and kindness, still made a covenant with him, still brought salvation into his household and even used his family to bring Jesus into the world. 
 
What an unlikely candidate! And that point of it all? It’s all about grace!
 
When we look to Jacob’s story we realize that even if our life is marked by major mistakes, even if our sins have torn apart families and caused more damage than words will ever be able to describe, God is still able to forgive us, redeem us and use us. 
 
Our mistakes, no matter how small or how large, do not disqualify us from receiving God’s grace. No matter where you are at, no matter what harm you have caused, God’s grace is great enough for you. God desires to give you a second chance, a third chance, a 1000th chance. Will you accept his offer?
  • Memorize Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

One and Not Done: The Gift of a Second Chance - Monday

Posted on Mon, Oct 27, 2014

Aren’t you thankful for second chances? When I was a kid and my mom asked me a question, sometimes I would lie. Most of the time my mom knew what I was up to, and she would occasionally say, “Dan, do you want a second chance to answer that question?” My life was always better when I took her up on her offer!
 
During my junior year of high school, my english teacher (Mrs. Boldin), passed out a test so hard that literally every student got an “F.” Luckily, instead of leaving us all with failing grades, Mrs. Boldin asked the class if we wanted another chance. We took the test again, and we did better the second time. 
 
Everyone loves being given a second chance. And thankfully, second chances aren’t just for little kids and high school students, second chances are for everyone. 
 
In God’s grace, he gives us all second chances. Look at what the Bible says in Psalm 103:10“He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.”
 
Because God loves us and is gracious toward us, he does not treat us as we deserve. Instead, when we make mistakes, he offers us forgiveness and a second chance. As A.W. Tozer famously said, “God has placed a padlock on his anger and a hair-trigger on his mercy.” 
 
Because of God’s grace, our story is not “One and done,” but “One and not done.” Our mistakes don’t have to disqualify us. Our mistakes don't have to have the final word. God is always asking, “Do you want another chance?” As it says in Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  • Think of one specific area in your life right now where you need a second chance. Why not ask God for forgiveness in that area and commit to moving forward in his strength? Take a moment today to thank God for his forgiveness and grace. 
  • Memorize Lamentations 3:22-23 this week: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Dan Hamel
Teaching Pastor

Jesus Prom: Reverberate - Friday

Posted on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 
 
Ever been in a job interview and they ask about your weaknesses? Why is this such a difficult question? Our pride gets in the way. We’re worried that if we share too much they’ll think poorly of us. Or if we share too little it will appear we haven’t got much self awareness. Maybe you’ve given the standard responses like, “I like my work too much,” or, “I care for people too much,” or, “I tend to want to be at work too long,” or, “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” In one interview, in a minor rebellion against this silly tendency I’ve observed in others, I actually answered this question with, “My golf swing!” They laughed and moved on past this difficult question and proceeded with the interview. 
 
Speaking of difficult questions, try this one on for size: What is your biggest need right now? Could you answer that one quickly? So often I find it takes people a long time to acknowledge their need and then share it with God and someone people they trust. Maybe you, like me, have struggled for a long season with a need and then finally said the words, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray about it…” I sat today and prayed with a person whose life was shattered. The circumstances don’t matter. You might have been there before. You can’t get your breath. You can’t form words. The tears won’t stop. But… a touch from Jesus changes everything. As they shared and we spoke, as we prayed, Jesus’ peace covered over the situation and, before circumstances even started to change, it was just a little better. That touch from Christ reverberates through your body, your mind, your soul. The touch of Christ makes a difference you couldn’t have asked for or imagined. He loves you, and knows how to care for you.
  • Will you reach out, even tentatively and with as much or as little faith as you can muster, and ask Jesus for His touch today? It may reverberate through your life in the form of peace, contentment, maybe even joy. Whatever the case, remember: You don’t have to impress Him to come to Him—He welcomes you in the midst of all the need, pain, anxiety that life can throw at you.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Jesus Prom: Reverberate - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
 
Ever waited for healing and it didn’t come fast enough? I’ve been dealing with a condition for about 10 weeks now. iPhone Elbow. That’s the new name for the malady previously known as Tennis Elbow. Lateral Epicondylitis if we want to stick with medical terms. How does one pick up iPhone elbow? Well… texting. And texting. And texting. And playing a maddeningly addictive game on your phone. And texting some more. 
 
At first I thought I’d somehow whacked my elbow on the corner of a doorway and simply forgotten about it. But the same sensation continued daily even after I started paying specific attention to the trajectory of my elbows. After a few weeks of wishing it would go away, I began to pray it would get better. Then I asked others to pray for me. Those who prayed kept including this little phrase in their prayer: “If he needs to see a doctor, lead him to the right one.” Every single one of them prayed this way. I was thinking, “No! Just ask God to heal it! That’s what I want!” But finally, two weeks ago, I went to the doctor. Then connected with a great physical therapist. And now I’m slowly on the mend. I’m told I’ll be well in another four to six weeks. So, while the pain still lingers, I am on the mend. 
 
Sometimes it still hurts while we’re pushing forward faithfully to love and serve and live as God would desire. The reverberation we feel right now makes it difficult to journey onward. But Hebrews 12:12 challenges and encourages us to take a new grip with our tired hands and strengthen our weak knees. The message: Keep going. God has a plan. He is already answering your prayers. The way it plays out may look different from your version of the plan, but you can be assured He will see you through until the reverberation moves from pain to healing to wholeness to joy.
  • What are you waiting for God to do in or around you? Don’t stop asking and eagerly anticipating His response. He loves you and wants to care for you.
  • He knows all your needs and will give you everything you need from day to day as you live for Him. So don’t be impatient for the Lord to act. Travel steadily on His path. He’ll meet every need in time.

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Jesus Prom: Reverberate - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Oct 22, 2014

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
 
As a kid, I was downright awful at any sport that involved a ball. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer -- I played them all. Just not very well. But one thing happened time after time: After practice we would run laps and I would finish way ahead of the rest of the gaggle. I finally took hint and joined the track team. 
 
Within the first year I found myself competing at the High School European Championships, running the anchor leg of the Sprint Medley relay for Fulda High School. This relay included two legs of two-hundred meters, a four-hundred meter segment, and the final eight-hundred meter portion which was my turn to carry the baton. As I stepped up to the line for the final stint, we were in the lead, just ahead of the second place team from Frankfurt (Germany) High School. As I hit the home stretch for the last hundred meters of my half-mile portion of the relay, I could hear the footfalls of a runner just behind me. At that moment the stands erupted with the sound of people chanting, “Kick! Kick! Kick!” ...which every runner knows is encouragement to pick up your knees, extend your stride, and quicken the turnover for a final sprint to the wire. I was powerfully lifted up by this chant. The crowd was on my side! I could do this! I could WIN this gold medal for the team! The adrenaline rush moved from my heart to my legs and I held the lead to take the victory. I was excited to say the least. But then I learned the name of the relay runner who was on my tail. Kit Corbett. They weren’t cheering for me. They were chanting, “Kit! Kit! Kit!” I melted with relief that I hadn’t understood what they were saying. 
 
Sometimes we hear what we want to hear. But sometimes God knows how to take even what little we do understand and turn it into something even more amazing as He clarifies what He’s doing and saying as we respond to Him in faith. Hearing is just the beginning of understanding. Our response to God’s voice is critical. He knows what He’s doing. He knows how to lead us to the finish line.
  • If God was saying something through the circumstances, situations, people, or preaching you’ve come across recently, what would it be?
  • Will you move forward with what you do understand, trusting the God who is able to turn all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for their lives?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Jesus Prom: Reverberate - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

...let your good deeds shine out for all to see...
 
One Thursday evening, as I managed a retail store in Virginia, I was looking forward to the weekend of traveling to see the family and friends we’d left behind in Kentucky after our most recent relocation. I just had to work the next day until 5pm to get one last shift in for the week. Around 10 pm on Thursday, when I should have been heading home for the night, a brilliant idea hit me: I could go ahead and work my final eight hour shift of the week right then… work through the night into Friday morning, head home at 6am, and sleep in the car while Sara drove northward on I-77. At 10 pm this sounded like a great idea. At 6 o’clock in the morning, it no longer held its appeal. In fact, I realized it was downright dangerous. I fought to stay awake on that 45-minute drive home. I opened the car window on that near-freezing morning, held my eyes open, pinched myself. At one point, however, I realized that it might all be for naught… with my eyes wide open, all normal sights and sounds of the road in play, the tanker truck in front of me morphed into the backside of an elephant lumbering down the road ahead of me. What?! At that moment, the realization I was hallucinating released an adrenaline rush that woke me sufficiently for the last few miles of the drive home.
 
Sometimes our vision gets blurry. Sometimes it gets muddled. Sometimes it outright plays tricks on us. But sometimes God gives us a vision for how life could be if we’d just take Him at His word. He can provide vision even when we cannot yet see. When I finally arrived safely home, it would have been sheer madness for me to insist that I drive down the highway toward Kentucky instead of my bride. My vision was failing me, even with eyes wide open. In the same way, how can you stop and rest your tired eyes when they lose sight of what could be when you watch God show you the way and let His amazing work in and through you shine out for all to see?
  • For the reverberation to happen, it must be empowered by God. It must be brought to life by the One who can take what we have to offer and make it shine brightly in a way that gives Him glory.
  • How can you release the pressure to try to impress others for God and let God do the heavy-lifting and help others see Himself through your life instead?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Jesus Prom: Reverberate - Monday

Posted on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
 
Our senses are such a gift. Tasting food. Seeing beauty. Holding your loved ones. Hearing a melody or rhythm. Smelling a lilac in full bloom. Sometimes our senses can backfire, though. I had a friend who worked at Bath and Body Works who shared such a moment. She saw a customer holding a bar of soap, translucent with orange slices you could see inside, that smelled of the lovely citrus fruit. She looked away to help another customer and then looked back to see the first customer spewing something into the sink, while the soap bar setting next to the sink now had a huge bite mark out of one corner. It looks and smelled like something nice… but the taste revealed its true nature. 
 
This week we’re looking for the real deal. The sights, sounds, flavors of a life lived passionately. Reverberation. Resonance. Responsiveness. It’s all about movement. Of sound waves, of light waves, of nerves and synapses. Hearing, sight, taste, touch, smell… all depend on reverberation. I love how God engages our senses. He does it every day. Go through this week with eyes and ears and heart wide open to His reverberation.
 
Ever wanted to taste a good smelling soap? Me either. Our senses don’t fool many of us there. But our senses can be hindered by illness or injury. Sometimes this is true spiritually as well. How do you know your spiritual senses are working properly? First we must know what the real thing looks like, feels like, etc. Then we use God-given discernment and wisdom. Have you been paying attention to these senses from the Lord? How do you need to bring them into play in your daily life? As we launch into a new week, are your eyes open for the moments of movement and reverberation? Of taking a step, moving forward -- with an idea, a daring risk, a word spoken without fear -- and seeing the way the reverberation impacts the senses of others? We’re in it together this week.
  • Take a second and think about it: what can you do that engages more than one sense at the same time? More than three at once? How about all of your senses?
  • Try this progression to hear, process and respond to what God is up to inside your heart or around you: Reverberation—What is Jesus saying to you today? Resonance—How does it sound to your friend, family member or Life Group? Responsiveness—When will you put it into play in your life, your marriage, your family, your workplace, your school?

Will Briggs
Care Pastor

Jesus Prom: Adverbs - Friday

Posted on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

As Jesus Followers, we’re called to serve, to give and to love. And we’re called to do these things to the greatest extent
 
That’s why we’ve made it our churchwide mission at Southland to live out a revolution of love - God’s unfailing and extravagant love. And that’s also why we’ve chosen to more specifically articulate this mission through four simple statements, which we call expressions. 
 
Just in case you’re new around here, or haven’t quite caught them all, here they are:
  1. We relentlessly pursue a transforming relationship with God.
  2. We sacrificially serve our families.
  3. We radically invest in the next generation.
  4. We generously extend hope to the poor.
These statements are not intended to simply sound extreme. They are extreme. And appropriately so. The God of all the universe has chosen to dwell in our very beings. We’ve got a mission and a purpose that even the strongest words can only begin to articulate.
 
Jesus-followers, who are passionately seeking Jesus and His Kingdom, will inevitably be perceived, if not accused, at some point of being “too much” of something. Too radical. Too extreme. Too naive. It should be expected. The ways of the world and the ways of the Kingdom stand in opposition to one another.
 
But whatever is said of us, let one thing be more true of us than any other. That we are known by our extravagant love.
 
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
 
Oswald Chambers once wrote this:
“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, 'Come,' then He will continue to say, 'Come,' through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s 'Come.' That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.”

Katie Bodager
Life Groups Administrative Assistant

Jesus Prom: Adverbs - Thursday

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

A few months ago, I heard a story about a missionary in Mozambique. The local people call this missionary Mama Aida, and for about the last 20 years, she’s been serving the poor in Mozambique (along with her family). She feels called to welcome the sick, the hungry, the lost, the broken, the abused and the forgotten into the Kingdom and the family of God. 
 
Most every weekend, Mama Aida throws a slumber party of sorts for a dozen or so of the children she’s most recently welcomed into the family. They are children who have been abused, abandoned, and often left for dead. As you can imagine, these children bring all kinds of challenges and struggles with them. And stealing is one of them. Many of the children have developed this habit simply as a means of survival.
 
One would think that with such an awareness of things, Mama Aida would keep her valuables locked safely away when the children come over to stay. And my guess is that in some cases this is true. But on most occasions, she chooses to do just the opposite. She leaves her purse in plain view.
 
And she allows her money to be “stolen.”
 
Recently, I heard her explain this (far from conventional) approach in a documentary. She described the transformation that occurred in one particular teenage boy, as he took from her purse month after month - and she persistently responded in love, time and time again. She didn’t allow fear to change her focus, and she didn’t hide her belongings. And over a period of many months, the Holy Spirit brought healing to his heart and renewal to his mind. 
 
And love won.
 
The lavish love of God, expressed through the words and actions of Mama Aida and many others, overwhelmed this young man’s fear and freed him from his compulsion to steal. He confessed all he had done to her, and he hasn’t stolen since. He’s surely not free from struggle, but knows he’s loved now. And he’s free to love others.
 
1 John 4:18-19 says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.
 
I’m not suggesting we all leave our purses out for the taking. We need to lean into the wisdom of God in every situation. But this story challenged me -- and I hope it challenges you -- to consider how wildly, how recklessly, and to what extent I desire to see others experience the love of God.
 
Mama Aida is far more desperate to see others encounter the love of Father God than she is to protect her own belongings, her own time, or her own selfish desires. I’m confident that God desires the same of us. 
  • If you feel led, I invite you to pray this simple prayer with me: Father, free me from any fear that hinders me from loving others with reckless abandon. Bring healing and wholeness to my mind and my heart, so that I can pour my life out completely for you and for the children you long to draw near to your heart. 

Katie Bodager
Life Groups Administrative Assistant

Jesus Prom: Adverbs - Wednesday

Posted on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I often wonder how God sees money. On the one hand, it would seem that as the Sovereign God over all of creation, He might chuckle at our paper trading game. Hundreds of kinds of currency, electronic banking, safety deposit boxes. One would think it would all seem a bit ludicrous to the King of all Kings. And maybe, on some level, it does. 
 
But one thing is for certain. God cares about how we steward what we’re given. He insists that if we are truly His people, we will share what we have with others in need (1 John 3:16-18). 
 
The problem is that it’s not human nature. And it’s surely not the American way. We want to have plenty for today, plenty for tomorrow, and plenty for every year that follows. Right now.
 
Most Christians have heard statistics about the frequency with which finances are mentioned in the Bible. And most of us are also well aware of how outrageously wealthy we Americans are when compared to the rest of the world. Then why do we, as the American church (as a whole), continue to give so very little? Why do we continue to give reluctantly, rather than cheerfully and sacrificially?
 
There are lots of reasons we could list as possibilities: fear, perceived needs, failure to prioritize. But I think there’s one reason that underlies all the rest. And here it is: We don’t know how very good, protective, loving and generous our Father was, is and forever will be. 
 
But in this passage, we’re introduced to a woman who did:
 
And He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44
 
She simply trusted her Father.
 
If every person at Southland decided to give and, even more importantly, live this way, we could change the world in ways beyond our imagination. 
 
As the holidays approach, my family will be reassessing our finances again. We’ll be asking God what He would have us do with all that He’s given to us. Will you do the same? He’s not concerned about the amount you give. But He cares deeply about the extent to which you give.

Katie Bodager
Life Groups Administrative Assistant

Jesus Prom: Adverbs - Tuesday

Posted on Tue, Oct 14, 2014

We’d all agree that as followers of Jesus, we’re called to serve others. Our desire is to look like Jesus, and we all know that He was the servant of all. 
 
But if we were absolutely honest with one another, I think many of us might also agree that, at times, serving can feel more like a “have to” than a “get to.” If we don’t bail out altogether, we may very well find ourselves drudgingly carrying out a “duty,” rather than faithfully fulfilling a calling. And while commitment is surely a good and healthy thing, I’m convinced that God desires to see His people do more than just serve out of duty. He calls us to serve out of a full and thankful heart. He calls us to serve joyfully. It’s the life for which we were designed.
 
Colossians 1:11-14 says this: We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. 
 
There are moments, days and even seasons when you and I find ourselves in the desert. These times may come as a result of our own choices or the choices of others, but regardless of how they come, they can feel downright “unendurable.” During these times, the enemy is scheming to derail us from our true identities and rob of us of everything God desires for our lives. He knows that if he can render us feeling helpless, we’re only one step away from feeling hopeless.
 
But Scripture tells us time and time again that there’s another option. I love how the Message version translates this God-given overcoming power. It’s “Glory-strength,” a “strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy.” It’s a strength that is inseparably intertwined with gratitude, a thankfulness for the bright and beautiful life to which we have been called to live.
 
I pray you stick it out over the long haul. Whether you’re thriving or struggling right now, He has made a way for you. You don’t need to grit your teeth in order to become a joyful servant. You need “glory-strength.” 
  • If you’re lacking that today, ask your loving Father. He wants to make you strong, and He’s more than able to do it.

Katie Bodager
Life Groups Administrative Assistant

Jesus Prom: Adverbs - Monday

Posted on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

Deuteronomy 6:5
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love Him with all that’s in you, love Him with all you’ve got!

Adverbs modify. They tell us how, in what way, when, where, or to what extent. Adverbs bring fullness to the words they help us describe. They bring distinction.

This past week, our family of six headed to the beach. After 10 hours in the car, you can imagine how happy we all were when we finally got out of our van and headed toward the sand and sea.

It wasn’t the first time our kids had seen the ocean, but it very well could have been by the looks of sheer delight on their faces. It was joy unspeakable. They didn’t just mosey on out to the water. They freely ran. Eagerly ran. Breathlessly ran. And they squealed. They intensely dug in the sand, joyously splashed in the waves, and vigorously ran after the seagulls. They were fully and passionately engaged in the moment.

And I found myself praying… Lord, help me to live that zealously, and even more so, for you.

If you’re reading these devotionals, my guess is that you love God. And it’s also likely that you love people. But let me ask you a question that I’m also posing to myself this week. If you were to use an adverb to describe “how, in what way, or to what extent” you love God and love people, which one(s) would be most fitting and true?

Wholeheartedly? Unashamedly? Fiercely? Lavishly? Joyfully? Sacrificially? Recklessly?

If not, I pray that the Holy Spirit will, in this very moment, awaken your heart to the “more” He has for you. Jesus wants more for your life. He wants you to know more of Him. He wants to lavish His love on you. And he wants you to go about your life - lavishly, joyfully, and sacrificially pouring that love out on others.

This week, we’ll be taking a look at a few important verbs that are crucial to the lives of Jesus followers. And we’ll be looking even more specifically at some important adverbs that are meant to accompany them. But for now, I want to leave you with this verse.

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

  • Do you desire a heart fully committed to Him? If so, maybe today is the day you tell Him so.

Katie Bodager
Life Groups Administrative Assistant


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