Brave in the New World

Reflecting A Creative God | Genesis 1:26

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

I used to think I wasn’t creative. Probably because I thought you had to be an artist to be considered creative. Now, almost eight years into being a mom, I’ve realized that yes, yes I am creative. In fact, creativity, I’ve come to believe, is a necessity for the sane mama’s tool kit.

I don’t think any other child has helped grow my creativity more than my third. My wild child: Lucy Katherine. She lives on her own planet. One that is filled with dreams and adventures and fun. Here are some ways my creativity muscle has been stretched in recent weeks: making up imaginary friends who will beat my child (yes, child #3) to the bathroom if she doesn’t get there first, choosing my words and attitude in the face of a raging tantrum, and pretending folded piles of clothes are animal skins that need to be quickly stored in our cave (dresser drawers) before the hunter finds us!

I was thinking today how our God is a creative God. We haven’t even tapped the edges of His creation. His canvas is vast and His imagination unending. When I tell myself I’m not creative I’m essentially calling God a liar. He made me in His image. I am not Him but I am like Him. I have qualities like His. And I can lean into those God-given moments of creativity and think-on-my-feet mom improvisation today. And I can praise Him for a mind that can imagine, create and enjoy!

Do you think of yourself as creative? Where can you press into creativity today? Look for unconventional ways God has placed his creative/creating image in you today. Enjoy and create! Just as he does.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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Reflecting A Creative God | Genesis 1:262019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

God’s Shepherds | 1 Samuel 16:6-13

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:6-13

Imagine David during this process. He’s been told to shepherd the sheep, which he does really well. David defended those sheep in his possession against bears and lions. He loves his sheep, and he’s not slacking in his responsibility. As he’s watching and leading his sheep from one pasture to the next, from one watering hole to the next, someone comes bounding over the fields, telling him to go to his dad’s house. I’m thinking whomever that was stayed and took care of the sheep, and must have been trustworthy in the eyes of David, else he wouldn’t have left.

Some famous prophet has come to his dad’s house, with a heifer to sacrifice and eat, without really divulging what he was looking for. When David enters the home, I can see Samuel’s eyes fix on him, and we read of God telling him to anoint David king of Israel. After reviewing all the older brothers, their handsome visage and features, this youngest of them all is God’s choice.

David was a great shepherd to his flock. David defended this flock with his life, taking lions and bears by the beard (1 Samuel 17:34-36) and slaying them in order to save a lamb from death. He dearly loved his flock, and took this responsibility very seriously. But now, it seemed it was time for him to step away from this flock for another. He was to become king of Israel. He was to lead a larger flock, with love and dedication similar to what he demonstrated with his dad’s flock of sheep.

In this moment, I’m certain that David couldn’t figure out why God would choose him over someone else (like his brothers) to take on this task. I’m also certain that his family couldn’t figure it out. But, his faith in God determined his path. He trusted. He listened. He heard. God’s call came in a manner unexpected by all, but it came nonetheless. And David trusted. I almost never know why God does things the way he does. But, I’ve been on this journey long enough to know that God knows. His path, whether full of rocks or not, is always best. Our souls need the honing he provides. As we and others are called, sometimes in ways we’d rather not see, trust in the Lord. God knows what he’s trying to accomplish. If you feel the Lord calling you into something that seems hard or difficult, step into it. Trust.

By Rich Obrecht

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God’s Shepherds | 1 Samuel 16:6-132019-07-22T16:35:12-06:00

Nature and Beauty | Isaiah 55:2b-3a, 6-13

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live. 6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign which will not be destroyed.” Isaiah 55:2b-3a, 6-13

My husband and I just spent 4 days drinking in the beauty of God’s creation in Utah and Colorado. We saw the desert blooming and the mountains covered in green grass. The high mountain peaks were pristine with fresh snow and the vistas were incredibly beautiful.

Spending time in God’s glorious creation, taking time to see the cactus blooming, watching the birds soar on the thermals, appreciating the incredible formations made of rock, sand and water, cause me to give thanks to God. I praise him for the beauty and for making me able to appreciate it.

We saw how the rain and snow this winter has provided for the plants, making the desert “bud and flourish.” Creation gives us a picture of how God provides; he provides for us as well. Take a walk this week, look around your neighborhood, or go to a park or into the mountains. Observe the green grass, the blooming trees, bushes and flowers. Give thanks to God for his provision of moisture this past winter. Let your soul delight in the beauty of spring. Then look at your own life. What can you thank God for? How has God provided for you when you were in need? Remember God’s word, “will accomplish what I (God) desire and achieve the purpose for which I (God) sent it.”

By Grace Hunter

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Nature and Beauty | Isaiah 55:2b-3a, 6-132019-07-22T16:35:13-06:00

Grace | 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

The women’s morning Bible study here at South studied Corinthians beginning in January. It was a great study and I was encouraged by the take-aways God gave me. Then a month later, ouch, God gave me opportunity to apply them! Does he ever do that to you? Events in the Apostle Paul’s life hit me in a new way. He kept on giving love and grace in spite of the grief and trials he experienced. He kept on giving his best and doing what most benefited those in the church following Christ. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you, 2 Corinthians 6:11. Paul entered the mess with grace and truth. That is what I am having to do. In what ways might God be opening your heart with grace?

Sam Allberry, a speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries wrote in an article titled, Only messy people allowed: today’s culture of Grace: “No one is too low, too far gone, too needy—too anything—to worry about not fitting in around here. Our testimony is not “I was a mess, then Jesus showed up, and now I’ve got everything together,” but “I was a mess—and I still am—but I’m a mess who belongs to Jesus, a mess he is committed to sorting out. He came to me, has stuck with me, and continues to be my all in all.”

We are all recipients of this kind of grace from Jesus and we all need to give Jesus’ grace to each other to keep growing and changing. Jesus’ grace has saved us not just from sin but from death. He gives us a new life, a new plan for living. We can say with John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world—but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” Listen to the heart message and amazing grace in this song, My Story by Big Daddy Weave.

By Donna Burns

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Grace | 2 Corinthians 2:14-172019-07-22T16:35:13-06:00

Freedom to Feel | The Psalms

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?

Psalm 13:1

The psalms are a collection of songs and poems that have touched people for thousands of years. There are favorites that people turn to in many seasons of life and then there are other psalms that are less popular because they sound vengeful or extreme, called imprecatory psalms. I’ve long wrestled with the value of those Psalms. In these texts, the author begs God to violently destroy their enemies. What do we do with texts like that in scripture? Should we be praying prayers like that?

Not long ago, someone sent me a short video clip that not only explained how we might read imprecatory Psalms but also explained how the Psalms can serve the human soul in general. I encourage you to watch the video here.

The psalms are not texts meant to demonstrate how we should feel about the world around us. Instead, the Psalms are texts that teach us what to do with our feelings when we feel them. The safest place to express the extremes of all our emotions is to God. God can handle our emotional world. If we are angry, sad, confused, or joyful we must learn from the Psalms and express the full range of our emotions to our good Father.

This week, try praying more fully from the heart. God is not surprised by how you are feeling. Tell him when things are hard and tell him when things are good. Cultivate a more conversational prayer life with God. He is the safest place to process the world of human emotion.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Freedom to Feel | The Psalms2019-07-22T16:35:13-06:00

Clarify The Voices | Romans 8:1-2

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

Can you imagine the public shame and embarrassment of having your sinful act exposed before the crowds? Men were not dragged into the streets on account of lying or gossipping or lusting. But this woman was brought out for all to see and judge. All eyes on her, stones ready, voices accusing. The woman and her sin seen as one. What would Jesus’ response be? The religious leaders wanted this to be the end of her life, a deserving punishment for a shameful sin. But Jesus wanted it to be the beginning. Jesus does indeed acknowledge the women’s sin; he doesn’t turn a blind eye to it or suggest she’s good to continue in it. But he moves beyond that to extending lavish grace and the invitation to live in his better way.

Their voices were a chorus of accusation and condemnation. His voice was calm, laced with compassion and forgiveness. They sought to kill. He sought to restore. Though you weren’t there that day to hear their voices, pause to pay attention to the voices in your own head. Do your thoughts carry condemnation or restoration? Are they bringing destruction on you or leading you to new life? Maybe this weekend you determine to jot down thoughts that come to your head and then question those thoughts – see if they are in alignment with the Spirit of truth and peace or if they are destructive voices of accusation. Take your thoughts captive to him today and listen to where he might be calling you to live in the full reality of the forgiveness of your sin.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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Clarify The Voices | Romans 8:1-22019-07-22T16:35:13-06:00

Live Grace | John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11

Young children need boundaries and rules to guide their behavior. When a young child decides to obey or disobey these rules, it usually does not involve deep thought, analyzation of a concept, or even the consideration of how his or her actions will impact another. As we grow and mature, hopefully our behavior, decisions and actions are influenced by our motivations, by how it might impact ourselves and others. Hopefully as adults we don’t just follow the rules, but as followers of Christ, we are influenced by his example and God’s word.

The Pharisees and scribes wanted to trap Jesus by posing a question they believed had only two answers. Jesus exposed their immature and childlike thinking by posing a stipulation that made everyone who heard him examine his or her own heart. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees wanted to condemn this woman to death because she broke the rules. Jesus spoke to everyone in the crowd, asking them to consider if each of them had ever broken the rules. Starting with the older people in the crowd, wisdom prevailed, all recognized that each of them had sinned, each of them had broken the rules, each of them had done things to hurt others.

Jesus presents another solution: grace. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve,” Jeremiah 17:10. Jesus tells the woman he does not condemn her, but to sin no more. God examines our heart and our mind; he is interested in our thoughts and our motivations. Jesus invites us to examine ourselves and to bring our thoughts and actions into alignment with his word. This requires mature thinking. This demands I confess to God when I have hurt others or myself with my words or actions. It is a lifelong lifestyle of learning God’s word, praying, confessing, and giving grace to ourselves and to others. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them,” II Corinthians 5:18-19a. Is God calling you back to himself? Is there someone else God is calling you to extend grace to today?

By Grace Hunter

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Live Grace | John 8:1-112019-07-22T16:35:13-06:00

Not to Condemn | John 8:3-11; John 3:17

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst  they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  John 8:3-11

The Pharisees used this woman’s act as a test for Jesus. He upheld the law of Moses by asking those without sin to throw the first stone. As her accusers walked away one by one, Jesus, the sinless son of God, was left. He didn’t throw a stone either. Instead, he offered her much more: forgiveness, restoration and a new life. “Go and sin no more.” And I believe she did. The holy confrontation with Jesus changed her.

Lysa Terkeurst writes from the testimony of her own broken life and shattered heart, “God has the power to not only put pieces back together, but a pile of dust.” Jesus makes all things new, even a pile of dirt. Isn’t it interesting that the creator, Jesus, goes back to the ground, not once but twice to communicate? In this gospel story he is not condemning the woman or condoning. He values her and shows her worth. Jesus is loving her and lifting her out of her old circumstances. He is giving her a new heart and bringing her new life.

Jesus amazes us with his wisdom. Yet again he shows a new way. He respects the law but brings a new covenant. He’s showing us the why behind the law not the what. Each person in the story is impacted by Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Isn’t that the way God wants us to be? Impacted and then impacting others, extending the love extended to us. We can have a holy impact and influence when our hearts of stone are made into a new heart of flesh by Jesus; forgiveness. Let him help you drop the stones in your hand and fill your open hands with love to extend to others.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17

By Donna Burns

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Not to Condemn | John 8:3-11; John 3:172019-07-22T16:35:14-06:00

A Time for Tolerance | John 7:53-8:6a

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. John 7:53-8:6a

Tolerance is a word heard frequently in our culture. More and more, it seems our society has the mindset that, if they’re not hurting anyone, they can do whatever they want. And, these seeming innocuous choices should be acceptable to everyone. Their desire is freedom to choose and acceptance by all. Acceptance has become the new tolerance. Perhaps this thinking is driven by the feeling things are just easier this way. It’s easier to only have to deal with the “what”; no one has to answer any hard questions (the “why”).

Having spent most of my life working in Information Technology (even before it had that name), I’ve found stopping change is similar to stopping a boulder rolling downhill with your body. Learning to tolerate change, and those involved, has essentially kept me sane. A key part of this experience was really understanding why changing was necessary. Dialogue with one another, as Jesus did, may not always convince change is appropriate, but it can really help us accept change, and each other.

It’s important we learn to tolerate each other. But (re)learning tolerance in disagreement is key. Rare is the case where we fully accept the choices (or change) our friends and family make. The trick is to learn how to disagree and yet still be in viable community with each other. I can remember ‘arguing’ a point, not to to batter someone with my decision, but to explain in a coherent and level-headed way the reasons for my choices and beliefs, and doing so without compromising a relationship. Somehow our culture has really gone off the rails with our inability to do this.

In the end, moving those around us towards a better way of tolerance is to begin with ourselves. We know that our God is love. We know that the way of Jesus involves copious amounts of love. The key ingredient is love. Today, think about how you’ve handled hot-topic discussions with others. Perhaps roll back to the last several times you’ve argued a belief or decision with someone, and honestly assess how it went. If having Jesus visibly there would change your conversation, methods of discussion may need to change. If this is true, you have God, the Savior, and the Holy Spirit who’d love to ‘hear’ from you and help form your heart in love!

By Rich Obrecht

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A Time for Tolerance | John 7:53-8:6a2019-07-22T16:35:14-06:00
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