Post Category: The Connect Devotional

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Us Birds

I (the Lord) will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches (Ezekiel 17:23b). Twenty birds were perched on a telephone wire. One of them was shot. How many birds remained on the wire? None. (Since the remaining nineteen were instantly up in the air.) ...

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"Family Meeting"

Ezekiel 17:22-24 We're not starting a new sermon series this week; instead, we're looking forward to a "family meeting" this coming Sunday. Alex and Jaime will host a "vision refresh"a chance to catch our breaths, remember who we are in Christ, and revisit what our King is calling us to be and to do as Chatham Community Church. The text for this coming Sunday is Ezekiel ...

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What Happened First

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-34). What happened first? What...

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I Have Christ, What Want I More?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does theLordrequire of you?To act justlyand to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God (Micah 6:8). All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessionswas their own, but they shared everything they had.With great power the apostles continued to testifyto the resurrectionof the Lor...

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It Doesn't Happen "Naturally"

Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need There were no needy persons among them (Acts 2:45, 4:34). This week's two passages from Acts both follow immediately upon the apostles' proclamation of the resurrection. Our passage from Acts 2 comes right after Peter's sermon on Pentecost...

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New Creation

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does theLordrequire of you? To act justlyand to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God" (Micah 6:8) "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachingand to fellowship, to the breaking of breadand to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.All the believers were to...

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Jesus Continues to Do and to Teach

Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 As we enter this fourth and final week of our Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly series, we want to explore how the early church began to walk out the Jesus way. We'll use two passages from early in the Book of Acts, Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37. Luke authored both our Gospel of Luke ...

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The Justice That Seeks and Saves, Part Two

What does the LORD require of you? To act justly, love mercyand walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10). Are you catching echoes of the prodigal son story in the story of Zacchaeus? A son who has "un-son-ed" himself based on his attitudes and behavior a good shepherd/good Father who seeks the return a...

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The Justice That Seeks and Saves, Part One

What does the LORD require of you? To act justly, love mercyand walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10 As we have been attending to the perhaps familiar "Zacchaeus story" this week, it's important to set it in its wider context. Good Bible reading doesn't just attend to a given passage, it also notices...

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A Wee Little Dose of Justice

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does theLordrequire of you? To act justlyand to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God (Micah 6:8). And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Luke 19:8). The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector...

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Original-Identity Restoration

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Jesus said to him (Zacchaeus), "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:9-10). Scripture tells us of two...

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Lessons from a Little Guy

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) (Luke 19:1-10) [Editor's note: we're continuing our Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly series, diving this week into the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. I think you'll find that our writers will help you see that there's more to this story than we thought!] "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little m...

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Waiting for Mercy

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). "Please come put your hands on my dying little girl and heal her," Jairus asked.So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed. And a woman (Mark 5:23-25). The waiting is the hardest part: waiting for lab results, for the doctors to evaluate them, for the doctors to finally get to you and give you the news t...

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All Wrapped in Bandages

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). ...one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus...fell at (Jesus') feet and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him... And a woman...who had bee...

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The Sweet Solace of Mercy

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does theLordrequire of you?To act justlyand to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God (Micah 6:8). He went in and said to them,"Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were wit...

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Mercy is Magnetic

He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of you -- do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake Then one of the s...

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Love Mercy

What does the LORD require of you, but to do justice,love mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Why doesn't Micah 6:8 instruct us to do mercy (act mercifully), just as it tells us to do justice (act justly)? Why are we to love mercy? We're taking Micah's three verbs in reverse order. Last week we looked at the third, walk humbly with your God. This week we'll ...

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Simple or Complicated?

What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercyand to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Six months ago life was already pretty complicated, right? Now add in a pandemic, turmoil and conflict around our complicated history with respect to race, and accompanying economic uncertainty, political gridlock, and it's feeling more complicated than ever. N...

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"I Surrender All"

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Jesus gave them this answer, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19). He was standing alo...

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Following in My Father's Footsteps

He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of you -- do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:5-21). Children learn by example: that adage ri...

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Stoop and Conquer

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does theLordrequire of you? To act justlyand to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God (Micah 6:8). "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19). The old saying goes something like this: "if you ...

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What is Good?

What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercyand to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working" (John 5:16-17). It's a bit complicated but hang in there and allow the Holy Spirit t...

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On Earth, Part II

Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals o...

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The Color That Unites Us

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes,and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me,"These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robesand made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:13-14). Every human being on the face of the earth has a unique...

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A Bigger Table, A Bigger Dream

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 in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb' (R...

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Headed in That Direction

...there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-10). "Th...

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On Earth

I looked, and there was a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb crying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:9-10). What a beautiful scene: that great multitude, as "diverse" as we could possibly imagine, gathered to worship, cente...

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It Matters

They chose Nicholas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism (Acts 6:5). We've been looking at how the first Christians responded to a significant challenge and problem, a disparity in treatment between the Hebraic and Grecian widows. Usually, when we hear a sermon on this passage, we're looking at the beginning of the "office of deacon" and think the major take-away has to do...

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Listen Up!

Acts 6:1-7 When you're driving your car and hear a new noise, one that's different than normal, you become alarmed and rightly so. If you're wise you gather information about the noise -- when does it occur, at what speeds, in what temperatures, etc. -- you seek to determine its cause, and you take steps to fix it. If you're unwise you can ignore it, hoping it will go awa...

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A Better Way

This proposal pleased the whole group ... So the word of God spread (Acts 6:5a, 7a). I was in my second year of teaching. My students were third graders and we were off to a good start. One day a new girl joined our class. I didn't know why, but the kids didn't welcome her as I expected they would. Trying to make up for their cold shoulder, I paid extra attention to her. ...

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The Mosaic

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing,the Hellenistic Jewsamong them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widowswere being overlooked in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1). So you think we've got problems, huh? The truth of the matter is that problems have existed in the church from the very beginning. God is building a spiritual ...

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From Mixed to Fixed

the Grecian Jews complained against Hebraic Jews (Acts 6:1). Everything human has problems. This does not mean that every single thing humans do is bad. Just that it is mixed, a mixture of some of our best impulses and some of our worst, of mistaken certainties and honest questions, of motives base and noble, of God's Spirit and our sinfulness. This "mixture principle" ...

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The View from the Same Side

A priest, when he saw the man, passed by on the other side. So, too, a Levite saw himand passed by on the other side. But when a Samaritan came to where the man was he went to him (Luke 10:31-34). What we do is heavily dependent on what we see what we are willing to see. The priest and Levite in this parable see a danger, a not-my-problem situation. We don't know what ...

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What Good Looks Like

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was;and when he saw him, he took pity on him (Luke 10:33). Samaritans were a people the Jewish faithful had despised for generations. So it is ironic that their name has become forever paired with "good." That has happened because, with this story of the Samaritan, Jesus shows us what good looks like. The Samaritan ...

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Overheard

Luke 10:25-37 "Whwhwhat happened? Where am I?" "You're at the Jericho Palms Motel, pal. I run the place." "What am I doing here? How did I get here? Ouch! What's the story with all these bandages?" "You don't know what happened to you?" "Let's see I had some business in Jerusalem, and was heading home, and oh, my: I remember now! It was terrible what they did to me ...

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Love Your Enemies

But he wanted to justify himself,so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29) To the first-century Jewish mind, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is scandalous. I remember hearing it as a kid, and without any understanding of the historical setting of the story, it still made sense. Out of three who saw the injured man, only one was willing to love his neigh...

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Subversive Stories

In reply, Jesus said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho " (Luke 10:30). We're continuing our new Race, Power and Healing series by listening to one of Jesus' most familiar and beloved parables. "Good Samaritan" has entered our language and even our legal system despite many people no longer knowing where the phrase originated. This sermon series began with ...

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The People Problem

"The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:6-7) At the root of every sin is a broken relationship. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God is clear about one thing: ...

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Rhetorical Questions?

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?""I don't know," he replied, "am I my brother's keeper?"" (Genesis 4:9). Well, that was unexpected: on top of a pandemic, lock-downs, re-openings, hygiene and masksa brutal, appalling killing of an unarmed, handcuffed African- American man by a white police officer (while three other officers stood by) and rightful ...

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We Interrupt the Connect Devotional...

Genesis 4:1-16 Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine it's only about once a century that we experience a global pandemic, and because of the enduring reality of sin there are times in each generation when an event confronts us with layer upon layer of brokenness and sin. And with that confrontation an opportunity to make crooked things straight. Given the magnitude o...

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Go-To Community

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-40).Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home (Luke 1:56). Who is your go-to person, or persons? Say you have gotten good news...or bad news. You are confused or overjoyed. You need someone to ...

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Let It Be

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled."Then the angel left her (Luke 1:26-38). It's June and already feeling summery, but our Scripture for this fifth and final week of our Into the Unknown series may have more of a December ring to it. Most of us have heard this scene recounted during Christmases past. Some strange guy comes to Ma...

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Decluttered

The LORD appeared to Abram so he built an altar to the LORD who had appeared to him. From there, he went on and pitched his tent there he built an altar to the LORD (Genesis 12:7-8). Marie Kondo has made a name for herself and a small fortune by teaching us how to declutter. We could have learned all that and more from Abram. Abram pitched his tent, but he built his ...

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The Flow of Blessing

"Go from your country, your people and your father's householdto the landI will show you."I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:1-3). Have you ever wondered ...

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Leave and Go--Together

"Leave your country, your people, and your father's house and go " (Genesis 12:1). Abram left everything, but he didn't leave alone. We had one of the most significant "leave and go" moments of our lives about two years ago. Our pastoral assignment in Massachusetts was drawing to a close. And we were experiencing those hard-to- capture but also hard-to-ignore nudges and ...

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Listen Up

Then the LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." So Abram left, as the LORD had told him... (Genesis 12:1, 4a). Sometimes the harder thing is when God's word is "Stay," as in Stay and I will bless My people with a better recovery from this virus. In Abram's case, God's word was "Go." We wo...

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On the Road...Again?

Genesis 12:1-9 Why did Abram have to go? Why couldn't God have blessed him, made him into a great nation, even blessed the whole world through him right where he was? Because something necessary happens on the way. As we head into this new week of our Into the Unknown series, we pick up this ancient story of an incredible journey. Journey-stories are among our most an...

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I Do Not Deserve

The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.But just say the word and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8). It's been said that justice means getting what we deserve; mercy means not getting what we deserve; and that grace means getting what we could never deserve. In the face of uncertainty, the centurion is motivated by compassion ...

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If Only...

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:11-12) Reading aloud has always been a part of the bedtime routine in our house....

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Acquainted With Peace

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help."Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed,suffering terribly." Jesus said to him,"Shall I come and heal him?" The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with so...

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Astonishing Faith

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" (Matthew 8:10). Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would" (Matthew 8:13a). Small children have astonishing faith in their mothers and fathers. Why? Their little beings have s...

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Re-Opening, How Y'all Crushed It, And More

Highlights and news from CCC on 5.23.20...

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Certainty? Overrated!

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him,asking for help (Matthew 8:5). Into the Unknown How do we find our way in the face of great uncertainty? Uncertainty certainly feels uncomfortable, threatening, exhausting. Is seeking certainty the right response to uncertainty? Maybe not as much as we think. Of our four Gospels, Matthew is the most Jewish in tone a...

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My Way!

But Naaman went away angry he turned and went off in a rage "Go in peace," Elisha said (2 Kings 5:11-12, 19). Naaman knew how things worked and how to get things done. He was capable, decisive and successful. A military man, he knew about orders, obeying them and giving them. As a well-established, well-regarded commander, maybe more these days about giving orders. Na...

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The Subtlety of God's Wisdom

"Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, washyourself seven timesin the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of theLordhis God, wave his handover the spot and cure me of my leprosy So he turned and went off in a rage.Naaman'...

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Outside Voices

Namaan was a commander of the army a great man in the eyes of his masterhighly regarded a valiant soldier but he had leprosy (2 Kings 5:1). Leprosy, like corona virus, is no respecter of persons. This week's passage is about paying attention to "outside" voices, those that come from outside the normal channels, our preferred sources, the "proper authorities." Namaan's...

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More Than Meets the Eye

So Naaman left... (2 Kings 5:5b). So he went down... (2 Kings 5:14a). Then Naaman...stood before him (the man of God) and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel" (2 Kings 5:15). Naaman had three problems. The first was obvious. The second was too close for him to see. The third was too foreign for him to comprehend. Naaman's first pro...

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Worth the Trouble

2 Kings 5:1-17 What a bizarre story! A top-gun army commander named Naaman falls ill with leprosy and a slave girl suggests he travel into enemy territory for a cure. So Namaan heads off loaded down with gold and silver for the enemy and ticks off the king when he arrives. Then Namaan gets connected with a prophet whose cure is nothing more than washing in a river. Ser...

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Comfortable?

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased (Matthew 14:32). WARNING: I am going to call into question a cherished phrase of Christianese. GOOD NEWS: you get to decide if I'm right or wrong! Or somewhere in between. The phrase is "get out of your comfort zone." Maybe it's because I've heard it too often. Maybe it's because I am too comfortable. But at the same time, I ...

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When Jesus Summons

"'Lord, if it's you,'" Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water.""Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the waterand came to Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29). It is never an easy thing when Jesus summons us. If answering the call was easy everyone would do it, but there is always something to consider before doing so. Often the task at hand ...

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All In

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water.""Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat,walked on the water and came toward Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29). I love going to the pool. As soon spring starts warming up I start getting the itch. My son gets excited, too. He gets so excited I must make sure he applies sunscreen before leaving th...

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Beneficial Storms

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side But the boat was already a considerable distance from the land, buffeted by the wavesbecause the wind was against it But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I.Don't be afraid" Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying,"Truly you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14...

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Entering VUCAville?

"It's a ghost!" they said and cried out in fear Jesus said, "Take courage, it is I.Don't be afraid" Peter said, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water" "Come," Jesus said Peter got out of the boat (Matthew 14:26-29). VUCA is apparently a new acronym for our times: life is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Volatile: changing rapidly, constan...

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Cheers for Thomas?

Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were,and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it (John 20:25). "Doubting" Thomas, that wet blanket on the resurrection party. Talk about being in a confined space: "Unless I stick my hand into the spear wound in his side, I won't believe it." Poor Thomas has become the go-to illustration...

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Finding Jesus in the Shelter

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,Jesus came and stood among them and said,"Peacebe with you!"After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.The disciples were overjoyedwhen they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said,"Peace be with you!As the Father has sent me,I am sendi...

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Seeing the Master

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. John 20:19-20 NIV (The verses in bold below represent the same passag...

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Blessed

"Unless I (Thomas) see...I will not believe it."Then Jesus told him (Thomas), "Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:25, 29). Have you ever felt a bit sorry for Thomas? After all, he's gotten a bad rap all these years as the guy who didn't have the faith to believe Jesus was alive when the others in...

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Powerful Peace

Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you Peace be with you Peace be with you!" (John 20:19, 21, 26) Elijah wanted to die. Nebuchadnezzar wanted the three rebellious Jews to die. Paul and Silas didn't die in Philippi, but a severe beating and imprisonment in a first-century jail probably got them pretty close. As we come this week to the fourth and ...

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Staying Put

The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joybecause he had come to believe in Godhe and his whole family (Acts 16:34). Everyone in this passage is in a tight space. Paul and Silas, in prison, of course; they're the heroes of the story. But also: a slave girl, economically exploited and demonically oppressed. Some prominent Phi...

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The Opportunity of Isolation

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailerwas commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.About midnightPaul and Silaswere praying and singing hymnsto God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:23-25). On the surface, being...

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In Two Places at Once

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison...About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:23a and 25a). In the movie A Walk to Remember, Landon takes Jamie to the Virginia/North Carolina state-line and asks her to stand with one foot in one state and one in the other. ...

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When Life Turns on a Dime

Acts 16:16-36 March 13. That's when everything changed. As a teacher and mom of three school-aged children, hearing school would be closed at the end of that day for an unknown period of time rocked my world. I was working hard, cooking dinner, taking kids to practice, going to church, and going about life as normal up until then. I had been listening to the news, of cour...

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In Bad Trouble for Good Reason

Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment, the spirit left her (Acts 16:18). What got Paul and Silas into the tight space of a jail in Philippi? We're more familiar with how they got out, or rather how God got them outmore on that during this third week of ou...

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Unbound

They saw the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; theirrobes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them (Daniel 3:27).Refuse to bow in worship? Into the fire you go. The king orders the furnace heated "seven times hotter than usual" and orders his strongest soldiers to bind them tightly and toss them in. The heat is so i...

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Antibodies Needed!

There are some Jews who neither serve your godsnor worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:12). Exile to Babylon was, for the Jews of Daniel's time, the ultimate discipline from the Lord. But God's judgments are righteous and redemptive; their goal is not punishment, but recovery of identity, restoration of true health, reclamation of mission, and-- God ext...

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A Survival Guide for Blazing Furnaces

"'But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what godwill be able to rescueyou from my hand?' Shadrach, Meshach and Abednegoreplied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliverus from it, and he will de...

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Furnace Friends

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3: 12, 13, 16, 19, 20, 22, 26, 28-30). The most famous story in the Book of Daniel doesn't even have Daniel in it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: every single time they appear in Scripture, they appear together and "in order," always Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Each and every time, standing as one, speaking as one. They appe...

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Upright

Daniel 3the whole chapter, please! As we relearn each and every Easter, God does his finest work in the tightest spaces. Please keep that empty tomb in mind as we work our way through this Shelter series. Easter is not a once-and-done date on a calendar; death-and-resurrection is how God always goes about his work Be on the lookout for ways in which each of our Shelter ...

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Running to Our Lives

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life (1 Kings 19:3) Where did Elijah think he was going? What was he hoping to find once he got there? He runs because the powerful king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel, have sworn to kill him. He flees, first, all the way to Beersheba, the southernmost city in the Promised Land. From there, a day's journey into the desert. Find...

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A Cure for Fear (and many other ailments)

"'Go out and stand on the mountainin the presence of theLord, for theLordis about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful windtore the mountains apart and shatteredthe rocks before theLord, but theLordwas not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but theLordwas not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire,but theLordwas not in the fire. And after...

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Hamster Wheels, Ears that Hear, Eyes that See

The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD,for the LORD is about to pass by" (1 Kings 19:11) What if God would like to have a different kind of conversation with us, with you? And what if God is present, is with us, in our current circumstancesin our current tight spacesto that end? There are all kinds of tight spaces. Some are shelters...

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What Are You Doing Here?

And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:9b and 13b). A few weeks after saying my life-transforming "Yes" to Jesus, I sat in a church service where I Kings 19:3-18 was being preached. Although that was forty-plus years ago, I can still hear that pastor's reading of "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He put strong emphasis on the...

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Sheltering Places, Confined Spaces

Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.There he went into a cave and spent the night (1 Kings 19:8-9). God does some of his best work in confined spaces. Jonah inside a great fish. Paul writing much of our New Testament from prison, and John, the Book of Revelation from a penal island in the Aegean Sea. Bunyan's Pilgrim's P...

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Sit-With Saturday

So Joseph brought some linen cloth, took the body down,wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb (Mark 15:46). What is today, this day that you are reading these words? Well, it's Saturday, April 11, 2020 a weekend day, Day Number Whatever in our virus-changed world maybe your birthday, or anniversary just another day the day after Good Friday, the day before E...

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New Normal to New Creation

Mark 16:1-8 Take time with the story; take time in it. Notice: Mark tells the story of the Resurrection through the lens of three women. They have been "minor characters," not even mentioned by Mark until the very end of chapter 15: these women witness the crucifixion and watch as Jesus' body is entombed nearby (15:40, 47). It has been just a week since what seemed to b...

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Did You Notice?

Mark 16:1-8 As you work your way through Mark 11-15 and arrive at this week's passage, Mark 16:1-8, the sermon text for Easter Sunday, here are some things to notice. First, notice Mark's very strange ending. The final word in Mark's Gospel is afraid! You'll probably have some footnotes in your Bible that explain that we're not sure if this is how Mark intended to conclu...

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The Day Reality Was Revised

... they were on their way to the tomb... "Don't be alarmed, "he (the young man dressed in a white robe) said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here... But go, tell his disciples..." Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid (Mark 16:2, 6a, 8...

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Service Reimagined

"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robesitting on the right side, and they were alarmed."Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him,ju...

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What Happens on the Way

When the Sabbath was over very early on the first day of the week,just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb (Mark 16:1-2) We'll be reading this week's Connect Devotionals in the days immediately after Palm Sunday. However, they focus on the sermon text for next Sunday, Easter Sunday. So we're doing a bit of time-bending here, providing tomorrow's news (or n...

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Not My Feet?

"No, said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet" (John 13:8). Oh, Peter: you got it partly right. It is of course inappropriate that the one you call "Lord" should be washing your feet! (We note that Peter is happy to advise Jesus, but not leap to his feet and switch places with him.) (And, noting how this story unfolds, Jesus would not have let Peter switch places.) It...

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Be a Part, Do Your Part

If I don't wash you, you can't be part of what I'm doing...So, if I, the Master and Teacher,washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet." (John 13:8) As I parent I hear myself saying, "Just watch me. I can explain, but just watch for a minute and you'll get it." Likewise, as a daughter, I find myself doing things just as my mom did them -- because I saw her do i...

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In Another's Sandals

Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now,but you will know after this" (John 13:7). I had never participated in a foot-washing ceremony until 2007 when I began attending a small historic church in NJ. Their custom was to do this on Maundy Thursdaythe night commemorating the Last Supper. Never since have I read the account of Jesus wash...

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Unless I Make You Clean

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied,"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered,"Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" (John 13...

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This is The Week

...

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The Old Way and the New Normal

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). A tiny virus we can't see is bringing our world to its knees. We're hearing the phrase "new normal" a lotand it seems like we're getting a new new normal every day. This can be confusing, scary, wearying, but it looks like...

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Heart Transplant

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). The tension in the operating room was palpable as the chief surgeon resolutely pushed the gurney carrying the heart donor through the doors. Waiting inside lay the terminal pa...

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The Way of Life and Love

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). You might be familiar with this "old Maine" joke: a tourist stops to ask an old Mainer for directions: "How do I get to Millinocket?" The old-timer rubs his chin, looks one way, ...

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A Fragrant Offering

Follow God's example,therefore, as dearly loved children,and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved usand gave himself up for usas a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). My wife loves to cook. Some of her favorite dishes to make are ethnic: Thai beef salad, Korean pork tacos, and Greek chicken gyros, to name a few. My all-time favorite is Hunga...

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The Jesus Way

live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself upas a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). Many of us are familiar with this Scripture: "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life '" (John 14:6). Before Jesus is the truth and the life, he is the way. Jesus calls us to follow him. Follow his lead. Follow his example. Follow his c...

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Construction in the Age of COVID-19, Part Two

In him you too are being built together to become a dwellingwhere God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). The Jesus way is the only way God goes about God's business. We're looking at God's new-Temple building project, as Paul unpacks it in this week's passage (Ephesians 2:11-22). And very suddenly and unexpectedly, we're thinking about this in the face of a pandemic. ...

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Construction in the Age of COVID-19

In him you too are being built together to become a dwellingwhere God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Ephesians 2:19-22 describes an active construction zone: building materials (people!) are gathered, cornerstone (Jesus!) installed, foundation laid, an entirely new kind of "building" is risinga building that actually is not a physical structure but a new kind of ...

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The Dividing Wall of Hostility

"For he himself is our peace,who has made the two groups oneand has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14). When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was go to my grandparent's house. It was a land of delicious food and endless amounts of Disney movies. My grandfather's den was known as "the grandkids room," and my sister, cousins and I ...

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All Things Converge

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to ...

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God's Immigration Policy

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God's peopleand members of God's household (Ephesians 2:19). My husband Tony immigrated to America from Asia in 1969. I've wondered if this is why photos of grateful immigrants becoming US citizens tug at my heart. When I read this verse, however, I see that maybe my spirit identifies with im...

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A New Temple, in Three Acts

Ephesians 2:11-22 Your Connect Devotional scribes hope our readers are reading the whole of the week's Scripture passage before diving into our brief attempts to comment on one or two aspects of it each morning. Please get a sense for the forest before reading our observations on one or two trees! We're currently exploring a wonderful, beautiful, un-boundaried "forest"...

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Free

He forgave all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13b-14). I volunteered in a refugee camp as a college student one summer. Though I witnessed much pain and loss, God blessed me so much during that time. I enjoyed getting to know people in t...

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Performance Review

When you were dead in your sins God made you alive with Christ (Colossians 2:15). We're a pretty "performance oriented" country. We love high-performance cars, get performance reviews at work, experience "performance anxiety" of all kinds and in lots of situations, and know that "past performance is no guarantee of future results"! We're only as good as our last perfor...

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Zombies No More

When you were dead in your sinsand in the uncircumcision of your flesh,God made youalivewith Christ (Colossians 3:13). There are no zombies in the family of God. You've all seen your fair share of zombie flicks, right? Zombies are those half-dead creatures, formerly human, who now teeter somewhere between the realm of the living and the dead. They aren't fully consciou...

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The Radical Solution

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14b-15). Do you like to be told what to do? True confession: I don't. Okay, that's not always true. But when as a teenager I pushed back at my mother's list of Saturday morning chor...

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Painting with the Full Palette

God made you alive forgave all our sins cancelled the written code that was against us disarmed the principalities and powers, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). We all have favorite colors, right? As a child, when you got that box of new markers or colored pencils or paints or the Crayola 128-crayon mega-box, you had some colors you used more than ...

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The Ministry of Reconciliation

God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting our sins against us.And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). The message of reconciliationthat great good news that through the cross, God has reconciled us to Godis hard to say and harder to hear in our current context. The general idea of reconciliation is highly regar...

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The Wisdom of the Cross

God made him who had no sinto be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Have you ever wondered, "Why the cross? Why did the Son of God have to die on a cross in order to forgive my sins?" The answer to that question is at once complex and incredibly simple. The cross reveals God's wisdom through what it allowed Him to ac...

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Reconciled to God

All this is from God, who reconciled himself through Christand gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Reconciled is a wonderful word about a bad situation. Reconciliation is needed when a relationship has broken down, gone bad, been destroyed by evil, injustice, anger, rejection, bitterness, unforgiveness. Reconciliation involves hard and difficult ...

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Back in the Garden

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselvesbut for Him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15). God is Love. Love exists in relationship, and God is all about relationship. God is, therefore, all about reconciliation when there is relationship break-down. The archetype of relationship break-down is found in the Genesi...

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What Happened on the Cross

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) At the heart and center of the Christian faith and life hangs a crucified man. And around that terrible image some weighty and wonder-filled words have gathered: atonement, reconciliation, ransom, forgiveness, redemption, restoration, substitution, sacrifice, blood, victory, along with many others. We w...

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Now That's a Prayer!

Then Jehoshaphat stood up and said "O LORD God we have no power to face this mighty army. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you" (2 Chronicles 20:5, 12). Ever feel at a loss for words when it comes to prayer? The Bible is chock full of prayers: every Psalm is a kind of prayer, so there's 150 of them. The Lord's Prayer. The prayers that Paul prayed for the ...

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Look What the Lord Can Do

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's (2 Chronicles 20:15b). Some Old Testament stories are grim, but they were preserved because each has a lesson for us. Often we can go for years not-getting-it, then one day our eyes are opened to its relevance for our life. In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and his people are ...

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The God Who Fights For Us

"...Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's" 2 Chronicles 20:15. In the regular army the higher you go up the chain-of-command, the less likely you are to find people who fight. The logic is simple. It's much easier to oversee the execution of a battle plan if you're not on the front lines facing the brunt of the...

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The Battle is God's

"Attention everyone -- all of you from out of town, all of you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat -- God's word: Don't be afraid; don't pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God's war, not yours. Tomorrow you'll go after them; see, they're already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you'll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You wo...

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The Most Human Thing We Do

Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Israel fell down in worship before the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:19). What's the most human thing we do? Better yet, what's the most humanizing thing we dowhat is it that makes us most distinctively and most fully human? Worship. Every human being is a worshipper of something. Christ calls us to be wo...

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Stand...Stand...Stand...Stand!

Ephesians 6:10-17 There it is, four times, in this classic Pauline passage on "spiritual warfare": stand. Take your stand stand your ground after you have done everything, stand stand firm. Not stand around doing nothing. Not stand still, unable or unwilling to move. Not stand in a safe spot. Stand in the battle. Keep your position. Follow the "standing orders" of Ki...

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Fighting the Right Kind of Battle

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,against the authorities, against the powers of this dark worldand against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). If ever a person had a right to be angry with people, it was Jesus. Think about it: while he was being nailed to a cross, the blood being spilled with ever...

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Armor Looks Good on You!

"Put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:13). If you ran into someone, let's say at a crowded checkout line, dressed in a full suit of Roman armorhelmet, breastplate, shield, sword, the whole worksyou might be puzzled, bemused, or maybe annoyed: no wonder the line's moving so slowly! If, however, you encountered someone whose life was characterized by truth, righteous...

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Eyes to See Our Enemy

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) A good first step in recognizing our enemy is discerning whom our enemy is not. Thankfully Paul tells us up front that our enemy is not people. Yes, it ma...

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We Wrestle...Not?

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). The King James renders Ephesians 6:12 like this: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood." Many Christians have mis-heard and mis-read these words as saying "we don't have to wrestle." But if you are a Christ follower, you are already in a wr...

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Our Eyes are Connected to Our Ears

2 Kings 6:8-23 Wouldn't it be terrific to know what your enemies were saying and planning? Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to see, as Elisha could, God's armies of fire, surrounding and protecting you? Surely, if we studied Elisha's life and story deeply enough, we could discover some spiritual tips and techniques to provide ourselves with that kind of hearing, that k...

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Learning to See

2 Kings 6:8-23 It's a funny story: an ancient warlord who finds himself being spied upon by God; he imagines he has surrounded his enemy, Elijah the prophet, only to find he has been surrounded by the armies of God; he and his army are struck blind, then led like sheep straight to their opponent and to certain death ("Shall I kill them, my father; shall I kill them?" ve...

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Deliver De Letter De Sooner De Better

"but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom" (2 Kings 6:12b). On October 7, 2010 I got to be God's messenger girl. I was driving through Netcong, NJ when I glimpsed a woman standing on the corner smoking a cigarette. Into my awareness came this message: "My Sweet One, you need never smoke a cigarett...

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When God Does a Download

"Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?" And one of his servants said,"None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israelthe words that you speak in your bedroom" (2Kings 6:11-12). A download is a transfer of information from one system to another, and many people think that downloading started with the age of ...

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What's Really Going On?

[Elisha's servant said], "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" The prophet answered,"Those who are with us are more than are with them" (2 Kings 6:15-16). We're beginning a new series, "Eyes Wide Open." Let's set the scene for this week's Scripture passage: It's been about 200 years since King David, and around 850 years before Jesus. God's people Israel, originally unit...

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From Blessing to Building

From Blessing to Building Brian and Kathy Emmet Blessed are the poor in spirit Everyone who hears these words of mine and putsthem into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock (Matthew 5:3, 7:24). Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with blessing. Who doesn't like to be blessed? Jesus ends the Sermon with a story about two builders and two bui...

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Good Tree, Bad Tree

Good Tree, Bad Tree Lana Waters Liu By their (the false prophets') fruit you will recognize them. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit (Matthew 7:16, 18). If the idea of a good tree and a bad tree sounds familiar to you, you may be remembering the two trees in the Genesis garden. We were told way back then that the bad tree is the...

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Not Everyone

Not Everyone Brian and Kathy Emmet Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). "Jesus is Lord!" is the core Christian confession. The apostle Paul wrote that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, we ...

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If This Fruit Could Talk

If This Fruit Could Talk Blake Barbera "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a disea...

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Two Ways, Two Trees, Two Buildings

Two Ways, Two Trees, Two Buildings Brian and Kathy Emmet Matthew 7:13-29 Fred Rogers ("Mister Rogers"), who appears to have known Jesus pretty well and modeled some pretty right-side up living in our upside-down world, said, "Life is deep and simple, and what our world gives us is shallow and complicated." Jesus makes things simple, which is not the same as making th...

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Hope for the Overwhelmed, Part Two

Sermon on the mount...

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Casting Your Vision on the Lord

Sermon on the moutn...

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"I Don't Need This!"

Sermon on the mount...

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Switching Storage

Sermon on the mount...

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Hope for the Overwhelmed

Sermon on the mount...

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7

When You Pray...Forgive

Sermon on the Mount...

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A Secret Reward

SErmon on the mount...

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The Unseen Reward of a Devoted Life

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"Look at Me!"

Sermon on the mount series...

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When You Give, Pray, Fast

When you give, pray, fast....

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That You Might Be Children of Your Father In Heaven

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Stop Drop Roll

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This Can't Be Right!

Sermon on the Mount...

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God Roots for Everyone

Sermon on the Mount...

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But I Tell You

Sermon on the mount...

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Salt Gone Wrong, Light Gone Bad

Salt and light...

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Being Salty

ON being salty...

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The Salty and the Shining

Salty...

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God of the Interior

Sermon on the mount: salt ...

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The Salt and Light of the Kingdom

Kingdom salt and light...

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Blessed Are the Persecuted

Jesus says it’s hard to live this kind of blessed life. There is resistance and opposition, both internally and externally, to living a blessed life characterized by poverty of spirit, meekness, mourning, purity of heart and all the rest that Jesus lists in his nine blessings. Resistance and opposition means persecution....

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Imagination Station

The way Jesus is talking, that way is upside-down. It sounds like He's saying showing up and being with Him is the right-side-up way. Or even just longing to show up and be with Him....

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Happy New Year - Blessed Are

Here’s the good news: God begins the righting of the upside-down world, not by commanding or rebuking or punishing, but by coming in person and speaking words of blessing. Blessing gets life going -- true, real, and abundant life!...

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Why Memorial Day is So Refreshing

Putting Jesus first frees us from self-absorption. ...

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The Real Best Life Ever

A life of faith, hope, and love...

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Exchanging Passing Things for Ultimate Things

Paul exhorts his readers that love is more lasting than spiritual experiences, that's why it's the most excellent way. ...

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The Eternal Question: What Is Love?

Paul gives the definitive answer to this question....

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What Matters Most?

Love matters more than the other things that vie for our attention and affections....

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What's Your Most Excellent Way?

Lots of people answering the question "what's the good life?" ...

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One Step to Excellent Thinking

Paul helps us to win the battle in our heads!...

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Two Things You Can Do with Your Anxiety

You can either prayerfully expand your dominion (training, skills, mentors, get help) or surrender and embrace your limits. ...

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How Not to Be Anxious

thanksgiving fights anxiety...

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Showing Up A Gentle Giant

The Spirit is in us, making us gentle and strong...

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Your Most Important Battle: The One Inside Your Head

Paul in Philippians 4 invites us to rejoice in the Lord always--one of the ways he's going to instruct us in fighting to win the battle for the voices in our heads. ...

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The Cover Tune for Community

Paul cites an ancient hymn to help us to understand who we need to be in relation to one another....

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Waging War Against Kudzu that Kills Community

Paul lists things that kill community and exhorts us to get rid of it!...

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The Would-Be Weed-Out Class

The unique and distinguishing characteristics of Christian community...

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Cultivating the Deepest Connection

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the church to lean into their shared experience in Jesus....

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Together Is Better (Even if It's Harder)

We have to learn how to do community and how to do it well. ...

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Replacing the Rules with Something Much Better

The law was an attempt at keeping the flesh at bay. The Spirit was a much better option....

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Why Communities (Especially Religious) Get Ugly Sometimes

Why biting and devouring and destroying happens, especially in religious communities....

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Thinking About How We're Thinking About Things

We need Jesus to help us to really understand what God means by love, freedom, and other key concepts...

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Batman's Nemeses, Mick Jagger, and Where to Find True Freedom

We've got to understand what real freedom looks like and means...

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Good News: You and God Both Want Your Freedom

God wants us to be free. We just gotta' get on the same page about what that means...

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The Blank Check Prayer Promise

Our character formation in Christ leads us to a place where we can ask whatever we want and God will (one day) grant it!...

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What To Do When You Don't Like Jesus

Some suggestions for engaging difficult sayings of Jesus...

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The Hardest Easiest Thing that Jesus Ever Said

Remain in Jesus--hard but simple!...

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Why God's Work Hurts Sometimes

Jesus says God is a good gardner who prunes us....

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Good Friday Reflection

A reflective reading of the Good Friday story...

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Maundy Thursday

A reflective reading of the Maundy Thursday passages...

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Jesus, Tiger Woods, and the Big Reveal

Jesus walked the guys on the road to Emmaus through the Old Testament. ...

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Exchanging Great Expectations for Greater Ones...The Hard Way

Our disappointments are the other side of our expectations and hopes. Jesus meets us in those and sometimes blows them up for something much better. ...

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Jesus Meets the Voices in Your Head

Jesus asks the men on the road to Emmaus questions to surface their hearts and needs...

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One Thing You Can Do Today To Make God Happy with You

Jesus celebrates that the woman does what she can. That frees us to do what we can do and know that Jesus delights in it as well. ...

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Worship: What a Waste of Time & Money!

Worship is a waste of time and money unless Jesus is worth it. People will always object, and they're right. Unless Jesus is who he says he is and unless God is as good as Jesus tells us he is....

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Sometimes You Gotta' Break Things to Do the Best Thing

Sometimes you've got to break a valuable thing to do the priceless thing....

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How to Become a Murderer

The chief priests became the type of people who could kill Jesus day by day and bit by bit. ...

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Time for a Necessary Ending

Jesus has come to Jerusalem to embrace his necessary ending. We have to embrace ours, too. ...

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Bring your curiosity with you as you read

Bringing your curious mind with you when reading scripture is one healthy practice for deep and meaningful Bible engagement....

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Who named you?

The names that are placed on you shape the way the world sees you and the way you see yourself. ...

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A Story within a story

You have a meaningful part to play in the bigger story....

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Be Worth Remembering

Focus on your legacy and you’ll lose it. Focus on loving the Lord and the people he places in front of you and you’ll leave a legacy that will be worth remembering....

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Supportive Character

We operate for much of the time as if we’re the main character in the story....

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2

The Best Way to Ignore the People Around You

Ruth and Boaz are both noble people, no matter what. ...

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The Gift of Being an Abrupt Surprise

Sometimes doing the right thing is an abrupt surprise to the people around us. ...

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On Being Bossy and Risk-Taking (Not Necessarily in That Order)

Naomi gives Ruth a crazy set of instructions, Ruth rolls with it. ...

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Community, In Spite of Comfort

When the church is working well, we're family for each other. The ancient church had to be family for one another because of their level of persecution....

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2

Avoiding HGTV Delayed Repair

Sometimes we settle. Naomi pushes Ruth to not to. ...

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Got a Bitter Person In Your Life? Try This...

Naomi utters her first positive words in Ruth on the other side of Ruth's interaction with Boaz, as both Ruth and Boaz do courageous things that bless others. ...

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One Step to Make the Economy Roar

Participate in the blessing economy by crossing a typical social boundary or barrier. ...

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One Thing to (Re)Create A Great Culture

God has positioned us to bless others...

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2

As It Turns Out, God's At Work

God's at work, even in our darkest times. ...

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Monday Strong and Courageous

Faced with all sorts of uncertainty, Ruth takes a small courageous step of faith. God's Spirit makes us strong to do the same kind of work....

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2

What If This Was the Cure to What Ails Us?

Kinship that has morphed into friendship is demonstrated by Ruth's commitment to Naomi. ...

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2

When God Seems Out To Get You

God sometimes seems out to get us. Naomi and Ruth's story shows us that's not true...and we have to fight for what is....

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2

Grace, Even in the Darkest Hours

God's grace is available to us, even in difficult times. Sometimes we just have to slow down long enough to receive it....

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2

What Do You Do When You're "Without?"

What we do when our life feels mostly like we're "without" is something we can learn from. ...

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2

Fighting for God's Goodness, Even When Life Stinks

The book of Ruth opens up with all kinds of heartache. God is still at work, even though it doesn't look like it. ...

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2

Your Life, Built Right

In a sober warning to the religious leaders, Jesus warns that they will break apart on him as they continue to refuse to recognize him and receive his words. ...

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3

Three Things to do With Warnings in the Bible

There are lots of warning passages in the Scriptures, how do we receive them as a gift of grace rather than frown upon them as judgmental and angry? ...

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2

The Good News of Your Inheritance (No Violence Necessary)

The Father and the Son are devoted to sharing their inheritance with you....

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2

The Problem of Ignoring God's Voice

Israel ignored God's warnings, killing the prophets. We do the same thing. ...

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2

On Not Being Thomas Jefferson with Jesus

If we stick with Jesus long enough, we'll bump up against something that's hard for us. Stick with it, it's worth it. ...

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How to Justify Your Existence

We all want to be justified on some level. Let God's justification of us carry the day!...

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6

Two Guys Walk into a Temple

If our understanding of God is warped our prayers will be warped. Our prayers can help us to see as a mirror our picture of God--and help us to do some correction if necessary...

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Strong Convictions, Generous Heart

How do we have convictions and yet live generously?...

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About Your Friend Who Can't Stand Religious People

Jesus didn't get along with self-righteous religious people like many of our friends who aren't Christians. That's good news!...

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Set Free From (Mere) Religion

Jesus frees us from empty religion to a real relationship...

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God Wants You to Be Rich (Truly!)

God gives us earthly money to allow us to invest in something eternal....

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A Once in a Lifetime Investment Opportunity

Jesus challenges us to invest in eternal things...

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What Do We Do With This???

Sometimes we have to remember reading Scripture is a cross-cultural experience. Be patient, do a little digging and we might learn some things....

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The Geico Gecko Helps With Your Problems

Getting creative with problem solving takes a little step back sometimes...

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Good News About How to Deal with Unanswered Prayers

Jesus shows us how to continue to trust in God's goodness even in the midst of our disappointment with his slowness to act on our behalf. ...

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A Love Better than a Hallmark Card

Jesus invites us to pray because God is good and God is love. ...

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Fresh Resilience for Your Work Today

The persistent widow persists! How might we persist in our own works that we need to do today? ...

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6

What if I Don't Pray Enough?

Nobody feels like they pray enough. That's why Jesus gives us instructions to stick with it....

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The Wildly Important Take-Home, Right at the Start

Luke tells us that Jesus tells us that we should always pray and never give up!...

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2

The Full House

Jesus describes the heart of God to have a full house marked by the gathering of people who were previously overlooked...

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2

More Important Than the To-Do List

Daily life can cause us to miss out on the kingdom of God...

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2

Might Be Time to Get Going

It's always easier not to go, not to do things. But there's a core of our relationship with Jesus that compels us to get going. ...

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Great Banquet, Great Heart, Great Joy

Jesus invites us into the great banquet of the kingdom of God...

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Jesus: The Awkward Dinner Guest

Jesus challenges the religious and is kind to the people in the margins. How do we do at matching pitch with our audience? ...

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3

Clarity Never Comes from the Crowds

Clarity never comes from the crowds. Jesus shows us where it comes from and how to handle the crowd pressures. ...

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Parcheesi, Exorcisms, and the Label Makers

Jesus tells the demons to be quiet even though they're speaking truthfully about who he is. ...

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3

People To be Loved (Not Just Problems to be Fixed)

Jesus heals and touches people to make them well!...

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What's On the Other Side of Healing

Healing isn't just for us. It's for us to be a blessing to others. ...

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Wait: Peter's Married?!?

Peter's married--he's normal! That means the ways that Jesus intersect his life has something to teach us about how he might want to intersect ours....

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Worship & Witness: The Natural Next Step

When we experience Jesus's power and authority in our lives, there's a response of worship and witness that are natural. We need to share it....

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Joy to the World (Eleven Months Early)

Jesus is the re-humanizing agent in a world full of darkness and corruption and pain ...

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Hope That Overcomes Darkness

The demons are afraid of Jesus--so we have hope for our own battles against darkness. ...

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2

A Little Something About Demons

A quick look at demons in the Gospels...

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Overcoming Our Authority Issues

Good news: Jesus is the authority we can trust and we were made for....

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2

Jesus v. ________ For Your Heart

Self-righteousness is one of the biggest competitors for your heart. ...

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Wisdom We Won't Listen To

The prophet is rejected in his hometown--what hometown wisdom we will refuse to listen to? ...

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Jesus's Mission Meets New York, New York

Jesus's mission statement doesn't seem to include us, but that's a good thing....

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Your Joy Meets the World's Pain

Jesus's first sermon, he reads his mission statement from Isaiah...

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The Joy and Problem of Community

Jesus goes home and hangs out at the old synagogue. ...

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Cutting Through the Fog of Temptation

Memorizing Scripture helps to cut through the fog of temptation. ...

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1

WWJT: Why Was Jesus Tempted?

Description of why Jesus was tempted...

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Lord's prayer, lead us not into temptation...

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Overcoming Temptation Part 2

Temptation definition, overcoming it....

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Overcoming Temptation Part 1

Jesus in the desert...

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Jesus the Trailblazer

Helping to understand why Jesus got baptized when he was without sin....

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New Year, New Voice for the Connect Devotional

New year and a new voice for the Connect Devotional ...

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1

Responding to projection

What do you do when people project their Messianic desires on you? ...

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1

For your soul

Forfeiting the soul doesn’t usually happen in a moment....

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Before Direction

Some days, I want the Lord to tell me the direction he wants me to take so that I can decide whether to submit to him or not. This is not his way....

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On the verge of a new year

Paul pursues Jesus with all his energy: “straining” and “pressing on.” As he does so, his past has less and less influence on him. Christ comes to rule and reign in his heart....

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A Reading from Luke 2

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!...

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Paying Attention on Christmas Eve

The experience of redemption isn’t complete for us until we’ve responded to Jesus with gratitude....

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The Inclusive Kingdom

No one is excluded because of their ethnic background or the place of their birth. We all have an opportunity to be part of Jesus’ kingdom and to thrive under his reign....

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Of Dual Origins

A God bigger than our imagination or comprehension will always be shrouded in mystery. He offers us a mystery; he offers us himself....

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The King For God

As we approach Christmas, let’s remember that the baby whose birth we celebrate on this holiday became the King over all. And this gives us cause for great rejoicing....

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Why Bethlehem?

We aren’t told why God chose this particular place, this particular community. And this is a common experience for us....

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Bethlehem Ephrathah

Word studies allow us to dig deeply into the meaning of words and their usage in the broader biblical and ancient context....

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Double Prophecy

There’s a fulfillment that happens in the near term and then a second fulfillment that happens down the road....

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God with us

What do you think God sees when he sees you? ...

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On the virgin birth

From the very start, he’s extraordinary: God who is truly with us....

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Who gives the sign?

Who’s going to give us the sign we need to move forward into the uncertain future with confidence?...

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The Real Zeal

How does the Lord set up an eternal kingdom marked with justice and righteousness? ...

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God's gift to you

A new generation, a new king offered a new start, hope that things can take a turn for the better, that the future might be great....

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The Light has come

Light in the darkness … that’s a powerful image for Christmas-time....

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Love The Tension

The Jesus who pushes us to love across borders did this himself and did this by design....

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The Galilee Principle

As we see God’s willingness to include places and people who society considers on the margins, we can feel both sobered and encouraged. ...

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Inevitable Christmas

Christmas comes every year. In a way, Christmas feels inevitable. As we spiral out and look at history, that feeling persists....

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Who is the Lord talking to?

This is a great way to let your curiosity guide you into the biblical text and to create space for the Lord to speak to you in your study of the Bible....

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The Lord Stays Engaged

It’s important to pay close attention to the Lord’s engagement in this story. He seeks out the main characters. He listens to them. He responds to them. He stays, well, engaged....

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The Tragic Voice

Listening carefully to and believing fully in the words of God protects us and, graciously, restores us. But doubt, confusion, and distrust stand daily at our elbows....

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2

Be Thankful For What You Have

We may not have all the resources we might want ...

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Grace in Every Act

We desperately need God’s grace...

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Can't Buy Me Joy

We would expect to feel something positive when we’re in the sweet spot of our destiny, even if it isn’t always easy. Perhaps that’s part of the reason God wants us to do good works. ...

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Faith vs Self

Paul wants to protect us from the temptation to take credit for our salvation....

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2

What does grace mean?

God gives us something we don’t deserve, haven’t earned, and desperately need....

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Yes, no?

Years ago Alex introduced us to a phrase that offers great insight into this dilemma: “God’s ‘No’ is always in service to his larger ‘Yes.’”...

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All our needs, all his promises

In Christ, we see God’s persistent initiative. We aren’t left to our own devices. God follows through on his promises....

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"Yes" and Union

As we consider God’s faithfulness to Christ as faithfulness to us, we’ll gain confidence that God can be trusted....

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Meditating on "Yes" and "Amen"

We’re going to invite you to meditate on a verse this morning. ...

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God's plan on display

What does Jesus tell us about God’s character and intentions?...

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Peace and Prosperity

Generosity will change and shape you. Becoming a generous-hearted person may cost you. Some might take advantage of you. But in the long run, you’ll flourish....

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Steps toward thriving

The good and beautiful life is always available to us. We may find ourselves in challenging and desperate situations. We may have moments when we can’t see through the tears. But God is for thriving. And he will make a way for you to experience life and joy … if you are willing....

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Who did the carrying?

How can both Nebuchadnezzar and the Lord Almighty carry the people off into exile? ...

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Back to Reality

Communities frequently have to rise to challenges. They rebuild. They restructure. They forgive. And these challenges leave a mark on the community … in some cases a scar, in others a callous, and in still others a pearl....

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In the Presence of Salvation

Something had changed in Zacchaeus....

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2

Meditative Reading

Jesus’ every word and phrase can ring in our ears....

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Better than you imagined

What do you expect God to do when he sees you?...

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A Creative Attempt

All sorts of things motivate people to seek Jesus: a longing for meaning, a desire for community, curiosity, financial interests, peer pressure … the list goes on and on....

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The Gift of Eternal Life

God desires to bless the entire cosmos with life. ...

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The Inclusive Love of God

God loving the world must have come as quite a shock to Nicodemus...

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The Weight of the Gift

God has given a big gift and, in some ways, taken a big risk, in the hope that we will believe and, in that belief, enter into his family and receive life....

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My sheep are your sheep

God offers us his committed loyalty and covenant faithfulness....

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The Rest of M's Story

Take some time today to read the dramatic conclusion of Mephibosheth’s story. Commentators disagree as to what happens with him here....

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1

We're not worthy

The Lord’s way of lifting us out of our shame isn’t to create a fiction in which we have nothing of which to be ashamed....

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Structural and Personal

When we walk in step with his Spirit, we find ourselves drawn toward holistic engagement with people in need....

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1

The Kindness of God

When you think about God, do you think of him as kind?...

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Overflowing Kindness

Faithfulness to the Lord overflows into kindness toward others. ...

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Enabling Courage

God can make you brave...

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A Dose of Perspective

You don’t have to be muscular to be strong. You don’t have to be intimidating to be influential. The Lord can do mighty things in and through you if you’re willing to let him guide you in the use of your voice....

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Responding to Disrespect

What do you do when you’re disrespected?...

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1

Shadows of the past

David found himself in the in-between part of his story: anointed but not yet ascended to the throne. And those in-between places can be so challenging....

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Disorienting Change

Change and loss can be disorienting to us. We can struggle and veer out of control. These are the times when we most need friends. These are the times when we most need God....

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It's complicated ... relax

The easy, obvious shortcut that appeared in that cave in En Gedi might not actually have been as strategic as it seemed....

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Respect for the office and the Lord

That kind of respect for the office, for David, stemmed directly from his respect for the Lord. ...

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When the Giant is in your Hands

Moments like these reveal what’s inside of us. What do we choose to do in the opportune moment?...

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A Giant Complex

Don’t be discouraged. Complex problems are just that. And they can be overcome. ...

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Surprised in the desert

The desert is both a challenge and an opportunity...

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Don't Drink the Water

We easily underestimate the influence we have on others. An idle word or comment or bit of action or inaction can carry outsized cachet. ...

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Explaining the Risk

Good Bible readers will float and test theories as to why things are happening in the text and why people say and do the things they do....

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Water that's more than water

Food and water are almost always more than food and water....

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Do Something New

History never repeats itself exactly. And the new thing that happens can be remarkable....

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At Harvest Time

Although the Bible is intimately concerned with the highest spiritual themes, it doesn’t shy away from engaging with issues like hunger and thirst....

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Paper, Rock, Slingshot

When we refuse to fight the giant on the giant's terms, the Lord can lead us via creative paths to a meaningful victory....

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An Interactive Reading of Psalm 23

David spent his youth working as a shepherd. His experience there marked every corner of his life, from his leadership to his spirituality. ...

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A Psalm for a Storm

Faith and courage don't prevent us from experiencing fear and anxiety; instead, they help us to connect with God in the midst of our fear and move forward in the face of our anxiety....

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Valuable Courage

On a day when the virtue of courage is publicly celebrated, perhaps it’s appropriate for us to look close to home for examples of courage. When we find them, we can show honor, express gratitude, and thank God....

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A Mighty Team

We are better together. The Lord has hard-wired us for community, that we thrive when we have meaningful connections. And this also is the best way for us to engage the world for good....

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After the giant falls

Hope became confidence. Confidence became courage. Courage become action....

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God at the center

David's confidence in the Lord is so central to his identity that it comes spilling out of him even when trash-talking....

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Go and the Lord be with you

David does not let his lack of direct experience disqualify him. David does not presume future success because of his past victory. David is less focused on his qualifications than on the Lord’s presence. ...

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New Direction - New Person

A new person jumping into an old, stuck situation with a new perspective (and maybe a little new life) can change history....

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1

Who are your giants?

When God wants to get us moving again, he has to reframe our relationship with our giants....

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1

Actions speak louder

Words and speech can be cheap if they aren’t backed by action and truth. ...

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1

Seek the Source

Today’s passage circles back around diagnostically. If we feel no pity when faced with a brother or sister in need, something has gone wrong with our relationship with God....

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2

An Emotional Response

Compassion is the most important action in the face of need....

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1

Radical Generosity AND Beautiful Humility

As a church community, we are blessed to have some in our midst who have material possessions and others who are in need....

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1

Beyond Charity

We need help to move toward real love. Our love-compass is broken. It spins and spins in circles because the magnetic power of our own neediness overwhelms everything in our orbit. We need Jesus to settle us so that we can love....

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For Complete Joy

Proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ completes our joy. It satisfies some need deep within us. It terrifies and blesses us. And it can change the world. ...

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For Fellowship

The purpose of proclamation is connection: connection with each other and, ultimately, with God. Fellowship. ...

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A relaxed reading of the text

Try letting the Holy Spirit guide your reading today...

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Person, not Idea

A co-opted Jesus is not Jesus. He doesn’t work for our political or philosophical schemes. He stands on his own feet. Mash him together with the rest of that and you’ll lose him altogether. ...

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The Real Deal

Jesus breathes new life into us as his love invites us to live with him in a larger, clearer, brighter world. ...

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2

What love looks like

The clearest picture of love isn’t buried in some corner of the future or hiding in some region of the present. You can see love as easily as you can see your own shadow … if you’ll look....

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Love in Common

We need common ground and we need someone else to set it for us....

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What is love? (no definition here)

Our valuation of love can vary as widely as our definitions of it....

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Sabbath Questions

The Pharisees look at the individual behavior and not the system behind it. They ask about the disciples’ activity and not their poverty....

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Sabbath Conflict

Sabbath often brings collisions between our values. What do we do when our values collide?...

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2

A Rest for the People of God

Rest requires effort. Rest is not passive. Rest is active and rewarding. And when our restless souls find their rest in God, we thrive....

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2

Work and Rest

From God’s initial creative work in the universe work and rest are intertwined....

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Taking stock of sabbath

The Lord provided non-condescending support, guidance, and structure in the Sabbath...

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No Longer Slaves

Slaves work day-in and day-out. They have no rest from their labors. But our heavenly Father wants to give us good, good rest....

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Rest as Imitation

Our reasons for rest reach back to the ground of creation and the dawn of time. ...

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Waiting for Goodness

In times of restlessness, the knowledge that the Lord is real and really loves us changes everything....

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Surprised by Trouble

Some of our restlessness is fueled by our surprise that troubles show up in our lives....

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One Thing I Ask

We are at our most realistic when we realize his realness and reallocate our attention accordingly....

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Light, Salvation, Stronghold

Fear can drive restlessness....

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A Community of Support

The same Lord who gives shelter and security and sleep also gives support to those who dream the dreams he so generously gives....

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The Lord gives sleep

Every night when you drift off to sleep, you have a powerful reminder that you are loved by God....

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The Lord and Giver of Rest

There’s almost always more work to do than can ever be done....

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The Lord and his Creation

The Lord’s will is not bound to ours as if he’s a marionette being pulled by the strings of our activity....

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God at work

If we think we’re in it all on our own or that our effort is the only effort that matters, when will we ever rest?...

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Reading as Listening

In reading, we experience communal relationships not only with the author but also with others who are listening to the words. ...

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The Channel and the Source

What do you do if your father’s instruction and your mother’s teaching don’t feel like a garland to grace your head or a chain to adorn your neck?...

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Listen to your parents?

One way to navigate the communications chaos in the world is to set up priority people, people to whom you’ll listen no matter what....

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Not past the past

A humble take on our current era can help us pursue wisdom in healthy ways in our generation....

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Jesus, The Straight Path, and Trust

The echo of the proverbial straight path reminds us that trusting Jesus is how we get to holiness, righteousness, and life....

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The Direct Path

The easiest path isn’t always the most direct one....

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2

The Heart of Trust

How much trust does it take to walk with the Lord for a lifetime?...

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Trust and Disappointment

The Lord knows what it’s like to experience disappointment. ...

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Trust and Guidance

Maybe the struggle isn’t with guidance; maybe the struggle is with trust....

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The Pathmaker

The Lord cares how we live our lives. ...

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1

Building Trust on Trust

Our relationship with the Lord can create space for us to have other relationships....

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Wholehearted Trust

Wholehearted trust in the Lord looks like depending on him rather than your own understanding....

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1

A Glance at Trust

We have so many options for where to place our trust....

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High Stakes Wisdom

We don’t just pursue wisdom for our sake. When we get wisdom, everyone around us gets blessed....

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You can choose

You can choose who you spend time with and how you will allow them to influence you....

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Becoming a mentor

You’ve been entrusted with something precious....

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Leveraging Wisdom for Influence

If we want to grow in wisdom, we need to spend time with those who have wisdom. ...

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Walking with the Wise

What do you picture when you picture walking with the wise? ...

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1

The Creation of Wisdom

Don’t turn your mind off when seeking the Lord. He’s the source of all the brilliance that dwells inside you....

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On Wisdom and Wealth

Wisdom and Wealth are not enemies....

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2

Wisdom Acquired

You don’t have to already be wise to gain wisdom....

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Wisdom seeking

God’s reaching out to us makes it possible for us to reach back out to him with hope and confidence....

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3 Ideas to Help You Guard Your Heart

Wisdom will watch over, protect, and guard our hearts according to Proverbs. But what does that look like? How can we guard our hearts?...

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Walk wisely

Which path do we want to walk?...

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Wisdom worth everything

What makes wisdom so valuable?...

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1

Relationship with wisdom

Wisdom emerges from relationships: relationship with your context, with your community and with your heart....

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The Heart of the Matter

God’s invitation to us is to receive free, healthy, wildly-alive hearts. Jesus came to give us hearts that fill our lives with life. Walking wisely with him requires us to tend thoughtfully to the condition of our spiritual and emotional lives....

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2

Love is better

All the good we do in the world in the name of this particular King must be done in love....

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1

Free to love

What if this new way of seeing the world got its light from relationships rather than from obedience to rules?...

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3

The Most Important One

Don’t let the commandments take the place of God....

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You have to start somewhere

We may want to have a different set of conversations with the people we love or a different way of engaging with our local community. But we have to start where we can start....

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The Discipline of Attention

Ask yourself: “Of all the _______, which is the most important?” Pause for a beat and reflect on what your answer reveals about you and your perspective....

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A Prayer Observed

What does this prayer show me about the way I think about God and feel about this person for whom I’m praying?...

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The service of sharing from the heart

There’s something powerful that happens when we pull our affection into our awareness and communicate it to another person....

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Carry in your heart

Paul feels the way about his friends in Philippi that mothers often do for their children....

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1

God won't give up

The work won’t reach completion for a while. But don’t lose heart. God loves you and won’t let you go....

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The Joy of Partnership

Joy fills our prayers and our hearts and spills out from our faces as we go to the places God sends us with the people he gives us....

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Strengthened for Service

Jesus doesn’t just serve; he empowers us to serve....

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The Secret of Contentment

Learning the secret of contentment requires relationship....

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The Secret of Contentment

Contentment always seems to be just around the corner and just out of reach....

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2

Service and Contentment

When we rest in the security of contentment we can be available to truly see and respond to the needs of people around us....

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1

Intentions stalled out

Don’t let guilt or shame over past inaction keep you from making a difference in the future. ...

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Strong to Serve

The ultimate destiny and goal and end of all strength is service....

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Strength Required

Serving always requires strength....

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A Guided Tour

There’s something special about pausing for a beat to study on your own....

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Serve Anyways

The hard and joyful work of the soul that’s alive to God in Christ is to serve anyways. Where we can. When we can. And to be gentle with ourselves when we just can’t....

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An Empowered Example

The example Jesus gives us lands in the midst of God’s empowering work in our lives....

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1

Second Philemon

Sorry to flood your inbox, but I just remembered that I wanted to add something....

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Bond Brothers

When we’re included in Christ, new bonds spring into existence between us and each and every individual who is connected with God....

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Real people and real activism

Human connection is an essential element for Christian social engagement. It’s what makes Christian social engagement distinctly Christian....

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Love as the foundation of activism

Love doesn’t preclude passing laws, boycotting, protesting, or engaging in activism. Love shapes the way we do all of these things. ...

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Read or listen to Philemon

This week we’re going to be studying a whole book of the Bible. Sure, it’s only one chapter. But that still counts!...

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The Joy of Helping

Amazing things happen when we obey God....

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A powerful paradigm shift

Ananias needed to see differently before he could do differently. ...

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The Dance of Inclusion

The reason Jesus includes Ananias has little or nothing to do with Ananias and a lot to do with Jesus....

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Getting what you wish for

Comfort and Challenge with Jesus...

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Wrong about the resurrection

The resurrection changes everything....

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No Needy Persons Allowed?

Why might there be no needy persons in a faith community?...

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Spotlight on Jesus

Our most important question in life kicks in here: What is God like? ...

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A Resurrection-fueled Connection for Good

When we forget the resurrection reality and treat Jesus as a dusty historical figure, our experience of connection and impetus for generosity begin to fade. We lose perspective. Our petty differences take on an exaggerated significance....

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From Unity to Generosity

Unity precedes generosity. And generosity always follows unity....

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Reflecting Reading of Acts 4

As you read, allow the Lord to direct your attention to a word or phrase that describes this new community....

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Spirit-inspired Forgiveness

Saying “Yes” to Jesus’ challenges is our best path to peace and joy....

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A Prayer for Easter Joy

We’re hoping that each of us and everyone who visits a church would have a meaningful moment with Jesus this weekend. We want to experience that joy....

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Jesus the Not A Ghost

Use the negative image to grow your appreciation for what actually happened....

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Peace to you

What would you expect Jesus to say to you if you met him today? Digging into that question can give you a flash of insight into a) how you see Jesus and b) how you see yourself....

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God will meet you

Wherever you are, God can meet you there. He can meet you when no one else wants to listen to you. He can meet you even when you doubt....

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Speaking of Easter

One way we can lift our voices to glorify God is to talk to people about him. This could involve sharing your story of God’s work in your life, telling someone about something you’re learning about God, or directly inviting someone to connect with God....

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The Shouting Stones

In today’s passage, Jesus points to a very important truth: God is worthy of our praise. ...

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The Caution of the Pharisees

When you’re swept into the worship of God, lifted to the heights of prayer, plunged into the depths of scripture, filled with zeal for justice … those are always the moments when the pharisaical voices begin to ring in our hearts....

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The Caution of the Pharisees

When you’re swept into the worship of God, lifted to the heights of prayer, plunged into the depths of scripture, filled with zeal for justice … those are always the moments when the pharisaical voices begin to ring in our hearts....

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Great expectations of Jesus

This is not what the crowd expected....

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Easier

Anyone can say the words. ...

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Theological conundrums

What do you do when you bump into things Jesus says or does that you don’t approve of, don’t understand, or don’t enjoy? ...

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Cutting in line

We’re invited by God today to witness the friendliness of Jesus....

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On Emotional Whiplash

What we do in the face of emotional whiplash and deep disappointment makes all the difference in the world. ...

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Including Jesus

This week, as we explore Jesus’ interaction with the friends of the paralytic and the crowd that had gathered to hear him teach, we’ll have an opportunity to listen to Jesus for ourselves....

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Whatever it takes

They would do whatever it takes to get their friend to Jesus....

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Looking for cues

These aren’t the only times or the only ways to bring people to Jesus. But some of us need a nudge....

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The Choices of Friendship

When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in response to the faith of the man’s radical friends, a bunch of different people had a bunch of different decision to make....

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Meaningful Friendship

In spiritual friendship, we connect in meaningful ways with another person and, ultimately, through that relationship, with God....

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All those alls

How might this influence our relationships with people with whom we might disagree? ...

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The one about the ones

Our view of who God is shapes our view of who we are and, consequently, influences all of our relationships....

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Close reading on unity

Over and against bland or brutal or brief unity, Paul presents the unity of the Spirit....

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In line with the calling

A non-comprehensive yet challenging list of ways to live a life worthy of the calling we’ve received...

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A Foundation for Unity

We’ve been invited, summoned, called into the life and mission and kingdom of God....

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The Seeds and the Birds

When we become who God invites us to become we benefit from the growth and we bless our broader community....

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The Swinging Pendulum

Rapid expansion doesn’t repudiate smallness. In fact, smallness is a necessary and significant element of the life of Christian community....

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Grow and Change

Growth brings change. Change brings challenges. Challenges bring choices....

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A Small Seed

God isn’t afraid to start small. That’s how he always does it. ...

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Teaching in parables

What’s your willingness to wrestle with God as you come into this week? ...

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Principles of Community Connection

Nothing can help us connect with difficult people quite like the presence of Jesus....

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The Mirror of Conflict

So often our hesitations about the people we distrust have as much to do with our own fears and pride as anything having to do with “them.” ...

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The Beauty of Gatekeeping

Apart from Jesus, none of these disciples would have received an invite to Levi’s party … and none of these disciples would have had access to Levi’s social network....

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The Zealot and the Tax Collector

Jesus packed a riot into a small group. And that small group changed the world....

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The Taxman

Tax collectors in Judea in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry had remarkably complex jobs....

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Look at this group

Healthy small groups will connect us to people we wouldn’t ordinarily connect with thought means we wouldn’t ordinarily use in ways that radically challenge us to mature and grow. ...

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An Ordinary Group

The remarkable thing about the men was that they had been with Jesus (see Acts 4:13)....

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Is 12 a magic number?

Did Jesus and the Twelve know some secret to group dynamics and community structure?...

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The Mission in the Middle

From the very beginning Jesus’ small group had a mission. ...

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Jesus was in a small group

He could share more with them by living life with them than by lecturing them....

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He came to serve

Our participation in service gives us a deeper appreciation of the salvation that Jesus bought for us. That salvation works deeper into our souls as a result. And we’re transformed....

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Pursue true greatness

You’re more likely to find the truly great person by looking for someone serving. You’re more likely to grow into true greatness in your own life by looking for opportunities to serve....

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2

What if you don't know what you're asking?

We have an opportunity to practice the discipline of trust. We can relax into the watchful care of our wise God....

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What would you ask?

Imagine Jesus turned to you and asked you: “What do you want me to do for you?” ...

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Willing to pay attention

As we pour out our hearts to him, he hears us and responds in love. That doesn’t always mean giving us what we ask for, but it always means giving us his best....

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Depending on each other

God’s invitation to “together” is the only pathway to “better.”...

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Sending with authority

There’s no sending without authority and there's no authority without sending....

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Don't go it alone

We need to be “together” in our pursuit of the “better.”...

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Not in a large group

Why didn’t Jesus send them out as one big group?...

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Grit in the face of rejection

As Jesus continued to faithfully visit town after town ...

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Leaving the family business

Following Jesus does, at times, come with a cost. He doesn’t offer us cheap discipleship....

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Drop your nets

Jesus’ invitation to follow him requires us time and time again to leave our nets, to leave behind even the good things that will distract us from following him....

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2

Go Fish

What do you do when you come to one of Jesus’ metaphors?...

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Shaped from the Beginning

Jesus flips the script. He calls uneducated fishermen. He initiates the relationship. And that changes how the whole thing would work....

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Different and Alike

Every movement has a starting place....

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Coming and Going

Don’t miss his purpose. Don’t miss his invitation....

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That is why I have come

The dance between his Father and his friends, between solitary prayer and community life, that created an environment that was primed for Jesus to discover and rediscover his purpose....

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Bypassing Honor

Jesus’ decision to move on to other towns and villages to preach meant that he wouldn’t be able to stick around to enjoy the honor and gratitude of all of the people he had directly and indirectly helped....

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Prayer and Purpose

God the Son ...

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Everyone's looking for you

How does the tug of popularity pull on your heart? ...

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A Patch of Green Grass

Our world is thirsty for “green grass,” for places where people can sit down together and connect with each other in meaningful ways....

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When God hands you broken bread

Don’t ever think that your small loaf of bread and your few fish aren’t enough to make a difference....

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Why feed the crowd?

Great Bible study involves letting your imagination roam through a text, seeking understanding and insight....

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For the sake of compassion

Watch out for God’s great compassion! His compassion will change the course of history. His compassion can transform your life....

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Quiet and Rest

There’s a rest that comes from quiet and a rest that comes from depending on Jesus. We, like Jesus’ disciples, need both....

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An end of year reflection

A lot of us feel the speed of time as we close out another year. Where did 2017 go? ...

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An end of year reflection

A lot of us feel the speed of time as we close out another year. Where did 2017 go? ...

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Reminders from the Margins

Anna’s story reminds us of much we already know but easily forget in the busyness of life....

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Reminders from the Margins

Anna’s story reminds us of much we already know but easily forget in the busyness of life....

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Disruptive Discipleship

In the presence of Jesus the ordinary power structures of the world get flipped on their head. ...

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Hope fulfilled

Something came alive in Simeon when he met Jesus....

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Merry Christmas!

Listen for any part of this story that warms your heart toward God and that sparks joy in your soul....

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Find Jesus

When you connect with Jesus, joy follows....

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A Savior's Crib

All too often we bump right up to the threshold of joy and turn back because we see rough wood and straw and very little gold. We need to pay closer attention to find joy, to find our Savior in the manger....

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News Joy People

The shockwave of this good news wraps great joy around the world. Can you feel it? ...

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The Tumult and the Turn

Knowing that you may encounter opportunities to be terrified on your path toward joy allows you to summon your courage and look to the Lord for strength to stay engaged....

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An Expected Surprise

We can look back on this ordinary night and see that any ordinary moment is a moment that could be pregnant with potential for a miracle....

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God's Tender Mercy

Taking a word or phrase like this and reflecting on it and meditating on it (like we did right here) can be a great spiritual discipline. ...

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A Father's Gift

God invites us to be his children before he invites us to anything else. ...

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The Prepositions of Salvation

Don’t miss the full picture of the salvation that God has for us in Jesus Christ!...

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With us for our good

The presence of God in our midst is good news to us....

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Eclipsed by Jesus

John was going to lead an extraordinary life. But he would be eclipsed by Jesus....

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Normal and Unique

God can be at work in our lives that fit the patterns we’ve seen in the lives of other. But he can also break the mold....

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A Disruptive Holiday

Mary had a deep sense that God’s new work in the world at Christmas would turn the world upside down....

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Part of something bigger

God’s work doesn’t start with us. ...

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The song of a grateful heart

Rejoicing sparked by gratitude does something powerful in our souls....

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Break into song

When the emotion is too great to convey in mere words, characters in a musical will sing out. ...

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Presence and Affection

Presence and affection. This is what love looks like....

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No word of God will ever fail

For us to become a people of deep faith, we need to attend carefully to the stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of the people around us....

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Why the virgin birth?

In the virgin birth we see the extraordinary and miraculous lengths God will go to for the sake of a relationship....

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Doubting the Virgin Birth?

“A simple translation correction,” we think, “could clear up all this confusion.” Except that it doesn’t....

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In real time

God meets us in the real world. ...

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First impressions with Jesus

How would it change your relationship with Jesus if you came to believe in him in the midst of a feast that had been marked by this miracle: turning water into wine?...

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Give thanks today

As Vanessa Williams sang a long time ago: “Just when I thought a chance had passed, you went and saved the best for last.” And that’s just what Jesus did....

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From ordinary to extraordinary

Just as God can take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, he can take the sacred and make it holy....

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When the fun winds down

Jesus kept the party going....

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Tis the Season

God wants to be present in every corner of our lives....

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Spirit and Truth

There’s so much packed into this one tiny verse. ...

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Switchtracking

Switchtracks reveal something about the person with whom we’re speaking. What we do with these switchtracks matters....

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Thirsty

She had such a hard time seeing beyond her thirst. And so do we....

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Asking for help

We don’t like to be vulnerable, to expose our needs to strangers, or to be the one asking for help. We’d much rather give answers....

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Strange Paths

Jesus’ need to go through Samaria had nothing to do with logistics and travel efficiency and everything to do with his mission to seek and save the lost....

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Seeking Jesus

Our obsession with being right keeps us from being loving and, in effect, keeps us from experiencing full and deep and rich intimacy with Jesus....

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Finding Common Ground

Doing this requires courage....

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Check your posture

All too often our conversations across religious divides devolve into petty arguments....

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What about other religions?

People feel strongly about their gods....

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Grace and Mercy when you need them

In our time of need, we need to know that God is at work restraining evil. He’s not absent. He isn’t on vacation or taking a nap. He’s fully engaged....

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Bad stuff and bad behavior

Bad stuff can tempt us to bad behavior....

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Jesus and empathy

Jesus doesn’t just feel sorry for us; he shares our emotional state....

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Centering our hope on Jesus

Centering our hope on Jesus and holding firmly to our faith allows us to reject the unhealthy options that present themselves to us in our times of crisis....

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What about the bad stuff?

When bad things happen, we can find our faith shaken. We trust the Lord, but that trust gets tested. And that’s okay....

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Scripture-induced heartburn

Even the most rational and intellectual among us sway under the weight of our hearts....

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Reflected glory

The Bible’s glory is a reflected glory: the beauty of the moon, not the beauty of the sun. But in these dark days, we can feel grateful for a full moon shining brightly and guiding our footsteps....

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What would it take?

On Easter Sunday, Jesus had been raised from the dead, but his followers and friends were still deciding if they were going to believe the news. How would you help these folks believe that Jesus was alive?...

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History told honestly

Throughout the Bible we see the story of God and his people told honestly, warts and all....

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What about the Bible?

As followers of Jesus, we trust the Bible and allow it to guide both our lives and our community because we believe that the Bible speaks faithfully about Jesus....

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The Neighbor of Mercy

Anyone can be your neighbor....

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Like a good neighbor

The good news in Jesus Christ is that God’s acceptance of us doesn’t depend on our performance for him....

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The Good Samaritan

Stories like these have the ability slip past our defenses. They challenge us without being obnoxious. They give us space to consider a different point of view....

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From Obligation to Opportunity

We’re at our worst when we put our church or our family or our politics above our connection with Jesus. ...

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More than answers

Jesus desires to offer relationship and not just answers. ...

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Questions coming back

When we come to Jesus with our questions, we shouldn’t be surprised when he challenges us in return....

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Questions and Expectations

If Jesus answered the question but not the expectations underlying it, John’s emotional turmoil might continue....

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Lean into the Relationship

Don't keep your questions to yourself, allowing it to smolder and burn up your insides. ...

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Consider the Context

Take some time today to listen to the questions people ask about God, faith, religion, and spirituality...

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Questioning God

The God we see revealed in Jesus is a God who can handle our questions, a God who loves being asked questions....

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Meant for Good

Throughout your life you will encounter people who in moments of foolishness mean to do you harm. Don’t wrap your life around them....

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Playing God

We all have times in our lives when we slip through the garden and grab for forbidden fruit and play God. ...

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Manipulated Forgiveness

Many of us couldn’t forgive others from our hearts except that God is at work in and around us....

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Receiving Mercy

In our relationships with God we’re the recipients of his radical and surprising mercy. ...

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Words of Blessing

When in your life have you been the recipient of words of blessing, of someone with authority in your life commenting on your past, your character, or your potential?...

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Surprised by Mercy

Everyone is surprised by mercy. ...

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A Good Older Brother

We need someone to rescue us from our slavery to anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, and pride....

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Coming Unstuck

God can work in a thousand ways to transform the way we see the people who’ve hurt us....

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Emotional Landmines

Our past experiences of trauma can trigger strong reactions in us....

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Justice and Revenge

Justice doesn’t have to come at the expense of your soul....

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At work behind the scenes

This is a God who is worthy to be praised. ...

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What has God given you?

Don’t let anyone convince you that you have nothing to offer. And don’t let the spirit of comparison creep into your heart. Bring to the table exactly what God has given you and do so joyously....

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Generous like him

We’ve seen time and time again how our community generously responds to neighbors in crisis and global needs. We’ve made sacrifices to help others. And it’s so worth it....

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Depending on Others

The myth of the self-made, bootstrap-pulling, hard-working, independent hero stumbles in seasons like these....

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A Pregnant Moment

Tremendous pressures pile up to move the wheels of the world and of our lives....

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The Right Person

Pause for a moment and thank God for putting the right people in your life in decisive moments. ...

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Rumblings in Your Heart

The ongoing rumblings in Joseph’s heart foreshadow an upcoming work of God in Joseph’s life....

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The Second Chair

Joseph leaned in and was faithful to do the work God had given him to do....

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Giving credit

Joseph wants to rely on God. And that’s what makes him extraordinary....

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Waiting

Don’t lose hope if you can’t chart a clear course from where you are today to where you hope to be....

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Be aware

Awareness of God’s activity can boost your God-confidence....

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Whispered wisdom

As you navigate difficult situations and relationships, God's presence can fill you with tremendous confidence....

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Boomerang

Joseph’s past and his present collided. He had a decision to make....

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Paying attention

All too often we get so busy doing our good work that we forget to connect with the people who God has placed in our path....

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Catch

As God poured his blessings out on Joseph, the cupbearer and the baker benefitted as well. This can also happen to us in hard times....

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Integrity's Reward

What happens inside of us when we see people punished for showing integrity? ...

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Blessing and Boundary

God gave blessings and God gave boundaries. Joseph knew that he couldn’t accept one without the other....

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Temptation

With success comes challenge....

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Blessing

The Lord’s blessing on the household didn’t remove Joseph’s challenges, but they did change his experience....

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Presence

Your prospering doesn’t ultimately depend on your circumstances....

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Not Good Enough

Though God is not mentioned once in Genesis 37, we later discover that he was at work all throughout this painful and difficult episode....

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That Dreamer

Let’s refuse to participate in the destructive practice of dehumanization....

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Immature Dreams

Our dreams can reveal our areas of immaturity, as can our way of communicating them. ...

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Against favoritism

Favoritism is one of many broken relational patterns that separate us from each other....

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Past a first impression

We can’t rid ourselves of our automatic habit of capturing first impressions as we meet new people, but we can cultivate habits of attention that allow us to look beyond those initial judgements....

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Not sent alone

The Lord constantly works through communities. For every great figure in the story of our faith, we also find the Lord sending them friends....

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Blessed to be a blessing

As God’s blessings pile up in and around us, we need to share them with others. Only then will God’s blessings to us be complete....

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A Covenant Framework

God holds up his side of the covenant. Though his covenant purposes advance over rocky terrain, they advance nonetheless....

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Go and went

God's invitation stands. It’s our turn to respond. What will we do?...

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An Adventure with God

The adventure of life with God gives us healing and joy and blessing, but it also stretches us. We leave familiar territory, relationships, programs, and narratives behind when we launch out into this adventure....

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Eternity in our hearts

What if the craziness we feel when we’re crazy busy is due to having two different songs playing inside of us: the drumbeat of eternity and the roar of busyness?...

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Beautiful in its time

God has made everything beautiful in its time. Even us. ...

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Meaning

Without meaning, work becomes miserable and we lose our drive....

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There is a season

This burst of poetry reaches out and connects with our hearts. We’re given space to connect viscerally and emotionally with God’s truth about the seasonal nature of life....

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Seasons

God does huge things in our lives when we shift from Now-Or-Never Thinking to Season Thinking....

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A Clear Path

The Lord is the one who makes known to us the paths of life....

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Good Boundaries

Contentment is the fruit of a soul who’s put down roots in the generosity of God....

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The Search for Security

We love hard work. We work hard. But the Lord is the one who holds our ultimate security....

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Evil Sacrifices

Other gods make big promises if only we’ll worship them. They give us benefits in the short-term (sometimes). But over time these gods fail us. And we suffer more and more as a result of our bondage to them....

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God our Refuge

Lean more heavily on God when times get hard....

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Prayer and great work

Calling out to God changes us for the better. ...

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Be persistent

In order to pursue your God-given great work, you need to make more than just one good decision; you need to string together a series of good decisions....

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Your Great Work

Don’t give in to the temptation to compare your great work to others....

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Great opposition

When you embark on great work in your own life, you probably won’t have people trying to get you killed. But it may feel like it....

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Given great work

When we live crazy busy lives, we miss out on the great work God’s given us to do....

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Part of Something Epic

Enter into this passage imaginatively. ...

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Better Together

You cannot go off by yourself and grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ....

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MadLibs Love

Only love can hold us together. ...

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Power for Connection

Paul’s prayer for power which leads to strength isn’t focused on doing and achieving. Instead, Paul wants his friends to have the rich and beautiful experience of intimacy with Jesus Christ....

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A Good and Engaged Father

The special relationship you have with God gives you strong permission to open your heart to him in prayer....

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Don't be discouraged

The reflected glory shines brightly in the dark....

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On display in the church

God’s choice to identify with us was, according to Paul, his way of making his wisdom known to the entire cosmos....

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Paul's big mysteries

We don’t have to jettison our ethnic identities in order to fully participate in the body of Christ....

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Mixing with mysteries

Paul didn’t want the Christian mysteries to be held in secret as copyrighted proprietary instruction. He wanted everyone to talk about these great mysteries....

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Paul's call and ours

Paul had a beautiful call from the Lord. What’s yours? ...

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Creating space to connect with God

God has chosen to make himself know to the world through us, to meet with people through us, to identify with us....

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Tearing down the walls

If Jesus can stand alive on the mountain top, he can bring us there with him....

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Far to near

When Jesus brings us near to God and to other people, he does it in a way that challenges and changes us....

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The Exclusion Experience

In God’s good goodness, he goes out of his way to connect with those of us who live as outsiders....

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Identifying the Divides

Our world is full of divides....

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Good works

God pulls us into his activity....

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God's good gift

Salvation is a gift, not a payment for services rendered....

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Motivated by love

God’s great love for us has the final say in our lives....

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Correct the Rear-View

God changes the story of our past, but he doesn’t rewrite history. He adds new chapters. And each new chapter reshapes how we see the entire story....

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The way you used to be

A humble memory of where you came from ...

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In the highest place

Christ will always be the highest authority. No one will topple him, surpass him, or overthrow him....

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Jesus at the Center

God is at the center of Paul’s vision and at the center of our lives....

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Pray to know

Above all, Paul prioritized knowing God, so that’s what he asked God to do for his friends....

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Giving Thanks

What are we missing when the focus of our prayer lives is only asking for things?...

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Faith and Love

You can’t have meaningful faith in the Lord Jesus without also having love for all God’s people; you can’t have love for all God’s people without also placing your faith in the Lord Jesus....

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God is serious about our redemption

The Spirit is God’s very presence with us. He doesn’t just welcome us to ping him when we have a minute; he wants to spend time with us....

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Hearing and believing

God’s good work in us invites us every day to both hear and believe....

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To the praise of his glory

Wouldn’t you love for everything that’s glorious about God to be on display in you? ...

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1

The one on predestination

Paul talks about something he calls “predestination” and treats it like good news....

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You are wanted

Adoption is special. The child or person being adopted is chosen, wanted, added to a new family....

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Everything in Christ

Jesus gives us access to every spiritual blessing....

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2

Grace and peace to you

God the father who welcomes you and Jesus the prince who loves you send grace and peace to you every minute of every day...

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4

God's holy people

We become God’s holy people only in and with and through Christ Jesus....

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By the will of God

God works actively, daily to shape us into the people he wants us to become....

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Welcome to Ephesians

This week we’re kicking off a new series out of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. And as we get started, it might be helpful for you to learn about Ephesus and the folks who received this letter....

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God takes initiative

God is doing amazing things in the world, unlooked for amazing things. We feel so grateful that God has taken the initiative to bless, heal, and bring about reconciliation....

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Doomed to misfortune

The scope of the challenges that face us when we roll up our sleeve to engage the world for good can paralyze us....

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Fruits of Your Labor

For those of us who labor ...

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Progress toward the Promise

Our tiny acts of service, performed with great love, link together into a great chain of progress. Pulled by the Lord, this chain of progress lifts our community a little bit every day, a little bit every year....

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Sure Promises

God will make all things new. He’s promised to time and time again. He didn’t promise this on a whim. He hasn’t forgotten his promise. He can do it. And he surely will....

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Everything new

Do you believe this is true?...

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Imagine New

God’s cosmic new-making mission will radically change the way the world works....

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Okay

Some days it feels like our sadness will last forever. But it won’t. It won’t. Our Father will stop the madness. He will make it stop. We will wipe our tears from our eyes....

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Experiencing the presence of God

Jesus has removed every reason for us to be terrified of God. So we can go searching for him without fear. And we can find him and discover that he’s been with us ...

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Cosmic New

God’s new-making mission takes place on a cosmic scale. It’s bigger than any of us. We’re so small, but so dearly loved. And this is good news....

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All in Jesus name

The Christian life spills beyond Sunday morning worship, small group life, and quiet devotional emails. ...

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No streaking

These virtues function like clothing. They make it possible for us to be present and un-self-conscious, to feel safe and secure, to feel wanted for who we are and not just for our bodies … for what we can do....

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Putting off and Putting on

You can’t put on your new self without also taking off your old self and being made new....

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Close to Jesus

We have no life apart from Christ. We go where he goes and join him in what he’s doing. He’s not our safety net; he’s on the tightrope with us....

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One Thing

Right now we are called to set our hearts on things above, to shift our focus onto Jesus....

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God helps

Jesus makes us new....

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Giving Back

What have you written off as gone forever?...

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Jesus' touch

Over and over again, in every situation, when Jesus reached out to touch someone who was unclean something remarkable happened. ...

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Collision Course

Who wins? Spoiler alert: Jesus wins. Always. In the end, Jesus makes all things new....

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Ordinary Jesus

We need to know that Jesus is no stranger to our ordinary places....

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Needing Jesus

Let’s not slip into that place where we feel like our good behavior earns us a place in Jesus’ party. ...

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Those People

So many people will say that they like or even admire Jesus, they just can’t stand his followers. ...

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Connect with Jesus

We throw our lives open in healthy and joy-filled ways and invite the people that God’s placed in our lives to join us as we connect with our Savior....

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Follow Me

We must choose every day to follow Jesus....

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Calling the tax man

Jesus changed everything for Levi, as we’ll see this week. ...

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Be Reconciled to God

Being reconciled to God is both a once-for-all-time kind of thing and an every-day-I-live-and-breathe kind of thing....

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Fully forgiven

The barriers between you and a healthy relationship with God have come down. You have no more reason to hide....

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The Ministry of Reconciliation

We have a role to play. God has commissioned us. What a blessing!...

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Reconciled to God

Underpinning today’s passage is the story that tells us that something had gone horribly wrong between us and God....

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Two Realities

Because the new is here, the old has gone. The old may remain for a beat or two, but it’s gone just as surely and securely as if it had already been eradicated....

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The New is Here

Celebrate this. Sing it. Shout it. Write it on your walls. Christ has made us new....

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A New Point of View

The trickle-down effects of our relationship with Christ continue to unfold in today’s passage. ...

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We died

Death in all it’s forms ...

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Live For

Love is not a finite resource, but our priorities do shape the way we express our love. ...

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Talkin' 'bout a Resurrection

They knew their message would seem like nonsense. But they shared it anyways....

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Searching for new

If Jesus can come back from the dead, what is impossible for him?...

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Angelic Guidance

Why doesn’t God make this extraordinary circumstance more ordinary?...

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Time to wonder

Taking time to wonder doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And it’s tough to do in our frenetic, fast-paced, get-things-done culture. But it has an impact....

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Within Expectations

What they found at the tomb didn’t align with their expectations. The tomb was opened and the body was gone....

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The cross shows

You are dearly loved by God. And he proved it on the cross....

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More than Reform

The place where prayer and action meet is a place where we can connect with God....

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Not (Just) a Teacher

Jesus did a great deal of teaching … but his teaching wasn’t what he was known for in his lifetime, what he was remembered for by his disciples, or what from his life has had the most significant impact on the world....

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About a Revolution

Jesus’ revolution is marked by Jesus’ character. His love, patience, compassion, and mercy will come stamped on his every action. He’s delightfully and maddeningly consistent....

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Difficult Decisions

Reflecting on your own decision-making process might help you to connect more deeply with Jesus in this pivotal moment in his story....

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A Connecting Church

The church is more than a Sunday morning gathering for music, sermonizing, and donuts. It’s bigger than us. ...

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Going to look for Saul

Who are the great partners that God has brought into your life ...

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Parachuting in

Barnabas’ posture had a tremendous impact on his experience and on the way others experienced him. We’re at our most healthy when we cultivate a similar posture....

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Outsiders reaching outsiders

It took outsiders to reach outsiders....

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Disrupting Default Segregation

Ethnic segregation, socioeconomic segregation, political segregation … left to our own devices we’ll surround ourselves exclusively with people who look, spend, and think just like us....

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Small Faithfulness

What might God do with your faithfulness?...

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Talk to God about it

The Lord of all the cosmos has chosen to treat you as a friend ...

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Underestimating Jesus

This gap between who Jesus really is and who people perceive him to be shows up for all of us....

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ME

Jesus isn’t just alive on the other side of the cross and the empty tomb, he’s present in the lives of his people. ...

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Prayer for the persecuted church

Opponents to God’s work in the world today can appear in various forms. Some come equipped with little more than snide comments and teasing. Others carry knives, bombs, and the hammer of unjust laws....

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Prayers of Protection

Turn away and pray and it will be okay. ...

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Radical Reorientation

The Lord isn’t done with our transformation at the moment of our initial conversion. Every day we follow him he works in our hearts and souls to change the way we think, love and live....

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The Light Wins

No one is too lost to be found. No one is too stuck to be freed. No one is too evil to be loved....

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Contested Space

Every inch of ground gained by the kingdom of God has to be taken from other little imposter kingdoms....

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Pay closer attention

The miracles earned him a hearing....

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Ready for Opportunities

How do we go from being unprepared to being prepared? ...

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Cross-cultural connection

God’s power is put on full display when his followers cross racial, ethnic and cultural lines with the news and love of Jesus....

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Direction without details

Philip will get more instructions later in the passage. All he’s given to start with is a direction. But that was enough....

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A Dose of Joy

In a world that’s clearly not the way it’s supposed to be, God has intervened....

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Disruptive Forces

God is wildly available to us in these seasons of disruption....

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The Source of Celebration

The arc of the universe bends toward celebration....

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Strength and Joy

Take some time today to meditate on the strength-giving joy of the Lord....

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A Noble Cedar Kind of Church

The Lord’s work in our hearts is to turn us back toward community in healthy and generous ways....

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From Mourning to Celebration

The goodness of the Lord gives us a reason to celebrate....

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After the end

What do you do at the end of a great, good project? We’ve talked about building and rebuilding families, careers, homes, churches, and communities. But what happens next?...

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CC + GG = RR

If we were going to draw it into something like a formula, it might look like this: Committed Community + Generous God = Remarkable Results....

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The Dung Gate

The whole community is blessed when someone is willing to step in and do the work no one else wants to do....

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Women at work

Those daughters of Shallum, those strong women, worked as hard as all of the rest of the men. And their work was noted both by Nehemiah and by God....

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Getting your hands dirty

There is an intimate connection between your willingness to get your hands dirty and your ability to bless people....

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The Lord notices

Your particular part in God’s good work has not gone unnoticed by him....

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Gracious Hand

Nehemiah’s testimony about God’s gracious hand at work for him gave the people the faith they needed to actively move into the future....

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We and Us

“We” creates space for “us.”...

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Telling trouble

Sometimes you need someone to tell you when you’re in trouble....

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Due Diligence

A patient due diligence process prepares us to step into the work we’ve been given to do in a knowledgeable, prepared way....

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Quiet Start

We live in an age that struggles with secrecy....

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The Place for Planning

As people of faith, we don’t have to be afraid of planning. The same God who speeds and catches us when we take our leaps of faith can inspire and guide us when we plan....

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In the beat

The active, rough-and-tumble, dangerous phase of the Jerusalem rebuilding project was peppered with prayer. Connecting with God in prayer filled the beats between moments of action. ...

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What is it you want?

We often are only in touch with the surface of our desires. We rarely dive into their depths....

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Fear and Faith

Fear is not the absence of faith. Even the faithful feel fear. Fear can serve us well, pushing us onto the path toward wisdom. But fear makes a terrible master....

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Positioned Perfectly

We believe that the Lord still does this: he positions people perfectly to pursue their destiny. ...

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The Basis for Our Confidence

You also can store up for yourself a supply of conviction about the Lord’s willingness to keep his promises....

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A Prayer of Corporate Confession

Nehemiah’s willingness to identify himself with his broader family and community in confession positions him powerfully to lead his entire community in mission....

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False Bad News

The Lord is present in our lives and history, whether the news is good or bad. When his people practice prayerful engagement, they discover that their activist God is already deeply engaged: bringing restoration, resisting evil, and generating hope....

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People and Structures

One of the things we love about Nehemiah’s story is that he manages to care both for people and structures. He doesn’t just have warm and fuzzy sympathetic feelings for his fellow Jews, he also cares about the state of Jerusalem’s walls....

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Asking the question

Choosing to care does something in our souls. The Lord works with that choice, enriches it and expands it and nourishes it. Choosing to care slips you into the center of God’s great work....

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Growth and Vulnerability

Life in the church brings our vulnerabilities to the surface. This is perhaps never more true than when a church is growing....

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The Lord's outside influence

The Lord delights to do the seemingly impossible....

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One barrier-breaking example

Don’t encourage people to imitate your behavior. When they’re inspired by the Lord’s work in your life, encourage them to connect with God....

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The Blessing of Community

When the Lord grows a community, when the Lord grows a church, when the Lord grows a person … the blessings spill beyond that the life of that community, church, or person....

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God at Work

The political and military machinations of the world powers look like ultimate powers, but God is also at work. God’s work continues even in seasons of difficulty and uncertainty. And God’s work is the work that matters most....

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Good Soil

There is good soil out there, soil that’s been prepared, hearts that are ready to hear and accept that word of the Lord. ...

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3 Barriers

Jesus insightfully lists 3 things that can keep the word of God from bearing fruit in your life: worries, wealth, and distraction....

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Prepare for trouble

Troubles and persecutions can come as a result of our faith. If we haven’t put down deep roots, our faith won’t survive....

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Hard Soil

The soil on the path has not been prepared to receive the seed....

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Reckless and Generous

God’s kingdom is marked by the reckless generosity of the king. ...

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Particular Purpose

How will we respond to Jesus’ great act of service? Gratitude. Shame. Joy. Confusion. Worship. So many responses are available to us....

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Recalculating Your Route

Will you choose to serve? This is a daily choice, a choice that goes against the grain of the world, a choice that God uses to transform us....

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An Examined Grumpiness

When do you find yourself feeling grumpy about the way other people talk to or about God?...

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A "No" from God

Our prayer requests fly to God, but we can’t pretend to fully comprehend the full impact of each flap of their wings....

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Manipulating God

James and John are comically transparent in their attempt to manipulate Jesus. Aren’t we all?...

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For Seekers and Stumblers

The kingdom of heaven is available to both seekers and stumblers. Some of us searched high and low looking for a place and a community where what God wants done is done. Others of us went looking for friends, free food, and a little spiritual icing on the cake we call life and stumbled into this great and wonderful kingdom that God is bringing to fruition in our midst. God...

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Worth Rearranging Your Life

What do you consider to be so worthwhile that you’ll rearrange your life? This question can give you insight into your priorities, your dreams, and the challenges of your current life situation....

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Comparing and Contrasting Parables

Great engagement with the scriptures begins with good observation of the text. As you read these parables, what stands out to you?...

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Kingdom Parables

The Kingdom of Heaven is worth it!...

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Kingdom of Heaven

How would you fill in this blank: “The kingdom of heaven is like _________.”?...

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Seeking God's Kingdom

What would happen if we all committed to seek God’s kingdom first in 2017?...

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Your Resolutions and God's Kingdom

Every resolution you make in this new year can contain a kingdom component if you are willing to seek it out. Losing weight, reading more, decluttering, taking a vacation, calling your kids … each and every one of these can be used by our heavenly Father to advance his kingdom in our lives and in this world....

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Kickstart change

This time of year many of us will ponder making resolutions to live life differently in 2017. The changes that take place in our lives might have a tremendous impact on our relationships and our participation in God’s kingdom. ...

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Reflecting on 2016

Mary’s practice of treasuring what has happened and pondering them in her heart is a practice that can serve us well in our own lives....

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Boxing Day Rest

Rest. Rest. The weary world rejoices. ...

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Reaching out at Christmas

Who can you surprise with a Christmas invitation this year?...

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Christmas across divides

Our differences don’t go away; they just cease to keep us apart....

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Even for the religious

Wouldn’t it be great if all of us had our eyes fixed on Jesus and our hearts filled with joy? ...

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Christmas on the margins

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world...

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Christmas is for everyone

Because Christmas is for everyone, Christmas is for you and for everyone you love....

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Christmas tension

Going home for the holidays can be difficult....

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God can join your story

There’s no story that God cannot join....

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Caesar vs. Jesus

Don’t go to Jesus expecting to find a king like Caesar Augustus. He has his own personality, his own priorities, and his own values. The kingdom in which Jesus rules and reigns differs tremendously from the empire of the Caesars....

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God and good outcomes

God is not thrown by the twists and turns life throws us. He can leverage and redeem them. He can see to it that good comes about despite them. And this can help us trust him....

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Unintended consequences

The ripple effect of one small decision can be felt throughout a community or throughout a lifetime....

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The Lord will fulfill his promises

Blessed are you if you believe the Lord will fulfill his promises to you....

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Given spectacular work

Time and time again the Lord has empowered both women and men to speak up in the power of the Spirit and testify about Jesus. And he empowers us today....

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Your faith-giving story

Have you ever considered this possibility: God’s faithfulness to you may be used to bolster someone else’s faith?...

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The choice to give credit

Crediting the Lord is a choice that we make. And it’s a choice worth making. ...

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Disappointment with God

One of the Christmas surprises we have to reckon with this season is the surprise of disappointment. We have such high hopes for God’s work and intervention. But they won’t always be fulfilled....

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Mary's Song

When Joseph found out about the pregnancy, he went and took a nap. When Mary found out, she went to visit a friend and sang a song....

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A simple, mechanical question

God connected with history in a new way in Jesus. He connects with us in a new way through Jesus today....

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The Surprising King

Through Christmas, Mary was pulled into God’s bigger story. And we are too. Through Christmas we’re invited to participate in significant ways in God’s subversive kingdom....

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A Surprising Greeting

You are highly favored and the Lord is with you. ...

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A Surprising Location

What resources do you think are necessary for things to change for the better?...

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Joseph's obedience

In those early years of Jesus’ life, his adopted father sheltered him from political powers that would gladly have taken his life and obstructed his saving mission....

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A Bigger Perspective

Once Joseph received this bigger perspective, his reason for being afraid went away. When he chose to listen and believe, his life changed....

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The influence of character

Joseph didn’t ask for this burden, but he did the best he could to navigate this difficult challenge in a faithful way....

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Surprising everyone

Christmas came as a surprise for everyone involved. No one would have expected God to act in this way....

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Christmas history

God wants to meet us in the real world. ...

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Generous happiness

Our generous God wants us to share his happiness. ...

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Held Accountable

Wherever you are on the spectrum, your relationship with the master makes a tremendous difference. ...

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Hustling and hiding

What are we doing with what God has entrusted to us?...

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Each according to ability

Not everyone starts from the same starting place....

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Generosity and Gratitude

Without gratitude generosity falls to the wayside....

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Sacrificial Generosity

Sacrificial gifts have a deeper significance than gifts that are given out of our surplus; the difference between someone giving you the shirt off their back and a shirt out of their closet....

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Who gave more?

Who gave more: the wealthy or the poor?...

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More than the temple

Place your devotion on Christ himself: the one who made you, loved you, rescued you, and gave you purpose....

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God paying attention

Jesus didn’t just pay attention to the large gifts of the wealthy; he also paid attention to the significant gift of a poor widow....

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Big Religious Show

Healthy conversations about God and money can help us become generous-hearted people....

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Your heart and your treasure

Jesus cares about your “treasure” because he treasures you and knows the impact that our resources have on our allegiances....

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The gift of the kingdom

God has so much more for us than we could ever gain on our own....

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Generosity and trust

You can’t separate generosity and trust....

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A bigger perspective

What would happen if God’s people truly learned to trust him?...

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Worry and Generosity

The practice of generosity can be used by God to liberate us from the weight of worry....

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Our Margins and Our Lord

God is God and we are not....

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Work in the margins

The Lord pays attention to the margins of our lives and those who live on the margins of society....

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The Blessing of Margin

Preserving margin blesses both the people keeping the margin and their community....

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Challenges to margin

Margin ain't easy....

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Maintaining Margin

Few things prove harder to maintain than healthy margin....

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The Generous Image

If we are made in his image, it should not surprise us that when we are living a generous life, it brings us joy, too....

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Generous joy

God is so committed to being generous with us that he starts us out in paradise and secures for us eternal joy at the sacrifice of his Son....

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Generous sharing

God not only makes a wonderful creation, he generously shares it with people that they might tend to it in a way that he would....

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The Generous Maker

You are uniquely and brilliantly designed by a generous God who has stamped you with his image....

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Generous Creator

God has given us signs and signals of his character in the generosity of the wonder of all that he has created....

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Spoil love

Don’t let conflict with a brother or sister stop the overflow of God’s love in you....

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What motivates us to serve?

Fear can motivate us to serve others. So can love. On the surface, you might not be able to tell the difference between the two. ...

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More than words

God didn’t just say that he loved us. He showed us. He backed up his love with action....

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Love starts with God

Because God loves first, God gets to decide who we are to love....

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You need to know God is love

This Sunday we’ll replace our regular worship services with a community-wide day of serving our community together. And this is directly connected to our belief that God is love....

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It worked

The blessed life we experience when we obey God is actually the by-product of something else. Let’s circle around to take a look at it....

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Faithfulness Matters

Faithfulness matters to us because we have a God who has proven himself faithful....

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How will it work?

We may know what he will do, but the how stands beyond our comprehension. ...

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Strange plans

The Lord often works in mysterious ways. That popular proverb prompts peace until you’re stuck in the middle of a weird “mysterious-ways” situation....

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Juxtaposition

God promises to act and invites us to join him...

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Self-protection

Our attempts at self-protection will, at times, interfere with our experience of God. He does amazing things in our lives when we’re willing to be vulnerable to him....

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Worship is warfare

We respond to God with open hearts and are transformed by him. We humble ourselves. We need this more than he needed plans, guidance, or miraculous intervention. ...

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Neither

God is always right and good. And that means that he’s always on his own side....

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Whose side are you on?

Whenever we find ourselves in highly politicized, highly charged environments, it’s entirely natural to want bright lines. We seek them out of instinct....

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What Got You Here

The same God walks with us from season to season but the way we see his provision changes....

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Stones vs Walls

If you compare your small pile of stones to the great structures that cast shadows over you, you’ll miss out. ...

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Story triggers

Symbol and ritual will remain hollow, empty and dead unless they are articulated and explained. ...

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Storytelling historians

We carry a responsibility to faithfully pass along what we’ve heard and seen of the Lord....

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Go back

At times this “going back” experience comes to us for the sake of someone else: you go back into the fire because someone you care about is in there....

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Miraculous Experiences

Have you had miraculous experiences with God?...

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At flood stage

Perhaps God had the people cross over when the river ran at flood stage to make it clear to all who were willing to believe that he was involved in this endeavor....

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Wade in the water

God’s deliverance happens upstream. The miracles are decisive. The results are guaranteed. But it’s all happening upstream....

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Present and accounted for

No matter where you wander or where you roam, no matter where your courage-journey takes you, you will never be beyond the reach or presence of the God who loves you....

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Whole-hearted commitment

When the Lord does amazing things in our midst, will we be ready?...

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A Communal Courage-Story

The Lord often leads us to places where our own courage can never be sufficient....

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A Picture of the Gospel

Jesus showed courage. We benefitted....

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Engage the tension

Engaging God directly is the best way to engage the te