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Posts tagged ‘Spiritual Growth’

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthPaul had never visited Colosse. Evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels.

The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine.

Paul warns them against shifting from faith in Christ alone to any beliefs based on self-effort.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 2:5-8

  1. What (v. 5) about the believers in Colosse made Paul feel good?
  2. What concerned Paul (v. 8) about these believers?
  3. What (v. 6) was the foundational belief of the Colossian Christians?
  4. So how should this foundation lead them to live out their faith?
  5. How (v. 7) does a plant draw nourishment from the soil? How can you derive life-giving strength by sinking your “roots” into Christ?
  6. What are indicators that a person is growing in his faith?
  7. How does being thankful to Christ for your salvation protect you from being diverted to false philosophies or religion?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a genuine gratitude for your salvation that helps you keep grounded and growing in your faith.

Colossians 2:5-8

5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.

6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Finishers’ Formula

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in faith … and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians: 2:6-7

Bonus Reading: Col. 2:5-8

In 2005 the Chicago White Sox battled through adversity and injury, individual slumps, and losing streaks. Refusing to believe “experts” who said they didn’t have what it takes, they stuck with the fundamentals of the game—and ended up champions!

Bryan Hickerson, the White Sox’s chaplain, said he’s convinced that the greatest challenge a major league ball player faces is the mental and physical grind of a baseball season. Christians, he notes, face similar challenges spiritually.

Paul, [in today’s Key Bible Verses], spelled out what it would take for the believers in Colosse to stay on track. It would take work; it would be a process. They’d need to be …

  • Grounded (rooted). By faith, you’ve been rooted in Christ, drawing from him all you need.
  • Growing (built up). Trusting Christ placed you on a solid foundation. Now keep building on this. How? Paul urged the Colossians to do so by putting into practice what their leader, Epaphras (Col. 1:7), had taught them.
  • Grateful (overflowing with thankfulness). Paul taught that when the believer is under attack, gratitude protects him from loss of peace and joy.

—Harry Genet

My Response: How am I grounded? How am I growing? How thankful am I?

Thought to Apply: The Christian walk is much like riding a bicycle; we are either moving forward or falling off. —Robert Tuttle

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Be in the “Now”

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize. Philippians 3:13-14

Bonus Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

As a high school basketball coach, I’ve observed that after a winning streak, my players sometimes begin to believe they’re better than they actually are. Such overconfidence can lead to deflating defeats. Yet a losing streak produces a mirror-image result: the team loses confidence in their abilities.

To avoid either of these, I remind my players to focus on what lies ahead rather than on the past. After each game, I say, “The season starts tomorrow.” This helps us remember what we, as a team can become.

As Christians, we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves when we reflect on our past sins. Satan can use this to try to make us feel unworthy of God and his kingdom. The truth is that as sinners we are all unworthy. But we’re not unlovable. Salvation is never something we earn, which is why Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross so we could be saved.

God can still do great things with us regardless of our past. He says to each of us, “Your Christian life begins today because I love you.” In return, the greatest gift we can offer others is the good news that God looks beyond our pasts to give us grace for the future—if only we’ll receive it!

—Chip Mehaffey in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How can I plan for steady growth moving forward?

Thought to Apply: Don’t let your highs be too high, or your lows too low.  —John Wooden (college basketball coach)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Strength Coaching

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk. 1 Peter 2:2

Bonus Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

During my first playing season, Jeff Reitz, an assistant strength coach, challenged me. “You’re a good Christian kid,” he told me, “But you need to grow.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Here’s a math problem,” Jeff said. “Every day you’re either spending time with Jesus or Satan. If you only read your Bible, pray, and worship God on Sunday, how many days a week are you with the Lord?”

“One,” I said.

“Right. And how many days are you with Satan?”

I started laughing. “Okay—I got you, Jeff. Cool.”

“You go to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings on Wednesday nights,” he continued. “Now—how many days do you spend with the Lord?”

“Two.”

“How many with Satan?”

“Five.”

“Right. There’s no way you can go against five of something with two and still win.”

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“Every day I get up and read my Bible, Shaun,” he answered. “I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot, just a little. And once a week I memorize a Scripture verse.” It sounded good to me. I was willing to give it a try.

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How consistent is my Scripture intake? What needs to change?

Thought to Apply: Let the Bible fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. —Henrietta Mears

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – For Best Results

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. 1 Timothy 4:7

Bonus Reading: 2 Peter 1:5-8

When I began my relationship with Christ, I was “discipled” as to what I needed to do: pray, read my Bible, go to church, tithe … At the same time I was trying to stop swearing, manage my hormones, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.

I was also encouraged to join a small group and expected to begin a ministry. I tried, but it was too much to begin at the same time. I failed miserably—and came perilously close to abandoning all spiritual investments.

It’s best to begin with one thing. Whether it’s to rise at 5 a.m. or have a family meal three times a week, we should drive that single stake into the ground and do all we can to establish its place in our life. Once a behavior is maintained for six weeks, we’re told, it has become a habit.

And once a habit, it no longer demands emotional, physical, and mental energy to sustain. It’s become part of who we are. Then we rise naturally at 5 a.m., or we naturally sit down together as a family to eat a meal on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Once a single practice reaches this point, we’re ready to add another to our life … then another.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What one thing will I concentrate on for now?

Thought to Apply: Instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. But gradual growth in grace I see clearly taught and urged.  —Ryle (British pastor)

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Letdown Setup

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: You couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.  – 1 Corinthians 3:2

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

What if you developed a daily schedule this way? You decide: Here is what I want in my life. I want to work out at the gym, have a quiet time, eat a cooked breakfast, get to work early, come home, sit down with the family for dinner, help my children with homework, read, write a letter to a friend, catch the game on TV, and be in bed by ten.

You do the math and find it takes a 34-hour day. You do more math, a little cutting here and there, and figure you can squeeze most of it in by rising at 4 a.m. You fill in the time blocks, set the alarm and go to bed, ready for your new life to begin.

At 4:20 a.m., after you’ve hit the snooze button for the second time, you wonder what you were thinking. You skip the gym, settle for a toasted bagel, and pray in the car on the way to work. You push on through the day, but it only gets worse. You throw in the towel by noon.

It was simply too much to do at once, so you end up in defeat, going back to life as lived before.

It’s seldom wise to attempt a regimen that begins with everything you can think of doing.   [continued tomorrow]

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What can I learn from my big plans for a disciplined life, and miserable failures?

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Inches Theory

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It … Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl victory on February 4, 2007, the first such win for an African American coach. He is committed to the importance of Christian parenting, strongly supporting the All Pro Dad organization.

To build his teams, he urges players to avoid concentrating on individual players, specific teams, or emotional highs and lows; instead they should focus on steadily refining the fundamentals of the game.

What He Said … Inches Theory

In the first meeting of the Colts 2004 training camp, I showed a clip from the movie, Von Ryan’s Express. In this film, a man who has fired a machine gun and thrown grenades at his pursuers—Nazis—sprints to catch up with a transport train that he and his fellow POWs have commandeered. He closes in on it, running with his hand out … and is shot and killed with his hand just inches from his fellow prisoners and only feet from the Swiss border and safety.

When the clip ended, I explained to the team the theory of death by inches. It wasn’t big things that had tripped us up in previous years but a combination of details. One detail at a time builds the whole. By focusing on these—inches— we could, rather than coming up just short, reach our Super Bowl goal.

“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” I told them. “We’re going to do what we do, only better. We’re going to make it by doing the little things right.”

Adapted from Quiet Strength (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthIn 539 B.C., a Persian king named Cyrus marched his army on Babylon and conquered its empire.

God—who rarely reveals his plans—had tipped off Isaiah 150 years earlier.

Cyrus never became a worshiper of God, but God used him (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5) to allow more than 42,000 Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.

Interact with God’s Word:  Isaiah 44:28-45:13

  1. How could Isaiah call Cyrus God’s “shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed one” (45:1)?
  2. What verbs (in 45:1, 2, 5, & 13) sum up how God would shape Cyrus’s fortunes?
  3. What does understanding God’s rule do to the concepts of luck, chance, and coincidence?
  4. How do you react to God’s assertion (45:7) that he sends both good and bad times?
  5. Judging from 45:8, what are God’s primary objectives in both the good and bad times he sends?
  6. When have you been tempted to tell God (45:9), “Stop, you are doing it wrong”? Which do you think Isaiah is condemning: questions about how to understand God’s actions or a challenging of his right to take them?
  7. Why do humans arch their backs when God declares (45:13), “I, the Lord Almighty, have spoken”?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the trust to embrace your life situation as something that God, according to his good purpose, has sovereignly allowed.

Isaiah 44:28-45:13

44:28 When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.'”

Isaiah 45

1 This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. 2 This is what the Lord says:

“I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

4 “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. 5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, 6 so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Question

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: No wisdom, no insight, no plan … can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Proverbs 21:30-31 NIV

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:1-2, 13-26

Today’s Key Bible Verses have become a sort of North Star that I use to keep me on track. Whether I’m working on a small project, a large initiative, or my life mission, they’ve helped me to keep focused, and not to run away every time the weeds get deep, or puff up with self-important pride whenever success shows up.

Final outcomes are in the Lord’s hands. It’s his will that prevails. No wisdom, insight, or plan can thwart it, whether mine or my enemy’s.

But these verses pointed out the one thing I could control and also, by inference, the one thing I’ll be held responsible for: How well was I preparing my horse for battle?

It caused me to realize that during my apprehensive years

I was asking the wrong question. I asked, “How are things going?” I should have asked, “Am I doing the right things? Am I preparing my horse for victory?” What God wants for me is to simply focus my energy and efforts on the one and only thing I can control. That’s the only thing he will hold me accountable for: How well have I prepared the horse for battle?

After that, I’ve learned, it’s God’s call—not mine.

—Larry Osborne in A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

My Response: Am I taking too much credit for successes, too much blame for setbacks?

Thought to Apply: Man drives, but it is God who holds the reins.—Jewish proverb

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Direction?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:29-32

In 1990, I’d been a pastor outside of Dallas, Texas, for eight years, and knew God was up to something new in our future. I prayed he’d send us east, closer to family and support, as one of my teenage sons was beginning a rebellious streak.

God’s call came, and it was west! Theresa and all four kids were crying as we pulled out for the 2,000-mile drive to our new life. They didn’t stop crying until Amarillo. We were obeying the clear orders of the King, but taking my family away from friends, family, and all that was familiar felt terrible. The adjustments were hard, the new church presented challenges I’d never faced, and my son became more rebellious. I felt alone, confused, and often deeply discouraged.

Fast-forward ten years. The new church developed skills, character, and ministry beyond my wildest dreams. The adversity brought a deeper unity into our family and took our marriage to a whole new level. With opportunities in music that were nonexistent in Texas, the rebellious son did “a one-eighty,” becoming a Christian songwriter and worship leader. God grew a church and launched a radio ministry. What felt like disaster was the hand of a sovereign God working out his highest, best purposes for us.

—Chip Ingram in God: As He Longs for You to See Him

My Response: Am I resisting or trusting my Father’s control?

Thought to Apply: Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plans.—George MacDonald

Adapted from God: As He Longs for You to See Him (Baker, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Faith or Fantasy?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: I know, O Lord, that your decisions are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it. Psalm 119:75

Bonus Reading: Job 9:4-7, 12

The missionary aircraft piloted by Jim Bowers was blown out of the sky by a Peruvian jet in April 2001, killing his wife Roni and their infant daughter Charity. Humanly speaking, it was a tragedy that never should have happened. Many bullets sprayed the tiny plane, but a single one took the life of his wife and daughter. Looking back, Jim Bowers called it a “sovereign bullet.”

Only a man who knows God can say a thing like that. But that’s exactly what the psalmist is saying in the Key Bible Verse above. As he looks back over his life—the good times and bad, the happy days and sad nights—he knows that all that has happened to him isn’t by chance, fate, or some cosmic roulette. Nothing can happen to him that God has not faithfully planned for his own glory and his children’s ultimate benefit.

Jim Bowers declared his total faith in God’s sovereignty in the death of his wife and daughter. “Nothing bad happened to them,” he said. “They got to heaven quicker than we did.” Those are the words of a man who, out of great personal loss, has rested his faith in the promises of God. Even the worst tragedy doesn’t appear as such when viewed from heaven’s perspective.

—Ray Pritchard in The God You Can Trust

My Response: Could I rest my faith in God’s promises while undergoing great personal loss?

Thought to Apply: Either I’m going to get bent and eventually bitter, or I’m going to allow God to be God.—James MacDonald (Illinois pastor)

Adapted from The God You Can Trust (Harvest, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Orthodox Creed, Deist Actions

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who … say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  – Isaiah 52:7 NIV

Bonus Reading: Exodus 19:3-6

Every Christian believes that God—the all-powerful Creator of Genesis 1—used to be in charge of this world.

And all agree that God will be in charge at the end. On that fateful day our eternal destiny will rest in the hands of our Judge.

But what about the interim? Is God in charge here and now, or has he momentarily lost his grip? Has our continent spun off into a renegade orbit he’s unaware of or powerless to correct?

I don’t believe that, and neither do you.

So why do we act that way? In thousands of churches every week, Christians stand and sing the chorus “Our God Reigns.” They may raise their hands, swaying back and forth to words based on the above Key Bible Verse. But they go right on worrying and “stressing” about what the local school board did the previous week or what the latest tax reform bill failed to include.

I call this the” New Evangelical Deism”, after the eighteenth-century philosophy that said that God perhaps created the universe in the beginning but then wound it up like a clock and left it to run on its own.

It’s time once again to hear the thunderous voice from Sinai: “All the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5).

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: To bring my actions into line with my beliefs about God’s control, I need to …

Thought to Apply: God’s calling the shots. He’s running the show. Either he’s in full control or he’s off his throne.—Charles Swindoll (pastor, educator, & author)

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Where the Buck Really Stops – Your Move – Or Is It?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “The Lord Almighty has spoken—who can change his plans?  When his hand moves, who can stop him?”  –  Isaiah 14:27

Bonus Reading: Isa. 14:24-27

A few years ago I was in Indonesia and got to play against a chess master. It was brutal. There were ten of us, each with a chessboard setup, and he played us all at once. He’d walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In 15 minutes, we were all out of the game!

That’s a bit how God works. We make our moves, but his purposes aren’t affected by them. If we make a good move, God knows the next move. If we make a bad move, God knows instantly what he’ll do. He’s always known both what we’d choose and what he’d do. But God isn’t playing a game with us. We’re stuck in time, while he made all his moves in eternity past!

In some twisted way, we think we’re more secure when we’ve got God figured out. He’s way beyond our figuring out. That’s not only okay, that’s how it needs to be. Imagine how small God would be if we could comprehend all he allows and why. If the smartest and wisest of all mankind ran the universe, can you imagine the cosmic mess we’d be in? It only makes sense that an element of mystery surrounds God’s person and ways.

—James MacDonald in Gripped by the Greatness of God

My Response: Is asking questions of God wrong? Must I be resigned to leave some unanswered?

Adapted from Gripped by the Greatness of God (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Cosmic Consultant?

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It …Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne is an author who says, “I’ve always had a heart for the regular guy, the one who can’t imagine ever becoming a ‘super saint.’ I like starting where people are, not where they should be, and pointing them towards the path of growth.”

Larry is also the innovative lead pastor of North Coast Church in California’s San Diego County, which is credited with originating the concept of video venues.

What He Said…Cosmic Consultant?

When God gives advice or guidance, it’s not coming from a potentially fallible source. It’s not the mere advice of a pastor or friend; it’s the counsel of God!

When God speaks, it doesn’t make much sense to push back or give him ten reasons why it won’t work. That’s an argument we can’t win.

But who hasn’t done this? We’ve all had times when we knew exactly what God wanted us to do, but we still decided that in our particular case our wisdom was better than his.

Every time that happens, our relationship with him goes through a fundamental role-reversal. He stops being our God and becomes our cosmic consultant.

Now a consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, we make the final decision. That’s why they’re called consultants.

Here’s the problem: God doesn’t do consulting. Never has. Never will. He does God. When we treat him as a consultant, he simply stops showing up to the meetings. We may think he’s there. But he’s not.

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Strength Coaching

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk. 1 Peter 2:2

Bonus Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

During my first playing season, Jeff Reitz, an assistant strength coach, challenged me. “You’re a good Christian kid,” he told me, “But you need to grow.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Here’s a math problem,” Jeff said. “Every day you’re either spending time with Jesus or Satan. If you only read your Bible, pray, and worship God on Sunday, how many days a week are you with the Lord?”

“One,” I said.

“Right. And how many days are you with Satan?”

I started laughing. “Okay—I got you, Jeff. Cool.”

“You go to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings on Wednesday nights,” he continued. “Now—how many days do you spend with the Lord?”

“Two.”

“How many with Satan?”

“Five.”

“Right. There’s no way you can go against five of something with two and still win.”

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“Every day I get up and read my Bible, Shaun,” he answered. “I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot, just a little. And once a week I memorize a Scripture verse.” It sounded good to me. I was willing to give it a try.

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How consistent is my Scripture intake? What needs to change?

Thought to Apply: Let the Bible fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. —Henrietta Mears

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthPaul had never visited Colosse. Evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels.

The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine.

Paul warns them against shifting from faith in Christ alone to any beliefs based on self-effort.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 2:5-8

  1. What (v. 5) about the believers in Colosse made Paul feel good?
  2. What concerned Paul (v. 8) about these believers?
  3. What (v. 6) was the foundational belief of the Colossian Christians?
  4. So how should this foundation lead them to live out their faith?
  5. How (v. 7) does a plant draw nourishment from the soil? How can you derive life-giving strength by sinking your “roots” into Christ?
  6. What are indicators that a person is growing in his faith?
  7. How does being thankful to Christ for your salvation protect you from being diverted to false philosophies or religion?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a genuine gratitude for your salvation that helps you keep grounded and growing in your faith.

Colossians 2:5-8

5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.

6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Finishers’ Formula

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in faith … and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians: 2:6-7

Bonus Reading: Col. 2:5-8

In 2005 the Chicago White Sox battled through adversity and injury, individual slumps, and losing streaks. Refusing to believe “experts” who said they didn’t have what it takes, they stuck with the fundamentals of the game—and ended up champions!

Bryan Hickerson, the White Sox’s chaplain, said he’s convinced that the greatest challenge a major league ball player faces is the mental and physical grind of a baseball season. Christians, he notes, face similar challenges spiritually.

Paul, [in today’s Key Bible Verses], spelled out what it would take for the believers in Colosse to stay on track. It would take work; it would be a process. They’d need to be …

  • Grounded (rooted). By faith, you’ve been rooted in Christ, drawing from him all you need.
  • Growing (built up). Trusting Christ placed you on a solid foundation. Now keep building on this. How? Paul urged the Colossians to do so by putting into practice what their leader, Epaphras (Col. 1:7), had taught them.
  • Grateful (overflowing with thankfulness). Paul taught that when the believer is under attack, gratitude protects him from loss of peace and joy.

—Harry Genet

My Response: How am I grounded? How am I growing? How thankful am I?

Thought to Apply: The Christian walk is much like riding a bicycle; we are either moving forward or falling off. —Robert Tuttle

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Be in the “Now”

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize. Philippians 3:13-14

Bonus Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

As a high school basketball coach, I’ve observed that after a winning streak, my players sometimes begin to believe they’re better than they actually are. Such overconfidence can lead to deflating defeats. Yet a losing streak produces a mirror-image result: the team loses confidence in their abilities.

To avoid either of these, I remind my players to focus on what lies ahead rather than on the past. After each game, I say, “The season starts tomorrow.” This helps us remember what we, as a team can become.

As Christians, we’re sometimes too hard on ourselves when we reflect on our past sins. Satan can use this to try to make us feel unworthy of God and his kingdom. The truth is that as sinners we are all unworthy. But we’re not unlovable. Salvation is never something we earn, which is why Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross so we could be saved.

God can still do great things with us regardless of our past. He says to each of us, “Your Christian life begins today because I love you.” In return, the greatest gift we can offer others is the good news that God looks beyond our pasts to give us grace for the future—if only we’ll receive it!

—Chip Mehaffey in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How can I plan for steady growth moving forward?

Thought to Apply: Don’t let your highs be too high, or your lows too low.  —John Wooden (college basketball coach)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Spiritual Strength Coaching

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk. 1 Peter 2:2

Bonus Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

During my first playing season, Jeff Reitz, an assistant strength coach, challenged me. “You’re a good Christian kid,” he told me, “But you need to grow.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Here’s a math problem,” Jeff said. “Every day you’re either spending time with Jesus or Satan. If you only read your Bible, pray, and worship God on Sunday, how many days a week are you with the Lord?”

“One,” I said.

“Right. And how many days are you with Satan?”

I started laughing. “Okay—I got you, Jeff. Cool.”

“You go to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings on Wednesday nights,” he continued. “Now—how many days do you spend with the Lord?”

“Two.”

“How many with Satan?”

“Five.”

“Right. There’s no way you can go against five of something with two and still win.”

“So what do you do?” I asked.

“Every day I get up and read my Bible, Shaun,” he answered. “I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot, just a little. And once a week I memorize a Scripture verse.” It sounded good to me. I was willing to give it a try.

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How consistent is my Scripture intake? What needs to change?

Thought to Apply: Let the Bible fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. —Henrietta Mears

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – For Best Results

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. 1 Timothy 4:7

Bonus Reading: 2 Peter 1:5-8

When I began my relationship with Christ, I was “discipled” as to what I needed to do: pray, read my Bible, go to church, tithe … At the same time I was trying to stop swearing, manage my hormones, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.

I was also encouraged to join a small group and expected to begin a ministry. I tried, but it was too much to begin at the same time. I failed miserably—and came perilously close to abandoning all spiritual investments.

It’s best to begin with one thing. Whether it’s to rise at 5 a.m. or have a family meal three times a week, we should drive that single stake into the ground and do all we can to establish its place in our life. Once a behavior is maintained for six weeks, we’re told, it has become a habit.

And once a habit, it no longer demands emotional, physical, and mental energy to sustain. It’s become part of who we are. Then we rise naturally at 5 a.m., or we naturally sit down together as a family to eat a meal on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Once a single practice reaches this point, we’re ready to add another to our life … then another.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What one thing will I concentrate on for now?

Thought to Apply: Instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. But gradual growth in grace I see clearly taught and urged.  —Ryle (British pastor)

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Letdown Setup

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: You couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.  – 1 Corinthians 3:2

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

What if you developed a daily schedule this way? You decide: Here is what I want in my life. I want to work out at the gym, have a quiet time, eat a cooked breakfast, get to work early, come home, sit down with the family for dinner, help my children with homework, read, write a letter to a friend, catch the game on TV, and be in bed by ten.

You do the math and find it takes a 34-hour day. You do more math, a little cutting here and there, and figure you can squeeze most of it in by rising at 4 a.m. You fill in the time blocks, set the alarm and go to bed, ready for your new life to begin.

At 4:20 a.m., after you’ve hit the snooze button for the second time, you wonder what you were thinking. You skip the gym, settle for a toasted bagel, and pray in the car on the way to work. You push on through the day, but it only gets worse. You throw in the towel by noon.

It was simply too much to do at once, so you end up in defeat, going back to life as lived before.

It’s seldom wise to attempt a regimen that begins with everything you can think of doing.   [continued tomorrow]

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What can I learn from my big plans for a disciplined life, and miserable failures?

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

 

Stick to the Fundamentals – Inches Theory

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It … Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl victory on February 4, 2007, the first such win for an African American coach. He is committed to the importance of Christian parenting, strongly supporting the All Pro Dad organization.

To build his teams, he urges players to avoid concentrating on individual players, specific teams, or emotional highs and lows; instead they should focus on steadily refining the fundamentals of the game.

What He Said … Inches Theory

In the first meeting of the Colts 2004 training camp, I showed a clip from the movie, Von Ryan’s Express. In this film, a man who has fired a machine gun and thrown grenades at his pursuers—Nazis—sprints to catch up with a transport train that he and his fellow POWs have commandeered. He closes in on it, running with his hand out … and is shot and killed with his hand just inches from his fellow prisoners and only feet from the Swiss border and safety.

When the clip ended, I explained to the team the theory of death by inches. It wasn’t big things that had tripped us up in previous years but a combination of details. One detail at a time builds the whole. By focusing on these—inches— we could, rather than coming up just short, reach our Super Bowl goal.

“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” I told them. “We’re going to do what we do, only better. We’re going to make it by doing the little things right.”

Adapted from Quiet Strength (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Keep me, Lord, from settling for a holding pattern. Help me to realize steady growth in my walk with You.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Spiritual Growth

Spiritual GrowthIn 539 B.C., a Persian king named Cyrus marched his army on Babylon and conquered its empire.

God—who rarely reveals his plans—had tipped off Isaiah 150 years earlier.

Cyrus never became a worshiper of God, but God used him (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5) to allow more than 42,000 Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.

Interact with God’s Word:  Isaiah 44:28-45:13

  1. How could Isaiah call Cyrus God’s “shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed one” (45:1)?
  2. What verbs (in 45:1, 2, 5, & 13) sum up how God would shape Cyrus’s fortunes?
  3. What does understanding God’s rule do to the concepts of luck, chance, and coincidence?
  4. How do you react to God’s assertion (45:7) that he sends both good and bad times?
  5. Judging from 45:8, what are God’s primary objectives in both the good and bad times he sends?
  6. When have you been tempted to tell God (45:9), “Stop, you are doing it wrong”? Which do you think Isaiah is condemning: questions about how to understand God’s actions or a challenging of his right to take them?
  7. Why do humans arch their backs when God declares (45:13), “I, the Lord Almighty, have spoken”?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the trust to embrace your life situation as something that God, according to his good purpose, has sovereignly allowed.

Isaiah 44:28-45:13

44:28 When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.'”

Isaiah 45

1 This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. 2 This is what the Lord says:

“I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

4 “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. 5 I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, 6 so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Question

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: No wisdom, no insight, no plan … can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Proverbs 21:30-31 NIV

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:1-2, 13-26

Today’s Key Bible Verses have become a sort of North Star that I use to keep me on track. Whether I’m working on a small project, a large initiative, or my life mission, they’ve helped me to keep focused, and not to run away every time the weeds get deep, or puff up with self-important pride whenever success shows up.

Final outcomes are in the Lord’s hands. It’s his will that prevails. No wisdom, insight, or plan can thwart it, whether mine or my enemy’s.

But these verses pointed out the one thing I could control and also, by inference, the one thing I’ll be held responsible for: How well was I preparing my horse for battle?

It caused me to realize that during my apprehensive years

I was asking the wrong question. I asked, “How are things going?” I should have asked, “Am I doing the right things? Am I preparing my horse for victory?” What God wants for me is to simply focus my energy and efforts on the one and only thing I can control. That’s the only thing he will hold me accountable for: How well have I prepared the horse for battle?

After that, I’ve learned, it’s God’s call—not mine.

—Larry Osborne in A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

My Response: Am I taking too much credit for successes, too much blame for setbacks?

Thought to Apply: Man drives, but it is God who holds the reins.—Jewish proverb

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Direction?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:29-32

In 1990, I’d been a pastor outside of Dallas, Texas, for eight years, and knew God was up to something new in our future. I prayed he’d send us east, closer to family and support, as one of my teenage sons was beginning a rebellious streak.

God’s call came, and it was west! Theresa and all four kids were crying as we pulled out for the 2,000-mile drive to our new life. They didn’t stop crying until Amarillo. We were obeying the clear orders of the King, but taking my family away from friends, family, and all that was familiar felt terrible. The adjustments were hard, the new church presented challenges I’d never faced, and my son became more rebellious. I felt alone, confused, and often deeply discouraged.

Fast-forward ten years. The new church developed skills, character, and ministry beyond my wildest dreams. The adversity brought a deeper unity into our family and took our marriage to a whole new level. With opportunities in music that were nonexistent in Texas, the rebellious son did “a one-eighty,” becoming a Christian songwriter and worship leader. God grew a church and launched a radio ministry. What felt like disaster was the hand of a sovereign God working out his highest, best purposes for us.

—Chip Ingram in God: As He Longs for You to See Him

My Response: Am I resisting or trusting my Father’s control?

Thought to Apply: Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plans.—George MacDonald

Adapted from God: As He Longs for You to See Him (Baker, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Faith or Fantasy?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: I know, O Lord, that your decisions are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it. Psalm 119:75

Bonus Reading: Job 9:4-7, 12

The missionary aircraft piloted by Jim Bowers was blown out of the sky by a Peruvian jet in April 2001, killing his wife Roni and their infant daughter Charity. Humanly speaking, it was a tragedy that never should have happened. Many bullets sprayed the tiny plane, but a single one took the life of his wife and daughter. Looking back, Jim Bowers called it a “sovereign bullet.”

Only a man who knows God can say a thing like that. But that’s exactly what the psalmist is saying in the Key Bible Verse above. As he looks back over his life—the good times and bad, the happy days and sad nights—he knows that all that has happened to him isn’t by chance, fate, or some cosmic roulette. Nothing can happen to him that God has not faithfully planned for his own glory and his children’s ultimate benefit.

Jim Bowers declared his total faith in God’s sovereignty in the death of his wife and daughter. “Nothing bad happened to them,” he said. “They got to heaven quicker than we did.” Those are the words of a man who, out of great personal loss, has rested his faith in the promises of God. Even the worst tragedy doesn’t appear as such when viewed from heaven’s perspective.

—Ray Pritchard in The God You Can Trust

My Response: Could I rest my faith in God’s promises while undergoing great personal loss?

Thought to Apply: Either I’m going to get bent and eventually bitter, or I’m going to allow God to be God.—James MacDonald (Illinois pastor)

Adapted from The God You Can Trust (Harvest, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Orthodox Creed, Deist Actions

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who … say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  – Isaiah 52:7 NIV

Bonus Reading: Exodus 19:3-6

Every Christian believes that God—the all-powerful Creator of Genesis 1—used to be in charge of this world.

And all agree that God will be in charge at the end. On that fateful day our eternal destiny will rest in the hands of our Judge.

But what about the interim? Is God in charge here and now, or has he momentarily lost his grip? Has our continent spun off into a renegade orbit he’s unaware of or powerless to correct?

I don’t believe that, and neither do you.

So why do we act that way? In thousands of churches every week, Christians stand and sing the chorus “Our God Reigns.” They may raise their hands, swaying back and forth to words based on the above Key Bible Verse. But they go right on worrying and “stressing” about what the local school board did the previous week or what the latest tax reform bill failed to include.

I call this the” New Evangelical Deism”, after the eighteenth-century philosophy that said that God perhaps created the universe in the beginning but then wound it up like a clock and left it to run on its own.

It’s time once again to hear the thunderous voice from Sinai: “All the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5).

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: To bring my actions into line with my beliefs about God’s control, I need to …

Thought to Apply: God’s calling the shots. He’s running the show. Either he’s in full control or he’s off his throne.—Charles Swindoll (pastor, educator, & author)

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Where the Buck Really Stops – Your Move – Or Is It?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “The Lord Almighty has spoken—who can change his plans?  When his hand moves, who can stop him?”  –  Isaiah 14:27

Bonus Reading: Isa. 14:24-27

A few years ago I was in Indonesia and got to play against a chess master. It was brutal. There were ten of us, each with a chessboard setup, and he played us all at once. He’d walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In 15 minutes, we were all out of the game!

That’s a bit how God works. We make our moves, but his purposes aren’t affected by them. If we make a good move, God knows the next move. If we make a bad move, God knows instantly what he’ll do. He’s always known both what we’d choose and what he’d do. But God isn’t playing a game with us. We’re stuck in time, while he made all his moves in eternity past!

In some twisted way, we think we’re more secure when we’ve got God figured out. He’s way beyond our figuring out. That’s not only okay, that’s how it needs to be. Imagine how small God would be if we could comprehend all he allows and why. If the smartest and wisest of all mankind ran the universe, can you imagine the cosmic mess we’d be in? It only makes sense that an element of mystery surrounds God’s person and ways.

—James MacDonald in Gripped by the Greatness of God

My Response: Is asking questions of God wrong? Must I be resigned to leave some unanswered?

Adapted from Gripped by the Greatness of God (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Cosmic Consultant?

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It …Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne is an author who says, “I’ve always had a heart for the regular guy, the one who can’t imagine ever becoming a ‘super saint.’ I like starting where people are, not where they should be, and pointing them towards the path of growth.”

Larry is also the innovative lead pastor of North Coast Church in California’s San Diego County, which is credited with originating the concept of video venues.

What He Said…Cosmic Consultant?

When God gives advice or guidance, it’s not coming from a potentially fallible source. It’s not the mere advice of a pastor or friend; it’s the counsel of God!

When God speaks, it doesn’t make much sense to push back or give him ten reasons why it won’t work. That’s an argument we can’t win.

But who hasn’t done this? We’ve all had times when we knew exactly what God wanted us to do, but we still decided that in our particular case our wisdom was better than his.

Every time that happens, our relationship with him goes through a fundamental role-reversal. He stops being our God and becomes our cosmic consultant.

Now a consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, we make the final decision. That’s why they’re called consultants.

Here’s the problem: God doesn’t do consulting. Never has. Never will. He does God. When we treat him as a consultant, he simply stops showing up to the meetings. We may think he’s there. But he’s not.

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.