Will that other woman (or man), that addiction, that temptation give you what you really want? I think deep down we all know those things are candy-coated poison. But how do we satisfy that deep longing inside?
Sometimes we want things we should NOT have. But God promises to satisfy our desires with good things. (Psalm 103:5) The temptation is to hide our evil desires from God, but our best interests are served by taking the counter-intuitive step and bringing all our desires—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to God.
If we are willing to bring our desires to God, our temptations can be opportunities for God to bring good into our lives. I’ve created a simple one-page guide that explains how I do that. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.
Find it here:
Answer from last time: Benjamin was named Ben-Oni (“son of my sorrow”) by his mother but his father renamed him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”).
New question: Which came first, David & Goliath or Daniel & the lion’s den?
About this time of year, many of us look at our New Year’s resolutions, shake our heads, and smile. What was I thinking?
Okay. New Year’s resolutions is a big topic—a big can of worms. Should you even make them? I don’t know. That’s debatable.
But I want to focus in on one thing: Obstacles that keep us from achieving or receiving the good God has for us.
Suppose we want to lose weight and get in better shape. What prevents us from doing that? Is someone standing over us commanding us to eat that second scoop of ice cream? Is someone standing in front of the door at the gym barring us from entering?
In most cases, no. The real obstacles are inside. We all face inner barriers that keep us from moving forward toward the good God has for us.
How do we disable these inner barriers?
I’ve put together a one-page guide that walks you through the process I use to disable inner barriers. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well.
Find it here:
Answer from last time: Benjamin’s full brother was named Joseph?
New question: What was Benjamin’s original name at birth?
We are commanded by Jesus to forgive others. And forgiving others takes a huge emotional weight off our shoulders. But few people actually know how to forgive. They try white knuckle, denial, minimizing, rationalizing—none of which work. There is a better way.
The problem is this: There is something that prevents us from forgiving. And, unless you know what to do with that obstacle, forgiving others will be difficult or impossible.
I want to give you a simple four-step process that I’ve used and I’ve helped others use. I’ve seen people use this to forgive horrendous offenses that have left lifelong pain. And it works equally well for smaller offenses.
Find it here:
Answer from last time: Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Joseph needed to return to his ancestral home town (Bethlehem) because he was a descendant of David, and Bethlehem was David’s home town.
New question: While Benjamin had many half brothers, he had only one full brother. What was his full brother’s name?
The fruit of the Spirit is joy and peace. So… what do we do with our unpleasant emotions (anxiety, loneliness, shame, invalidation, hopelessness and so on)?
Let’s start here. Are we honest enough to admit that we have them? I sure do. I have my moments of internal panic or dread. I have moments when I wish I could crawl into a paper bag and disappear forever. And many times in the past I have felt friendless and all alone.
If peace and joy are fruit of God’s Spirit, then you’d think that getting rid of these rotten feelings would be Christianity 101, right?
But I was a Christian for over three decades before anyone explained to me how to neutralize these unpleasant emotions. Before that I did what I suspect most people do—I went into denial.
Me? Afraid? No way! Lonely? I’m fine. Shame? What’s that? I put on my Sunday smile, and all was well. Shape up! Fake it ’til you make it. Faith before feeling. Yada yada.
But then I learned a surprisingly different way to deal with these nasty disruptions to my equanimity.
There’s a long story behind this, but let me cut to the chase: I’d like to share with you a simplified version of the process I learned. Maybe it will help you when you have those “human” moments that all of us have.
It’s all here, on this one-page guide:
Answer from last time: Kish and Jesse were both fathers of Israeli kings.
New question: Joseph and Mary were residents of Nazareth. So why was Jesus born in Bethlehem?
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17
How does God take away our sorrows?
Here’s a partial list.
We all have spiritual and emotional needs someone else should have met but didn’t. Jesus meets those needs.
He walks with us through life’s painful events and enables us to see them from His perspective.
He satisfies our desires with good things.
Everything intended for evil in our lives gets placed in His hands. There even the most disgusting injustice becomes an opportunity for God to bring good to us. Romans 8:28
In the end, our short-term suffering is gone and eternal happiness remains. Romans 8:18, Psalm 16:11
What would you add? How has Jesus taken away your sorrows?
Answer from last time: They disagreed on whether to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey.
New question: What do Kish and Jesse have in common?
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30 NASB
I would like to take a few minutes to discuss this passage.
What does it mean to decrease? I think this is important because many people misunderstand what it means to decrease.
In the context, it meant John the Baptist was no longer the rock star of the nation. The spotlight moved to Jesus. Jesus was now center stage. And John was okay with that. In fact, John was delighted with that.
We are tempted to prop up our own sense of self worth by all kinds of foolish and false means—money, power, and, in this case, popularity. But John didn’t need any of that. He didn’t need the crowd’s approval to feel okay about himself.
John was a man sent by God (John 1:6). Like you and me, he was created, redeemed and commissioned by God. He had a role to play in God’s great plan. He played it, stepped offstage, and was okay.
Do not imagine that John’s worth—or our worth—in some way decreases. In fact, a few months later Jesus was heard saying this: “Among those born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist.” (Luke 7:28) Our worth comes from the price Jesus paid to buy us back. And that will never decrease.
Answer from last time: Barnabas and the apostle Paul parted company when they couldn’t resolve their disagreement.
New question: What were Barnabas and Paul in disagreement about?
How do we who have tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil come to know the love of Jesus?
Without pain we are clueless. We heard about Jesus. We studied Him in school. Somebody said something about love. It’s all very abstract and meaningless.
Then we walk into a fallen world where we are misunderstood, kicked around, devalued, marginalized and thrown under the bus—the husband who no longer loves, the disease that won’t go away, the nagging feeling that we just aren’t good enough and never will be.
Pain comes in a thousand flavors. But only one Person has the audacity and authority to say, “Don’t cry.” (Luke 7:13)
How will Jesus turn your pain into peace? How exactly? I don’t know. I do know this. His presence cannot be duplicated; imitations of His work are cheap forgeries. There’s no step-by-step way to bypass Jesus, though many people have tried. There’s only opening the door and inviting Him in.
Answer from last time: Barnabas was known as the “son of encouragement.”
New question: Barnabas had a disagreement with a famous leader. Their disagreement resulted in the two parting company. What was the name of this famous leader?
“Go, sell all you possess, and give the money to the poor.” Matthew 19:21
Does this command from Jesus make you nervous? I can tell you that I have been arrested by these words many times.
No, I don’t think Jesus is offering here a universal prescription for eternal life. Instead, He was putting His finger on something we all need to address: misplaced trust.
Most of us live in a culture where a person’s worth is measured by his balance sheet, by money in the bank, by the house she lives in, by the car he drives. In contrast to James 2, this mindset has sometimes even invaded the church.
From where do we derive our own sense of worth? Beauty? It will fade. Money? It could be gone tomorrow. Followers in your ministry? The crowd can desert you in a day—Jesus Himself experienced that. These false gods cannot deliver us in our day of trouble; God Himself will see to that.
There’s only one Place where you can find significance. There’s only one Place where you can find worth. There’s only one Place where you can reclaim your lost identity. That Place is a Person. His name is Jesus.
Answer from last time: The Jordan River is the river most often referenced in the Bible.
New question: What was Barnabas known as?
You are an eternal soul temporarily occupying a mortal life
So what does that mean?
To me it means this life is way too small
to contain God’s plans for you.
You’re just getting started.
The best is yet to come.
It means you are both fragile and indestructible.
Like I used to say to my grandma:
The first 100 years are the hardest.
It means we live each day
with eternity in view
because we are holy—
that is, set apart for something better.
What about you?
What does this mean for you?
Answer from last time: Deuteronomy literally means “second law.”
New question: A number of rivers are mentioned in the Bible including the Nile and the Euphrates. But one river is spoken of more often than any other. Which river is that?
The best version of you—
the you designed and imagined by God
in your connection with Jesus.
Jesus restores and rebuilds.
His mission is to
heal all your hurts
renew your mind
transform you life
the beautiful you
the capable you
the indestructible you
the eternal you.
Don’t go this one alone.
Jesus has resources
you will never have
on your own.
He can marshal all the power in the universe
to break through every obstacle
that stands in the way
of you being you.
there is a cost.
Jesus moves to center stage.
He takes the lead role—
not to push you away
but to release the real you.
It’s a paradox
His closest friends understand well.
The more Jesus
the more you.
Does this mean
you become a religious fanatic?
Jesus isn’t religious.
the only people who ever picked a fight with Jesus
were religious people.
Jesus is real
in every sense of the word.
The more real
you can let yourself become
the more Jesus and His message
will resonate with you.
How do you do this?
How do you connect with Jesus?
Just open the door
and invite Him in.
Let Him be
who He wants to be in your life.
Answer from last time: Gideon defeated a huge enemy army with only 300 soldiers.
New question: Which book of the Bible has a name that literally means “second law”?