1 Peter 5:10, Psalm 34:19
Life is painful. With every increase of joy and happiness comes a greater and greater likelihood of experiencing loss. The more important something becomes to you, the more it hurts when it’s taken away. And so if you allow your heart to be open to anything good at all, you also are opening your heart to a very real possibility of being wounded deeply.
So what should we do? It feels like life is one big unwinnable catch-22. We want to experience happiness in this life, and yet to open ourselves up to the possibility of happiness is to make ourselves vulnerable to pain. And yet if we stay closed off to the possibility of pleasure in relationships, careers, churches, and in all the other areas which culminate to make a full, rich life, we may go unscathed but we also will go on living a boring, safe life where our need for safety is also steeling our need for joy.
One AGW reader wrote in to ask a question about helping a friend who is living in sin. Below is our conversation. What advice would you share with Emily? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?- Psalm 56:8-11 (ESV)
Life can make even the most faithful Christian question, “Doe God still care about me?” If we are to survive on this brutal planet, it will be essential to remember that despite how often life cuts you, God still cares.
“Some wandered in desert wastelands . . . .
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress. (vs4-6)
Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom . . .
for they had rebelled against the words of God . . .
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress. (vs10-14)
Some became fools through their rebellious ways . . .
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress. (vs17-19)
Whoever is wise, let him heed these things
and consider the great love of the LORD. (vs43)
Words are immensely powerful. We know this, and yet we so often struggle to tame our tongues. Whether it’s the temptation to say something nasty during a marital clash, the failure to hold our tongues when we know we shouldn’t contribute to the workplace gossip, or the inability to keep control and not enter into a rage of cussing – everyone struggles with taming the tongue to some degree or another.
Knowing the importance of taming the tongue is not enough. Thankfully the Bible not only tells why we should control our tongues but also how to do it. When asking, “What does the Bible say about taming the tongue?” perhaps there’s no better place to turn than James 3:1-12.
Is greatness contagious? I think so, along with weakness. Both the splendor and sin of the human spirit are cultivated through the companions with which one invests his time. Who you spend time with is not the only variable in our development, but it is a very crucial one.
Always, when you do a little digging, you will find that those truly admirable were inspired by and (to some degree) sculpted by other great men and women surrounding them. Children whose parents are professional athletes or gifted academically seem to have a greater knack for similar accolades. Sure, one can make a case that it’s all in the genes, but surely this is not the main variable in the equation of greatness.
Small group Bible studies are not just a great idea. They are a biblical idea. From the moment the New Testament church was founded, core to its identity was small bands of Christians meeting together and studying God’s word (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 17:11, Colossians 3:16, Colossians 4:15).
Of course small group Bible studies are not as important as the actual church and what happens Sunday morning. And there are certainly other effective formats that fulfill the church’s obligation to teach its members outside of Sunday morning (classes, support groups, one-on-one discipleship, etc.). But one of the clearest signs of a healthy church is a healthy small group Bible study ministry.
I believe if you want a healthy small group ministry, it all starts with having great small group leaders. So how can you be a great small group leader? Or if you’re in church leadership and are looking for great small group leaders, what are some signs to consider?
What follows is not an exhaustive list or one ranked by importance. It is simply a list of 24 keys to being a great small group leader.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.-Hosea 11:1,2
I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.-Hosea 14:4
Christ is like Hosea and we are like Gomer. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer. Hosea gave her sons, provided for her, and was the only man in her life who sought to love her and not selfishly take from her. He was the best man she ever knew.
And yet despite all of this, she entered back into a life of prostitution. Doesn’t something inside of you want to scream when you read this?
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10