How God Grows Us

*Photo credit Hoosier Environmental Council

Donald Miller has a good post on God’s plan to grow us up through our life experiences, and you can read it by clicking here. Sometimes we American Christians, who are used to getting “our way right away,” apply that mentality into how God is supposed to work in our lives. But the God revealed in Scripture is no genie in a bottle.

If we have spiritual goals in our lives (and we should) what role do you think God wants us to play in pursuing those goals? Doesn’t he want us to work hard at them like we do in other areas of life, and at the same time depend on him to be working on us, too?

Remember, fruit takes a long time to grow. About six months ago, I heard a speaker share an insight she’d learned about vineyards: A vine will usually not grow good grapes until the third year after it has been planted. We are to remain in Christ, but that doesn’t mean we curl up in the fetal position and hibernate until he’s done working on us. We are to be proactive and intentional and consistent as we remain in Christ.

Sabbath and Silence

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For most of us in the church, Sabbath is probably the command we take least seriously. But we do so at the expense of our own souls. Keeping the Sabbath is what feeds our souls and fortifies our relationship with Christ.

A recent parenting article in TIME magazine examines the benefits for families choosing to slow down the pace of life and even embrace “boredom.” Author Carl Honoré writes “(Children) need that space not to be entertained or distracted. What boredom does is take away the noise … and leave them with space to think deeply.”

Ironically there is a connection between silence and hearing God speak to us. And as our world gets louder and louder with technology that never leaves our side, I believe we need times of extended silence even more than we used to.

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, writes about keeping the Sabbath in his book Working the Angles:

Sabbath means quit. Stop. Take a break. Cool it… Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of our Lord… The two biblical reasons for sabbath-keeping develop into parallel sabbath activities of praying and playing.

As a family, discuss these questions:

1) Can we commit as a family to try this for a month (i.e. four Sundays) and then discuss how we feel about it, what’s working, and what’s not working?

2) Which day of the week and for how long will we keep the Sabbath together?

3) What will be some nonnegotiables for us? What are some things we will do? What are some things we won’t do?

4) How can we creatively incorporate praying and playing into our Sabbath?

The Backwards Life

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This week in youth group we talked about The Backwards Life that Christ calls us to in Mark 8:34-37. We discussed how much about the Christian life is counterintuitive, that at first glance it doesn’t seem to be very smart or safe. In fact, Jesus is literally saying, “What you’ve thought all along is up is actually down, and what you think is down is actually up!”

After watching the video, discuss these questions:

1) Can you identify with the illustration of clinging to the balance beam of life?

2) Do you think a person can be truly happy if they are not using the balance beam for its designed purpose (or if they are not living their life according to its designed purpose)?

3) What are some characteristics of the life Christ calls us to in the Gospels?

4) How is taking risks on a balance beam counterintuitive or backwards?

5) What kinds of risks do you think God might be calling you to as a person? As a family?

Quotes for Parents of Teenagers

On Parenting:

We can view adolescence as either “an age of opportunity or a season for survival.”

-Paul Tripp

My friend Ethan says that being a parent means you go through life with the invisible muzzle of a gun held to your head. You may have the greatest joy you ever dreamed of, but you will never again draw an untroubled breath.

-Anne Lamott

On Adolescence:

There are no well-adjusted adolescents. Adolescence is, by definition, maladjustment. And getting adjusted is a strenuous and often noisy process.

-Eugene Peterson

Adolescence is an in-between stage determined not so much by what it is but by what it is not. Adolescence is not childhood, and it is not adulthood; it is the period in between those two stages.

-David Walsh

On Being a Teenager:

What’s the greatest problem facing teenagers today? Sin.

-Walt Mueller

MOSES – PART III – THURSDAY – WK 7

ONE SPECIAL DUDE

Let’s recap where we’ve been the last few days. God brings the nation of Israel to Mt. Sinai to give them His Law and to re-establish His covenant with them. Moses is spending lots of time with God, and God is giving him all sorts of instructions.

The Israelites agree to keep God’s Law and are bound to the covenant. But a couple weeks later, they break God’s Law in a bad way. Lots of them die because of their sin, which shows just how seriously God takes sin.

We’ve also read about several encounters with God, which describe the majesty and holiness of God and also detail the great fear people felt as God came near to them. Today and tomorrow we’ll finish up looking at Moses by reading one more encounter he has with God.

Put yourself in Moses’ sandals. Imagine that you are the one talking with God and getting ready to go see Him… Continue reading “MOSES – PART III – THURSDAY – WK 7”

MOSES – PART III – WEDNESDAY – WK 7

BIG NO-NO

At the end of yesterday’s reading, Moses, Aaron, and the 70 elders of Israel went partway up Mt. Sinai and saw God. Exodus 24:11 reads, “they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

It seems that they only saw His feet, but still! That in itself is a very intriguing thing to imagine. What would it have been like to be a part of that group?

Seven days later, God invites Moses alone to come all the way up the mountain to meet with Him and be given the law. Read verses 17-18 again:

17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

So for forty days there is no communication between Moses and the Israelites. Moses couldn’t send them twitter updates or text messages to let them know how things were going.

Do you wonder if the Israelites began to wonder if Moses was ever coming back? Do you think that some of them began to get tired of waiting? Let’s see what they ended up doing while their leader was away… Continue reading “MOSES – PART III – WEDNESDAY – WK 7”

MOSES – PART III – TUESDAY – WEEK 7

NOTHIN’ BUT THE BLOOD

God has given the Israelites the 10 commandments and the expectations He has for how they are to live. He has told them what He will do as their “King” by providing for them and blessing them. He is re-establishing the covenant He made hundreds of years ago with Abraham.

We looked yesterday at God’s promises… his part of the bargain with the Israelites. Now it is up to Israel to respond… to ratify the covenant. Continue reading “MOSES – PART III – TUESDAY – WEEK 7”

MOSES – PART III – MONDAY – WK 7

GOD’S GOT YOUR BACK

On the way out of Egypt to the Promised Land, the nation of Israel takes a detour and makes a pit stop at Mt. Sinai. God leads them here because there is some business that He needs to take care of with them before they can enter the Promised Land.

They stay here for a few months, and during this time God is re-establishing His covenant with His people. This covenant is a relational agreement between God and Israel, and its essence can be summarized as “He will be their God, and they will be His people.”

God gives them commands to follow to keep their part of the agreement. Today we will look at a passage in which God explains what He will do for them, how He will bless them as they fully obey Him as their Lord and Master…

Continue reading “MOSES – PART III – MONDAY – WK 7”

MOSES – PART II – FRIDAY – WK 6

THE 10 COMMANDMENTS

In giving Israel the 10 Commandments, God simply and succintly defines how this nation is to respect and honor Him and treat other people. The 10 Commandments are also a reflection of God’s moral character. They give us insight into who He is and what it means to be holy.

God speaks these words from the top of Mt. Sinai. This is such an important message that God delivers it directly to the people as they are assembled at the bottom of the mountain… Continue reading “MOSES – PART II – FRIDAY – WK 6”

MOSES – PART II – THURSDAY – WK 6

MT. SINAI

The Israelites have finally made it to Mount Sinai. The Israelites camped out here for several months, so all next week we’re going to camp out here, too.

God has much He wants to teach the Israelites. As we saw in the last post, the nation of Israel is very much like a little child. They are constantly complaining about what God provides for them; they test the Lord and get angry at Moses even to the point of wanting to stone him!

Despite all the miraculous things that God is constantly doing, these people still show an amazing lack of faith and an inability to simply take God at His word. But God has been very patient with them.

At the burning bush, God revealed for the first time His name, YHWH. Through the Exodus out of Egypt, God revealed His power and sovereignty. Now, at Mt. Sinai, God is revealing who He is and renewing the covenant with Israel.

In this covenant, He is very specific about what Israel is to do in keeping this covenant, and He is very specific about how He will bless them as a nation if they keep the covenant… Continue reading “MOSES – PART II – THURSDAY – WK 6”