Out Of Control

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.“Proverbs 19:21 .

Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas took him to several friends who all had different ideas about how to turn his attitude around and get the most out of the holiday. Lucy is at her psychiatric booth when Charlie Brown comes up to discuss his problem. What Lucy decides Charlie Brown needs is involvement, better yet, he needs the ability to direct, which means he is the one to tell others what to do. He gets to be in control. The reason this makes sense for Lucy is because for her, life is all about being in control. Lucy loves to be in control. In fact, while Lucy tells Charlie Brown he is going to direct the play, she is the one who decides what part everyone gets. For Lucy it is all about being in control and having things her way and if she doesn’t get her way, she is willing to force the issue.

For many of us, life feels healthy, balanced and good when we are in control and when we get our way. Most of us, if we are honest, want what we want and our need for control may be seen in little things like who gets to hold the remote control or who sets the thermostat at night. Or it can be manifested in larger issues such as how money is spent in the family, or how the kids are raised, etc.

Jezebel was a control freak. She controlled people with her words and her actions. She had an obsessive need to exercise control over others and to take command of any situation. The spirit of control and manipulation as epitomized by Jezebel was almost totally responsible for corrupting an entire nation. 

While most people think that Jezebel was bad those same people think control is good. But when you are in control God isn’t. It is that simple.  So we need to decide every day who’s going to be in control of our life — us or God. There are things in our lives that we want to control. We want to set the rules and be the final arbiter of what is right and wrong. Psalm 46:10 says, “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth” (GW).

I don’t know what you’re going to face this week. You don’t, either. But God wants you to let go and know that God is in control. Whenever we face out-of-control situations, we tend to go to one of two extremes. For some of you, the more out-of-control your life gets, the harder you try to control it.

But in the midst of it all, the Word of God rings out with this message, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13) God is in control. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does fear of the future and wanting to be in control relate?
  2. What area of your life do you find yourself consistently fearful of what might come or what won’t come? Why do you think it’s hard to let go of control and trust God for your future?
  3. Most of us believe that God’s timing is perfect. What we often mean by this statement is that God’s timing is not our timing. If we were God, we would have acted much earlier. But God is hardly ever early in His timing and He usually waits until things are completely out of control to act. How have you seen God work when things were completely out of control?
  4. What can we do this week to turn control over to God? 

A Refresher on Jezebel

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” – Revelation 2:20.

Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel is an evil woman in the Bible as Revelation 2:20 (above) points out. 

Here’s the cliff notes on the story. Queen Jezebel worshiped Baal who was the chief pagan god when the Israelites first came into the promised land. God was already angry about the level of idol worship and witchcraft, and had ordered the prophet Elijah to stand up against them (1 Kings 16: 22-33). Ahab made matters worse by marrying the already forbidden Jezebel in the first place, and began to serve Baal along with her (v 31). It was only a matter of time before she began to kill off God’s prophets and replace them with false prophets. When the pagan prophets met Elijah at Mount Carmel, an amazing thing happened. Elijah had set up two altars…one dedicated to Baal and one dedicated to God. The prophets of Baal called on their god to send down fire and consume their offering. They went to extremes. When Elijah called upon God to send fire down to consume the sacrifice on his altar, fire came down from heaven immediately and consumed the offering. This infuriated Jezebel and she swore to kill Elijah in revenge. Poor old King Ahab sat idly by and let all of this go, although he learned how to manipulate Jezebel to satisfy his own selfish desires as demonstrated in the story of Naboth.(1 Kings 21:1-15).

Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel located near the palace of Ahab. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange, I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” After Naboth respectfully said no, Ahab sulked and refused to eat (1 Kings 21:1-4) In verses 5-7, Jezebel came in, asked what was wrong and listened attentively as her husband explained his problem. “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” So, she wrote letters in her husband’s name and ordered Naboth to be stoned to death! He was surely killed, and without a shred of guilt, Ahab went down and claimed the vineyard. Afterwards, Elijah prophesied that Ahab and his descendants would be killed and that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs (1 Kings 21:17-24).

Three years after Jezebel had Naboth stoned, Ahab died in battle. His sons died soon thereafter. Elijah’s successor, Elisha appointed Jehu to be his successor, that he may destroy Ahab’s  descendants as a punishment for the way Jezebel had treated God’s people. Then, he ordered Jezebel’s own servants to throw her out of that very window, sprinkle blood on the walls and trample upon her corpse. Later when the servants went to bury her, they found only her skull, feet, and the palms of her hands. Her flesh had been eaten by dogs, just as Elijah had prophesied (2 Kings 9:35-36).

The main lesson from Jezebel’s life is that the deeds of a few can adversely affect a whole nation. Her biggest claim to fame was actually her possession of power through manipulation and control. But God is the one who has the ultimate control. “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are there people in power today that frighten you? If so, why? 
  2. What temptations do Christians face that seek to convince us that we are in control? What fears do some people, including Christians, have about something or someone other than themselves being in control?
  3. How should the fact that God is in control alleviate our fears? What do our fears indicate about our willingness or ability to let God be in control?
  4. What are some ways we can daily relinquish our lives to God’s sovereign control?

Paradise Lost

“Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit. Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste. Brought death into the world, and all our woe. With loss of Eden, till one greater Man, Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, Sing Heav’nly Muse… – Paradise Lost, John Milton.

The classic book, Paradise Lost, written by John Milton, was published in 1667. Paradise Lost is an epic poem of 12 books based on the biblical story of Satan’s fall from Heaven and Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. The poem is the same story you find in the first pages of Genesis, expanded by Milton into a very long, detailed, narrative poem. Milton’s work should not be understood as biblical fact. But it does delve into the devil extensively. 

There are times when I think we need to learn more about the devil and there are times when I think we need to unlearn things about the devil. That is because some of the things we have learned about Satan come from John Milton’s Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno, or some horror movie.

The snake’s presence in the Garden of Eden is the thing that had Adam and Eve begin to doubt themselves and God’s plans for their lives. We know this presence all too well. It’s that voice that whispers into our ear that says we’re not good enough, strong enough, attractive enough, smart enough, that we don’t add up. We need something more than what God can give us. It’s that nagging voice that comes to us to plant doubt into our heads, that seeks to erode our confidence and replace it with self-doubt. That thing in us that always seems to make us question who we are, that tries to strip us of our strength and our sense of self worth, that beats us up and kicks us when we’re down.

There is always a method to Satan’s madness. Satan shows up only at the very end of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. That’s when Jesus is at His weakest and most vulnerable from 40 days of fasting. No water. No food. If Jesus is going to crack, this is the moment—when He might give it all away for just a morsel of bread. If evil ever has a chance to enter our story, it’s when we’re at our worst, when we feel most exposed. The devil whispers to Jesus three times. First, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3) Second, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” (Matthew 4:6) And third, “Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9). We know that voice, the nagging voice that tries to cut our knees out from under us, its words shrink our self-worth. It’s a voice that tries its best to convince us that we don’t deserve better, that we’re all alone, that no one else understands.

Life is messy and complicated. There is no way to undo our mistakes. The good news is God knows all that. He was one of us. He has lived this life. He knows what it feels like to undergo these things, to be tested. He even knows what it’s like to die, and to die the most humiliating of deaths: death on a cross. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, paradise was not lost for those who trust in Him.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think the devil opposes God’s work in our lives? In what ways have you noticed the devil’s opposition to God’s work in your life?
  2. Read John 10:10. What are the descriptive terms Jesus uses to describe the devil? What can the devil steal, kill, and destroy in your life?
  3. Read John 8:44. How would you define “the father of lies”? What does that phrase mean to you? How can we accurately identify common lies of the devil in our lives?
  4. Read 2 Corinthians 10:5. Based upon this Scripture, how should we “fight back” against the lies of the devil?

Coming To Terms With It

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21.

In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller talks about how most people spend their lives trying to make their heart’s fondest dreams come true. Isn’t that what life is all about, “the pursuit of happiness”? We search endlessly for ways to acquire the things we desire, and we are willing to sacrifice much to achieve them. Or, as we were talking about on Sunday, the “it” in our lives. 

In the book, Tim says the following: “The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. An idol is something we cannot live without.”

So what is the “it” or “counterfeit god” in your life? The “it” is the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side. It is the thought that we are not content with where we are at in life and the circumstances that God allows to come into our lives. We want more, for more expensive cars and vacations, for that lottery ticket that might give us a big jackpot. We also are looking for better and more favorable circumstances. The “it” or “counterfeit god” keeps us from being satisfied with what life brings our way and with God’s sovereign purpose for our daily lives.

What is contentment anyway? Philippians 4:11:12 gives the answer:”Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Everyone is searching for contentment but few actually find it. Paul says that in any and every circumstance he has learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I have learned the secret of being content. This idea is directly opposed to how we are conditioned and trained to go after contentment, to search for the “it” which will make us happy. 

Instead of changing our circumstances God changes our hearts so that we can be content in the midst of changing circumstances.

Contentment then does not depend on outward circumstances but rather upon an inward mindset. Contentment is worked from the inside out. The secret to contentment is not in a change of circumstances but a change of heart, a heart fixed on Jesus. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there an “it” or “counterfeit god” in your life?
  2. What gives you contentment? What takes away your contentment?
  3. What can we tell about the kind of relationship people have with God by their level of contentment?
  4. What can you do this week to learn to be more content?

Marriage Made In Heaven

“Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2:23.

We just finished the Ideal Family series.  There’s the ideal family and then there’s reality. There’s a gap and it’s one that’s not exactly expected to be filled. When it comes to family, what does the “ideal” family look like? Well, there is Adam and Eve.

If ever a marriage was ideal, it was Adam and Eve’s. If ever a marriage was made in heaven, it was Adam and Eve’s. It was perfectly planned and perfectly performed by a perfect God. First God made Adam in His image (Genesis 1:27). He was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually perfect.

And what about Eve? “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:21-22). Adam must have been in love at first sight when he saw Eve. She was God’s creative genius at its best, unblemished grace and beauty, fashioned by the hand of God Himself. And like Adam, she was made in God’s image. She ended his loneliness. She was just exactly what he needed. 

Their home was located in Eden. “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8). Eden was a luscious green paradise, blanketed with every beautiful and edible growing thing (Genesis 2: 9-10). Side by side they lived and labored in perfect harmony, sharing a sense of mutual interdependence, enjoying a freedom of communion and communication. There was no sin in them. There was no strife between them. They were at peace with God, at peace with themselves, and at peace with each other. This was truly the perfect marriage. This was paradise. But obviously, something happened and the ideal became all too real.

Everything changed with the entrance of sin. The subtle tempter questioned the Word of God and the goodness of God. Satan’s methods have not changed much through the centuries. We know them well—the doubts, the distortions, the denials. Yet we too fall prey to them. We can identify with Eve in her moment of weakness. We know what it is to yield to temptation. When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation there were devastating consequences for both of them and the serpent. (Genesis 3: 14-19)

This would be the saddest story ever told were it not for a Savior born so many year later. Speaking to Satan he said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). God promised that the seed of the woman, a child born into the human race, would destroy the works of the devil. This is the first biblical prophecy of the coming Redeemer. Jesus died for the sins of the world. His perfect blood covers the sins of every human being who will accept Him as Lord and Savior. He offers to forgive us freely and restore us to His favor. And He makes available to us His strength to help us live above temptation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn from this ideal marriage?
  2. In what ways can Satan use temptation to undermine marriages and families?
  3. What can husbands and wives do to help keep from blaming their problems on each other as Adam and Eve did?
  4. Is the issue of eternal salvation firmly settled in your mind? If not, is there any good reason why you should not settle it right now?

Serpent Salesman

“Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live.“Genesis 3:14 (NLT).

The serpent, Satan, tempted Eve by getting her to doubt God’s goodness. He implied that God was strict, stingy, and selfish for not wanting Eve to share his knowledge of good and evil. Satan made Eve forget all that God had given her and, instead, focus on what God had forbidden. We fall into trouble, too, when we dwell on what God forbids rather than on the countless blessings and promises God has given us. 

Why does Satan tempt us? Temptation is Satan’s invitation to give in to his kind of life and give up on God’s kind of life. Satan tempted Eve and succeeded in getting her to sin. Ever since then, he’s been busy getting people to sin. He even tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). 

The enemy is very shrewd and will try to get you to doubt the Word of God just like he did Eve in the Garden of Eden. Notice that “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).  See how he is?  God never said you cannot eat of any tree in the garden, only the one tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Today, that old serpent the Devil still attacks on the same two fronts he used to attack Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: the truth of God’s Word (Genesis 3:4) and the goodness of God’s person (Genesis 3:1b, 5). And yet they are both one attack; the enemy wants you to doubt God’s Word because then you’ll doubt God Himself. He will cleverly mix truth with error rendering the truth powerless. To cast doubt on God’s Word is to cast doubt on His character. No wonder the Bible says that he has deceived the whole world: “This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” (Revelation 12:9)

We will never be out of danger; the serpent is always ready to slither beside you and whisper enticing lies in your ear. The Bible and trust in God is our best defense. Romans 8: 12-13 tells us: “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.”

So trust God with all your might, know His Word accurately and deeply,  and walk daily in submission to His Word. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read the narrative of the fall in Genesis 3. What question does the serpent ask? Have you ever rationalized your sin or questioned God’s Word in a similar way? When have you needed an extra measure of faith to obey God? 
  2. Why do you think the temptation of the devil worked?
  3. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13: What does this verse mean to you?
  4. What steps can we take this week to be better prepared for the temptations of the devil?

An Apple A Day

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:” – Genesis 3:1-4.

Eve could have been any one of us. She may have been the first, but she definitely wasn’t the last to listen to the father of lies. Before that, perfection was everywhere. The ground was easy to till. No one hated anyone. There were no murders, no power struggles, no jealousy, no envy. And Eve and Adam communicated each day with God Himself.

But Eve thought about what the serpent had said, she began to long to eat the fruit. The Bible doesn’t tells us but she probably was thinking something like: “The fruit of that tree looks so delicious. It may be the best fruit in the garden. That fruit will make me wise. I’ll know all the things God knows and then I won’t have to learn from Him. What a good thing it would be to eat this fruit! My life will be complete. I have to have it! Yes, I’m going to eat it!”

The allure of sin won. She believed that her life would be complete if she ate the fruit. But she was wrong. She succumbed to the lies.

And, so could I. And, so could you. Genesis 3:1 says, “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” The shrewdest. Other Bible versions use crafty (NIV), subtle (KJV), clever (MSG), and cunning (NKJV).  Eve didn’t call out to God, seeking help or guidance. She thought she had this. We often think we have the situation well in hand as well. When God says “don’t,” and we say “do.” When God says “stop,” and we say “go.” When God says, “I love you,” and we say, “That’s nice, but if you don’t mind, I’d like a little time off for bad behavior.”

We long for a deep relationship with God, but lack the stamina to turn off the TV and read our Bibles. We’re afraid of the future. We fear being poor. We’re just normal, ordinary everyday people who like Eve make mistakes. And because we are prone to mistakes we try to hide from His love. But His love comes and finds us.

Genesis 3: 9 says, “Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” God saw his two wayward children in the garden, and he called out to them, “Where are you?”

It’s a good question for each of us to answer. Are we hiding from God? Are we ashamed of something we’ve done? Fearful that God will punish us? God did not come to the garden to punish Eve and Adam. Yes, there were deep consequences because of their sin—there usually are—but because of God’s mercy, Adam and Eve did not remain stuck in their sin. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8).

What have we learned from Eve? Listen for God’s voice. Trust Him. Sense the move of His Spirit. And come out of hiding.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were to take a “walk with God” as Adam and Eve did in the garden, what question would you ask him?
  2. What do you think Eve’s real sin was? What role did Adam play in the process?
  3. What’s the relationship between knowledge and sin?
  4. What can we do to create a “firewall” against the tempting of Satan?

Faith In Action

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.” – Matthew 14:29-32

There are a lot of people that are simply risk averse. They prefer to play it safe. Eleanor Roosevelt said that we should “do one thing every day that scares you.” Well that’s OK for her and others, but I don’t have a risk mentality. I like my current way of doing, thinking, and living. I like the status quo. That’s why at restaurants, I always order the same thing. Why try something new? What if I don’t like it? Why rock the boat and why get out of the boat? In fact, why even get in the boat in the first place?

I don’t remember reading Biblical passages that say “thou shall take risks” or “blessed are the risk-takers.”  You are right, there are no such passages, however, there are a whole lot of verses on faith. And faith and risk go hand in hand. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that: “And it is impossible to please God without faith….”  The essence of growing in our walk with Jesus is growing in faith.

Faith requires risk. Without risk there’s no faith. But what if? What if I give sacrificially and I don’t have enough money for my needs? What if I embark on this venture on faith and it doesn’t succeed? What if I choose a different path and it leads to disaster? What if I fail? What if I misinterpret what God is telling me to do?  It could happen. We are not the first people that have these questions and we will not be the last.

This is that risk that resonates with the mission of God. The Bible is full of risk. Noah building a boat on dry land. Abraham just going: “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) Moses going to Egypt and telling Pharoah, “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, then I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, your people, and all the houses. The Egyptian homes will be filled with flies, and the ground will be covered with them.” The disciples feed 5,000 with a boy’s lunch. The Bible is full of risk.

But what about us? What about our lives? Are we taking a risk for the glory of God?

I want to make one thing clear. I’m not talking stupid risk, selfish risk, worldly risk. This isn’t the stuff of casinos and scratch off lottery tickets. This is being being in prayer and fasting to discover what God wants you to do and then acting on it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If I’m truly going to walk by faith, it’s going to involve some risk. Agree or disagree?
  2. How willing are you to fail in life? What do you dislike most about failing? How willing are you to fail in an attempt to honor God? If you could (a) succeed greatly and bring a little glory to God, or (b) fail greatly and bring a lot of glory to God, which would you choose?
  3. How does your faith affect the choices you make and the things you do? What have been the results of your greatest steps of faith? How have they caused your faith to grow?
  4. What commitment are you willing to make to put your faith into action? 

In Times Past

“But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”  We know the importance of letting go of past hurts, disappointments, and failures that are hindering your relationship with God today. It is not easy because many of us are convinced the sins in our past or present are so terrible that they can’t be forgiven and thus we are unworthy to serve God. The story of Rahab is a reminder of the fact that God can forgive our past and give us a new future?

God knew what was going on in Raban’s life and did something about it. God did not keep Rahab from losing the security of her home nor did He prevent her from having to go through the agony of watching the Israelites march around the city for 7 days. Remember, she didn’t know that plan. When she stepped out in faith, He met her there. She trusted Him to rescue her, and He did. God judged her by her heart, not by her lifestyle. He not only saved her life, but He forgave her past and gave her a new future. Rahab was taken in as an adopted daughter of the Israelites. Her old life as a prostitute had ended. God allowed her grace and a fresh start. She and her family lived among the Israelites. She chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear.

Rahab’s past was past and God had a new life planned for her. Today your past may be haunting you day and night. Maybe you have been hurt and have built up walls around yourself that have become so high you can’t see over them. Maybe people have stuck labels on you and no matter what you do you can’t shake them.

God loves you and has a plan for you. He waits patiently for you to turn to Him. Your past will be forgiven and will not hold you back from becoming what God wants you to be. God is in the business of transforming us into new creations. 

Likewise, God will forgive your past and give you a new future. That’s because, as was the case with Rahab, God loves us; He knows what is going on in our life; and He can do something about it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it hard for you to forget your past? Why or why not?
  2. How have you been successful in dealing with your past?
  3. Read Micah 7:19: What does this verse mean to you?
  4. What difference does Jesus make when it comes to dealing with your past sins and regrets?

Risky Faith

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”  Ecclesiastes 11:4.

There are people who embrace risks and there are people that avoid them at all costs. But sometimes our faith is tested through risks. A case in point is the story of Rahab, a woman whose story of bold faith is found in Joshua 2. 

At some point in our spiritual journey, we’ll be called to take risks that may take us away from our comfort zone. Whether it is deciding to follow Christ, giving financially, or serving in an area where we are not entirely comfortable. God constantly leads us to places where we must decide whether to play it safe or take a risk. It is easy to maintain the status quo by clinging to what we know rather than venturing into the unknown. Unfortunately, however, playing it safe often does little to increase our faith and our spiritual growth. 

Being followers of Christ requires us to take risks that demand faith. These types of risk are not easy to take. Our decisions might make others uncomfortable and spark criticism. We can find ourselves choosing to play it safe to avoid being marked as a failure. However, we must remember that God has resourced us to do His will, we simply need to follow Him in faith.  

Rahab was one of those unexpected characters in the Bible. Even though she made her living as a prostitute, she was selected for high honor in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. She heard about the God of Israel and recognized him as the true God, the One worth risking your life for. And she did risk her life for Him by hiding the spies on her roof top. When the king of Jericho learned the men had been to Rahab’s house, he sent orders for her to turn them over. She lied to the king’s soldiers concerning the whereabouts of the spies, and sent them off in the opposite direction. In the miraculous battle of Jericho, the invincible city did fall. Joshua gave orders to rescue Rahab and all in her house. 

There will always be a reason not to take action on a daring plan or bold idea. If we wait for everything to fall into place and line up perfectly to take action, we often never do anything. Without uncertainty there is no need for faith. Risk is essential for reward.

I challenge you to take a risk. How can God use you to take a risk and make a difference? You may not always succeed. That is OK. God has a plan and He may be teaching us patience, perseverance, and the building of character from failure.   

Take a risk this week. I’m ready.  Are you?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the last risk you took? What did you gain and what did you lose?
  2. Who do you know that leads a life of risk-taking for Jesus? What can you learn from them?
  3. What is a big risk God may be inviting you to take? What is appealing about that risk step? What is frightening?
  4. Commit to one faith risk-step of your choosing.