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Every Day Bible

Getting Unstuck

Have you ever gotten spiritually stuck?

You realize that your relationship with God stalled; you’ve drifted farther away from him. You haven’t made progress on conquering those sins that nag at your heart. It’s not as dramatic as the Prodigal’s journey to the far country; it’s more like a spiritual drought.

If that’s you – there’s hope!

I think it happens to most everyone at some point. But let me encourage you to work on getting unstuck.

Here are a few suggestions:

ONE: Get untangled. (Read Hebrews 12:1-2). Maybe something is weighing you down. Look for unhealthy relationships or obsessions that distract you from what matters most. Be willing to do some pruning work to lighten the load (see John 15:1-11).

TWO: Get motivated. Recognize what is on the line! Nearly four hundred years ago, John Owen summarized Romans 8:13 powerfully: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” And it’s not just you—it’s your family and your friends. When we get stuck, we weigh down the people who depend on us, too.

THREE: Get moving. There is great power in simply acting. You likely already know what you need to do. You know a step you can take. Most of us contemplate for a long time before we act. Just act! Scripture promises a reward for action. James says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” He doesn’t say he might. He will. Do something.

FOUR: Get creative. Perhaps your spiritual routines served you well for many years, but your season of life has changed. It might be time for a change. I’ve noticed that much of our spiritual growth comes when we are out of our comfort zones. Try something new. Study in a different way. Serve in a new capacity. Dare greatly!

FIVE: Get help. Remember that we were never called to live the life of faith alone. Sometimes when you get stuck, the only way you’re going to get out is to call a friend with a winch and a tow hook. Lean on your spiritual family for help.

Everyone gets stuck. Not everyone gets un-stuck.

Take action today to get moving in the right direction!

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Every Day Bible

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: A Study of Philemon (Part 1 of 3)

With so many of us doing church online or hosting study groups in our homes, I wanted to put together a little resource for your study of a powerful little New Testament letter: Paul’s letter to Philemon.

Check out the intro to the series below:

Intro to “Where the Rubber Meets the Road”

A few thousand pounds of car sit on just 147 square inches of rubber, the patch of tire where the rubber meets the road. That contact patch might be the most important place on your car. No matter how powerful the motor is, its ability to move the car (and steer and stop it) comes down to these 147 square inches.

We like that expression: “where the rubber meets the road.” It’s the spot where the idea meets reality. That recipe looks good on paper, but when you cook it – is it any good? Have you ever seen (or created) a “Pinterest fail”?

Where does the rubber meet the road for Christianity?

In real, boring, every day life.

Specifically, your life, and my life. That’s where we get God’s word out of the book and into practice.

I’d like to invite you to join me for a study of the book of Philemon. Philemon is a “rubber meets the road” book of the Bible.

It’s a tiny letter—only 355 words. It fits on a single page. You can read it in 3 minutes. It’s shorter than this post! So if Bible study is intimidating to you, trust me, you can make it through Philemon.

Here’s the gist of it: it’s a letter from Paul to a Christian named Philemon. Philemon was a slaveowner—like most of the rich people were in his day.

His slave, Onesimus, ran away.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian while living as a fugitive. So now the fugitive slave who was considered his master’s property becomes his master’s brother.

Legally, Philemon could beat or kill Onesimus. So here’s where the rubber meets the road. What does Christianity look like on Philemon? What does it look like on Onesimus? How do Christians handle a situation like this?

Sound interesting? I think so.

Choose a time and a place to get together with a few friends or family members for the next three weeks (at home, virtually, whatever works for you), pick up your Bibles, and head here or facebook to watch the 3 lessons and study.

Let’s see what Christianity looks like in real life – where the rubber meets the road!

Sesson 1: Thru Philemon’s Eyes

Read Philemon online here

Read Pliny’s letter to Sabinianus here

Check back next week for Part 2: How Onesimus Saw It!

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Every Day Bible

Like Riding a Bike

We’re in the “learning to ride a bike” stage at our house. It’s wobbly, crashy, wonderful fun.

Learning to ride a bike is tough, isn’t it? It’s scary to pull off the training wheels and trust the balance of the bike. It takes some time to convince the kids that it actually gets easier the faster they go and the more fully they commit.

That might not be a bad analogy for learning to live a life of faith. Walking by sight is what we’re used to. It’s comfortable. It feels safe. But we’re not called to walk our bicycles. We’re called to ride them! So we learn to pull our feet up and walk by faith, not by sight. We trust that God knows what he’s talking about and that what he says and does is good, no matter what it looks like.

And maybe the most important lesson from learning to ride a bike is this one: when we fall down, we get back up and try again.

“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” (Proverbs 24:16)

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Every Day Bible

My Council of Advisors

When we talk about peer pressure, we almost always talk about it negatively.  There are tons of scriptures and cautionary tales.

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Sunday Service at 10:30am

Paul warned that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Jesus warned his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6).

Peer pressure has a positive effect, too. Good influences can help us be better than we would have been otherwise. Read the following scriptures to see how the Bible speaks of positive influence:

  • Acts 4:13
  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Titus 2:7-8
  • 1 Peter 5:1-3
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1

People say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who are the five people you spend the most time with?

How have those people made you a better person?

How have they negatively affected you?

I’m not interested in blaming others for our faults—that’s not the point of this lesson. The blame game was pointless in the Garden of Eden and it still is today! BUT – we would be foolish to neglect the fact that we are influenced by those around us.

Locate an example in the Bible of someone who was made better by the people around him or her.

Locate an example in the Bible of someone who was made worse by the people around him or her.

Check out the OpenBible Topical Bible reference on “Influence.” Select one passage you find to be particularly helpful and share it with your friends.

Who is on your council of advisors? How did each person earn his or her spot? What is uniquely helpful about each person’s input?

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Every Day Bible

The Indestructible, Unstoppable Church

“If all the cathedrals on earth were gone, all the most glorious art were lost, and all of the world’s most valuable treasures were thrown out, Christians could and would still meet for worship around the Scriptures and Eucharist. To have church, all we need is Word and sacrament.”

(Tish Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary)

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is its simple, unstoppable power. A virus and quarantine can’t stop the church from being the church. Power outages and downed trees don’t stop the church from being the church.

Never forget what Jesus said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell [Sheol—the grave] shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

When Jesus said these words, he was standing in Caesarea Philippi, not far from Mount Hermon, an area sometimes referred to as Bashan. It was known for terrifying giant clans—the Rephaim and Anakim associated with kings Sihon and Og (Deuteronomy 2:10-12, Joshua 12:1-5).

Ugaritic history tells us that the locals believed the giants were the spirits of these dead wicked kings. They believed this area was the portal to the underworld, or the gates of Sheol. Nearby is Dan, where Jeroboam built an altar to Baal.

There is even Jewish legend that this is where the Nephilim of Genesis 6 were born, and they were the ancestors of the demons (1 Enoch 15:1-12).

On top of all of that, Caesarea Philippi was dedicated to Zeus.

What I’m saying is – if you wanted a headquarters for the spooky, evil, and demonic, this region is it.

How powerful is it that Jesus stood in this place and says, more literally, “the gates of hell will not withstand my church.”

A lot of people predict doom and gloom for the church—but Jesus said the opposite. He said that no force dares stand in the way of God’s kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty optimistic about the future of the church!

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Every Day Bible

Living “In Coram Deo”

Preview of Sunday’s Lesson
Sunday’s Lesson – 10:30am

No one, anywhere, has enough time or resources to do all the things they would like to do. Everything we say “yes” to is an automatic “no” to something else.

In this week’s lesson from Matthew 13, I suggest that the biggest dangers to our spiritual health are starvation and neglect (rocky soil and thorny soil). Those dangers arise directly from our choices about what we say “yes” to and what we say “no” to.

The problem is most of us don’t make those choices on purpose. We don’t plan to nourish our souls, so when we get home after work, rather than taking a strategic action, we take an easy action, and we re-watch the same TV show that wasn’t that funny the first seven times we watched it.

Living in coram deo means being conscious of the fact that we are living in the presence of God.

How would our choices about using time look different if Jesus accompanied us on each task?

How would our attitudes about the mundane chores of life feel different if Jesus were scrubbing toilets next to us?

How would our response to temptation change if we knew that Jesus were really beside us, helping us in the struggle, holding us by his nail-pierced hand?

Living in coram deo has the power to change our lives!

We’ll still neglect to do some things, but that neglect will be strategic neglect

Read Psalm 90

  • What metaphors does Psalm 90 use to illustrate the brevity of human life?
  • What does it mean to “number our days”? How might we do that?
  • How does numbering our days give us a heart of wisdom?

Read Ephesians 5:15-16

  • Look in the verses before and after this section. What do you think it means to walk “wisely”?
  • How would you define “making the best use of the time”?
  • Does making the best use of time eliminate recreation and rest? Why or why not?

In light of these passages, Matthew 6:33, and this morning’s lesson…

What are some things that you have been neglecting that need some attention?

What is something in your life that you need to start neglecting in order to focus on something more important?

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Every Day Bible

Boundaries

I’ve never thought that the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors” made a lot of sense. In my experience, the best neighbors make me thankful not to have a fence, and bad neighbors aren’t deterred by fences.

Despite that, there’s something incredibly useful and powerful about boundaries. I’ve always liked how Galatians 6:2, 5 balances life for us: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…Each will have to bear his own load.” It is appropriate for me to help someone in time of need. It is not appropriate for me to do all of their work for them.

If we don’t set boundaries intentionally, we’ll find that time, circumstances, and other people will set them for us. We might not like where they get set.

Brené Brown wrote, “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

I had never thought about boundary-setting is compassionate before. It doesn’t just help me, it helps others. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like what Jesus said. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)

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Every Day Bible

What Have We Learned From This?

This discussion guide accompanies the Sunday, April 26th sermon at Burns Church of Christ.

Life is an incredible teacher. Unfortunately, we’re not all great students!

Some people have 20 years of experience at work. Others have one year of experience, repeated twenty times.

What’s the difference? Mindset!

Are we people who seek out opportunities to learn and grow? Do we let our failures teach us and make us better? Or do we avoid taking chances that carry any risk of failure whatsoever.

In this week’s message, we focused on the idea that we can learn from times like this. We can learn from anything, if we’re willing to. One teacher told me that you can learn from any sermon—even if what you learn is, “This is an unhelpful way to explain this idea.”

We get excited when scientists make breakthroughs. We want to hear about a new drug that works wonders against disease. It’s far less exciting, but negative (or null) results are incredibly valuable, too. At the end of an unsuccessful trial, scientists need to share ideas about what doesn’t work in order to advance further research and prevent others from wasting time and resources going down a dead-end path.

The shorthand name for this idea—that we should look at life as an opportunity to learn from every moment—is called a growth mindset.

Growth mindset people believe that hard work, perseverance, and effort determine destiny far more than innate talent or blind luck. (The opposite of the growth mindset is the fixed mindset).

I think this idea finds a lot of support in scripture: that we should be people who learn and listen and grow and improve at every possible moment.

Read and discuss the following scriptures:

Proverbs 19:20

Proverbs 2:2

Matthew 11:15

Proverbs 19:27

Proverbs 25:12

Proverbs 18:2

Proverbs 12:1

Luke 17:5

1 Peter 2:2-3

Discuss:

How can you and your circle be intentional about developing a growth mindset?

If this mindset of curiosity and learning is so beneficial, what keeps us from it?

How can the growth mindset apply to your education or work?

How would a church led by people with this mindset look different than a church dominated by a fixed mindset?

For further study:

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Every Day Bible

My Favorite Sermons from Last Year (2019)

This post carries the risk of being weird or self-promotional, but I’m going to chance it anyway.

If you’ve been missing being together with your church, I’ve put together a list of my favorite sermons from last year. These are all over the place. Some are topics, some are texts….

I don’t know about other preachers, but there are some sermons that I really enjoyed.

(There is an implication here….there are some that seemed like a good idea, until about 15 minutes into the sermon!)

Sometimes you run into an idea that’s beautiful or powerful and you just love sharing it. Other days – it’s a struggle. And of course, your mileage may vary. Some of the sermons I love the most leave Leslie scratching her head wondering why I rambled about that for half an hour!

So, without further ado, here are my five favorite sermon babies from 2019.

(If the files don’t play right in the browser – click the 3 dots on the right side and hit “Download.”)

A Gratitude Perspective
The gratitude perspective is powerful. The disciples had a choice – will we respond in joy, or will we respond in fear? Fear is easier for most of us – but joy is better.

The Lefty
Ehud and Eglon’s story is weird. Really weird. Why does the Bible take the time to tell us the story of a lefty and an obese king? In this Sunday night class, we learn that no matter how your story begins, it might just end very differently.

God’s Great Reversal
God has a way of taking the things as ugly, shameful, and useless, and using them to create the unimaginable. The Easter story is the greatest example of God’s Great Reversals.

Blessed Assurance
Do you know that you are right with God, or do you just hope to be? If you want Blessed Assurance, there are a few things you need to know…

Just Do It!
With no apologies to Nike, sometimes the message we need the most is simple. Just do it. Do what’s right, right now.

Honorable Mentions

If, somehow, you haven’t wised up yet, I’ve included two sermon series from last year that I really enjoyed. Remember, I’m not responsible if you listen while operating heavy machinery and you doze off… Please don’t mix with Benadryl!

A Christmas Carol Series

Somehow I had never read A Christmas Carol before 2019. I used some ideas from Dickens to prep for Christmas this year. You’ll probably like this series better if you are really familiar with the story.

  1. Ghosts and Chains
  2. Warnings from Above
  3. The Making of a Scrooge
  4. A New Creature

The Ten Commandments

My theme for 2019 was “Love God – Love Neighbor.” Jesus said you could summarize the entire law and prophets with this simple direction, so we looked at the ten commandments through the lens of how they teach us to love God and neighbor.

Also, when we hear the ten commandments, we tend to find the ways that other people violate them. I tried to pay particular attention to the way that I would violate them. That seems way more helpful to me…

This year’s materials are available over at the church website and our youtube page.

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Every Day Bible

The Dull Bits

Alfred Hitchcock said that movies are “life with the dull bits cut out.”

Even in our shows that try to be “live” or mimic real-life schedules, you don’t watch Jack Bauer fill up his truck with gas on 24 or see the doctors on a medical drama filling out insurance appeals. Live PD doesn’t devote airtime to officers attending mandatory training sessions! The mundane is just that—mundane and boring.

Sometimes we are biased against the “dull bits.” We don’t realize how important they are. After all, most of life is ordinary, isn’t it?

Have you noticed that scripture is interested in all of life? “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

In all your ways acknowledge him…” (Proverbs 3:6)

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

If you want to be a more committed disciple of Jesus, you’d do well not to focus on the extraordinary moments of sacrifice and service. Focus on the dull bits that others want to cut out!