Through The Roof

Core Statement: We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ. To reach people no one else is reaching, we’ll do things no one is doing.

Do you remember the story of Jessica McClure? Jessica McClure Morales, also known as “Baby Jessica,” became famous in 1987, when, at 18 months old, she fell down a 22-foot well in her aunt’s backyard. She remained trapped in the well, 22 feet below ground and only 8 inches wide. For the next 58 hours, frantic rescue crews attempted to save her life and the entire nation watched transfixed, as the drama played out on television.

While crews began the difficult process of drilling a horizontal tunnel between the two wells about two feet below where Baby Jessica was trapped, rescue workers pumped oxygen into the well and attempted to maintain constant communication with the toddler. The entire nation watched literally, around-the-clock, as a dramatic news story unfolded live on television, as hundreds of workers and volunteers worked around the clock to save the little girl. It was captivating, and an example of the human spirit. I’ve never seen such a dedicated effort from a whole community. Today, Jessica is a mother of two and living close to the very spot where she became famous.

How far would we go to save someone? To what lengths would you be willing to go? Because as we have said so often, people matter to God. So, if they matter to God, they better matter to us.

In Mark 2, we find the story of the paralytic. You probably remember this story if you were raised in church. Jesus had returned to Capernaum and as the news spread that He was back, the house where he was staying quickly filled up. It was so crowded, there was simply no room, even outside the door. Four men carrying a paralyzed man on a mat arrive at the house and quickly discovered that they could not get through the crowd. So they dug a hole through the roof and lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

The men in this story thought their friend’s soul was worth the effort, whatever effort it took, which included not giving up at the first sign of difficulty. They gave generously of their time and energy. They invested in his future. What about us? Are we ready to invest in our friends/relatives/neighbors the way the men in this story did? Are we willing to continue on even when the path seems blocked?

Northstar as a community of believers has an unquenchable passion for those far from the heart of God. We never stop praying for them. We never stop loving them because we have a genuine heart to see the lost saved through the restoring power of Jesus Christ. And we will do just about anything to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if we are doing things that nobody else is doing.

Discussion Questions:
1. Jesus ate with sinners. What are some ways you can get more involved in the lives of people who are far from Christ?
2. What do you see as your role in winning those far from the heart of God as a member of Northstar?
3. Is the workplace off-limits? Talk about how you feel like your faith could play a bigger part in your work relationships?
4. How could you start a dialog with an extended family member, or long-time friend who you haven’t shared Jesus with before?
5. What have been obstacles for you in the past for not being more passionate about reaching others for Christ?

 

I Go To Church! I Am The Church!

Core Statement: We are not spiritual consumers; we are spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world.

It is clear that in every church we have two types of people who attend; the consumers and the contributors.The obvious question is what exactly do you mean by that. In the next few paragraphs, I will try to explain the difference between the church consumer and the church contributor.

If I approach church as a a consumer, I view interacting with others as a necessary evil, or an inconvenient necessity. I don’t usually hang around when the service ends, or if I do, it is because I saw someone in my small circle of friends I am uncomfortable with, or Northstar groups because they involve participation, scrutiny and close personal contact.

If I approach church as a contributor, I come to church expecting to be part of a community. While at times I find it challenging, I count it a privilege to be part of a fellowship of diverse people with whom I can share my life. I welcome the accountability and scrutiny that comes from close contact with members of my Northstar group, and I seek to be an active participant in one, praying for and pastoring others.

When I approach church as a consumer, I attend, but I don’t commit. I prefer the fringe to the core. I prefer to spectate rather than participate. I pick and choose the meetings I attend. I cannot be relied upon to show up. I just don’t have the time to volunteer, take on responsibility or contribute to church life.

If I approach church as a contributor, I commit myself to the community and this shows by my attendance and servant’s mentality. I embrace my calling to be a partner and co-worker with others for the gospel and I do whatever I can to support church initiatives. I therefore give sacrificially of my time, energy and money.

If I approach church as a consumer, I would like to be ministered to. I expect to be served.

If I approach church as a contributor, I show up at church on Sunday expecting to minister to others. I recognize that I have a responsibility to care for others and so I am proactive in watching for opportunities to minister to other people.

Zig Ziglar said that nothing great happens until someone sells something. I believe that nothing great happens until someone serves. That is certainly true of Northstar. We want to part of something that makes a difference.

There is a principle in business that 20 percent of your customers give you 80 percent of your revenue and profits. A recent survey shows that the 80/20 principle is a fact of church life as well. Only 20 percent are heavily involved, while 80 percent are minimally involved and attend infrequently at best. They act more like like spectators than members. Think of that for a moment.

Ask yourself which group do you fall into. The fact is, we need more spiritual contributors. Why? Because the church does not exist for us. It exists to reach people with the saving message of Jesus Christ wherever in the world they live. The church is people using gifts to make a difference in the lives of others. God calls you to serve as His church. Not only do we serve in His church, you serve as if His church is the world.

Our vision is that Northstar will be a group of people where each member is a minister and each home an extension of the church in order to win over our generation for Christ. Where we are not spiritual consumers, but contributors.

Discussion Questions:
1. Would you fall into the consumer or in the contributor camp? What caused to you being in either one?
2. Who are some spiritual contributors you notice? What makes them stand out?
3. Serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, kindness, prophecy — which gifts has God given you?
4. Share how you have been served and loved by our church. How will you match or surpass what you’re receiving?
5. Pray and ask God for wisdom on where you can best make contributions to the church.

Creating a Culture of Generosity

Core Statement: We will lead the way with irrational generosity. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.

This week we are looking at different values for our church. On Tuesday, we talked about being faith-filled, big thinking, bet the farm risk takers and today we are talking about irrational generosity.

What makes this value so important to me is because it was something I had to learn. As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, I grew up with a scarcity mindset. That means that you have this feeling that there’s simply not enough to go around and you’d better get yours while you can. As I learned what tithing was, I was afraid to do it because of that scarcity mindset, the fear of letting go. Now I look back and wonder what I was thinking. God created a universe that’s bigger than we can imagine. So how big is God, exactly? He is so huge that he is not bound by time or space, not needing or wanting for anything, and capable of creating our entire universe. Yet he is personal enough to have created us in his own image.  The Psalmist said: When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalms 8:3-5) So blessing my generosity was not a big problem for God. In reality, I had seen over and over again the miraculous provision of God and I started to understand that 90 percent with His blessings goes a whole further than what I could accomplish by holding onto all 100 percent. I now default to being more generous, rather than less.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church in Corinth about the Macedonians who were dirt poor, yet gave a big gift. Paul was bragging on them: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” – 2 Corinthians 8:2. They simply gave from what they had. They were honored to give to the mission of Jesus Christ. First, they gave their lives to Christ. And then they gave of themselves to others.

He continues in verses 4, 5 and 7 in Chapter 8: “They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do…Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us — I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.”

We want to be a church of irrational generosity at Northstar. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. The fact is we have of hundreds of crazy people out there looking for opportunities to be irrationally generous. If you are a follower of Jesus, I want to encourage you to be irrationally generous. It becomes a mindset. It becomes who we are. Isaiah 32:8 says, “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.” (NLT)

When all of culture says “consume,” a generous person stands firm and says “give.” Giving isn’t what we occasionally do, generous is who we are.

As followers of Jesus, we should be irrationally generous because we serve a generous God.

Discussion Questions:
1. When is the last time that you gave as much as you were able, and maybe even pushed it beyond that?
2. Think of someone who’s irrationally generous. Describe what has caused them to earn that reputation. How can you make generosity something that you plan for and stand firm for?
3. Share a time when you felt blessed from giving to others. How does it compare to other things that bring you joy?
4. What keeps you from giving more? What are you trying to protect when you choose against greater generosity?
5. What’s one change you need to make in your life in order to become more intentional or generous in your giving?

A Risk-Taking Vision For The Road Ahead

Core Statement: Northstar is a faith-filled, big thinking, bet the farm risk takers. We will never insult God with small thinking or safe living.

In the book of Ruth, Naomi hatches a plan to see her widowed daughter Ruth get a husband who can give her children. She tells Ruth to spruce herself up and present herself to Boaz, who would be sleeping next to and guarding his pile of grain. She told her to uncover his feet, lie down next to him, and wait for him to tell her what to do. It was risky for a young woman to cross town alone at night. It was a huge risk to lie down next to an older man in the dark. Would he react appropriately? But Ruth makes her way to the threshing floor, and in the darkness manages to locate Boaz asleep by his grain. She gently lifts his garment back exposing his feet, then lies down.

In the middle of the night, something startles Boaz, he turns over and – there’s a woman at his feet! In the darkness he can’t see who it is so he cries out “Who are you?” “And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9) Spread your wings over your servant meant spread the edge of your garment over me, which was a commitment of marriage. Ruth didn’t wait for Boaz to tell her what to do as Noami had advised, but blurted out a marriage proposal. This was another huge risk on Ruth’s part. How will he respond? Read Ruth chapter 3 and 4 for the complete story. Spoil alert –  her risk pays off.

I believe God is calling us as a church to be faith-filled and do big things for the Kingdom. But doing big things for the kingdom is a risky business. We should never insult God with small thinking. Because you cannot play it safe and please God. We cannot be static and content with the status quo because God is not.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” In other words, if you can do everything though your own power and you never need God then you are living without faith. There are people who think that failing means you’re missing God. I’ve discovered that failing is often the first step to discovering God. We believe the fear of failure should stop us from stepping out in faith and see where God takes us. I think we should step out of the boat and see where God does take us.

That all sounds good, but by now you are asking what all that means to me. It is all about stepping out in faith. And that doesn’t mean selling all your earthly possessions and moving to China to start a church. It could mean that, but in most cases, as our series Small Things Big Difference suggested, we can start with small steps. You decide to tithe, even though things aren’t going well economically. It makes no rational sense, but you’re going to do it. And then you see the wonderful work of God through that step of faith. You start a Northstar Group and you may wonder if you can do it. But then you look back and see the Northstar Group as one of high points in your life. You decide to serve in Kids Ministry, even if you are unsure if you can connect. Then you get in there and do it and see that you are impacting future generations. You make a commitment to have a quiet time with God. That investment brings you closer to God. Some of you are afraid to try the 21 Day Daniel Fast because you are not sure you have that level of discipline. But, you decide to honor God with your sacrifice and find that God has never seemed more present in your life. There is risk in every one of these examples. But, there are also opportunities that God will honor and bless. We just need to step out in faith.

Faith is not the outcome that we want, because our faith in the faithfulness of God is what we are seeking. And as you grow your faith, we as a church community grow in our faith. We as a church are not going to sit back, we are thinking big. God did not give us a small commission, but a Great Commission and we are going to take the risks needed to help the whole world find and follow Jesus.

So what are we? We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers. We will never insult God with small thinking or safe living.

Discussion Questions
1. What is the vision of Northstar?
2. Think about it a few seconds and then answer the following two questions: What does God believe I can do? What does God expect me to do?
3. Did you ever attempt something so bold that couldn’t have come through without God?
4. Is there something about risk that scares you? What specific fears or doubts hold you back from complete faith in God? What could help you strengthen that trust?
5. What are some things you’ve learned in the past when you stepped out in faith?
6. Our culture teaches us to avoid risk because of the pain it can bring and in the name of safety, seeking to control all the details we can. Pray and ask God to help us as a church and each of us as individuals to be willing to take risks and be more bold for Him in the remainder of 2015.

 

Every Number Has A Name

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.” – Deuteronomy 32:7,

In Sunday’s message, I gave you some of the highlights from 2014. We had 521 people make first time commitments to Jesus Christ (as noted on their Connection Cards) while approximately 2,300 raised their hand to accept Jesus Christ in our services. We baptized 186 people. Our average attendance was 2,285 people. On Easter weekend, 4,920 people attended one of our four campuses and 52 people were saved. My hope is that you see beyond the numbers and see real people—every number has a name, and every name has a story.

The Deuteronomy passage above tells us that God knew that His children would eventually become complacent and forget their past and what the Lord did for them. The results we achieved in 2014 remind us that God can do so much more than we would ever expect. As we move into 2015, we expect God to continue to do the impossible, as only He can do.

The numbers are not the whole story, however. In 2015, Northstar continues its transition from being a single, centralized church to becoming four congregations, each with their own dedicated leadership, worshiping in and reaching their particular neighborhoods. In the past year and into this year we have continued to see our four campuses thrive. Last Easter, we more than doubled our attendance. This was a huge affirmation that our transition to the smaller campus model is helping us reach more of the city. But the goal goes beyond that, because the vision is for us to continue planting churches in areas that are under served by evangelical churches.

We cannot achieve our vision without you. Without people willing to serve. We believe when people engage in service, it leads to life change. Whether you serve on a ministry team in our church, in our community, or in the world, God calls us to serve one another. It takes many volunteers to make our services happen on all four campuses. There is a place for you to serve. God has placed gifts in your life to contribute to the body of Christ and we’d love for you to use them at Northstar. If you have never served for whatever reason, it is never too late. I simply ask you to try it. I believe it will enrich your life. So let us know if you’re interested in serving and where. We will find a place for you.

My hope and prayer is that as we continue to move into 2015, that you will make it a point to be the person who comes week in and week out, season in and season out. A simple act of faithful commitment offers a beautiful testimony to those both inside and outside the church. Don’t underestimate the power of you being here in faithful attendance. And never underestimate how much you may be needed by someone in the church. This church needs you–someone in this church needs you.

Discussion Questions:
1. Ask yourself this question, “What impact does my life have on my church?” How would the life of your church be different if you were not here? How could your church be even stronger if you commit more of your time and energy to its work?
2. Make a commitment today to pray and ask God what He has in store for you in the life of your church.

The Skinny on Fasting

“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” – Daniel 10:2-3

Northstar Church will start our 21-Day Daniel Fast on March 15 and end on Easter. We are so excited to see what God will do during our fast. Entering into a period of extended prayer and fasting is like pushing the “pause button” on life so you can draw nearer to God. The Holy Spirit joins you in this experience as you open your heart to receive from the Lord. The Daniel Fast is based on the fasting experiences of the Old Testament prophet.

I will be sharing a lot more information in the weeks leading up to March 15. In this post, I want to give you the Biblical background for the Daniel Fast.

The concept of a Daniel fast comes from Daniel 1:8-14. The short version is that the king’s food was against dietary laws. Daniel and his friends had vowed against wine. The king’s food had been offered up to idols/demons. But Daniel had found favor with the king. The story picks up in verse 10:”…but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[a] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”

Daniel and his three friends had been deported to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians conquered Judah (2 Kings 24:13-14). Daniel and his three friends were put into the Babylonian court servant “training program.” Part of the program was learning Babylonian customs, beliefs, laws, and practices. The eating habits of the Babylonians were not in complete agreement with the Mosaic Law. As a result, Daniel asked if he and his three friends could be excused from eating the meat (which was likely sacrificed to Babylonian false gods and idols).

The result of the 10 day test is recorded in Daniel 1:15-16. “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”

In verse 17 we read: “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kind.”

Fasting is a very important part of having a healthy relationship with God. It helps put our spiritual and physical life in perspective. God gives us specific ways to worship and honor Him in the Bible and He instructs us to fast in many scriptures. Joel: 2:12 says, “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

We believe fasting opens our hearts and minds to receive what God is saying and perceive what God is doing in our lives and the lives of our church as we pursue our vision of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.

Stay tuned for more information.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe that is it important for every believer to practice the spiritual discipline of fasting? Why or why not?
2. If you are going to participate in the Daniel Fast, what are your specific aims? What do you foresee your challenges to be as you take part in the Daniel Fast? How might you use prayer to help you overcome them?
3. Do you have any fears or apprehensions about beginning the Daniel Fast? What wisdom can you glean from Daniel’s story that could help put your fears to rest?
4. Share about a time you fasted and prayed. What did God reveal to you during that time? What might you do differently this time around with the Daniel Fast?
5. Pray and ask God that He will bring you closer to Him through your fasting.

What is Influence?

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:7-9

What is influence? The dictionary defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.”

But a lifetime of experiences has taught me that it is not so easily defined. For Christians, it often seems that God’s greatest moments for us are never for us alone. These pivotal moments in our lives are always about our lives touching the lives of others or someone touching ours. A life touched by God always ends in touching others; whether it be a spouse, brother, co-worker, neighbor or any other relationships, or maybe it is a complete stranger.

This is evident throughout the Bible, where ordinary people are empowered by God to affect the world in extraordinary ways. The fact that 12 men, largely untrained, with sorted pasts could change the world is proof of that statement. It is also proof that we too can influence people whether it be in someone’s inner circle, or in a relationship, in our Northstar Group or with someone we met in the mall. And those people can influence us just as easily when they are members of our inner circle or in our Northstar Group.

So how can we be a Godly influence on those we are in relationships with? Let me share a few general thoughts with you.

1. Pray for the people in the relationship and the relationship in general. 1 Timothy 2:1,8 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”

2. Walk the walk. Be a Christlike example to others. Titus 2:7 says, In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  1 Peter 2:12: ”Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

3. By working at the relationship enthusiastically, as to the Lord. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)

4. By faithfully enduring, through God’s power, the inevitable bumps and valleys that come along in any relationship. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-12 says: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

And finally, by loving others. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

These are some of the attributes that enable us to influence others and others influence us.

Discussion Questions:
1. How do your peers influence you? Do you act differently around certain people? Explain.
2. Do your views and opinions influence your friends? Why or why not? How are your beliefs and values respected by your peers?
3. How do you positively influence your friends? How do you negatively influence your friends?
4. Is it difficult to do something that opposes what your friends think that you should do? How do you handle those situations?
5. Pray and ask God that you be a positive Godly influence with those you are in relationships with.

Choosing Wisely

“Celebrate the people in your life who are there because they love you for no other reason than because you are you.” ? Mandy Hale.

When Aristotle was asked, in the 4th century BC, what defines a friend, he had no doubts. A friend is “one soul inhabiting two bodies”, he said, adding: “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”

We all desire good friends. We all desire strong relationships. But, how do we decide on who our friends are and how do we develop strong relationships? And once we have those things, how do we decide which of our friends make it into the inner circle and which do not? What is the purpose of your closest relationships?

Is your best friend at work? The guy in your neighborhood? A girl you grew up with? Somebody in your Northstar Group? Your wife? Your boyfriend. Your dad? Your sister? Your therapist? Your piano teacher?

Regardless of who the person is, there are some common sense attributes the person should have to make it into your inner circle.

First, are they headed where you are? Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Which way are they going: spiritually, vocationally, financially or physically? It is difficult to plan to share your journey with someone that is going in an opposite direction. How do you plan to share a journey going in different directions? In the same vein, do they have the same clarity, vision and purpose in their lives? If they don’t know what they’re doing – or why – will you trust them to stay the course?

Second, how long have you known them? It takes time to build a trusting relationship? If you choose somebody for your inner circle too quickly, chances are you’re going to disappoint each other? It takes time to know the real depth of the relationship. Another question to ask is does the other person have any other trusting and honest friendships? If they have no long-term, trusting and authentic friendships, shouldn’t you ask yourself, “Why?”

Third, what do they believe about God? Are they Christ followers? 1 Corinthians 2:16 says: “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” We are to have Jesus’ thoughts, feelings and purposes. Is that attitude or perspective reflected by the members of your inner circle? If we build our lives on differing foundations, what happens? Will they carry you to Christ and encourage you to follow Christ?

As it involves your inner circle and the people closest to you, these notions deserve some thought. Give them some consideration.

Discussion Questions:
1. What is your motive for picking your friends? What is your mission for picking your friends?
2. What are some other questions you should ask yourself before allowing someone into your inner circle? What qualifies the person to be in your inner circle other than familiarity?
3. Jesus would not allow Himself to be controlled by other people’s priorities or problems. He chose to surround Himself with people who had His vision and were capable of fulfilling it. (Luke 14:26)
4. Jeremiah 23:18 says: “But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?” Inner circle or group of confidants can be substituted for the word council in this verse. What does this verse say about people in your inner circle?
5. Pray and ask God to show you the people He would have in your inner circle.

Arrows Of A Friend

If you want to know someone who deserved to be in the inner circle, and an example of a strong relationship, one of the best models in the Bible is David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of David’s enemy, King Saul. Saul was out to kill David because he was jealous of him and knew that he would replace him on the throne of Israel. Saul’s son, Jonathan, knew this and was such a loyal friend of David, that he alerted David of the danger and saved his life when he found out that his father, Saul, wanted to kill David. 1 Samuel 20:4 says, “Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

The remainder of the story is in 1 Samuel chapter 20. “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.” (verses 16-17)

Jonathan devised a plan to warn David on whether he could come to King Saul’s table or whether Saul would kill him. In verse 18-22, he outlines a signal to warn David. Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe; there is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the Lord has sent you away.”

Jonathan risked his life for David. Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!” “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.” (verses 30-33).

Jonathan knew that he would be next in line for the throne if David was killed. He could have easily betrayed David and secured the throne of Israel for himself. But, Jonathan’s love and loyalty for his friend David was evident by his selfless act of saving David’s life. Jonathan was willing to risk his own life for his friend David, even though by doing so Jonathan would sacrifice his chance to rule Israel. David’s friendship was more important than the throne of Israel to Jonathan.

So, Jonathan sent a messenger boy to shoot arrows for the signal that it was not safe for David to return to King Saul’s presence for he would surely be killed. “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” (verses 41-42).

That is the person that you want in your inner circle.

Discussion Questions.
1. Is Jonathan being disloyal to his father, Saul? Why or why not?
2. Describe your best friend? How do you decide to be someone’s friend? Would you consider yourself a good friend?
3. In your inner circle, have you experienced a David-Jonathan loyal relationship?
4. Who in your life is traveling alongside you? Who are you intentionally traveling with? Do they know how important they are in your life?
5. Pray and ask God to help you choose a Jonathan in your life and at the same time look for ways to be a Jonathan in someone else’s life.

Show Me Your friends, And I’ll Show You Your future.

“The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits.” – Dan Buettner

We often misunderstand the influence that people have in our lives. The two words that most accurately describe influence are powerful and subtle. The influence of others can be powerful because we all desire to have people like us, therefore, we may start acting like others to gain their approval. Their influence is also subtle because we may think it has no effect on us. Often, we don’t know we’re being influenced until it is too late. People we spend the most time with will influence the quality and direction of our lives.

This is why corporate and government leaders must be intentional about having the right inner circle of people around them.But how do you arrive at the right inner circle? What qualities and behavior should you look for as a Christian. In Sunday’s message and in the devotionals for this week, I will discuss some essential elements to consider when it comes to who should be in your inner circle.

You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. I have seen the damage done time and time again by people who started attending church, but chose to still hang out with their old friends. In most cases, they found themselves pulled back into the world. If you are a new believer, you cannot hang out with the old friends like you used to and think you will not be affected. It just doesn’t work that way. That doesn’t mean to imply all your friends are bad. What it does mean is to make sure your inner circle is taking you in the direction of maturing as a Christian.

1 Corinthians 15:33 is pretty blunt: “Bad company corrupts good character.” God saw fit to warn us about this because the people we let into our lives, is who we become. Let me clear up something I’m sure many people are either asking or at least thinking at this point. Yes, we can still love people, accept and forgive them. And yes, they can be our friends. But, be careful who is in your inner circle that will influence the quality and direction of your life.

As I said on Sunday, because I was so positive, accepting and forgiving, I allowed just about anyone into my innermost circle of friends. And as I said Sunday, a series of experiences over time gave me some hard learned insight into the importance of choosing friends wisely. Friends have the ability to help you grow into the best person you can be, but they also have the ability to stymie your growth.

Proverbs 13:20 says “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” This verse is telling us if we choose righteous and godly friends, they will help motivate us to seek after and pursue a relationship with God. But if we choose wicked and ungodly friends, they will ultimately lead us to harm. It is a true principle that we become like those we spend the most time with.

Since I gave my life to Jesus Christ, there have been any number of people who have guided and mentored me. But there were only a handful that have had a profound influence on me. If I were to list their names, you probably would have heard of several and several would be people you have never heard of. But the one thing they have in common is they had an uncommon walk with the Lord that allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through them. Their words echoed the truth of God’s word because they faithfully spent time with the Lord. That’s because people that genuinely spend time with the Lord are genuinely changed and they make the best inner circle.

Tomorrow’s devotional: Bible Best Buds.

Discussion Questions:
1. Identify people that you are currently walking through life with; your friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, etc. What makes some of them stand out?
2. Do you have an inner circle of people in your life? How many people make up that inner circle? What are some characteristics or qualities of your inner circle people? How has having an inner circle allowed you to better move forward?
3. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” What is that saying to you?
4. Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Does someone have to be of like mind to be in your inner circle?
5. Pray and ask God for wisdom on who should be in your inner circle.