Author Archives: brad

Life in God’s Creation

Week 5 (8-14 Oct.) – Call/Vocation in Life

Sunday – God’s Plan for Us

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:11

When God gives these words to Jeremiah to give to us, it is an assurance that even when we doubt we can know that God has a plan for us, God’s people, and those plans are for a blessing not a curse, so we have a future with hope – no matter how bad it may seem.  Sometimes, those blessings come after trials and hardships but God has a plan.  Just as God had a plan and a purpose for Adam in the garden (to till it and keep it) so God has a plan for us.  If we want to have a vocation that fulfills us and blesses us, then we need to consult with God about what God’s plan and purpose is for us in our life in God’s creation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What do you think is God’s plan and purpose is for you?

Monday – Wilderness – Why am I here?

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

When we live life in the wilderness, we may seek the answer to the question of “Why am I here?”  As Solomon contemplates this the conclusion he comes to is it is meaningless without God.  If we are here by chance and are our sole purpose in the expanse of the world is nothing then it is just “vanities of vanities.”  If it is all just vanity then what we are left with is we are born, we live, we die and that is that.  The end.  Depressing.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What would/does this look like in life

Tuesday – Call/Purpose in Relationship with God

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; 12:13, 14

But as Solomon comes to the realization that in life God’s purpose for us is “eat, drink, and be merry in all their toil(labor),” then there is purpose.  To do this is to submit and trust in the Lord’s plan and care for you in the work that God has given you to do.  To be as wise as Solomon is to recognize that God created us with a plan and purpose and we need to submit to our Lord and follow that plan and purpose in our life in God’s Creation. There is no purpose/plan in the wilderness but when we see God’s creation/kingdom we find that there is a plan and purpose.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What would/does this look like in life?

Wednesday – Israel, Nation of God’s Deliverance

Scripture Reading: Genesis 17:9-14

As a nation, God’s plan for Israel was to be an instrument of deliverance of people from their life in the wilderness into a life of God’s creation/kingdom.  We see this as God shares the sign of the covenant that is made is to include “any foreigner who is not of your offspring.”  Through Israel, people were to see the benefits of a life lived in God, become aware of God’s love and become a part of that by proclaiming their faith in God and becoming a part of the nation Israel and God’s kingdom on earth.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What stories in scripture tell of when Israel fulfilled and did not fulfill their purpose in life?

Thursday – Christ, our Redeemer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:39-46

From the beginning of time and up to the time that Jesus prays to have the cup removed from him, Christ knew God’s plan for him was to redeem his people from the punishment of their sins which is eternal separation from God, restore them as children of God through adoption and sanctification and the cup of Christ is the cup of salvation that we share at the table of our Lord in God’s creation.   Christ knew God’s purpose for Him was to be our Redeemer.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How did Christ become the Redeemer for God’s people?

Friday – Church, Witness of Spirit

Scripture Reading: John 14:15-31

When Jesus tells the disciples (i.e. the Church), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” we find that through the gift of the Spirit we can begin to know God’s love in our lives, grow in God’s love together and be able to share God’s love all through the work of the Spirit.  Thus, the Church becomes a witness of the Spirit working in us and a testimony of what the Spirit can do in other’s lives.  As the Spirit changes our hearts of stones to hearts of love, the world can see what God can do in them.  The Church becomes the witness of the Holy Spirit: God’s active work in the world today.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How can the Church (and each individual Christian) be a witness of the Holy Spirit in God’s creation?

Saturday – Individual, Talents & Opportunities

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

In God’s plan and purpose for us, it is not just to be redeemed into life in God’s creation from the wilderness, or to be a witness, but we also have a specific purpose in building up the community of the Church and the world.  We all have different abilities and desires that fuel our gifts/talents that we are to use in our vocation in life.  As we find the opportunities that God provides for us to use our talents we find that it leads to a vocation that builds up our communities and provides us the means to live which will lead us to our next area of life in God’s creation is the provisions in life.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How do we find our calling in life in our vocation?

Life in God’s Creation

Week 4 (1-7 Oct.) – God’s Presence in the World

Sunday – At the Table of the Kingdom

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:20-29

On World Communion Sunday, we begin our week focusing on God’s presence in God’s creation – the Earth.  When Christ gave us his Last Supper to observe it is to observe God’s presence in our lives.  When we gather at the table together in Christ and eat the bread and drink the cup, it is to remember Christ as our Lord and Savior and the gift of the Holy Spirit in us that gives us our life in God’s creation.  The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in our lives that leads us, inspires us, and calls us together as God’s people gathered at the table of God’s Kingdom.

Pastor’s Pondering:  When we gather at our Lord’s table where all do we see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives?

Monday – Creation Reveals God

Scripture Reading: Romans 1:20

When I look at all of creation, the complexities of life, the connectiveness of life, the systems of life that entail all of nature and the world, I can’t help but see God’s power and handiwork.  To think that this is all came to be by chance over a long period of time seems to be illogical and harder to believe than in a greater being than ourselves creating it all.  The fact that we haven’t destroyed it all as we exercise dominion over the world and all that is in it reveals to me that God is still at work preventing, fixing, sustaining life even as we do what we can to destroy it.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What do you see when you look at creation?

Tuesday – Tabernacle

Scripture Reading: Exodus 40:34-38

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, his dwelling place among them was to be in the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle with cloud by day and fire by night led them through the wilderness to the promised land.  When they encamped, the tabernacle was to be in the center of the camp and focus in their life together as God’s people.  The Israelites looked to the Tabernacle as the place in which God resided in their midst.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What place do we often look to as the place where God dwells in our communities?

Wednesday – Temple

Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 17:1-15; 1 Kings 9:1-9

When God brings the Israelites to the point that they have built their homes, their cities, and now their King’s palace, there is a desire to build a proper home for God.  The Tabernacle was no longer suitable for God and so, a more permanent dwelling place for God is built – the Temple.  It became the focus of not just the dwelling place but of their worship.  The belief became that as long as the temple stood God was in their midst.  Instead of faithfulness being the foundation of God’s presence with them it became the standing of a building.  We find that God departed Israel for their lack of faithfulness long before the temple was destroyed and they were exiled from Israel and into the wilderness of Babylon.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How can we make the same mistake as the Israelites in God’s presence in our congregation/life?

Thursday – In Christ

Scripture Reading: John 1:1-5; 10-18

Jesus Christ leaves us no doubt and the Apostle John wants us to know that there is no doubt that in Christ is God’s presence in the world.  The crime that Jesus was convicted of was claiming to be the Messiah, God’s Son, the one that was coming to establish God’s Kingdom on Earth.  It is only a crime to admit this if it is not true.  That is why Jesus was wrongly convicted.  For those who believe we are given the power to become the children of God.  In Christ is God’s presence in the world as God’s Son.

Pastor’s Pondering:  In what ways can we know in scripture that Jesus Christ was God’s presence in the world?

Friday – In Christians

Scripture Reading: John 17:20-24

When Jesus prays for the church that “…they all may be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  When we are in the Spirit, loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor (as defined by Jesus) as ourselves then we become the presence of God to the world.  We become the body of Christ, when we live our lives in the Holy Spirit, being obedient to the Word of God and loving as God loves us.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How might we be God’s presence to the world?

Saturday – Christ Redeems

Scripture Reading: John 3:1-17

Jesus Christ, God’s presence in the world is not to judge the world but to save the world, to bring life to the world.  To do that is to judge, but also to take the sentence of that judgement and to give the power to change and become the people who have life in God’s creation.  Redemption takes us out of the wilderness (life without God) and brings us into a new life in God’s Kingdom as God’s creation and people who truly live in God’s love.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What is required to know full redemption in Jesus Christ?

Life in God’s Creation

Week 3 (24-30 Sept.) – Time in Wilderness vs. Creation

Sunday – Christ in Wilderness

Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

When we look to Jesus’s time in the wilderness, we read that the Spirit led him there for a time of testing through temptation by the devil.  Fasting is a practice of prayer oftentimes used to focus on a specific prayer request brought before God.  While in the wilderness of testing Christ focuses on talking with God.  Satan uses this time to attack Christ’s weaknesses of Hunger, Doubt, and Faith in God’s Plan.  Considering Christ’s present condition, situation and future, it should be no surprise that these are the area’s that Satan tempts Jesus to turn away from God.  The wilderness for Christ is a time of testing of his faithfulness to God.  Once proven Satan leaves, and Christ is back in God’s creation as angels tend to Him.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What are the areas that Satan can use to test you in the wilderness?  What are the answers you should give to answer and respond to pass the test of faith?

Monday – Wilderness Consequence for Israel

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 1:19-45

As we see from this scripture for the Israelites, the wilderness is a result/consequence of their lack of faith in God and God’s plan for them.  Though they knew exactly what God was calling them to do, because they doubted God’s ability to help them overcome the Amorites, they were condemned to the wilderness instead of God’s promised land for them.  Just as with Adam and Eve, the wilderness is a consequence for their turning from God and God’s way for them.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How might your life be a consequence of your faith in God’s plan for you?

Tuesday – Wilderness Test for Israel

Scripture Reading: Joshua 1:1-9

With the next generation of Israelites, they are confronted with the same test of faith in God and God’s plan for them in this scripture.  They have grown up in the wilderness, seen how God has cared for them in the wilderness and now with Joshua take the bold faith step so they can live in the promised land – life in God’s creation.  It will require many tests of faith as they proceed forward but with each passing of the test, they move closer to the life God has called them to in God’s creation – the promised land.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What are the wilderness tests God has called you to and through to know life in God’s promised land for you?

Wednesday – Time in Creation/Kingdom is Growth

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-6; Acts 1:12-2:13

Just as when Moses experiences life in God’s creation beginning with the burning bush and when the disciples are gathered in prayer seeking God’s direction, it is a time of growing in their faith in God.  In the beginning, they are afraid and uncertain of what God is doing but as we see them move forward in faith, it is a time of growing in the Spirit and their relationship with God.  When we live life in God’s creation/kingdom it is a time of growth.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How is your spiritual growth a sign of Life in Creation/Kingdom?

Thursday – Time in Creation/Kingdom is Refocus

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:7-10; Acts 2:14-24

After Moses responds with “Here I am” and the disciples received the Holy Spirit, we find that their lives are Refocused.  Moses is give a new call to be used to lead Israel out of Egypt and the disciples are given the call to go and share the news of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who will bring people into the Kingdom of God – life in God’s creation.  Life in God’s creation/kingdom brings to us a new and on-going refocus in life from life on our own to life with God.  Life in God’s creation/kingdom refocuses from our life in the wilderness.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How are we refocused from life in wilderness to life in God’s creation?

Friday – Time in Creation/Kingdom is Recharge

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:11,12; Acts 2:1-4

When Moses doubts his ability to go and lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God assures him with, “I will be with you.”  For the disciples, it is with the gift of the Holy Spirit that they are “charged” to go out into the streets to praise God in the languages that they were enabled to speak.  When we live life in God’s creation, God is with us and it is in the Holy Spirit that we are charged and recharged to be able to live out God’s plan for us.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How do we get “charged” and “recharged” in the Holy Spirit in our Life in God’s creation?

Saturday – Time in Creation/Kingdom is Renewal

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:13-21; Acts 2:37-42

As we see when God reveals to Moses, “when you see these things happen you will know what I say is true,” it becomes a renewal of faith when it happens. When the first church is formed and they see how the Spirit moves within them as they focus on Worship, God’s Word, Prayer, and Fellowship they are renewed in their faith in God and their life in God’s creation/kingdom.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How are you renewed as you witness God working in the midst of your life in God’s creation?

Life in God’s Creation

Week 2 (17-23 Sept.) – In the Wilderness (The World)

Sunday – In the Beginning

Scripture Reading: Genesis 3 

As we look to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, we find that being led away from God by the Serpent, they chose to turn away from their relationship with God and go their own way.  This left them outside of the Garden (God’s kingdom in creation) and in the Wilderness (World’s kingdom in creation).  We already have read the “in the beginning of life in God’s Creation.  Now we read (and since the Fall begin our lives in the experience) of “in the beginning of life in the Wilderness (the World) in God’s creation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What does this story say about our position in the Wilderness and God’s creation?

Monday – God’s Kingdom (Saw that it was Good)

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3

When God creates the conditions of and the reality of life we read at the end of each day that God, “Saw that it was Good.”  What makes it good is it’s relationship with God in the creation.  All was created out of love and to exist in love with God.  In this environment of perfect love all was in balance and in order as it existed in God.  The harmony of life in God is what made the Garden of Eden paradise.  In the end of the week, this is why God rested as a day to enjoy the love of life together that God had created.  Ah…    Paradise!

Pastor’s Pondering:  What would life in the garden been like during the time of perfect love in God.

Tuesday – Created in Relationship with God

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:4-17

When God created Adam, it was with the purpose of sharing life together with Adam.  Our purpose in life when we are created is to have a relationship with God – glorify God and enjoy God forever.  God also had a vocation for Adam (tend the garden) and God has a vocation for us in God’s plan for our life together.  But, because of the fall and our beginning in the wilderness (World) we must choose to enter and abide in our relationship with God (Life in God’s creation.)  Christ provides the Truth about the Way to enter the Life in God’s kingdom.  Only in Christ can we leave the wilderness (the world) and enter into God’s kingdom recognizing God’s creation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What does this look like in our lives?

Wednesday – Created in Relationship with Spouse

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:18-25

After Adam is created we read of how, “it was not good that the man should be alone” and so God created Eve to be an equal partner in life together in God.  In this equality of relationship, they both walked together in the garden, were tempted together in the garden, and walked out together into the wilderness.  They both were to and did live their life together through it all.  When we find that person that we love and commit to love in marriage then we are to walk together just as God walks with us in life.

Pastor’s Pondering:   How is the covenant in marriage like the covenant and a reflection of the covenant that God makes with us in love and life?

Thursday – God’s Work in Wilderness(World)

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:1-7

As we see in the continuing story of life in the wilderness (world) God blesses Adam and Eve with children through procreation and is at work in their children’s lives in the wilderness (World).  Both Cain and Abel worship God with sacrifices.  When Cain’s worship falls short, God teaches Cain what he can do to resist sin and know God’s love in his life instead of anger and depression.  Through the Holy Spirit, God works with us in our lives while we live in the wilderness (World) – all out of God’s love for us.

Pastor’s Pondering:  In what ways has God reached out to you in your wilderness life?

Friday – Walking Away from God

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:8-16

As we see in the continuing story of Cain and Abel, out of anger and jealousy, Cain murders Abel and in so doing, instead of trying to glorify God and enjoy God forever, he walks away from God.  When God confronts him, he tries to lie his way out of it and God sends him away.  But, notice that even then God protects Cain with a seal so that Cain can continue live even though it is still in the wilderness (world).

Pastor’s Pondering:  How does this story demonstrate God’s grace with those who choose to live in the wilderness and not God’s Kingdom?

Saturday – Invoking the Name of the Lord

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:17-26

As we are left with the rest of the story of Cain’s family and their life in the wilderness, we pick up the story of Adam and Eve and their next son Seth.  Notice the difference in telling the story of this family “at that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.”  Seth and Enosh and their families turned to God, glorified God and most likely enjoyed life in God.  What we read of them in chapter five is their many descendants leading up to Noah.  In the midst of the world living in the wilderness outside of God, there were and are always people who live “invoking the name of the Lord.”

Pastor’s Pondering:  Who throughout the Bible are the people who “invoke the name of the Lord?”

Life in God’s Creation

 Life in God’s Creation

Week 1 (10-16 Sept.) – Creation/Wilderness?

Sunday – Day 1: Void/God – Experiencing God

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning, there was God and Void.  God is the starting point of creation.  Without God, life is a void.  When God created the light, he said that it was good and called it, “Day.”  From the beginning, God has used light to coincide with good.  The darkness was called night and thus the first day was created.  Every day consists of light/darkness, day/night every life lived experiences this but to do so without God it is all a void that waits to be filled.  This week we focus on how our senses enable us to experience God and God’s handiwork in Creation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How can we live a void-less life?    

Monday – Day 2: Sky – Sound

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:6-8

With the gift of sound, we are able to experience God and God’s handiwork in our lives.  On the second day, God creates by separating the waters and creating the atmosphere.  I wonder what the sound would have been like during this time.  Sound travels in waves much as we observe the waves of the seas.  To experience God’s creation is to hear the sound of life that travels through these waves.  To take time to just listen to God’s handiwork is to experience God in creation.  To take time to listen to God’s Spirit, the still small voice, is to experience God’s handiwork in our lives.

Pastor’s Pondering:  In what ways have you experienced God in the sounds of creation?

Tuesday – Day 3: Earth & Vegetation – Touch/Taste 

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:9-13

With the gift of touch and taste, we are able to experience God and God’s handiwork in our lives.  When God creates the earth and the vegetation on the third day, it brings us a way to experience God’s handiwork in touch and taste.  To be able to touch and taste the things of God’s creation is to be able to experience life in a special way.  To feel a cool breeze on a hot summer day, the softness of cotton yet with the prick of the hardness of the plant, the taste of a fresh picked tomato, the feel of walking barefoot on the sand or in the mud – all a part of experiencing God’s handiwork and love for us.

Pastor’s Pondering:  In what ways do you experience God in the touch and taste of God’s creation?

Wednesday – Day 4: Sun, Moon, Stars – Sight

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:14-19

With the gift of sight, we are able to experience God and God’s handiwork in our lives.  To be able to see requires light to enter our eyes and thus when the Sun, Moon and stars are created, they bring light for all to see.  The light enables us to see the forms, the colors, the world that God created for us to live in.  The light enables us to see the people, the places, the things and the path that God prepares for us.  The Sun provides the light for us all to see, but, the Son provides the light for us to truly see.

Pastor’s Pondering:  In what ways do you experience God and God’s handiwork in your life through sight?

Thursday – Day 5: Birds & Fish – Smell

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:20-23

With the gift of smell, we are able to experience God and God’s handiwork in our lives.  With the gift of smell, we are able to appreciate a freshly mowed field of hay, a plowed field, a lake filled with fish, and yes, bird droppings on our shoulders!  With the gift of smell, we can determine whether we turn to or turn away from something of God’s creation.  We are either attracted to or driven away from something based up our experience when we smell that smell.  To smell is to experience God’s handiwork and God’s plan for us in God’s creation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  How might smell help us to experience God’s handiwork and plan for us in life?

Friday – Day 6: Animals & Us – Observe & Meditate

Scripture Reading: Genesis 1:24-31

With the gift of our senses and our mind, we are able to observe and meditate on God’s handiwork in our lives.  If we take time to use all of our senses to observe the world that God created and take time to think upon these things in connection with God’s word then the Spirit is able to speak to us, to teach us, to lead us, to bring God’s light into our lives.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:20 – “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made, so they are without excuse.”

Pastor’s Pondering:  What excuses do we give for not taking the time to experience God and God’s handiwork in all of creation?

   

Saturday – Day 7: Sabbath – Worship

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:1-4

With our whole mind, body and soul we are able to worship God in God’s creation.  To worship God is to take time from our daily life pursuits to rest and focus on our life in God and God’s creation.  God took a sabbath after creating the world and all that was in it to just rest – enjoy the life that God created.  Sabbath is a time that we are to take to rest – to enjoy life that God created.  Six days shall we labor but the seventh (the first for us remembering that day as the day of resurrection) shall be a day of rest just as God created and did.  That is reason enough for us to observe our weekly Sabbath.

Pastor’s Pondering:  Why should we diligently observe the Sabbath in our lives in God’s creation?

Life in God’s Creation

Week 1 – Creation

Week 2 – Wilderness in World

Week 3 – World = Wilderness vs. Creation

Week 4 – God’s Presence in World

Week 5 – Call/Vocation in Life

Week 6 – Provision in Life

Week 7 – Spouse/Single in Life

Week 8 – Finding a Home in Life

Week 9 – Being Lost in Life

Week 10 – Law of Life in Creation

Week 11 – The Future Hope in Life

The 8 Be-Attitudes & 12 Steps of Change in Christ

Week 7(June 4 – 10)

Sunday – Principle 7&8

Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible Reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to Follow his will.

Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good news to others, both by my example and by my words.

Scripture Reading:  “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”  Matthew 5:10

Every Christian needs to have a daily time that we spend with God considering our life in Christ, Bible reading, and praying.  This is a time we consider how faithful we are living our lives in Christ as we know Christ, asking forgiveness for our failings, committing to continue to grow in Christ through Bible reading, and Small group fellowship and sharing Christ when God provides those opportunities to help others going through the same issues that we have dealt with in life.  Even if it would mean persecution for doing so.

Pastor’s Pondering: How do principles 7&8 exemplify our church mission – Knowing, Growing and Sharing Christ?

 

Monday – Step 10 Crossroads

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Scripture Reading: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1Corinthians 10:12 NIV

Step 10 is the crossroads of life where we must continue to exam our lives in all that we think, say or do and when we find we are wrong, where we have fallen, we have to promptly admit it so we can correct it and continue in our life together in Christ and not fall back into the old life that God had recovered us from living.

Pastor’s Pondering: How might we stop examining our lives and find ourselves falling back into our old life?

 

Tuesday – Step 11 – Lesson Relapse & Gratitude

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Scripture Reading:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Colossians 3:16a

The key way to keep ourselves from sliding back into our old life is to completely focus on our new life in Christ.  It is to allow the Holy Spirit to show us other areas we need to grow in as a Christian.  It is to focus completely on our life in Christ that we have no time or attention to give to anything outside of our walk with Christ.  It is to let our gratitude to God for recovering us as his children by loving Christ with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength.  It is to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

Pastor’s Pondering: How does focusing on our life in Christ keep us from focusing on our former brokenness?

 

Wednesday – Step 12 – Give

Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Scripture Reading: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted.”   Galatians 6:1 NIV

Giving back is sharing our spiritual experience with others by continuing to practice the principles and steps that Christ has taught us in all we do and say in life and “carry this message to others.  In so doing, if we know someone who is caught as we were caught we are to “restore him gently.”  Restoring gently is to do so with love and understanding.

Pastor’s Pondering: How can we best give back and help restore someone in life?

Thursday – Hurts

Scripture Reading: Genesis 23:19,20

The burial place becomes a reminder of the relationships forged through the hurt of grieving for both Abraham’s family and the Hittites in the land of Canaan.  But, it is not in places that relationships are maintained but in God.  Though this is a time and place of peace, it is only temporary as we can read and know the rest of the story.  This later on becomes the inheritance for Caleb in Israel’s return and conquest of the promised land.  The city becomes one of the six refuge cities in establishing Israel in the promised land.  But throughout the history of this land, it changes hands and ownership through the hurt of war.  True and everlasting peace is only brought on by sharing God’s love given to us through Jesus Christ.

Pastor’s Pondering: How is Sarah’s burial place a reminder of the hurts we have due to our brokenness and Christ being the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

Friday – Habits

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 12:26-31

David learns his lesson about his addiction and we see now that he returns to his proper place with his soldiers as King and when it is all done then returns to Jerusalem.  Through the rest of David’s story we see how God recovers him from his addiction, David stays on the path that God has set before him as King.  He not only doesn’t fall back to his old habits but seeks to help others keep from falling into the same problems that he had.

Pastor’s Pondering: Why is it important to not just refrain from going back to our addictions but help others who suffer from the same habits?

 

Saturday – Hang-ups

Scripture Reading: John 21:20-23

Oftentimes, our hang-ups come from our preoccupation with other people.  Jesus reminds Peter that what ultimately happens to them is not of our concern except how we can better Know, Grow and Share Christ together as disciples of Christ in obedience to God which is our spiritual worship and life.  In Christ, we can be recovered from our hurts, habits and hang-ups in life.

Pastor’s Pondering: Amen, So Let it Be With Me.

 

The 8 Be-Attitudes & 12 Steps of Change in Christ

Week 6(May 28 – June 3)

Sunday – Principle 6

Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.

Scripture Reading: “Happy are the merciful.” Matthew 5:7 “Happy are the peacemakers.”   Matthew 5:9

To show mercy and be a peacemaker is about sharing forgiveness.  In the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of our recovery from our brokenness, and yes, throughout our lives as we hurt one another we must forgive one another.  The greater the hurt, the greater forgiveness is needed.  As a part of that forgiving there may need to be amends done to aid in restoring relationships.  But, there are times that to do so would be greater harm in life together.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is the connection between being merciful and a peacemaker and forgiveness?

 

Monday – Step 8 Amends

We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Scripture Reading:  “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Step 8 is the first part of principle 6 in that as we make a list of people we have hurt it is to be willing to make amends to each one.  It is realizing that for each one on the list we should treat as we would hope people would do for us if they had hurt us.  It is the word of God given to us through Christ that should be the standard on how we treat all people.

Pastor’s Pondering: What makes it hard to want to make amends to all people we have hurt?

 

Tuesday – Step 9 – Forgiveness/Grace

We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Scripture Reading: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24 NIV

Step 9 is offering forgiveness and grace in making amends and sometimes it is to withhold direct amends when it would hurt them or others in doing so.  It is so important that Jesus teaches that if we are in the process of showing our love for God and remember an issue we have with a brother or sister that has broken our relationship then we are “first” go restore that relationship before offering our gift to God.  Offering forgiveness to one another demonstrates our understanding and appreciation for God forgiving us through Jesus Christ.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does Christ’s teaching challenge us in our making direct amends to one another?

 

Wednesday – Hurts

Scripture Reading: Genesis 23:17,18

As we look to grief in hang-ups, it also has a place in the hurts.  As we find in Abraham’s story, once the place is procured to bury Sarah, her body is laid to rest.  It is in a place that we read that all can see, “in the presence of the Hittites, in the presence of all who went in at the city gate.”  As all can see the grief shared in Sarah’s burial, they may all share in the hurt of that grief and the comfort of that shared love together.

Pastor’s Pondering: How can our relationships together bring comfort in our hurts?

Thursday – Hang-ups

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:20

As we return to the story of Abraham, Sarai, and the Pharoah we find the last thing that Pharoah does after seeking forgiveness for what he did (even unknowingly) he made amends to them by sending them on their way with all that he had given them.  As they leave, I am sure they are feeling the victory they had not in themselves but what God had done even in their lack of faithfulness.  Even in the midst of our hang-ups like co-dependence, God can change, restore and recover couples into being couples who truly love and support one another.

Pastor’s Pondering: How is making amends/forgiving in grace needed to recover from our hang-ups?

 

Friday – Habits

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 12:24,25

After being restored to God, David finds he must be restored with Bathsheba.  Consoling her may not just have been about their son’s death but also seeking forgiveness for all he did to her through adultery, murder, and the death of their child.  In this then they were blessed by God together with the birth of Solomon.

Pastor’s Pondering: What all might be needed to be dealt with when our habits damage our relationships with God, ourselves, and each other?

Saturday – People

Scripture Reading: John 21:15-19

When Jesus questions Peter about Peter’s love for him, it is providing Peter a chance to repent by confessing his love three times countering his three denials and to make amends by “Feed my lambs/sheep.”  Action is a part of forgiveness, it is not just to say, I’m sorry” but to show it by making amends, taking action in love sharing forgiveness and grace with people in our lives (even when they may not deserve it).

Pastor’s Pondering: How should we “Feed my lambs/sheep” out of our love for Jesus?

The 8 Be-Attitudes & 12 Steps of Change in Christ

Week 5(May 21 – 27)

Sunday – Principle 5

Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

Scripture Reading: “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” Matthew 5:6

To have our greatest desire in life to be doing what God requires is to submit to God’s word and Spirit and allow God to change us even if our heart may not desire that change.  The hardest part of sanctification/transformation/change is when our mind says we need to change but our hearts want to hold onto our old ways.  It is then that we must in our attitude submit and pray to God to make that change in us in action, in mind, and in will.

Pastor’s Pondering: What all is required to “voluntarily submit” to what God requires?

 

Monday – Step 5 – Confess

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.

Scripture Reading:  “Therefore, confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” James 5:16a NIV

Step 5 is the same as principle 4 in that after our moral inventory we are to confess our sins to God, ourselves and another person we trust so that we may pray about it while God works on it in us.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does confession bring about prayer and healing?

 

Tuesday – Step 6 – Ready

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Scripture Reading: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10 NIV

Step 6 is the same as principle 5 and we must be ready for God to remove all these defects of character by humbling ourselves and allowing God to lift us up.  We also must be ready for this to happen over time/our lives and not all at once.  This is a lifelong process.

Pastor’s Pondering: Why will it take a lifetime if we are entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character?

 

Wednesday – Step 7 – Victory

We humbly asked him to remove all our short-comings.

Scripture Reading: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV

Step 7 reminds us that we must live our lives in victory and not in defeat.  With our character defects, it is God that is working in bringing about the change.  So, as we are changed when we fail, we are forgiven, when we succeed, it is the Spirit working in us bringing to reality what Christ has offered to us as an inheritance.

Pastor’s Pondering: What does it mean to live our lives in victory even as God is working on the changes that are not yet?

 

Thursday – Hurts

Scripture Reading: Genesis 21:15-23

Hagar is hurting because of their break-up with Abraham and feeling isolated and helpless, weeping unto God finds God hearing her and caring for her and Ishmael.  She finds the victory in humbling herself to God and having God lift them up with a well and life in the wilderness where Ishmael thrives and gets a wife from Egypt.  Confessing her hurt to God, being ready to take action according to God’s plan brings them the victory in life even in the midst of a broken and bad relationship.

Pastor’s Pondering: Why can covering up the hurt in our lives keep us from knowing victory and developing scars in our life?

 

Friday – Hang-ups

Scripture Reading: Genesis 23:12-16

Even though Ephron offered the field for free, Abraham requests to pay the fair price for the field.  This prevents anyone from having hang-ups later on about Abraham receiving the field and cave for their burial place.  No one from Ephron’s family would feel slighted.  No one from the Hittites could get upset about the unfair treatment given a foreigner.  No one from Abraham’s family would have to worry about losing their burial place because it was given to them.  God gives Abraham the way to have peace about a place to bury their family in a foreign land.

Pastor’s Pondering: What are the ways that there can be victory in our grief?

Saturday – Habits

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 12:15-23

David finds that voluntarily submitting to the changes that God is bringing can be hard in that we still must suffer the consequences of our actions out of our habits.  David prays and fasts seeking God’s mercy on his son.  When the child dies, he recognizes his fault for this, humbles himself before the Lord by washing, anointing himself and then worshipping God.  He then goes home to eat trusting that God will lift him up and we find in the rest of the story that David gains victory over his sex addiction.

Pastor’s Pondering: How might we have to suffer great loss before we can gain victory over our habits?

The 8 Be-Attitudes & 12 Steps of Change in Christ

Week 4(May 14-20)

Sunday – Principle 4

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

Scripture Reading: “Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

To be “pure in heart” is to have all sin removed.  This only happens when we confess our sins seeking forgiveness with ourselves, God, and someone who holds us accountable in our lives so they can help us truly repent which means to turn away from the sin/problem and in so doing being better able to “see God.”  Just as sin continues to creep into our lives so we must constantly be examining ourselves and confessing our faults so that we may continue to experience the changed life where Christ is central and God is clearly seen at work in us through the Holy Spirit.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does confession bring about the “pure in heart?”

 

Monday – Step 4 (Sponsor & Moral Inventory)

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Scripture Reading: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40 NIV

To examine our ways and test them is to make a moral inventory of ourselves figuring out which are according to God’s good purpose and which of those that are not and “return to the Lord.”  Returning is confessing to God, asking for forgiveness and committing to change our wills and ways so that we may not sin again.

Pastor’s Pondering: How is examining ourselves required to return to the Lord?

Tuesday – Addictions

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-15

Even though David has not examined himself to return to the Lord, David has Nathan in his life whom God uses to confront David about his sinful path he is traveling.  We are to have that one person we can trust not to just to listen to us confess but also, if need be, to confront us so that we will confess to God, ourselves and that one person when we fall so that we may be restored.

Pastor’s Pondering: How important is it in our addictions to have that one person we can trust to help us examine and confess when we fall?

 

Wednesday – Co-Dependency

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:19

When Pharoah confronts both Sarai and Abraham, it is as the one they should trust because God revealed to him what they are doing.  They then must confess their faults to God, each other and to the Pharoah.  Especially as an Addiction/co-dependent couple we need that person we can trust that would not only listen to our confession but also confront us to confess when we need it.  It can be the same for both or a different one for each.  Co-dependent’s need someone to give them the wisdom and courage to do what might be needed to be done.

Pastor’s Pondering: How might co-dependents need someone to help them see God’s purpose and will for them?

 

Thursday – Divorce/Relationship Scarring

Scripture Reading: Genesis 21:8-14

In the midst of God’s wondrous work in Abraham and Sarah’s life with the birth of Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael once again become an issue.  Sarah’s request forces Abraham to examine himself and in “distress” confesses to God and himself his feelings about it.  It is then that God reassures Abraham that He is at work, will care for, and has plans for Hagar and Ishmael.  Oftentimes, when we are in the midst of divorce/relationship break-up we will be distressed – we need to confess it to God, listen for God, and follow God trusting in what God is doing to keep from being scarred in life.

Pastor’s Pondering: How might confessing our distress to God, ourselves and someone we trust help keep us/heal us from being scarred?

Friday – Grief

Scripture Reading: Genesis 23:7-11

As Abraham, in the midst of his grief, shares with the Hittites the place that he would like to have for Sarah’s burial place, he must have been thinking, examining himself, his family, the Hittites and how his request might impact everyone to find that one place.  In that examination, he had to think about not just the place but the people and the relationship that they had together as a foreigner living in their land.  He must have considered who they had good relationships with and no faults between them.  This meant they would have confessed, amended and trusted each other in their lives together in the land.

Pastor’s Pondering: How are our relationships in life oftentimes reflected in our relationships in grief?

 

Saturday – Others

Scripture Reading: John 18:15-27

When Peter denies knowing Christ three times before the cock crows, it is with the crowing that Peter is convicted of his denials.  Even though he remains close to Jesus, out of fear, he separates himself from Christ and with each denial gets further away in his separation from Jesus.  The gospel of John doesn’t mention Peter again until he runs to the empty tomb of Jesus.  I imagine he stood there confused and alone like we are before we examine and confess our brokenness.

Pastor’s Pondering: How is our brokenness our denying Jesus Christ in our life?

The 8 Be-Attitudes & 12 Steps of Change in Christ

Week 3(May 7-13)

Sunday – Principle 3

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

Scripture Reading: “Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

To be meek is to humble ourselves to something greater than us.  It is to recognize that to truly be happy/blessed is to make Jesus our Lord in life.  That means we must consciously choose to submit “to Christ’s care and control.”  It is only then that Christ can give to us our inheritance as Children of God which is to become children of God through salvation and transformation.

Pastor’s Pondering:  What is the connection between humbling/submitting to Christ and “inherit” a life in Christ?

 

 

Monday – Step 3 (Turning & Action)

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.

Scripture Reading: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 NIV

Step 3 is making the decision, knowing of God’s love for us, to offer up our whole lives to God.  Worship is sharing our love with God through what we think, say and do.  To truly worship God, is to give our whole lives to God, leaving nothing out which would mean allowing God to remove those things that are not pleasing to God… whatever that may be.

Pastor’s Pondering: What is the connection between our worship and our commitment/decision to “turn our lives and wills over to the care of God?

Tuesday – Addictions

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 11:6-27

Instead of truly being committed to his life as God’s king for Israel and worshipping God instead we see David trying to cover up his addiction and consequences of his addiction which means he sins even more.  When he can’t trick Uriah so that he will think the child is his, David has him killed in battle.  David’s adultery leads him to become a murderer.  Even with this, he still hasn’t reached the point of mourning to come to God.  The power of addiction is so strong that it keeps David from turning to God and even leads him further away from God.

Pastor’s Pondering: Why do addictions seem to lead us away from God?

Wednesday – Co-Dependency

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:17

As this passage points out that God still can work even when co-dependents aren’t doing their part in recovery.  That is because both people have to be recovered.  Just as God will work with the one with addiction so God will work with the co-dependent in both direct and indirect ways.  In this case, it is with the Pharoah that he will return Sarai to Abram.  In so doing, God is working with both and their lack of faith in God.

Pastor’s Pondering: How can it be more difficult working with both addicts and co-dependents?

 

Thursday – Divorce/Relationship Scarring

Scripture Reading: Genesis 16:10-16

Before Hagar returns to Abram and Sarai, the angel(messenger) of the Lord reveals the future of her baby.  She even names the angel and the well where it happened for people to remember and know the Lord appeared to her.  She returns to Abram and bears Abram a son, Ishmael.  She has committed her life to God and follows God’s plan as a  life of worship of God.  At this time, it restores her relationship with Abram.

Pastor’s Pondering: How difficult might it be in cases of divorce and seeming relationship break-up to be humble and commit to God?

 

Friday – Grief

Scripture Reading: Genesis 23:3-6

In grief, we find the first shock is having to make arrangements for the burial.  Abraham finds himself in the predicament of not having a burial place for they are not in their homeland but in Canaan – a foreign land that God brought them to live.  In faithfulness in life, Abraham and Sarah followed God and now in Sarah’s death, Abraham must follow God to find a place to bury Sarah.  He approaches the Hittites to secure a burial place. It must have been out of obedience to God’s leading as Abraham is still in the shock of Sarah’s death and most likely is in the auto-pilot stage of grief.

Pastor’s Pondering: How does having committed our life to God help us in dealing with the mechanics of burial in the midst of our grief?

 

Saturday – Other

Scripture Reading: John 18:10,11

When Peter lashes out with the sword and cuts off the high priest’s slave’s ear, it is out of his own understanding of the situation and not in Christ.  Though his intention is to protect Jesus, he is reprimanded by Jesus for getting in the way of God’s plan.  There are times when what may seem right to us is contrary to what is in God’s plan.  We need to consult Jesus in all things before taking action to receive Christ’s care and control and for our lives to be our spiritual worship.

Pastor’s Pondering: How important is prayer for our lives to be spiritual worship of God?