“When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.” – Job 1:5.

If you were asked to summarize your average morning, it would probably go something like this: You hit the snooze button two times before you roll out of bed. After a quick shower, you throw on your clothes, run a brush through your hair and teeth and walk out the door. Most people have some variation of that rushed routine. The problem with that routine is not what is included but what is missing. What is missing is starting your day with God.   

When we converse with acquaintances or family members, we generally follow a basic format. After greeting them, we inquire about their health or other subjects to indicate our genuine interest in their well-being. There’s give-and-take as the conversation proceeds. And that’s basically what God wants us to do; develop the habit of starting our day with God.  If you only have a short amount of time throughout your day, you’ll have to use your time wisely to get the most out of it. You probably don’t have an hour in the morning to spend with God. But starting with a few minutes would not be that difficult. Use that time to say a quick prayer, read a short passage in your Bible, meditate, or listen to a worship song. Use a few minutes each morning to actively pursue the Lord instead of focusing on the daily routine.   

Then look for opportunities to spend time with God throughout the day. God may be calling your attention to Him as you’re walking back to work after a lunch break or in between classes at school. You may not always have huge, glaring opportunities to spend with God but there are many “small” ones you can take advantage of if you are open to them.

The key is to be intentional. Intentionality is the key to everything. Don’t do it to check a task off your to-do list, don’t do it for a picture-perfect Instagram post, and don’t do it to impress your friends and family. Spend time with God because you love Him and want to know Him more.

There are so many benefits/perks of spending quiet time with God. Spend quiet time with God on a regular basis, if not daily, and your life will change. First, God takes pleasure when we spend time in the Word and fellowship with Him in prayer. Psalm 147:11 says, “No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Secondly, your trust in God grows. You can’t trust God unless you know Him. The only way to truly know Him is by spending time in the Word and really basking in who God is. The more time you spend with someone, the more like them you will become. The same is true of God. As you saturate yourself with scripture, you will become more Christ-like.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you start your day with God? Why or why not?
  2. What different ways have you tried to intentionally connect with God? Were some more meaningful or impactful than others? Why do you think that might be?
  3. What would it take for you to make this a priority in your life?

Knowing Jesus is Not a religion, it is a Relationship.

 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6.

Knowing Jesus is not a religion, it is a relationship. Knowing God doesn’t mean knowing about God. It doesn’t mean accumulating a fact book in your head. Instead, to know God is to be brought into a relationship with Him. To know God, to be able to say, I don’t just know about Him, I know him. I’ve seen Him work in my life. I’ve built my life upon His promises, and I’ve seen time after time He is faithful to me. I’ve noticed that He never fails.

 To know God is to be brought into a relationship with God. The Bible cover to cover is about knowing God. Could you imagine being Adam looking at the One who just made you? You were just created and God looks at you and says I made you. I breathed life into you. You were made to know Me. So you stand there in awe, looking at your creator and walking side by side with Him. Then God creates Eve, and then the two of you are walking in the garden. Nothing can get to you. God is there to protect and love you, to have fellowship with you. Can you imagine? Wouldn’t you want to be in that position? What would it feel like to walk with God? What would it be like to know God in such a way? The good news is we too can know God in an intimate way.

But Adam was just the first of many who had a special connection with God. You have people like Abraham who was called a friend of God and Moses who would go up on the mountaintop and actually be with God. David wrote in Psalm 27:4: “The one thing I ask of the LORD— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.”

There’s nothing more important than getting an accurate view of God. Our hope and prayer are that God will expand our minds and enlarge our hearts as we seek Him and begin to see God as He longs to be seen.

That is our goal: to know God better. We don’t want to be satisfied in just knowing about God….we want you to really know God by having your heart completely opened: to see the world how God sees it.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does a life of intimate relationship with God look like? Spend a few minutes thinking about your relationship with Jesus. Reflect on Psalm 139 and Philippians 3:8. What’s your relationship with Jesus like? Is it more about facts and rules than an intimate, personal relationship?
  2. What might you be missing out on in your relationship with Jesus? What needs to change in order for you to have a more intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Connecting At The Plate – Part 2

In Monday’s devotional, I talked about our connection to God starting with accepting His love. In today’s devotional, I will continue on the topic of our connection with God.

“You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.” – Modern Proverb.

Another area where we can improve our connection or relationship with God is listening when God speaks. The Bible teaches that God speaks through Jesus. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:2) and the way that we hear Jesus is through the Bible. The Scriptures are described as breathed out by God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the Word of God: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:13). This is very important for us. It means that while God can speak to us however He likes, He has promised to speak to all of us through the Bible. So if you want to hear God, read, study and discuss the Bible.

We can also speak to God through prayer. The Bible records Jesus communing with His Father in prayer. Prayer is much more than simply a way to ask God for things we need or want.

We can also worship regularly. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” – Psalm 95:1-2. God invites us to come into His presence for worship. Not only does regular church attendance give us an opportunity to come before the Lord’s presence in worship, but it also gives us an opportunity to fellowship with the Lord’s people. We can’t help but grow a closer connection to the Lord as a result.

Finally, a closer relationship with God is built upon obedience. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…” (John 14:23). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you….” (James 4:7-8). Paul tells us in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” We must keep in mind that we don’t earn salvation through our obedience; rather, it is the way we show our love and gratitude toward God.

Connecting with God is not easy, but the promises the Bible gives us makes trying to incorporate these disciplines into our daily life worth it. These eternal truths help us to connect with God no matter how busy or demanding life is.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do I know when God is speaking to me?
  2. Have you ever tried to live the Christian life without asking God to be involved in the details of your life?
  3. How does God connect to you through prayer?
  4. Do you prepare your mind and heart for worship each Sunday?
  5. What does obedience to God mean to you?

Connecting At The Plate

“and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.” – Colossians 2:19 (NLT)

One of the most famous home runs in major-league history was hit by Mickey Mantle off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.  Mantle’s home run in 1953 landed in a housing development beyond the left-field wall at an estimated distance of 565 feet. Imagine watching that ball soar into the sky standing at home plate knowing that you connected better than anybody ever did before or since.

Standing at home plate in our lives, I wonder how much we connect with God.  One of the areas that needs constant attention is staying connected to God. It is the first important step before we run the bases. Distractions, busyness, bad moods, demands of life all have the potential to pull us away from God. Our intention may be to remain focused on Him, but in the midst of those things we often allow our attention to get diverted elsewhere. It is like Mickey Mantle taking his eye off the ball and still expecting to hit it into the next county.

How do we find that deeper connection with God in our day to day lives? How do we connect with God in the midst of everyday life that will enable us to get to first base and then second, third and then score? Why is it so hard to connect with God everyday anyway? Here’s what I think I know. If every day was Sunday, I think we would be connecting with God at a higher level. But Monday through Saturday, our ability to connect decreases because of the distractions and busyness of our daily life.

Likewise, during our morning quiet time, we pray about the day ahead and ask God to guide us through whatever the day brings. However, usually by the middle of the day we haven’t re-connected with God since.

The apostle John describes it as abiding in God. John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you….” and John 15:9 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

How can we abide in God in our daily lives and connect with God throughout the day? First, remember that God loves us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4:14-16

God loves each of us, And Jesus died because of this amazing love. However, knowing things in our heads is not the same as knowing things in our hearts. Accepting God’s love is the first step to connecting with Him. It is sometimes hard to get our heads around the fact that we are not the person we know that God wants us to be. As a consequence, we are not sure we can move around the bases without disappointing Him. Yes we know the theology, but in our heart we struggle to accept it freely which creates distance between God and us. This can stop us from being able to connect with God freely.

No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, no matter how unworthy you think you are, He still loves you and wants to connect in a meaningful relationship with you. God assures you of that fact in Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

We will continue this discussion in Tuesday’s devotional.

Discussion Questions:

  1. So, what does abiding in God mean? What is the relationship between God’s love and abiding in Him?
  2. Why is God’s love so reliable? How does he demonstrate it? What is the implication for our relationship/connection to God?
  3. Do you struggle with insecurity? I am not good enough. I am not spiritual enough. I am not talented enough. I am not whole enough. I am not enough.
  4. What keeps you from having a more intimate relationship/connection with God? How can you improve your relationship/connection with God?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you draw closer and abide in Him.

Making A Connection

“I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village.” – Gina Bellman

The second card is connections. Connections means we are all products of the relationships in our lives. Each of us has a variety of relationships. Some are casual acquaintances, people we know a little bit about, but not too much. With things like Facebook growing in popularity, people have more and more of these casual acquaintances. Then we have close friends, people that we share with on a deeper level what’s going on in our lives.

We are products of our relationships with our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our wives, etc. Research shows that the single greatest factor in how you view yourself is how you think the most important people in your life view you. That’s why if you are want to be healthy emotionally you need to make the most important person in your life Jesus. Because we need to base who we are on what He thinks of us, not on what cousin Jimmy thinks of us. If we make anyone but God as the most important person in our life, than we will struggle with our identity.

You didn’t choose your connections, but you can make new relationships and mend or nurture the ones you already have. God made us to be part of a community sharing a common life in Christ. The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.

Even though forms may not matter much, size does. For community to be specific and personal enough to reach its potential, we need groups small enough for everyone to be directly involved. That’s why we challenge you to join a Northstar group.

The practice of the earliest Christians suggests a small scale. They often met in each other’s homes for meals and teaching, for worship and prayer (Acts 2:44-46, Acts 12:12-17). And it is clear that when Paul advised the Corinthians that “everyone” should be ready with a psalm, some instruction, or a revelation, he expected the meeting to be small enough for everyone to participate. (1 Corinthians 14:26). The goal was to strengthen everyone through relationships, through community.

Certainly that doesn’t mean that we need to limit our relationships to small groups. It does suggest, instead, that we are more likely to find community and relationships that will help us with the connections card, we were dealt, in a Northstar Group. Northstar Groups is a place to “love each other”, “pray for each other”, “encourage each other”, “serve each other”, “teach each other”, “accept each other”, “bear each other’s burdens”, and be “devoted to each other”.

It’s my heartfelt prayer that each of you will be courageous and join a Northstar groups. I am convinced that once you do, you will discover how much more rewarding the Christian life is when you build connections with other believers.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe there is a difference between being around or in proximity to someone and being in community with them?
2. How many times do you feel you must attend a Northstar Group before you benefit from that group?
3. Pray and rate yourself on the following two statements: I have developed significant relationships with people at Northstar. I intentionally try to get to know new people I meet at church?
4. Do you believe Northstar Groups are a key part of your spiritual development? Why or why not. If you do not attend a group, what other ways do you intentionally make time to fellowship and interact with other believers? What additional ways do you spend time with other believers to help you grow in your faith?