Practicalities | Reading God's Word

Practicalities | Reading God's Word

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” [Hebrews 4:12]

Raise your hand if something that you want to be better about is reading your Bible. Because same. So, just know that as I am writing this, I am honestly writing this to myself as well.

I feel like this is something I hear from people a lot. That we want to be better about reading our Bible. Which is a great thing to hunger for. But if we just say it and hope for it, all it means is that we have good intentions with little to no follow-through. So how do we actually put our good intentions into practice?

Desire

The best thing that I can recommend to begin is to pray that your desire to read the Word will grow. God loves to answer our prayers, so I can only imagine how much He loves to honor a prayer that so obviously will honor Him back. Pray for the desire to grow. Pray that you will know God more each time you read the Bible (even if you have some questions)! Pray that good things will happen for y’all’s relationship as you read. Are there certain things that you’re really hoping for through reading the Bible? Ask for those! Ask God what He has for you in His Word. Simply invite Him into the whole process.

Reason

So, a lot of time when I’m doing something, I like to know the purpose or reason behind it. Although God doesn’t owe us an explanation, He is so incredibly kind and gives us a reason why reading the Bible is beneficial (but there are also a lot of other reasons). To get the full picture, I would really recommend that you go read Hebrews 4. Basically the verses leading up to 4:12 talk all about the value that God puts on rest. While Paul is saying a lot in these verses, one thing I really hear Him saying is that reading, honoring and obeying God’s Word is very much intertwined with receiving a rest that can only come from the Lord. And of course there are a ton of other reasons why reading the Word is good, but I think this verse is a great place to start.

How do I start?

The whole point of this blog series is to create practical avenues for you to live intentionally, so I want to give you some ways that can help make reading the Bible easier for you. You don’t need to do all of these! It’s just various ideas that you can choose to use if you wish!

1 | Get a version of the Bible that you can read and comprehend easily. There are so many different versions of the Bible that are written in different ways, so I feel certain you could find one you relate to. Some popular versions are The Passion Translation (TPT), English Standard Version (ESV), and New Living Translation (NLT). I also really recommend getting a study Bible because that will help so much when you do happen upon some verses you don’t fully understand. I personally have an NLT study Bible that I love. But do the research, and ask your friends, family, mentors, whoever who can help lead you to a version (or versions) that are good for you!

2 | Create a plan. Honestly, if you don’t have a plan, I think that creating a routine of digging into the Word will be more difficult. Now, please understand that I am not saying you need a super structured reading plan (although that isn’t a bad thing). What I am saying is having a set time in your schedule can be helpful. Or having a reading plan. Or just knowing that twice a week you’re going to sit down and ask God where He wants to lead you that day! Whatever it is, give yourself some sort of structure.

3 | Create your mindset. This one is simple. Choose to view this as an opportunity to encounter God instead of choosing to view this as a burden or another block in your schedule. Invite God into the process. Have fun!

4 | Do this with friends! It’s good to have accountability. And it can be fun and enriching to study and learn what God is teaching different people through the same verses.

5 | Start somewhere simple. If you’re just beginning to read the Bible regularly, I would recommend beginning with something like John or the Psalms. Wait before you really dig into some of the more complex books. (Please know that I am not saying to avoid these, but I personally wouldn’t make them the first place I began!)

6 | Just do it. Ultimately there isn’t some magic power or thing that’s going to happen that will make you read your Bible. Just pray for a hunger to burn within you to know God and what He has to say. And no matter what you’re feeling or going through, just know that you have the power within you to choose to honor God through reading His Word.

Well, those are my helpful hints on how you can dig more into the Bible! Just know that God is delighted to spend that time with you, and I truly, truly hope that as 2019 really picks up that your hunger to know God and His Word will continue to grow!

-Hannah

Pray

God, thank You so much for giving us the Bible. Thank You for wanting to be known and interacted with. I pray that my hunger and thirst to know You will multiply and that I will satisfy that hunger by digging into Your Word. I just pray that You will point me in the direction I need to go. Thank You for who You are and all that You do. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Practicalities | Studies

Practicalities | Studies

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. [Proverbs 13:4]

There are countless verses in the Bible that encourage us as Christians to aspire for excellence in everything. However, I think we as a culture have shied away from this in many ways. Christians are supposed to be humble and meek, void of selfish ambition and pride. Somewhere along the way I think that we may have confused excellence and taking care to do our best as something that is way too wordly for us. I do not think that if you were to be the best at something this would mean you are prideful. I actually think that you would be fulfilling something the Bible calls all Christians to do. In some cases, Christians are very familiar with the idea of excellence so much so that it has become an overwhelming need for perfection and a debilitating sense of striving. I think there is a sweet spot when it comes to this, and it can only be reached when we are rooted in truth.

God loves you no matter what you do. You do not have to earn His love. If you fail, you will not lose His love. God has gifted you with specific gifts and talents. You do not have to hide these or be ashamed of them. You should use them to the best of your ability in order to bring God glory. If you are not particularly gifted at something, you should still work at it with all you have. I believe that we as Christians should be the best we can at whatever we put our hands to because we have the Holy Spirit inside of us. If you are creative, you have access to the most creative being in all of the world. When you are studying, you have access to more self control, discipline and focus than people who do not have the Holy Spirit. There are so many more examples I could write about with this, but I think you get the picture. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us who we can call on to strengthen us and refresh us.

I think the biggest mistake that Christians make when it comes to excellence is believing that God doesn’t care about what we do or the little things. The truth is that He cares so deeply. When we are diligent with the task He has set in front of us or even something that we just choose to do, it pleases Him so deeply. As a Christian, everything we do bears the name of Jesus. This is not something that should induce pressure. I think it is something that is motivating. Even the smallest of things can carry His name and His love to those around us and the truth is that doing something for the glory of God is actually so fulfilling to our souls.

-Natalie

Let’s Pray.

God, thank You for every good thing you have put inside of me. I ask that you would help me to always be diligent with what You have put in front of me so that it would be for Your glory. Amen.

Practicalities | Health & Fitness

Practicalities | Health & Fitness

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]

I think it is safe to say that health-related new year's resolutions are the most popular resolutions that people make. Whether it be losing weight,  working out more, healthier eating, or anything in between, people use the new year as a way to make change. I am extremely passionate about health and fitness, and I will explain that more in this blog, but I am more passionate about approaching health and fitness in a correct, Biblical perspective. So as we are still at the beginning of 2019, reflect on 2018 when it comes to your health and fitness. What was good? What would you like to improve on? Let’s go from there!

First of I want you to know that you are beautiful and absolutely amazing the exact way you are. However, I do know that God has given us our bodies, and it is important that we honor Him with the bodies He’s given us by eating foods that will give us the good energy we need and by staying in physical shape where we are able to go out to wherever God might be calling us. Now talking about health and fitness can sometimes be dangerous because many people can fall into the trap of obsessing over it where they never eat bad food or start staring at the scale, but that is in NO WAY what I am saying to do here. I am wanting us to use the bodies we have been given by God to honor Him, and part of that comes with the way we eat and our physical fitness. So instead of taking this New Years and making a resolution based on weight, let’s look at it from a Biblical perspective.

Physically Fit

I want to share with you a few examples from the Bible where people fulfilled God’s calling for them and needed physical fitness in order to do it. For starters, when David was a shepherd, he had to fight off lions to protect his sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-35); he then became one of the greatest warriors of the new testament. Moses also climbed all the way up a mountain, did not eat or drink for forty days, and then climbed back down carrying two huge stone tablets (Exodus 34:29). Ruth walked with her mother-in-law for fifty miles while carrying a heavy burden of the loss of a loved one (Ruth 1:17). When the Samaritan woman at the well drew water for Jesus, it required a lot of fitness to carry the jug back and forth everyday, but through that she was able to meet Jesus (John 4:7). Last but not least, Paul was said to have walked over 10,000 miles; fit is an understatement to describe him (1 Corinthians 9:24)!

There are so many other examples in the bible where people could not have accomplished God’s calling without using fitness or some type of exercise. I am not saying this to make you feel bad in any way, but hopefully as a wake up call at the importance for christians to maintain fitness. These characters in the bible didn’t just wake up one day suddenly able to walk far and fight off lions. It required hard work, training, and discipline! So I say this to encourage us: let’s take some time off Netflix this year and begin training our bodies so that we will be ready for whatever it is that God might be calling us to do.

Healthy Food

I don’t know about you guys, but I love food. So I am right there with y’all in understanding the struggle in healthy eating. In 1 Corinthians 6, we are told that we are to honor God with our bodies because they are a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is important that we use this verse to consider the foods we put in our body and ask ourselves the question, “Is this food good for me and will it honor the Lord?” A further look into that is to think about the foods and figure out if it will give us the proper energy you need or if it is going to just make us tired, lazy, and weak. Now once again I love food and am all about treating myself with sweets and delicious food that isn’t always healthy. But going into 2019, let’s try to maintain a diet that consists of healthy foods that will leave us feeling energetic and satisfied, with the occasional treats instead of it being the other way around:)

As we are still on the topic of eating healthy, I want to mention one topic that we do not talk about too often and that is gluttony. Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” A good definition of gluttony is found at vocabulary.com where it says that gluttony is characterized by “a limitless appetite for food and drink and overindulgence to the point where one is no longer eating to live but instead living to eat.” This is a sin that is not discussed as much as others are. I know it is extremely easy to get caught in over eating to drown out emotions or just simply because it tastes good! However, let’s use the fruit of self control to be able to know when we have had enough and say “no” to over indulgence. God has blessed us with delicious and nutritious food on this earth. We should honor God’s creation by enjoying these foods and eating them in appropriate quantities. God calls us to use self control to control our appetites, rather than allowing them to control us.


Let’s do this!!!

We live in a world that encourages health and fitness in a wrong way that is easy to get caught up in. We are constantly bombarded through social media, magazines, movies, and others of people living a lifestyle that encourage perfection by being the skinniest, strongest, prettiest version of themselves, but unfortunately they don’t always use the healthiest practices to get to where they are. In 2019, let’s stop comparison. Let’s become the best version of who God wants us to be. Let’s be confident and happy in who we are today. I truly believe that God wants us to live a life of health and fitness that honors him. Going into this year, know that you are already amazing the exact way you are but try to think of how you can incorporate health and fitness more into this year to honor God with your body!

Examples of health and fitness related goals

  • Begin to exercise certain amount of days a week (make this fun by finding friends that will keep you accountable and join you at the gym)

  • Eat healthy foods! (try to stay away from crazy diets that restrict you from eating foods, just try to be more conscious about what you are putting in your body and if it will provide adequate energy or make you feel gross)

  • Cook more!

  • Avoid over eating!

  • Find a type of exercise you enjoy! (lifting weights, running, cycling, boxing, swimming, taking fun classes, etc. Find what works for you and something that you actually like.)

  • GET MORE SLEEP! (try to get about 6-8 hours of sleep each night so that you will have enough energy each day)

-Macie

Pray

Lord, going into 2019 help me to honor You with my health and fitness. Show me areas I could work on, and help me to know that I am amazing the way I am, but the importance of living a life of Godly health and fitness. Amen.

Practicalities | Quiet Time

Practicalities | Quiet Time

“He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” [Psalm 91:1 KJV]

It’s the beginning of a new year, and it’s easy to get excited about the promise that comes with the newness of this semester. The potential that is laid out in front us gives us room to dream and plan and set goals for ourselves. Like Hannah said in the intro to the series, we get to partner with God in bringing our hopes into reality. We can create space for the Holy Spirit to come in and move in our lives. If one of your goals for this year is to get to know God better, cultivating a space where just the two of you can meet is the easiest way to do that. In Psalm 91, the psalmist talks about dwelling in the secret place of God. What does that mean?

The term “secret place” shows up dozens of times in the both the Old and New Testament. Some translations substitute the words shelter, covering, or dwelling. The term “secret place” comes from the Hebrew root word cether, which translates to “to hide or be concealed.” Basically, it’s somewhere that only you and God have access to. Nick talked about prayer in the last blog, closing with the idea that “the more you pray, the more you get to know God. The more you get to know God, the more powerful and confident you will be every day.” So, where do you get to know God? The secret place. What does it look like? That’s up to you!

As the pace of this semester picks up, it might feel difficult to find time to spend with God. One way to cultivate your secret place is to follow the example that Jesus sets in Scripture. Jesus often withdrew from the disciples to find somewhere quiet to meet his Father. In Mark 1 it says that “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus planned to spend time alone with God. He took time out of His day to do that. He found a place where He could focus on talking to God and listening to God. So let’s break that down into a few key ways to go to that place.

  1. Find a place. Where is a physical location that you can step away from distraction. Some people love being in their dorm. If your roommate is chill, and that’s an option, your dorm can be a great place to have quiet time! If not, there are so many options around campus. The prayer chapel in the Wesley building is almost always open for y’all, and there are tons of cool nooks around campus that you can ask your small group leader or friends about!

  2. Set aside a time every day to be with God. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day. It can be in the morning before class if that’s your speed. It can be at night before you go to bed. If you have a two hour gap between your classes, use 30 minutes of it to spend time with God.

  3. Talk to God, and listen to Him too. God speaks to everyone differently, so find how He speaks to you and seek after it. If you can’t hear Him, try something new! You never know if God is speaking to you in a different way than before.

And guys, remember, God loves spending time with you. He can’t get enough of it. It can be easy to feel guilty if you don’t have an hour blocked out for your quiet time, or if you only have thirty minutes left in your day before you fall asleep. Just go for it. God isn’t gonna get angry with you if you fall asleep while you’re journaling or praying, because He just loves spending time with you. It’s always worth it when you’re going after God.

-Sarah S.

pray

God, thank You for wanting to spend time with me. I ask that You will highlight to me the secret place. I pray that each time we spend together will be used in a way that draws me in closer to You. Amen.

Practicalities | Prayer

Practicalities | Prayer

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” [Matthew 6:9-13]

A couple of days ago Hannah mentioned that a practical way to start this New Year off partnering with God is through prayer, so let’s talk more about that!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes (most of the time lol) I forget about what prayer actually is and it becomes a habitual, ritualistic part of my life. It becomes something that I only do when I am around other people who are praying, or I only pray when something really bad has happened, and I need God to come through like a genie in a lamp.

I’m sure that you have probably heard The Lord’s Prayer at least once. I remember playing baseball in high school, and we would pray it before games. I think at our peak we could complete the whole prayer in about 17 seconds...impressive...I know. But what if in the words of that prayer that we have heard so much are actually a structure for us to follow so that we never get bored of prayer. What if “the Lord’s Prayer” is actually meant to help us connect with God and not be a religious act?

The second word in this passage gives us the best place to start when praying: “Father”. What if before every time you prayed you reminded yourself of who you are talking to. You are talking to your Father who CREATED you, who KNOWS you more than your best friends or even your parents do. You are talking to your Father who wants GOOD things for you and who has your best interests at heart even if your life’s circumstances don’t seem to reflect it. I think if we remembered who we were talking to before we started praying, it would be so much more joyful and fulfilling.

The second sentence asks to “give us today our daily bread.” Guess what? God knows what you need, and He knows what you want. He wants you to tell him those things. Just because He knows all doesn’t mean he doesn’t want true, genuine relationship with you. He wants to hear your heart. He wants to know what you need, what you want, and what you think about. It’s very obvious the disciples needed to eat. I can guarantee you God knew that. But God wanted them to vocalize to Him what those things were. He wants you to do the same with Him!

The third sentence starts talking about forgiveness and in the fourth we see they ask for God’s help in the future.

Really simply, I think if you follow the structure of this famous prayer and remind yourself that it’s not some ancient saying that makes all your dreams come true, you will begin to see so much new fruit in your life this coming year.

To close, let's practice praying. And we aren’t gonna practice in some weird, religious way. We are gonna practice being vulnerable with God. We are gonna practice reminding ourselves of who He is.

  1. Think about who you know God to be. Remind yourself that He is your Father. Think about what a perfect and good Father is and let that sink in.

  2. Think about the things you need right now. It can be something personal. It can be something in your family or for your friends. Whatever it is, ask God to give you those things. Ask Him to move in your life.

  3. Is there something you know you need forgiveness for? Repentance sounds so intense, but it's really not. It’s actually super powerful and one of the more powerful things you can consistently do in your life. Ask God to forgive you for any way you have sinned, whether you can think of specifics or not.

  4. Ask for God to give you His strength and power. Ask for Him to help you live the life He has for you.

One of the best things that you can resolve to do this year is to pray more. The more you pray, the more you get to know God. The more you get to know God, the more powerful and confident you will be every day.

-Nick

Practicalities | Friendship

Practicalities | Friendship

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

[1 Peter 4:8-10]

UNITY

The New Testament teaches that the followers of Jesus, or the Church, are one body. 1 Corinthians 12 paints a beautiful picture of how Christ desires His Church to be unified. Christians are a family and should be treated as such. In 1 Peter 4:8-10, Peter encourages believers to be faithful to one another in love. This poses the question: how are you and I loving the Church?

LOVE AND SERVICE

Verse 8 mentions that “love covers a multitude of sins.” What does this mean? This is referring to Proverbs 10:12 which says, “hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.” Peter is referring to Christians forgiving other Christians for sins committed to each other. He is teaching that we should forgive other people for all the ways they may have offended us. The next verse instructs readers to “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” I think it can be easy to serve someone out of a feeling of compulsion, but complain about how you have to serve. This is not Christian service. Christ calls us to humble ourselves and joyfully serve others! We should find joy in laying aside our own desires to give to other people. This is definitely not always easy. But I encourage you to pray for this. A lot. One of the biggest seasons of growth in my own life is when I prayed every day, asking God for humility and the desire to serve other people.

Peter goes on in verse 10 to say that we have each “received a special gift.” He also writes that we should be good stewards of these gifts. What gifts has God given you? A certain position? A certain personality? A longing to serve other people? Hospitality? Influence? You have special gifts that only you can offer. I urge you to consider how you are stewarding these gifts. Specifically, pair this idea with verses 8-9 about serving the Church. Think of ways you can leverage your gifts to strengthen and serve believers around you. God is the source of everything we have, so we should want to use the things He has given us to advance His Kingdom here on earth.

How are you forgiving or not forgiving others in your life today?

What gifts has God given me?

How am I using these gifts for the sake of others?

-Avery

PRAY

Father, thank You for the gifts You have given me. Help me to recognize these gifts, and show me how I can best use them in a way that honors You. Amen.

Practicalities | Living Intentionally

Practicalities | Living Intentionally

“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” [James 5:12]

So, I know that this is part of the Christmas Break blog series, but I need you to rewind with me a little bit to Thanksgiving Break. Over Thanksgiving Break this past semester, the Lord convicted me of some things in my life. I know that the word conviction can seem a little scary, but I actually think that conviction is one of the best things that the Lord does for us.

When God convicts us of something, it is drenched in His powerful, gentle love. It means that He sees us. He sees that we are not living in His fullness, His complete goodness. And because He loves us so much, He is willing to correct us. He loves us enough to show us what He has for us and to point us into the direction of His love and more of His glory. Conviction always, always, always means that He has something better, something more for us. So even though conviction can sometimes be hard, there is a part of me that yearns for the Lord’s correction because it means that there is even more of Him in store for me.

So, what did the Lord convict in my heart over Thanksgiving Break? God, in such a sweet and gentle way, reminded me that the good things that He has for me won’t happen on accident. See, there are a lot of good things that I am convinced that God has for me in this life. Things, situations, outcomes that are promised.

But here’s the thing. I can’t only sit and wait for these things to happen. I have to partner with God in what He has in store for me. Now, I’m not saying that I force these things to happen outside of God. What I am saying is that I create space in my life for these things to happen. Now, what does that look like practically?

First, I absolutely believe it begins with prayer. Simply asking God for what you hope for. Asking for His vision, His heart behind it. Asking for Him to create ways for you to partner with Him. Asking for motivation to do these things. Pray pray pray!!!

But then I think it looks like creating space. Let’s say that you’ve really been hoping and praying for community. Invite someone to go get dinner. See someone in Bolton who you’ve thought you could be good friends with? Go ask to sit with them. I know it may be hard. You may be scared of rejection. You may think everyone has all their friends. But ya know what? Do it anyway. Look past the face of fear and into the eyes of God, and in the reflection of His eyes you will see His love for you, every reason in the world why you should put yourself out there. Because you’re worth the risk.

And this is just one example partnering with God. Do you want better health? Go to the gym even if you’re not quite sure how to figure out the equipment. Want to be better about spending time with the Lord each day? Read your Bible even if it’s been months. God isn’t mad at you; rather, He’ll be thrilled to spend that time with you and will meet you there.

Living intentionally is so much better than hoping to stumble into the good things that God has for you. It can be hard. It can be risky. It requires energy. But here God will meet you. He will surprise you with things better than you have ever hoped or dreamed for.

In the spirit of the New Year, over the next few days, the Freshley staff will be writing about how to live intentionally in different areas of your life. How to give purpose to the big and small parts of your life. And how to do this in a way that is practical to you.

So, going into this new year, this new semester, is there a part of your heart or your life that God is convicting you of? Ask Him how you can partner with what He has for you in those areas of your life. Is there something that you’ve been hoping and praying for? What steps can you take to allow God to move in that area of your life?

-Hannah

Pray

God, I thank You that You convict me. I thank You that You care about me enough to ask me to partner with You in things that might be hard. Lord, show me where You want to move in my life. I ask that You’ll show me how I can partner with You in these things. Give me a spirit of self control and perseverance. I love You!! Amen.

Jesus | Co-laborer

Jesus | Co-laborer

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16-20 NIV]

I fully believe that there is no greater revelation for a Christian than the deep-seated conviction that our God is with us always. In my darkest hours this has been the truth that has carried me through. In my most desperate times of weakness this has been the reality that gives me strength. In my struggle against fear this has been and always will be my source of courage.

When Jesus gathered His disciples to give them their mission, He fully recognized that they were afraid, scared and doubtful. They’d just spent 3 days hiding in fear because of what happened to Jesus. Think of Peter. The “Rock” that Jesus said He was going to build His Church on. Peter had failed Jesus by denying Him 3 times. Not to mention the rest of the disciples who weren’t anywhere to be found during Jesus’ torture and crucifixion. Yet here they sit at Jesus’ feet, and Jesus chooses to entrust to them the most important mission in all of history.

Think about that. What if the disciples did NOT go out and make disciples? What if they went back into hiding? I mean, people bail on things all the time!! Why was this any different? Well, turns out they couldn’t do anything until they had help. In Acts 1:4-6 Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The promise comes in Acts 2:4 when, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Immediately after that Peter stood up in front of a crowd and 3,000 people came to Christ and the first generation of Spirit-filled disciples was made.

Here’s my point: When Jesus told His fearful, doubtful disciples that He would be with them always to the very end of the age He meant it. The Great Commission cannot be fulfilled apart from the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows you need help. He doesn’t expect us to do it alone. He is inviting us to co-labor with Him. This is the work we are called to and Jesus is going to help us do it. And I can personally tell you that there is nothing more intimate than working alongside Jesus. Just like the joy a son has in building things with his Father, I promise you there is great joy in making disciples with our Savior! That’s why He could trust His disciples with the redemptive mission of humanity. He knew the Holy Spirit alone would be enough for them to carry His name and love to the ends of the Earth.

This is what we are to spend our days concerned with. The advancing of God’s Kingdom. The promise of Jesus being “with us always” comes in the context of living to make disciples. His Holy Spirit hasn’t been given to us to keep to ourselves. We are meant to share Him with those who are lost. The command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples”. It’s not go, it’s not baptize, it’s not teach. These are used to describe the process of making disciples, but the command is to make disciples. He might call some people to other places to make disciples, but more than anything we are called to make disciples wherever we are. This is what Jesus has for you. He desires you to live a missional lifestyle of making disciples because He loves the world and everyone in it. There are no exceptions. And the beauty of it is that Jesus knows you can do this because He’s asking you to do it with Him! He knows your fear and is inviting you to step through the fear and into the intimacy of making other Jesus followers with Him!

-Adam

Pray

Father, I ask that you would reveal to me how I am called to advance Your Kingdom. And I then ask that you would meet me in my fear with the power and comfort of Your Holy Spirit to show me that I can do this work with You! And I ask that there would be overwhelming joy in the process! Amen.

Jesus | Wonder

Jesus | Wonder

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” [John 21:25]

Miracle After Miracle After Miracle

John recorded this statement after he told the story of Jesus prompting his disciples to cast their net on the other side of their boat, so that they would catch more fish.  The disciples weren’t aware that the man was Jesus until after the miracle happened. Peter proclaimed, “it is the Lord!” because he had been convinced that Jesus was the only one who could perform miracles.  He was able to recognize the glory and power of Christ because he had seen the Lord perform miracles before.

We’ve read in the Bible about the miracles that Jesus performed all throughout the New Testament.  He was the rockstar of the New Testament.

Jesus turned water into wine.

Jesus healed a royal official’s son.

Jesus casted out evil spirits.

Jesus healed a Centurion’s servant who was paralyzed.

Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead.

Jesus calmed a storm.

Jesus healed a woman who had chronically bled for years.

Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men.

Jesus healed the tongue of a man who could not speak.

Jesus fed more than 5,000 people.

Jesus healed a leper.

Jesus made a blind man see.

Jesus healed a man who was deaf.

Jesus raised a dead man to life.

Jesus Himself raised to life.



And because Jesus is alive, miracles are still happening today.   They can be difficult to see and hear about, but they’re happening.  If they were all recorded and compiled, as some of them were in the Bible, they would be countless.

There are going to be mysteries and miracles of Christ until we are face to face with Him in heaven.  

Why were all of these miracles recorded?

John 20:30-31 reads, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you many believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

“And that by believing you may have life in his name.”  We have a choice to believe in the stories that were recorded.  We have a choice to believe in the testimonies we hear about. Jesus performed these miracles so that we would believe in Him.  He didn’t have to do anything. He was King. He was and still is the Savior of the World. He didn’t have to prove anything to us, but He wanted to.  We wanted to give us opportunity to trust Him.  

When we trust Jesus, we have life.  And when we have life, we experience joy.  

-KB

Pray

Thank You, Jesus, for the Bible, for written documentation of Your power and goodness.  You didn’t have to provide these miracles, but You did. I am so thankful that You do not change.  I’m thankful that You perform miracles today, just like You did 2,000ish years ago. I pray that I, by reading and hearing of Your miracles, can believe in Your power and goodness today and forever.  I trust You. I see You. I know life because I know You. Amen!!

Jesus | Safe, Trustworthy & Close

Jesus | Safe, Trustworthy & Close

Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [John 20:25-29]

In Jesus’s life and death, we see the beautiful truth that God desires to be close to us. That’s why Jesus came, that’s why Jesus died, that’s why He revealed himself to others after He rose from the dead. God wants to be known and wants relationship with us.

Now what about our doubts? This story of Thomas after the resurrection hits home in so many ways. One way or another, we’re going to face doubts—Is the Bible true? Is God worth trusting? Did Jesus really exist, perform miracles, rise from the dead? Does God actually communicate with me? It’s easy to feel scared of doubts because it feels like they invalidate us. For a long time I believed that if I had doubts, God would distance himself from me because of disappointment or frustration.

BUT, this isn’t how God responds.

Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead and said he wouldn’t believe until he sees and touches Jesus himself. God did not distance himself from Thomas. Actually, God met Thomas in the very exact way He doubted. Jesus came into the room with Thomas, grabbed his hand, and put it to His scars. God responded to Thomas’s doubts with His presence.

God wants to build our faith. What if doubts aren’t a negative thing but actually an opportunity for our faith to grow. That’s why Jesus says you are blessed to believe in the things you haven’t seen yet still believe. Here’s the truth, God might not answer every one of your doubts with a loud booming voice from heaven. But God will absolutely meet you in the midst of your doubts with His presence. This is how He builds relationship and trust.
For those experiencing doubts, I want to encourage you, you’re not alone. I also urge you to take advantage of this by bringing your doubts to God and asking Him to meet you in the middle of it all. God isn’t afraid of your unanswered questions. Let your greatest desire be for the presence of God. When you recognize the presence of God, your doubts become testimonies.

-Tim

PRAY

God, thank You for being close. God, when I have doubts, will You please help me realize Your character? You are safe and close and trustworthy and aren’t intimidated by my fears, my humanity. Will You please meet me in the doubt and lead me into faith? I love You, God. Amen.

Jesus | Risen

Jesus | Risen

“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matthew 28:8-10]


The most fundamental truth for us as Christians would without a doubt be the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even people who do not follow Him know about the story of His birth and death. It’s in movies. It’s in art. It’s all over popular culture, but what does this miracle of life actually mean for us?  

1 | The resurrection of Jesus means we are justified before God. God accepted the sacrifice of His son in place of the sins of humanity. We can now come before God and enter into relationship with Him. We don’t have to wallow in our brokenness or separation.

2 | The resurrection of Jesus proves He is the real deal. How many prophets, teachers, or religious leaders have come only to die? The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead sets Him apart from any other person in history. He is actually the Son of God, the one that was prophesied to come for so long.

3 | The resurrection of Jesus means that believers can now have access to the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended, He sent His Holy Spirit to finish His work on earth. All of the things Jesus did in the Bible can now be done through those who receive His Spirit. His Spirit also comforts, strengthens, convicts and helps us as believers.

4 | The resurrection gives us hope. Hope in the defeat of death. Hope in the restoration of the fullness of our relationship with the Father. Hope in the truth that He loves us so much that He would send His son to die.


It is easy to forget the many implications of the resurrection. Yes, it was an amazing miracle, but it was so much more than just that. It was a display of love, the defeat of death, a symbol of hope and so much more. Take some time to meditate on these truths today. Let them sink into your heart and change your perspective on life today.

-Natalie

Let’s Pray

God, thank You for sending Your Son to take my place. Thank You for the Holy Spirit. May I be more aware of your Spirit in my life. May I grab a hold of the hope and love you displayed on the cross today and every day. Amen.

Jesus | A Sacrifice

Jesus | A Sacrifice

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: The King of the Jews. They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” [Mark 15: 21-32]


As we continue talking about the story of Jesus’ life on Earth, I hope you are seeing the great pain Jesus endured because of His deep love for each of us. I don’t know about you, but I am a hopeless romantic. I absolutely love to watch a good romance movie and always end up in tears watching in some way or another the guy fights for the girl he loves by doing crazy things to win her back. Whether it be building the girl’s dream house (The Notebook), or fighting for a relationship when the other doesn’t even remember anything (The Vow), reading the story of Jesus and the great pain He went through for is is greater than any love story that could ever be written… and it happened for you and me! WE were worth it to God.

I want you to really comprehend what Jesus went through in these verses above. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was mocked, beaten, humiliated, and suffered as He was nailed to a cross to die. On both sides of Him two criminals were crucified as well, when Jesus was put to death when he did nothing wrong. The craziest part about it? He knew this would happen, and He willingly endured it all because that’s how much He loves you and me. Now put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. Would you go through what he went through for anyone? Maybe at most a close relative, but even that might be pushing it. What about for a complete stranger that doesn’t care for you and is the very reason you were suffering? No way. But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He endured pain, and humiliation for those that followed Him and for the very ones that crucified and mocked him.

Jesus could have easily saved himself, but He went through this hardship because He loves us and thought we were worth the pain. He could have killed those who humiliated Him or chosen not to deal with the suffering, but He did it because He even loved his enemies. Each of us played a significant role on the afternoon that Jesus was crucified because our sins were on the cross too. Jesus died on the cross for us, and the cost for our sins was paid by his death.That is the ultimate love story.

So we know God has a crazy amount of love for us… now receive it! The best response we can make to knowing how much God loves us is by confessing our sin and freely accepting the fact that Jesus paid for it all so we don’t have to. And then just let God shower you with his deep love for you that has no limitations. He loves you not because of what you can do for Him on your good ‘christian’ days. He loves you regardless of your past and future mistakes. There is nothing you can do that will ever separate His love for you, and there is nothing that you could do to possibly make Him love you more. He loves you, for your good and bad, the exact way you are.

The beautiful part about this love story is that it all started many years ago during this time, Christmas. In Bethlehem Jesus was born in a manger with all odds against him. I think it is so interesting that He entered the world in the way that He did. He could have made a magical, mighty appearance but instead He entered in a very lowly, simple way. I believe He did this because God wanted Jesus to live a simple life to show that he isn’t better than us where we have to strive to live up to his expectations, but that we can come to Him just as we are. So today I want to encourage you to take it all in. Enjoy this break and the time with your loved ones, and remember the real reason for this season. Because of Jesus’ birth, we were saved from death and this day is a reminder of God’s love for us.

-Macie

Pray

Lord, thank You for this day. Thank you for the constant reminder of Your love for us. Thank You for paying the ultimate price on the cross for me because You love me. Help me to constantly be aware of Your love and protection for me. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Jesus | Rejected

Jesus | Rejected

11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him.

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”

The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”

22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

[Matthew 27:11-26]

Okay! This is a story a lot of us are familiar with, but one of the best things about the Bible is that God gives us fresh revelations of what scripture means all the time! So what are the basics here?

Jesus was rejected

In the days leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus, He experienced a lot of rejection. One of the first was the betrayal of Judas. After Jesus was arrested, officials took Him to the Jewish High Priest and a group of people called the Sanhedrin. They were basically the Jewish high court. They accused Jesus of treason, claiming to be the Son of God, and some other things like disrupting the Sabbath (by healing people). That’s another layer of rejection. Because the Sanhedrin couldn’t legally sentence Jesus to death, they sent Him to Pilate, which is where our scripture begins. It gets interesting here. We are used to the Jewish religious leaders hating on Jesus because that is a pretty normal occurrence. But Pilate, who knew he was innocent, gave in to political pressure and convicted Jesus to death, despite the warning from his wife and his gut feeling that Jesus was not guilty. Pilate was in a position to stop the efforts of the religious leaders, but refused to do so out of fear of causing chaos. There was an opportunity for the crowd gathered outside to pardon Jesus, but even they chose Barabbas, a known criminal, over Jesus Christ. In the scripture, they couldn’t even name a crime committed by Jesus. In theory, anyone in the crowd could have made an argument for the innocence of Jesus, but they stayed silent. Jesus experienced a lot of negative stuff over those few days. It’s crazy to think that His resilience and reliance on the Father led us to be able to have personal and intimate relationship with God.

Jesus never rejects us

Have you ever heard anyone say that Jesus always meets us where we are? It’s one of my favorite things about Him! I think one reason that Jesus is able to do that so well could be that He is familiar with all of the temptation and struggle that we could possibly face. In this scripture, Jesus is rejected in the harshest way. They chose Barabbas over Him without cause, and taunted him while He looked on. It wasn’t discreet or subtle. I can’t personally say that I’ve experienced rejection to this degree, but I have definitely felt that sting before. It isn’t fun, is it? It’s easy, especially in college, when we’re away from home for the first time, to feel that rejection and loneliness. It can be even easier to feel far away from Jesus when those feelings creep in. Here’s the good news! First, Jesus isn’t waiting for you to get over those feelings before He hangs out with you. He’s not afraid of them. He’s not intimidated by them. They are familiar to Him because of what we know from this scripture. Second, He meets you where you are! He never rejects you! That is the Gospel friends! Humanity put Jesus on trial, and condemned Him, but He never does that to us. It literally doesn’t make sense. Thanks God! That can be a truth that’s hard to swallow sometimes, because it’s so counterintuitive. I encourage you to challenge yourself by declaring that truth over yourself during the rest of this break.

-Sarah S.

Pray

Jesus, thank You for always meeting me where I am. Thank You for not requiring perfection or striving to reach You. Remind me that You’re familiar with pain, and that I’m not alone when I’m feeling down. Draw near to me. Amen.


Jesus | Body & Blood

Jesus | Body & Blood

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Luke 22:19-20

I remember growing up taking communion every Christmas Eve with my family. I remember the tradition of it and how important it seemed to be for my parents, but as a child, and even as a teenager, I don’t think I really understood what it represented. Even now, if I’m not careful, I am quick to forget the power behind what communion represents.

I forget that as Jesus was tearing apart the bread to serve to His disciples, He would soon go and have His actual body torn and cut. I forget that as He was serving the wine, He would soon go and spill His own blood for me. The ultimate goal of communion is remembrance, just like Jesus says at the end of verse 19. It is to remind us of the love that our Jesus has for us. Jesus knows that we are prone to forget and fall back into old ways of thinking and living. Jesus knew He was giving us a practical way to remember Him when He gave the disciples the last supper.

While a major part of communion is remembering God’s love for you, I want to challenge you to think about that love in deeper, more practical ways. Remembrance is such a practical, yet powerful tool in our life. As we remember what God has done in the past, we are encouraged to keep pressing on where we are now. We are filled with more hope to see God come through in the future again.

To end, I want you to reflect on a few questions. As you answer them thank God for what you have seen him do. For some of the questions, you may not have an answer. You may still be looking for breakthrough in certain areas. If that’s the case, use this time to ask God to give you breakthrough.

What is something God did in you this past semester?

What is something you needed this past semester that God provided?

What is a fear you have had that God has taken away?

What is a time that God showed up?

Are there family members or friends that you have wanted to see God change their lives and He has?

What sin struggles have you seen God give you freedom in?

What has God revealed about Himself that you are convinced of?


If any of those questions sparked thoughts or prayer in you, go back to them. Thank God for who He is and what He has done, and pray for His power to continue to be at work in your life. Be reminded of who God is and what He has done, and use that to fill you with hope and peace for the future.

-Nick

Pray

Jesus, I thank You for the sacrifice You made for me. I repent for not remembering Your goodness and what all You have done for me. Jesus, wherever You have moved and I have forgotten You, I ask that You will lead me into a deeper understanding of who You are in that part of my life. And God, I pray that on this Christmas Day, I will be led into a deeper understanding of Your character and Your love. Thank You, God, for who You are. I love You. In Your name I pray, amen.

Jesus | Fully Human

Jesus | Fully Human

Jesus wept. [John 11:35]

Before you do anything else, I encourage you to go read John 11:1-44 here. You’ll need to read it in order to really understand what we’re talking about today.

In our last blog post, Avery did an amazing job of unpacking the glory of Jesus as God. He explained how Jesus used His power to show a Godly compassion by multiplying the loaves and fish and feeding thousands of people. Today, we’re going to study Jesus in a different light. Today, I want to look at how while Jesus is completely God, He is also completely human.

When Jesus was on this earth, He obviously did some things that were not a part of the average human experience: miracles, His resurrection, the ascension, etc. However, He also had some remarkably human experiences. He had friends. He ate food. He went to parties. He had a literal job. In many ways, Jesus was a very normal guy. And I think the ways that Jesus chose to be human are what draw me into Him more than just about anything.

Jesus wept

I think that when looking at the story of Lazarus, it’s important to note that Jesus never worried. Because He was Jesus, He actually knew the entire time that his friend would rise from the dead. In verses 4, 11, and 23, He says that Lazarus would live again. And while Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again, He still was totally human in this story.

When Jesus arrived at the grave, He saw Mary and others weeping and wailing over the death over their loved one. The Bible says that at the sight of this, He became deeply troubled. And then He wept.

I cannot overstate how impactful I think this is. The entire time, Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk and live again. He is God. He knew the whole story before it was even written, because He Himself wrote this story. Yet because Jesus is fully human, He also grieved. He experienced the pain of a loved one dying. And He wept.

So easily Jesus could have skipped the weeping, the wailing, the grief, the sorrow, the sadness. He could have walked right into that grave the second He arrived and woken Lazarus up. But because of Jesus’ deep, deep compassion and love and humanity, He simply wept.

He joined in with what His friends were going through. He did not condemn them for not having faith. He did not step to the side to allow them to grieve while He waited with joy knowing that Lazarus would soon wake up. In that moment, Jesus was simply human and mourned over the death of His friend who He loved very, very much.

So what

One of my absolute favorite things about God is that He is understanding. He empathizes greatly. His compassion runs deeper than you and I can comprehend. And I think that a part of this is because God Himself has walked on this earth. He has been human. He gets it.

So, when you are going through something hard, God does not expect you to be all happy and celebratory the entire time. If you are weeping, God sees you, and He weeps with you. When you are troubled, God’s heart is troubled. When you feel these emotions, God does not ask you to run from your humanity. Rather, according to this Scripture, He meets you right there in it and has a compassion for you that is oh so deep.

After the mourning

Now, we do have to note that after Jesus wept, He then went on to bring Lazarus back to life. He didn’t lose His hope in the midst of His mourning. He mourned, but then He stepped into the sweet reality that had been promised to Him.

I say this because we don’t need to sit in our sadness. Yes, when we mourn, God mourns. When we weep, Jesus weeps. Yet, we don’t have to stay there. We see the hope as Jesus did, and we move forward.

So, if you are going through a hard time or circumstance, please do not feel like you aren’t allowed to feel pain. Rather, invite God into that with you because He will meet you there. But once you go through that mourning and sadness, allow God to show you where the hope is and to move from brokenness. Because God has that for you in the midst of every hard circumstance and wants to walk with you, hand-in-hand, into every good thing He has for you. Just like how Jesus wept with for His friend, and then gave way to hope and invited Lazarus back into life.

-Hannah

Pray

God, I thank You that You meet me where I am. I acknowledge that You do not condemn me for my humanity, but rather you meet me within it. God, for any painful circumstance, I invite You into the brokenness even if that’s hard for me. Lord, after we weep together, will You show me where the hope is? Will You please take my hand and guide me there? I need You. I love You. In Jesus’ sweet and precious name I pray. Amen.

Jesus | Fully God

Jesus | Fully God

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied.43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. [Mark 6:30-44]

JESUS IS GOD

So in this passage, Jesus performs a miracle. Jesus and His apostles were in a desolate place with thousands of other people. After a full day of teaching, it began to get late. The people probably haven't eaten anything unless they brought food with them. As the disciples wanted to send the people away so they could go get food, Jesus said no. He wanted to feed them. With only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus began passing out food. Not only did everyone eat, they had twelve baskets of leftovers! Actually think about that. That's nuts. To put this into perspective, there are 5,750 freshmen this year at UGA. So imagine grabbing a plate of salmon and some bread from Bolton and feeding every single freshmen on campus with leftovers!


SO WHAT?

So what can we take away from this? I think there are a whole lot of takeaways from what Jesus did here, but two big ideas stick out to me: Jesus cares about us, and Jesus is God. The first one can be seen throughout this story, but specifically in verse 34. It reads, “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Verse 31 tells us that Jesus and the apostles were trying to get away from the crowds to rest, but upon seeing the huge crowd, Jesus was moved with compassion and decided to serve them by teaching. Jesus gave up what He wanted for the sake of thousands of people He probably had never even met. Not only this, but Jesus made the people’s problem of hunger personal. He didn't want to just send them away, He wanted to help them. How can we model this? How can you be moved to active compassion today and this week?

The second big takeaway is Jesus’ Divinity. Jesus is God. I've never met someone who can perform miracles in their own power like Jesus. Jesus is the source of everything. He is powerful enough for any of your problems. There is not a battle He can’t win. He is God! I want to encourage you to really think about that. Take what you know of Jesus and take some time to realize that He is God. This Jesus who performs miracles wants to know you. He lived and died for you. How will you respond to God? Take some time to thank God for all that He has done.

-Avery

PRAY

Father, thank You for all that You have done. Thank You that You are compassionate. Show me how I can be compassionate today. Please show me Your power in my life. Remind me that You are God. Thank You. Amen.


Jesus | A Baby Wrapped in Cloths

Jesus | A Baby Wrapped in Cloths

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

[Luke 2:8-20 NIV]


“How did you expect me to come?” I feel like that is often the question we hear God asking us when He moves in a way we didn’t expect. We often have grand visions in our head of how God will step into our lives, but often that doesn’t match up with how He actually intervenes. I can think of countless times that I have expected God to come in a certain way only to have Him blow up my understanding of who He is by coming in a way I never could have imagined.

At this point in the redemptive mission of God, I’m sure God’s people had all kinds of preconceived notions of what the promised Messiah would be like. I would bet that much of Israel, just like you and me, had grand visions of the Lord coming in power and might and conquering victory. It makes sense. The Jewish people were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire and Herod, a ruthless and unjust ruler. And anytime we feel oppressed we want to be set free, as we should. But often times the way in which God brings us into freedom isn’t how we would expect.

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” That was the promise of the angel: that the news that he had to bring would cause great joy for all the people. I imagine that when the shepherds heard that they all had different ideas of what this great news could be! If the promise is great joy for ALL people, then it must be absolutely incredible! Are they all being swept up into Heaven? Is God going to give them power to overthrow the Roman Empire? Is God Himself going to come and overthrow the Roman Empire?!  

Then the angels said, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A baby in a feeding trough for animals. That is the sign that all of Israel has been waiting for. All of the shepherds expectations were turned upside down in that instant as they realized that a baby will be the cause of great joy for all the people. The culmination of God’s promise to bring a Messiah, a Savior, fulfilled in an infant. No overthrow of Rome, no power and glory for themselves, just a child.

As the shepherds took in this unexpected news in Scripture says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Why are all of these angels singing and praising God for this child? For the shepherds, they suddenly realized that this child is the manifestation of God’s glory. The glory of the Creator of the universe being brought forth through the smallest of things.

The redemption of all of humanity for eternity past and eternity future was introduced through a child. It was everything that creation longed for but did not come in any of the ways it expected. Jesus grew up to be the Savior that we all need, therefore the way in which He entered the world is nothing to be mocked. As you approach Christmas, I implore you to surrender your expectations of how God should move in your life. His glory is fully demonstrated in His mystery. Yes, ask for the things that are on your heart, but fully surrender any expectations of what it must look like. Give Him room to be the God that He is.

-Adam

Pray:

God, I just ask that I would be humble to the point that I let You move in my life the way You long to. Move in the small and in the big because it is all for Your glory. Amen.

Jesus | The Living Word

Jesus | The Living Word

Over the next few weeks, we will dive into the story of Jesus. We will begin with the prophecies foretold of a Savior and His miraculous birth, and then we will walk through His life, His death and His resurrection. We will finish by looking at Jesus in our lives today. Our prayer for you is that through studying these Scriptures, we will better understand the character of Jesus and what His time on earth means for us. We pray that you fall more in love with who He is during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of a Child who came to save us all.


In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

[John 1:1-18]


Listen to this:

JESUS is the WORD OF GOD come to LIFE.


Text taking flesh isn’t typically normal.  But I mean, Jesus isn’t exactly normal. In the first chapter of the fourth gospel, John introduces us to the beginning of time.  He says “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.” He, the Word, with both God and with God.  This Word “became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  Jesus was this Word made flesh.  He made His home on earth. It’s mind-blowing truly.  Jesus was God made tangible. He was God with skin. Jesus was there in Genesis when everything was created.  Jesus was there for the Exodus. Jesus was there when David conquered Goliath. He was there because God was there, and They are one.

This means that our Bible, the Word of God, is everything that Jesus was.  This text that we hold in our hands, the pages that we flip through, are truths that Jesus wants to speak into our lives.  That’s why the Word is so good for our hearts, minds, and souls. Because everything we read in it represents Jesus and His goodness.  The content of the book is Jesus’ heart, God’s heart. I want to treasure those pages that reveal the characteristics of God through Jesus.  Second Timothy says that all scripture is God-breathed.  That’s legit.  

Our Witness

John also introduces himself in this first chapter.  He said that “[John] himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”  Our lives are witnesses to those around us of the goodness of God.  John didn’t take responsibility for being the Light, rightfully so, nor does he want that responsibility.  He knew he was born to share the Light that he knew personally with the people he encountered.

In John 8:12, Jesus says “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”  If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are able to go into dark places and light ‘em up, in the most loving of ways.  There is no arrogance that comes with being a light-bearer, though. It’s more humbling to know that we only have light because He is our Light.

Martin Luther King Jr. put it in these words:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

You carry the light of Christ.

Jesus was God made visible. Now let’s make Jesus visible for others.

-KB

Pray

God, help me to treasure my Bible, but help me to treasure You more.  And lead me into places where I can carry your flame and light up the dark.  Amen.



Jesus | Genealogy

Jesus | Genealogy

Over the next few weeks, we will dive into the story of Jesus. We will begin with the prophecies foretold of a Savior and His miraculous birth, and then we will walk through His life, His death and His resurrection. We will finish by looking at Jesus in our lives today. Our prayer for you is that through studying these Scriptures, we will better understand the character of Jesus and what His time on earth means for us. We pray that you fall more in love with who He is during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of a Child who came to save us all.


“The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son:

2-6 Abraham had Isaac,
Isaac had Jacob,
Jacob had Judah and his brothers,
Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar),
Perez had Hezron,
Hezron had Aram,
Aram had Amminadab,
Amminadab had Nahshon,
Nahshon had Salmon,
Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab),
Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother),
Obed had Jesse,
Jesse had David,
    and David became king.

6-11 David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother),
Solomon had Rehoboam,
Rehoboam had Abijah,
Abijah had Asa,
Asa had Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat had Joram,
Joram had Uzziah,
Uzziah had Jotham,
Jotham had Ahaz,
Ahaz had Hezekiah,
Hezekiah had Manasseh,
Manasseh had Amon,
Amon had Josiah,
Josiah had Jehoiachin and his brothers,
    and then the people were taken into the Babylonian exile.

12-16 When the Babylonian exile ended,

Jeconiah had Shealtiel,
Shealtiel had Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel had Abiud,
Abiud had Eliakim,
Eliakim had Azor,
Azor had Zadok,
Zadok had Achim,
Achim had Eliud,
Eliud had Eleazar,
Eleazar had Matthan,
Matthan had Jacob,
Jacob had Joseph, Mary’s husband,
    the Mary who gave birth to Jesus,
    the Jesus who was called Christ.

17 There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David,
    another fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile,
    and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ.”

[Matthew 1:1-17, the message]


I used to skip over this list of names; it just seemed like a bunch of people I didn’t know with names I couldn’t pronounce. But over time, as I wanted to know more of Jesus, I decided to actually read this a little slower and give God a chance to teach me something.

This genealogy is the list of the generations leading up to Jesus. It details his lineage with names maybe some of you recognize--Abraham, David, etc. Wouldn’t you think that the generational line of Jesus would be the most pure, faithful, righteous people? But the names on this list are a bunch of broken people who murdered, slept with prostitutes,  ran from God and more. It’s intense and hard to believe honestly.

In the genealogy of Jesus are immoral, broken generations, and this is how God chose to reveal himself to the world. It wasn’t in a palace; it wasn’t in high standing or perfect people. He came in the midst of brokenness and corruption in order to show how deeply He can redeem what is wrong and make it right. God does not distance himself from sinful people; in fact, He gave Himself to a broken world to bring from it something beautiful and whole.

Jesus’ life gets to be the foundation of our faith. If you focus on Jesus, nothing will shake you. If you focus on Jesus, you are on the right track. Before Jesus was ever in the manger, He dreamed of the redemption of humanity. He anticipated the redemption of generations. He looked ahead to the people of God being restored back to God. Even in His own family line we get to see what He did for you. Today, I urge you to read this list a little slower and think about how personally God takes what is broken and fashions it into something beautifully redemptive.

-Tim

pray

God, thank You for seeing my brokenness and choosing me anyway. Thank You for choosing to come into this world in a way that is more relatable than I may even be comfortable admitting. Thank You for breaking every expectation of what it looks like for You to be the King, the Savior of the world. I just ask that in this season of Advent I get to know even more. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Jesus | The Hope of the World

Jesus | The Hope of the World

Over the next few weeks, we will dive into the story of Jesus. We will begin with the prophecies foretold of a Savior and His miraculous birth, and then we will walk through His life, His death and His resurrection. We will finish by looking at Jesus in our lives today. Our prayer for you is that through studying these Scriptures, we will better understand the character of Jesus and what His time on earth means for us. We pray that you fall more in love with who He is during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of a Child who came to save us all.



6 For to us a child is born,

   to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

   and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and of peace

   there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

   to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

   from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

[Isaiah 9:6-7]

If you are like me, you have heard the story of the birth of Jesus our savior over and over. If you didn’t grow up hearing this story every December, you probably are still familiar with it because ultimately it is the reason behind the celebration of Christmas.


But what does the birth of Jesus really mean?

We have never known a time when Jesus wasn’t with us. We only know life after His birth and ultimate death and resurrection. Because of this, we never have had to question His redemption, forgiveness or restoration for us. This is amazing for us, but what if we looked at Jesus’ birth through the eyes of Israel? To say that the birth of Jesus was long awaited would be a huge understatement. The people of Israel had long heard prophecies much like these verses in Isaiah. The promise of a man who will also be God. One who will bring justice, righteousness, peace and so much more. The Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Mighty God. This promise was the sustenance of a people passed along from father to son and mother to daughter. Luke 2:25 refers to Jesus as “the consolation of Israel.” He was the long awaited comfort to a people who had suffered.

Christmas is an especially good time of year to take a moment and recognize just what the birth of Jesus means to us as Christians. It didn’t just start with a woman and a man who traveled to Bethlehem and birthed a child. This story goes back way before these events, but it was always God’s plan. May we remember the truth that God had a plan for humanity’s redemption from the very beginning, and it was through His son Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.

-Natalie

Let’s Pray

God, I thank You for the gift of your son. I thank You that my redemption and restoration was always Your plan. I pray that this Christmas season, You would give me a new level of gratitude for the person of Jesus, my friend and counselor. Amen.