#10 The Long Road

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And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

– Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Like a book, film, or play, journeys have a beginning and end, but often neither is as important as the middle – the road itself. This in-between, the meat of the tale, could be long and arduous.

Upon introspection, we might find ourselves lacking as we travel the road, perceiving our many faults, and we may feel discouraged.

But remember that we all are in the midst of our travels; we’re in the middle of our story. There is a long ways to go, and step by step, we move forward and grow. Setbacks will come, but by keeping our eyes on the truth, we’ll become more and more like that which we hope to be – partially through this long road, and fully, one day, at its end.

Pray | Ask that you’ll be encouraged to grow even when the road seems long

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: 1 John 1:7-9 / 1 Cor 13:11-12 / Psalms 51:10 / Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:20-24

Act | Purposely and prayerfully put aside a way you once acted and put on the new way of Christ

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#9 Wandering

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For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

– Hebrews 13:14 (ESV)

Have you ever had that stirring in your soul, that need to experience something, to move beyond and journey toward the unknown, to start an adventure? Perhaps it’s ingrained in the human spirit for us all to be wanderers.

And at the center of such sojourning spirit is a question: what are we looking for?

No matter where we go, whether it’s as a child exploring the cavernous trenches of a backyard swing set or a cosmonaut riding a rocket rushing toward the stars, we all seek meaning, purpose. The void tells us that there really is no meaning, nothing beyond what we can sense. But truth tells us otherwise – there’s much more than all we can ask or imagine.

Pray | Ask that our hearts are set on what is meaningful and true

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Psalm 16:9-11 / Psalm 143:5-6 / Rev 4:11 / Psalm 73:26  / Matt 5:13-16

Act | Make a change in your life that bends it away from self and toward something more significant

#8 Solo Journey Together

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Have you ever undertaken an arduous trek? Perhaps it was a difficult hike, a challenging run, or long walk in the city. Did you go it alone?

Oftentimes, our journeys are made solo – but that doesn’t mean we take them alone. We carry items with us that can make these mini-adventures more bearable – fun, even. Our mobile devices, comfortable shoes, a utility tool – these are the weapons of our trade that help us make it through.

A life in the spirit is very much the same. What (or rather who) we take with us on our way can help mightily – a church body for support; strong leadership for accountability; loving friends for encouragement. A life in the spirit may be our own – but it was never meant to be lived alone.

Pray | Ask about your friendships and ask for spiritual accountability

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Heb 10:24-25 / 1 Cor 12:21-26 / Gal 6:1-5 / Heb 13:17 / 1 Thess 5:9-11

Act | Build further accountability in your walk with Christ for yourself and/or others (ex. consider finding an accountability partner)

Journeys

The concept of a journey speaks to us all.  It crosses cultural, ethnic, national, and all other kinds of boundaries.  Even children understand the idea that a journey is more than a trip from point A to point B. There’s meaning in the destination – but there’s also meaning in the journey itself.

In Christianity, the phrase “walking with God” if often used, and even there we see movement, the steps taking one on a sojourn with the Creator. Along and in between, we go off on many tangents, but perhaps taken as a whole, we can see a map detailing our momentous adventure with God.

Join us in the coming weeks as we move one from our last theme, love, and explore our new one, journeys.

#4 Fiery Passion

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

– Hebrews 12:28-29

I have a burning desire for herThere’s a real spark between usHe’s so hot.  Words related to heat seem to perfectly describe the passion of relationships. What other concept can better relate the way two people feel when they are on fire for each other?  Imagine a love so intense that everything seems to burn up in their flames for one another.

As good as these feelings are, they’re mainly superficial, dealing with the laws of attraction and chemistry.  But what if there was intense fire in a relationship that was more than skin deep, that seared our very souls?

When we respond to grace, opening the doors for relationship, we find that God doesn’t walk in meekly.  He arrives in full force, a fire so hot that it burns us to a crisp – it eats away our pains, ills, sin, and guilt.  It carbonizes our old selves, and out of those ashes rises someone reinvented, someone sublime.  From the heat of this perfect love, we discover this – we’ve become someone more lovely than we ever thought we could be.

Pray | Ask God to “burn you up” with a desire for him, or if you don’t feel a need for such passion, instead ask God to show you what it is he wants out of your relationship with him

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: 1 Peter 1:3-9 / Job 23:10 / Ezekiel 18:31 / 2 Corinthians 5:17 / Zechariah 13:9

Act | Develop a list of those things in you that you would like to change and spend time reflecting both on why you haven’t changed and how you might approach changes in these areas

#3 Free from Fear

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There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

– 1 John 4:18

Fire and brimstone – scorching language used as fear mongering tools for so long by preachers to instill fear into people’s hearts, driving them toward a religion twisted by guilt. Today, we’ve mostly left the hotbed of angry, condemning religion, but for many fear and guilt remain, whether as whispers of smoke in our souls, burned there from a dispirited youth in the church, or soldered into our hearts through experiences that have left us burned.

But what if true religion isn’t about shame and fright? What if it speaks something quite the opposite to us – that we are free from all that which weighs us down?

The world can be frightening. Depression, loneliness, judgment, violence – all these can invade our lives and make the very act of living difficult, impossible even. But in this, there is always hope, in the arms of one who has been there and suffered it all for our sake, and in whose perfect love there is no fear.

Pray | Come to God about those things that haunt you – the specters of abuse, neglect or anything else – and ask him to help you depend on his love in overcoming the pain

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: 1 John 1:5 / 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 / Psalms 23:4 / Deuteronomy 31:6 / Isaiah 41:10

Act | Accept your flaws and imperfections, making a step toward accepting forgiveness and mercy from a loving God

#2 Returning Love

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You took the broken pieces, and made them whole.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

– Ephesians 2:8

Romantic relationships sometimes feel like purchasing a product.  If the item is broken, or not as advertised, or fails to live up to our expectations in any way, we return it and get our money back.  When a problem occurs during dating, we might consider “returning” our mate and starting again.  The more difficult the issue or the more issues there are, the more likely we are to call it quits and say, “this transaction just didn’t work out.”

Unfortunately, this idea extends beyond dating.  Cohabitation, marriage, friendship, and even family can break down when people disappoint, hurt, and otherwise fail to meet expectations.  And what happens when we’re treated like a purchase?  When we’re dumped, passed over for a promotion, or ignored by friends, as if we don’t matter?  It’s painful to be on the receiving end because it makes us feel like a defective product.  Who could love me?

Real love is not a transaction.  It’s not “I’ll give you this if you give me that.”  Instead, it’s about loving a person for who they are, no matter the circumstances and at great personal expense.  Scripture tells us that this is how God approaches His relationship with us.  Even though we failed Him, over and over again, He loves us to the utmost expense, to the point where He came to die in our place.  God bought us, defects and all, but decided this: He’ll keep and treasure us forever.

Pray | Tell God about the broken relationships in your life and thank him for his enduring love for you
Read | Read and meditate on these verses this week: Zephaniah 3:14-17 / Psalms 86:15 / Romans 8:37-39 / Luke 12:6-7 / Ephesians 2:4-10
Act | Take a step toward healing a broken relationship this week through a message, phone call, or something more

#1 Imperfect Love

 

love 1a

love 1b

we are bits and pieces of imperfect love

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:38-39

A happy nervousness.  An electric energy.  Non-stop smiling.  All relationships start the same way, with a forever kind of hopefulness.  But ultimately, they almost all devolve into something unrecognizable, transformed by hurt, pain, anger, or disinterest.

How have you acted in your relationships with others?  When things go awry, do you blame them?  Or do you share some of the fault?

Because we’re human, because we’re imperfect, our relationships are all destined to contain some brokenness.  We disappoint those we’re closest to, again and again and again.  But there is one model of perfect love, of an epic kind of love that never fails, for this lover will never stop reaching out to us and will always be there to put together the bits and pieces of our imperfect selves.  And his love is everything we need.

Pray | Tell God about the kind of love you seek – from a bf/gf, parents, or friends – and then honestly talk to him about how well you’ve loved him
Read | Read and meditates on these verses this week: Romans 8:38-39 / I Corinthians 13:4-8 / I Peter 4:8 / I John 4:16-18 / Deuteronomy 10:12
Act | Work on forgiving others for the hurt they’ve caused you, knowing that we also pain others – God most of all