Living Different

Week of January 28

Living Different

How To Walk Securely

Day 1: Proverbs 10:9 says, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Regardless of where you are at in your spiritual journey, most of us can agree that it is better to be honest than to be a liar. We all want to be the good-guys in our own life story. We can all acknowledge that we aspire to lives of integrity, but all too often we fall short. There are two paths to Integrity: making good decisions and owning up to bad decisions. Read Genesis 3. When we make a bad decision and do something we’re not proud of, our first response can be to blame someone else or to try to cover up and hide from our sin. However, in the end we are very likely to be found out, and the consequences will be worse as a result. Is there anything in your life that you are afraid maybe found out? What if your boss, parent, spouse, or children knew? Be brave; take time to pray and reveal your secrets to God first. Then take some time to be still and listen.  

 

Day 2: Read Ephesians 5:1-14. Because of Christ we no longer live in darkness but in light. Before knowing Jesus, we followed our own paths possibly afraid to be exposed to the light. But now we have been raised up from the darkness and filled with God’s light. We are freed now to walk with integrity. Is there a step you need to take in order to make right a wrong? Is there someone you need to confess or apologize to?  Write it down. Make a plan. What step can you take this week to make things right and come into the light? If so, confess and come back into right relationship with God.  

 

Day 3: Read Proverbs 10:9. People of integrity walk safely. That sounds great, but does this mean that if we live in integrity daily, we won’t have any problems? Of course not. Jesus Himself lived a life of complete integrity, yet He was arrested, beaten, and sentenced to death. Instead, integrity is how to live life best, even in hardship. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” God’s Word is not just a long list of rules. Rather, it shows us how life is best lived. Even more than that, it reveals a person to have a relationship with. As we enter into a real relationship with Jesus, He will begin to make us more like Himself. Integrity will be a side effect of spending time with God in His Word, and the side effect of having integrity will be a life of security even in the midst of hardship. What step can you take this week to intentionally hear from and be shaped by Jesus? Do you talk with someone daily or weekly about what God is teaching you? Are you in a small group? If you are in a group, when have you last discussed how Jesus is shaping some part of you?  

 

Day 4: Most of the important events along life’s path are marked by a sense of insecurity and uncertainty: leaving for college, finding a job, a first date, getting married, moving, losing a parent or spouse, etc. Sometimes it is ‘crooked path’ decision that cause this uncertainty. Whatever the case, it is possible to have joy, peace, and security in all circumstances. Read James 1:2-4. Is there anything in your life robbing you of joy and freedom due to some, ‘crooked path’ decisions: financial issue, secret desire, judgmental heart, sexual sin, pattern of lying, or uncontrollable anger. Who or where can you turn to help you? The support of another can help us find our way back and an honest heart before God reminds us that He has never left us.  

 

Day 5: Read Matthew 11:28-30. In this passage, Jesus uses the metaphor of the yoke. A yoke is a wooden harness for two oxen. When they are yoked together and attached to a cart, oxen can pull a tremendous load. Furthermore, it was the common practice to put a strong adult ox who knew how to carry a heavy load with a young untrained ox. When yoked together, the young ox would slowly learn how to pull the heavy load. Jesus knows that our load is too heavy for us on our own, and we don’t know how to carry it. Instead, He invites us into His yoke, to learn from Him as we grow in His strength. And, when we enter into Jesus’ yoke, the burden will feel light even though a great load is being carried. This is the life of integrity spoken of in Proverbs 10:9! As we live our lives alongside Jesus, yoked together, our paths will be safe and secure even in peril or hardship. Today as you get ready for work, school, taking care of children, or whatever He has for you, tell Jesus that you accept His offer to take His yoke and walk alongside Him. Memorize Matthew 11:28-30 or reflect on these verses during the day.  

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Week of January 21

Living Different

Gratitude

Day 1:  Unexpressed gratitude can be difficult to see in the mirror. Read that sentence again slowly. Do you believe that? We can feel grateful. As I write to you, I feel more grateful than not. However, there is a difference between feeling grateful and expressing gratitude. Northpoint Community Church Pastor Andy Stanley said it this way, “Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.” Read Luke 17: 11-19. In this story, what stands out to you? Is it the one or the nine? Write out what impressed you or what you believe to be true from this story. Share this story at dinner tonight with your family or with a friend. Ask what stands out to them?  

 

Day 2: As we think about living different in 2018, may we apply this motto, “If you think it, say it.” Our words of gratitude and encouragement don’t mean much if they remain in our own head. They can bounce around in our mind, but if we don’t express to others what we feel about them, then the kind thoughts don’t do others much good. Read Ephesians 4:29. Is this verse stated as a question, suggestion or a command? We’re given clear direction on how to talk. Every time you think of something helpful to say to someone, say it. Don’t assume the other person knows. If you feel a prompting to verbally build another up, follow it. Some may find this difficult because they don’t routinely express affirmation. In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains five ways we give and receive love. Using words is one of them. So you may not be naturally wired to speak out encouraging words, yet we can all practice. Try this. Put five coins in your pocket. When you have spoken encouragement to another, take out a coin. Repeat until you have emptied your pocket.   

 

Day 3: Read Colossians 3:15-17. As we speak goodness, kindness, beauty and gratitude to others, it creates an attitude of grace, mercy, and gratitude in us. Speaking kindness or affirming words during the course of a day benefits both the speaker and the receiver. Remember, giving is better than getting. Think about a time recently you complimented someone (whether a family, friend, or stranger.) How did they respond to your affirming words or compliment? How did you feel afterward? Expressing gratitude is a habit that will develop us into a more caring, loving, and hopeful person. Is there a challenging relationship in your life right now? What would happen if you remained in a perspective of gratitude when you speak with them? Whether thinking about a specific relationship or in general, practice noticing the good today and recount as much as you can tonight before you go to bed.  

 

Day 4: Maybe you are struggling with the devotional this week. You don’t have a lot of gratitude to share because you don’t have gratitude inside of you. Does that sentence resonate with you in some way? Have you experienced deep pain, hurt, frustration or grief? The idea of gratitude may be just difficult right now. Don’t move past this too quickly. Can you identify the source of your pain? Is it a recent event or conversation? Is it a relationship? Or maybe is it a self-destructive habit or thought? Read Psalm 139:1-14. Now read it again as a prayer to God. Ask Him for help and comfort in your struggle today. Is there a specific step you need to take to help you heal from your pain? 

 

 Day 5: Read I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 27, and Romans 11:36. Allow God to use these scriptures to fill your heart with gratitude and reflect on His goodness to you. Take time to express your gratitude to God before moving on to the next sentence. Now turn your attention to the people in your lives. To whom are you grateful? Who has lived their life in such a way that it has positively affected your life? What in their life changed your character or attitude? Or did their actions or words meet some deep need in you? Was it love, respect, or belief in you? Have you shared it with them recently? Have you expressed it in a way to convey the significance it has made on your life? If it has been a while, consider how you can find some uninterrupted time with them to share your gratitude.  

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Week of January 14

Living Different

generosity: The Secret To Happiness

Day 1: Stingy and closed-fisted; open-handed and generous. We each know people who tend to live more one way or the other. Which way of living do you find yourself more admiring of, drawn to or liking? Which way of life seems more alive, full, happy or blessed? Of the two groups, who seems to be living more like Jesus? Reflect on the qualities of a generous person. Does this draw your admiration? What attracts you to a person full of generosity? Is your admiration limited to their giving nature or does it inspire you to pursue generosity in your own life?  

 

Day 2: Reread the last questions from yesterday. How did you answer them? What did thinking through those questions reveal to you? A generous life is one of the clearest indicators that discipleship (or growing to be more like Jesus) is taking place – particularly financial generosity in our materialistic, security-through-strength-and-money Western culture. Generosity is about living differently with the finances given to us because we are being formed more into the likeness of Jesus. Generosity forms us in the same ways that prayer and Bible study do. It speaks to whether our prayers and time in Bible study are changing our hearts and being incorporated into how we actually live! Take some time to reflect on these statements and following questions: I am forgiven. Am I becoming more forgiving? I am loved. Am I becoming more loving? I have been given much. Am I becoming more giving?  

 

Day 3. On Sunday Cory asked the question, “Do you consider yourself to be generous”? Take some time today to sit with that question and reflect. What do you look to in order to answer that question? What do the patterns, decisions, and choices you make reveal about what you genuinely value? Do they speak to movement and growth with an increasing trajectory toward generosity, care and well-being of others? Do you find you want to cling to a handful of times when you acted generously or do you see consistent evidence of a lifestyle of generosity and openhandedness? Do you see continuing growth in your generosity? Perhaps in the past you took some meaningful steps. Have you become stuck or plateaued in living a generous life? What are some of the obstacles to becoming more generous? What is a next step you can take to address what hinders you from becoming more generous? Would you ask God to show you the obstacles and steps you need to overcome or take?  

   

Day 4: Worry, fear, anxiety, envy, self-protection, lack of contentment, seeking safety/security through money, contempt for others. Why would Jesus say so much about these things? What do these things do to our hearts and our minds? What impact do they have on our hope, faith, and our ability and willingness to love and trust? Jesus is showing us a way to live different - a way to live more full and abundant lives! These things consume our thoughts, erode our souls, lessen our trust in God and form our hearts in such a way that we end up living small, self-absorbed lives. It’s not mere sentiment or ideology when Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than receive” and for us to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Who doesn’t want to be dealt with generously, forgiven freely, loved fully? Reflect on where and when you are most likely to make choices that are small, inward, fearful. Notice what is going on when this happens and particular times when you are at risk of defaulting to one of these life stealing behaviors, attitudes, or mindsets. Does this show a lack of trust in a generous God? How does this affect your generous living? 

 

Day 5: I often feel like being generous, but I don’t always act on it. I even like to give myself partial credit for wanting to be generous. It’s one of the silly mind games I play that doesn’t lead me to an actual demonstration of becoming more generous or more like Jesus! We reflected in Day 3 about obstacles to generosity in our lives. As we did, some of us would have identified financial strain as an obstacle. Strains from unforeseen disasters and hardship, others self-inflicted by how we live. Either way, both are very real. One available step is to get into the next Financial Peace University group that starts Wednesday, January 24. You can sign up on the website (www.fpu.com/1056532) or at ConnectU next weekend. This group can help you dig out of a mess or simply find a way to live different financially so that you have financial margin to act on the desires and promptings to become more generous.   

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