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The Journey Continues Forward

Since God placed a love for the outside of the church I have consistently sought God’s leading each step of the way. ReSolved Ministry came about from the commitment to continually rethink the “how” of ministry with a fervent passion, or resolve.

When COVID forced the world to pause ReSolved pivoted to be a digital first ministry to continue loving those outside the church. On this journey God connected ReSolved with Church Anywhere to learn from & be mentored by in these beginning stages. This has been an incredible experience that will continue in a new way into the future.

Also along this journey Discover Church, ReSolved’s sending congregation pivoted to develop its own digital ministry. Both ministries have a passion to invite all people to a life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ. With this similar resolve Discover & ReSolved are joining together in digital ministry.

I am the Digital Pastor at Discover Church tasked to grow Discover Church Network. It is a network of microsite gathered together around the world for worship. It is a network of digital missionaries building relationships with others through their digital platforms. It is a network resolved to disciple people to live The 168 Life.

It is exciting to begin this chapter together. We are able to share resources & passions. God is bringing this together for God’s glory. We humbly serve together sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word, action and posts.

So here’s what’s next. You can follow Discover at its social media accounts. There you will continue to be encouraged on your faith journey. You can also follow me on my socials @TheHoppyPastor to connect directly.

Thank you for being a part of this chapter of the journey! Your support is incredible!!

Let’s stay in touch!

Now may you go out today knowing you are loved by God, feeling the Holy Spirit surrounding you and sharing Jesus through word, action & post. 

Discover Church Socials

Facebook: @DiscoverChurchBP

Instagram: @discoverchurchbpl

Twitter: @ChurchDiscover

YouTube: Discover Church – Brooklyn Park

You Are Not Alone

2020 was a difficult year.  Stay at Home orders kept everyone at home away from friends and family.  While the first few weeks were fun.  A new adventure of working from home & learning how to have Zoom meetings. 

After months of staying home, away from all those we cared about, isolation was no longer a ‘fun adventure.’ It was just plain hard.

Many times in the past year I have shared with others countless times, “You are not alone.”  I have needed to hear these words myself a few times.

We are not created to live life alone.  God created us to be in community with one another.  As we are different from each other we have the opportunity to learn from each other.  Where one is weak another is strong.  Where one is in need another has plenty to share.

God created Adam and did not intend for him to be alone.  Eve was created to be in community with Adam.  They complemented each other to be united and live life together.

When Jesus lived here on Earth He did not do life alone.  He asked 12 men to share life & ministry together. As Jesus is fully God He set the example for all believers to follow in our own lives.  We are meant to be in community with one another.

We are meant to trust a close circle of loved ones who love us unconditionally, who hold us accountable when necessary, who to celebrate great moments together. These people are our inner circle.  They are family bonded together in the Lord.  We grow in faith together. We grieve together.  We give praise together.

Another place you can connect with others is at our weekly Zoom MicroSite. We met together on Sunday nights at 7pm (US Central Time). For an hour we encourage, pray with and laugh together. You are invited! If you feel alone join us.  Send a message saying you are interested and we will send you the Meeting ID & Password. We love to see you there. 

Living The 168 Life is meant to be shared with others. We are created to be in community. See who is in your tribe.  Tell them this week how much you appreciate your friendship.  Ask how you can continue to pray with each other. Schedule the next time you hang out together to have fun together. 

As the world is coming out of isolation we will reconnect with each other.  May you see each day how you are not alone.  You are loved unconditionally.  You matter. Connect with your inner circle.  May God be glorified in the 168 hours of the week.

This Week’s Challenge 

Share with those in your inner circle how you are truly doing, good or bad. Pray with one another.  Give thanks to God for your friendships.

Social Media Influencers for Jesus

Being a social media influencer is now a career path people aspire to become.  One posts on life, adventures, thoughts, products to share with the world. It’s not a bad gig when you think about.  You can travel for your job.  Try new products.  Eat at cool places. All so you can share your experience with those who are following you.

Social Media Influencers have great sway in the social media world.  They set trends and help places or products go viral. 

After Jesus’ Resurrection letter writing was their form of social media.  The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) were in essence letters to be shared so people can learn together the story of Jesus.  Paul, the pastor to the Gentiles, wrote a prolific amount of letters in his ministry.  Paul and the Disciples were the original social media influencers.

What we learn from them is using the tools at our hands to share our story of Jesus.  What we post on our social media accounts reach 1000s of people.  In one click we can reach people all over the world.  We can be influencers on social media for Jesus.

So think about it.  You can share why you love Jesus. Or you can share what God is teaching you in your devotions.  You can have conversations with someone you may never meet in person and teach them about Jesus.  Your influence across social media can have great impact for the Kingdom of God.

Just as interacting with people on social media is a regular part of our daily lives it is a natural way to live out the The 168 Life.  Whether you are meeting people in person or via social media you can be an example of Jesus to them. 

Another way you can think about it is like being a brand ambassador. Over the crazy path that is my career path I have been brand ambassador for small craft breweries.  I got to go into liquor and offer people (of legal age) free samples of our beer and tell them about our brewery.  It was truly one of my favorite jobs.  

In this job I quickly learned that people connect to story. They love to hear how the company got started, what we stand for, why we do what we do.  This insight challenged me to see my own faith journey in a similar manner.  I represented Jesus as like a brand ambassador. I get to tell other why I love Jesus, how I got to know Jesus, what He is doing in my life. 

Now I get to do the same thing in my ministry as a Digital Pastor. I get to tell Jesus’s story on social media. We get to influence our followers on social media for Jesus.  We get to be digital missionaries without ever leaving the couch.

As you go online to post a funny picture or share your thoughts for the day think about how you are a social media influencer.  You don’t need a huge number of followers to have influence.  Just continue to share your story with Jesus. Be open to having conversations with people as the Holy Spirit leads you.

Go out into the digital world fellow followers of Jesus posting Jesus’ story for all to hear on social media!

This Week’s Challenge

Post on one of your social media accounts why you love Jesus or how you came to know about Jesus.  Watch for any conversations the Holy Spirit opens up for you to share online.

The Daily Practice of Learning

In the Church world we use the word “discipleship” a lot but we do not always do a good job of defining it. It’s root word, ‘disciple’ means “student or follower.” So discipleship is the practice of following or being a student of Jesus.

When one is a disciple of Jesus s/he learns directly from Jesus.  They regularly read the Bible. They pray sharing with God their heart while hearing what God has to share with them. They view the world as God sees the world loving all people. 

“That sounds so simple.  But what if my calendar is already full?”

I hear you.  It feels like it is another thing to get done in an already crazy busy day.  Here’s the thing we can spend time with God while taking care of other things.  

Go for runs, bike rides, or workouts?  You can listen to the Bible while working out. 

Feel stuck in the Kitchen cleaning up? Or tied to the Laundry pile?  You can talk with God sharing what’s on your heart while hearing what God has for you. 

Sitting on the couch twitching with wanting to do something? You can journal questions or learnings from your faith journey. 

There are pockets of time throughout each of our days to spend time with God.  As we get together with friends for workouts or coffee we can do the same with God.  You don’t have to spend hours at a time if that is too much for you.  The key is the constant touchpoint with God throughout our days.

Your daily practice of learning at the feet of Jesus is your own practice.  It does not need to look like anyone else’s daily practice. It is how you spend time and learn from God. 

The key is to find the intentional time and rhythm with God that works for the two of you.  As you do so stay consistent with those times.  It will be tempting to skip a day but take the time.  Before you know it those nuggets will be a natural part of your day you don’t even think about it anymore.

Learning at the feet of Jesus is important as a follower of Jesus.  The more we learn from Him the more we become like Him. Living The 168 Life is seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus.  We get to see the world as Jesus sees it as we learn from Him.

So as you find these nuggets in your day enjoy the learning.  Ask God to teach you more about faith.  Seek to grow in trust in God alone. 

May you grow in faith in the 168 hours of the week. 

This Week’s Challenge

Schedule nuggets of time with God in your day.  Find natural places for your to connect with God so you can grow in faith. 

Faith is Who You Are

Going to church tends to be synonymous with one’s faith. We use this phrase to indicate we are going to worship, an event, or Bible Study. It is an entry on our calendars. In some ways it means no more no less.

We talk about faith as a thing we do.  A compartment of our lives like our jobs, our families, our friend groups, our hobbies.  It is a part of who we are; one aspect of the whole.

But we have it wrong.  Faith is all of who we are.  It gives us the eyes to see the world through.  It shapes the words we share with others.  Faith directs us in our decision making.  Faith is all of us, not a small part.

While Jesus lived He taught His followers how to live their lives through their faiths.  He taught them how to trust God so deeply they took actions they never would have taken on their own.  Jesus showed them how faith shapes who we are each day of our lives.

When we see faith as an entry in our calendar we limit it to just a small handful of hours in the week.

But when we see faith as who we are it then shapes all 168 hours of the week.  

Imagine when you have decisions to make seeing them through the eyes of your faith.  Seeking God’s direction asking to see how God is leading you in this next step.

Or caring for friends with God’s love.  Showing up for one another in all circumstances. Faith brings people together with God’s love.

Sure, it is simple to say faith is who we are but is it really that easy?

What happens when one’s faith requires a sacrifice?  Or go somewhere we may not want to go?

Can’t we just say we have faith and not live it out in all 168 hours of the week?

Peter was a follower of Jesus and was taught by Jesus Himself. He was full of faith but was scared from time to time to have his faith be all of who he was too. One time Jesus was approaching the Disciples while they were out fishing at night.  Key point – Jesus did not have a boat Himself.  He walked on water.  (Check it out in Matthew 14)

Peter in awe of what he saw he asked Jesus that if it truly was Him to have Peter walk on the water.  Jesus invited him.  In classic Peter fashion out of the boat he went. Peter walked on water keeping his eyes on Jesus.

Peter was scared at times as his faith shaped his whole life. When he clung to it fully he did incredible things, like walking on water or preaching to hundreds of people. Peter understood that living The 168 Life was difficult at times.  It has times of challenges to grow in one’s trust in God. It has times of joy as one shares faith with all.

May you grow in your own faith so that is infiltrates every hour of every day of the week. Begin living faith in the 168.  See the adventures God has planned for you.  Grow in trust. See the world in a small way through God’s eyes. 

This Week’s Challenge

As you go about your day this week note how you are living out your faith.  Where does it guide your decisions? Conversations? Journal how faith is shaping who you are.

Show Up & Serve Your Community

Last week was hard.  This week is hard. I look out into my community to see crying hearts pleading to be heard, to be seen. 

It feels like we are on a never-ending merry-go-around.  Instances happen.  Emotions erupt. Statements are made.  Peace eventually comes.  After a period of time the next instance occurs.  When will it end?  Who is the next name on the list?

Each time the division grows wider and wider. Voices become louder.  Community is fractured further. 

Grief is hard. The heart desires to be ‘get over it’ but knows it can only learn to live through it. Words spoken with good intention don’t seem to help.  In a special way silent presence is the most comforting thing one can do. 

Now is a time to not continue the arguments to win the debate.  We must come together as a community to reach out to those who are hurting.  We need to show up & serve.  

Showing Up and Serving takes the form of donating household goods for families who are not able to get to a store. 

Showing Up & Serving takes the form sitting beside another listening to their story.  It does not try to ‘fix things’ but simply listening and learning.

Showing Up & Serving takes the form of cleaning up as the community begins to rebuild.

The pain will not disappear in one day.  But right now, today, we can show up to sit with another as they process their pain.  We can share love in silent action of serving & being present. 

As you go about your day see those in your life who are hurting.  Show up for them.  Share love in silent presence.  Share love in prayer. Serve them how ever they need in the moment. 

Brothers and sisters let us bring our community back together through love.  Let us as resolved followers of Jesus Christ show up for one another in love.  Words are not required.  Our presence shares God’s love.

This Week’s Challenge

Show up and serve one in your community.  Serve as they have need in that moment.

Living Faith in the 168

This past year has been to say the least…difficult.

This pasty year has been to say the least…incredible.

March 15, 2020 changed my life.  I was looking forward to this day as it was the Home Opener for my beloved Minnesota United FC. Instead of going to cheer, or should I say yell, for my team for 90 straight minutes I was instead at my first meeting as a Board of Director at my brewery.  And it was at this meeting that everything began to change.

After 3+ hours of intense difficult conversation we made the decision to close our taproom due to COVID-19.  We did so to protect our employees & the public from this deadly disease.  Without any knowledge of PPP Loans or state mandates we did what was right for our cooperative brewery & community.

By the end of that week I had lost 3 out of 4 jobs and was barely hanging on to the 4th one.  I had no idea how I was going to get through a global pandemic with little income, no health insurance & not a lot of job prospects.

That was the difficult part of the year.

After March 15th, I pivoted in my one remaining job.  Instead of welcoming people in person on Sunday mornings I shifted to connecting with people through social media.  Also I got connected with a congregation that had been doing digital ministry for a handful years & began learning from them how to be a digital minister.

While not being able to hang out in person with friends I still spent quality time with some via Zoom & a lot of late nights at work.  We bonded in such a way that will last a lifetime.

I found myself on a path slightly different from what I expected but exactly where God needed me to be right now & into the future.

That is the incredible part of the year.

Living faith in the 168 hours of the week has its ups and downs.  There are hours where you kind of go, “Huh?”  And other hours where you go “God, that was incredible!”  Faith is not picture perfect 100% of the time.  It gets a little crazy from time to time.

This week in our daily readings (available on Instagram at: @resolved_ministry) we are looking at people noted for their faiths.  They are mentioned in the Bible’s “Hall of Fame” chapter in Hebrews 11 for being faith filled.  But let me tell you they were not perfect.  They had their own difficult times with their own incredible times. 

What I pray for you to learn from their stories is how through it all they kept following God.  They made mistakes but repentance came.  They trusted God.

Friends, keep trusting God. I don’t know what you are dealing with today but I do know that you are not alone.  I do know that God is standing right beside you saying, “Take this next step.  Keep watching for what I have planned for you.” 

Hold onto God’s Hand.  Cling to it if you have to.  It’s okay God can handle it.

If you ever need a friend or someone to talk to you have one here.  Send an email or DM via social media.  I am happy to pray with you through the difficult hour towards the next incredible God has for you.

This Week’s Challenge

As you read the Daily Readings write in your journal what you learned from each one’s story.  How can you grow in your faith in God by knowing their faith in God?

Promises Fulfilled in One Man

When was the last time you were so excited for something that you had a countdown to the day that it would happen?  A Vacation? Wedding day? Birth of a child? 

No matter how excited you were it wouldn’t come any sooner. You simply had to wait patiently for the perfect time.

Day by day you would check off another date on the calendar.  One day closer.  Almost there.

The Israelites waited not just days for the promised savior. They waited hundreds of years. They watched their nation be overtaken by their enemies.  They were exiled to foreign lands for generations. One day their savior will arrive to redeem them from their enemies.

God promised the Messiah (Savior) to come at the perfect time.  As we looked at last week’s blog God placed promises throughout the Old Testament showing them how they would recognize the Messiah when He came. 

This week we see the life of Jesus culminating in His death on the cross.  The four Gospels (biographies on Jesus’ life) each share how He was arrested, found guilty & killed on the Cross.  But His story does not stop there.  As you read in this week’s Daily Readings you see how Jesus conquered death by His resurrection from the grave. 

Jesus came to save Israel and the whole world through His life, death & resurrection. His saving is not from political powers.  It is a saving that restores the perfect union humanity had in the Garden of Eden with God before Adam & Eve rebelled. It is by Him we are saved.  

The burdens we carry in life are lightened with Jesus in our lives. The guilt we feel from our sins is taken away by God’s grace.  Jesus gives us a new life by His resurrection.  We are free from burdens, guilt, fear. 

Your new life begins today. It begins by surrendering to Jesus and being made new from the inside out. It is giving over how you think life should be and stepping onto the path God has for you. 

As you read the Daily Readings this week see your new life in Jesus’ resurrection.  Ask God to show you the freedom that is found in Jesus alone. Release any pain, fear, anxiety to God. Begin to see the exciting new day that seems so far away on a calendar is actually today.

All the promises God gave Adam & Eve in the Garden and throughout the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus. The red thread comes together in Jesus’ life. And now you get to walk side by side with Jesus in this new life. 

This Week’s Challenge

Spend time in your journal this week asking God to show you the next couple of steps in your faith journey with Him.  See the promises of God fulfilled in your life through Jesus.

A Red Thread Running Through Life

In the beginning the world was perfect.  It was exactly as God had created it. Everything was how it should be until that is Adam & Eve rebelled. Then everything changed.

Life feels that way at times, doesn’t it? Everything is perfect until it isn’t.  The perfect job starts to show imperfections. A close relationship develops more distance. Savings dwindle down past the point of comfort. 

Whenever things take a turn towards difficulty we strive to get back to perfection.  Either by hard work or ending something only to start again we try to make things right.

Despite our best efforts not everything can be made right by our own merit.

As we studied together last week we cannot save ourselves by ourselves.  We are in need of a savior.  So who is that savior?  And how do we know it’s him when we do see him?

God promised as soon as Adam & Eve rebelled in the Garden that God will send a Savior for the world.  Their close relationship will be restored one day. Then throughout the Old Testament God ran a red thread through history for Israel, and us today, to know when the Promised One, Jesus was coming to Earth.

Let’s take a look at a handful of them.

First up is the prophet Isaiah wrote in some more detail the how & when Jesus was coming.  Isaiah wrote 100s of years before Jesus’ birth that He would be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:13-14).  He also wrote that Jesus would not be physically appealing, that most people will overlook him (Isaiah 53). Much of what we see in the Gospels can be traced to Isaiah foretelling Israel to help them prepare.

Next we go to another Old Testament Zechariah.  In the 9th Chapter Zechariah wrote about how Jesus would enter into Jerusalem towards the end. Kings rode into the city after a triumphant victory on a donkey.  It was a symbol the Israelites would recognize as a king. They were hoping would be a great king like David kicking out their enemies & restore the land to them once again. 

Jesus does expel their enemy, Satan and does restore peace within their souls with God in Heaven. Jesus rode on the donkey as a sign of humility & love. 

Let’s take a look at Jesus’ family tree.  Doing a little genealogy pre-internet we see that Jesus tracks his lineage all the way back to Abraham, the Father of Israel. His roots are solid in the line of Abraham. There’s no denying it.  Check it out in Matthew 1.  In there we also see how Joseph adopted Jesus as his own son, honoring God by raising God’s Own Son as his own. 

These are just some of the spots to see the red thread running through the Old Testament pointing to Jesus. There are hundreds of them.  What we see is God sewing that red thread through the story from the beginning through history, up to the life of Jesus demonstrating just what He will do for all of humanity.

Jesus steps into the history of the world to live the life we are supposed to live, dying the death meant for us, rising from the grave conquering sin, death & the devil so that we all may live with God for all of eternity.

Whatever is going on in your life don’t lose hope.  Know that God loves you no matter what. Read the Bible to be encouraged.  See how God makes plans covering all the details.  Pray to see God’s Will in your life.  Feel God’s love envelop you every day.

There is a red thread running through your life placed there by God.  Stitch by stitch God’s Plan is being shown to you. Take a step back and see it in your life.

This Week’s Challenge
Take a look back on your life note in your journal the times you saw God’s red thread running through your life.

In Need of Saving

Lent is the time period (40 days not including Sundays) before Easter.  It begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates with what Christians call Holy Week.  Easter is the day Jesus rose from the grace conquering sin, death & the devil thereby giving every follower of Jesus new life in Him alone. Lent is a time to reflect, to grow in one’s new life in Jesus Christ. 

To best understand the incredible awesomeness of this let’s go back to the beginning, to Creation.  

When the world began God created a man & a woman, Adam & Eve. God formed them out of the clay and breathed His Own breath into them giving them life.  Adam & Eve were both fully created in God’s image, to care for the world & be in close community with God.

Life for Adam & Eve was perfect.  They walked with God daily in close community.  They connected with each other without confusion or misunderstanding. Everything was perfect until…

The serpent talked (Yeah, that’s weird) with Eve as Adam watched tempting them by what God ‘truly’ allowed them to eat and not eat. See, God told Adam & Eve that they could eat of any tree but the tree of knowledge of good & evil.  By eating from it they would die. The serpent, the manipulator that he was, lured Adam & Eve by misleading them. He got them to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good & evil. 

This one act of disobedience changed everything. The close community with God was gone. The connection with each other without the confusion or misunderstanding disappeared.  Now Adam & Eve would work for everything and eventually die.  They were separated from God.

They were in need of saving.  We are in need of saving.

Since that day all of humanity has been separated from God. Our hearts feel a hole in it desperate to find what is missing. We attempt to fill it with relationships, success, possessions, hobbies. None of it works.  What we need is God.  Deep within our souls we desire to be back in close community with God like Adam & Eve were in the beginning.

God’s immediate response?  To send The Savior, to send Jesus Christ. 

See we cannot save ourselves.  Nothing we do will repair the relationship.  No matter how hard we work it won’t be ‘enough’.   We need a Savior. We need Jesus.

The beauty of it all is God did not wait around to think about what should be done after Adam & Eve rebelled.  As soon as God talked with them a plan was in place.  Read part of it here:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

God was not leaving Adam & Eve alone. God does not leave us alone. God’s heart desires to be with us in close community once again.  This is why God put into action a way to save Adam & Eve, you & me, the whole world. 

Nothing you do can keep you away from God.  Do not fear that you are ‘not good enough’.  See how God loves you unconditionally.  God has done the work.  Your response? Turn back to God & surrender.  Receive God’s love & forgiveness.  

In the days leading up to Easter we are studying further how Jesus is the Promised Savior we see in Genesis 3:15.  Each week a reading plan is included in This Week’s Challenge to study each day. You can also follow along on Instagram: @resolved_ministry.  Share what you are learning.

Our prayer for you in this season of Lent is that you see how dearly, unconditionally loved you are by God. Slow down to grow closer in community with God. See the new life God has for you in these days. See your Savior standing next you with His arms wide open.

This Week’s Challenge

Select a time each day to read God’s Word, the Bible.  Here are some passages you can read this week in your devotional time:

  1. Genesis 1-3
  2. Psalm 51
  3. Exodus 12-14
  4. Leviticus 16
  5. Malachi 1-3

Be Bold & Courageous: Acts 28

“He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”

Acts 28:31

Well, here we are at the end of our study of Acts. Paul is safely in Rome under house arrest awaiting trial.

So what does a man do while waiting trial? Plant vegetables? Write his memoir? Learn to cook?

Not Paul.  At least not that we know.  Paul, instead, continued preaching the Gospel & teaching people how to be followers of Jesus Christ.  He may not be able to go out into the city to meet people but he was able to invite people to come visit him. 

Paul remained bold and courageous in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of his present circumstances.  Whether on the road, a new city, under house arrest, shipwrecked Paul shared his faith story.  He knew the Holy Spirit would give him the words to share while Jesus walked beside him each day.

At times in our own lives we know we should share the Gospel.  We recognize some opportunities before us to tell someone our faith story but we do not always have the courage or boldness to step out in faith.

Excuses seem to appear out of no where at just the right moment. Fear pushes boldness out of the way to lead the way.

It can be scary to share one’s faith story.  We may not think we ‘know enough’ before sharing. Or we fear rejection by people.  Sharing does require a bit of vulnerability. 

But we are not alone when we share our faith stories.  The Holy Spirit gives us the words to share as with Paul.  Jesus walks beside us as He did with Paul.

At New Year’s Eve last year a friend of mine shared with me two words God gave them for me: Bold & Courageous. They knew about the new chapter in my ministry I was about to embark on in 2021. They wanted to encourage me.

See, while I was prepared to begin the new adventure there was still some fear in me.  I was excited but doubted how well I would do.  What if I failed? What if I wasn’t ‘good enough’? I was scared.

Then I look to those two words: BOLD & COURAGEOUS

God is not sending me out alone.  The Holy Spirit plants God’s Word deep into my soul so I have the words to share in person and online. Jesus stands beside me bringing peace to my heart so I remain bold and courageous in sharing the Gospel.

The same is true for you.  God does not send you out on the journey to weather the storms alone.  The Holy Spirit whispers the Word of God in your ear so you know what to share with others.  Jesus stands beside you on the deck telling you of the great things that lay ahead. 

This week spend time with God sharing what fears you have in sharing your own faith story. Let God plant the seeds of boldness and courage inside of you.  Go wherever God leads full of bold courage just like Paul.  No obstacle will get in your way.  You’ll simply step around it.

This Week’s Challenge

Make a 2 Column chart. On 1 side list any fears you have about faith.  On the opposite side write how God can change that fear to bold courage.

When It Rains Peace Pours Down: Acts 27

“and [angel] said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’” Acts 27:24

Acts 27:24

When it rains it pours, right?  At least that’s what it feels like some days.  And for Paul in Acts 27 it literally feels that way.  A storm was bombarding their ship on their way to Rome.  Everyone on board from the crew to the passengers were concerned for their lives.

Paul brought peace to everyone in sharing what the angel of God told him.  The angel, a messenger of God, shared with Paul that they will arrive safely to Rome.  They did not need to fear for their lives. God was protecting them through it all.  The storm was not going to win.

Storms in life arise unexpectedly. Loss of job. Family/friendship difficulties. Illness diagnosis. Financial problems. Loss of a dream.

It feels as though peace has packed its bags to go on a long vacation far away from where we are.  The feeling of being overwhelmed has taken up residence in its place. What can one do in that case?

Peace from God is available to you today.

As God was with Paul during the storm God is with you in whatever storm you are facing.  You are not alone.  Jesus stands beside you bringing peace to your heart. While the storm rages on know that Jesus gives you calm through it all. There is no need to worry about what is coming next. Jesus is seeing you through the storm.

So whenever you are in a storm turn to Jesus and ask Him for His peace to fill you completely.  Seek comfort in His arms knowing that:

  1. You are not alone 
  2. He is protecting you

The storm may remain but God is walking with you through it. 

Paul’s life and ministry serves as an encouragement to us today.  We learn how God calls & equips everyone to share their faith story. We grow in strength through adversity by fixing our eyes on Jesus instead of the world. We stand in peace through any storm of life with Jesus by our side. 

This Week’s Challenge:
On a notecard/post-it write down a storm in your life.  On the other side write a prayer to Jesus asking for His peace through it. Place it in a location where you see it to remind you of God’s peace.

The Highs & Lows of Faith: Acts 26

“Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future.” Acts 26:16

Acts 2616

Paul begins the 26th Chapter of Acts giving his faith story with Jesus Christ as he stands in the Roman court.  Part of that story is the recollection of when Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus after Jesus’ Resurrection.  Jesus tells Paul that he will preach to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). This is the story that we have been studying in our look at Acts.

Paul’s journeys were not easy.  There were trials to be endured.  Arrests to persevere. Opposition to be faced.  Through it all Paul was resolved.  He did not walk away when it got difficult he remained beside Jesus following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul’s life is an example for us today because we see the sacrifices Paul made, the joy he had in sharing the Gospel, the churches formed & leaders developed by his mentorship.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ has its joys & has its lows.  We have the joy of seeing our own lives being transformed from the inside out.  Who we once were goes into the past as we walk with Jesus becoming more fully the person God created us to be.

We have the joy of seeing other lives being transformed by the Gospel as we serve where & when God shows us. Whether we are asked by God to help plant the seed of faith or to help nurture the seed of faith to grow joy abounds.

But there are also the tough days.  The days we hear rejection from some as the Gospel is shared in word or actions.  The days we sacrifice so that someone can hear the Gospel for themselves. 

Through the joyous days & the difficult ones we remain resolved in our faiths. We remember that we are not alone.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to be with each of His followers so they go to the ends of the world sharing the Gospel with everyone. As the Holy Spirit guided Paul on each of missionary journeys so does the Holy Spirit go with you.

As we conclude our study of Acts 26 hear Jesus’ words as recalled by Paul, 

“Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future.” (Acts 16b)

Jesus wants you to go out and tell people your story with Jesus.  Tell them how you are changed from the inside out because of Jesus.  Share why you love Him.  Give an account of the joys & opportunities to grow.  Tell people what you have experienced.  That is all. 

Be encouraged that by simply sharing your story will hear about Jesus for themselves.  God will take care of the details.  You simply are to tell what you see. 

You totally got this.  I believe in you. Go and share.

This Week’s Challenge

Post on your social media this week how you have been changed by Jesus.  Use the hashtag #resolvedfaith so we can celebrate with you.

A Thread Runs Through It: Acts 25

“Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” Acts 25:12

Well, here it is.  Paul is going to Rome.  Through our study of Acts and following Paul’s journeys there has been a sense that it is has all been coming down to this point.  Paul was growing in influence in the Christian world.  He was helping entire cities around Jerusalem & surrounding lands transform.

Now he is going to the very city that will reach the ends of the Earth, Rome. 

Remember back in Acts 1 when Jesus told the Disciples that they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem (local city), Judea (local region), Samaria (local country), ends of the earth.  Paul followed this progression in his ministry and each of his journeys.  With his going to Rome he is connecting with the ends of the Earth.

You see at this time Rome was the leading city of the world.  The Roman Empire held strong control over other nations.  It had constructed a widespread road system to help transport goods from foreign lands.  This road system also assisted missionaries, such as Paul, to travel to different cities.

Paul is given the opportunity to be in Rome while waiting for trail and continue preaching & teaching.  The people he connects with would then return to their own home towns with the Gospel to begin churches themselves.

Throughout Paul’s life God had a plan.  One life experience led to another which led to another learning experience. It was as a thread running through the fabric of Paul’s life connecting it all together.

The same is true in our own lives.  Taken individually life situations may not seem to make sense. We may think God is not listening to what we have to share or simply ignoring us. Rather, when we take a step back we can begin to see the thread of God running through our own lives. We begin to see how things are connected.

Take a look at your life.  Study the various events, key moments in your life to see how they are connected, how they each prepared you for future experiences.

God has a hand on your life through it all. He has been preparing you each step of the way. It may not have seemed that way up close but take a step back.  See the small connections that act as the thread preparing you.

See, God did not stop sending out His followers with Paul.  God continues today to send people who follow Him to their towns, countries, the ends of the world. God is sending you out into your community to share your story with Jesus.  And God has been preparing you for this time.

After spending time studying Paul’s own faith journey be encouraged. Remember how the Holy Spirit gave Paul the words to share in each town.  Recall the courage Paul received the times he faced opposition. 

God prepared you for this moment. Go out and share with joy.

This Week’s Challenge

Create a timeline of key moments, learnings from your life.  Step back to see the thread God ran through it all preparing you to share the Gospel in your life.

What Exactly is a ReSolved Faith?: Acts 24

“I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets.”

Acts 24:14b

When I was 14 I stood up in front of my faith community to publicly confess my personal faith in Jesus Christ. As part of our tradition the pastor blessed each individual saying a specially chosen verse just for that individual. We did not know what the verse was until that moment we knelt to hear it said over us.

My verse:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

This verse originally written by our friend Paul was first shared with the followers of Jesus in Rome.  After Paul stated his Roman citizenship in Acts 22 he knows that he will arrive there safely.  He shares his teachings in this capital of the world confident that God is carrying out the Gospel to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8). 

Despite the arrests, the trials, the beatings, the persecution Paul remained resolute in his faith.  He was not deterred one bit.  Some days were difficult.  Others were good.  No matter what the day brought Paul was resolved to share his faith story with everyone he could so each person would have his/her own faith story.

Paul teaches us how to live a ReSolved Faith. 

What is it exactly?

First, it is a commitment to continue to grow in trust with God.  Beginning one’s faith journey one discovers his/her need for a savior.  A person sees that despite all ‘good’ deeds or efforts nothing will earn one’s salvation.  Only the life, death & resurrection of Jesus Christ freely given can do that.

Next, ReSolved Faith is living one’s faith in the 168 hours of the week.  Faith is not to be compartmentalize as something we do on a particular day of the week.  It impacts each aspect of our lives.  It is the perspective that we see others & the world through.  It is the reason for the joy we experience in life.  It is the source of the calm we have during difficult times. 

Lastly, it is not being ashamed of our faith.  This is the blessing my pastor gave me on that day I publicly announced my faith. It is how Paul lived his faith throughout the book of Acts. Being resolved is being authentic.  

We will have questions. But we turn to God Who knows all things. 

We will have fear.  But we trust in Jesus completely to walk through the fear together.

We will stutter. But we know that Holy Spirit gives us the words to speak with our voices so others will hear.

Friends, your own ReSolved Faith can begin today.  It starts by surrendering.  You can message me anytime. I am willing to pray with you as you begin your own faith journey. 

Oh the journey that God has for you is a beautiful one.  It has incredible adventures.  Amazing sights.  It only takes one step towards God.  The rest is taken care of by God. Are you willing?

This Week’s Challenge

Surrender to God whatever it is holding you back from fully trusting God.  Reach out to a friend to pray with you & bless you with God’s Word.

Courageous Storytelling: Acts 23

“That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, ‘Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.’”

Acts 23:11

It must have been scary for Paul to stand before the Jerusalem Council to talk about his missionary work.  These leaders had the power to severely punish Paul.  There were plenty of reasons for Paul to be quiet regarding his faith.

If he stayed quiet he probably would have been released by the Council.  

If he shared about his faith severe consequences were certain.

One would understand if Paul chose to be quiet.

But as we have seen so far in our study of Acts Paul is not afraid to share his faith story. Not sharing was not an option for him.

Why was Paul so confident in the face of certain peril?

Paul knew without a doubt that God was him in all circumstances.  Paul did not have to fear being alone as he shared the Gospel.  God promised the Holy Spirit be with him always. Paul taught the people in Rome this lesson when he wrote: 

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

These words are true for us today.  We do not need to be afraid when we share our faiths. The Holy Spirit is with us always as the Spirit was with Paul. 

It is scary to put one’s self out there.  Sharing one’s faith is inviting another to a part of our lives. It is opening up in a way that feels vulnerable. Rejection can happen. 

Have courage, follower of Jesus!

As you share the reason why you love Jesus be assured that the Holy Spirit gives you the courage to share and the words to speak.  It is not your responsibility to change another’s heart.  That is what God does.  You have the duty to tell your story.

As we have been studying Paul’s journeys we have witnessed his courage in many circumstances. He has taught us to bravely step forward in faith.  We witnessed how to share our stories in loving ways that help others begin his/her own faith journeys with Jesus Christ.

Courageous storytelling comes not from our inner strength but from God alone. As we grow in our faiths, learning to trust God more and more, we grow in courage.  The more experiences we have in telling our stories the more we learn that God protects us.

ReSolved disciples, grow in courage as you go out as storytellers.

Listen to the Holy Spirit guiding you to the when & how to share your story.  Practice with fellow disciples to gain more courage. Pray over one another before you go out to share in word and action. Continue praying for renewed courage when you apart. 

Use these words that God spoke over Joshua before he led the Israelites into the Promised Land:

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

This Week’s Challenge

Make a list of any & all fears you have about sharing your faith. Then pray to God to take all of them away replacing it with courage.

Share Your Story: Acts 22

“For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard.”

Acts 22:15

Paul made it safely back to Jerusalem.  Once home he speaks to the Jewish leaders sharing his own faith story.  From the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus to his missionary trips. The leadership did not like what they heard and had him whipped.  During this time Paul states he is a Roman citizen thus clearing the way for him to be taken to Rome for a trial.

Paul going to Rome which at that time was the ‘capital’ of the world was an opportunity to share the Gospel even further around the world. 

I think part of what made Paul’s testimony so powerful is he shared from his heart his own experience with Jesus Christ.  Here we read how Paul told the leadership how Jesus reached him on that road to Damascus.  Paul shared how his life was completely changed from that moment forward. 

His passion remained but now it’s focused on Jesus.  His powerful teaching remained but now shared the Gospel of Jesus. 

In our own lives God asks us the same thing. We are to tell everyone what we saw and heard.  We simply tell of our own experience with Jesus. We do not need to go to college to get a fancy degree in order to do it.  We do not need to change who we are in order to share.

If you are a good storyteller you can write your own faith story to tell to others.  

If you are creative visually imagine a way to share your own faith story visually.  It can be posted as a social media post. Or as a painting/sculpture/photograph. 

Perhaps you are a tradesperson.  How can you ply your trade in a way that opens the door to share your faith with another?

God is not seeking to change the essence of who you are when you begin your faith journey. God created you uniquely so that you can share you faith story uniquely as you.

You are a witness to Jesus. As a witness you simply share what you experienced as only you can. 

Now here’s that pretty cool part, God is going to surprise you along the way.  I don’t think Paul foresaw himself going to Rome in his lifetime. But here he is going.  As he is there he is able to saw the Gospel to people who will bring it back to nations and cities Paul would never go to himself.

In your life God will surprise you in opportunities to share your faith story.  You do not know right now where God is going to lead you and what ministry doors will open before you.  Continue to be open to how God is leading you.  Keep trusting God to give you the words to share as the opportunities arise.

You can be resolved in being a witness because God has resolved you by His grace alone. Simply share.

This Week’s Challenge

Share with a friend this week the time you knew you loved Jesus with your whole self.

You Are A Culture Changer: Acts 21

“Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 21:13

Last week we saw a longer glimpse of Paul’s teaching.  How he taught long into the night.  How he taught day after day in every city he stayed.

This week we see some of the long term effects of his teaching. Lives being changed.  Jewish leaders were nervous with the Gentile (non-Jewish believers) becoming believers but were not following all of the Jewish laws. 

The more Paul taught the more the culture was changing.  And not everyone was okay with that.

When a follower of Jesus Christ lives his/her life they do so in a way that is different from culture.  A follower loves others without judgment.  A follower serves all people without looking for recognition. A follower is a light that brightens any dark room.

Changing the culture does not occur all in one fell swoop.  It requires individuals making small decisions day in and day out that is not the ‘norm’.  These small decisions add up over time to make a large difference that changes the culture. Paul made decisions each day to be different by sharing the Gospel with everyone in all he did and said.  The Holy Spirit changed entire families, towns and cultures through Paul.

In our lives today we can be culture changers as we make small decisions day in and day out. When we are resolved to live our faiths in the 168 hours of the week we will change the culture.  We will show love in times it is difficult to love another.  We will share why we love Jesus so another can begin their own journey with Jesus. 

Culture does not need to remain the same simply because it has always been ‘that way.’  Culture can change by letting the Holy Spirit work through each one of us to reach the world. 

So how can you change the culture? What is an area of society you can see changing by your making small decisions day in and day out?

What has God placed on your heart that you cannot stay silent about?

Remember that you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with the world. You are not alone.  God gives you the words and the perseverance to continue in making change in culture.

Imagine the world when the followers of Jesus Christ make small decisions each day in their communities to effect change.  Entire families, towns, cultures will change as they did when Paul was on his missionary journeys.  This is the long-term impact of being a resolved follower living The 168 Life.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit today as you go out making small decisions that will change the culture. You have been resolved by Jesus Christ so go and be resolved for Jesus Christ.

This Week’s Challenge:

Name an area of culture that you are passionate about to change. Write down 3 things you will do to begin to help change that aspect of culture.

Resolved to Share: Acts 20

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Acts 20:24

Paul keeps up his frantic traveling schedule throughout Asia.  Each stop he makes he teaches to as people as he can as often as he is able.

And Paul loves to preach!

Have you ever sat through a lecture or sermon wondering if it would ever end? Or fell asleep during said lecture/sermon? 

If so, be thankful you were most likely sitting in a chair/pew. 

Eutychus was listening to Paul teach one evening when Paul was on a roll.  He kept teaching well into the night for so long Eutychus fell asleep. Now this normally would not be an issue except for the fact that Eutychus was sitting in a window.  He fell out of that window while sleeping to the ground below.

Paul raced down to be with Eutychus and by the Holy Spirit brought him back to life. (I have a feeling not much of what Paul taught was remembered after that)

Paul could not help himself from telling everyone he could about Jesus Christ.  He went on and on for hours at a time making sure that people knew the full story about Jesus. He did not leave unless he knew the young faiths would continue to grow in maturity.  This is why he trained people like Timothy to stay in cities to continue the teachings.

Paul lived his life fully for Jesus Christ.  He teaches each one of us how one’s whole life can be for the Lord.  It does not matter whatever your career may be. What matters is how you work in that career, how you interact with others at work or in your personal life.

As followers of Jesus Christ we share the Gospel with our whole lives. We tell in sharing why we love Jesus.  We share it when we serve our neighbor out of love.  We display it whenever we share blessings with others freely as we received. 

Paul may have travelled all over telling as many people as he could about Jesus.  You may stay in your hometown for decades but you can still share your faith with many people.  Think about all the people you encounter throughout your day.  How many know you are a follower of Jesus?  Do they know the reason why you love Him?

You are a missionary for God.  You are sent into your world to serve & share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Re-solve how you interact with others so that they see Jesus through you.  Be resolved that you have God of Heaven with you by the Holy Spirit to speak the words and take the actions so all may know.

A piece of advice if you’re sharing your faith story just be sure no one is sitting in an open window sill. 

This Week’s Challenge

Make a list of people you typically encounter in your week. Pray for those who do not have faith in Jesus.  Seek to see how God is leading you to share your faith story with him/her.

Planting & Nurturing Seeds of Faith: Acts 19

“Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God.”

Acts 19:8

As we read Acts 19 we see Paul teaching in Ephesus sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching them about the Holy Spirit. Now not everyone was receptive to what Paul had to say.  Some rejected what he taught speaking out against Christianity. 

Despite Paul’s passionate, thorough teaching not everyone believed, even after 3 months. It does not mean that Paul failed or could have done better.  Rather not everyone will become believers when they hear the Gospel.  It is not Paul’s job, nor ours to get everyone to believe.

The key lesson is to recognize that our true job in sharing the Gospel is to preach it authentically in word and action. We cannot control how or when people will receive Jesus as his/her Savior. God sends you and me out to simply tell our stories of faith to others.  It is the Holy Spirit that works in the hearts of others to prepare them to receive it.  This may occur instantaneously in our eyes or it may seem to take a long period of time.

What we do not always see all the aspects of God’s Plan of Salvation.  We do not see what God has been doing in a person’s life prior to our sharing nor do we see what God continues to do afterwards. It is our responsibility to simply share our story as God provides the opportunity. 

Paul teaches everyone this lesson in his first letter to the Corinthian believers:

“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

1 Cor. 3:6

Paul was called by God to teach about Jesus & the Holy Spirit in Ephesus at this time. He was not held responsible by God to ensure that everyone became a believer. He shared and allowed the Holy Spirit to do the work in the hearts of the individual. 

In our lives we pray to God for the words to share and the courage to share it.  Then we pray for the seeds of faith to grow in the Lord. At times we see the blooming of a flower that was first planted by another.  Other times we are asked to plant the seed of faith so when another comes the flower will bloom. 

In your faith journey this week look to the people God is leading you to nurture the seeds of faith so that they can bloom.  Then pray for those God has for you plant the seeds of faith for future growth.  Know the difference between these two.  Ask God to open your eyes to recognize the moments as they present themselves to you.  

In all ways cling to the joy of the Lord that you have in your life. Always remember you are a child of God dearly loved.  God gives you the courage and words to share as God gave the same to Paul on each of his missionary journeys. 

This Week’s Challenge

In your prayer journey list those individuals God has you to nurture the seeds of faith.  In a second list write down those God wants you to plant the seeds of faith.  Each day pray for these individuals so all the seeds of faith grow strong in the Lord.

We All Need a Priscilla & Aquila in Our Lives: Acts 18

“He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.”

Acts 18:25-26

I think if Paul lived today he would be considered a frequent flyer with all the miles he travels on his missionary journeys. This week we see him go from Athens to Corinth to Ephesus to Caesarea then a stop at Jerusalem before going to Antioch.  That is a lot of miles by foot.

Along his journey we meet a believer named Apollos who is from Egypt. He was an enthusiastic follower of Jesus having come to know Him by John the Baptist.  Apollos taught others accurately about Jesus because he could not not share the Good News. Aquila & Priscilla, a husband and wife who were taught by Paul, sat down with Apollos to teach him the full Gospel of Jesus. This was not to say that Apollos was wrong but rather Apollos only knew part of the story.  Now he knew more fully the story of the Gospel as he can shared it with others.

We learn in Acts 18 the importance of learning from more mature followers of Jesus.  While Apollos knew the Gospel he did not know the full Gospel.  Priscilla & Aquila sat with Apollos to tell him about Jesus’ life and ministry.  By sitting down together Priscilla and Aquila shared with Apollos how to live one’s faith in daily life.  They taught him Jesus’ lessons on loving one another, on serving one another humbly.

In our faith journeys we learn from one another about faith & being resolved disciples of Jesus Christ. We need “Priscilla & Aquila”s in our own lives so we can learn from mature followers. They teach us from their experiences so we can benefit. They help us discern what God is teaching us. We learn by watching them how to serve with our whole lives, how to share the hope we have in Jesus.

So who is a Priscilla & Aquila in your faith journey?

Who are you learning from to gain a fuller understanding of the Gospel?

Who could you learn from that is already in your life?  Is there someone in your small group or faith community who’s faith you admire and would want to be like in your faith journey? If so, ask if you could have coffee or a virtual call with to talk.

If you do not see someone right now write down in your journal the type of faith you would like to grow into with the Holy Spirit. Pray fervently for God to lead you to a person you can learn from as Apollos learned from Priscilla and Aquila. 

As you take these steps ask God to open up your heart so that you can humbly receive the teaching.  God created us to be in community with one another.  Our differences are opportunities to draw us closer together. They give us different perspectives in God to grow in our faiths.

May we have the fervor of Apollos to share the Gospel joyfully with all as we learn humbly from Priscilla & Aquila to grow in our faiths.

This Week’s Challenge

Set up a time to meet with another follower of Jesus who’s faith you admire.  As you meet bring 2-3 questions with you to ask about faith, life and ministry.  Learn humbly from him/her to see what God is teaching you.

Expecting the Unexpected

We do not always get what we want BUT…. God ALWAYS provides us with what we need. #resolvedfaith #prayer

I learned this lesson when I got my rescue dog, Lia seven years ago.  I had wanted to get a dog once I was in my own house. I had done the research into what breed was the best one for my life.  After hours of research I found Boston Terrier was the breed for me. They are smaller. Friendly, active, can get plenty of exercise indoors during the long, cold Minnesota winters. 

So the next step was to connect with a rescue group & adopt my forever pup. Into the search box goes “Boston Terrier” and out comes some pictures of really cute dogs.

As I was scrolling through the available dogs I stopped on a picture of a black dog with big ears and an odd looking pink bow.  She was not the cutest picture in the lot but there was something in her eyes.  I knew I needed to meet this puppy.

The thing is she was a Black Lab/Corgi mix.  Nothing like a Boston Terrier.  But I needed to meet this dog in person.

We set up a home visit with her foster parents for the following week. This non-photogenic dog arrived at my house and has never left.  From the moment she entered the house she was at home.  While we talked with her foster mom this pup wondered around the house as if she lived here. 

Lia and I have been best friends for over 7 years now. She does a little dance each time I come home whether I have been gone for an hour or a week.  She is so happy that I’m back with her.

She hangs out with me while I’m working at home (albeit most of the time she’s snoring or sleep barking). When I am able she’s always up to go on an adventure with me.

I may have thought I wanted a smaller breed of dog but what I needed was this furry best friend.  I cannot imagine exploring life without her.

As we journey along with Jesus we pray for many things.  Some of which we think we want something specific because from our perspective it’s the best thing.  What we don’t always consider is what God knows what is best for us. 

God knew that what I truly needed was a best friend to go on adventures together. Sure, a Boston Terrier would probably do the same but Lia was the friend God knew I needed.  

As you pray go ahead and pray for what you want but also continue to pray for the open heart to receive what God knows you need. Be receptive to the unexpected gifts God has in store for you. You know it is exactly what you need even if you may not know it at the time. 

Well, my unexpected best friend and I are going to go out on an adventure before it gets too cold.

Learn How to Recognize God’s Voice: Acts 17

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11

We have traveled along with Paul and the Apostles from the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem through Paul’s Missionary journeys around Asia. Along the way we have witnessed the Holy Spirit changing lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Individuals have experienced the joy of the Gospel and could not help to share it with everyone they met.

This week we study Acts 17 where Paul & Silas travel to Thessalonica teaching in the synagogue three weeks in a row. He taught from the Scriptures (our Old Testament) how Jesus is the Promised Savior.  Many Jews believed, both men and women came to become followers of Jesus. 

As not everyone believed the Gospel message Paul & Silas moved to Berea to continue teaching about Jesus. There they were more warmly received by the open hearts and minds of the people in Berea.  So much so that the people read the Scriptures for themselves to ensure what Paul & Silas were teaching was true.

The Bereans believed Paul & Silas but studied the Scriptures for themselves to read God’s Word with their own eyes.  They heard the stories of faith and then went to God themselves to learn more and begin growing in their faiths.

We learn much from the Bereans.  We see the importance of reading Scriptures in our own lives so that we can hear directly from God.  We cannot solely rely on someone else studying the Bible and then teach us what they learned. We learn from teachers of the faith.  We also learn from our own time in the Bible hearing from God directly. 

The more time we spend in the Bible on our own we better recognize God’s Voice.  We more readily know the quiet nudges in our hearts when God is leading us in a new direction or giving us courage in the face of fear. For the times we wonder what God is doing we can hear God whisper in our ears “I got this.”

As you continue on your faith journey spend time each day reading the Bible for yourself.  It can be a chapter at a time highlighting verses that pop out to you. Or it can be 3-4 chapters seeing how the story of God flows through the pages. 

YouVersion Bible App is a great resource with 100s of reading plans.  They range from 3 days in length all the way to over a year.  You can search for a plan by topics such as faith, patience, hope. Or you can find a plan that takes you through the Bible in a year chronologically (not in the order they are in).  Find the plan that works for you.  If more than one plan interests you save it for later.

Spending time in Scripture is a vital part of one’s faith journey. It helps each follower to recognize God’s Voice.  May your time in God’s Word be encouraging so you grow closer to God each day.

This Week’s Challenge

Begin a Scripture reading plan this week.  If you currently have a reading plan save one for later in the YouVersion app. 

Learning Humbly From Jesus:Acts 16

“One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.”

Acts 16:14

Paul continued traveling throughout the Mediterranean sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone who would listen to them. On this journey he meets a young disciple named Timothy. He wanted Timothy to join him on the remainder of the trip so Timothy can learn from Paul directly.

Along their journey they met some women outside the city of Philippi who were God believers.  By the riverside Paul, Timothy & Silas shared the Gospel with them. Lives were changed that day.  In that group of women was a business woman who received the Gospel and was baptized.  In fact her entire household was baptized.  

Paul, Silas & Timothy’s job was to preach the Gospel in each city as the Holy Spirit led them. How the seeds of faith took was not necessarily their responsibility.  Each person who hears the Gospel can receive it or reject it.  Their hearts are open by the Holy Spirit to be transformed by the Gospel.

Lydia teaches us having an open heart when being taught by God.  She was an accomplished business woman who probably had great influence in the city.  Selling purple cloth was not a small time business. Who could blame her if she thought she did not need God in her life.  She had everything she ever could need in life.

In life today we have many creature comforts that can falsely lull us into believing that we can do everything on our own.  We do not need God because we have everything that we need.  We can take care of ourselves. But that is not true.

God reaches out to everyone in love.  While God desires everyone to be in a growing relationship with Him it is not forced on anyone. Lydia is an example of receiving the Gospel message in one’s heart.  She received the Gospel as the Holy Spirit opened her heart.  Lydia did not push God away falsely believing she could do things on her own.

Lydia teaches each of us this importance of learning from God.  She sat with Paul & Silas learning from them about Jesus Christ.  She led others in her household to come to know Jesus for themselves. We can do the same in our lives when we gather together with other followers of Jesus to learn from Scripture.  We can share the Good News of Jesus with those closest in our lives by sharing how Jesus is changing us. 

May we all be like Lydia learning from Paul & Silas receiving the Gospel freely as the Holy Spirit opens our hearts.  Before our eyes God will change the world one changed life at a life.

This Week’s Challenge

In your prayer time this week ask God where there is an area in your life that is closed to the Gospel.  Learn from God how to freely receive God’s teaching. 

Differences Can Bring Us Together: Acts 15

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 15:11

Differences. They divide relationships. They keep people apart when individuals land on either side of the difference.  We see in the news the differences between groups regarding politics, racial issues. As more differences arise the further apart people become from one another. 

But differences do not need to divide. 

This week we are looking at Acts 15.  The believers gathered in Jerusalem to discuss how to welcome the Gentile believers. Some thought the Gentiles needed to be circumcised in accordance with the Law of Moses. Others do not see the necessary need for this extra burden on them. This was a great difference.

They discussed for a long time.  Then James spoke about how the Old Testament prophets foretold the Gentiles coming to faith.  There was not word about them being circumcised. They agreed this truth and wrote to the Gentile believers to abstain from immoral life and grow as followers of Jesus Christ. 

The Jerusalem meeting could have resulted in a division amongst the Apostles.  Rather than argue to win a point they chose to listen to one another, study Scripture together and prayed for God’s wisdom. They did not seek to be divided by their differences.  Instead they sought to be in agreement.  They listened to learn from one another. 

We learn from them the importance of learning from differences.  Many times we find ourselves in arguments whether in person or via social media working to prove that we are “right” and the other side is “wrong”. The health of the relationship does not matter as long we ‘win’. 

As followers of Jesus we resolve to listen to learn from one another. Everyone receives the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ.  No one is better than another because of how one lands on an issue.  We freely share God’s love with all from our own experiences with God. We see differences as a way to connect with each other. 

During these times may we reflect God’s undeserved grace to all people.  As we are forgiven so are they. As God loves us unconditionally so are they. As Jesus rose from the grave to save us from sin He did so for those we disagree with on some issues. 

The times we find yourself disagreeing with someone on an issue look to the Apostles in Acts 15.  See how they listened to learn from one another.  Find common ground with one another.  There are probably more things you agree on than disagree. Seek to find a solution as the Apostles did about the Gentiles. 

May we be examples in the world of how God’s love unites us together.  May each of us begin to see that differences do not divide us but rather brings us together.

This Week’s Challenge

Have a conversation with a person who you disagree with on an issue. Seek to understand one another finding common ground together.

Why It is Important to Tell the Story: Acts 14

“Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too.”

Acts 14:27

Paul & Barnabas traveled far & wide on their first missionary journey.  They visited many cities sharing the Gospel of Jesus with Jews and Gentiles seeing many lives completely changed. 

This week we see them return to Antioch sharing the stories with the believers there who were waiting for their return. They shared stories of the lame man who was healed. The time Paul was stoned and left for dead. And countless other stories not included in the text.

Many beautiful things occur in ministry.  The conversations between people sharing stories of life & faith.  The incredible serving opportunities where God blesses all involved whatever their needs may be. The lives completely changed after beginning to follow Jesus Christ. 

As you travel along on your faith journey share the stories of ministry with your close friends.  Share with one another what God is teaching you right now. Share stories from serving others not to gain glory for yourself but to praise God together for the lives impacted by the Gospel. 

Think back to when you first heard about Jesus Christ.  Who shared their faith story with you? What stood out to you when you heard it?

Sharing stories is one way that we connect with one another.  We get to know someone in ways that only stories tell us.  We have a further bond with an individual that matures our friendship with them. 

Paul & Barnabas shared their stories from their first missionary trip so that the believers in Antioch can see how God answered their prayers for Paul & Barnabas.  The believers were together with Paul & Barnabas in ministry through many miles separated them. 

When you gather with fellow believers what stories do you share from ministry with one another? By sharing stories from living The 168 Life you are able to see how God is reaching the world through you.  Also you see the fruit of your prayers for each other.  As a community you are connected together sharing and serving together. When you share stories with each other or to someone who has not heard yet you are sharing God in your words. 

There is no need to be nervous about being able to speak well or not.  God promises to give you the words to share by the Holy Spirit. Share from your heart.  Share what you saw. The story will flow from you in ways you did not conceive.  Be assured that God’s Word does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). 

This Week’s Challenge

The next time you get with friends share a story from when you first heard the Gospel story.

How to Be Encouraged During Opposition: Acts 13

“And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:52

Let the traveling begin. Paul & Barnabas were being sent now by the Holy Spirit to begin traveling to different cities to teach the Gospel of Jesus to the people in each city.  Their fellow believers prayed over Paul & Barnabas and then sent them out on their trip.

This trip is known as Paul’s 1st Missionary Trip.  He would eventually take 3 different trips over the course of his ministry.  With Barnabas they travelled far staying in the cities and sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 

Some people responded in believing what they were preaching. Others rebelled against them trying to stop their preaching. There were some Jewish leaders that did not like what Paul & Barnabas had to say.  The leaders rallied others to drive Paul & Barnabas out of town.  

This opposition did not stop them or slow them down.  The duo continued on their journey all over the region seeing many come to know Jesus personally for themselves.  There was much rejoicing celebrating these changed lives.

A key learning from this week’s chapter for us today is the importance to persevere in the face of opposition.  I grew up in a church tradition where change was hard.  In fact there was a joke saying “How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?”  Punchline: “What’s change?”  

Yeah true story.

Paul & Barnabas were changing how people were worshipping God.  They were teaching everyone how Jesus is the Messiah, the Promised One.  From the Scriptures (our modern day Old Testament) they showed how Jesus fulfilled all of God’s promises and how by His life, death & resurrection we are saved from sins.

This Good News is life changing! It disrupts the status quo.

Some people are not ready or willing to hear this change.  They will be opposed to anyone who is changed by the Gospel. 

As you continue to follow Jesus with your life be encouraged to keep growing and sharing.  Yes, you will face opposition.  You might be facing opposition right now from family &/or friends. Stand firm in your faith.

Look to Paul & Barnabas as they went on their first missionary journey. They preached the Gospel in the town to all who would listen.  When it was time to leave they rejoiced for what the Holy Spirit did.  For those cities that rejected them they shook the dust off their sandals and went to the next city.

This week hold tight to Jesus’ hand as you go about your life. Listen to God’s Word when you pray, read the Bible, converse with fellow believers.  Ignore the opposition.  Shake the dust off your feet and move on to the next place where God has you to serve.

Be filled with joy as you mute the naysayers and sing the praises of God.

This Week’s Challenge

Memorize 2 Bible verses to say to yourself when you face opposition for the faith.

You Are Not Alone: Acts 12

“But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.”

Acts 12:5

Have you watched the reality show Alone on the History Channel? Its premise is simple – place 10 individuals in the wilderness to survive on his/her own & see who lasts the longest.  They are completely cut off from all civilization & humanity. After 7 seasons the longest someone has remained alone is 100 days in the Arctic.

Each contestant is completely alone.  There is no camera crew to capture the footage for them. They film everything themselves.  About once a week they receive medical check-ups but otherwise they see no other human being.  Most contestants reflect on the loved ones they miss and wanting to get back to them.  Some tap out because they simply want to be with their loved ones. All contestants process what it means to be alone and how difficult it is to thrive completely alone.

During our study through Acts we see in each chapter how God does not have the apostles or followers be on his/her own.  God sends out the apostles at least in pairs, like Paul & Barnabas.  We read continually how the followers gathered together almost daily to share life together.  They live in community ensuring that no one felt alone.  

This week’s chapter we read how Peter got in trouble again for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He was arrested by the Israelite king, Herod and thrown into jail.  He awaited his trial when the Holy Spirit intervened to release him from jail and return him to the believers. (I love how Rhoda was so surprised she kept the door closed on Peter. Check it out.)

Peter may have been arrested but he was not alone.  The believers showed how they we were with him in spirit when they prayed earnestly for him.  They would not forget their brother Peter.  They loved him in words and actions.  They lifted him up in prayer to plead with God for Peter’s safekeeping while he was in jail.

As we continue in this pandemic we can feel alone ourselves.  We are not able to spend time with family and friends as we are accustomed to being together. We video chat with each other but it’s not the same. Perhaps we are experiencing our own season of Alone right now. 

Hear this: You are not alone.  As a follower of Jesus Christ you belong to the family of God.  We are connected to one another when we worship God.  We lift up one another in prayer trusting one another into God’s care. 

If you feel alone reach out to a friend.  Connect with a small group to share life together.  Pray to God to bring you comfort.  You can leave a message on any of our social media accounts to connect. 

As you study this chapter read how God was present with Peter in jail.  Note how Peter was followed the angel when he was woken up in the middle of the night.  Model the prayers of the followers when they were at Mary’s house.  

May you go about your day, your week remembering you are not alone.  You belong to God.  You belong to God’s family.  Be connected with the followers of Jesus through prayer, worship, fellowship via Zoom. 

This Week’s Challenge

Complete this sentence: When I feel alone I will reach out to________________  by ______________________. 

What is A Christian? – Acts 11

“It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26b

As we have journeyed through the book of Act we have seen God send out ordinary people to spread the news about Jesus rising from the grave.  They did not necessarily go to college specializing in ministry. Their credentials? A heart for God and a willingness to serve.

In Acts 11 we see Peter sharing about his dream with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.  They did not think the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) follow Jesus without converting to Judaism.  Peter told them about his dream and how the Lord taught him to love the Gentiles as God loves them.

The Gospel was being taught among the Jews and Gentiles with lives being changed completely.  All were praising God for the blessing being shared to all people who believed.  While in the city Antioch Barnabas joins Saul (aka Paul) to team teach for a year.  While there the believers began to be called Christians.  

So what is a Christian?

A Christian is a person who follows Jesus Christ with his/her whole life.  This individual has surrendered to Jesus, accepting that s/he cannot save one’s self. Complete change begins in his/her heart so that s/he becomes more like Christ has s/he grows in faith.

A Christian has his/her identity solely in Jesus. So far we have learned from the early Christians how to live and share in the Gospel. They changed their lives to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

What does a Christian look like in today’s world?  Do we have to walk away from our careers to move to a foreign country?  Not necessarily. 

Being a Christian in today’s world means the same thing as it did in Acts 11.  We surrender to Jesus, acknowledging that we cannot save ourselves. We grow in trust in God and see ourselves completely change from the inside out. 

Since we are Christians we live The 168 Life.  Our faith guides our decisions, determines our actions. We become examples in the world of how God loves everyone. Rather than arguing and causing divisions with others we listen to learn and gain understanding. Where one is in need physically, emotionally or spiritually we serve willingly without judgment.

As a follower of Jesus you are a Christian.  You represent God in the world.  What is the message you are saying about God with your life?  Think about the one thing you want everyone to know about Jesus? This is the story you have to share.

You are a Christian.  You are a missionary. Seek where God is sending you to share your story.  Is it at work with a fellow co-worker?  Perhaps it is with a neighbor?  Or maybe God is having you volunteer in the community to help others?

So as a Christian live the 168 Life in such a way that others see the difference in you and ask what it is.  Take courage from fellow Christians in the Book of Acts to persevere when opposition arises. Listen to the voice of God to go where you are led and to share the words you are given.

Christian, may others see you and praise God in Heaven for all things God has done for us.

This Week’s Challenge

Write in a paragraph the message you want others to hear about Jesus.  To help think about why you love Jesus.

Acts 10: God Does Not Have a Favorite

“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.”

Acts 10:34

What’s your favorite thing to do on a day off?

What’s your favorite color?

We all have favorites, our go-tos in life.  Favorite song. Favorite meal. Favorite book to read.  Favorites bring us comfort.  We love them for a reason whether it invokes a beloved memory or helps us feel connected to a loved.  We keep our favorites close to us.

This week we spend time with Peter as he prays and receives a vision from God.  He is led by the Holy Spirit to meet with three men who are not Jewish to share with them the Gospel story. Peter learns to not judge others because God loves them as much as God loves Peter. God does not show favoritism to any of His people.

Peter believed that since the Jewish nation was God’s Chosen people than those who were Gentiles (non-Jewish) needed to become Jewish to be saved.  Rather God teaches Peter that all people are loved unconditionally by God, regardless of nation, class or gender.  

We can become exclusive by spending our time with those things/people that are familiar to us.  We feel comfortable around them so we spend more time with them.  But by doing so we can lose out on new experiences or new relationships.

God teaches us through Peter the importance of accepting others.  As we journey along with Jesus we learn from God’s perspective.  We begin to see anew other people and other experiences.  God works in our hearts to not be judging but rather accepting.  We will not always argue with one another but we can learn from one another. 

As God does not show favoritism we do not show favoritism.  God welcomes all to a walk with Jesus Christ so shall we welcome all people.  We may be tempted to shape someone to be the “right type” Christian first.  But we must remember that God accepts us just as we are, right we are.  God does not show favoritism meaning some can come as they are while others have to change first.  All are welcomed at the feet of Jesus as s/he is that day.

So as we live the The 168 Life, we love others as God loves.  We get to know people for who they are as God created them.  We pray for God to open our hearts to love openly, to open our eyes to see one as God sees them. We share our story with Jesus with all so all may have their story with Jesus for themselves.

Let us show God’s love for everyone by loving all. Pray in your daily walk to see as God sees, to open up to new experiences with new people.  Pray that you do not show favorites because God surely does not show favoritism.

This Week’s Challenge

Meet with someone who is different from you.  Learn from one another. Each share who you are, what makes you unique.  See what God loves about this individual and how you can come to love them. 

Acts 9: You Don’t Have to Change to Serve God

“But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.’”

Acts 9:15

Have you ever thought you needed to change first before you could serve God?

This week we meet Paul.  At the end of Chapter 8 we see a man called Saul (the same guy we know as Paul) watching the stoning of Steven. Saul made it his mission to eradicate the followers of Jesus.  He saw them as opposition to the Jewish faith so he used his passion & determination to defeat them. 

One day on his journey to a new town Saul meets the Ascended Jesus.  Through their interaction Jesus tells him to go into the city to await further guidance. This conversation is known as Paul’s conversion.  Paul goes on to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles (those not of the Jewish faith) and kings.  He wrote more than half of the New Testament with some of his letters.  

God did have Paul change who he was once called to serve.  Instead God used Paul’s passion & determination to go into new cities & cultures sharing the Gospel.  We will learn more from Paul as we study through Acts. For right now we learn how God calls anyone to serve without the expectation of changing one’s personality. 

Paul was determined to stop the Christians because he saw them as opposition to the Jewish faith.  He got support from leadership to go town to town to arrest any Christians in that town. But when God called him to share the Gospel of Jesus God did not ask Paul to stop being determined or displaying leadership.  Rather God used that same determination &  leadership in the name of Jesus.

Paul made 3 missionary trips and ended up in Rome, the virtual capital of the world, sharing the Gospel & starting churches in each town. Paul now became determined to tell everyone about Jesus and led others to begin following the Way in their own lives. 

As God is calling you to serve you do not need to change who you are first before you can serve.  The traits that make you unique are the very ones God wants to use to share the Gospel with people in your life.  

If you love hosting people at gatherings to hang out think how you can now gather people to hear the Gospel.

If you enjoy creating music & playing see how you can use those loves to communicate God’s love to others.

If you enjoy being creative with materials, how can that creativity can articulate aspects of God’s unconditional love for each of us.

God is calling you to serve as you are where you are. Don’t not believe the adversary’s (Satan) lies trying to convince you that you have to change first before God can use you.  Hear the Holy Spirit whisper in your heart that you are perfect just as you are. God wants to use your uniqueness to share the Gospel in the world. 

As you go about your week see how God is using your uniqueness.  Dream how you can use that uniqueness to share your story with Jesus Christ. Pray with God for the opportunities to share & the courage to step into those moments. 

Keep being yourself.  Grow more into the individual God has created you to be in this life. Be as Paul, committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, just as you are.

This Week’s Challenge

Write in your journal how God has created you unique.  For each trait, write how you can share your story about Jesus with that trait.

Acts 8: Follow On the Adventure

“The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Acts 8:29

So far in our study of Acts we have seen the disciples going here & there sharing the Gospel.  They were led by the Holy Spirit to go out from Jerusalem to neighboring cities & countries. Today we follow Philip on his journey of sharing the Gospel.

He was sent by the Holy Spirit to go south on a road away from Jerusalem.  The reason why was not first explained but Philip did learn quickly on his trip the reason. He met a man from Ethiopia who was studying the Scriptures. Philip stopped and asked if he was understanding what he was reading.  From this question a conversation about the story of Jesus began ending in the Ethiopian man being baptized as a sign of his new faith in Jesus. 

Being led by the Holy Spirit is an adventure. We do not always know the ‘why’ as we start out.  We are asked by God to trust and follow.  As we journey along over time we see the ‘why’, either in full or in part. God has a purpose for us as part of His Plan. We cannot see the full picture but we can see the pieces of the puzzle that are directly connected to us.  

Philip models for us the willingness to go where God leads. He starts out on the road not sure where he will end up but once he sees the man on the road studying the Scriptures he understood what God had for him to do that day.  As their conversation began the words were given to Philip to share with the Ethiopian man so as the Gospel can be received openly.

In our lives God has us go and do things we may not understand immediately as to why.  We know it is God sending us in a variety of ways.  It can be gut feelings that simply don’t go away.  It can be studying the Scriptures ourselves when a verse pops out at us and the next step becomes clear.  It is in our prayers with God when a thought becomes clear.  A passion from within us grows bright that cannot be denied.

As you travel along your journey with Jesus note the times God is leading you.  What are the gut feelings you have?  Trust God’s leading and follow on the adventure. 

When you study the book of Acts note the times you can relate to the disciples as they are led by God.  Pray to God asking what God is leading you to do, teaching you in the moment.  Then trust that where God leads us the Holy Spirit will give you the courage to serve & the words to share.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ we are on an adventure with God.  We will see amazing things, experience incredible moments.  While we do not always understand the ‘why’ right away we trust God fully. 

So this week, follow God’s leading.  That gut feeling you have that just doesn’t seem to go away, pray to God what you are to do.  The conversation you just know you need to have know the Holy Spirit will give you the words to share at just the right time.  Follow along on the adventure ready for the experiences that await you.

This Week’s Challenge

As you go about your week note the nudges you get to have a conversation or go somewhere.  Pray to ensure it is from God.  Then go & do as God leads.  Afterwards look to see how led you on this part of the adventure.

Acts 7: A History Lesson on Faith

“As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.”

Acts 7:59-60

In Acts 6 we met Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, chosen by God to serve the people. And now we receive a history lesson from Stephen.  If you have not read the 1st 5 books of the Bible in the Old Testament (the front section) Stephen provides a pretty succinct summary of the history.  He even goes past those books all the way up to the book of Psalms.  

The reason he gives this history lesson is to remind those accusing him of their own history.  He illustrates the Plan of Salvation through the centuries.  He wants them to see that Jesus is not a heretic.  He is the Son of God Who came to redeemed the world. Stephen shares the Gospel message with the very people who have been waiting for the Messiah (the Promised One).

Stephen shared the story not to condemn them but rather to open their eyes.  Religion had become the focus that trusting God was forgotten.  Rituals became more important than living out one’s faith in all aspects of life. 

Let’s just say those who were listening to Stephen did not receive what he had to say very well.  

“The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.” Acts 7:54

A couple of verses later we read how they put their fingers in their ears.  Crazy, I know.

Stephen was killed for telling the Gospel story.  But he did not hold a grudge.  As he was being killed he prayed to God for the forgiveness of those who were killing him.  He loved that much.  He trusted God that fully.

In our own lives we become distracted by the rituals of religion that we lose sight of the authentic living of our faiths.  We fixate on doing things the right way that we forget about the relationship God is seeking with each of us.

What we learn from Stephen in this story is to not lose the story of our faiths.  It is important look back on our own faith story and how we have grown in maturity with God.  We cannot forget the why of our faith.

By remembering our story we see the moments God directed our path, the times the Holy Spirit provided courage in times of fear, the courage Jesus gave us as we took a step of faith. The path is seen and the next steps can be better understood as we see the full journey.

Take time this week to reflect on your faith journey. It might be 2 decades long or 2 years long.  It does not matter.  Sit with God and see the story of your faith.  Mark the high times of joy.  Note the times of sadness.  See the periods of growth. Celebrate how God was with you through it all.

A history lesson of faith in each of us.  By learning from it we are better able to tell it to others so they can begin to have their own story of faith with God.

This Week’s Challenge
Outline your own story of faith.  List the times of joy, of sorrow, of growth. See how God was in each part of it with you.

Acts 6: Chosen to Serve

“And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.”

Acts 6:3

As the Church grew in size it grew in infrastructure. In other words, there was more work to be done.  Therefore more volunteers were needed.  Some of the believers did not think they were receiving a fair portion of the gifts. The Disciples were busy with teaching and leading so they were not available to settle the dispute.  The solution? Select 7 men to oversee the project.  Our first instance of delegation in the early Church.

Among the seven chosen was Stephen.  He was a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). Stephen was a man who loved Jesus and loved people. He humbly led the distribution to ensure everyone received a fair amount.  He is an example for us today of living The 168 Life.  He went about his day serving the Lord in word and action.

His life was such an example of the The 168 Life that the Temple leaders took notice and tried to get him to stop.  They gathered false testimony against him so to charge him with blasphemy (speaking falsely against God). But this did not stop Stephen.  He shared his love for Jesus even when a jail sentence was threatening.

See, Stephen was chosen by God to serve in the Church and with his life.  Stephen knew that God was with him every step of the way.  He did not need to fear the lies that were being said against him.  He trusted God to protect him even if it meant death (That’s next week’s post).

For us today, we are chosen by God to serve.  Some it is as a pastor or on a church staff.  Others it may be as a teacher guiding children on their learning journey.  Still others in the medical profession caring for people.  Or in the corporate world helping products & systems get to people. 

Wherever God has led you, you have been chosen by God to serve right where you are as you are.  Fancy degrees are not necessary.  Simply be like Stephen telling people about Jesus in word and action.  As you do your job work with integrity leading by example.  As you go about your personal life care for friends and neighbors with love.  

When difficulties arise, probably not as severe as false testimony like for Stephen, trust that God is with you always. You have been chosen to serve.  Be confident in the gifts & passions God has placed in your heart. 

As you start each day ask God where/who you are being led to serve.  Seek for the opportunities to share why you love Jesus.  Care for another who may not be expecting the gift of service. You can open the door for the person behind you or the one coming in as you are leaving a building.  Or smile to another as you pass each other on the sidewalk or bike trail.

Each of these are small services we are all called (directed) by God to do as disciples. Each one share the love of God with the world.

So go out chosen disciple of Jesus Christ.  Go out and serve as you have been gifted to serve.

This Week’s Challenge

Write down at the end of each day how you serve someone that day with the love of God.  Did you help a neighbor? Reach out to a friend to check on them?  Run an errand for someone that was not able to do so themselves?

Acts 5: Being Authentic is Real

“Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 5:29

“Sharing is caring”

At the end of Acts 4 we see once again the followers of Jesus sharing all that they have with one another.  As we begin to read Acts 5 we get a more in-depth look as to what community looks like in every day life. A couple, Ananias & Sapphira, sold a piece of property. Together they devised a plan to give some of the money to the faith community while misleading everyone to falsely believe that the couple was giving all of the money.

This lie did not work out well for them.  No spoiler alerts here.  You can read for yourself what were the results of their actions.

The lesson for us to learn today is the importance of authenticity.

Ananias & Sapphira were not authentic and paid the consequences for it.

In the same chapter we read about how Peter and the Apostles were once again brought before the religious leaders (the Sanhedrin). They were told another time to stop sharing the Gospel of Jesus and healing people by His name. The religious leaders did not want the Apostles to take people away to follow Jesus. So they ordered the Apostles to stop all together.

How did the Apostles respond?  With fear? With nonchalance?

The Apostles said, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” (Acts 5:29).

The faith of the Apostles was authentic.  It flowed out of them in their words and with their actions.  They did not put up a front to ‘show off’ in front of the public.  One way you can say is their social media life matched their real life.

So here is the question before us: Are we authentic in our faiths in all aspects of our lives?

Look at your social media.  Is what you post online truly represent who you are in real life?  Are you trying to be one person online and a different person in real life? Ask yourself why that may be if you are different.

Or are you one way in one area of life and another in your faith journey? Is there a reason you may try to hide your faith around a certain friend group?

Being authentic in one’s faith journey is difficult at times.  As we have seen so far with the Apostles they were thrown in jail for being authentic followers of Jesus.  It was not a smooth road for them to travel on. There are times we will face struggles while we are authentic in our own faith journeys. If we try to deceive others the lie will be found out as it was with Ananias and Sapphira.

This week take time in your devotional time to define what being authentic in your faith journey looks like in daily life. Think about what message you want to share with the world about Jesus. Consider what actions you can do each day that help convey that message. See how your social media posts are a way to also share that message.

It is in seeing the difference in our lives that others begin to question what is the reason for the difference. #ActsofDisciples @ReSolvedFaith

Authenticity is a strong way to share the Gospel message with others.  It is in seeing the difference in our lives that others begin to question what is the reason for the difference. They look at our actions and our words to make sure they match up. If they do then questions are asked.  If they don’t match then they do not see the importance of faith in one’s life. 

So take the time to see how you can be authentic in your faith.  Be assured you do not need to be perfect.  Remember we live by grace, freely forgiven by God when we repent (aka admit sin, ask for forgiveness, change behavior/attitude). Being authentic is also sharing about the lows and how God carries us through them.

May you be encourage by Peter and the Apostles knowing that no obstacle or difficulty will separate you from the love of God. May you be authentic in your faith so others may ask what is different in your life.

This Week’s Challenge

How can you be authentic in your faith?  Select one thing you can change to this end. Plan it into your day to make this change permanent.

Acts 4: Courageous Faith Sharing

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

Peter and John did not fly under the radar as they shared the Gospel with the people. After they brought healing in the name of Jesus to the Lame Beggar outside of the Temple (Acts 3) Temple leaders approached them to have a ‘discussion.’

Sharing the Gospel does bring about changes to lives.  The Temple leaders were concerned that the more Peter & John taught the people the less the power the leaders would have in public.  The Temple leaders did not believe in Jesus’ resurrection.  They worked to quell the Jesus Movement as best they could.  And now they had to deal with the fact that a 40 year old man who was lame since birth was now walking around town. 

The Temple Leaders worked to have Peter & John to be quiet. They order the duo to no longer preach in public.  If the two could not speak in public then the problem would be solved.  Except it didn’t go away.

Peter & John had courage to share their faiths because they knew Jesus was sending them out to share the Gospel.  They knew the Holy Spirt was with them always giving them the words to say. The Temple Leaders were not going to stop them (Acts 4:19-20).

We learn from Peter & John how to be courageous.  Each man was an ordinary man.  They did not have a bunch of letters after their names signifying a great deal of education. They were regular fishermen who lived with Jesus for 3 years watching and learning directly from Him.  They went now simply shared their stories of being with Jesus. 

I can hear now Peter sitting at dinner with some friends telling them about the time he walked on water. 

In our lives we do not need to have a ton of education before we share our faith stories. We simply tell the times we saw God in our lives and loved us.  We have courage to share, as Peter & John did, because the Holy Spirit is with us always. 

People will also take note of your faith when they hear of your story.  They will hear Jesus through the stories you share with them of your experiences with Him.  It is not about you. The hero of your story is Jesus alone. Let people begin to experience Him as you share your story.  

So do not fear, fellow disciple.  Be courageous to share your story with Jesus. Speak the words the Holy Spirit gives you to share. See God work another’s heart planting the seed of faith. The Gospel will continue go out into the world as the disciples of Jesus courageously share their stories of being with Jesus with others.

This Week’s Challenge

Write down any fear/worry you have about sharing your faith story with someone. Next to each one write what God says to give you courage against that fear/worry.

Acts 3: Healed in the Name of Jesus!

“Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.” (Acts 3:16)

Whenever I hear of a faith healing this image comes to mind: A gaudy dressed preacher (probably sweating & spitting as he speaks) yelling, “Healed in the Name of Jeeesus!” An individual seeking healing of some sort is ‘sooo” overcome s/he faints into the waiting arms of the ushers miraculously healed. Crutches are tossed aside. Wheelchairs left empty.  Men and women who haven’t walked in years are not walking home.

In this third chapter of Acts we hear the story of the Lame Beggar being healed by the Name of Jesus.  We left the disciples in Chapter 2 after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowering them to go and make disciples in all nations.  Now we follow Peter & John going to the Temple one afternoon passing a lame beggar man.

This man who was lame from birth.  He relied on friends to bring him to the Temple each day so he can ask whoever came to the Temple for their generous giving of money.  It was how he supported himself.  But Peter & John was able to give him something much better than money.  They shared Jesus’ name with the man so he was able to walk home on his own for the first time ever.

Receiving healing in the name of Jesus is offered to everyone. And it is not limited to physical healing only.  Perhaps it is a healing of your heart from a broken relationship.  Or healing from pain acquired from society. Whatever healing you are searching for believe in the name of Jesus.  Know that deep within your soul Jesus is offering to completely change you by His love. 

Just as the Lame Beggar believed what Peter & John told him it was his faith in Jesus that he received healing.  He trusted fully in the power in the name of Jesus.  It is because of this trust that his story was heard throughout the town and others came to know & trust Jesus in their own lives. Peter & John were able to share the Gospel with more people after encountering this man’s faith.

In your own life how do you trust Jesus?  Are there areas of your own life that you want to trust more?  Maybe in relationships? Or perhaps with finances or your career? Take the time this week spending time with Jesus so He can begin to bring you healing.  Let go of the pain or fear that you may carry.  Place it at His feet trusting fully in the power of His name. 

You are healed in the Name of Jesus!  Go now walking freely with the Lord of Life.

This Week’s Challenge

What do you want healing for in your life? Pray each day this week to be healed in the Name of Jesus.  Surrender yourself to be transformed by Jesus.

Acts 2: You Get God’s Grace! And You Get God’s Grace! God’s Grace for Everyone!!

“This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:39)

This week we are looking at Acts Chapter 2.  We left Chapter 1 with Jesus promising the disciples they will not be alone once He ascends into Heaven.  He promised them the Holy Spirit where they would receive power as they live as witnesses in Jerusalem and all over the world. 

Now in Chapter 2 the disciples receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, a Jewish festival celebrating the harvest and 50 days after the Passover. While they were gathered together the Holy Spirit came empowering them to be witnesses in Jerusalem first and then all over the world. 

As you read Acts Chapter 2 note how Peter, the impulsive disciple, now stands in front of the city preaching a full sermon with full confidence. He quotes the Old Testament a couple of times. He preached so well thousands were saved that day.

Today we are looking at the verse 39 where Peter shares how all are saved by the grace of God. Previously only Jewish people were able to be saved.  If one was born a Gentile (not from Israel) s/he needed to be converted into the Jewish faith so that s/he can be saved.  What Peter says is revolutionary.  Gentiles can be saved?!?! God’s grace is for everyone?!?!?

No one is left out of receiving God’s grace.  Each one of us is loved unconditionally by God. We are called to repentance, a turning back on sin and turning towards God’s open arms. This is the joy to be found in God alone. 

When you look at the section after Peter’s sermon you see how the community of followers shared life together.  If one had more of something s/he shared with the community. They gathered together to worship and have a meal together.  As others saw how much they loved one another and served in the city they asked more about faith and became followers of Jesus in their own lives.

This is the example we are to follow in our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.  It is the community we share with fellow disciples that gives an example of God’s love for everyone. By caring for one another we demonstrate God’s unconditional love for all people. Remember God’s grace is for everyone.  We cannot isolate ourselves with fellow disciples. God sends out to the world to be witnesses, telling our stories with Jesus.

This Week’s Challenge

Who is someone in your life that God is nudging you towards sharing your witness about Jesus Christ? What is 1 thing you will do this week to begin the conversation?

Acts 1: Sharing About Jesus in 1 Sentence

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Today we begin a new series going through the Book of Acts. Acts was written by Luke (the same guy who wrote the Gospel According to Luke) as a ‘sequel’. He wrote Acts to follow the story of the disciples (the closest followers of Jesus) and the growth of the Church after Jesus returned to Heaven after His Resurrection. 

We are going through Acts chapter by chapter to hear the stories of the disciples & the Church to learn from them how we can share the Gospel in our lives. From ordinary men and women God built the Church.  These men and women were not famous already.  They were like you & me, people who loved Jesus and follow Him wherever He leads them.

Each week read the next chapter of Acts.  So for this week, read Acts 1.  You can read it each day and see what jumps out at you for that day.  Write it down in your journal.  If you want you can use the YouVersion Bible App to read the chapter in different versions.  I recommend: New International Version (NIV 2011), English Standard Version, New Living Translation, The Message.  

Spend quality time with each chapter.  Let the Holy Spirit teach what God has to say in each chapter.  You can even choose a verse each week to memorize.  By the end of the series you will have 28 verses memorized.

Now to the 1st chapter of Acts:  Here we see Jesus spend some final moments with His followers before He ascends to Heaven.  He tells them to wait in Jerusalem until the Helper (aka the Holy Spirit) comes to empower them to go out into the world sharing the Gospel. 

Today Jesus gives us the same instructions to receive the Holy Spirit and then go out into our whole lives sharing the Gospel.  It does feel daunting but it does not need to be. Focus on the day ahead of you.  Look to the people already in your life. God will show you opportunities of where you can share with people already.

As you follow Jesus you are not left alone to figure out life on your own. No need to fear. God gives you the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to go out and the words to share in conversation. You are not alone.

In your devotions this week think about the reasons you love Jesus.  What difference has Jesus made in you and your life? Write it all down in your journal.  Then craft what you wrote into 1 sentence.  Make it a sentence that is easy to remember. One that sounds natural as you say it to someone else.  Let it be a succinct way for you to share why you love Jesus. 

As Jesus promised the disciples that they will receive the Holy Spirit so that they can go out as witnesses of Jesus in the world. They knew Jesus.  They saw how He lived and interacted with others.  They were to simply go out and share their experiences with Him to the world.  Us today have our own relationships with Jesus. We have our own stories to share about Him.  That is what we are asked to do.  Share why we love Jesus. 

So go about your day, your week and as the opportunities arise tell someone in 1 sentence why you love Jesus.  Then see how God guides the conversation from there.

This Week’s Challenge

Write down in 1 sentence what you want someone to know about Jesus. What is 1 thing this week you will do to live this out?

#168Life: Living Faith in the 168

There are 168 hours in a week.  Historically as the Church we have focused faith to be in the couple of hours on Sunday mornings we spend in worship & an hour during the week in Bible study. We begin to think that Church is what we do at specific times in specific places. Faith becomes categorized to a segment of our lives.  We treat as an outfit that we put on for certain occasions when it is appropriate.

But faith was never meant to be limited to 2-3 hours a week.  Being a disciple means “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosophe” (Oxford Dictionary).  It involves a person’s whole life.  We follow Jesus wherever He leads us. We learn from His teachings in the Bible applying them in our lives. 

The #168Life is living out one’s faith every day all day.  It influences what we say with friends or post on social media.  Faith is the filter through which we see the world. By it we make decisions, interact with others, share love with the world. Faith shapes who we are in every area of life. It is who we are, not what we do.

Here at ReSolved Ministry we strive to live our faiths in a way that others ask what is different about us.  We serve others with love and share the Gospel with humility. We grow each day in the Lord knowing that we are being changed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit. 

There are 4 Missional Habits to help one live the #168Life: Be Present, Listen to Learn, Serve, Share. 

  1. Be Present – put away the distractions and be fully present in the moment.  It is giving your undivided attention to the one(s) you are with.
  2. Listen to Learn – listening to one another, not waiting to respond, but to learn about the other person.  It is listing with your eyes & ears hearing what is being said and what is not said.
  3. Serve – As you learn about one another you hear their real needs. You can serve with humility, caring for one another.
  4. Share – as the relationship grows so does trust.  In this trusting friendship you lovingly share why you love Jesus.

The Missional Life Habits are tools we use to help us live out our faiths 168 hours a week.  We grow in each one over time as we grow closer to the Lord.  

To help you grow in the Missional Life Habits you can join the ReSolved Ministry Online Community, our Facebook Group. It is a place to connect, share prayer requests, encourage.  On Sundays we look at one of the Missional Life Habits for that week then discuss how we can live it out in our lives for the next 168 hours. 

May every disciple life the #168Life so that the whole world questions the lives we live asking about the difference that is in us.  This is how the Gospel goes out into the ends of the world advancing the Kingdom of God.

Who’s In Your Tribe?

“The New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion.”

John Wesley

Reading through the Gospel of Matthew and the whole New Testament one sees time and time again how as God sends someone out to share the Gospel s/he goes with others.  No one was sent out by the Holy Spirit alone.  Even Jesus served in ministry with others and He was the Son of God.

Becoming a follower of Jesus involves connecting with other followers of Jesus. We come together in worship, prayer & fellowship to grow closer to God and thereby to one another. We share stories from serving in our communities, living out our faiths. 

Who is in your tribe?  Who are the people closest to you that walk with you as all of you serve the Lord?  

Having a tribe is vital to growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Through our tribe God comforts us, teaches us, challenges us. In our communities we discern together how the Holy Spirit is leading us. 

If you do not know who is in your tribe pray to God to show you who He is bringing into your life.  Look to your local church community for a small group you can join. Or ask the pastor to help you get connected with others to have a tribe together.

As you have your tribe decide together when all of you will meet.  Is it weekly in person or bi-weekly via Zoom? Look to see how you will stay connected during the week.  Group text messages help to quickly share prayers & updates.  Emails provide a place for stories from ministry to be share in full. However you meet & connect it is important to remain in communication with one another.

Being a part of a small group is part of being a follower of Jesus. Together we serve the Lord participating in God’s Will being done here on Earth. We see the amazing things God is doing in and through us for His glory.

So, who’s in your tribe?

This Week’s Challenge
Determine who is in our tribe. Now decide together how often you will meet & how you stay connected during the week. Watch together what God is doing in reaching all people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Healing from the Inside

When reading the 8th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew one encounters two stories of Jesus healing people.  He was approached by two individuals who were not regarded ‘good’ by Jewish society as worthy of being around Jesus.  One was a leper who was perennially unclean and could not be around others lest they cause someone else to become unclean.  The other was a Roman centurion who was in a position of authority over the Jewish people and was seen as an enemy.

Each person, the leper and the centurion, understood who Jesus truly was, a gentle healer for all people.  They approached Jesus with humility to ask for healing for either themselves or for a loved one.  Jesus saw in these requests a faith that superseded anything else. Jesus offered healing because of their great trust in Him as the true Messiah.

In our lives today we face hardship and pain.  The loss of a loved one.  Difficulty in relationships. Struggles in professional lives. The pain is not always seen physically on the outside for others to see. It does sit deep in our souls where we try to cover it up and not let someone see it.

Jesus brings healing to everyone. Whether the pain is a disease or internal hurt His healing brings peace to our souls. This world is broken and not as God the Father intended at Creation.  So Jesus comes to us to heal us from the hurts of this world. 

We see His dedication in the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:10-20. Here in this story we see the Great Shepherd leave the 99 sheep in their pen safe from harm and went out into the wilderness to find the 1 lost sheep.  He loves all of His sheep, children, so deeply that He will do what needs to be done to heal them.

Jesus brings His healing to you.  What pain are you holding onto from your past?  Where are you searching for peace from the brokenness of this world? 

Go before the Lord and give Him your hurt.  Tell Him where it hurts.  Let Him blanket you with peace to grow through the pain and become stronger in the Lord.  Grow in trust in the Healer God. 

As the leper said to Jesus, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2), say the same to Jesus. Watch the healing He brings you from the inside out.

This Week’s Challenge

Each day this week pray to Jesus the pain you feel deep in your soul.  Ask Him to bring healing to you and show you how He is healing. Memorize Matthew 8:2 as part of your prayer life this week.

Evangelism Isn’t So Scary

The interesting thing about faith is how it can become extinct with each generation.  Unless people share why they love Jesus then faith is not passed on to the next person and slowly disappears.

As a follower of Jesus Christ each of us are to share why we love Jesus.  It is how the faith is passed on.  Think about how you began your own faith journey.  Who shared their own story with you?  Who invited you to begin your own walk with Jesus?  That is evangelism, the telling of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Evangelism can be intimidating.  Pictures of going to dangerous places talking to people who are against the church.  Evangelism is not for everyone is a common thought.  Only certain people are called to do that line of work.

But think about people in your life who are not following Jesus yet.  Ask yourself, “How will they hear?” Perhaps God has placed you in each other’s lives so that you can build a friendship, grow trust and when the Holy Spirit’s leads share your story with him/her.

It is in the day in, day out showing up in one another’s lives, serving with humility. Here in quiet, humble service we are broadcasting the Word of God to everyone in our lives.  We are living out the Good news of Jesus Christ. Then the Holy Spirit goes out nurturing those seeds of faith.

When we consistently show up, listen to learn, serve and share over the course of our lives we will see many lives changed as a result.  In our resolved to serve God with our whole lives others will be resolved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Evangelism does not need to be scary.  See it not as going into strange places fearing for your safety.  See it in your friends, neighbors, co-workers who have not yet heard.  Broadly cast your story through word and action each day.  See how God is leading you to those who have not heard.  Live your life as an ambassador for Jesus Christ. This is the work of an evangelist.

This Week’s Challenge
Serve someone in your life this week who has not yet heard the Gospel.  Begin praying for the Holy Spirit to show you the right time to share your story with him/her.

How to Navigate When the Easy Road Isn’t So Easy

There is a misperception out there that once a person becomes a Christian life becomes easy. Somehow by following God all problems melt away, heartache is not a part of one’s life.

Hear this — this is a lie. Life does not get easy once a person becomes a Christian. In fact it could be argued that life may become more difficult.

I don’t say this to scare you but to be authentic. Satan roams around the world to destroy us. The enemy does not want us to grow closer to God. The enemy does what he can to stop us from being changed by the Holy Spirit. 

Here’s the hope to cling to — Jesus faced temptations from Satan also. In Matthew 4:1-11 we read how Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the Wilderness where He fasted for 40 days! Only then did Satan come to tempt Him. Jesus faced the same temptations as we do and He did not give in. He resisted all temptations.

Now Jesus is the Son of God.  He is fully God and fully Man.  He is perfect.  We, human beings, are the created and are not perfect.  There are times we will stumble but all hope is not lost. We freely receive God’s grace to begin again. So let’s learn from Jesus how we are to respond when temptations do arise.

Jesus responded with each temptation with Scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy from the Old Testament. He understood the power in God’s Word and knew the Holy Spirit was with Him. Jesus shows us how to navigate when the easy road isn’t easy.

In your life there are hardships. The enemy does attempt to stop us from growing closer to God. When those times do come follow Jesus’ example. It is 2 Steps:

  1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be with you
  2. Speak God’s Word to the enemy

Each day read the Bible even if it’s only a handful of verse. Memorize verses so God’s Word is written on your heart at all times. Over time you will see how God’s Word infiltrates your whole being.

Pray throughout the day. Stay in regular conversation with God the Father. Ask to see how the Holy Spirit is with you so you can recognize it during the not so easy times.

The road is not always easy. Problems arise. Heartaches happen. Satan tries to separate us from God.  Remember NOTHING can separate us from God’s love.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

Speak God’s Word.

Pray to see the Holy Spirit.

Then the not so easy road becomes easier to navigate.

This Week’s Challenge

Memorize Romans 8:37-39 so you can speak Truth when times become difficult.

Do You Want to Know What God has for You?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’m convinced that most adults ask kids this question so they can get some ideas for themselves.  It is one thing to have a job and another to pursue a passionate career. We all want to live our lives with purpose.

Jesus called 12 individuals to be His students and do life with Him. Each one left an established careers to go follow a Rabbi who was a little radical according to the established leadership. They left jobs to discover a new passion and career.

One of those 12 was Matthew, the author of the Gospel we have been studying in this series, On The Verge. Matthew was a tax collector who was not well like by his fellow Israelites. Jesus invited him to join the 12 and discover a new life.

Read Matthew’s story here: Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew was not initially welcomed by the established church leadership to have dinner with Jesus. This did not matter to Jesus. Jesus had a plan for Matthew and that is all that mattered. Matthew went on to share the Gospel with all people after Jesus’ Resurrection. 

Fellow disciple of Jesus, hear the call the passion God has for you. The Christian life is integrated into our whole lives. God gives each of us abilities to serve Him and share with others.

It is in how we live our lives, in the good times and difficult ones, that we share the light of Jesus. We reflect walking by faith when we don’t have all the answers but we still act, trusting God.

So what passion has God given you in serving Him and sharing the Gospel? What times do you thrive? Times you feel confident. it’s in these moments you discover what God has for you to do. No further need to ask kids for ideas for yourself.

Go on the journey with Jesus learning like Matthew the new path God has for you. You are just on the verge of something incredible.

This Week’s Challenge
Through free-writing (no editing, simple write whatever comes to mind), write down the times you thrived and an individual. Then see how God uses those times to share the Gospel.

Give What You Have, God Will Multiply It

It can feel like you are not qualified to serve or teach others about Jesus. If you just knew a little bit more about the Bible. Or if you had a little more skill.  Then you will be qualified to go out and serve.

Here’s the joy: give what you have and watch God multiply it. It is not dependent all on you. What is required of each us is the willingness to serve and follow God.

Let’s take a moment to read from the Gospel of Matthew to see how Jesus did this in His ministry. Click over to read: Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus knew everyone needed to eat but there wasn’t a couple of food trucks on hand to take care of it. The disciples got 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish and were confused how far that was going to last. Jesus had a plan. He gave thanks and blessed the food. From that “small” gift 1000s of people ate and were full.

The lesson we learn here in Matthew is how our role is to give what we have and watch Jesus use it to bless others. The full weight of providing all the resources to teach or serve does not rest on our shoulders. God stands besides us saying, “Watch how I’ll do this.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as you sit on the verge of growing deeper in your faith do not think you must first learn more or be able to do more before God can use you. Know this, God wants your willing heart to serve, to grow. Before our eyes God will take our 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiply it beyond our wildest dreams.

So as you go out today see where God is asking you to serve. Maybe it is to give a can of food to a food pantry. Then see it be added to a bag of groceries for a family.

Maybe God has you to write a short note of encouragement to a neighbor. Then see it bring a smile to their day and they serve joyfully to others.

Whatever it is that God has to teach you this week welcome it warmly. Watch the seed of faith grow and help sow seeds of faith in others by the Holy Spirit.

Fellow disciples of Jesus Christ await with great anticipation the wonderful things God has for you to do in His Name. Give Him what you have whatever it is and watch God multiply it according to His Will.

This Week’s Challenge

Go around your house and collect what you can donate to another family or an organization. See how God uses and multiplies it to bless others.

Finding Shalom: Peace in the Midst of Anxiety

These are uneasy times. Lots of unknowns. There are more questions than answers. Each day I hear from another person how they are struggling with anxiety.

We all are searching for peace in a time of what feels like chaos.

We are not the first ones to have some doubts about the future. After Jesus’ resurrection there were some disciples who saw Him but still doubted.

“And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted.”

Matthew 28:17

They did not know what was coming next. They knew Jesus was fully alive and returning to Heaven but what about them? What were they to do, or go?

Jesus’ response to those who doubted and to those who at the same time worshipped is what we now call the Great Commission:

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

He assured all of them they are not alone. They are given the duty to tell others the good news about Jesus and through  the Holy Spirit teach them how to be a follower of Jesus.

They had shalom with God, wholeness or oneness with God. Whether there was doubt or worship all were given God’s peace.

For us today we have shalom with God as well.  Jesus gives us His peace by the Holy Spirit to serve through our worship and our doubts.

The enemy tries to cause us to feel anxious because we can’t answer all the questions. We don’t need to answer them all. We only need to point back to Jesus.

Friends, have the peace of God in all things. 

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Live in the Shalom of God today and everyday. Be one with God. Rest in His arms.

As you feel anxiety creep in, pray: “God, blanket me with Your peace right now. Help me have Shalom with You alone.”

Having doubts is not wrong. Staying in doubt is not growing in the Lord. Give your doubts to asking to trust once again. There you find true Shalom with God.

This Week’s Challenge

Pray the prayer about whenever you feel anxious or doubt this week.

Who’s in Your Tribe?

We are made to be in community with one another. No one was meant to go through life alone. To share both the highs and lows. There to be a shoulder to cry on. an extra pair of hands to help. A friend to share a laugh with.

Humanity was created in the image of God. God is a Triune God, 3 in 1. Three distinct Persons in the One Godhead. It is not separate gods. Rather The Triune God lives in perfect community with one another. Also it serves as the example we are to follow ourselves. 

Jesus’ Baptism is an example of the Trinity being present with each other. We see Jesus being pronounced by God the Father as the Promised One while the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rest with Jesus. Three in One. Perfect community.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Matthew 3:13-17

So here’s a question for you:  Who is in your tribe?

Who do you share life with?

As followers of Jesus we must follow His example and be in community with others. God is perfect and lives in community with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Think about who you turn to in times of struggle for encouragement; in times of joy who do you want to celebrate with. It is the people who are in your tribe.

In previous posts we have seen how God speaks to us in community with other believers. Together we share life and grow closer to God. We serve for and with one another in community.

If you don’t know who is in your tribe pray with God to show who is your tribe. See who comes into your life and connect with them. Share life together with one another. 

As you have your tribe meet together to connect, check in, encourage, hold accountable. Share with each other the joys and sorrows, teachings from God, serve one another.

We learn from the Triune God how to be in community. We share life together because God shares life together. We follow God’s model. 

Now go out and be with your tribe. Make memories together. Learn with one another. serve with one another.

This Week’s Challenge

Establish a regular connection time with those in your tribe. Share stories with one another.  Share how you can be praying for each other. Laugh together. Serve one another.

3 Ways to Keep in Step with God

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25

If someone is to be follower one needs to know how to follow. How does one follow when you can’t see God?

Think about it this way: a person can’t see the wind but knows it is there and goes in the direction it blows. God’s leading is similar in that we may not see Him but we learn how He leads us. In today’s post we explore 3 ways God leads us.

First, we listen to God by reading the Bible. See, the Bible is the Word of God teaching us faith and life with Jesus. For anyone new to reading the Bible it can be confusing. I recommend starting with a Reading Plan. Also answering these 3 Questions will help you in understanding the Bible.

  1. What did you just read?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. How does it apply to you, your family, work, life and community?

Over time you will hear more clearly God speaking to you. Your questions will adapt as well.

Another way God leads us is in prayer. Prayer is our conversation with God directly. It is where we share our joys, fears, worries with Him. It is where He rejoices with us, comforts, heals and teaches us. So keep talking with God and listen to that still, small voice. Test to see that it is God. Keep praying and following the Lord.

A third way God leads us is in community with other followers of Jesus. Those nudges we get in our Bible reading & prayer are confirmed by our faith community. Faith is not to be in isolation. God created us to be in community with one another. As a united body we follow Jesus together keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.”

Matthew 19:14

Jesus welcomes everyone to come to Him and become His follower. If you are on the verge of faith be assured that God is leading you. Trust the insights you hear from reading the Bible, gut feelings God gives you in prayer and the ministry opportunities for you and your faith community.

This is not an exhaustive list of how God leads us His followers. It is a list to get you started in following His lead.

Set aside 15-30 minutes this week to read, pray and reflect on where God is leading you. Then take the first step in being obedient to that leading. See where God takes you.

This Week’s Challenge

Schedule time in your calendar to reflect on how God is leading you. Share any insights with your small group or church community.

Disconnecting to Reconnect with God Each Day

How do you like to learn?

By reading?

Watching someone do it?

Trying it yourself?

Asking questions?

Whatever is your preferred method of learning it is important to make the time to pursue learning as you go forward from being on the verge of faith to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Spiritual disciplines are the practices we do as followers of Jesus so that we learn and remain close to God. They include, but are not limited to, prayer (Click Here to read previous post on Prayer), Scripture reading, worship, serving, Sabbath.  For the purposes of this post we are looking at two, Scripture reading and Sabbath.

First, reading the Bible is where we directly encounter the Living God. We read it not as a textbook to gain knowledge. We read it so that we are changed by the Holy Spirit. We read the Bible to learn what God has to teach us.

If you sense your anxiety level rising at the thought of reading the Bible take a deep breath and now exhale slowly. Here is a little bit of advice to help you:

  1. Read the Bible at the same time each day or put it on your calendar to remind you.
  2. Find a reading plan to help you get started.  Here is a helpful place to find one for yourself: YouVersion
  3. As you read answer these questions:
    1. Summarize what you read
    2. What does it mean?
    3. How does it apply to you, your family, work, life and community?

Follow this rhythm for two weeks and see how it goes. Note how God is teaching you. See what has begun to change in your relationship with God.

Second, observing a regular Sabbath is key in our relationships with Jesus. To clarify, Sabbath means resting from work and rejuvenating your soul as you spend quality time with God. We are told in the Old Testament to “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” [Exodus 20:8]. God wants us to slow down, step away from work and be with Him alone. One day a week. One hour a day. We disconnect to reconnect with God.

Now this one can be a little more difficult to implement all at once. It’s okay to build up to it. This day can either be a full calendar day or from sundown to sundown whichever works better for you. The key is to schedule it in your calendar like everything else.  Guard it.  Prepare for it by getting things done ahead of time. Give yourself things to do that is fun, life-giving.

As for daily Sabbath, make the time for it. Do what gives you life. Step away from work for an hour and have fun.  If you enjoy going outside go for a walk, play ball with family or friends, spend time at a park reading or drawing.  Whatever it is give yourself permission to be in the moment, truly present with God.

Having a daily rhythm with God will look different from time to time. It is important to spend the quality time with God each day.

Find the rhythm that fits you and follow it. Ask a friend to hold you accountable and share stories of growth with each other.

As you spend time with God you will see the Spirit is changing you from the inside out.  

This Week’s Challenge

  1. Start a Bible reading plan and take notes on what God is teaching you.
  2. Schedule your weekly Sabbath and plan what fun, life-giving things you will do.