If I Could, I Would

A few weeks ago, I was at church and the preacher was talking about various things we hear when reading the Bible and how we should, or would if we could, react to those messages.

This is what I hear and should do or would do if I could:

  • I hear forgiveness.  If I could, I would be more forgiving of others and show mercy to others.
  • I hear love.  If I could, I would be an example of that love and teach others about the love of God.
  • I hear hope.  If I could, I would rely on that hope and not suffer from anxiety attacks.
  • I hear commitment.  If I could, I would finish what I start and be dedicated to the task at hand.
  • I hear freedom.  If I could, I would live as a person free from sin and condemnation.

This message was part of a series and the basic points of the series are:

  • Put your faith into action
  • Don’t show partiality, love others, love equally, and love freely
  • Freedom from legalism is freedom to love
  • Don’t be a slave to sin, instead be a slave to righteousness
  • Don’t be a salve to the law, instead be a slave to the word of God

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Lead Small by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas

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This is an excellent book.  It’s practical and easy to understand.  Several times while I was reading it, I thought to myself this is great information.  I wonder why these principles are not being put into practice everywhere.

The authors wanted to solve a common problem.  Youth are leaving the church and rejecting their faith, once they hit early adulthood.

What are the root causes?

  • Having a pseudo-faith
  • Being immature in their faith
  • Being green in their faith
  • Using a borrowed faith
  • Being fragile in their faith

The goal is to raise children with a strong faith, an authentic faith.  Incorporating small groups and “leading small” cultivates that faith.  The book teaches, “When we lead small we simply make a choice to invest strategically in the lives of a few over time, so we can help them build an authentic faith.”

The small group leader (SGL) plays a huge role in achieving this goal.  The SGL needs to be present to connect faith to a community.  They should show up physically and predictably.  They should be mentally prepared for the lesson they are teaching.  They also need to show up randomly, maybe at a ball game or other event.  This shows the children you care about them and you are trustworthy.

The SGL is responsible for creating a safe place.  The children need a leader that can lovingly and effectively handle conflict, hard questions, discipline, fear, and other issues that cause tension in the group.  The SGL leads the group, respects the process, and guards the hearts of the children.

The SGL should also partner with the parents to foster an everyday faith and an authentic faith.  Let the parents know what their children are learning in small group.  Honor the parents.  Reinforce the role of the family in teaching biblical principles.

The SGL also needs to make it personal.  Inspire the children’s faith by example.  Show them how to live out their faith in the community.  Teach them how to set priorities.  Also, be real with the children.  They will learn by watching you live out an authentic faith.

Lastly, the SGL needs to move the children out of the group.  Engage the children in a bigger story.  Teach them how to be the church.  When the time comes, help them move onto the next phase of their life.

Leading small is powerful.  When you lead small you:

  • Connect authentic faith
  • Clarify authentic faith
  • Engage authentic faith
  • Nurture authentic faith
  • Inspire authentic faith

The principles in this book can easily be used for any age group and in any setting.  It is a great resource and I recommend it.

Faith in the Love of Jesus

The other day, I was reading Matthew 15:21-28.

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyreand Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (ESV)

I started thinking about the Jewish society of that time.  It was extremely prejudicial, and a person’s worth or cleanliness was largely based on race and ethnic origin.  As a Canaanite and a woman, she would have been viewed with disdain.  Also, the statement made by Jesus echoes that sentiment.

However, the woman trusted Jesus.  She believed him to be fair and loving.  She trusted him to not judge her based on superficial things.  Her trust in the love of Jesus was not misplaced.  Jesus healed her daughter and commented on her great faith.

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Great Things From a Little Faith

Matthew 13:31-32

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (ESV)

God understands human frailty.  God uses our faith and efforts to change the world, even if our faith is small.  With God, great things can come from a little faith.

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Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson

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In the beginning of the book, the authors address the issue of questioning the resurrection of Jesus.  They affirm that it is healthy to research and ask questions.  They feel God is big enough to handle our doubts and willing to help us find truth.

The book also covers the importance of the resurrection and how it benefits humanity.  I have listed a few of those benefits and reasons.

  • Jesus died for all humanity, regardless of age, race, ethnic group, political affiliation, gender, culture, sexual orientation, or any other label people may use to describe themselves.
  • Jesus died to, “bear our sins and suffer our exile.”  We now have forgiveness available to us.  The resurrection of Jesus “restores and reunites humanity with God.”
  • Our purpose was restored by the resurrection of Jesus, “We can now live in joyful gratitude for God’s grace, reflecting God’s image by living in dependence of God’s provision for us in Jesus.”
  • The resurrection reminds us of, “the mercy and grace that is bound up in the cross, grace that has the power to change a person through and through, even if that change is a gradual process.”
  • The resurrection proves Jesus has power over death and, “the power of life.”
  • A resurrected savior, “can satisfy our God-sized desires not only in this life, but also in life after death.”

When Faith Fails Us (Matthew 11:1-19)

John the Baptist was a prophet.  He proclaimed the coming of Christ.  He preached boldly and with great conviction.  He baptized Jesus and witnessed the miracle of God’s blessing on Jesus.

In Matthew 11, John the Baptist is in prison for preaching the truth.  His spirt is broken and he is no longer positive Jesus is the Christ.  John sent messengers to Jesus to ask if he was the Christ.

Jesus answered the messengers by pointing to the evidence.  Jesus didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith.  Instead, Jesus told the crowd John the Baptist was a great prophet.

We may find our faith failing us.  We may find worry and anxiety taking over our life.  We may wonder if God cares about us.  We may even feel guilty for our lack of faith.  However, the way Jesus answered John the Baptist shows us that God will not condemn us.  God stands by his people even when our faith fails.

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Faith of a Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13)

While in Capernaum, a centurion approached Jesus.  He asked Jesus to heal his servant.  The servant was paralyzed and suffering horribly.

Jesus agreed to heal the centurion’s servant and offered to go to his home.  However, the centurion told Jesus he was not worthy of having Jesus in his house.  Instead, he asked Jesus to just say the word and his servant would be healed.

Jesus was impressed by the centurion’s faith and responded, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (ESV)

Jesus then told the centurion his servant was healed.

Throughout the gospels, people ask Jesus to touch them to be healed.  They want to see Jesus do something to help them believe in his healing power.  However, the centurion was different.  He didn’t need to see Jesus do anything.  He simply trusted in the word of Jesus.

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