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Episode 31:  The Consuming & the Purifying Fire

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Episode 30:  Enduring Tragedy

 The Word:  Psalm 56:3 & 147:3… Proverbs 10:12… Matthew 5:4, 43-44… Romans 12:13-21 (ref. Deuteronomy 32:35)... James 1:27

 Discussion

What was the first major,newsworthy local, national or international tragic event you can remember? Do you remember how it made you feel at the time?

      • JP:  Probably the first World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, they all happened within a few months of one another in the early ‘90s. I was about 11 years old. I grew up in church in a very small and couldn’t imagine someone violating traditional American values of peace, justice and protection. 
  • LC:  9/11. I was in middle school and didn’t really understand what was happening, aside from it just being a really big deal to adults. I had been living in the US for 2 years so I still very much felt like a foreigner, not really understanding the narrative, so it felt like an American issue, like something out of a movie, completely removed from me. I was on the other side of the country also, so it didn’t feel real.
  • MS:  Also 9/11, didn’t really know what was going on.

 

  • It seems like every few months a mass shooting, terrorist attack, refugee crisis or something like that makes the news. What is your first reaction?
    • JP:  Truthfully? A lot of anger, skepticism & anxiety. I wait to hear what some of the pundits and authority figures have to say and dread all the ensuring arguments in the media. Then it sets in, and I start to grieve for the families of the afflicted.
  • LC:  More like every week! It’s typically anger, to be honest. Unless it is a natural disaster. I believe that as a society we have allowed ourselves to get used to these terrible events and have done little to truly remedy them. I recently read psychology article that studied the effect of hateful speech or an “us vs them” rhetoric on the population at large, specifically from our leaders. The article concluded that such speech really can and has lead to hateful attacks. I am often dumbfounded by some of the intolerant reactions that people have, specially on social media. I try not to engage, but often just even claiming I am against such speech can become a debatable issue.
  • MS: I’m pretty numb to it by now. Used to try to keep up with world news, but now I’m more “What’s the use?” There has never been any doubt that this world is broken, honestly not much of it surprises me. 

 

    • What scriptures come to mind in these situations? Can you think of a biblical example of a good and a bad response to major life-changing events?
      • JP:  This is just about King David’s whole life right? Especially after he runs away from Saul and when he has to pretend to be insane in the face of Achish?
  • LC:  I definitely think of the Psalms, specifically those where David starts out in utter despair but ends up praising God even through the misery. I want to have that faith and grip to God, because in those moments, when I‘m so angry, I tend to question God.
  • MS:  2 Peter 3:8-10 God is not slow about his promises, and Jesus will come back. Sometimes I think Jesus won’t come back until there is zero chance for anyone else to know him. Some days I think that day is very close, others I don’t.

 So what is the right way, biblically, to approach people with very different perspectives than Christians in times of crisis? What about with Christians who disagree with you? 

      • JP:  This is a challenge. We are charged with helping others understand that we were offered forgiveness while we were still sinners, and in a lot of ways those who would commit atrocities aren't any worse of than us. 
  • LC:  It can be disheartening to disagree on social justice issues with Christians, aren’t we all supposed to  be of the same mind-set? With others, jeez, I KNOW we are going to differ. In some of my circles folks proudly express their hatred toward those who disagree and have very little interest in extending an olive branch. Which I can understand, but of course do not agree with. So many times, when folks say we just need to find common ground, they really are out here just trying to silence people they disagree with, too often, those who are most oppressed and fed up with the status quo. For me, it is important to listen and offer comfort to those mourning or who are angry. Also what Matt said, though I can sometimes forget that.
  • MS:  don’t get in Facebook arguments with each other. 
    • What responsibility, if any, do you think Christians bear when such tragedies strike?
      • JP:  It's our first duty to express compassion for victims. It's going the unexpected & frankly undeserved extra mile to figure out how to forgive and pray for those will we would perceive as our enemies.  
  • LC:  Offering comfort and compassion is first the most important. Showing up too. Jesus mourned with those who mourned and offered comfort. I often wonder, in these times of zero tolerance to perpetrators, we should be offering folks the freedom of forgiveness and encouraging them to seek God with the seemingly impossible thing, but how do we do this without seeming like enablers?  
  • MS:  Yes, compassion for those affected and to not push a political agenda. I think forgiveness for perpetrators can be taken as atrocious to some, but it is powerful. Leave judgement to the Lord.

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Episode 29:  Confession

The Word: “And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” James 5:15-16

Discussion:

    • First, is it important to acknowledge we are sinful? Why?
      • jP: Of course. Without acknowledging sin, we are basically thumbing our noses at needing Jesus at all. But everyone will admit that there's no such thing as a parent person. So what makes us imperfect? Where is the line between a sin and a simple mistake or lapse of better judgment? Sin is breaking covenant with God.

 

  • BD: Because the way my pride is set up, I need to acknowledge my failings. Pride goes before the fall and as such, I’ve fallen a lot. It’s also strengthened my relationship with God because of course he already knows my failings but it’s good for me to have a practice of putting before him, in words, with honesty and vulnerability, my sins.
  • LC: I think of I John 1:5-10. First, we know that no one is perfect and without sin, only Jesus, therefore by definition, we are sinful, whether we know it or not. Some folks take a while to see their sin. When at first I became a disciple I had no idea how incredibly sinful I was. Some sin was obvious at first, but other sin took a while to dig up. There is freedom in acknowledging we are imperfect.
  • M: Because we have sin that is out in the open, and hidden sins (or blind spots). Psalm 19:12-13 We can ignore the hidden things easily, especially with no one to point them out. The danger is in ignoring the “willful sins” because that is an indication of a hard heart, and turning away from God.

 

    • If God has already forgiven us, why do we have to confess our sins?
      • jP: Same reason we visit a doctor for a check-up I suppose, to achieve healing, guidance, direction back toward God. God does the forgiving, and it's comforting that His Grace is once and for all [Psalm 30-32], but confession helps clear or consciences (I Corinthians 4:4-5).

 

  • BD: I think of all the proverbs that talk about listening to one's elders, parents, advisors, getting advice from people and heeding said advice. If I would go to such great lengths to have prudent behavior, why would I keep it to myself when I fail? In fact, I need those people even more to help me course correct. To help me see where I deviated from Godliness to Brandi-ness.
  • LC: Leviticus 5:5, states that at any time we become aware of our sin, even if we did not know we were sinning at the time we sinned, we have to confess it. Also, Proverbs 28:13. As a perfectionist, I want to just do everything myself, because no one else will know how to do it, and sometimes, I see God in this way. But I think of myself as a vessel that has to be emptied and filled. Until I declared Jesus Lord of my life, that vessel was filled with smoke, meaning it was filled with nothing that seemed like something. When I confess my sin, I clear some of that smoke and make space for God to fill it up. I make room for Him. And to me, realizing that 1. I don’t have to be perfect because it is impossible and 2. God truly changes me as He sees fit and I don’t have to do anything but trust/love him, it truly liberating.
  • M: I don’t really know. I know sometimes where I have just confessed stuff to God and asked for forgiveness. I sin way too much, if I confessed everything I would be talking 24/7. I do know that from the times I’ve confessed “big” sins, it helps to let go of the shame and guilt lingering in my heart. James 1:16 says we will be healed, I think that is both on a cosmic, spiritual level, but also mental and emotional level.

 

    • When do you confess your sins?

 

  • BD: ?? As soon as the opportunity has presented itself.
  • LC: It seems like an obvious question, but for some of us, it can take a while to confess. In my personal experience, I have had a hard time figuring out what the sin was. I knew something was wrong but I had a hard time putting it into words. Other times, I wasn’t ready to expose myself like that with others, even those I trust. I was ashamed and feared that they would think less of me, or say “Well, you’ve got no cure.” I tend to fall into the same sin, over and over again, so sometimes I don’t want to confess it again, I feel like a broken record and again, I fear the person will feel sick of me for confessing the same thing again.
  • jP: I'm a very private man. I try to assess a pattern of sin as opposed to specific list items. As a Depressed American, who is on some level always angry or anxious, it can be difficult to determine what's a sin and what's a symptom of my condition.
  • M: If it’s a relational sin, between me and another person, it can take a while. If it is a sin that only affects me, then I am much more ready to confess.

 

    • Do you have specific people to whom you confess?

 

  • BD: I use wisdom in determining whom a confession should be shared with.
  • jP: Ditto. Some people have a temperament it the requisite experience to understand some sins better than others (”Many advisors…”).

 

      • LC: It can be daunting to approach someone and confess our sins to them, even if they are our most trustworthy friend. I definitely have those folks and at times, like both of you, have to determine, with wisdom, who is best for the job because sometimes, confessions don’t go well. I have been in situations where I confessed to someone and they came back at me harsh! Like, totally uncalled for. I did not feel much grace or love, and felt instead judged and unheard. Granted, that person was having a hard time so they themselves were not in the right mindset to give Godly encouragement. So in those times, when the person did not respond well, I take comfort in 1 John 2:1.
        • I don’t follow. What about my response is less-than-humble?
        • Do you find yourself sinning in your less-than-humble response to that discipling?

 

  • M: Some are the same people all the time, those close to me. Others are people God has put in my path at the time, where I felt the pull to confess and they were there, so here we go! I think it helps to have at least one or two people who really know you and all of your flaws. I’m saying this as a person who resists people knowing him vehemently.

 

    • What are the elements of a good confession? Is there a difference between it and venting? If so, what are those differences?
      • Please rephrase the question.

 

  • LC: When I know I have to confess and ask someone to hear me out, I know that in order for it to be fruitful I have to be vulnerable and humble. I also have to be honest! I can downplay things and make them seem less of a big deal than they actually were as to not seem that bad, but really, I’m just playing myself because I’m not exposing everything to the light. For me, the line between venting and confessing gets blurred and I start to vent, which is not helpful when confessing. There are times when you just want someone to listen and those are valid and necessary, but when it comes to sin, we HAVE to be willing to hear back with a repenting heart.
  • jP: I used to have a great discipler who would all me how I was, I would vent, then he would ask, “where is the sin in that,” knowing my soul was troubled and that I knew enough about the scriptures that I should recognize where I had crossed God.
  • MS: It can be venting, depends on how self aware you are in the confession, as JP alluded to. The difference in venting is the person listening to you just listens, or you already know where the sin is. Venting does not end in looking at scripture Psalm 119:24 
    • If someone is confessing their sin to you, how should you respond? Does it have to be the same with everyone?

 

  • LC: So going back to the story I shared, that person was not in a Godly, loving mindset so their response was not gracious or loving. I remember that they shared some really poignant scripture and asked good questions, but when they responded to those it was more like they had already made up their mind on what to say instead of truly listening to what I was saying and offering compassion and empathy. For me personally, that is the most important. Since we HAVE to be vulnerable when confessing, the person listening to our confession has to be gentle (this is objective) and receptive. If we are listening to someone just to respond and not to understand, we are doing them a great disservice.
  • jP: It's important to understand that unless you're a qualified counselor, you're not a qualified counselor, but an equally sinful person. In my experience, one best practice is to share a little of your own sin too.
  • MS: Gentleness is usually a good place to start. But also not encouraging sin. It is very situational, something I would say happens with the guidance of the Holy Ghost. John 14:16-17

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Episode 28:  Isaiah 43

The Word:   Isaiah 43:1-44:5

Discussion
"I have summoned you by name, you are mine" (vv1-2)

How do you feel about Good specifically recruiting you? Does it make you more secure in your daily life?

[M] It brings me some comfort. But I also end up asking “Why?” a lot. And then people have to remind me. But I think there is a narcissism/pride aspect to my self-doubt. Not that I’m fishing for compliments, but that I know better than Jesus who he should and shouldn’t call by name. And if my hang-up is about my weaknesses, then I have to consider 2 Cor 12:9 and that maybe I was called because my weaknesses glorify God all the more by showing the extent of his power.

[L] It, of course, makes me feel quite special. But I know that it really was nothing I did or am, God simply called on me because he wanted to. He calls us all, but few hear, so I guess I feel lucky that I heard the call. In fact, I know I was beyond unqualified. I know I did not have a chance to make it. To become anyone worthy of saving, or sacrifice. I am proud, and entitled, and selfish. Yet, God called me and said, “if you can hear me, follow me, leave it all behind, including yourself. Know that it will be hard, for your entire life. And there are no guarantees. All you you will have is hope. Now, all you need is a little faith.” God chooses us, because we choose Him. “ As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father”

 

[BD]:  "Verses 1-4 of this gives me the willies."

"Since you are precious & honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for... your life" (v4)

Who else loves you like this? Who has exchanged another's life for yours? The military maybe? Are you up for that for someone else? Is this even just of God?

[M] My mommy and father. They’re great. The closest thing to God’s unconditional love I’ve ever experienced. And just like God’s Grace, I have definitely taken advantage of my parents’ love in the past. I’m not up for dying for someone else. Not there yet. Logical me says it has to be just because God did it. I don’t know how to reconcile it with my/our societies definition of justice.

[L] Definitely my parents. They have sacrificed so much for us. They are alive, thankfully, but I really see what they have given up for their children as an “everything” sacrifice. I imagine that, generally speaking, parents love like this. This is why I don’t think I want children. I am afraid of that kind of love. Did I mention I was selfish?

Created for glory – God's glory, not your own; you bear his name. You were a captive, disabled child (vv5-8)

When were you most helpless? Alternately, when did you feel most glorious? Who gets the credit?

[M] I don’t know if we have time for my story...but if we want to, this will be a very special episode.

[L] STORY TIME!

[BD]:  I’m very familiar with my disability in the world. My spiritual handicaps are becoming newer to me all the time. I love how the scripture reminds me of how helpless I am/was before Jesus gave his life for my salvation. In a worldly sense I have become very adept at NOT being helpless but that’s created a lot of pride and self reliance that causes me big trouble in my faith.

You've been selected as a witness and a servant.

Are you okay with that part? What responsibilities do we bear as God's chosen?

  • To know, believe and understand who God is
  • This appointment is permanent (vv9-13)

[M] Sometimes I feel like I’m ashamed of Jesus, and that scares me because there are very specific scriptures about that. For example, I was talking to a disciple as I was walking down a street in the morning, and as I passed shops and people and was talking about spiritual things, I brought my voice down. I don’t really know why, I’m still searching my heart about it, but at least made me question how okay I am with all of these responsibilities.

[L] I OFTEN fear sounding like a lunatic when I talk about God in public. I definitely feel some sort of shame because I have been on the other end; criticizing Christians for their delusions of God’s goodness. When I went reaching out recently, a couple of youths were TOTALLY not about it and while I was talking to one of them, the other two were kind of glaring at me and kept exchanging looks and I felt so small and powerless. I almost broke into tears. I do not enjoy being a witness and avoid it when I can. However, I gotta think of Paul! I mean, he HUNTED disciples and then became one of the most fervent evangelists and authored ⅔ of the New Testament! I mean, talk about witness! So maybe I don’t really understand God and his power because if I did, like Paul, I would risk it all, even my reputation, to share about Him.

 

[BD]:  I’m so clear about what God has done for me, I don’t care what people think.  I was asked not too long ago by a fellow team mate to pray with her because she knows I’m a devout Christian. Someone else saw that and invited me to their interfaith bible study. In that moment, I was so proud of how I’d built my witness up for others to be drawn to it. A lot of times our own fears can block the blessings of others. I mess up a lot but being a witness to others does a lot for my own faith.

God will humiliate the great for your sake (v14)

Is there a time when you had no place getting over on someone, but it turned out ok for all parties concerned?

[L] ??????

BUT!... (vv22-24)

What are God’s relational expectations?

  • You haven't called
  • You haven't sacrificed, even though it's not really much of a burden or some wearisome demand

[BD]:  For all that God has done for me, I haven’t done enough, risked enough, scarified enough for His Glory. The comforts of this world distract me and feel more attractive than sacrifices for what God has already given me.

INSTEAD!... (vv24)

How long does it take you to realize that you’ve done someone wrong? How easy or difficult is it for you to admit failure and accept forgiveness?

  • You have offended God, even though he is the one who redacts and forgets your sins (v25)

[M] I usually realize it pretty quickly/as I’m doing it. Sometimes it takes longer to know, or to realize I’ve been deceiving myself. Easy to admit to God, harder to admit to people. Same with accepting forgiveness.

[L] Um… I question EVERYTHING! Every feeling, thought, concern I have. I constantly question myself and beg God for discernment. I KNOW I sin everyday and on multiple occasions so I  beg God to not only forgive me but challenge me. Hardly do I ever feel justified or validated so it is not hard to admit I am wrong. I don’t typically accept forgiveness until there is something I can do to fix it.

 

You can't stack up. God's undefeated (vv26-28)

Isaiah 44:1-5

What does "belonging to God” signify to you?

  • God reminds you that:
    • You are chosen
    • He will help you
    • He will refresh and fuel you
    • He will bless your legacy
    • You carry his reputation

[MS] Psalm 18 He saves from enemies, rewards according to righteousness, is The Rock, and deserves praise.

[LC] It’s significant because the more that I grow to define myself as He defines me and seek only to please Him and meet His expectations, the more I free of the constraints of the world, meaning I care less about what people think of me.

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Episode 27:  Listening to God

The Word:  Exodus 19:5Exodus 19:5

 Discussion (Shema is the Hebrew Word for listen/hear- it also serves as the word for obey)

Been hearing more often than can be attributed to coincidence that I should “listen to God.” Sounded like people trying to trick me into meditating. I told them I’m not Buddhist, but they were Christians who already knew that.

My understanding has been that we listen to God by reading His Word, and talk to him through prayer. However what these people described was instead becoming very quiet and, from what I can understand, “listening to God’s voice in your heart.” Kayyy. I don’t know what this is, but I believe God is supernatural and if he wants to put thoughts in my head He certainly is capable. I tried it, I don’t know if I did it right, but let’s talk about it.

  1. Have you ever listened to God/meditated or whatever? If yes, what was your process, and what was the outcome? If not, what do you think of it—hokum or legitimate spiritual practice?
    1. I’ve had to over and over quiet the voice in my head that moves me based on feelings and ask God to guide me through His word. This is very difficult because I too often follow my feelings, and if I am in an emotional state and turn to His Word, I find myself sometimes twisting God’s Word to my wants.
    1. [LC] I definitely used to pray for God to speak to me and give me a sign. Perhaps it is because I doubted that I would be able to find an answer to my very specific and obviously unique issue in the scripture. But the more that I read and study the word, the more attuned I become to God’s voice IN HIS WORD and stopped asking for signs. Answers to all of our questions and concerns can be found in His word. However, I do believe that God moves our lives in ways he wants us to go. For example: I once heard of a sister praying to God if she should move to a new city for a Church planting. She tested the waters and her place sold fairly quickly and she was able to find a job and a new place to live soon after. Surely, God was orchestrating her move, it was too easy. On the flipside, I have also heard of folks “seeing” the signs and making the decisions that were not always in their best spiritual interest.
    2. [BD] Practically speaking, I listen to God by reading his word and being open to how it applies to my life. During my study of women in the Bible, I saw a lot of similarities between me and women I both admired and admonished. In some instances, I prayed for the spirit to prompt me in areas I could grow to be more like them and less like me. So for me, it starts with reading and praying. It ends with listening and looking. Listening is being sensitive and willing to respond to the opportunities to change.
    3. [JP]  I think there's a little bit of validity to this. I remember one time a few years ago I was at a bit of a crossroads in my career and my place in the church, in life overall, and I had to take a day trip down to Ohiopyle and present get lost in the woods to seek God’s direction through distress. That said, I sometimes think mediation is a way to mess with your own mind. God speaks to us through the scripture (II Peter 1).
    4. [MS]  I can’t tell if this is a newer idea, or fringe. But I’ve heard it from more than a few different sources over the past few weeks and it intrigues me. I remember trying this a couple years ago, and whatever I followed turned out to be my own heart. Then I went for round two a couple days, the “message” was a lot more general, and had already been in my mind because someone else had said it before— “trust me/God.” So I don’t know. Even when we are listening to God through reading scripture, isn’t that supposed to be the Holy Spirit educating us. But we have to have the book or app in front of us? Certainly some of us are to the point where we have so much scripture engraved on our hearts the Spirit can still move. AND I’ve definitely felt the Spirit “talk” to me when I wasn’t in the act of reading scripture. (I Cor 2:6-16)

2. How can we trust our own thoughts if we have the Holy Spirit, Satan, and our own minds shoving stuff in there?

    1. [LC] I often get advice. If I am struggling with a decision or internal turmoil, I pray, read scripture and talk to older disciples whom I trust to guide me in a righteous manner. Because our hearts can often be deceived by Satan, I now rarely just go with my gut. With every tough choice I make or struggle I’m battling, I enlist other fellow soldiers to keep me accountable and have my back, even when I have to go against myself.
    2. [BD] Do my thoughts agree with God? I fall short and sometimes they don’t. If my thoughts justify ME, I’m trying to learn to confess that because saying it out loud helps me see how far my thoughts are from god and hopefully that u-turns me back to being righteous.
    3. [JP]  The Scripture advises that the Spirit teaches us to say “no” (Titus 2) to ungodliness & “yes” to self control, keeping the stuff off this corrupt age in mind. He helps us be more self-aware.
    4. [MS] I think that a large part of this comes down to obedience. Shema in Hebrew is the word for hearing and obeying, there is no distinction. A lot of times I know the things I should be obeying, and where I am falling short, which is when I don’t “hear God” or the spirits instruction like in Titus 2, like Josh mentioned. If I have a thought that I should lay in bed all day with a gallon of cookie dough, I don’t need to read the Bible to know that’s not Christ.

3.  If this is real, why is this the first I’ve heard of it/remember hearing about it. Ever heard a lesson or sermon on this? Seems fringey.

    1. [LC] Maybe we are misunderstanding what listening to Him really means. For me personally, it is less of a feeling and more on what I know beyond any doubt about God. It is hard to describe, but the times I have felt God speaking through me, was when I was reading His word. I remember vividly this time I was really struggling with trusting His timing and feeling like I was praying the same prayer over and over again to deaf ears. I then read about Hannah’s story and decided to just read 1 Samuel 1-2 in order to get the full picture. That was the first time I ever read her story and, I don’t mean to exaggerate, but it moved me to sobs! I had never felt such a powerful emotion from His Word (I have several times since), and it overcame me. I knew in that moment that it was God speaking to me. I sometimes play pretend and imagine a 2-way conversation with God. I sit there and talk to him, as if I am talking to a friend. I then fill in His blanks BUT ONLY WITH WHAT I KNOW IS TRUE not what I want to hear. Like, knowing what I know about God, how would he respond to this question or this comment? I know it sounds kind of crazy but it helps in times when I struggle to pray and I certainly do not believe it is what God would say to me, but if anything it has helped me in trusting that God wants to hear all of our concerns and questions. We tried it during a family time one night and I remember one of the girls crying after reading God’s “response” to her question because she HAD to remember that God will forgive her and that he still loves her no matter what
    2. [BD]
    3. [JP]  Maybe. Christianity has recently embraced modern medicine & mental health techniques in addition to prayer as a way to approach our personal issues. I think we’ve finally begun to acknowledge that God gave us science and alternative means of experiencing Him.

[MS]  I don’t like this question anymore, but it’s what we got. I think people have been talking about it, but it is controversial because our church is basically sola scriptura, or by scripture alone. So to say, “hey listen to God by going into a quiet place and closing your eyes!” Seems like false teaching, when in fact the written form of the Bible hasn’t been around that long in comparison to Christianity. Much less the fact that literacy is a pretty new concept too.

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Episodes 25 & 26:  A “berry” fruitful Spirit

The Word:  Galatians 5:22-23

Discussion
Picked shorter passage for sake of brevity. Would be a good idea to give some context about this being paired with the sin list preceding it. Also, the keeping in step with the Spirit line in v. 25 is gold. Verse 26 seems random to me, but could be an interesting thread.

NIV - love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Which of these nine fruits are your strength(s)? Weakness(es)? Give an example for one or two if you can.

[LC] I am pretty good with joy. Most of the time I am a very positive person, capable of finding the silver lining in any situation. I am also a gentle person, most of the time. I can sometimes lose my temper, but I default to gentleness. I’d say I’m weakest in faithfulness. I tend to be really insecure, especially in relationships (II Corinthians 10:5).

[BD] Faithfulness. It’s not hard to see where God has been faithful to me. So In the harder moments I cling to the proof of the past. I’m Weaker at Love when I see it through the worldly sense of the word, I’m more motivated by my feeling of Love for people than my Godly duty to love as God defined it. Galatian 5:5.

[JP]  Forbearance & faithfulness I suppose. Frankly, I question those too. What would you qualify as “goodness”? I know that God works in the long-term (as we discussed last week), so I’m patient enough to anticipate and celebrate a fruit that grows out of the struggle.

[MS]  Kindness is my strength, which is shown in my generosity. This interacts with my weakness, self-control, because I don’t have good boundaries and have been learning (slowly) how to say no to people. Belief that Jesus gave of himself to the point of being taken advantage of, and that material things have no eternal value. Matt 6:19-20, Luke 16:9.

In regards to spiritual fruit, do you tend to work on your weaknesses more, or play to your strengths?

[JP]  That sucks. You take pride in selflessness and it becomes a burden. Perhaps the intent is good, but pride, like the weed it is, festers. Maybe instead of cutting it out, improve the boundary.

[LC] Both. But I tend to work on my weaknesses more. If we are striving to be Jesus-like, then it makes sense to me that if I am lacking in any of this fruit, I need to tend to it in order to grow. On the same note, if I am strong in any of these, I make a point to play to these strengths and tend to them. You can’t just leave a tree alone after it yields fruit. You have to harvest that fruit and then continue to tend to it to keep the fruit coming. However, I sometimes struggle in sharing the fruit. Apparently, people can get annoyed with overly-positive people, especially when they’re having a hard time.

[BD] My strengths are my weaknesses.

[JP]  Absolutely play to my strengths. I appreciate the advice that’s frequently given though, “never half-heart two things; whole-heart one thing.” I’d like to add to (II Peter 1:3-9) my strengths and become a more whole person. I like vegetables, I need to eat more vegetables, but there are a lot of very popular vegetables (like squashes) that I do not like or I do not know how to prepare or keep fresh when the time comes to prepare them.

[MS]  Definitely play to my strength, to the point that it almost becomes a weakness. In an effort to create healthy boundaries sometimes I think I swing too far and then cut people off. My outreach and generosity to homeless has completely stopped at this point. Started as an effort to find a better way than just throwing money at it, now it feels selfish. 1 Cor 13:3, Matt 19:21

In reference to scriptures talking about “bearing fruit,” what are the ways you see that happening in your life?

[LC] I take comfort in knowing that true love, will never fail. Love being the most important of the fruit, according to 1 Corinthians 13, is the hardest because we all love so differently, but then again, if we truly hold on to the definition of love and strive to do as it tells us to do, even if that person we are trying to love does not feel it, the fruit bears in us, in that we are growing in love. I sometimes feel like I love more than I am loved and can at times withhold love because of this insecurity. But I have to be generous with myself, even if it goes unnoticed, because loving is more often not about the other person, but about us, and where are hearts are when we choose love instead of ourselves.

[BD] I just want people to see God in me because anything I am is because of him and hopefully the fruit of that is my blessing but moreso, that I am a blessing and that the people I’m a blessing to are so to others; and so on. Glorifying God in all that I do is hopefully spreading the seed for others so that they pursue Jesus, too.

[JP]  “Fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Yeah, doing good is cool, but if you’re exhibiting these traits out of a sense of obligation or to be noticed or to feel good about yourself and not because you’re compelled by Jesus electing you, then you’re just doing a project instead of trying to change yourself and the world. For me, that’s my attitude: Jesus chose me to help change the world by escalating me out of darkness -- but the darkness still has a grip. It’s that rocky or contaminated soil (Matt 13, Mark 4, Luke 8) of doubt that people truly care or people can truly change -- the tragedy that we can and do reject God -- that grips my roots and prevents me from reaching my full potential.

[MS]  Good tree bears good fruit...etc. Used to think this scripture was about doing more good things than bad. And we should be doing good things. But the root is in our character, which feeds into our actions. I do try to reconcile this scripture though, because if I squint and tilt my head sideways I can see people using it to say “Only Christians can have these fruits of the spirit” which I don’t agree with. Maybe the fruit Jesus talks about in Matt 12:33-35 is different from spiritual fruit in Galatians? Or maybe it ties into no one is good, but God alone?

How do you deal with people having different definitions of the fruits? Like one person tries to love another, but the other person doesn’t feel loved. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

[LC] If I am unsure on a definition, I look at an example of that fruit in the bible. For example, if I am struggling to figure out what Godly patience looks like, I study it out. I may look at Hosea and how God called him to continue to love and give himself to a woman who was incapable of truly loving him back and disregarded his sacrifices for her. He not only had patience, but also generosity.

[BD] Because i only care what God thinks of me, I’m not swayed one way or another by someone not “feeling” loved. As I said in my initial answer, the feeling is not the goal, it’s obedience to God by displaying love to the rest. If they don’t receive it, then be blessed.

[JP]  I suppose all these fruits are subjective. There are other similar lists in the New Testament; some of the items overlap. What’s loving to one person might be annoying or invasive to another. We have to communicate better and promote peace (Romans 12:18) over everything. To do so, we often have to deny our comfort or our gut preferences…

[MS]  I think the love is in how it’s dealt with. I have been in situations where someone told me they didn’t appreciate how I joke around them, go figure, and then I reduced the amount I joked around them, but then after i have to find another way to develop a relationship. But joking and kidding around is the main way I show affection, so it became this cycle where I would pull away because it was like they were rejecting who I was. Simple answer is to strengthen other ways to show affection, but it feels fake. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

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Episode 24:  Waiting on God

The Word:  Isaiah 30:18 

We talked about prayer last ep, let’s talk about waiting for prayers to be answered. Sometimes our prayers have a time limit, like when we pray for our team to win the world cup. We find God’s answer pretty quickly. Other times it takes a really long time, like when we pray for a job. It can take months. Other times, we never know the answer. All of us, at any given time, are waiting for a prayer to be answered. So let’s talk about that.

 

Discussion

    1. What is the waiting period like for you? Do you only pray for something once and wait, or keep praying for it while you wait?
      1. [LC] I have always been pretty terrible when it comes to waiting. It is excruciating for me to be in the dark when it comes to my future and the things that I want. I just want to know the answer. It’s not so much the thing, it’s the uncertainty. At times, I have taken matters into my own hands and sought the answer. I didn’t have faith that I would find out if I let things be. In my mind, it was up to me to figure it out. Being the forward and relentless person that I am, fighting this urge to just know has been the most humbling aspect of my walk with God because it requires me to surrender control and let Him lead. I rarely pray one-and-done prayers, but I have done it. More often, I pray for surrender, I pray for peace in the times of waiting more than I pray for the actual Thing. I pray to grow in whatever aspect of my character I need to grow in during the waiting periods. I pray a lot for change in myself.

 

  • [BD] Waiting is hardest for me when God has said “No” to me. A no from God means waiting for something better or more appropriate so the loss of the thing I wanted hurts as well as waiting for what God wants for me.

 

      1. [JP]  I've done both. I don't know what that says about my faith. I trust God completely for whatever & whenever his will is, and I believe he's powerful enough to act if he heard me once. Then again, I know that he values & honors persistence (Luke 18:1-8).
      2. [MS] Waiting period depends on what I’m praying for. I have been cool as a cucumber and also wracked with anxiety. I’m not great at praying consistently. It’s hard for me to pray everyday for the same thing. I don’t know why. I usually don’t just pray once, but whenever I am really thinking or wrestling with what I am praying for. Or when I’m in need.
    1. Does or has waiting expose(d) your doubts in God? How has waiting tested your faith? Did you fail the test or experienced growth? How do you feel when others’ prayers are answered before yours?
      1. [LC] I have failed HARD during times of waiting. Did I mention I am not good at waiting? However, in those failures I have experienced growth. Failing at the waiting has exposed some serious sin in my life such as jealousy, envy, impatience, and bitterness, which I have then had to deal with and some continue to deal with. I have grown, but the more I grow, the deeper I have to dig to expose more and more sin and the more I have to continue to work.  Seeing others’ prayers answered at times is frustrating because I want my waiting period to end. I have to sort of train my brain to recognize that others’ answered prayers does not take away from my blessing, but it should be reaffirming. Our God answers prayers!

 

  • [BD] Seeing others prayers answered around me is honestly so faith building for me. I pray for people probably more than I pray for myself so their blessing is for me, too. I believe God will give me my hearts desire, sometimes not in the manner I was hoping or expecting but I he is proven that he’s my provider more times than I can count and with that comes my belief that he’ll continue to do so.

 

      1. [JP]  It has shaken my belief that God’s interests or desires and my own are aligned. It makes me wonder what I've done to make God love me less.
      2. [MS] I’m sure as soon as someone says “I failed the test” another annoying person is going to be like “noooo, you experienced growth because you didn’t give uuuuuuup.” But I have definitely taken steps backwards, I guess it is like the stock market, you try to make sure the overall trend is upwards. It’s is hard not to zero in on the here and now.
    1. Do you see God working and taking care of you while you wait? If so, how? Do you experience unforeseen blessings while you wait?
      1. [LC] The fact that I am here now, to me, is a testament of God’s patience and strength. He has taken care of me during all waiting periods and saw me through them. Some I have crawled across the finish line, others were a bit easier, but I got through them. And I was able to do so, because God made sure of that. He armed me with His word and promises as well as companions. My fellow disciples are a huge blessing and walking this walk together is far easier, and dare I say, enjoyable at times.

 

  • [BD] There are things I’m praying and waiting for right now. My strategy for waiting has always been to be thankful for what I currently have. That keeps me from lamenting or complaining. I’m immensely blessed right now, if God does nothing else for me, his grace is sufficient.

 

    1. [JP]  Not sure about this one… I have an anecdote: I hate my job, but the pay is good and the work isn't hard; I have a hard time giving my full heart to it. I get anxious about the day I'll get fired for underperforming, but at just the right time, when I'm desperate and prayerful, my numbers come around. I don't know how much of a correlation there is – I don't want to believe it is, just that Good takes care of me even thru my sin (Psalm 103).
    2. [MS] The unforeseen blessings I’m not sure about. I don’t really keep track of such things, but I’ve heard about gratitude journals for things like that. I do know that God continues to work in my life during these times, he keeps providing for me, and whether I’m seeking him or not he sustains me.
  1. What can we learn about God and his work while we wait? Have you seen the fruits that can come from waiting? In what ways can we grow while we wait? What can we do to serve and glorify God while we wait?
    1. [LC] I have learned that I know nothing (Jon Snow) about how God works. Like Job, I have been desperate for an explanation but I will not comprehend. Even if Go were to try to explain his work, my feeble human mind would not grasp it. It is far too great for me. I have also learned that God expects us to give him ALL, the good and the bad. Reading through the Psalms is comforting because God can handle it. He welcomes our desperate and impatient prayers, he knows that we are struggling and the deep sinful thoughts that can plague our minds during times of waiting, so there is no use in hiding them from him. I have grown in my prayer life and in becoming more outwardly focused.
    2. [BD]
    3. [JP]  We learn that we need to pray specifically. God knows the intentions and desires of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), and he helps us dive deep into those waters to understand them and purify them, maybe even quelling our anxiety and assisting us in capturing every impure design (II Corinthians 10:5). He empowers us to determine the difference and promote peace between our conflicted ways and timelines.
    4. [MS] Romans 5 says our perseverance through our sufferings should lead to character and hope. I think I’m still mostly on the first two. I can see a little of the character, but the hope part is difficult. I think we can work on other prayers, and supporting other people. It would be a sad life if we just waited from one prayer to the next not doing anything in the interim.

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Episode 23:  "And When You Pray..."

The Word
Mark 11:23-24     James 5:13

Discussion

  1. Pick your favorite prayer in the Bible. What sticks out to you about it?
    1. 1 Samuel 2:1-10, (also 1 Samuel 1:11) - give your whole self to the Lord, as you are, when you pray. What strikes me most about Hannah is that she gives it all during prayer, she is broken hearted and bitter but she still give glory to God and is persistent. Then after God blesses her with her desires, she gives it back to God and says it all belongs to Him. PLUS, she heeds warning to the proud (foreshadowing much?)
    2. Matthew 6:9-13 - “Our Father” prayer is a prayer I’ve prayed probably over 1,000 times. We say it at every catholic mass and have to memorize it for first communion, but I never truly connected with it. Now, as a disciple, it strikes me and I am super humbled because it was so rehearse, so robotic and devoid of real emotion and conviction. I just had no idea
    1. Nehemiah 1:5-11  This is the “job interview” prayer. It has it all: Nehemiah worships God, acknowledges the sins of those he's about to pray for and his own; he didn't let them discourage him, but cites God’s promises elsewhere in the Word. He admits his fear and doubt but makes a bold request for redemption.
    2. [MS]  Mark 9:24 - I think there are Christians that think that everything is black and white. You either love, or hate; you’re either prideful, or humble; you believe, or don’t believe. I love the story of this father because  he was honest enough to admit that he wasn’t sure if he believed or not, which some might say is unbelief, but Jesus still met him where he was at and answered his prayer. Didn’t tell him to come back when he 100% BELIEVED.

 

  1. Do you find yourself going “into character” when you pray? If God knows everything about us, why pray? What do you pray for most? How would you like to see your prayer life change?
    1. I've always found it funny how people tend toward overtly reverent & colorful language in their prayers; they hint at insincerity. I do enjoy heaping praise on God though.
    2. Prayer refreshes the connection between us and God. It's an exercise in humility, especially when we're persistent – something that's not always easy.
    3. I pray to be one in mind with God, to chisel his intentions into my heart.
    4. I need to pray more for others and for difficult situations; I do, but I often forget because I have a tendency to believe that once is enough, especially if they're not regular contributors to my life.
    1. [JP]
    2. [BD]  No. I pray for people more than I pray for things, but when I pray for things I pray for God’s will for those things.
    3. [LC]  I try not to go into character but I do try to approach God with reverence and humility, characteristics I do not always naturally have, so I have to get in that mindset. Though a lot of the times I talk to him as I talk to everyone else, especially when it’s just us in the car. I pray for my character most. I plead with God to continue to change my heart and mind, to refine me and make me more and more like him. I want to change my prayer life in that I want to start praising him more and pray for others, less of me. I want to start giving more time to God throughout the day, like lunchtime or at night before bed.
    4. [MS]  I used to, now it feels like I treat God as more of a friend than I should, as I find reverence something I need to work on not  and more. I think it started with me getting angry with God to the point of cussing him out a couple times. Song “Clarity” by Andy Mineo has a sample of some interview or lecture where the person is basically saying that it’s when we are angry with God we believe the most, because you can’t be angry with someone who doesn’t exist.

                    -we pray for our faith to grow

                    -mostly i pray “I dunno” and for   

                     wisdom

                    -I would like to be more

                     consistent in praying for other

                     people.

 

  1. What are some major accomplishments you’ve seen come from prayer? Alternately, how do you handle it when you’re disappointed by “unanswered” or rejected prayer requests?
    1. People's relatives’ conversions, new jobs & relationships… I'm skeptical of a lot of those things.
    2. God is sovereign. That didn't mean I haven't gotten depressed, but the Word relieves the distress.
    1. [JP]
    2. [BD]  First, depending on the context of the thing I pray for, I cry; because Blessed are those who are crushed in spirit. Then I rejoice because I know that what God has for me is for me and greater than anything I could want for myself. I seen that be true more times than I’ve ever been disappointed.
    3. [LC]  I pray consistently. Everyday, even if it’s just 10 minutes in the morning. Idk that my prayer life has been revolutionized but I have been thinking about this lately and I definitely wanna work on it. So any ideas helpful!
    4. [MS]  1) I became a Christian because of a prayer. 2) I don’t handle it well. Last major prayer for a job I was like, “let your will be done, but also I really want this job” and then I didn’t get it and it threw me into a slump which got me angry at God and then full circle I started cussing him out.

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Episode 22:  Spiritual Maturity

The Word:  I Corinthians 2:6-16 

Discussion

1.What is Spiritual Maturity?

Josh:  By definition, maturity means completeness. It suggests that a person is equipped to serve and able to tell the difference between sound doctrine and fine sounding arguments (II Timothy 4:3, Hebrews 5:14) -- all for the purpose of promoting unity and Christlikeness.

                 (M): Even going back to the verse before 2 Tim, it would seem spiritual maturity involves correcting, rebuking, and encouraging WITH great patience and careful instruction! Tall order. Hebrews seems to say that if you have to keep being taught the basic truths about God, you’re sitting at the kid’s table.

Brandi:  I Corinthians 2:6-8 As a Christian, Spiritual maturity means denying “maturity” and “wisdom” as it is defined by the world or, Google. Words of course mean things, but as I grow older in my faith I know that my influence should be from that of God’s word, first, then prayer and advice Proverbs 15:22

                   (M): I hate having “many” advisers because I get decision lock without advice and so I think I’ll get it worse if I get a bunch of advice. But with lots of advice you can see general trends and have a better chance of someone explaining it in a way you’ll understand. Were you referencing all 7 chapters of 1 Cor or is that a typo? :)

Laura:  Spiritual maturity means becoming less of yourself and more of what God has predestined you to be. That means denying yourself and your selfish/sinful desires and doing so without grumbling or resenting God for the challenges he has placed in front of you. When we are spiritually immature we think we know best. Like teenagers we rebel and want to do what we think it is right in our eyes. Therefore, spiritual maturity means humility and acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers or even some of them and going to God everyday for daily wisdom and discernment. The more time we spend with Him and in prayer, the more we will grow and become wiser and more connected to him. John 3:27-30. John the Baptist as the example of a maturity.

                   (M): Yassss. I’ve been praying daily for wisdom, it took me awhile to realize the full extent of my ignorance. The process you describe is painful, and humbling(humiliating?). We have a huge advantage in that we have the Word, prayer, and the body to help strip away all the fleshy worldliness, but it is a lifelong journey as we all know. Reminds me of James 1:5-6

Matt:  Phillipians 2:5-8 Christ was God and yet made himself a servant as an example for us.

2. What areas are you strong/weak in spiritually?

Josh:  I’ve demonstrated the ability to learn and communicate the Word clearly and approachably -- at least in a formal setting -- and to serve the church in virtually every behind-the-scenes capacity. I have a difficult time convincing people to serve alongside me.

Brandi:  Wisdom is a gift of mine, but my natural self is impatient which leads to a quick temper sometimes. Patient people quiet quarrels, as stated in Proverbs but my lack of that with people often amputates my ability to give --or even display the wisdom I possess.

Laura:  Maturing spiritually for me has meant denying myself. I have always been self-aware and am constantly calling myself higher and expecting better from me. However, this at times can become prideful in that I want to be perfect, like God, instead of acknowledging that only He can perfect me in His way. I have grown in allowing God to comfort me and quiet the storm(s) within me rather than letting my emotions control me. I still have to grow in this area and discern between what is between me and God and what is between me and my siblings in Christ, especially when it comes to forgiveness. I am quick to forgive and not hold on to grudges. I try to see people for what they can be, rather than their mistakes.

Matt:  Good at seeing needs/filling them. I lack discernment and a filter/restraint with my sense of humor. Anecdote

3. How do you help someone become strong in the areas of your strength? How do you seek help for gaining strength in your weak areas?

Josh:  This is a tough one. Emphasizing the crucial need to develop for the sake of the gospel can go a long way. Sometimes a person’s desires don’t match up with their convictions and thus their behavior. It takes humility and advice; difficult questions (a/k/a speaking the truth in love) -- seeking it out and giving it.

               (M): How do you promote that if the desire is not there to be humble, get advice, etc.?

Brandi:  I help by keeping my own face in God’s word, prayerfully saturating myself with what the spirit needs to use through me in the lives of others. I get advice a LOT because “There can be a way which seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12. I’m a smart girl but I don’t know everything and I want the truth and guidance to make good decisions, more than I want my own way.

                 (M): How do you resolve the situation when your street knowledge says something different than the spiritual advice you get?

Laura:  I ask a lot of questions and always speak from experience rather than assumptions. I listen more than I speak when giving advice and give people space to express what is in their hearts.As someone with a lot of feelings, I sympathize with those who are still ruled by them. I am still growing in the part that comes after that, the part in which I challenge them and boldly speak what the Spirit within me is stirring to share.

               (M): What is the balance between listening to people express themselves, and challenging them to grow?

Matt:  Show, don’t tell. (I Peter 2:21) Start by wanting to change. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)

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Episode 21:  One Year Later

  • We’re celebrating one year’s worth of broadcasts & Matt joins the show full-time
  • We probably need to acknowledge and celebrate God’s victories more frequently
  • God enables us to use a variety of forums to express our faith
  • Mourning and surrendering shape our character and lead us to a perspective on daily life that makes the scriptures real
  • Anger is easy and contagious; there’s a time for everything, so why get upset about things that will soon pass?
  • Is it awkward to talk about uncomfortable topics in mixed company -- particularly when it comes to relationships? Should it be? Are we mature enough or tenacious enough? Do we just need to put it out there without concern for the consequences? How do we make tough topics more approachable?
  • Seek input and advice from leaders
  • We’re always a part of the body of Christ
  • Reach outside your default position to deepen your friendships

 

Scriptures we referenced

  • Colossians 2:16
  • Joshua 21:45
  • Nehemiah 8
  • John 14:12
  • John 15:12
  • Genesis 39
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Romans 5:3-5
  • Matthew 5:4
  • I Corinthians 7:32
  • Luke 18:1-8

 

Song credit & literature reference

 

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