Planning for Growth

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Throughout the week we’ve focused on God working in unexpected people, in unexpected ways, and utilizing unexpected methods. We’ve seen that, ultimately, God will accomplish His purposes in His ways and in His timing. 

This may lead some to incorrectly believe that they have little to no responsibility for their own growth. They reason, if God will accomplish His purposes in His ways and in His timing, then I don’t really have any responsibilities. It’s all on Him! 

But this isn’t what the Scriptures teach. Instead, the Scriptures teach that while God has some specific responsibilities, we have responsibilities as well. In general, it’s good to consider:

  • What is God’s responsibility? 
  • What is my responsibility? 
  • What (if anything) is somebody else’s responsibility? 

When it comes to your own emotional and spiritual growth, you have some responsibility in that. It’s unwise to believe that by becoming a follower of Jesus you will immediately excel at loving God and loving others. It takes planning. It takes practice. It takes a desire to grow.

READING & PRAYERS:

     PSALM 121 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: What steps have you taken to plan for your own emotional and spiritual growth? 

QUESTION: What steps will you take to plan for your own emotional and spiritual growth over the next week? Month? Year? Who is somebody who may be able to help you as you navigate through this plan? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess there are times when I think that You, or my church, or somebody else is ultimately responsible for all of my emotional and spiritual growth. Today has been a great reminder that I have some responsibility in this as well. May I accept this responsibility and grow in my desire to love You and others well. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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God Uses Unexpected Methods

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Historians and archaeologists affirm that the town or city or Jericho was not a large bustling city. Yes, it was a town and had a number of people living there. But it wasn’t a huge city. 

Nevertheless, like many towns in the ancient world, there was a wall around the city. These walls were constructed to provide safety to the inhabitants. Military soldiers could then man the walls in order to provide safety and protection from invaders. 

How did people in that day and age take over a fortified city? Oftentimes, they would burn down the gate or find other ways to sneak into a city for a surprise attack. But God used the most unusual and unexpected of methods to breach the walls of Jericho. God commanded His people to march around the city seven times and then shout at the top of their lungs. Sure enough, the walls crumbled and the people of Israel destroyed Jericho. Essentially, God communicated to His people that it was His power and strength, not theirs, that led to victory. 

Living like Jesus is to recognize that God’s strength, not ours, is often revealed in unexpected ways. Yet it leads to victory. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     JOSHUA 6:15-23 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Think of a specific situation in which you’ve experienced the strength/power of God in an unexpected way? What was the victory for you and/or God in that situation? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, If somebody asked me to tear a wall down I would expect to use a sledgehammer, not the sound of voices and trumpets. You not only work in unexpected people and unexpected ways, but You use unexpected methods to accomplish Your purposes. Today, I humbly submit my life to You and ask that You use whatever methods necessary to help me grow into the person You created me to be. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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God Works in Unexpected Ways

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Take a moment to think about the prayers you have prayed over the past two or three days. What were those prayers like?

For some of us, we may need to confess that we’ve prayed to God as if He’s our personal assistant. We spend more time praying that God would see our will be accomplished instead of praying that His will be done. For example: 

  • God, please heal so-and-so of this disease.
  • God, please help me to do well on this test. 
  • God, if you will just get me out of this, I promise…

Praying for healing, wisdom, discernment, and even help isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it’s important that we see God as He really is, and not as the god we may create in our minds. To see God as He really is is to recognize that He won’t always work in the ways we expect Him.

The story of Rahab is yet another example of how God works in unexpected ways. It teaches us that living like Jesus is to recognize that God regularly works in unexpected ways. It’s recognizing that He will see His purposes fulfilled, and He may fulfill them in ways we wouldn’t expect or anticipate. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     JOSHUA 2:14-24 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Have you seen God work in an unexpected way in the previous day? Week? Month? What was so unexpected about it? 

QUESTION: What did you learn about God through this experience? What did you learn about yourself? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for working in me, through me, and around me in such unexpected ways. Today, may I be in tune to Your Spirit, recognizing that You are constantly working around me to fulfill Your purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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God Works in the Lives of Unexpected People

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One of the interesting things seen all throughout the Scriptures is that God works in the lives of unexpected people. Abraham wasn’t well known, yet God called him to be the father of nations. Moses, by his own admission, was not a good communicator, yet God called him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. David was the youngest son and a simple shepherd, yet God called him to be king of Israel. 

Even though stories such as these are well known, we forget that God really does work in and through the lives of unexpected people. The story of Rahab is yet another example.

Picture this: the people of Israel are preparing to enter into the land God had promised them. But first, they need to scout out the land to see what they’re up against. Two men enter the home of Rahab, a prostitute. At first, she seems like an unlikely person to provide aid to an approaching army. However, God works in and through this non-Jewish prostitute to offer protection and essential information to His people. Living like Jesus is to recognize the work God is doing in and through others, including the lives of unexpected people. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     JOSHUA 2:1-13 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: What are two or three ways you’ve seen God work in and through somebody else? Try to think of somebody in which you may not have expected to see God work in a significant way in their life.

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today I simply pray that You will continue to help me see how You’re working and moving in the lives of others, especially those who live, think, and believe very differently than myself. Similarly, I confess that there are times when I question whether or not I’m worthy for You to work in and through me in a significant way. Today, continue to reveal to me that if You can work through Rahab, you can work through me in amazing ways too. Thank You for this! In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Write it Out

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Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

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God Shapes Us for Life in His Kingdom

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Genesis 38:26 Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am.”

We see hurt, pain, and brokenness all throughout the Scriptures. Abraham lied about his wife. Jacob deceived his brother, uncle, and others. King David committed adultery. Matthew was a tax collector. The Apostle Paul murdered some of the earliest Christians. 

God did not – and this is important – God did not turn a blind eye to their sinful decisions. He didn’t say, “It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.” But He also didn’t allow those decisions to completely define their lives. Instead, God used those situations to shape each of them. Despite the brokenness they experienced or created in their lives and in their families, God still invited them into His story. 

Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality writes this, “God never loses any of our past for his future when we surrender ourselves to him. Every mistake, sin, and detour we take in the journey of life is taken by God and becomes his gift for a future of blessing.”

READING & PRAYERS:

    GENESIS 38:24-30 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: In what ways has God already shaped you for life in the Kingdom of God? 

QUESTION: In what ways may God be specifically inviting you to recognize and remember that you live primarily in the Kingdom of God today? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s always good to remember that I live first in the Kingdom of God. The world, as much as I enjoy the beauty of it, is not my home. I am a stranger in this world and You continue to use the brokenness I’ve experienced to shape me for life in Your kingdom. Continue to help this truth permeate my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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God Shapes Us in Our Brokenness

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Genesis 38:15 Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face.

If you are ill or injured and find yourself in a hospital, it’s likely the medical staff will ask you to share the level of pain you’re currently experiencing between 1-10. But when it comes to emotional hurt, pain, and brokenness, there is no specific pain scale. What is extremely painful for one person may not be very painful to another, and vice-versa. 

What cannot be ignored, however, is one universal truth: Everybody experiences pain, hurt, and brokenness. Nobody is immune from it. We may all feel different emotions but none of us are ever completely alone in our brokenness. 

The beautiful thing about the Gospel message is that restoration (or in Jesus’ case, resurrection) comes after embracing the brokenness. We may not immediately understand why things happen the way they do. But we can remain confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). God uses our brokenness to shape us for life in the Kingdom of God.

READING & PRAYERS:

     GENESIS 38:12-23 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: In what ways may God be using your experiences of brokenness to shape you? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the Gospel message is a beautiful reminder that death leads to life. Just as a seed is buried deep in the dirt, it emerges into a towering tree that can provide fruit and shade for years and years. Continue to reveal to me the seed that has been planted deep within me in my moments of hurt, pain, and brokenness. And allow that seed shape me into a stronger person who can better reflect your love and grace onto others. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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God Embraces Brokenness

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Genesis 38:6 In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar.

The story of Tamar is a difficult one to digest. On the one hand, the one reading the story may think to themselves, “Oh, that poor lady.” On the other hand, the one reading the story has many emotions that stir up deep inside. Because even though you haven’t experienced everything Tamar experienced, the hurt, pain, brokenness, and overall feeling of aloneness that Tamar must’ve felt is universal.  We have all felt those difficult emotions. 

So why did Matthew include Tamar as part of Jesus’ genealogy? We may not know for certain, but it seems plausible that her story was another way for Jesus to say, “The brokenness in my family history cannot be denied, I don’t want it to be ignored, and I don’t need to numb it away or pretend it didn’t happen. Because in the Kingdom I’m ushering in, everybody has experienced brokenness. In my family, we’re no longer going to ignore it. We’re going to come together and experience healing from it.”

READING & PRAYERS:

     GENESIS 38:1-11 (also read the commentary notes in your Study Bible of choice.)

QUESTION: Take a moment to think of a hurtful, painful, or moment of brokenness in your life history. Are you currently trying to deny, compare, ignore, or numb any of your past experiences? If so, why? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

PRAYER: Today, take the opportunity to write out your own prayer to God.

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The Mothers of Jesus

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The Gospel of Matthew begins with a long genealogy of Jesus. Those who read through the Scriptures may get to these long lists of names and just want to move forward and get back into the story. (Confession, I’m often in that camp too!) 

However, these genealogies are important. Not only are they important, but they often highlight some important information about the family. For example, the family lineage Matthew provides for Jesus includes a number of women. This is interesting for several reasons: 

  • Ancient genealogies rarely mentioned women. 
  • Many of the women in Jesus’ genealogy are ethnically diverse. Tamar (an Adullamite), Rahab (a Canaanite), Ruth (a Moabite),  and Uriah (a Hittite).
  • Their stories are full of brokenness. 
  • Their stories arouse suspicion of illegitimacy. 

The simple fact that Matthew includes these stories is fascinating. It’s as if Matthew was writing this important principle: God uses the brokenness of your past to shape you for life in the Kingdom of God. 

READING & PRAYERS:

     MATTHEW 1:1-17

QUESTION: Reflect on this statement – God uses the brokenness of your past to shape you for life in the Kingdom of God. What emotions do you experience as you reflect on this statement. (Focus on specific emotions / feeling words.) 

QUESTION: Why do you think these emotions are the ones that rise to the surface?

Take a Step: This week, continue to utilize the One Minute Pause app at least twice daily to begin practicing being with God and resting in His presence. The app is free, and is available on iPhone and Android devices. See pauseapp.com for details.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I know it’s one thing for me to say I believe that You use the brokenness of my past to shape me for life in Your Kingdom. But it’s much more difficult to live this out. When I experience hurt, pain, and brokenness, it’s much easier for me to numb it away or ignore it than it is to embrace it. As I enter this week, bring to light the aspects of my past I have failed to embrace, and reveal to me how You are using these experiences to shape me for life in Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Write it Out

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Take some time today to journal and reflect on the following questions:

In what ways have you seen God at work within you this week? Within your family? Within others you may interact with? 

In what ways have you resisted God’s word within you this week? 

Take a Step: Remember to continue utilizing the One Minute Pause app throughout the week. If possible, begin to explore and practice the 3, 5 or 10 minute pause to more deeply root yourself in Christ.

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