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Following Jesus Takes Grit!

By: Jodi Aiken
Have you ever made a promise to God not knowing what kind of resolve it would take, but you were all in? In my late twenties, God called me to follow Him into ministry. In yielding to His calling I promised God, I would never turn down an opportunity to share with others about the mercy, grace, and redemptive power He granted me. I committed to following Him anywhere, anytime, and at any cost. Little did I know what kind of grit I would need to keep my commitment. There have been seasons when I wanted to retract my promise -  Seasons that were too hard, too overwhelming, and too painful to forge ahead. Have you ever wrestled with keeping your promise to God? Maybe you have been hurt by others within your church, and you’re ready to throw in the towel and quit. Your clenched fist raised in the air, you have wanted to...

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 10

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" I'm not sure about you but that one line causes me to start humming a song I learned as a child. If you aren't familiar with a song with that phrase, don't stress. You are saved from the torture of a sing-songy song stuck in your head. Though many of us have heard this familiar verse, the reality of living it out seems to be an overwhelming endeavor. How are you supposed to actually live out joy when life is falling apart around you? In this week's lesson, we'll consider what happens when we yield to our growing knowledge of who God is and His work in our lives. We're going to take a look at the hows of rejoicing in the Lord ALWAYS.

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 9

I'm so proud of you for making it to lesson 9. It's never easy to stick with something for this many weeks. I'm certain that God has spoken to your heart as you have allowed His Word to wash over you. In lesson 9, Paul reminds the Philippians of how important it is to find unity with one another. He is moved with compassion for the lost when he pleads with the Philippians to seek to find common ground. Paul reminds the church that the lost are headed for hell and as believers they shouldn't be so easily led astray by the worlds' ways because they are citizens of heaven. They belong to God and one day they will experience transformed bodies when they go home. In this lesson, we cover the immediate context Paul is referring and practical application for us, as believers, living in a fallen, broken world.

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 8

Many Christians have become really good at listening to another sermon or Bible study and being reminded of what they should be doing. Unfortunately, education hasn't always led to execution because while we've become familiar with what we should be doing, we lack the steps to actually do it. In this week's lesson, we consider not only that we should be in hot pursuit of Christ, but we also consider the how-to's of nurturing hearts that long after Him. As you begin this lesson, take time to slow down, talk to God about your heart right now. Ask Him to draw you near as He transforms you into His likeness.

Unleashing Grace

By:  Bobi Ann Allen But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.--1 Cor. 15:10 Have you ever been robbed? When I was a girl, my family’s car was broken into while we were on vacation one summer.  Talk about a downer.  The thieves didn’t take much but all of us were shaken by the fact that someone had entered into our space uninvited and pilfered through.  We went back to the hotel, packed our things and went home.  Our trip was tainted and we just wanted to be back in our own house where we felt safe. As believers, we constantly deal with a thief, he is the accuser and the Enemy of our soul. Scripture references him and says “The thief comes to steal, kill and...

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 7

You've made it to lesson 7! Congratulations. Let's be honest, sticking with a study for this long is hard. There are all sorts of reasons to stop or skip or procrastinate. Thankfully studying through an online platform allows you the luxury to pick back up when you get behind. In our previous lesson, we considered evidences biblically, historically and within the nature of a yearning for Christ. By considering evidence of an obvious hunger in others, we posed the question, "why don't we?" It was a question that stung. We don't want to go there because it addresses how easily satisfied we've become with the little bit of Christ we've aattained and enjoyed. In this week's lesson, we take this same idea and look at it from a different direction. It may seem silly to really think through the why of knowing Jesus more but if we don't, why would purposely pursue more...

Lesson from the Fishbowl

By: Donna Avant Recently my husband, John, purchased a fish and a fishbowl to use in a sermon illustration.  His plan was to give away the fish and the fishbowl the next week.  However, he grew fond of the fish and, oddly, I have also.  He confessed last week to our entire congregation that he has found himself on occasion talking to the fish he has now named, D.O.C. (Disciple of Christ)!  I promise you that John has not lost his mind.   The truth is this little black beta fish has reminded us both of some very valuable lessons we have learned over 38 years of being in the ministry. The transparency of the fishbowl is crucial.    Upon becoming a pastor’s wives 38 years ago, I was told that fishbowl life was terrible.  Everyone would be watching me; everyone examining my every move.   Yet, what I have discovered is that living in a fishbowl is actually...

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 6

When I was in college, I took a psychology class where we studied Pavlov's dogs. These dogs were quickly trained/conditioned that when a bell rang they would be fed. They were quick learners at cause and effect. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that if we manage to stack a resumé of good deeds together, we will experience the favor of God. It really makes good sense. However, Paul warns us in Phililppians 3 against putting our confidence in the flesh. He puts into perspective the contrast of a mechanical religion versus an intimate relationship. Lesson 6 will challenge us to view our self-righteous acts as the puny achievements they are and turn our pursuits toward God.

Jesus, Our Joy–Lesson 5

In our fifth lesson, we piggy back onto lesson 4 where we considered how God handles the humble. Though we see how God exalts, extends mercy and provides generously for the humble, God is not indifferent to the proud. The week we consider signs of pride in our own hearts and Paul's challenge to lower ourselves. With a goal of taking the low place, we are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. When we value the interest of others above our own, we are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. we realize we don't have anything to defend. Paul's words are challenging and encouraging as we discover just what it means to experience Jesus as our true joy.

lesson 5, jesus...

Good News of the Dark Day!

Recently, an Uber conversation turned to the reason I was in the city. In the midst of dialogue, my driver said, "We are the same in our religion.  You have your prophet, and I have mine!"  My response stopped him.  "Well you can say that but not me.  You see my Savior came and died for me so that I will never have to be concerned with religion ever again!  It's not my religion but about my relationship with the One who gave His life for me so that I could be CERTAIN that I would spend eternity with Him and Our Father!" I know where I will spend eternity and because of this I live to please the ONE who died for me. The driver was intrigued and asked if we might continue this conversation another time.  I answered affirmatively and handed him my card.  I hope the day will come that this man...