RHYTHM Parent Devotional #3

Finding Myself in the Pages
An XP3 Devotional by Tim Walker

I’m 38 years old, and life is starting to catch up with me. I’m certainly not old. In fact, the older I get, the younger numbers like 50, 60, or even 70 seem. But there are just certain little signs that are reminders that things have changed. Like the spare tire that seems to inflate around my mid-section over the past few months. Or the ache in my back when I get up in the morning.

Okay, let me confess something—I’m not a model for Men’s Fitness. No one has ever used the words “six-pack” to describe anything about me. I have very poor coordination and I have internal panic attacks when asked to play sports. And here’s a very ugly confession—I throw like a girl. Actually, I think a lot of girls out there can throw better than me. In fact, I know my wife can hurl a football farther. So exercise has never been a priority in my life.

But there is just this annoying reality that is starting to haunt me—I need to take care better care of myself. I need to eat better. I need to exercise more. Blah, blah, blah. Actually, I’m finding it more difficult to tune out those things I know I “should” do. They are becoming things I need to do. I’m realizing their importance because I’m seeing the effects of not doing them in my life. My experiences are showing me the truth of what all those gym addicts have known for a while.

But those aren’t the only things I know I “should” do. Christianity comes with a whole list of those, doesn’t it? Serve others, pray, give till it hurts, die to your self, read your Bible—just to name a few.

But the last one—read the Bible—is the one that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I love the Bible. I really do. I have been very blessed to be around people who had a passion for God’s Word and it was contagious. But the main reason I love the Bible isn’t because other people like it, it’s because I realize how much I need it.

When I attended Lee College (now University), I hit a very low place my first year. I had made some bad choices and found myself in a lonely and broken place. One day, I was reading a random passage in the Bible, trying to find comfort. I ran across a verse that fit just where I was at.

In 2 Timothy 4:16, Paul wrote to Timothy: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.” There was just something about those words that clicked that day. I realized that people in the Bible hurt just like I did, and that maybe there was something more personal in the Bible than just facts and information. So I looked in the concordance in the back of my Bible and found all the verses under the subjects “loneliness” and “broken”. Then I read each one. Not only that, I grabbed a notebook and started writing them down.

And as I wrote, the words seemed to come alive more than any other point in my life. The Bible was no longer a textbook to me. It became something more personal and intimate. It was the place where I not only saw myself, but I also saw God. It moved from something I knew I “should” do to something else. I needed those words not just for that moment, but for my life.

Now the reality is that I don’t always have that experience. There are times when the Holy Spirit has showed me chapters and verses that I needed to hear, and spoke to my soul in ways that satisfied a deep longing. And there are times when I’ve read a chapter, shrugged my shoulders and thought, “That was interesting.” There are even times when I read and said, “Huh? What in the world were you doing there, God?”

But it’s those times when I connect with God through His Word that keep me coming back—even if those times are days or weeks apart. It’s how I find peace. It’s how I get kicked in the butt when I’m out of line. It’s how I am reminded of who I am and who God is.

I don’t read my Bible because I should. I read it because I need to. My everyday experiences consistently show me that need. It’s an integral way I can connect with God and He connects with me. What about you? Have you found yourself in the pages of the Bible . . . ever? If not, ask God to meet you there today. Start reading. Begin with a psalm, or reread some Old Testament story you heard as a kid. Follow the adventures of the early church in Acts. Or read Paul’s letters in the New Testament. And if you’re struggling with something specific, like fear, trust or loneliness, find the verses that speak to those issues and write them down.

Hebrews 4:12 says that “the Word of God is living and active.” It came alive to me years ago, and many times afterwards. Open it up and let it become more than just another good read today or something you should do. Discover God and yourself in the pages.

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RHYTHM: Parent Devotional #2

Entering the Story by Tim Walker

I like labels. They make things easy to define. If I can label those around me, it keeps things nice and orderly–something my structure-craving brain loves.

I have a friend who is the home improvement king. If I ever need help on a project, he would be first on my list to call. The guy just single-handedly renovated his entire kitchen and it looks amazing. I have a friend who is a Bible scholar. If I ever have a question about a Bible verse or chapter, he’s my go-to guy. He’s incredibly smart and knows how to look at a passage from different angles.   I have a friend who is a great dad. He has kids older than mine so I know I can call on him and ask those “How did you handle?” questions. And when he does tell me, it’s always in a very grace-filled, encouraging way. I also have friends who are good at finances, lawn care, electronics–I think you get the idea.

But the problem with a label is that while it makes easier to categorize everything in my brain, it gives me a very narrow view of someone. I begin to see people only for what they can do for me, and become blind to what I can do for them. All of these guys are friends not because of that one trait, but because they’re just great guys.

They’re also human. My friend who is the home improvement king has a lot of stress on his job. My friend who is the Bible scholar has big dreams that need encouraging. My friend who is a great dad is grieving the loss of a family member.

Every person in your community, at your job, in your church has a story. Yet so many times we’re content to just read the summaries, aren’t we? We’re content to just be satisfied with what we see on the surface and make our evaluations based solely on that information.

If we’re honest, it can get ugly sometimes. We size up prayer requests based on how rich, how perfect, how beautiful someone’s life is compared to ours. We determine who is and who isn’t worth our sympathy and empathy based on our own evaluation of someone’s worthiness. We decide how someone is worthy of help based on his or her own ability to get themselves out of the situation. We say we love others, but if we’re really honest, sometimes we really only love what we want to love.

But not Jesus. He was passionate about people–even some of the most obnoxious, annoying people. People like Peter the hot-headed, or James and John the arrogant, or even Judas the backstabber. And, when you get down to it, people like me.

But the difference between how Jesus sees others and my default perception is that He sees the full person and his or her complete story, not some edited version. He also knows how that will change when He enters into the story.

So many times I’m content to read the Cliff’s Notes version of those around us, size them up, then move on. But Jesus stopped and jumped into people’s stories.

And there are times when He lets me see those stories as well.

I catch a glimpse at the story behind the student who keeps interrupting me in Sunday school when I find out he is under a lot of pressure at school and home to be perfect. I see the story behind the lady with the screaming kid at the grocery store when I realize she’s trying to teach her daughter that she can’t have everything she wants.  I discover the story behind the rude clerk at the gas station when I watch and see that he just got chewed out by the customer in front of me because they were out of a particular brand of cigarettes.

Everyone has a story, a story that is bigger than the one I sometimes see. I just need to take the time to read it. And when I do, it makes it harder to stick a label on someone. They move beyond a single word to become a living, breathing person. Someone who not only deserves my compassion, but my time.

Take time to read the stories of those around you today. And if you really want to be like Jesus, don’t just “read them,” enter those stories.

ELEVATE: Almost home!

We are on our way home and looking at about 2 hours left of travel time. Here are a few of questions to ask your students tonight (after they get a little rest):

What did God teach you this weekend?

What did you learn about LIGHT?

How has God called you to be LIGHT?

What was the funniest thing that happened this weekend?

We’ll have your students call when we are within an hour of Indy. See you soon!

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January: PARENT DEVOTIONAL & CUE

LOST WONDER
An XP3 devotional by Tim Walker 

Life always seems to drift towards a rut, doesn’t it? The “new” quickly fades and we’re left wanting more. Okay, life isn’t quite that ominous, but look around you at other Christians, especially those who have some history at church. We know it all and we’ve seen it all. There are very few surprises.

We listen intently to every new speaker, every new book, every new song, hoping that maybe something new will spark our interest. Our sense of wonder is dead. Some might mark this as a symptom of our culture, but the truth is we’ve been longing for wonder for a long time.

Look at John 11. A passage so familiar that it becomes white noise in our heads. It’s the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead–and home to that one Bible verse you knew you could memorize (John 11:35).

Jesus was on His way to Bethany. “When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha always gets the “shame on you” tone when we read this passage. How dare she talk to Jesus in such a way! But if you listen to what she said, Martha believes. She believes that Jesus can do great things. She knows that He could have healed her brother, but she also knows that He still can.

“Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” 

“Yes,” Martha said, “when everyone else rises, on resurrection day.” 

Martha  knew Jesus could do big things. She just didn’t expect them. She thought that He would work in the same old way He always had–miraculous, nonetheless, but predictable.

I’m the same way. I know so much about God. I know about scripture. I’ve functioned in the culture of Christianity for so long that I know it too well. I don’t know everything, but I know that God doesn’t always heal when we want Him to–I’ve seen too many family members die from cancer to know that’s a reality.

I know God sometimes says “no” when I desperately want Him to say “yes.” I know God says wait when I want Him to make things happen. I know. I know. I know. So did Martha.

But then Jesus did something that messed up Martha’s knowing. He moved beyond all her rationalizations. He surpassed her efforts at self-protection, trying to minimize the hurt and disappointment that life may not turn out the way Martha wanted. Jesus did what Martha completely didn’t expect Him to do–He raised her brother from the dead. Martha gained back her wonder. She saw Jesus not only do great things for other people, He did something amazing for her.

Do you want that sense of wonder? Do you want God to blow you away beyond all the boxes you put Him in? Because despite all our rhetoric about avoiding boxing God in, in our hearts, we lean towards minimizing and limiting Him. It keeps our faith nice and safe. We don’t get hurt by disappointment.

It also keeps it boring.

Don’t you want to read a passage of scripture and just be amazed at the new things you discover every time you read? Don’t you want to learn new things about this God whom you think you know so well? Then wouldn’t it be great if all of that knowledge and all of that amazement poured into your life, into your everyday, mundane routine? The result would be more than just Lazarus being raised from the dead. You would see some life in your own dead places as well.

That’s the kind of relationship Jesus wants with each one of us. He wants your relationship with Him to be filled with wonder. He wants to show you new things about Himself, things that consistently push and pull at the limits we try to put on Him.

Maybe then we could all get lost in wonder too.
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To access the PARENT CUE for the month of January, click here.

RHYTHM

We’re starting out a new 4-week series tomorrow morning in the Vine! Deep within each one of us, every person wants to experience a sense of wonder, discovery, and passion. And we will either find those experiences within our relationship with Jesus, or we’ll settle for a lesser version of them outside of our faith. Come discover how God created us to be in rhythm with Him.

See you at 9:15!