Light of the World: Being Light to Others

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Vincent van Gogh is one of the most influential artists in history. While his life story is one of much tragedy and loss, many are unaware of how much he loathed the Christian church. 

Earlier in his life, Vincent was captivated by the gospel message and began to be trained in full-time ministry. While we may not know all of the details, historians have learned that he did not have the talents needed for ministry. But instead of training Vincent for other roles, those responsible for his education sent him away. In short, the Christian church hurt Vincent more than it helped him.

In the years to follow, we see these hurts communicated through his art. Starry Night, for example, reveals a small town in the distance. Lights are seen in the majority of households and buildings, but not in the church. The church is completely dark. 

Seemingly, this was Vincent’s way of saying, “I have seen light and beauty, but not where I most expected to see it.” 

READING & JOURNALING:

     ROMANS 15:2

Those you interact with today may be seeking hope and encouragement in the same way Vincent van Gogh was. In what ways is God inviting you to be a light to others? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, I recognize that we live in a broken world, and that because we live in a broken world there will be pain, suffering, and hurt. Continue to help me to be the kind of person others can turn to for support when they are seeking hope and encouragement. May I reflect the goodness of who You are to them. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Light of the World: God’s Word Gives Light

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Imagine what it’s like to walk through a forest after dark. Even if you have a small flashlight, you have to keep the beam of light fairly focused on the path in front of you. While you’re likely to hear dozens of forest creatures, you’re not able to see the rest of the surrounding forest. You may have a vague idea as to how thick the forest is on either side of you, but for the most part all you can see is the small path in front of you. You want to see more, but there isn’t enough light to do so. Still, you’re able to continually take steps in the right direction because you can see the path. 

Psalm 119:105 (NIV) reads:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, 

a light on my path. 

You, like everybody else, likely want to see the bigger picture around you. You want to see the entire forest, not just the path in front of you. You want to know when the path will turn to the right or left, and when it may go uphill or down. But God is inviting you to simply stay on the path, and trust Him at His word that He will continually reveal the next step. 

READING & JOURNALING:

     PSALM 119:105

Do you ever find yourself straying off the path God has placed in front of you, desiring to see more, or to forge your own path? 

How would your life be different if you simply allowed God and His Word to be the light for your path? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father,  I’m regularly reminded that life is not like a football field that is well-lit after dark. Instead, it’s like a dark forest with a narrowly lit path to take. While I may want to see more, You continue to lead me on the best path. May I rest today in You and Your Word in order to see the next step to take in every situation I face. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Light of the World: The Path of Righteousness

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Proverbs 4:18-19 (NIV) reads:

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, 

shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; 

they do not know what makes them stumble.

If somebody were to ask you what it means to be righteous, how would you respond? 

Some may respond by saying, “Well, it just means to be a good person. Opening the door for little old ladies, being a contributing member of society, and not doing anything really bad.” Others may take it up a notch, and point to other people. “Billy Graham was a righteous person. Mother Theresa was a righteous person. So I guess to be a righteous person means to live like they did.” 

The Scriptures offer more clarity. For example, the Proverbs regularly speak about the difference between a righteous person, a foolish person, and a wicked or evil person. While the differences are many, Proverbs 4:18-19 shows us that the righteous person has a well-lit path before him. 

READING & JOURNALING:

     PROVERBS 4:18-19

What do you think it is that makes the path of the righteous so bright? 

How well are you currently able to see the next step on your path? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, it is You and You alone that lights the path before me, and You and You alone have the ability make it shine brighter and brighter. Forgive me for the times I try to forge my own path, which regularly leads to darkness and despair. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

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Light of the World: Let There Be Light

With The Good and Beautiful God series coming to a close, South Ridge Church has officially started a new message series titled Let There Be Light. With a new message series comes a new daily devotional.

For those not subscribed to the South Ridge Blog, feel free to subscribe on http://www.southridgeblog.com in order to receive the daily devotional in your email inbox each morning. And now…let’s begin.

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One Scripture passage that is communicated regularly in our culture — through music, movies, or other forms of artistic expression — is Genesis 1:3. The NIV translation reads, And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

 According to the Bible, light was the very first thing created by God. Light, it seems, was necessary for everything else that was to be created afterward. Light makes that which was invisible, visible. Light, the Scriptures declare, would not exist without God. 

The CSB Study Bible rightly notes that when God speaks, He does so with universe-changing authority. The creation of light, therefore, isn’t something God just decided to create one day. It was an essential aspect of God’s creation. It was foundational for the rest of God’s plan. It was central to the inner workings of the entire universe. And God declared that the light was good.

READING & JOURNALING:

     GENESIS 1:1-5

When God speaks, He does so with universe-changing authority. In what ways is God speaking to you today? 

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, there’s a part of me that recognizes just how much power and authority You have, but I know I sometimes  live like my own wants and desires are all that really matters. Help me to remember that You are central to everything that is good in life, and that as long as I continue to seek You I will continue to grow into the person You have made me to be. May I rest in You and Your Word today. Amen. 

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Getting Started with Journaling

Think about this: How clear are you on your biggest convictions in life? Do you know exactly what you believe and why you believe it? Do you know what your preferences are and what your boundaries are? If you’re anything like me, it takes time to think through questions such as these. But thinking through them for just 10-15 minutes a day often proves very helpful. It’ll take time (weeks, months, and maybe even years), but a little bit of intentional journaling/thinking every day will help you track your growth in ways you may never expect. If you’re not used to journaling on a regular basis, consider trying it for two to three weeks and see what happens.

Below are some steps / questions you can walk through to ensure you’re thinking through life’s challenges in a healthy way. There are other methods as well, but consider this a starting point:

Journaling Recommendation #1: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day
    • After writing out 3 positives of the day, write about anything else on your mind. 
    • Oftentimes, the four questions (1) What am I sad about? (2) What am I mad about? (3) What am I anxious about? (4) What am I glad about? Are good questions to consider. 

 

Journaling Recommendation #2: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day, then focus on one or two of the following questions: 
        • Where do my thoughts on self-worth come from? If they’re negative thoughts, what Scripture verses speak against these lies?
        • Why do I feel like I’m not good enough? What Scripture verses speak against these lies?
        • What, specifically, do I love about my spouse, kids, others – emotionally? spiritually? physically? etc.? 
        • What healthy / unhealthy thoughts did I have today? How can I replace the unhealthy ones with healthy ones tomorrow? 
        • What healthy / unhealthy behaviors did I have today? How can I replace the unhealthy ones with healthy ones tomorrow?

 

Journaling Recommendation #3: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day and then focus on one or two of the following questions: 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me growing in my relationship with God? 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me growing in my relationship with my spouse (or kids, others)? 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me knowing who God has made me to be? 
        • What steps can I begin to take to overcome these barriers? And who can help keep me accountable to ensure I take these steps? 

 

Journaling Recommendation #4: 

    • Read Scripture and answer (1) What am I learning about the nature and character of God? (2) What have I learned over the past week (or month) about myself? 
    • Note: In my own life, I’ve written out 3-5 Biblical principles and/or Scripture verses that I regularly repeat to myself as I wrestle with my own unhealthy fears. You may likely find it helpful to do something similar.

 

 

I Wish Someone Had Told Me How Harmful Judgmental Thoughts Can Be

Today, we at SRC began a new message series titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me…

This series will be focusing on topics such as, I Wish Someone Had Told Me…

  • How harmful judgmental thoughts can be. 
  • What forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it. 
  • How much envy impacts our lives. 
  • How much shame impacts our lives. 
  • What it actually means to live in the Kingdom of God. 
  • That not all anger is bad or sinful. 
  • How to grieve. 

As I (Justin) mentioned in the message this morning (July 26), this first message on the topic of Judgment was difficult to write. I felt like there was so much more that could’ve been said. For those interested in digging a little deeper into this topic, here are some steps you can take this week.

  1. Follow through on the end-message questions to consider. Give 10-15 minutes a day to follow-through on your answers to #1 and #3. Also consider specific ways a mentor may be of help, and consider contacting one or two individuals to ask them if they would be willing to serve in this way.

Questions to Consider: 

In what ways will I begin to practice thinking and speaking encouraging thoughts about others? 

Who can I invite to be a mentor in my life to help me be accountable in the areas that matter most? 

Who is somebody I know who is hurting right now? How can I serve them?

 

  1. Take the opportunity to study out the topic of judgmental thoughts on your own.

For example, the NLT Life Application Study Bible provides the following references for judging others:

  • don’t be quick to judge (Acts 11:2-18)
  • God’s standards versus society’s (1 Samuel 16:7, Luke 3:2)
  • how God judges others (Psalm 1:1)
  • avoid double standards when (Isaiah 11:3-5)
  • we’re experts at telling others what to do (Matthew 5:19)
  • why it should be left to God (Matthew 13:40-43, 1 Corinthians 4:5)
  • we cannot know who will be in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 13:47-49)
  • can’t judge others’ salvation (Matthew 16:27)
  • use compassion and forgiveness first (John 8:7)
  • difference between judging others and dealing with their sin (1 Corinthians 5:12)

See if you can find additional references in your Study Bible of choice, and then think through the following questions:

If I were to be completely honest with myself, how regularly do I judge others?

Which 2 or 3 of these verses stick out the most to me? Why is that?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” In what ways may God be inviting me to grow in my knowledge and understanding of those who look, think, act, worship, and/or live different than me? Be specific. 

In what ways is God inviting me to change my judgmental thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors? Be specific.

 

This topic is a challenging one, as we’re each confronted with something deep within ourselves that God desires to refine. But just as gold and silver needs to have all impurities removed to increase its purpose, God desires to refine each of us so that we may better fulfill His purpose in our lives. His refinement transforms us into something stronger than we were before. May you continue to grow in Him this week.

Be blessed!

Who’s Sitting at the Table?

Earlier this year I took the opportunity to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. As Manning goes on and on about the tremendous love and grace of God, he pauses in one chapter to share a story about a friend who is uneasy about having dinner with Christ in heaven. She’s uneasy because she isn’t the one who will get to choose who’s sitting with her at the table.

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This story has challenged me to consider whether I have the same sense of uneasiness. I’ve challenged myself with questions such as:

  • Am I willing to sit and dine with those who look, act, think, work, and live very differently than myself?
  • If not, why not?
  • If so, why am I not taking more opportunities to dine with them now, on this side of heaven?
  • Am I to only build relationships with those who have similar interests as hobbies as myself?
  • In what ways can I be more intentional to build relationships with those who do look, act, think, work, and live differently than myself?

Ouch. These questions are difficult, even painful to think about. It feels like Jesus Himself is standing with me whispering, “You’re invited. Come and dine.”

“But Jesus, who will be sitting with me?”

“It doesn’t matter. I have a seat reserved just for you.”

“But…Jesus…”

“Come and dine.”

You see, Jesus spent years of His life and ministry being with those who looked, acted, thought, worked, and lived very differently than He did. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. He showed a prostitute that she was loved by God more deeply than she knew. He told stories of how His own people (the Jews) walked on the other side of the road from somebody who was beaten and left for dead, and how a Samaritan – a people group loathed and hated by the Jews – gave aid to the man in need. He took a rag-tag group of twelve men and revealed to them that they were created by God for a magnificent purpose. One that would forever change the trajectory of their lives. He then invited you and I to follow in His footsteps. To come and dine with Him, not being concerned or afraid about who else may be at the table.

All in all, Christ’s words and actions should stir a reckoning deep within us. We should be confronted by our own thoughts, fears, and feelings. We should be asking ourselves how much it really matters who else is sitting at the table, and simply rest in knowing that He is sitting at the head. And maybe, just maybe, we should each be considering who we can have join us at the table here and now.

Each and every day, we’re being transformed into the image of Christ. May our prayer continue to be one of being transformed into His image and not asking Him to be transformed to ours.

As David prayed,

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Amen.

What’s Coming Up at SRC?

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Those who have been joining us each weekend at SRC know we’ve been focused on a series titled Do Not Be Afraid, which is based on the book Letting Go of Fear by Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller. We’ll be continuing this series over the next few weeks, but then we’ll be engaging in a couple of series’ I’m really excited about.

Beginning Sunday, July 26 we’ll begin a series titled, “I Wish Someone Had Told Me…” The idea behind the series is to take a look into some difficult life lessons learned the hard way. Honestly, it was difficult to narrow down a list of topics for this series, as I’m sure we’ve all learned some life lessons the hard way. The topics we’re likely to cover include:

I wish someone had told me…

  • How harmful judgmental thoughts can be.
  • What forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it.
  • How much envy impacts our lives.
  • How much shame impacts our lives.
  • Not all anger is bad or sinful.
  • How to grieve.
  • What it means to live in the Kingdom of God.

Then this Fall, we’ll be launching a series titled The Good & Beautiful God which is based on a book by James Bryan Smith. Our hope is that all of our Community Groups will join us for a more in-depth study on this book which focuses on the nature and character of God.

The book description notes, “God wants me to try harder.””God blesses me when I’m good and punishes me when I’m bad.””God is angry with me.”We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here. Turning to the Gospels, Smith invites you to put your ideas to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God. Once you’ve discovered the truth in Scripture, Smith leads you through a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. At the end of each chapter you’ll find an opportunity for soul training, engaging in spiritual practices that reinforce the biblical messages on your mind and heart. Because the best way to make a complete and lasting change is to go through the material in community, small group discussion questions also accompany each chapter. This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived by–to know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimed–and to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God.

Currently, Community Groups are set to launch Sunday, September 13. If you’re not currently in a Group but would like to look into the possibility of joining or leading one, feel free to let us know by clicking here.

Summer Reading: 2020 (Part 1)

Those who know me well know that I read (or listen to audiobooks) a lot. This year I set a goal of reading through an average of one book a week (52 for the year) and I’m currently four books ahead of schedule.

With COVID-19 hindering many people’s travel plans, I thought I would recommend a few good reads you may enjoy. The links provided here are for the Amazon Kindle edition of the book, but many of these are available at your local library. For those who may not know, you can borrow digital / kindle books directly from the library and return them after 14-21 days. It’s a free service, and well worth utilizing.

If you have any other book recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below. Be blessed all!

Christian Non-fiction:

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:

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The Ragamuffin Gospel was originally published in 2009, but is a book that will continue to go down in history as a classic. Manning repeatedly focuses on the wonders of God’s grace. As I read through it (and am reading through it again), I find myself regularly stopping to absorb the weight of his words. A powerful book worthy of the accolades it has received over the past 30 years.

In the Name of Jesus : Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen

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Henri Nouwen was a Catholic Priest who penned a ridiculous number of books throughout his ministry. While having opportunities to teach at Notre Dame and Harvard, he ended his career caring for those with severe intellectual and physical disabilities at L’Arche institute in Ontario.

In the Name of Jesus is a fairly quick read, but is another that will provide a plethora of insights worthy of chewing on for days, or even weeks at a time.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

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Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsy, and their father sheltered Jewish refugees during WWII and were late captured by the Nazis and forced to labor in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie’s real life story will inspire you to think about those who persecute you in new ways. Know going in that you may need to keep a few tissues nearby, but it’s well worth the time to engage with her story.

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby

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Growing up in a community with less diversity, I didn’t (and probably still don’t) fully understand and appreciate the ongoing conversations about racial inequality and bias. The Color of Compromise is one of a dozen or more books I’ve read over the past year in an effort to understand the need for the conversation and to educate myself as to how to better engage in the discussion. Admittedly, you may find parts of this read unsettling. You may even wonder why our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents generations allowed certain things to happen. But a hundred years from now, there’s a good chance our great grandchildren will be wondering some of the same things about the decisions we make today. Hopefully they won’t still be asking questions about why we allowed any form of racial inequality or bias to continue.

Young Adult / Fiction:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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Yes, this is yet another old classic that was originally published in 1961. I believe I first read this one in 8th grade as required reading, but during the COVID-19 stay-at-home-order I was looking for something light and easy to read. Where the Red Fern Grows fit the bill nicely. If you’ve never read it, or even if you have, consider giving it another go.

Fiction:

The Guardians by John Grisham.

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Generally speaking, I’m not a huge Grisham fan. But The Guardians has been highly reviewed, and for good reason. While the story itself is fictional, it is based on real life stories of racial injustice that continue to be part of our culture. All in all, it was an excellent portrayal of inequality and one man’s mission to have a wrongful conviction overturned.

Romans: June 5 – Write it Out

June 5: Write it Out

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READING & JOURNALING:

Take some time to review the questions and topics presented throughout this study on the Book of romans. What was most memorable about this study throughout the book of Romans?  

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F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

The F260 is a Scripture Reading Plan designed to read through the foundational passages of the Bible through a year (September 2019 – August 2020). It is a separate reading from the daily devotional but is included for those who would like to engage with the Scriptures on a deeper level throughout the year.

Read: Acts 1

Note: Are you looking for a Study Bible to help you engage with the Scriptures at a deeper level? If so, click here for some recommendations.