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Posts tagged ‘Living the Christian Life’

Life Is Too Short – Living the Christian Life

Living the Christian LifeWhat was Jesus’ life too short for?

Answering that question makes sense of passages in which Jesus urges people to keep mum about being healed by him, or (in Matthew 16:20) about discovering his true identity.

Following the Father’s timetable first meant resisting going to Jerusalem (John 7:1-10), then (Luke 9:51) making it a priority.

Interact with God’s Word:  Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

  1. The people of Capernaum (4:31) wanted Jesus to remain as their synagogue’s resident rabbi. What (4:43) was Jesus’ response?
  2. What (4:42; 5:16) appears to have been behind Jesus’ decision to move on?
  3. Jesus found it essential to lay his plans and goals out before the Father for frequent evaluation. Have you ever submitted your plans and goals to the Lord like this?
  4. How (v. 43) did Jesus define the Father’s calling for him at this time?
  5. Why do you think Jesus told the cured leper (5:14) not to tell how he’d been healed? How could excessive demands for miraculous healings have restricted his ability to accomplish his primary goal?
  6. Why do you think Luke juxtaposes reports of Jesus’ mushrooming following and reputation (5:15) with his making time (5:16) for solitude?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the insight and strength to resist being run ragged by the expectations of others or by your own misplaced priorities.

Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

42 Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.

12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 14 Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

15 But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

Life Is Too Short – Go for the Gold!

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich.”  – Revelation 3:18

Bonus Reading: Revelation 3:14-22

In the 1984 Summer Olympics, Carl Lewis won four gold medals. Despite his outstanding performance, some critics accused him of holding back in the long jump. Instead of going for the world record in that event, he stopped competing after his first jump, confident that he’d win the gold. He stood by and watched as other jumpers tried unsuccessfully to best his distance.

Lewis later said that the Olympic trials had taken more out of him than he had expected, so he decided to save his strength for the other events. He was there to win gold medals, he explained, not to set records that would probably last only a short time.

Mart De Haan, president of RBC Ministries, notes that the Bible has something similar to say about choosing to devote our time and energy for pursuits that have lasting value. The believers at Laodicea failed to do this. Our Lord perceived their misplaced values by the pride they took in their riches and their self-sufficiency. He warned that they were lukewarm spiritually and not relying on him. They had to decide, he told them, whether they’d keep pursuing temporal things in order to impress others, or go for the eternal gold of his approval.

—Harry Genet

My Response: What am I pouring my strength into? What eternal value does it carry?

Thought to Apply: The man who is always available isn’t worth much when he is available. —Elton Trueblood (author & university chaplain)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Holy Ruthlessness

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “I must preach the Good News … in other places, too, because this is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43

Bonus Reading: Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

I hadn’t studied very hard my junior year at college—and had the marks to prove it! Now it was summer. My senior year would determine if I could go on to grad school and an academic career. But I’d also committed to lead my university’s Christian fellowship, gotten engaged, and was teaching the church high school Sunday school class. How to cope?

I learned of a theologian who graduated from a Canadian university while leading an InterVarsity chapter. So I wrote to him for guidance. I received a page-long reply he’d typed himself: “You should focus on that to which you believe God has called you, even though others might misunderstand, even resent, your priorities. Some might think you ruthless, but you must obey God, not other people’s agendas.”

That holy ruthlessness, I now realize, is key to the successful Christian life. Jesus modeled it. Regardless of what his disciples, family, or the crowds wanted him to do, he obeyed his Father—often in ways that astonished, even dismayed, his associates.

Taking this scholar’s advice, allowing my own agendas to be overruled, helped me through that crucial year. I’ve tried to follow it ever since.

—John Stackhouse Jr. in FaithToday

My Response: My focus is ____, and I will avoid distractions by …

Thought to Apply: Don’t take on things you don’t believe in and that you yourself are not good at. Learn to say no. —Peter Drucker (business consultant & trainer)

Adapted from FaithToday (9-10/02)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Opportunity Mindset

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. … Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15, 17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Are today’s Key Bible Verses about overloading your schedule with church events and obligations? … or turning normal relational moments into abnormal witnessing encounters?

No!  They’re about committing daily life to God’s purposes.  So …

  • Make the most of every area in which God has placed you. Are you single, married, retired, parent, child, friend, employer, employee, student, or grandparent? See these callings and seasons of life as opportunities to display the grace of Christ.
  • Avoid a “get through this season” mentality. We say to ourselves, If I can just get through this busy season of life, then I’ll be okay. This is an ungodly understanding of our current responsibilities and opportunities. I tend to do this with parenting: If I can just get through the diaper phase … Next it becomes: If I can just get through these early years of elementary school, then I can minister to others. But if I’m not careful, I’ll wish my life away and miss many opportunities to love and serve my children … to die to self and grow in grace. God wants us to see the daily struggles of life as critical moments of redemptive opportunity rather than hindrances.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A current redemptive opportunity I need to grab hold of is …

Thought to Apply: Every day is a day of reckoning.  —John W. Gardner (educator, government & philanthropy administrator)

Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Skirmishes Decide Wars

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “Awake, O sleeper …” Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Ephesians 5:14, 16

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 5:14-17

“Redeeming the time” is how today’s Key Bible Verses were traditionally translated. The Greek word for “time” used here isn’t chronos, referring to the passing of time in hours and days.

Instead, kairos is employed, which in the Bible refers to the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. An appropriate rendering would be, “As you go about your life in this in-between time, use it to its fullest to display the grace of Christ to others.”

What is Paul urging?

  • Seize the little moments of life (where 95 percent of your life is lived). Suppose a husband and wife are upset with each other. Will they turn toward each other or remain angry? This redemptive moment is huge! Imagine if this couple misses thousands of these over the course of their marriage. Where will their marriage be in 20 years?
  • See the context in which the details of life take place. Paul says, “Because the days are evil.” You live in a war zone. Every morning as you get out of bed there’s a battle raging for your soul, your life, your friendships, and your marriage. You can’t afford to waste these moments. The war is won in the little skirmishes that take place throughout your life. “Wake up!” Paul says, “you’re at war.”

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: What “redemptive moments” have I been failing to take advantage of?

Thought to Apply: We speak of spending time; the Bible speaks of buying it.  —source unknown

Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Life at Full Throttle

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.  – Mark 6:31

Bonus Reading: Mark 3:20-21; 6:30-32

As Robert pops out of bed and hits the floor, he knows he’ll have to run full speed just to stay up with the pace of life. Breakfast is three big swallows of orange juice and a granola bar he grabs as he rushes out the door at 7:00 A.M. …

At 7:30 P.M. Robert rolls into his driveway. He sits at the dining room table and shovels down a reheated dinner while cranking out a couple more hours of work. Finally, exhausted, Robert flops onto the couch, turns on the TV, and shifts into neutral. Eventually he drags himself to bed and tries to put his frazzled mind to rest. But in numb desperation he admits to himself that he can imagine no way out of this daily cycle.

Is Robert the protégé of some Fortune 500 company? Hardly. He’s a normal high school freshman who works hard to get good grades, plays an instrument in the school band, and excels at two sports in the school year. By the time he gets home from his soccer game after a day of school, he still has homework for three classes.

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: Our culture cheers for those with breakneck schedules. Am I ready to break ranks on this?

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – You the Man! Oh Yeah?

Living the Christian LifeWho Said It … Dennis Swanberg

Dennis Swanberg travels widely from his home in Louisiana, performing stand-up comedy with a Christian message. A pastor for 21 years, Dr. Swanberg now hosts his own television show, Swan’s Place.

What started him doing impersonations? “Most moms yell at kids to go outside and play,” he chuckles. “Mine said, ‘You sit there and watch that TV. Your daddy worked hard for it!'” So the first voice he nailed was that of Don Knots as Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show.

What He Said … You the Man! Oh Yeah?

Admit it: You like being the playmaker, getting things done, the guy who comes to the rescue, fixing what’s broken. Getting things done is good, of course. But when you take on too many jobs, you simply can’t do them all well. If you become overcommitted—at home, work, church, or anywhere in between—you’ll burn out faster than a match in a wind tunnel.

You must learn to say no to things you don’t have the time or energy to do. I know what you’re thinking: Sometimes saying no can be tough. Why? Because well-meaning guys (like you) genuinely want to help other people. But if you never do, pretty soon you’ll start underserving—and disappoint just about everybody, including yourself.

Guys who overcommit and underserve lead lives filled with frequent foul-ups and endless complications. They find themselves feeling overworked and underappreciated. So simplify your life. Pledge to take on only those things you can do—and do them well.

Adapted from Man Does Not Live by Sports Alone (Howard, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Living the Christian Life

Living the Christian LifeWhat was Jesus’ life too short for?

Answering that question makes sense of passages in which Jesus urges people to keep mum about being healed by him, or (in Matthew 16:20) about discovering his true identity.

Following the Father’s timetable first meant resisting going to Jerusalem (John 7:1-10), then (Luke 9:51) making it a priority.

Interact with God’s Word:  Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

  1. The people of Capernaum (4:31) wanted Jesus to remain as their synagogue’s resident rabbi. What (4:43) was Jesus’ response?
  2. What (4:42; 5:16) appears to have been behind Jesus’ decision to move on?
  3. Jesus found it essential to lay his plans and goals out before the Father for frequent evaluation. Have you ever submitted your plans and goals to the Lord like this?
  4. How (v. 43) did Jesus define the Father’s calling for him at this time?
  5. Why do you think Jesus told the cured leper (5:14) not to tell how he’d been healed? How could excessive demands for miraculous healings have restricted his ability to accomplish his primary goal?
  6. Why do you think Luke juxtaposes reports of Jesus’ mushrooming following and reputation (5:15) with his making time (5:16) for solitude?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the insight and strength to resist being run ragged by the expectations of others or by your own misplaced priorities.

Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

42 Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.

12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 14 Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

15 But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

Life Is Too Short – Go for the Gold!

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich.”  – Revelation 3:18

Bonus Reading: Revelation 3:14-22

In the 1984 Summer Olympics, Carl Lewis won four gold medals. Despite his outstanding performance, some critics accused him of holding back in the long jump. Instead of going for the world record in that event, he stopped competing after his first jump, confident that he’d win the gold. He stood by and watched as other jumpers tried unsuccessfully to best his distance.

Lewis later said that the Olympic trials had taken more out of him than he had expected, so he decided to save his strength for the other events. He was there to win gold medals, he explained, not to set records that would probably last only a short time.

Mart De Haan, president of RBC Ministries, notes that the Bible has something similar to say about choosing to devote our time and energy for pursuits that have lasting value. The believers at Laodicea failed to do this. Our Lord perceived their misplaced values by the pride they took in their riches and their self-sufficiency. He warned that they were lukewarm spiritually and not relying on him. They had to decide, he told them, whether they’d keep pursuing temporal things in order to impress others, or go for the eternal gold of his approval.

—Harry Genet

My Response: What am I pouring my strength into? What eternal value does it carry?

Thought to Apply: The man who is always available isn’t worth much when he is available. —Elton Trueblood (author & university chaplain)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Holy Ruthlessness

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “I must preach the Good News … in other places, too, because this is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43

Bonus Reading: Luke 4:42-44; 5:12-16

I hadn’t studied very hard my junior year at college—and had the marks to prove it! Now it was summer. My senior year would determine if I could go on to grad school and an academic career. But I’d also committed to lead my university’s Christian fellowship, gotten engaged, and was teaching the church high school Sunday school class. How to cope?

I learned of a theologian who graduated from a Canadian university while leading an InterVarsity chapter. So I wrote to him for guidance. I received a page-long reply he’d typed himself: “You should focus on that to which you believe God has called you, even though others might misunderstand, even resent, your priorities. Some might think you ruthless, but you must obey God, not other people’s agendas.”

That holy ruthlessness, I now realize, is key to the successful Christian life. Jesus modeled it. Regardless of what his disciples, family, or the crowds wanted him to do, he obeyed his Father—often in ways that astonished, even dismayed, his associates.

Taking this scholar’s advice, allowing my own agendas to be overruled, helped me through that crucial year. I’ve tried to follow it ever since.

—John Stackhouse Jr. in FaithToday

My Response: My focus is ____, and I will avoid distractions by …

Thought to Apply: Don’t take on things you don’t believe in and that you yourself are not good at. Learn to say no. —Peter Drucker (business consultant & trainer)

Adapted from FaithToday (9-10/02)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Opportunity Mindset

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. … Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15, 17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Are today’s Key Bible Verses about overloading your schedule with church events and obligations? … or turning normal relational moments into abnormal witnessing encounters?

No!  They’re about committing daily life to God’s purposes.  So …

  • Make the most of every area in which God has placed you. Are you single, married, retired, parent, child, friend, employer, employee, student, or grandparent? See these callings and seasons of life as opportunities to display the grace of Christ.
  • Avoid a “get through this season” mentality. We say to ourselves, If I can just get through this busy season of life, then I’ll be okay. This is an ungodly understanding of our current responsibilities and opportunities. I tend to do this with parenting: If I can just get through the diaper phase … Next it becomes: If I can just get through these early years of elementary school, then I can minister to others. But if I’m not careful, I’ll wish my life away and miss many opportunities to love and serve my children … to die to self and grow in grace. God wants us to see the daily struggles of life as critical moments of redemptive opportunity rather than hindrances.

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: A current redemptive opportunity I need to grab hold of is …

Thought to Apply: Every day is a day of reckoning.  —John W. Gardner (educator, government & philanthropy administrator)

Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Skirmishes Decide Wars

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “Awake, O sleeper …” Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Ephesians 5:14, 16

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 5:14-17

“Redeeming the time” is how today’s Key Bible Verses were traditionally translated. The Greek word for “time” used here isn’t chronos, referring to the passing of time in hours and days.

Instead, kairos is employed, which in the Bible refers to the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. An appropriate rendering would be, “As you go about your life in this in-between time, use it to its fullest to display the grace of Christ to others.”

What is Paul urging?

  • Seize the little moments of life (where 95 percent of your life is lived). Suppose a husband and wife are upset with each other. Will they turn toward each other or remain angry? This redemptive moment is huge! Imagine if this couple misses thousands of these over the course of their marriage. Where will their marriage be in 20 years?
  • See the context in which the details of life take place. Paul says, “Because the days are evil.” You live in a war zone. Every morning as you get out of bed there’s a battle raging for your soul, your life, your friendships, and your marriage. You can’t afford to waste these moments. The war is won in the little skirmishes that take place throughout your life. “Wake up!” Paul says, “you’re at war.”

—Tim Lane & Paul Tripp in Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

My Response: What “redemptive moments” have I been failing to take advantage of?

Thought to Apply: We speak of spending time; the Bible speaks of buying it.  —source unknown

Adapted from Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (New Growth, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – Life at Full Throttle

Living the Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.  – Mark 6:31

Bonus Reading: Mark 3:20-21; 6:30-32

As Robert pops out of bed and hits the floor, he knows he’ll have to run full speed just to stay up with the pace of life. Breakfast is three big swallows of orange juice and a granola bar he grabs as he rushes out the door at 7:00 A.M. …

At 7:30 P.M. Robert rolls into his driveway. He sits at the dining room table and shovels down a reheated dinner while cranking out a couple more hours of work. Finally, exhausted, Robert flops onto the couch, turns on the TV, and shifts into neutral. Eventually he drags himself to bed and tries to put his frazzled mind to rest. But in numb desperation he admits to himself that he can imagine no way out of this daily cycle.

Is Robert the protégé of some Fortune 500 company? Hardly. He’s a normal high school freshman who works hard to get good grades, plays an instrument in the school band, and excels at two sports in the school year. By the time he gets home from his soccer game after a day of school, he still has homework for three classes.

—Kevin Harney in Seismic Shifts

My Response: Our culture cheers for those with breakneck schedules. Am I ready to break ranks on this?

Adapted from Seismic Shifts (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.

 

 

Life Is Too Short – You the Man! Oh Yeah?

Living the Christian LifeWho Said It … Dennis Swanberg

Dennis Swanberg travels widely from his home in Louisiana, performing stand-up comedy with a Christian message. A pastor for 21 years, Dr. Swanberg now hosts his own television show, Swan’s Place.

What started him doing impersonations? “Most moms yell at kids to go outside and play,” he chuckles. “Mine said, ‘You sit there and watch that TV. Your daddy worked hard for it!'” So the first voice he nailed was that of Don Knots as Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show.

What He Said … You the Man! Oh Yeah?

Admit it: You like being the playmaker, getting things done, the guy who comes to the rescue, fixing what’s broken. Getting things done is good, of course. But when you take on too many jobs, you simply can’t do them all well. If you become overcommitted—at home, work, church, or anywhere in between—you’ll burn out faster than a match in a wind tunnel.

You must learn to say no to things you don’t have the time or energy to do. I know what you’re thinking: Sometimes saying no can be tough. Why? Because well-meaning guys (like you) genuinely want to help other people. But if you never do, pretty soon you’ll start underserving—and disappoint just about everybody, including yourself.

Guys who overcommit and underserve lead lives filled with frequent foul-ups and endless complications. They find themselves feeling overworked and underappreciated. So simplify your life. Pledge to take on only those things you can do—and do them well.

Adapted from Man Does Not Live by Sports Alone (Howard, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I want to devote my life to Your purposes, Lord. Help me work that out in my responses to the situations I face every day.