Reckless | ONE 07

Jesus loved to tell stories! He would often use the art of storytelling to illustrate heavenly truths. Today we’re going to look at one of the more famous stories that Jesus told.

The story opens with a young man who is bored with his life, tired of home and longing to explore the world. He knows that when his father dies that he will receive an inheritance, but his dad is kist not dead yet. Our protagonist is tired of waiting. The younger of two brothers goes to his father and basically says, “Dad, I’m tired of waiting for you to die, give me what’s mine so I can leave this place.”

Surprisingly, the father decides to go ahead and give his sons their inheritance.

The boy strikes out for his adventure, leaving his home and his family behind. He sets out to see the world, experience things his father would have never allowed, and to meet new people. He’s having the time of his life. He didn’t realize the way he was using his money, the choices he was making, were reckless. Not until his world was turned upside down. Rain was scarce and before long food followed. His money didn’t last as long as he had expected and now it was gone. With it the lavish lifestyle he had grown accustomed to and all of his friends.

He was alone and had no one to help him out. People weren’t willing to just give him the little food they had. There was one farmer that was willing to hire him, but the pay was hardly enough to get by. The boy worked on the farm, taking care of the animals, but he was so hungry.

You know how when you’re really hungry you enjoy eating things that you would have not enjoyed otherwise? Our perception of what’s good changes. This next moment shows how hungry this guy really was. As he was feeding the pigs, he thought to himself, “this looks good.” So he took a swig of the pig slop.

Suddenly he had a moment of clarity. He realized how far he had come and wished he had never left home.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. Have you ever had such a moment of clarity? Where you realized you had made some real mistakes.
  2. How did you respond?

PRAY: Lord, please reveal any area of my life that is not pleasing to you.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Luke 15:11-17 (TPT) Then Jesus said, “Once there was a father with two sons. 12 The younger son came to his father and said, ‘Father, don’t you think it’s time to give me the share of your estate that belongs to me?’ So the father went ahead and distributed among the two sons their inheritance. 13 Shortly afterward, the younger son packed up all his belongings and traveled off to see the world. He journeyed to a far-off land where he soon wasted all he was given in a binge of extravagant and reckless living.

14 “With everything spent and nothing left, he grew hungry, for there was a severe famine in that land. 15 So he begged a farmer in that country to hire him. The farmer hired him and sent him out to feed the pigs. 16 The son was so famished, he was willing to even eat the slop given to the pigs, because no one would feed him a thing.

17 “Humiliated, the son finally realized what he was doing and he thought, ‘There are many workers at my father’s house who have all the food they want with plenty to spare. They lack nothing. Why am I here dying of hunger, feeding these pigs and eating their slop?

Proverbs 28:13-14 (NLT)

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.

14 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong,
    but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.

 

Big Mistakes | ONE 06

When I was a kid I was a piano-playing child prodigy. Well, I thought I was. After composing one such sonic symphony I boldly declared to my grandparents, “I don’t even need piano lessons.” I was that good, or self-diluted.

I was also innovative. My mom owned a piano, a real old school piano. When I was real small I apparently decided to play those ivory keys with different kinds of keys. A house key. A car key. Any kind of key really. Sharp side grading against the piano keys. I imagine my mom listening to the beautiful music, love filling her heart for her favorite child. (sorry to my twin sister, who was likely doing this with me.) I can just see her coming into the room to compliment me on such unparalleled piano playing ability. Coming closer to hug her son only to see the piano keys, that now looked like teeth. Ruined. That was the day I learned my mom loved her piano more than me.

Ok, she loved me more. But I’m sure she wasn’t happy! And let’s be honest, people often place expectations on love. Human love is often conditional.

“I will love you until…”

“I will love you as long as…”

“I will love you unless…”

“If you loved me you would…”

You can fill in the blank, it sometimes seems like people will love us only as much as we agree with them, or do what they want. The moment we fall below their expectations, love is taken away.

I want to make sure you know, THAT IS NOT TRUE LOVE. That is certainly not how God loves. Maybe you have experienced that kind of conditional love from family, friends or relationships. Maybe you’ve lived in fear that if you mess-up, you will lose love from the people in your life. I want you to know this simple truth. God still loves you, even after you make big mistakes.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. Have you ever felt like if you mess up, you won’t be accepted?
  2. Have you ever struggled to love someone who fell below your expectations?

PRAY: Lord, help me to recognize that even when I make big mistakes, You still love me.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Romans 8:31-39 (NLT) What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 4:7-21 (NLT) Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

 

It’s Not Too Late | ONE 05

Growing up we learn that there are consequences for our actions. When we disobey our parents, we are punished. When we break the law, we get a ticket or go to jail. Have you ever been caught doing something wrong, but were given mercy instead of punishment? This doesn’t happen often, but for me when it has I was left with an incredible feeling of relief, gratitude and a resolve not to do it again.

Just like Jesus didn’t hold the sins of the woman caught in adultery against her neither does He hold our sins against us! We are all guilty because of our sins and we deserve the full consequence of our sins, which according to scripture is death and eternal separation from God’s presence. However, because of the glorious grace of God, Jesus stepped in took upon Himself the weight of sin and the punishment we deserved. He paid the debt we could not pay and as such we can receive forgiveness for our sins. We can receive His eternal life rather than death.

We simply have to receive it.

Receive it. That might be the most challenging part. We tend to want to earn things, but salvation is not something we could ever earn by being good enough or avoiding sin. In fact, Jesus didn’t tell the woman to stop sinning until after He had shown mercy. It is once we receive His mercy that we begin to change our behavior, not the other way around.

This is not illustrated better anywhere than in the exchange Jesus had with one of the men hanging on the cross next to His. This man was a thief. Most likely He was guilty of pretty serious crimes because hanging on a cross was a cruel punishment, reserved for the vilest of criminals. This thief recognized that unlike himself, Jesus was innocent and believed that He was the son of God. The thief looked at Jesus and asked Him to, “Remember me in Your Kingdom.” Jesus looked upon this man, moments away from death and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus offered forgiveness and salvation to this man who not only deserved to die, but surely would die for his crimes. This thief would have no opportunity to ever do any righteous deed to prove his salvation. Yet, Jesus freely and fully forgave him and invited him into the Kingdom of God.

The same invitation that He gives to us today.

Jesus doesn’t hold our sins against us. He doesn’t wait for us to change before loving us. He gives us life instead of the death we deserve. Jesus shows mercy instead of judgement, even the one who deserved to die.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus not only can forgive you, but wants to forgive you?
  2. How will your life change after receiving His forgiveness?

PRAY: Lord, I receive the forgiveness you offer. Thank You for loving me and showing me mercy.

SCRIPTURE READING:

John 8:10-11 (NLT) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Micah 7:18 (NKJV) He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy

James 2:13 (NLT) There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

James 2:13b (NKJV) Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Romans 3:23 (KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 6:23 (KJV) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Luke 23:39-43 (NLT) One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

Unpopular Choice | ONE 04

When that woman was thrown before Jesus, the crowd was likely on the side of her accusers. According to the law of Moses, they had every right to stoner her. However, Jesus was not interested in making the crowd happy. He had come to demonstrate God’s love of mercy of Judgement. He looked at this one woman who deserved to die and even though it wasn’t the popular decision, released her from the punishment.

It can be difficult to go against what seems to be the popular thing to do. Sometimes at school, people are being mean and it may not seem right to you. However, you can’t seem to find your voice. You know speaking up may subject you to the same ridicule. Still, we shouldn’t go along with the crowd simply because it’s the popular thing. When others are being mean, we should show kindness. Even if it isn’t the cool thing to do.

Kindness is pretty important. Even when we are speaking truth to our friends. If we’re not careful our quest for truth can really hurt other people. For example if your friend’s makeup looks like a failed science experimenbt, perhaps  “You look really ugly today” isn’t the best the best approach. It’s important to let your friend know you care about them. Perhaps start with asking questions, “why did you do your makeup that way.” Maybe there is a good reason things went so wrong. Of course, we don’t want to lie either. A better approach might be, “You’re beautiful, but this makeup is hiding that beauty.”

Jokes are another area where we sometimes lose our sense of kindness. It can be so much fun to slam each other, however we have to be careful. Sometimes you can joke at someones expense and they may laugh along, yet go home feeling destroyed and cry their eyes out.

When I was in middle school, I remember hanging with a group of guys and I feel like they always made jokes at my expense. This went on for months and I thought they hated me. Yet, when it was finally talked about they didn’t even know I was bothered by it. They genuinely thought we were friends.

Honestly in the story we read yesterday, Jesus goes against the crowd and it wasn’t to protect a friend, or a popular kid. It was to protect a guilty woman who deserved to die. This is who God is, showing mercy instead of Judgement, even to the one who deserved to die. Amazing.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. How will you respond next time the popular thing to do is making fun of someone?
  2. When you speak truth to your friends, or joke at their expense, does it build them up or hurt them? Perhaps it’s worth asking them directly.

PRAY: Lord, help me to speak with kindness, even when it isn’t the popular or easy thing to do.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Proverbs 11:9 (NLT) With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.

Proverbs 11:12 (NLT) It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.

Prvoberbs 11:17 (TLB) Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (MSG) So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.

Proverbs 12:18 (NLT) Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.

Psalm 19:12-14 (NLT)

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

14 May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Scandal | ONE 03

She was caught in the act. We don’t know the exact details, but we are certain the man she was sleeping with was not her husband. They charged in and dragged her out and then they threw her in front of Jesus. 

Only it wasn’t just Jesus. By this time He was becoming incredibly popular. Crowds swarmed Him everywhere He went. Some drawn in by the authority with which He taught. Others by the miraculous healings that took place. The crowd circled as the Jewish religious leaders threw this guilty girl at the feet of Jesus. 

“The law is clear. She was caught in the act of adultery. She must be stoned. What do you say?”

Everyone loved Jesus except these Pharisees. Maybe they were jealous of His following. For sure they saw Him as a threat and were trying to trap Him. What they said was true, however, Jesus was not coming to bring judgement for the law, but to free us from it. 

He didn’t respond right away. Oddly enough, He bent down and began to write in the sand. We can’t know for sure what He wrote in this long and drawn-out moment. Some theologians believe He was writing the sins of the woman’s accusers. When Jesus stood again He said, “The woman does indeed deserve death. Let the one who has no sin throw the first stone.” 

The words hung over them like a thick fog. Jesus bent back down and continued writing in the earth. Silence engulfed the crowd. After what seemed like an eternity the oldest lowered his head and slowly walked away. One by one all of the woman’s accusers left leaving Jesus alone with the woman in the midst of the crowd. 

Jesus looked at her as surely no man had looked before. His eyes, they weren’t full of lust, or judgement. His eyes burned with compassion and a love the woman likely had never known. He gently said to her, “Where are your accusers? Do not even one have any charges to bring against you” 

The woman looked up, fear turning into brokenness as she saw the love in His eyes. “No, not one.”

Jesus held her stare and spoke back, “Then neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. How does it feel knowing Jesus shows us the same mercy He showed the woman in our story?
  2. Is it easy to accept that God isn’t accusing us of our sins? Why or why not?

PRAY: Father, help me to see You as Kind and forgiving, knowing You desire to show me mercy. Help me to receive that mercy.

SCRIPTURE READING:

John 8:1-11 (NLT) Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

 

Shoes, Punches & Curse Words | ONE 02

You know that feeling when you put on your new shoes for the very first time? They look so clean and the whole world shines a little bit brighter. It’s wonderful. Until something happens and your new kicks get scuffed, or muddy. Then the feeling is gone. You work hard to keep those shoes looking good.

Sam was a seventh-grader who, by all accounts, was a nice guy. Perhaps he occasionally stood too close to people, but all in all, he was a good kid. That day he was standing next to Desmond, who was brandishing a brand new pair of sneakers. Naturally, Sam, standing too close accidentally stepped on Desmond’s shoe. The sound of desmond shouting, “My shoes!” caught the attention of the whole class.

It was at that moment that everything went into slow motion as Desmond began throwing a fury of punches in Sam’s direction. Sam instinctively threw his arms up to protect his face and shouted, “What the–“. Well, I won’t repeat exactly what he said, but he may have referenced a place full of burning flames and fire.

His curse drew the attention of the teacher who immediately stood and shouted, “Stop this now! There will be no profanity in my classroom” The teacher then wrote Sam up for cursing and sent him off to the dean’s office. Desmond simply returned to his seat.

I sat there in my twelve-year-old mind as perplexed as I had ever been.

Is cursing a greater sin than throwing punches at another student? It wasn’t even one of the bad ones?! (Not that any cursing is ok.) How can the mild profanity deserve greater punishment than punching someone? I couldn’t wrap my mind around the injustice of the situation!

How do you feel when someone deserves punishment and doesn’t get it? I find it very frustrating when someone does not get what they deserve. Unless it happens to be me. I expect people to be understanding of myself, but don’t always offer that same understanding to others.

Maybe you can relate.. Have you ever been angry when someone did not receive the punishment they deserved? Have you ever known a Christain who for sure didn’t deserve to be forgiven? Maybe you’re reading this and there have been moments when you were certain you didn’t deserve to be forgiven. Next week we will be addressing these thoughts.

Here is the big idea.

Jesus shows mercy instead of judgement, even to the one who deserved to die.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough to be forgiven? Why did you think that?
  2. Is it easy for you to show others mercy? Why or why not?

PRAY: Lord, help me to recognize Your mercy in my life and extend that mercy to others.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Hebrews 4:12-16 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NLT) Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.[a] He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us longago.

 

You Matter | ONE 01

Have you ever wondered if you matter? We have a tendency to belittle ourselves, thinking we might not be very valuable. Maybe we have some insecurities. Perhaps we are overwhelmed by our many mistakes. Maybe I really don’t matter, after all, I’m just one person.

But let’s not belittle the significance of just one person! I believe that one person matters! I believe that even just one person is valuable. I believe that even just one person has the power to change the world.

Remember that you are created by God. Not only that but of all creation, humans were the only beings created in the very image of God. He made us look like Himself. Not only that, but when God created man He breathed His own breath into the man to give him life. It is the very breath of God flowing through your lungs.

That alone is enough to give you an incredible amount of value! Every single person is important. Every single person has value. Even you. You’re important and you matter.

It is also important to remember that the moment we begin our relationship with Jesus, we are filled with His presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only are we incredibly valuable, but we have the very power of God dwelling within us! Next time you don’t think you can accomplish very much, remember that God can do all things and He dwells in YOU!

Throughout this series, we will be looking at three different examples of Jesus revealing the importance of just ONE PERSON.

THINK ABOUT THIS:

  1. How does knowing you were created in God’s image change the way you see yourself? How does it change how you see others?
  2. When you don’t feel very important what can you do to remind yourself of your value?

PRAY: Lord, thank you for creating me in Your image and filling me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to remember the value You have placed on me.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Ephesians 2:7-10 (MSG) Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)  Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:7 (NLT) Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Romans 8:9 (NLT)  But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.