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Does Jesus Speak to You?

Does Jesus speak to Christians? Does God communicate with those who love Jesus and follow Him? That question came to national attention last week.

A Quick Review of the Controversy

It all started when former White House aid Omarosa Manigault Newman made derogatory comments about Vice-President Mike Pence’s faith on Celebrity Big Brother. Omarosa said Americans should be worried about the possibility of Pence as president because:

“He’s extreme. I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things… It’s scary.”

Then the cohosts of the TV talk show “The View” picked up the topic. Joy Behar, who says she is a Christian, said:

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

A couple of the other cohosts worked to balance her opinion, but the audience obviously sided with Behar. The conversation ended with the tone that anyone who claims to hear God speak isn’t quite right in the head. 

Then Vice-President Pence responded. He called for ABC to take a stand for religious tolerance, citing the millions of Americans who cherish their faith.

Does Jesus Speak to Christians?

I noticed that both Omarosa and Behar claim to be Christians. Yet, they think people who “hear” Jesus speak to them are either crazy or scary or both.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what Omarosa or Behar or anyone else thinks. What matters is the truth. Does God speak to Christians?

The short answer is “yes.” God does indeed speak to believers. The Bible tells us God speaks to us.

In the well-known Christian book “Experiencing God,” written by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, the authors make this statement:

One critical point to understanding and experiencing God is knowing clearly when God is speaking. If the Christian does not know when God is speaking, he is in trouble at the heart of his Christian life!

What does the Bible say?

Although this topic needs much more time and space than a brief blog post, we can hit the highlights to confirm the truth that yes, indeed God speaks to us today.

The Bible tells us that before Jesus came, God spoke to His people through the prophets and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1). Examples fill the Bible – angelic visits, dreams and visions, fiery bushes and more. Now, in these “last days” – the time between Jesus’ post-resurrection ascension and His return – God speaks to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2).

Jesus is present with His people, speaking to His people, today. The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – lives inside every true believer (Romans 8:9-11). We can hear God speak to us because His Spirit dwells with us.

The Spirit’s Job in Believers

Here are just a few of the things the Spirit does within believers that helps us to hear from God:

  • Gives Spiritual Understanding – The Spirit helps us understand the Bible and the things of God. Much of this seems like foolish gibberish to the world because they don’t have the Spirit to give them understanding  (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
  • Testifies to Jesus – The Spirit always makes Jesus known to us. He reveals truth in our hearts and minds about Jesus (John 15:26).
  • Teaches and Reminds – The Spirit not only gives us understanding, He helps us see how God’s truth – the Bible – should be applied to our lives. He helps us see how God’s principles throughout Scripture work together. And when we need specific truths or principles for specific life situations, He brings those things to mind (John 14:26).
  • Guides into Truth – The Spirit helps us recognize God’s truth and distinguish it from error and false teaching. The Spirit shows us know how to specifically apply those truths to the current situations and relationships of our lives.

Ways God Speaks Today

So, how does the Spirit’s job translate into a Christian hearing God speak?

  • The Bible –  The Bible is the primary way God speaks to Christians today. In His Word, God has revealed Himself, His purposes, and His ways. As we read, and the Holy Spirit does His job, we “hear” Jesus speak. His Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12-13). The Holy Spirit wields it like a sword – to pierce our hearts and prick our minds with God’s truth. (See 11 Tips for Spending Quality Quiet Time with God)
  • Prayer – Christians have the very Spirit of God living inside us. When we pray we aren’t just tossing words into the air. And it isn’t a one-way conversation. In prayer, God uses His Spirit to bring us into alignment with His truth, with His will for us. The Spirit miraculously works in our hearts. The Spirit brings Scripture to mind that God wants us to apply to specific situations. The Spirit reminds us of ways we need to act, reach out, love, help, forgive. And when God speaks, we should respond.
  • Secondary Ways – Although the Bible and prayer are the primary ways God speaks to His children today, He will often confirm what He wants us to know through circumstances and the counsel of godly people. But, God will never “speak” to us in ways that contradict His Word.

So why does Omarosa, Behar, and many other “Christians” deny that God speaks to His children today? I can’t answer that for every individual, but there are two primary possibilities. First, they may be members of a religious group, but don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the truth that God speaks to His children sounds like crazy foolishness. Second, they may be new, immature believers who are just beginning to learn God’s truth.

What about you? Do you hear Jesus speak? What would you say to a “Christian” who scoffs at the idea of God speaking today?

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Grace Trumps Failure Every Time

Thank you to today’s guest, author Sue Edwards! She knows all about experiencing God’s grace through failure. This post is also a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Sue’s new Bible study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.”

grace failure

I learned about God’s grace through failure. And I learned that He is the God of second, third, fourth – infinite really – chances!

Discouraged by Failure

My first failure in ministry came while leading a small group in a community-wide Women’s Bible study. I’d only been a Christian three years, but I was on fire for Jesus and eager to serve Him. I was determined to be the best small group leader in the entire study, but every week, fewer and fewer women showed up.

Naïve and self-dependent, I called the women weekly, with urgent questions about their attendance. Of course, that only made things worse.

As I faced the looming reality that my first attempt at leading a small group might bomb, the enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered discouragement. As yearend drew closer, I wondered if the leadership would give me another chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But when I met with the leader to discuss the possibility, she said,

“We are only called to be faithful, not successful. You have been faithful.”

This significant life lesson taught me more about God’s grace.

Too Insecure to Succeed

The second big ministry failure came several years later, after I had led several small groups that bonded and thrived. The leadership of the community Bible study asked me to take on an administrative position and I said “yes.”

One of my duties was to recruit small group leaders for the following year. But when several of the current leaders decided they could not return, I took their resignation personally. The enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered “This is about you. They don’t want to work with you.”

Obviously, I was not ready for this role.

New in faith and still insecure in heart, I crumbled under the pressure. With less than a month before the study was to kick-off, I called the leadership and resigned. My immaturity caused the leaders to scramble to replace me, amidst much angst I’m sure.

But, amazingly – and graciously – they kept me on as a leader, and continued to pour into my life to build my spiritual and emotional strength. Another example of God’s character and grace.

Now, after almost forty years of ministry, I thank God for these dear women who continued to forgive me and invest in me. My service to others builds on the shoulders of these women who mentored me in my early Christian life. They did not give up on a naïve, insecure woman who loved the Lord but failed miserably many times. Their grace reflected God’s grace to us all.

Jesus is about second chances, and third, and fourth, and fifth. I’m constantly reminded of His grace and mercy. God’s grace–what an unspeakable gift!

Oh, Lord, help us all to remember our own failures and your tender mercies, and pass it on.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Sue Edwards new Bible Study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.” The winner will be drawn Wednesday, February 14th.

Sue EdwardsDr. Sue Edwards has over 40 years experience as a Bible teacher, overseer of several megachurch ministries, and author. Now, as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, she teaches full-time at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has trained women leaders in Russia, Africa, and Germany. She is the author of 5 leadership books and the Discover Together Bible study series. Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice is the newest in the series. Find out more about the series at www.discovertogetherseries.com 

Galatians

 

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This Certain Hope

The daffodil bulbs I planted in the fall have raised their fresh green blades above the ground. This morning’s discovery was a touch bittersweet.

Late last spring, I dug up those same bulbs from the back yard of my childhood home – right after all my parents’ belongings rode off down the street in a moving van.

Because of their health, Mom and Dad needed to be close to either me or my brother. They now live a mile from my brother, in a comfortable duplex, with round-the-clock help.

Honestly, I had not been optimistic that the bulbs would live. First, it wasn’t the best time of year to dig them up. But I didn’t have a choice, the house was going to be sold. Second, we soon moved ourselves and the bulbs weren’t constantly stored in a “cool, dry place.”

But I did hope they’d grow.

I dug them up with hope. And I planted them with hope.

When I saw those green stems this morning I also thought about my dad and the future hope God says is his. Really, it’s the hope that belongs to all of us who belong to Jesus.

Since that first sin in the Garden, sin has been taking its toll. This world, our souls, and our bodies have been held in bondage to sin, broken by corruption, and groaning under sin’s burden.

Jesus paid the price of our redemption. And while we are no longer slaves to sin, all creation still waits for the full, future consummation of our redemption. That day when God will restore all things, including our bodies (Romans 8:18-25).

For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:24

Groaning while waiting with certain hope

Parkinson’s has taken a terrible toll on Dad’s body. Once athletic and strong, age and disease have robbed him without mercy. Now he struggles to rise from a chair and needs a walker to get across a room.

But one day… one day Dad will have a resurrection body that is whole and strong.

Like the daffodil bulb that went into the ground brown and dry has been raised green and supple, our weak bodies will one day be raised in glory and power. One day, all those who know Jesus will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Do you have this sure hope? The secure and certain hope that one day your weak, perishable body will be raised strong and imperishable? If you’ve never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus, don’t spend another hopeless day. Find out How to Know Jesus now.

What is your deepest “groaning?” Remember God will restore all things. Where do you need to apply this certain hope?

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7 Characteristics of a Mature Christian

spiritual maturity

Would you describe yourself as a mature Christian? How would you even know? Honestly, that term feels sort of subjective. What one person considers mature, another might not.

So, should we even worry about it? The quick answer is “yes.” First, the Bible makes it clear God wants us to be spiritually mature:

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:13, NIV

 

The Greek word translated as “mature” in Ephesians 4:13 is teleios. It means to be “complete, perfect, brought to end, of full age.” Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for us.

In fact, our spiritual maturity is so important to God, He allows trials into our lives to grow our faith:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

If our maturity is this important to God, perhaps we should take it more seriously. But how can we know if we’re growing spiritually? What does a mature Christian look like? Thankfully, we don’t have to depend on our opinion or best guess. The Bible tells us what spiritual maturity looks like.

7 Characteristics of a Mature Christian

The Bible gives us many marks of a growing believer, like perseverance and spiritual fruit, but the Bible specifically mentions the following 7 characteristics in conjunction with the Greek word teleios:

  1. Recognizes the difference between right and wrong – then does what is right (Hebrews 5:14)
  2. Not easily swayed by false teaching (Ephesians 4:13-16) – So grounded in the truth of God’s Word, she quickly recognizes falsehood.
  3. Rooted in love (Ephesians 4:13-16) – Our words and actions flow from love for our fellow believers.
  4. Serves the church (Ephesians 4:13-16) – A Christian cannot grow to her full potential apart from a vital connection to a local church. She must find her place of mutual service and encouragement.
  5. Lives with an eternal perspective (Philippians 3:13-15) – The reality of the spiritual and eternal drives her life. She purposefully strives to continual spiritual growth because she knows this life is temporary.
  6. Controls her tongue (James 3:2) – If a Christian has good control of her speech, you know she is on a path to maturity!
  7. Reflects God’s character to the world (Matthew 5:48) – God wants us to grow in spiritual maturity in order to reflect the character of Jesus to a watching world.

So how are you doing? What area do you struggle in the most? Why?

Want to be purposeful in your spiritual growth? You may find this post helpful: “5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals.”

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Say Yes to the Cupcake: Why We Need Food & Fun in Women’s Ministry

I am a women’s ministry leader and I have a confession to make: I love cupcakes. And ice breaker games. And door prizes.

Does that make me shallow?

I also crave transformational Bible study and deep spiritual conversations about the things of God. I love to discuss theology. I long to pray in intimate circles of Christian sisters about things of eternal value. I want to impact the world for Christ.

In recent years, there has been a movement in the Christian community to cut the “fluff” from women’s ministry. For instance, this open letter to Women’s Ministry by Sarah Bessey has been shared thousands of times and republished on other websites such as ChurchLeader.com. (See “Why We Don’t Need Women’s Ministry.“)

Even though the article was originally posted several years ago, every once in a while it still pops up on my newsfeed. And a friend from church emailed me the link, wondering what I thought about it. So I decided to think about it. Really think about it. Here’s my response in a nutshell:

Cupcakes and theology are NOT mutually exclusive. There is room – and need – for both in women’s ministry.

Serious Discipleship is Top Priority

Basically, I agree with the heart of Bessey’s article. Women always need deep, spiritual connection to other believers. We need encouragement to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives and to grow into Christlikeness. We need accountability and equipping. Solid biblical teaching and sound, godly leadership.

Yes, all women need these things. This should be the heart and soul of our women’s ministry. It is in fact, the church’s calling.

We Must Engage the Felt Need

But if we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that not all women recognize this need in their lives. If we want to reach all the women in the church – and the community – we must also minister to the felt need of cooking, friendship, and yes, maybe even crafting! We must connect with the women who aren’t ready to jump into the deep end of the spiritual pool. We must provide a way for them to get their feet wet.

A church’s women’s ministry can be  both deep and wide. Let’s provide in-depth Bible study. Let’s train teachers and mentor moms. Let’s help mission efforts in our community and around the world.

We Need Connection Points

But let’s also reach new women in the community and women in the church who don’t yet recognize their need for a deeper faith. For instance, my church has a yearly “Table Top.” You know, that dinner where women show off their table decorating skills and act as hostess to a table full of women. It’s fun, it’s festive, and yes, some think it’s frivolous.

But the guests hear a strong Gospel message and are given the opportunity to get involved in specific mission efforts. Women who won’t come to Bible study or a spiritual retreat accept their neighbor’s invitation to Table Top. And the women in our church who hang out on the fringe of things come. They meet and mingle, and move a little deeper into the spiritual water.

Jesus often paved the way to deeper things over a dinner party. And He bonded with the guys in a fishing boat. He fed the crowds and the twelve with both physical and spiritual food.

Food and fun can foster relationships. Few of us will pour our hearts out to strangers or ask some woman we don’t know to be an accountability partner. But give them an opportunity to bond over a cupcake and then they’ll reach out when a crisis hits.

There’s room for cupcakes and spiritual depth.

We can have the cupcake and eat it too.

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The 5 Most Challenging Bible Verses

Some verses in the Bible are easier to swallow than others. Even though I wholeheartedly believe them all, there are some I honestly just don’t like very much. In fact, some Bible verses are too challenging.

Let me explain.

Some verses, like “He gives strength to the weary…” and “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine…” cause me to throw my arms open wide and yell “Bring it on, Lord!”

But others cause me to sigh and take a deep breath and think, “Really? Isn’t that kind of difficult?”

Bible versesBelow are 5 verses that I find really challenging to fully embrace and live out every day. Oh, there are others too – and I may have a slightly different top 5 tomorrow – but these will definitely stay in at least the top 10 for the indefinite future.

  1. Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I really like the last half of this verse about God supplying my needs, oh yes! But when we read the whole thing in the context of the passage, we see the primary topic is worry. Jesus said we spend too much time and energy worrying about our needs. We allow worry to keep us from pursuing Jesus and His Kingdom. The challenge: To turn off the worry and turn to Jesus. Or better yet, turn to Jesus to turn off the worry!
  2. James 1:2 – “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds...” James doesn’t waste any time with small talk in his letter. Essentially he says, “Dear Jewish believers, be full of joy when life punches you in the gut.” (My paraphrase of course.) Sounds unrealistic right? James says we can be joyful in spite of our circumstances because we know God plans to use them for our spiritual good and for His purposes. The challenge: To keep our eyes on the spiritual and eternal rather than the physical and temporary.
  3. Romans 12:2“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God wants us to be like Jesus, not like the world around us. But truly, it’s like fighting a battle every day. Our culture constantly bombards us with values and behavior that is contrary to the character of Christ. The challenge: To strap on that spiritual armor, refuse to compromise, and yield ourselves to the Spirit’s transforming power. (Mandisa shares one battle story here.)
  4. John 15:12 – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Okay, let’s be honest. Sometimes our fellow believers aren’t easy to love. Plus, did you notice that Jesus said we should love each other “as I have loved you.” Well, Jesus gave His life for us, so this is really extreme. He wants us to be willing to die for each other. To put others’ needs ahead of our own. To honor others over ourselves. The challenge: To take off pride and selfishness and put on humility and selflessness in order to genuinely love others.
  5. Galatians 2:20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Wait a minute. My life isn’t my life? Nope. Jesus purchased my life on the cross and it’s His to do with as He sees fit. But if I can remember this, the previous 4 challenging verses suddenly get a lot easy to live out. The challenge: To consciously choose every minute of every day to give my life to Jesus.

Jesus’ way may seem challenging. But the reality is, He only wants what’s best for us. His way is abundant and satisfying and joyful. His way is life.

Please feel free to disagree with my list. Or add to it! What Bible verses do you find the most challenging and why?

Other posts you may find helpful:

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The Leper, His Pride, and a Humble Healing

Today’s blog is a guest post from author Kathy Collard Miller. This post is also a GIVEAWAY! Keep reading to the end for how to enter.

Has your own pride ever gotten in the way of something good God wanted to do in your life? Or maybe your own version of self-protection blocked something good God wanted to give you?

It happens all the time. There’s a story in the Bible that shows how a prideful man with leprosy almost rejected God’s healing because of the way God chose to heal him. For the entire story, read 2 Kings 5:1-14.

Naaman was an important man of high regard in Aram. He was an army commander and a valiant soldier. But Naaman also had leprosy, a disease that, in his time, brought shame and isolation.

A Jewish servant girl told Naaman about God’s prophet Elisha who could heal. Naaman agreed to make the journey to see Elisha and took much gold and silver with him, expecting to pay a high price for his healing.

But God’s instruction to Naaman for healing, through the prophet Elisha, was simply to wash his body seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman stormed off in a fit of anger. Why didn’t God’s prophet wave his hand and cure me? Besides, we have better waters to be cleansed in than these here in Israel!

The Wisdom of a Servant

But Naaman’s servants who were with him were wiser than he. They gently asked him to consider his motives. Here’s a paraphrase:

“What does it matter which river you wash in? What are you trying to protect? You are the same person regardless of where you wash. See yourself the way Jehovah God sees you as important and valuable. Elisha has promised God will heal you. Why would you spoil that?”

Perhaps Naaman’s pride was an attempt to protect himself from the shame of leprosy. Elisha’s humble instructions for healing may have felt like disrespect to Naaman. And the situation was out of his control, threatening to tear down the prideful wall of protection he had built around himself.

Admittedly, I may be reading between the lines of this story. But, sometimes, God does allow us to experience difficulty so we will learn humble dependence on Him (2 Corinthians 1:9). “Even if obeying me puts you in a position of emotional danger, will you let me heal you as I walk with you through dirty waters?”

From Humility to Healing

Finally, Naaman willing humbled himself. He faced the rebellion of his pride, and subjected himself to what he feared—being viewed as someone only worthy of washing in a dirty river. And he was healed!

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:14).

Child of God, do you wish to be healed and delivered from the lies which create a lack of self-control, hurting both yourself and others? Be willing to be exposed to what you fear. Take hold of God’s power to obey. Use his power to reject your sinful inclinations and trust him enough to know He will define your value and wipe away your shame.

Kathy, today’s guest blogger, is giving away a copy of her new book, Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. For a chance to win, comment on this post. (US addresses only please.) Earn a second chance to win but sharing this post on Facebook. Leave a separate comment that you shared. The winner will be drawn on Friday, January 12th at 8am central time.

Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books that include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. She has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for 47 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you. (This guest blog is adapted from Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory) Kathy would love to connect with you on social media. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

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Do I Love God as Much as My Grandson Loves His Daddy?

My 19-month-old grandson Theo loves his daddy. I know what you’re thinking. All boys love their fathers. And yes, they do. But Theo loves his dad so much he can’t stop talking about it. In fact, I witnessed a scene recently between Theo and my son-in-law that prompted me to wonder if I love God like that.

It was Christmas Eve and all our family had gone to church together at 9am. After church we went to a local coffee shop to visit. My son-in-law Jeremy is on the church staff and had to meet us there a little later.

When Jeremy arrived, Theo ran to him calling “Daddeee, Daddeee, Daddee.” But what got me is what happened next. After Theo climbed in Jeremy’s lap and hugged him, he hopped down and ran to my husband, his grandfather. Theo touched Wayne on the leg, glanced back at Jeremy, then looked up at Wayne and joyfully said “Daddeee.” Then ran back to his father and climbed up in his lap again.

Theo did this 3 or 4 times before he finally settled down in his daddy’s lap. Each time he ran to Wayne, Theo’s “Daddee” included joy, excitement, and just a bit of a question. And all of us sitting there caught it. It was as if Theo wanted to make sure Wayne knew his daddy had arrived.

Theo not only adores his father and wants to be near him, he wants to share the wonder of his father with the other people he loves. As I watched this touching scene, God nudged my heart. I felt Him ask: Do you love me like this? So much you can’t help but tell others about me?

Why Do I Share Jesus?

Honestly, most of the times I’ve shared Jesus with others have been acts of obedience. I tell others because God has commanded us to tell. In recent years, I’ve been praying that God would give me a burden for the lost, that He would give me a heavy awareness of their eternal condition, so I would share out of a desire to help them.

But this is a different, deeper motivation. Do I love God so much I can’t help but share this joy with others? 

I wish I had a video of that day I told you about. I wish you could see the sheer joy on Theo’s face at his father’s arrival and his exuberance at sharing his presence with Wayne. Sadly, I don’t. But I do have another video that will give you a rough idea of Theo’s unbounded love for his dad.

My daughter Kelley took this video one day while Jeremy was out of town. Theo had been missing his daddy and couldn’t stop looking for him and asking about him. His 5-year-old brother tried to explain, but it wasn’t enough for Theo.

What about you? Do you love your Heavenly Father so much that you run to tell others how wonderful He is?

I pray we both grow in our love for God in this New Year. If you want to love God more, add your prayer in the comments! 

If you liked this post, these may be helpful:

 

 

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5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals for 2018

This time of year, many of us reflect on the condition of our lives. We may evaluate the health of our bodies, our relationships, or our work situation. We may even “resolve” to change things. But if we’re really serious about improvement, we will set some goals and establish a plan to move forward. But have you ever considered doing the same with your spiritual health? The New Year is the perfect time to do some “spiritual evaluation” and set some goals for spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth goals

We can’t cause our spiritual growth. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). But God does expect our obedient and active cooperation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). One way we can purposefully “train ourselves to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7-8) is through spiritual evaluation and goal setting.

This post includes both a “Discipleship Evaluation” tool and a “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” for you to do just that. But keep in mind, resolutions and goals are often hard to keep. Statistics show that, at best, only 46% of New Year’s resolutions are still kept six months into the year. People lose their resolve quickly because they set unattainable goals.

First, use this free Discipleship Evaluation form to honestly evaluate your current spiritual condition. This tool covers 17 different key discipleship areas. Your weakest areas can be great growth areas in 2017.

Next, set spiritual growth goals using the five tips below. Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident. This free “Spiritual Goals Worksheet” walks you through specific areas of discipleship such as time with God, ministry, service, and Christian education.

Most importantly, ask God to guide you as you evaluate your spiritual health and set goals for growth. He will bring the spiritual transformation as you strive to live a live that pleases Him.

5 Tips for Setting Goals for Spiritual Growth

The following five tips will help us set personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year:

  1. Concentrate your efforts. Set just one, two, or three goals at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin. When you experience success then add another goal.
  2. Be realistic. Set attainable goals. If you don’t read your Bible regularly now, don’t set a goal to read the entire Bible in three months. Instead commit to read it 3 to 5 times per week.
  3. Think concretely. Set goals so progress can be measured. For instance, this goal is too ambiguous: I’m going to spend more time with God. Instead be concrete: I will read one Bible chapter and pray for 10 minutes five times a week.
  4. Include strategies. Develop strategies designed to move you toward your goals. If one goal is to memorize Scripture, determine how you will do that. What verses you will memorize? How often you will tackle a new one? What memorization techniques you will use?
  5. Create manageable steps. Break your overall goal into a series of smaller goals that are doable and will foster success.

How do you feel about setting spiritual goals? Have you ever set spiritual goals in the past?

This last group of resources focuses on a specific area of discipleship like quiet time, prayer, Bible reading, or Scripture Memory.

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5 Bible Reading Plans for the New Year

Do you plan to read your Bible regularly in 2018? Many of us start the year with good intentions, but regular time with God in His Word often falls by the wayside because we’ve failed to put a plan in place or because we’ve set the bar too high.

Planning is not “unspiritual.” Paul told Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) because real spiritual growth takes discipline and purposeful intent. “5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals” will help you realistically plan for your personal spiritual growth.

5 Bible Reading Plans

A great place to begin is with a Bible reading plan. Haphazard reading will always be just that – haphazard. If you have a plan, then you have direction and structure. You never have to wonder, “What will I read today?”

Each of these 5 Bible reading plans below is for a full year. Some are more time-intensive than others. Look at each of them and pick one that will challenge you but not overwhelm you. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

For instance, if you are currently reading your Bible only for a few minutes just a few days a week, don’t try to read the Bible through in a year which requires several chapters 7 days a week. You may become discouraged quickly and give up. Instead, choose a plan that has smaller chunks of reading for 5 days a week. (Note: The first three plans were developed by Kathy Howard. The last two were developed by Dr. Doug Lamb, one of Kathy’s former pastors.)

5 Bible Reading Plans for 2018

  1. Key Character Bible Reading Plan – Spend 5 days a week discovering how God wove individual lives into His overall plan! From Abraham, Moses, and David to Peter, John, and Paul, God still uses His people in the Scriptures to impact His people today. With the life and work of Jesus Christ central to this Bible reading plan, it’s a daily experience you won’t want to miss.
  2. Christian Doctrine Bible Reading Plan – This 5-day-a-week plan walks you through the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. The first quarter focuses on “Theology,” the study of God and His character. The second quarter on the nature of the Bible, mankind, and Christ. The third on “Soteriology,” the study of salvation. And the fourth on the Holy Spirit, the Church, and end times.
  3. Chronological Story Bible Reading Plan – Spend a year getting familiar with the big picture of the Bible. Read through all the major stories and key passages in five days a week.
  4. New Testament in a Year – This handy daily Bible reading guide will take you through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs in one year.
  5. The Bible in a Year – Dr. Doug Lamb, developed this daily plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. He is glad to share it with you.

Pick a plan that works for you. Print it off and put it in your Bible. Get a journal or notebook to record insights from the Holy Spirit, God’s direction for you as your read, and your prayers to Him. May 2016 be a year marked by spiritual growth and wonderful time with our great God!

I’d love to hear from you! Share with us about your plan to read the Bible in 2018.

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