Community

Life is Too Short to Go It Alone

According to a Time magazine report, every 60 seconds on Facebook is packed with a lifetime’s worth of social interactions! For example, in the next 60 seconds, 500,000 comments will be posted on Facebook and 350,000 posts will be liked. In addition, 250,000 messages will be sent, 135,000 photos will be added, and 100,000 statuses will be updated! That’s a lot of information! While I am not convinced that things like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have helped our sense of connection, it’s not surprising to me that Facebook is now the #1 most visited site on the internet.

You see, as human beings we have an innate desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this innate desire to connect with one another is because God created us with this innate need for community! In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” I don’t know if you ever noticed the plurality of that verse, but in those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature. The words “us” and the word “our” proclaim the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community. Yes, the creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose nature we are created. And since we are created in God’s image, we are therefore created for community!

The need for relationship was part of God’s created order. It wasn’t the result of the fall, as some might believe. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realized we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to survive.

If you remember the movie, Cast Away with Tom Hanks, his character, Chuck Noland, is stranded on a tropical island, and he had to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive both physically and emotionally. In order to keep his sanity, he made a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball. During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Hanks character weather many storms together, but when a big tropical storm comes upon the island and Wilson is blown off to sea, Chuck breaks down emotionally.

Cast Away is a fascinating movie which so accurately displays our need for connection, which has been hard wired into our DNA. But unfortunately, as humans and even as Christ followers, we try to do life alone and we isolate, because of shame, guilt, discouragement, and fear of rejection. Yet God calls us out of the isolation and invites us into community. He gives us an example of what this community looks like in Acts 2:42-47. It’s an amazing ideal of what the church can and needs to look like.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Looking at these verses, it’s clear that if you want to experience life as God intended it, and experience the ideals of our faith in Christ, we need to commit to be with others. There are a lot of things we can do alone in life. We can drive a car, play solitaire, or read a book. But we cannot experience the joy of knowing and being known outside of community, because it’s in community that we will experience all that God has for us. That’s why there is so much instruction in the Bible about how we are to live out our faith with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament! These Bible passages help us to understand how much emphasis the Scriptures place on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in relationship in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.

Life is all about relationships! So, I invite you to get off your electronic devices and connect. Start taking some risks to be vulnerable, and experience the reality that life is better together.

The Danger of Comparison

We do it everyday. Consciously or unconsciously, we size one another up. We measure others by their looks, the type of car they drive, where they live, and by the type of job they have. We use comparison like a measuring stick, assessing our own worthiness based on how many friends we have on Facebook and how many likes we have for our posts on Twitter and Instagram. But the sin of comparison is robbing us of our joy and contentment.

The problem with comparisons is that they lead us to make judgments – toward ourselves and toward others. And comparison also causes us to show partiality toward others or ourselves.

As human beings, we often use conscious or unconscious measuring sticks to try and rank others. But the problem with that is that we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Therefore there are no “better people” or “worse people” – there are only people created in the image and likeness of God.

Comparisons get us into trouble for at least two reasons:

1. They can make us feel better than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to pride. Remember the man who thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner? The enemy of our souls loves it when we struggle with pride. After all, it was his downfall.

2. They can make us feel worse than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to low self-esteem, which still keeps our focus on ourselves. Although it says in James that God is not a respecter of persons, we do not believe this if we believe God is withholding something from us that is rightfully ours.

In other words, when we compare, we’re essentially telling God that what He created wasn’t good enough. And we miss the opportunity to see the beauty of God in ourselves and in others.

The Bible says satisfaction comes from doing your best, not comparing yourself to others: “Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4 LB).  In other words, you can’t focus on your purpose and find contentment while looking at other people.

So here are four ways to stop comparing yourself to others and rediscover your joy and find contentment:

1. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Psalm 139:14, the psalmist tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In other words, you are God’s unique creation. If you ever consider yourself unremarkable or even ordinary, you’re not seeing yourself God see you. But when we discover the truth that we are God’s unique design, it is overwhelming and empowering. So when you begin to feel inadequate and feel the temptation to compare, quietly whisper a prayer of thanks to God for making you the way you are.

2. Realize we all have different strengths and weaknesses. 

The reality is that there will always be someone thinner, richer, and better looking than us! No matter how hard we try, someone will always be better at something than we are. So when we start feeling the need to compare, we must recognize our opportunity to practice humility and recognize the beauty of God in His creation. This past week, at a Night of Prayer for our church, the different gifting and talents of our church staff struck me. And I thought about how each of those staff members’ gifts and talents are needed for the church to function well. God in his sovereignty has given us each a set of gifts and talents to accomplish His kingdom purpose.

3. Choose compliments over comparison. 

Instead of being people that compare ourselves to each other, we need to be people who champion each other. So whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to another, why not go right up to that person and compliment them about the very thing you are comparing yourself with. Jealous of someone’s great hair, his or her nice car or beautiful home? Tell them how beautiful you find those things! Instead of comparing your accomplishments to the accomplishments of a coworker, why not send a note congratulating them on their achievement? When we turn our comparisons into opportunities to champion each other, the devil loses and God is glorified.

4. Rely on God’s opinion rather than the opinion of others. 

Truth be known, it’s often our own insecurity that causes us to compare ourselves with others. But what if you and I relied on God’s opinion of us, before we had a chance to listen to our own, or another’s opinion of us? Not only are you and I fearfully and wonderfully made, but Scripture also reminds that those in Christ are loved, forgiven, accepted and complete. That means we must use God’s measuring stick, not our own or that of others to live by.

So when it comes to comparison trap, God asks one thing of you: Be who He created to be!

20 Things I Learned from My Mom

In honor of my mom this Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some of the life lessons I learned from her, either by her words or by her example…

  1. Believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  2. Don’t expect things to be handed to you. Work for them.
  3. Don’t give up. When you encounter roadblocks or hurdles, figure it out and move on.
  4. Keep your commitments. If you say you’re going to do something – do it.
  5. As long as you try your best in everything you do, you’ll never fail.
  6. Be respectful to those around you.
  7. Education is worth pursuing. Plan and save for it.
  8. Work smarter, not harder. Do it right the first time.
  9. Spring cleaning is good. Don’t hang onto junk, throw it out.
  10. Age is a state of mind.
  11. Be responsible with your money. It doesn’t grow on trees. (Okay, maybe I heard that one from my dad!)
  12. Getting organized will help you get the important things done.
  13. Prioritize vacations. Work hard. Play hard.
  14. Try new things. Life should be full of experiences.
  15. It’s important to remember special days in people’s lives.
  16. Be dependable.
  17. Honor family traditions. They’re fun and create memories.
  18. Always send thank you cards!
  19. Take care of the things that matter most.
  20. Stand your ground. Sometimes it’s okay to go out and play, even though you didn’t eat your liver!”😀

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Thanks for who you are, all you do and everything you’ve taught me. I love you!

Flourish in Relationship

relationshipsGod made us to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we are made to flourish with him and with others in relationship. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be connected with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

God…

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In this passage, Jesus tells us that there is no other relationship of greater importance; there is no aspect of life any more important, than to know and to be in relationship with God. A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow God’s Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others will allow us to experience the promise of this verse.

In my life, none of my other relationships work well if my relationship with God is out of whack. I can tell when I have neglected time with Jesus, as I get weary, become less patient and less present with others. And sadly this state of mind rubs off into my relationships with my wife, my son and with those I work with. But as I seek first God’s kingdom, and prioritize my relationship with Him, everything goes much better, as I experience His presence and power!

Friends…

Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, have fun with, or do life with. And there is such power in connectedness. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.”

Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about how Belgian horses are trained to work together—and how it made these incredible animals so much more effective. Belgian horses are huge, powerful animals. In fact, one Belgian can pull more than 8,000 pounds. That’s one strong horse! But the amazing thing is that if you put two Belgian horses together, who are strangers, they don’t just double the amount they can pull; they actually triple it to 24,000 pounds. And if you spend some time training them to work together, that unified pair can pull a whopping 32,000 pounds. That’s four times what a single horse can do alone!

That story reminds me that connections are powerful. And just as Solomon reminds us, people need healthy relationships to win at life, too.

Wise Counselors…

Life can present us with challenges and decisions that are not easy to make on our own. We may pray about the situation and read God’s Word for guidance, but could still feel confused and uncertain about the direction we should take. It’s in these times, that it can be helpful to seek the counsel of other wise and godly people.

I believe that everyone needs a mentor in his or her life. To cultivate a relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey. A wise counselor is someone in which you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom and get perspective from.

Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.” Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility and some of the most successful people in life have surrounded themselves with wise counselors.

As a pastor, I have come into contact with many great Christian leaders like Bill Hybels, Phil Vischer, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren, and what strikes me about their leadership is that they are always asking questions. In my conversations with these men, they don’t seek to impart with me their wisdom; they seek wisdom by asking lots of questions. And I believe it’s this humility and perspective on life that God blesses.

A Close Confidant…

Finally, I believe we all need a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Jesus called twelve guys to do life with him, but within his circle of twelve, he had an inner circle of three comprised of Peter, James, and John. These were his closest friends and confidants. And in following Jesus’ example, we need to circle ourselves with a few people that truly know our story, our struggles, our insecurities and our fears.

It’s these types of friendships that shape who we become and truly affect where we go! Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way.

Yes, life is all about relationships! So get connected, start taking some risks to be vulnerable and get connected by pursuing these relationships in your life. Until next time…

Post written as a contributor for Principles to Live By

Reflections on Turning 50

football-50Today I turn 50 years old. That’s right, the Big Five-O. Yep, it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to be given the gift of turning 50. As i embark on this new decade of life, I’m filled with joy, gratitude and wonder. And instead of complaining, or making jokes about being over the hill, I’m celebrating the gift of reaching this milestone day.

These past 50 years have been an amazing ride for Bryan Hardwick, and I have the scars, age spots, wrinkles, gray hair as well as the AARP card to prove it. And at 50, I think I look pretty good and can probably still make your head spin on the dance floor. But, I have to admit, embracing this milestone day has been a journey for me. And as this day has approached, I have truly wondered if my best days are behind me or before me. Yet in recalling God’s faithfulness over these past 50 years, and in understanding God’s character and promises, I have come to embrace that the best days are truly ahead.

In considering the stories of the Bible, I learn that many men of the Bible experienced greater fruitfulness and blessing in their ministry in the second half of their life. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelite’s out of Egyptian at the ages of 80 and 83. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan, during the last thirty years of his life to which he lived to 110. Daniel was well over 80 when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon and was thrown into the lion’s den. So until God takes us home, our mission is not done, and each moment is to be treasured until we are called home.

The last 50 years have been great ones…I have an incredible family who I love and who loves me. I have been blessed to spend the last 25 years of my life with this most amazing woman of God who loves me unconditionally and who is an incredible cook and mother to our son Zach. I have an amazing son, who is our miracle from heaven. He’s thriving in his freshman year at Rocklin High School and I am so encouraged by the young man he’s becoming. I have a career that I truly love! Yes, it’s complicated at times, especially over these past couple of years, but it is truly an honor to come alongside others to help them experience God in fresh ways. In addition, I have been blessed by some awesome friends and mentors who have walked through some amazing seasons with me. I could go on and on, but special thanks go out to Dan, Dave, Mike, JP, Todd, Brad and Michael for believing in me and making a difference in my life.

  • Yes, it’s been an amazing 50 years and by God’s grace I have learned to take myself less seriously, worry less, and to accept and even love my imperfections. To embrace that I am perfectly imperfect. That I am flawed, and that I make mistakes. Yep, I bump into walls and I stumble and fall. But I have learned that in embracing my imperfections, I embrace God’s love and grace in my life. And for this recovering perfectionist, this has been one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.
  • So, thank you God for the gift of another year! Today, I own my age and I wear it proudly. I am 50! WooHoo! And I’m praying that this will be the best year ever. I am filled with anticipation of what this next phase of my life will bring and I welcome it all.

Effective Leaders Build Trust

1901ed3The heart of a great relationship is trust. It’s also the first, and most critical piece for building strong teams. Lately I have been giving a lot of consideration to this topic and I have come to the conclusion that trust is empowering. It enables me to be more. It opens me up to grow and learn. It allows me to collaborate, gain feedback and do better work. It allows me to be human. And it allows me to develop significant relationships with others.

However, I have to admit, trusting others is not something that comes natural to me. So I have been giving consideration to the factors that allow trust to flourish within me, and came up with this list of how leaders can build trust with others.

In a nutshell, leaders who build trust with others are…

  1. Vulnerable – As a leader, they model vulnerability. Usually they are the first to “open up” and extend trust to others. As Ken Blanchard says, “vulnerability…engenders trust.” The best leaders are vulnerable, not invincible.
  2. Self-aware – Leaders who establish trust with others pay attention to their words and actions. They don’t commit what they can’t control, make promises they can’t keep, or fail to own their mistakes or shortcomings.
  3. Caring – They operate with a compassionate heart. They see people as individuals, not as someone who helps them look good or serves their agenda.
  4. Encouraging – They bring out the best in others, help them apply and develop their strengths and reach their goals. They speak highly of you in front of others and help provide challenges and opportunities to help you go where you want to go.
  5. Listeners – Leaders who build trust don’t listen so they can talk; they listen so they can learn. By withholding their judgment, being present, and engaging real dialogue, they embrace differences, create openness, and facilitate connection.

I recently had lunch with a leader who modeled all these characteristics and I found it so refreshing. And it inspired me to be a better leader myself. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for our organizations and businesses to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective. It’s like oxygen for a successful team or a thriving relationship and one simply can’t exist without it.

God Uses Broken People

5180924ce78db2ca9c21fd153be59021I ran across this devotion that my wife Jennifer wrote a few years ago and felt it appropriate to share in light of some recent posts and conversations. I love her wisdom and heart on this…

We all have something to offer someone. We all have a story, past experiences, successes and failures that God could use to strengthen someone else.

During the Passover Celebration, Jesus was teaching and exhorting his disciples one last time before his death. He speaks of his suffering, his betrayal and the life of service that was ahead of them. Then Jesus says to Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)

I was blessed by Jesus’ words to Peter. Maybe not the “Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat” part, but the remaining words in these verses. First, I love that Jesus prayed for Peter. Second, I find it hopeful that Jesus used the word “when” and not “if” you repent. And finally, I love Jesus’ exhortation to Peter to strengthen the brothers.

Jesus told Peter that his faith was to be tested and a few minutes later Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times.  “But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Luke 22:34  And we know how this part of the story ends… “At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  Luke 22:61-62

We see here in Luke 22 and other portions of Scripture that Peter really blows it, but Jesus doesn’t condemn him or release him from his future ministry opportunities. He isn’t sidelined for a bad choice or a season of bad choices. Instead, Jesus said “so when you repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that after he repented he would be better prepared to serve Him and serve His church.

God is our great redeemer and restorer. Just like God used Peter, failures at all, he can use our story, our times of rebellion, our desert seasons, our trials, and our victories to encourage and strengthen others. What a blessing it is to come alongside someone and encourage and strengthen them with the truths and lesson we learned from the Lord during a difficult or victorious season. God can use a willing individual’s different experience, negative or positive to strengthen others. So lets step up, shed the belief that we have to be perfect to serve God and start serving others.

Author Philip Yancey said in a magazine interview that “God doesn’t custom design Superman characters and plant them down here (to do His work). He deals with the talent pool available.” That’s us! The talent pool available. What a privilege to be used by God.

For further conversation about Peter’s life and ministry, click over to http://bryanhardwick.com/lessons-from-peter/

In Memoriam 2015

InMemoriamHere’s my tribute to some of the influential people in my life who passed on in 2015…

Al Ladendorff – One of my favorite teachers, Al Ladendorff, died March 20 at the age of 93. At Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif., he was known as “Big Al.” He was actually my mom’s government teacher back in the 60’s, and later became my American history and government teacher, as well as my yearbook adviser for two years in the 80’s! A rare gem in the educational system, he was the first teacher who really taught me to think for myself, as well as to believe in myself. Although he frustrated me at times, Mr. Ladendorff never let me settle for mediocre. And whether in a government paper or in an article for the yearbook, he kept pushing me towards excellence. One of Mr. Ladendorff’s favorite axioms that has stuck with me all these years is a quote from George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.” Over the years, that axiom has proven to offer me a lot of wisdom on life and in ministry. Upon graduating, I continued to stay in touch with Big Al and his wife Zelma, and enjoyed reading his annual Christmas letters about life in Modesto, his gardening adventures and his thoughts about modern culture. I owe a great deal of gratitude to this man and I am so thankful for his input and encouragement in my life so many years ago.

Charles Simmons Warfield – My father in law Chuck Warfield, suddenly passed on December 2 at the age of 84, due to complications with pneumonia. A devoted husband, loving father and wonderful grandfather to 16 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, Chuck was one of the most giving men I have ever met. I met Chuck when I started dating his daughter Jennifer back in 1991. A well-loved school principal in the Dixie School District of Marin County, Chuck was already retired when we met and was beginning to pursue questions about faith. And in response to the prayers of his family, he committed his life to Jesus before Jennifer and I got married in 1993. A humble man, Chuck truly reflected Christ’s character, conduct and commitments and often sacrificed his own comforts in order to give to those he loved. As a woodworker, he would see a need and over the years responded to those needs by building us an armoire, bed side table, secretary’s desk (no small feat) as well as an entertainment center. He also helped us build an overhang and put in our french drains in our first home in Woodland. He loved his family and welcomed me with open arms, treating me as one of his own. And over the last 22+ years, he taught me so much about loving God, loving family and enjoying the simple things. I am truly going to miss this man in my life.

Vonette Bright – Vonette Bright, who with her husband Bill, co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ at UCLA in 1951 and built it into one of the world’s largest Christian ministries in the world, passed on December 23. 89 years young, Vonette and her husband Bill were very influential in my life as a student at UC Santa Barbara and later as a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ (1988-1992). I remember first encountering Vonette through my involvement with Expo 1985 and later would be able to spend the summer of 1988 with the Bright’s as they shared their heart and vision for the Great Commission at our staff training at Arrowhead Springs in San Bernardino. She always had a contagious smile, a warm presence and a sincere faith. A great partner with her husband Bill, she was a woman of prayer and inspired us to men and women of prayer, who loved Jesus deeply. Her deep faith was an inspiration to me and I am thankful for the ministry that she and Bill started, as Cru laid a deep foundation of faith for my life and shaped much of my philosophy of ministry. I will forever be thankful for the Brights and how they beautifully reflected Jesus’ heart and passion for the lost.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Each of these men and women challenged me to live differently and I pray I continue to imitate their faith. I am so thankful that God used these men and women to ignite the God honoring passions and desires of my heart.

A New Twist on Accountability

iron-sharpens-ironOne of the members of my Groups Leadership Team recently provided his Men’s Accountability Group with a different perspective on their weekly eleven questions that some of them had been using for approximately four years. I loved it so much, that I asked him if I could post it to my blog, which he agreed to.

So what’s the new twist he provided? Well he rewrote the questions and turned them around from what they confessed NOT to be doing, to what they actually HAVE done in that particular area of discipline in their lives. In other words, they turned the negatives into positives and refocused the questions in order to show righteousness, help others and grow closer to God in the obedience of the Holy Spirit. What they have experienced with the new questions has been transformational as they focus on righteous deeds and are engaged in deeper conversation, avoiding the obligatory “yes” or “no” questions.

Here are those list of questions, both the old and the new…

Old Questions:

  1. Have you been with a woman this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgement?
  2. Have you been completely above reproach in all your financial dealings this week?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any explicit material this week?
  4. Have you spent time daily in prayer and in the scriptures this week?
  5. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling this week?
  6. Have you taken time off to be with your family this week?
  7. Is there anything in your life competing with the Lord?
  8. What are you now or becoming addicted to…coffee, food, sex, pornography, sports, alcohol, toys and possessions, work, power, position, title, prestige, solitude, retirement, money?
  9. Have you just lied to me? Have you been honest in all of your dealings this week?
  10. Are you living in self-sufficiency?
  11. Have you done anything in the last two weeks that took courage?

New Questions:

  1. In what ways did you look for an opportunity to treat or view a woman in a Godly way this week according to Scripture?
  2. In what ways did you redirect God’s financial blessings to you this week toward others, His church or His work?
  3. What positive actual steps did you take this week to keep yourself pure?
  4. What specific things did you do to become more relationally intimate with God this week?
  5. How were you able to hear and how did you respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit this week to live beyond your own needs and desires?
  6. What positive actions did you take this week to show that your priorities are in alignment with God’s priorities as a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, church body member, co-worker or neighbor?  How were you intentional about this?
  7. Where did you actually spend your time last week? Why? How have you shown with your time and deeds that I desire Christ above all else?
  8. Explain what you have actually done this week to bring your mind, body and spirit into submission to Christ?
  9. In what ways have you shown your Savior and others that you were living in the Truth this week? In what ways do your actions and intentions match or misalign with your beliefs?
  10. Explain how you totally depended on God this week in work, relationships, marriage, finances, health, ministry, salvation, state of mind, well-being, past, future.
  11. In what ways in situations and circumstances did you operate in your own strength and skill instead of asking God to intervene with His strength and wisdom with courage to speak? Courage to remain silent? Courage to defend? Courage to act? Courage to ask questions? Courage to face lawlessness and death? Courage to believe the unpopular and unseen? Courage to believe by faith? Courage to start new or over again? Courage to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness? Courage to believe that you are valuable and worth dying for?

When you look at the difference in these questions, you can clearly see the power of a good question. Can’t wait to see how this group goes deeper in their walk with Jesus by asking such focused and God honoring questions!

The Tale of Two Seas

11934625_1620979234832173_649298077_nIn Israel there are two major bodies of water. One is the Sea of Galilee, a beautiful lake 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, filled with fish and surrounded by lush foliage. It is Israel’s largest fresh water lake and absolutely picturesque. The other body of water is the Dead Sea, 50 miles long and 11 miles wide and it’s shoreline is 1300 feet below sea level. I have been told that seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, and the saline or salt content of the water of the Dead Sea is 10 times saltier than the oceans of the world. The Dead Sea definitely lives up to its name. No seaweed or plants of any kind live in or around the water. There are no fish or any kind of swimming, squirming creatures living in or near the water. And fish accidentally swimming into the waters from one of the several freshwater streams that feed the sea are instantly killed.

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are fed by the Jordan River There is really only one difference between these two bodies of water, really only one thing that causes the Sea of Galilee to be beautiful and alive while the Dead Sea is barren and lifeless. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee takes water from the Jordan River, and then it gives water. The water simply passes through. As a result, the Sea of Galilee is full of life and beauty. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only takes water, but it gives nothing back, and as a result it sustains no life. Those two bodies of water bear witness to a truth of human life. It is in receiving and then giving back that life and hope are sustained. In other words, The Sea of Galilee is a conduit, The Dead Sea is a container. The first is full of life, the second is full of death!

The same is true in our spiritual life. If you and I have spiritual input but no spiritual output, we will become stagnant, lifeless, bitter, and caustic. However, if we like the Sea of Galilee are receiving and giving back, we become vibrant, healthy and life-giving. No wonder Jesus did much of his ministry along the shores of the Sea of Galilee! Because God never designed us to be like the Dead Sea; we are designed to be like the Sea of Galilee. This is the wisdom and reality of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.

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