Thursday, October 29, 2015

Feeling Stuck in Some Way? Maybe You Need to Become Comfortable with Discomfort.

Sometimes parts of our lives seem stuck. A valued relationship isn't growing. Your career isn't moving forward. You just don't feel like you are personally growing. One cause might be that you are turning away from the very door you need to walk through, metaphorically speaking. One problem we face is that discomfort is uncomfortable, so we avoid the things that cause us discomfort/emotional pain/anxiety. But sometimes it is the very thing making us uncomfortable that we need to face into in order to keep growing.

It's natural to avoid pain and discomfort. There are many times when this is the right thing to do. If you feel pain in your hand, you take it quickly off the stove. Pain avoidance serves a purpose, but it can also keep us from growing.

When athletes are training, they actually look for a little pain. They want to "feel the burn." It is the pain the tells them that they are getting somewhere. That's not natural response to pain. Athletes have to train themselves to push through it. But they do and they grow stronger.

Discomfort with ourselves and our relationships can function much the same way. If you have a relationship that is stuck, it may be stuck because you are avoiding the uncomfortable. If you feel stuck in your personal growth, it may be that you are having trouble facing some uncomfortable or painful truths about yourself.

Can you imagine retraining yourself so that if you are in the middle of a conversation and you find yourself becoming uncomfortable or anxious, you think to yourself, "Now we're getting somewhere," instead of thinking about how to steer the conversation in a different direction? Can you imagine having a mindset where you could look at yourself honestly and, without judging yourself, say to yourself with regard to something that happened, "That really made me uncomfortable. I wonder why?" instead of trying to make sure that thing doesn't happen again.

Not every moment of discomfort is an opportunity for growth, but many are.

For the Christian, trust in God's unconditional love frees us to face into these moments of discomfort/pain/anxiety with others or with ourselves because we don't have anything to earn or prove to God. God displays his love for us on the cross of Jesus Christ and shows his power for our lives in the empty tomb that could not hold Jesus. All this he does without condition or restraint. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

That kind of unconditional love creates a free space in our hearts wherein we can face discomfort/anxiety/emotional pain and ask what it is about instead of running from it.

Pause for a moment and reflect. Recall a recent time you felt uncomfortable, nervous or anxious? Why is that? What is going on inside of you that let you to discomfort at that point?

So go ahead, get uncomfortable. It might be just the thing you need!

Peace to you.

Friday, October 23, 2015

LifeGroup Study on Acts 22:30-24:47

1. What is something you remember getting in trouble for as a kid that you look back on now and laugh?

2. Read Acts 22:30-Acts 23:11

3. Did the Roman tribune seem to know what was going on?
a. TRIBUNE: Commander of an ancient Roman cohort, a military unit ideally comprising 1,000 men. Some English versions use this term for the Greek word chiliarchos (as does our text in this study - PJ), which is also rendered “commander.” The Greek word for “cohort” is speires, which is sometimes rendered “regiment” (cp. Acts 21:31–33; 22:24–29; 23:10–22; 24:22; 25:23). According to Josephus, the Romans stationed a cohort in Jerusalem at the Antonia Fortress to suppress disturbances in the city (Clendenen, E. R. (2003). Tribune. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1624–1625). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.)
b. ANTONIA TOWER: Also note that the Roman soldiers were stationed in the corner of the temple, in the Antonia Tower (or Fortress). This piece of the temple was built by Herod the Great in the first century B.C. and named for his friend, Marc Antony. Yes, that Marc Antony of Cleopatra fame. Paul was most likely held in the Antonia Tower. The High priest’s vestments were held in the Antonia Tower between festivals.
c. On Acts 23:2, with regard to Paul not knowing who the High Priest was, remember that Paul had been gone for many years. There appears to have been seven different High Priests since Paul began persecuting the followers of Christ under Joseph Caiaphas, one of whom, Jonathan, served from AD36-37, was deposed, and then reinstated in AD44, if that tells you anything about the political nature of this “religious” position.
4. How did Paul use knowledge and wisdom to divide this group that was united against him?

5. Read Acts 23:12-22

6. Was the plan to kill Paul fair, just or lawful for the Jewish leaders?

7. How did Paul display wisdom in the way he handled the news he heard from his nephew?

8. Read Acts 23:23-35
a. Note: 40+ men sworn to kill Paul is a big number. The tribune takes it seriously and ensures that such overwhelming force (470!) surrounds Paul that only a fool would attack with 40 men.
9. Was it important that Paul was a Roman Citizen? Did Paul use that to his advantage?

10. Read Acts 24:1-21

11. How would you characterize the tone of Paul’s speech? (boisterous, timid, in-your-face, polite, factual, etc?)

12. Read Acts 24:22-27

13. How long was Paul in prison up to this point?
a. Paul’s behavior during this time calls to mind Jesus’ direction to his disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16. How did Paul fulfill each part of this instruction from Jesus?
14. What kinds of situations in life tempt people to not be innocent as doves?

15. Is there ever a conflict between what is apparently the wisest response vs. what is a response of faith to a given situation?

16. What else strikes you?

17. Close in prayer.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Tale of Two Fish

Once upon a time, two fish were talking about water. One said, "I believe in water." The other said, "I've never seen water. I don't think it exists." The first fish said, "I still believe in water." The second fish said, "I will prove to you that there is no water." The second fish then went on a long journey, searching far and wide for water. After many miles and countless hours of searching, the second fish returned to the first fish and reported, "There is no water. I have looked everywhere there is to look and I have yet to find evidence for water. How can you go on believing in water?"

Once upon a time, two people were talking about God...