Weird: Religion Devotional (Day 5 of 5)

Weird: Religion – Day 5 of 5

One of the things God has called each of us to do is to share our faith with others. It seems ‘Weird’, but God invites everybody who has sinned against Him, to speak for Him, sharing the Gospel Message with others.

Read: John 3:16-17, John 14:6, Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9, and 5:1.

Question to consider: Who is one person I can share my faith with? Write down a time you will meet with them to do so.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I recognize that You have not only called me to set aside my old life, but You desire me to share with others the new life I have in Christ Jesus. Admittedly, I’m a bit nervous to do so. That said, I know that I know others who do not yet have a relationship with You. This week, I pray for opportunities to share my story with those who may not know You. Prepare their hearts for the message You would have me to share with them. These things I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Weird: Religion Devotional (Day 4 of 5)

Weird: Religion – Day 4 of 5

Everybody knows the story of David and Goliath. Goliath, a huge warrior mocks God’s chosen people, and the soldiers of Israel were terrified to stand in his presence. But David, a young shepherd with no military experience, is willing to stand in battle against Goliath. David had seen and heard Goliath mock the armies of the living God, and David responds to Goliath, boldly declaring that God will defeat him. When the battle was over, the men of Israel overtook the Philistine army. It was a battle they should not have won. But David’s trust in God carried them to victory.


Read: 1 Samuel 17


Question to consider: Many times we move out into life thinking we cannot truly overcome the situations before us. But the story of David and Goliath reminds us that trusting God can and will lead to victory. Are you trusting God to help you overcome the challenges you’re facing today?


Prayer: Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that far too often I trust myself, instead of fully putting my trust in You. Today I want to again confess my sins of _____________________. While these sins sometimes overwhelm me, I know that by bringing them to You and entrusting them with You, they will no longer overwhelm me, but may instead be used by You to help me become the person You have made me to be. And this is my prayer today, that You will continue to show me the person You have made me to be. Amen.

Weird: Religion Devotional (Day 3 of 5)

Weird: Religion – Day 3 of 5

Nobody knows for certain why Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians. However, one thing seems very clear: the people there were not following God in the ways they should. Earlier in the letter, Paul writes about who Jesus is (see Colossians 1:15-20). And in Chapter 3 he writes about the new life we have in Christ. All who have a relationship with Him have died to our old life, and now we must live the life God has called us to live.

To the Colossians, he writes about all the things they used to do, and how they must set those things aside to be the people God has called them to be.

Read: Colossians 3:1-17

Question to consider: Colossians 3 provides a challenging list of things Paul says we should have nothing to do with. These include, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language, and lying. Which of these do you find most prevalent in our culture today? Which of these do you personally struggle with the most? What is God inviting you to do to rid yourself of this struggle?


God, I confess that the one thing I struggle with the most is ______________. As I go through this day, this week, and even this month, I pray that you would continue to reveal to me the life You have called me to live.

Mid-Week Challenge: Memorize Colossians 3:14 – Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Weird: Religion Devotional (Day 2 of 5)

Weird: Religion – Day 2 of 5

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul writes about not living as Gentiles do. A ‘Gentile’ in the Bible is somebody who was not of Jewish background. In Ephesians 4, Paul is saying that we are not to live in the same way as those who are not following God.

The Gentiles way of living would have been considered the ‘normal’ way of living. But Paul essentially says to not live in that way, which leads to confusion, but to live in a ‘Weird’ way instead.

Read: Ephesians 4:17-32

Question to Consider: Compare Ephesians 4:17-32 with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7. What similarities do you see? What are some things mentioned in Ephesians that are not specifically mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7?

Prayer: Father, it doesn’t take long for me to look around and see how it is that Gentiles live. As I go about my day today, give me the strength and the courage to continue living differently. My desire is not to live a life of confusion, but to instead live a life of clarity. And I ask that You give me clarity to live in the ways You desire. Amen.

Weird: Religion Devotional (Day 1 of 5)

Austin: “Hey, what’s that you’re listening to?”

Michael: “Oh, it’s nothing really.”

Austin: “C’mon, what is it?”

Michael: “My family and I were out of town over the weekend, so I’m just listening to the weekend message from our church. It’s quite fascinating really, it’s about…”

Austin: “I don’t know why you bother with that stuff. I mean, all that stuff about God, and Jesus and…. I mean C’mon, you really believe there’s some magic man in the sky that watches over us?”

Michael: “Well, I don’t believe he’s magic. But yes, I do believe in God.”

Austin: “And what was the message about this weekend?”

Michael: “I’m only a little ways into it. But it’s about being weird.”

Austin: “Well going to church is weird.”

Michael: “Some may think so. But the pastor defined weird as being different, but different in a good way. It’s living life in a way that other people respect, and admire, and appreciate, and …”

Austin: “Well, we obviously have disagreements about some things. But I can say that I generally do respect and appreciate you as a person. But ‘Christians’ in general, they leave a pretty sour taste in my mouth. They never get along – just look at how many different denominations there are. And they bicker about things politically more than anybody else I know. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Michael: “Oh?”

Austin: “Well yeah. They’re just as judgmental as others. They’re just as temperamental as others. The divorce rate among Christians is about the same as the rest of culture. There’s not much that’s different-in-a-good-way about Christians from what I can see.”

Michael: “Fair enough. But of all the Christians you DO know, do you see much that is different about them – different in a good way?”

Austin: “Like I said, I really appreciate and respect you. How you conduct yourself here in the office is quite admirable. But when I think about most other Christians I know, I would have to say, no.”


In Matthew 7, Jesus invites us to live in a way that would be considered ‘Weird’ by many. He says things such as, “Don’t judge others. Don’t view yourself and your actions as better than others. Always want the best for others. Do for others what you would want them to do for you. And those who follow these words are wise.”

But there’s more to it than that. Much more.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) says, 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Questions to consider:

Do you have any friends or family who have similar thoughts as Austin?

Is there anything else about God and/or Christianity they dislike that Austin didn’t mention?

Where do you think Christianity is failing the most? In other words, why do you think Christ-followers are not seen as being different in a good way?

Read Matthew 7. Are you currently experiencing a life challenge that makes it difficult for you to live differently, in a good way?

Does Jesus teach anything in Matthew 7 that describes how you can respond to this challenge in a way that leads to life, and not destruction?


God, as we begin this new series, I pray that You will clearly show me how I can better stand out among those I know. Provide me wisdom to stand out to my family. My friends. And all of my co-workers, classmates, or teachers. Lead and guide me to live out the principles Jesus teaches in Matthew 7. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

preparing for easter (part 2)

Over the past 48 hours or so, there’s been a flurry of news and social media chatter about a “Religious Freedom” bill that passed in the state of Indiana. Advocates for the bill are shouting one thing, and those rallying against the bill are shouting another. There have been threats to burn down businesses, threats to ban sporting events in the state, and much more. More interestingly, the word ‘tolerance’ has been used by both those for and those against the law. Sadly, few are offering any real solutions.

Why did I bring this up? Well, it’s not to get into my personal thoughts on the law or the state of culture in the U.S. Perhaps that’ll come another time.

Instead, I share this as a simple follow-up to the post I made a few days ago. It was then that I offered a simple challenge – give up reading and/or watching the news throughout the week of Easter and instead, use that time to read through the Gospel of John. (And oh, just in case you’re wondering how I know what’s been happening in the news, it’s because I slammed through the Gospel of John rather quickly!)

It seemed like such a simple challenge, yet it impacted me a bit more than I ever would’ve anticipated.

As I finished reading through the Gospel of John, I quickly came to a couple of different conclusions as a result. One is that I apparently spend too much time reading through news articles. Articles which, as mentioned before, don’t provide a great deal of information, but are written to make the reader excited or angry about something. The ‘news’ regarding the Religious Freedom bill in Indiana as well as the comments being made about it throughout social media is proof positive!

A second conclusion is that the Gospel of John is just as fascinating to me today as it was the first time I read through it. By my count, the word ‘believe’ is used 83 times. The general sense of the term means to believe or trust that Jesus was the Messiah sent from God. In fact, John specifically says that he wrote the book so that people would believe in Jesus.

But in my reading, it was John 17 that really stood out. It’s here that Jesus Himself takes the opportunity to pray for all who do believe in Him. He prays, specifically, that they will be one just as He and the Father are one. And this is where things get interesting.

This weekend, Billions of people around the world are going to join together in worship. Think about that for just a minute. Not hundreds, or thousands. But BILLIONS of people will worship Jesus this weekend. That’s just amazing.

And Jesus’ prayer for them was that they would join together as one. Some will have grown up Methodist, and others Baptist. Some Catholic, and others Lutheran. Some may be advocates for a Religious Freedom bill, and others against. But their religious background or denomination isn’t what really matters, nor are their differing opinions in politics. What really matters is Jesus. His desire was that all who believe would come together under the banner of His name, and that they would simplify life by focusing their energies on loving God and loving others.

Maybe we as believers in Jesus can all continue to learn from His prayer. Maybe we’ll all come to realize we spend too much time reading through news. Maybe we’ll all come to see that far too often we share our opinions on things that don’t really matter. Maybe we’ll all come to see that far too often we focus more of our energies on our differences than our similarities.

And maybe this weekend, we’ll remember His prayer…and we’ll worship Him as one.


preparing for easter

newspaperReading the national and international news has been somewhat of a hobby of mine for a number of years. I’ve always enjoyed being ‘in the know’ with world events. But over the past few years, a pattern in the news has become readily apparent to me. That pattern is that I’m not actually reading ‘news’. Instead, I’m clicking on images with short pieces of information that are written in such a way to get me excited or angry about something. In fact, I can probably summarize the news for the next year or more in just a few sentences. Are you ready? OK, here it goes…

Politicians don’t get along. Most media outlets won’t cover real atrocities occurring internationally, because if they did, Washington politicians would have to find a way to get along and do something about it. But they don’t. And probably won’t anytime soon.

That’s it. That, right there, is a summary of what you’ll watch and read about in the news for the next year or more. It’ll continue to be called ‘news’ but there’s little actual information available. But information will be shared to get you excited or angry about something. Something that, in reality, you have little control over. Something that may have little to do with how well you’re able to grow in loving God and loving others.

Where was I going with this? Oh, right…

This week I would like to propose a news challenge for you. It’s one I really hope you take me up on.

This week, use all the time you would normally take watching or reading the news, and instead, take the opportunity to read through the Gospel of John. And don’t just read through it, but take note as to how many times the word believe (or believes, belief, etc.) are used. And yes, I’m serious. Do your best to keep track of exactly how many times it’s used.

“Why should I do that,” you ask?

Well, because the Gospel of John talks about the significance of belief more than any other book in the Scriptures. In fact, John writes about the importance of believing in God/Jesus more than the other 3 Gospels combined. Reading the Gospel of John will help you to question, and at the same time, affirm what you really believe.

IMG_0034Not only that, but this upcoming Sunday is Easter Sunday. And Easter is THE news story that never goes away. Nearly 2,000 years ago, something happened that’s still being talked about today. People have been imprisoned for sharing it. Others beaten. Some have been beheaded or even crucified upside-down for sharing this news.

It’s the Good News that Jesus came to us as God in the Flesh. He lived the life we should have lived. Died the death we should have died. Yet rose from the grave, defeating sin and death so that we can know God on a deep, personal level.

And reading through the Gospel of John is one, simple way you can prepare for Easter. You can read it so that you’re better prepared to worship Him for what He’s done. And maybe you’ll even have the opportunity to share this news with others.


Other than reading through the Gospel of John, what’s one thing you will do this week to prepare for Easter?

the pursuit

A few months ago, I took the opportunity to begin reading through Timothy Keller’s book on the subject of prayer. It may seem strange, but as a pastor I’m sorry to say that the area of regular, consistent prayer is one of godly disciplines in which I lack.

As I began reading Keller’s book, however, I discovered that I’m not alone. He shared that even as a pastor, he struggled in this area for many years as well. And one of the things he did to begin praying more regularly was to summarize each of the Psalms (yes, all 150 of them!) into a short sentence or two. This then gave him the opportunity to go through each of his notes so that he could pray through the Psalms consistently.

I figured, why not. I’ll give that a try as well.

So every few days I’ve read a Psalm or two, summarized the principle being taught in my own words, and then written out a prayer.

Some examples so far include:

Psalm 1 – Those who delight in God’s word experience joy; those who do not experience condemnation and judgment.

Psalm 6 – No matter how hard the circumstances, we can remain confident that God hears our prayers.

Psalm 12 – The Lord’s promises are purer than pure; He protects the oppressed.

Psalm 19 – God’s wisdom is found all around us. In nature. In His word. In my life. In the lives of others.

All of these truths are great reminders.

But today I read Psalm 23. It’s perhaps one of the most well-known Psalms within our culture. It reads:

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD

Sound familiar?

As I read through it, however, one verse stuck out more than the others. It was verse 6. Take a brief opportunity to read through it again, but slowly.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.”

As I began to think through the implications of this passage, I felt compelled to do a bit more research. And it wasn’t long before I learned that the Hebrew word translated, ‘pursuit’, is only used in this context one time in the entirety of the Old Testament. In every other occurrence it’s used in the context of hostile enemies pursuing another in battle. But only here is it used with God’s goodness and faithfulness doing the pursuing.

David – despite sometimes questioning whether or not God heard his prayers, despite sometimes wondering why He couldn’t sense the presence of God in his life, despite sometimes responding to life circumstances in the worst possible way – he still somehow knew that God was pursuing him. David knew what it was like to pursue others in battle, and he knew what it was like to be pursued. And somewhere deep inside, God reminded David that He was pursuing him, relentlessly, with the most profound goodness and love.

Today, you may be wrestling through some of the same thoughts David wrestled with. You may be questioning whether God is hearing your prayers. You may be wondering why you sometimes can’t sense of the presence of God in your life. You may be responding to some of life’s circumstances in the worst possible way.

But, may you be reminded that God is pursuing you. He’s relentlessly pursuing you with His goodness and unfailing love. You may think you’re not worthy of it. (And oh, by the way, you’re not.) You may think you don’t deserve it. (And oh, by the way, you don’t.) But He’s pursuing you nevertheless.

How will you respond to His pursuit?

learning and applying the Book of James:

Two weeks ago, we at South Ridge Church began a new message series on the book of James. This weekend, I (Pastor Justin) challenged all in attendance to read through the Book of James, and to let me know something you learned from your study, and how you plan to apply it. Below are some of the responses I’ve received so far.

Feel free to contact me at to add your contribution to this post, or “reply” below. We’re really looking forward to reading about how you’re applying the Book of James in your life!

Post 1: So much to learn from this Book of the Bible!  Our faith should motivate us to serve God in mighty ways!  Our faith, accompanied by action, shows our faith is alive! I am also thankful that mercy triumphs over judgment. I pray that I can demonstrate my faith through service to others and that I can be merciful, instead of judgmental, towards others.   Mercy triumphs over judgment.  I pray that I can face trials  and persevere, knowing that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. There are many other things addressed in this chapter that we need to make part of our daily living in this world.

Post 2: Something I learned during this series so far is to “humbly accept the word God has planted in my heart, for it has the power to save your souls”.  I am going to apply God’s word to my life.  The first will be to practice acceptance of the actions that are presented to me.

Post 3: It’s funny how it seems that the message was meant just for me, many times
I’m struggling with something or have something weighing on my heart & mind.  Then that Sundays message seems to answer or help lead me in the direction that I need. Then Sunday, again, that message was written for me. I just finished reading James, There is so much of that that I can take and apply to my life and the man I want to become!

Post 4: For me, I keep seeing the importance of our deeds that have to go along with our faith.  We need to show others around us the love of God through our actions everyday.

Post 5: Chapter 1 thought – I understand the value of temptations.  By growing stronger, I have faith to help others who struggle with the same issues.  Chapter 2 thought – Our faith must match the same as our action.  A rowboat with two oars (Faith and Works) moving to a common goal. That is my favorite illustration. Chapter 3 thought – Wisdom by practical insight is from God.  We learn to be humble.  Our spiritual growth becomes stronger in Faith. Chapters 4 & 5 – This is totally from a Dad’s perspective,  As a dad, I must let God plan my life.  Godly character can last a life time.  It is very important for our family. My performance review should be honest and sincere,  Then my children can say “My dad is a Christian”

 Post 6: Thank you for the message on Sunday.  I really like the call to action we’ve heard since starting here a month ago.  The scripture that I focused on this week was James 2:17-18: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Although I do things that glorify God in helping others, I’ve wanted to do more community outreach. Reading the book of James, in particular this verse, along with the outreach opportunities at South Ridge, I’ve already begun to put my faith in action.

Post 7: One would think at my age I would have understood this long, long ago and I don’t remember being this way my entire adult life, but somewhere along the way I forgot to be a good listener, especially slow to speak, as well. My plan is to apply this verse to my everyday life. – James 1:19-20

Post 8: James has always been my favorite book of the Bible.  James has the attributes that I like to look for in a friend—direct, honest, and loyal.  My application involves the following verses, 1:22  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” and  2:14 “What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith, but does not have works?”  I know that our salvation is not based on our works, however, the way we live our lives is our testimony for Who is Lord of our lives.

Very recently I wrote a journal entry on what attracts me to certain Christian friends—in other words, what qualities do people possess that makes me say, “Wow I just love being with that person?”  Some of the things I wrote were “seeker of the Lord always—knowing that they will give me wise counsel”, “encouraging”,  “truthful”, “not gossipy”, “positive—don’t complain alot”, “not judgmental”, “makes time for me”, and “not envious–truly wants the best for me.”  These are people who are really living with an eternal perspective—I love being around those people. They don’t have to “say” their testimonies, they live them out.  Are they 100% of these attributes all the time? No,they are human and they fail.  However, I know that Jesus is at the center of their lives.
I desire to also have a life that is a LIVING testimony—-the kind that James described.

Post 9: Thanks for the nudge to get into the WORD. James 4:8. We step toward Him…He steps toward us…

Post 10: To sum up MY reaction to the book of James:  OUCH!  I found it very convicting as I struggle and fall short in virtually every area he mentions.  What came to me, on how to apply God’s Word was: Pause and Patience. The 2-very characteristics that I struggle with the most.  I react too quickly and expect others to do the same.  I believe if I learn the skill of taking a time out and giving some thoughtful consideration to things, I may just seem some progress.  I don’t always need to respond/react, sometimes not doing anything is the best thing to do (or not do?)

Post 11: I heard this on Rick Warren’s podcast today and thought I might share it.

“Ask God a specific question. James 1:5-6 says, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him …. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you” (TLB). Those verses tell us three truths.

First, God wants you to ask him for advice. You’re not bothering him. He’s interested in every detail of your life, and he’s waiting for you to ask.

Second, the more specific you are, the better, because it builds your faith when you ask God for something specific and then he answers. Don’t be general in your prayers.

Third, God wants you to expect an answer. Don’t pray and ask God for help unless you expect that he’s going to help you.

Look into God’s Word. After you withdraw and as you’re waiting and watching for the Lord, you need to get into the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times God has taken a verse and, even after I’ve read a passage a hundred times, it suddenly pops out at me, and I see something I’ve never seen before. God uses the Bible to give answers to your specific questions.

Post 12: I am walking for water.
About a year ago this idea “popped” into my head and though I thought I would do it, I failed to follow through. Fast forward to the James series. In searching and questioning God, I felt strongly that I was to walk (as often as possible) contributing $ for each mile I walk but to carry a bucket to raise my own awareness of why I walk and possibly the awareness of our community. It is already starting. Someone who saw me asked what I was doing and when they found out they said they want to contribute. So now its out there! Here is  where i always fall short–follow through. I could not begin to tell you the number of times I have been inspired but failed to complete!  I want to be done with that!! James is helping encourage me in my “works”. Maybe I should add, “if the Lord is willing . . . ” I will do this!

I (and maybe lots of people) want to be a part of something that makes “a difference” in lives of others. Water makes a profound difference  to the woman who has to walk 4 miles (on average) daily to have water . Its really so simple!

Post 13: I have learned (unfortunately many times over and over again) that the trials I am going through are to be celebrated!  Time and time again God is faithful and I am stronger and joyful with the outcomes of these trials, but I find I lack the faith during the trial.  I need to trust.
James 1:2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

real marriage ministry begins!

Here at SRC, we’ve learned a few things about couples through the years. For example…

  • 2/3 of All Couples would like a Mentor Couple to interact with, even when their relationship is going well.
  • 9/10 of All Couples would like a Mentor Couple to interact with, especially during challenging seasons in their marriage.
  • All couples learn in a variety of ways, and they all want to take steps forward in their marriage. Sometimes they’re just not sure how.

This is why we’re very excited to begin a new ministry at SRC – Real Marriage.Real Marriage Logo (final)The Real Marriage ministry is designed from the ground up, helping couples grow in their Friendship, Unity, and Intimacy. In other words, it’s holistic in nature, focusing on every aspect of the marriage relationship.

How does it work?  Good question.

We’re going to begin offering some things at SRC we’ve never offered before. For example:

  • Large Groups – South Ridge Church will begin hosting three Real Marriage Events a year. These events are typically held in January, June, and October and are specifically designed to help couples take information about marriage and turn it into intimacy and oneness in their relationship. For 2015, we’ll have a Friday evening event in June booked soon. But we already have a Weekend Event planned for October 23-24, right here at SRC!
  • Community Groups – SRC Community Groups often discuss the same topic as the Weekend Message. And because we offer at least one Marriage-themed message series a year, all groups will be encouraged to discuss the subject of marriage within their group. Additional Life Group studies specific for wives, husbands, or couples may be available throughout the year as well. The goal of each group is to help couples apply a selfless, Christ-like love within their marriage.
  • Mentoring – The heart of the Real Marriage ministry is in mentoring. Whether a couple is engaged and planning to be married in the months ahead, or they have been married for many years, mentoring is a way to help all couples focus holistically on their relationship.

Is anything happening right now?  YES!

Marriage mentoring is now available at SR!. In most cases, couples meet with a mentor couple once a week for eight weeks to discuss various aspects of their relationship. If you have any interest in receiving mentoring, you may contact the church office any time.

We also have a good girl's guideDiscussion Group for Women beginning soon. The group will be discussing a book by Sheila Gregoire, “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex.” It’s a great opportunity for wives to discuss a Biblical view of intimacy in marriage. If you have any interest in participating, please contact the church office soon to register.

We’re excited to begin this new ministry at SRC, and we look forward to working alongside many couples in the years to come.