The Power of God

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God,” – Psalms 62:11

With all the movies out these days such as Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, you have to wonder what it was like to live in those times and experience in real life what is now CGI computerized special effects. For example, in the story of Moses, God did amazing miracles over and over again right before their eyes, and yet the Israelites still struggled to believe. God turned the Nile to blood, sent all kinds of plagues, boils, darkness all over the land and the death of all the firstborn of Egypt. Yet, the Israelites are slow to learn and quick to grumble. It would seem virtually impossible for them to miss God’s power, goodness and guidance. But it didn’t end there.

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they were stuck with the Egyptian army closing fast.  God miraculously parted the Red Sea. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Could you ever forget such a moment? After crossing the sea and finding themselves hungry, God provided manna every day for forty years. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. Yes, a rock. And, yet, still their hearts struggled with unbelief. At various points they thought it prudent to return to slavery in Egypt. Apparently, they thought the security of slavery was better than being out in the wilderness with God. The hope of the Promised Land was eclipsed by a fear of giants and battle odds stacked against them. More discontentment and grumbling.

How could they miss the power and miracle when it was staring them right in the face? But before we judge the Israelites too harshly, we need to evaluate our own trust and faith in God. I would hope that if I saw what the Israelites saw, I would both trust God and be in awe of His power.

Then I am reminded of my occasional wandering in the desert. Or my own deeper need and hunger for more of God. Like the Israelites, we are in need of the power and direction of God in our lives. When we try to do everything under our own power, and in the messiness and mundane moments of life, we need the power of God. Easter should remind is anew of God’s power and the impact it can have on our lives.

What I do know is that God called us to live out our faith. He called us to walk by faith, to take a risk on His power and His  promises to always be faithful. He called us to step out of our comfort zone and live the life we are supposed to live.

The promises given by Jesus about receiving power from God in Luke 24:49 says: ” And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then there is Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

No matter what we’re facing, God promises to show up in our difficult situations in a way that declares and reveals His power, glory and grace.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?
  2. How do you tap into the power of God? How does the power of God show up in our daily lives?
  3. Do you have seasons of life where you feel you are going it alone?
  4. How might knowing that God is present with you in the here and now impact your life? What are some of the implications of God being very present in your life?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you tap into His power.

The Fullness of God

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Ask God to speak to you as you meditate on the above verses by answering these questions:

  1. What do these verses mean to you?
  2. Note the blessings God has given His people in 1:3-5. To the best of your understanding, what do each of these four blessings mean?
  3. What is the connection between knowing the blessings of 1:3-5 and having joy in trials in 1: 6-9?
  4. What would you change in your life/attitude as a result of these verses?

We would all like to experience more of God in our lives. God wants more for us than we could ever imagine or hope for. But how does one become full of God?

Ephesians 3:16-19 tells us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

There it is—that we might be filled to all the fullness of God! That’s what we yearn for, what we are chasing, what we so desperately need. Wouldn’t it be incredible to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God?

Being filled with all the fullness of God is not about what you do. To me, knowing how much God loves me and focused on His love for me, I would be full of Him. When God made you, He designed you to run at optimal level when you are filled with His love, like a NASCAR race car needs a certain type of fuel to run at an optimal level. When you realize how much God loves you and you feed on His love for you, you will experience the fullness of God. And fulness means to be full of everything God is to you and has for you.

Ephesians 3:30 tells you what happens when you experience the fullness of God: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

My prayer as a church and as individuals, is that we will experience the fulness of God in our lives in a real and tangible way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be be filled with the spirit? (Ephesians 3:16) Is this a one-time experience or a continual reality?
  2. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” – Colosians. 2: 9–10. What does that verse mean to you?
  3. What might Paul be referring to by praying “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God?”  How do you think “breadth and length and height and depth” (verse 18) relate to this?
  4. Pray and seek God’s guidance on how to live a God filled life.

The Love of God

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.

Easter demonstrates the power of God’s love. The power of God shows us that God is not a fairytale for grown-ups but a wonderful reality. Without the power of God, Christianity is empty. If all we have is theory, philosophy, theology and other intellectual arguments, we will never have a faith that changes the world. God is not a theory, He is real, He is love and power. The love of God must be the foundation for our faith.

The cross is the love of God. The resurrection is the power of God. But what if someone was to ask you what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for you? According to the Apostle Paul, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for you and I is found at the Cross of Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There are people who believe that if God really loves us, He will give us that dream job. Or give us money. Or good health. Or a perfect spouse. Or possessions like a new car or a new home. But what happens when we lose that job, or spouse, or bonus, or our possessions or we get sick? Will we become cynical? Worse yet, will we doubt God’s love?

Even though everything else may be falling down around you; the Cross of Christ will always stand tall. The Bible says, “He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness” (Psalm 57:3 LB). That’s what Jesus did on Easter. He sent Himself down from heaven to save us because of His love.

God’s power was demonstrated in His great love for us through Christ. Though we were helpless in our sin, Jesus willingly came and took our sins on Himself on the cross. He died, but He rose again. That same power that would willingly redeem the entire world through love, that would conquer death, went through the grave and out the other side to dwell inside each of us who are saved.

God’s love is a powerful force, wider than any chasm between enemies, waiting longer than you would ever run from it, going deeper than you would ever fall from it, lifting you higher than you could ever go without it. When you receive the spirit of Christ by faith, His power changes you from the inside out, allowing you to know a love that is unknowable.

During this Easter season my prayer is that you will understand that while we are flawed, God loves us perfectly and completely. And that the power of His love is always available to us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the unique characteristics of God’s love shown in Scripture?
  2. How is Jesus’ death an act of love?
  3. What is the best way to respond to God’s love?
  4. Why do you think that some people have such a hard time accepting God’s love? How can we ask God to help us in our ability to love?
  5. Why do you think the world is much more comfortable in thinking about love as a noun, rather than a verb?

Will You Stand?

“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.” -Ankita Singhai

Many people seek to better their lives by leaving, changing, swapping, or modifying their commitments. But, God’s Word holds up a beautiful value that, while difficult, leads to deep satisfaction and great reward: endurance. It requires that we take a stand in our faith journey and remain firm to the end.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” – 1 Timothy 6:11

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

Ask God to speak to you as you meditate on the above verses by answering these questions:
1. What are these verses telling us?
2. What application do these verses have on my life?
3. What commands are there in these verses?

In this week’s message, we talked about the stand that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took when asked to bow down to idols. But for this blog, I would like to outline another biblical story of someone taking a stand. That person is Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was the man who buried Jesus. John 19:38 tells us: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.”  The facts were that he was a secret disciple of Jesus, but his fear of the Jews prevented him from taking a stand, even though he knew that he should have.

But now, Jesus is dead and His followers are hiding. Joseph gathered up his courage (Mark 15:43), and “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” so that he could give Him a proper burial. Joseph had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying himself with Jesus at this point in time. Jesus was dead and no one was expecting His resurrection. It would have been easier for Joseph to think this through and come to the conclusion that “Jesus was a good man and a prophet of God. It’s sad that this happened in such a grim manner, but life goes on. It will be better if I don’t cause waves or bring unnecessary attention on myself.” But in spite of the risks, Joseph came out of hiding and took a strong stand for Jesus by providing Him a proper burial. He gives us an example of taking a stand for Jesus in this hostile world.

No one knows why Joseph took this stand. Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and righteous man, who was waiting for the kingdom of God” (23:50). Maybe the deciding factor was standing at the cross and watching Jesus die. Today on Good Friday, we celebrate the cross as the center of our faith. Paul summed up the core of the gospel, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). While we cannot stand and take in the events first hand, as Joseph and the others did that day, we should come often to the foot of the cross and think about its implications. If you go there often, you will not be the same. It will strengthen you to take a stand for Christ.

So take a stand. It my not be on a grand scale, but it doesn’t matter. Take a stand by your behavior, your attitude, and your quiet resolve not to compromise. Just “show up” in the sense of siding with Jesus, even if you aren’t clear about how to defend the faith. Show your commitment and love for the Savior, and He will use you as He used Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we know when to take a bold stand and when to be more diplomatic and polite?
  2. How can a people-pleaser learn to become a God-pleaser?
  3. God is bigger than anything we will ever face in our lives. What challenge or obstacle are you currently facing that you need God’s strength to help you endure through it? Does it involve taking a stand?
  4. In what ways do you experience God’s presence on a daily basis?
  5. Pray and ask God for the wisdom and the courage for when and how to take a stand for Him.

Do The Right Thing

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

Sailboating looks like a whole lot of fun to me. A day on the open water sailing out to Shell island or other places around Panama City accompanied by mild winds and calm seas seems like a wonderful experience. On the other hand, because battling with nature is not high on my list of sailing preferences, taking the right steps at the right time to pilot the boat to your destination is critical in good and bad weather. The ability to predetermine what is right, doing it consistently and with grace was the core of the message on Sunday.

As Christians, we also need to do the right things at the right time. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Doing the right things will change your steps in life and how you choose to walk in them. So the questions are: “Am I doing the right things? How can I be sure I am doing the right things? And how do I do them with grace?”

In the story of the Fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three men predetermined what was the right response ahead of time. They didn’t wait until the moment of truth to decide what their course of action was. And even more importantly, they chose to trust and follow God no matter what the circumstances were, which in this case was being burned alive. We too need to predetermine our response. This is done by remembering the attributes of God: perfect holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness and truthfulness. If we base our actions on these attributes we will make better decisions. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

The goal is to do right all of the time. Doing what is right even when everybody else is doing something different and even when nobody is looking. You can do the right thing when you focus on the greatness of God and remind yourself for who you are living for. We need to learn to sort through and decide what input we will allow to influence our decisions and reject or disallow those sources that cause us to choose to do wrong. Think and reflect upon any tendency to make bad choices over and over again. Find that reason, source, or input and use that as a lesson for the future. Begin to review your decisions before you make them and then make the right decisions.

And when you do the right thing, do it with grace and love. We spend a lot of time on what grace is, but not as much on what grace does. Grace changes us in so many ways. It is more than being forgiven and going to heaven. Grace is also the changes in our hearts and attitudes. Grace is the voice that calls us to change, and then gives us the power to pull it off. And that includes doing the right things the right way. We can show grace because God is with and in us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments, we need to do the right things with grace. And we need to choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what we’re going through. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define “Integrity?” Are there degrees of doing what is right? How does doing what is right affect the way you feel about yourself?
  2. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong? Is it hard to predetermine what is the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  3. In what area do you need to make better decisions? How does grace enter into the decision making process?
  4. In what ways does grace play a role in doing what is right? Does grace change the way we look at what is right?
  5. Random acts of kindness go a long way. You can make a difference in someone’s life today. Share kind random acts with others. Do it in love. Be a blessing to someone.

Easter Could Change Everything

“Our hearts were made for you, O God, and they are restless until they find their rest in You.” – St. Augustine.

Can you think of a day that changed your life? Most of us probably can. Maybe the day that changed your life was a great day, or maybe it was not so great. One of my favorite “life-changing” days was the day when I married my beautiful wife, Angela. We spent a lot of time preparing for that day. It was a great day, filled with happiness, joy, tears, laughter and celebration. But, it wasn’t that one day or that one event that changed my life. Rather, getting married changed everything from that day forward.

This weekend, we remember the most important life changing day in history. The day that Jesus died on the cross and the day He rose from the dead. We will reflect on the painful, horrific death He experienced on our behalf. And we will reflect on the resurrection because Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is alive. The Resurrection is all about assurance, confidence, and boldness. It’s about where we are in life, where we are headed, and where we are going to end up—in the presence of the living God instead of eternally separated from Him.

Many of us will invite family and friends to join us. Easter is the day when people desire to go to church. It is also one of the best opportunities for people who are far from the heart of God to have a life changing experience by hearing and accepting the gospel message. In fact, Easter should only be the beginning. It could be the day that changes every part of their lives for the rest of their lives. James 5:20 says, “…that person who brings him back to God will have saved a wandering soul from death, bringing about the forgiveness of his many sins.” (TLB)

The day that Angela and I were married was incredible. Every year on our anniversary we take time to look back and remember that wonderful day, but our marriage is much more than a wedding day and a series of anniversaries. We spend the other three hundred and sixty-four days a year loving one another and fulfilling the promises that we made on that day. With each anniversary that passes I love her more. Not because of the anniversary, but because that day marks another year that I have spent learning about her and loving her. When we love each other well, anniversaries are celebrations of that love.

The same can be said of the unchurched people we invite to Northstar on Easter. An invitation could have a major impact on their lives. They may have a need right now for which only Jesus is exactly what they need. Maybe they have been searching for answers. It could be the start of a relationship with the risen Savior, one that grows day by day, year by year. We believe God is doing something powerful now in the days leading up to Easter.  And, this weekend could be one that changes everything for you and the people you invite.

As we approach Easter, let’s make a deliberate effort to lift our focus away from our own concerns and to allow the Holy Spirit to show us what moves the heart of God. Who is a person around you that is on your mind or that you are concerned for? Talk to God about them. Is God stirring your heart for the people around you? Let’s trust God for their salvation and for our church to make ‘God-connections’ as we share the Easter message this weekend. Because people can only experience real life change if we invite them. Easter changes everything and my prayer is that it changes everything for thousands of people at all our campuses.

Let’s pray and believe together that God will reveal Himself to us in a fresh way as we head into Easter. And, that He would allow us moments with others that would be like the spark that begins a fire of Salvation in the lives of people all over the Panama City and the Pensacola areas.

Discussion Question:

  1. Pick one or two people to invite to Easter services.
  2. Pray that the results of the Easter services will continue to be evident in the days, weeks, and months to come.
  3. Perform acts of kindness with several people.
  4. Pray that lives will be touched in a special way this Easter.

Faith and Pace

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9.

1. What does the passage say?
2. What does it mean to you today?
3. What does it change in your life?

If you were to ask ten people if they believe exercise is good for their health and well-being, how many of them do you think would raise their hands? If you guessed nine out of ten, you would match what we all intuitively know to be true. Exercise is good for us. But what do you think is the number one exercise that will help you feel younger, ramp up a sluggish metabolism, reduce and manage your weight, boost your energy, increase cardiovascular endurance, improve muscular tone and strength, enhance sleep, reduce stress, and bring joy and youthfulness back to your life?

The number one exercise to help you attain all of these benefits is the one you will actually do. Despite all the research surrounding the benefits of regular exercise, the only one that will make a difference is the program you will do consistently.

But we have a problem. Only about half of us exercise three or more days a week. The amazing health and life-changing benefits of exercise we all know about don’t motivate the majority of us to get off the sofa or easy chair and move.

Let’s get to the bottom of this. What if you wanted to exercise? What if you were inspired and truly motivated to lace up your gym shoes and go for a walk, a run, or a hike? What if you moved from thinking, “I know I should exercise” to “I can’t wait to exercise” and, by integrating motion with devotion, you could grow closer and stronger in your relationship with God?

Throughout this week, as part of the Daniel Fast, thank God for the many blessings He has given you. Take a couple of stretch breaks throughout the day to remember that this journey is about grace and pace. It’s not a sprint, nor a final destination. When you allow God to change your mind from a “have to” mentality to a “get to,” it allows room for grace and pace for yourself and for others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 12:9.
  2. Take several stretch breaks throughout the day.
  3. Take the time to consider what small things can make a big difference in your fasting, your exercise and your walk with God.
  4. Ask God to remind you that your strength comes from Him and that any small step toward better health is a step that will honor God.

Life In Compartments

“When there is a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual and make it resident in a certain type of life only, the spiritual is apt gradually to be lost.” – Flannery O’Connor

There is a slogan commonly used when describing a trip to Vegas: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The idea is that when people go to Las Vegas, they get license to do things they would never normally do, to act like they would never normally act. This is Vegas! So what if you lose a whole lot of money? This is Vegas! So what if you…?

The problem is many Christians are living their faith this way. When we compartmentalize our faith the slogan becomes, “what happens at church, stays at church,” or, “what happens away from church, stays away from church.” Often, our response to the all that is happening around us is to segregate these various areas of our lives into compartments like a super-organized California Closet: house, marriage, kids, family, schedules, friends, food, hobbies . . . and Jesus. Our attempt at order by compartmentalizing or controlling our lives, people, and tasks is really a heart issue. We have to ask ourselves what we believe. Do we believe that God is Lord over all, attentive to us in everything?

Christians are called to be Christians, not just some of the time, but all of the time. We are called to be Christ-like in all of our actions, not just some of our actions. When Christians live a compartmentalized life, they do a great job at being Christians some of the time, but the rest of the time the bets are off.

With the sacrifice of Jesus as our foundation, and the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are called to worship God 24/7. The scriptures don’t say anything about us putting aside our faith in compartments when we don’t want God to interfere with certain parts of our lives. We aren’t called to worship God just when it is convenient. We are called to trust and believe in Him even when it is inconvenient. The world might be pressuring us to compartmentalize our faith in Christ, but what the world desperately needs is for that faith to unify and integrate every aspect of our lives.

So how do we get rid of the compartments? Handing the reins over to our attentive God is the first step. We can acknowledge the propensity to compartmentalize and pray for wisdom to eliminate those areas of our life where God does not play a principal role. We need the Holy Spirit to help us (John 14:26) to see how we have pushed God aside as we “do” our lives.

The bottom line is this. It is turning our focus from our agenda to His, seeing Christ made great in our thoughts, actions, feelings, in fact, through all the details of life. The Bible says that we can be recognized by the fruit we produce in our lives. What kind of fruit are you producing? More than that, what kind of fruit are others noticing you are producing when they see you on a daily basis? Are you producing the fruits of the Spirit that are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

The challenge is being a Christian not just when everyone is looking, but also when no one is looking.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you desire Jesus Christ to be first in your life? Do you see every aspect of your life and work as service to God. How does that manifest itself in your life?
  2. Many people are tempted to compartmentalize their faith rather than allow God to influence every aspect of their lives. Discuss some of the reasons for this. In what ways can materialism be the enemy of single-mindedness?
  3. Which area of your life (relationships, finances, work, family, etc.) is hardest to submit to God’s will and guidance?
  4. How have you experienced the benefits of a single-minded focus on God?
  5. How has “seeking first the kingdom of God” brought God’s blessing upon your work, relationships, family, and finances?
  6. Pray and ask God for the wisdom to occupy all the compartments in your life.

Who Are You Inviting?

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” – Luke 14:23

Easter is one of the easiest times of the year to invite people to church. Easter weekend is just around the corner, and now is a great time to invite your friends and family to celebrate with us. With 13 services in 4 locations, in addition to our online campus, there are many great opportunities to invite those closest to you to check out Northstar, maybe for the very first time.

As a staff, we do everything we can to make sure our services are creative and welcoming, but that’s not why our church has grown. Our church grows and lives are changed when you respond to God’s call to reach those in your own community. Maybe it’s the friend across the street from you; maybe it’s someone at your lunch table at school. So, who is God calling you to invite this Easter?

But in this devotional, I ask that you think both short and  long-term as we approach the Easter season.

Evangelism is so much more than a conversation. It’s a life choice. It’s utilizing everything that God blesses us with to impact the people in our lives; our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members. You have heard us say that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We show we care by giving of ourselves. By opening our homes, and caring for our friends and neighbors. Relationships make the awkward “Hey… Um…you wanna come to church with me” conversation much, much easier.  Simple in fact.  And relationships often determine the results.

You invite a friend to church. You are persuasive and even offer a perk or two such as breakfast or lunch after the service. The friend says OK, and how about Olive Garden for lunch. You are ecstatic and tell him he won’t be sorry.

When you invite an “unchurched” friend to visit Northstar, you’re asking them to come out of their comfort zone into a place that is foreign and unknown. They stand out of respect during praise and worship. You relax because things appear to be going well. Then the pastor gets up to preach. This is the aha moment. You are hoping that it will be so powerful that your friend leaps out of their seat during the altar call and heads straight for the baptismal, pausing just long enough to sign up for the membership and discipleship classes. Unfortunately, this is the one week that the pastor is preaching on tithing, unintentionally feeding into stereotypes.  Your friend looks confused and doesn’t say much over his soup and salad at Olive Garden. And worse, he chose not to attend church with you next week. Hopefully, that is not where it ends. God will not stop working on your friend’s heart and neither should we.

As is so often the case, we can learn from the apostle Paul. In Acts 17:16, Paul is in Athens. He was so disturbed by the widespread idolatry that he goes to the synagogue to talk with them. Then day after day he went to the synagogue and market place and reasoned with anyone and everyone he could. People thought he was just a crazy babbler, but he kept at it. Eventually, he made such an impression that he was invited to come and share the gospel.

Paul didn’t have to drag people out of their comfort zones, he met people where they were. And he did not give up easily, because he understood the value of each life to God. Jesus did the same, and he continues to meet and love people where they are. Most of Jesus’ work was not done inside the walls of the synagogue, but in the streets, the marketplaces, and homes of others.

Let’s make it a point to love people where they are. Let’s resolve to build relationships with our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. And then to use those relationships to invite them to church and to talk about spiritual things. No, every effort will not be a success. But it is so worth the effort.

Imagine the day when a friend, or relative, or coworker, or neighbor is worshiping God with their hands in the air as they stand next to you. Can you see their face as they worship the one who saved them, gave them peace, joy, purpose and new life? That picture can be a reality, but it starts with a relationship and an invitation. Will you be the one God uses to take a stand?

One more thing.  I won’t be talking about tithing on Easter.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Make a list of people you want to invite to church on Easter? Do you have a relationship with that individual(s)? Have you prayed for that individual(s)?
  2. Have you shared your story on how God has changed your life?
  3. Have you considered your role after they attend Northstar? Will you continue to pray for them?
  4. Pray and ask God for the wisdom to invest in the lives of others in a way that draws them to Him.

Keep Calm And Trust God

One of the most loved stories from the Old Testament is the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The whole story of Daniel starts when he was just a young boy. However, by the time Daniel was cast into the lion’s den he was an old man. Many things happened in Daniel’s life, but he continued to trust and serve God even though he was forced to work for ungodly people.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is a story we love due to the the happy ending. God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was not harmed. Still, it must have been a terrifying night for Daniel, sitting so close to lions. One of the chief lessons we learn from this story is gleaned from the confession of King Darius himself: “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.” (Daniel 6:26). Hebrews 11:33 says, “…who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions.”

You might be enduring your own personal “den of lions” right now. The key is not to put your focus on your situation, but rather on God. Learn to trust God enough to take a stand when on the mountaintop or in the valley. The Bible tells us in Psalms 46:1. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of trusting God for the results.

  • “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” – Psalm 121:7-8
  • “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • “…my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” – 2 Samuel 22:3-4.
  • “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed,  for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
  • “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.” – Psalm 68:19-20.

As you read and reflect on the verse(s) in this devotional and in future ones, I ask that you ask yourself three questions. (1) What does the passage say? (2) What does the passage mean? And (3) What am I going to do about what the passage says and means? The application step is not completed by simply answering these questions; the key is putting into practice what God has taught you in this devotional. Although at any given moment you cannot be consciously applying everything you’re learning in your daily devotional, you can be consciously applying something. And when you work on applying a truth to your life, God will bless your efforts.

Discussion Questions:

  1. God is bigger than anything we will ever face in our lives. What challenge or obstacle are you currently facing that you need God’s strength to help you endure through it? Does it involve taking a stand?
  2. In what ways do you experience God’s presence on a daily basis?
  3. Consider starting a prayer journal today. You don’t have to use a fancy notebook. Any paper that you can find will work. Use the journal to write down your feelings, emotions, and struggles. List your specific requests at the end of each page, and as God answers your prayers, be sure to write down the date and the way in which He answered you.