Ordinary Discipleship

16
Dec

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Guest Speaker: Clark Crawford

There is something deeply moving, beautiful and meaningful about certain gifts because especially those that are grounded in a relationship. Someone knew something intimate about you and gave you something that either met a deep, not-obvious need or expressed the kind of love that we all long for.

One reason that this is such a meaningful way to give is that it reflects so closely the gift we received in the birth of Christ. It met a deep need that many of us aren’t even aware of- a need for saving from death and healing from sin and brokenness. But it also expressed to us the very depth of God’s love- the kind of love that all of us are starving for.

God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff- even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all. This is why giving is still a good way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Apart from the incarnation, we would never fully know the depths to which we are loved or the lengths to which God can be trusted. That’s what we celebrate each Christmas. When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake.

Scripture references:

Matthew 2:1-12; John 1:1-4,14,18; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 2:17; 4:15; Isaiah 7:14

09
Dec

Advent Conspiracy: Spend Less

When we think about Christmas we think about “gift giving.” We harken back to that very first Christmas when the Magi brought gifts to the babe in the manger. The essence of this gift giving tradition is to show love and respect for the person(s) you are offering gifts to. Society sometimes tries to put a value on love and on respect and this false assumption sometimes is carried over into the gifts we choose. The more expensive or the larger amount of gifts we give the more we respect and love that person. But is that really true. Is a gift that cost lots of money really worth more than one that was personally chosen or one that was handmade? Do presents have more value than “presence?” The idea behind “Spend Less” is not as much about the “less” part than it is about the “spending” part. Asking yourself questions like, “Does this gift truly demonstrate respect and love toward the person I am giving it to? Do the companies I purchase them from represent standards that honor those who work for them? Is the reason I am giving this gift to impress or to bless?” Spending less is not about how much you spend, it is about how much you love.

Scripture references:

Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 12:13-21; Philippians 4:10-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5

02
Dec

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

The invitation to join Advent Conspiracy is not an invitation to be angry at people who are doing it wrong or to throw out everything about our current Christmas. If those things make us angry or frustrated, then maybe we are the ones doing it wrong. Instead, it’s an invitation to return to the manger, where the Christ-child resides, and marvel at the magnitude of the gift, no matter how strongly our culture or even our families may try to pull us away. How will we do that? Advent Conspiracy offers four suggestions: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love Always.

We begin with Worship Fully because it is the lens through which we see the whole advent season. Mary shows us the way here as she sets us on the right course to meet Jesus again during this season. She expresses her true worship by literally being willing to give her whole self to God’s plan for our redemption. Mary’s song is known as the Magnificat because she magnifies God, pointing to Him as she worships and confesses His great love for and future deliverance of the oppressed.

Let’s start there and begin to think about what “worship fully” means and how we can apply that concept to help us fully appreciate and experience this Advent season.

Scripture references:

Luke 1:46-55; Romans 12:1,2; John 4:24

18
Nov

Family

Use this holiday season to sincerely encourage and praise your family. Look for opportunities to thank them for how they make your life more meaningful. Incorporate these “holiday practices” into your non-holiday life and record how the dynamics of your family change.

Digging deeper:

Genesis 2:18; 37; Ecclesiastes 4:8-10; Acts 2:44-47; 2 Thessalonians 1:2-4; 1 Timothy 5:8

11
Nov

The God of Elijah

What does you God look like? If someone asked you to describe the God you worship, what would you say? What words would you use to describe your personal perception of who God is. Someone once said that “What you think about God says a lot about you.” What does your description of God say about you.

Now, let’s look at the God of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet of God. He lived in a time where people were running after any idol that could possibly bring them hope and happiness. In Elijah’s time, that was definitely the case, and a big part of the problem. The reigning king of Israel, Ahab, had married a foreign woman, Jezebel who convinced Ahab and subsequently the Jewish people that she had a better god-option, Baal. The people thought, “well, if one God is good, two are even better!”

This is where Elijah comes in: Because of his unwavering loyalty to the one true God of Israel he is hated by Jezebel and Ahab, but that does not stop Elijah from fighting for what he believes. His recorded interactions with the people of Israel and the worshippers of Baal demonstrate to the people of that day and to us that the God we serve is one who cares. He is one who provides and protects. He did not create us to be His slaves but desires a relationship with us.

Is this the God you serve? If not, check out what the scriptures have to say about the God of Elijah and see if it changes your perspective.

Digging deeper: 1 Kings 17:7-24; 18:16-46

Do something about it: When reading the Old Testament, we sometimes tend to focus on the harsh or judgmental aspects of God, but this week, take time to read those stories again. Read them with the knowledge that God does not change (“He is the same yesterday, today and forever”). If He does not change, then this is the same God who chose to become one of us and sacrifice Himself so that we might be saved. His sacrificial act paid the price so that the sin that separated us from a loving God would no longer be a barrier to a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. See how reading it with that knowledge in mind expands your understanding of who “the God you serve” is.

28
Oct

Stop Looking at Your Neighbor’s Blessings and Look at Your Own

Have you ever thought about how much time we spend looking left and right at what others have? It really is not difficult to do. We have been trained to focus on what we do not have instead of being grateful for the blessings we have. Just look at advertising: It is geared toward reminding us of what we do not have and convince us that we need it. Social media also presents a seemingly unending litany of “look what I have” themed posts that make us envious of places we have never been or things we do not possess.

Now, take a moment to concentrate on what you do have that you are thankful for. When we stop looking around and begin looking up and in, we regain a sense of just how blessed we are. We begin to see that God is working in our lives and that He truly does care for us. The satisfaction that comes with knowing that God has promised to provide everything we “need” should be enough to adjust our attitudes and help us find the “joy” that God promises. When we remember all that God has done for us and given us, we become more available for God to use and more satisfied with life as God has provided it.

Digging deeper:

Psalm 67; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 9:11; Matthew 5:3-10

Do something about it:

Establish a regular time with God and begin each time with specifically thanking God for the blessings that are in your life.

21
Oct

Not Their Likes, but His Love

How would our life be different if we stopped worrying about what others thought with regard to what we say and do? The practice of basing our personal value on the opinion of others seems to be ingrained into us at a very early age. Nurture plays a huge role and our assessment of ourselves. Wouldn’t it be great if we based our personal worth on the opinion of the most important influence in our lives and that influencer was willing to overlook our shortcomings? Wouldn’t it be awesome if this most important person considered us so valuable that they would die for us?
Well, we are in luck! The God we serve considers us “a chosen people,(A) a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” Jesus, the ultimate influencer in our lives, chose to become one of us so that He could restore our broken relationship with God. He died for us so that the things that blocked us from truly understanding who we are (sin and selfishness) would be forgiven and erased. We could become a “new creation”, blameless and perfect in God’s eyes.
How do we accept and apply this new understanding? Stop chasing their likes and look to His love to feed, fill, satisfy, and truly make us whole.

Digging deeper:

Psalm 139:14; Isaiah 43:1; Luke 12:6-7; John 10:10; Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 john 3:1

Do something about it:

Spend time in God’s Word. Take time to look up each of the verses above and read the context around them. Look for other stories and passages that talk about God’s great love for us. In your prayer time, thank God for choosing you and ask Him to help you to truly see yourself as He sees you. Pick a favorite, “God loves me” verse and display it in a prominent place to remind you, each day that you are not only loved, but valuable enough to die for.

14
Oct

Addicted to Likes: Obsessive Comparison Disorder

Are you obsessed with what people think of you? Do you assess your personal value based on whether you are keeping up with the Jones’ or by how many likes you get for a Facebook post? Those external assessment tools can be such a slippery slope because they, more often than not, drains you of the joy and perspective God has made each of us to enjoy. If we switched our criteria and used the opinions of those who know us best, we would have to look to the one who created us. When we do that we see that we were and still are so valuable that God would choose to die for us. We are so worthy that God wants to have a personal relationship with us. We are so loved that God is willing to look past our faults and shortcomings and welcome us as His beloved children. Isn’t it time we stopped letting our possession, appearance and friends/family define who we are. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Digging deeper:
Genesis 3:1-7; Psalm 139:1-16; John 3:16; 8:44; 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 2:9

Do something about it:
Spend so time in God’s Word. Do a word search on “God’s love.” Find a verse that really describes how God feels about you and post it somewhere you look, everyday. Read it out loud each day and remind yourself that you were worth dying for.

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