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Past a first impression

We can’t rid ourselves of our automatic habit of capturing first impressions as we meet new people, but we can cultivate habits of attention that allow us to look beyond those initial judgements....

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Not sent alone

The Lord constantly works through communities. For every great figure in the story of our faith, we also find the Lord sending them friends....

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Blessed to be a blessing

As God’s blessings pile up in and around us, we need to share them with others. Only then will God’s blessings to us be complete....

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A Covenant Framework

God holds up his side of the covenant. Though his covenant purposes advance over rocky terrain, they advance nonetheless....

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Go and went

God's invitation stands. It’s our turn to respond. What will we do?...

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An Adventure with God

The adventure of life with God gives us healing and joy and blessing, but it also stretches us. We leave familiar territory, relationships, programs, and narratives behind when we launch out into this adventure....

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Eternity in our hearts

What if the craziness we feel when we’re crazy busy is due to having two different songs playing inside of us: the drumbeat of eternity and the roar of busyness?...

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Beautiful in its time

God has made everything beautiful in its time. Even us. ...

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Meaning

Without meaning, work becomes miserable and we lose our drive....

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There is a season

This burst of poetry reaches out and connects with our hearts. We’re given space to connect viscerally and emotionally with God’s truth about the seasonal nature of life....

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Seasons

God does huge things in our lives when we shift from Now-Or-Never Thinking to Season Thinking....

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A Clear Path

The Lord is the one who makes known to us the paths of life....

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Good Boundaries

Contentment is the fruit of a soul who’s put down roots in the generosity of God....

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The Search for Security

We love hard work. We work hard. But the Lord is the one who holds our ultimate security....

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Evil Sacrifices

Other gods make big promises if only we’ll worship them. They give us benefits in the short-term (sometimes). But over time these gods fail us. And we suffer more and more as a result of our bondage to them....

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God our Refuge

Lean more heavily on God when times get hard....

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Prayer and great work

Calling out to God changes us for the better. ...

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Be persistent

In order to pursue your God-given great work, you need to make more than just one good decision; you need to string together a series of good decisions....

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Your Great Work

Don’t give in to the temptation to compare your great work to others....

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Great opposition

When you embark on great work in your own life, you probably won’t have people trying to get you killed. But it may feel like it....

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Given great work

When we live crazy busy lives, we miss out on the great work God’s given us to do....

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Part of Something Epic

Enter into this passage imaginatively. ...

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Better Together

You cannot go off by yourself and grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ....

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MadLibs Love

Only love can hold us together. ...

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Power for Connection

Paul’s prayer for power which leads to strength isn’t focused on doing and achieving. Instead, Paul wants his friends to have the rich and beautiful experience of intimacy with Jesus Christ....

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A Good and Engaged Father

The special relationship you have with God gives you strong permission to open your heart to him in prayer....

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Don't be discouraged

The reflected glory shines brightly in the dark....

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On display in the church

God’s choice to identify with us was, according to Paul, his way of making his wisdom known to the entire cosmos....

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Paul's big mysteries

We don’t have to jettison our ethnic identities in order to fully participate in the body of Christ....

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Mixing with mysteries

Paul didn’t want the Christian mysteries to be held in secret as copyrighted proprietary instruction. He wanted everyone to talk about these great mysteries....

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Paul's call and ours

Paul had a beautiful call from the Lord. What’s yours? ...

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Creating space to connect with God

God has chosen to make himself know to the world through us, to meet with people through us, to identify with us....

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Tearing down the walls

If Jesus can stand alive on the mountain top, he can bring us there with him....

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Far to near

When Jesus brings us near to God and to other people, he does it in a way that challenges and changes us....

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The Exclusion Experience

In God’s good goodness, he goes out of his way to connect with those of us who live as outsiders....

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Identifying the Divides

Our world is full of divides....

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Good works

God pulls us into his activity....

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God's good gift

Salvation is a gift, not a payment for services rendered....

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Motivated by love

God’s great love for us has the final say in our lives....

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Correct the Rear-View

God changes the story of our past, but he doesn’t rewrite history. He adds new chapters. And each new chapter reshapes how we see the entire story....

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The way you used to be

A humble memory of where you came from ...

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In the highest place

Christ will always be the highest authority. No one will topple him, surpass him, or overthrow him....

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Jesus at the Center

God is at the center of Paul’s vision and at the center of our lives....

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Pray to know

Above all, Paul prioritized knowing God, so that’s what he asked God to do for his friends....

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Giving Thanks

What are we missing when the focus of our prayer lives is only asking for things?...

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Faith and Love

You can’t have meaningful faith in the Lord Jesus without also having love for all God’s people; you can’t have love for all God’s people without also placing your faith in the Lord Jesus....

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God is serious about our redemption

The Spirit is God’s very presence with us. He doesn’t just welcome us to ping him when we have a minute; he wants to spend time with us....

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Hearing and believing

God’s good work in us invites us every day to both hear and believe....

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To the praise of his glory

Wouldn’t you love for everything that’s glorious about God to be on display in you? ...

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The one on predestination

Paul talks about something he calls “predestination” and treats it like good news....

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You are wanted

Adoption is special. The child or person being adopted is chosen, wanted, added to a new family....

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Everything in Christ

Jesus gives us access to every spiritual blessing....

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Grace and peace to you

God the father who welcomes you and Jesus the prince who loves you send grace and peace to you every minute of every day...

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God's holy people

We become God’s holy people only in and with and through Christ Jesus....

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By the will of God

God works actively, daily to shape us into the people he wants us to become....

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Welcome to Ephesians

This week we’re kicking off a new series out of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. And as we get started, it might be helpful for you to learn about Ephesus and the folks who received this letter....

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God takes initiative

God is doing amazing things in the world, unlooked for amazing things. We feel so grateful that God has taken the initiative to bless, heal, and bring about reconciliation....

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Doomed to misfortune

The scope of the challenges that face us when we roll up our sleeve to engage the world for good can paralyze us....

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Fruits of Your Labor

For those of us who labor ...

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Progress toward the Promise

Our tiny acts of service, performed with great love, link together into a great chain of progress. Pulled by the Lord, this chain of progress lifts our community a little bit every day, a little bit every year....

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Sure Promises

God will make all things new. He’s promised to time and time again. He didn’t promise this on a whim. He hasn’t forgotten his promise. He can do it. And he surely will....

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Everything new

Do you believe this is true?...

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Imagine New

God’s cosmic new-making mission will radically change the way the world works....

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Okay

Some days it feels like our sadness will last forever. But it won’t. It won’t. Our Father will stop the madness. He will make it stop. We will wipe our tears from our eyes....

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Experiencing the presence of God

Jesus has removed every reason for us to be terrified of God. So we can go searching for him without fear. And we can find him and discover that he’s been with us ...

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Cosmic New

God’s new-making mission takes place on a cosmic scale. It’s bigger than any of us. We’re so small, but so dearly loved. And this is good news....

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All in Jesus name

The Christian life spills beyond Sunday morning worship, small group life, and quiet devotional emails. ...

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No streaking

These virtues function like clothing. They make it possible for us to be present and un-self-conscious, to feel safe and secure, to feel wanted for who we are and not just for our bodies … for what we can do....

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Putting off and Putting on

You can’t put on your new self without also taking off your old self and being made new....

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Close to Jesus

We have no life apart from Christ. We go where he goes and join him in what he’s doing. He’s not our safety net; he’s on the tightrope with us....

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One Thing

Right now we are called to set our hearts on things above, to shift our focus onto Jesus....

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God helps

Jesus makes us new....

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Giving Back

What have you written off as gone forever?...

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Jesus' touch

Over and over again, in every situation, when Jesus reached out to touch someone who was unclean something remarkable happened. ...

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Collision Course

Who wins? Spoiler alert: Jesus wins. Always. In the end, Jesus makes all things new....

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Ordinary Jesus

We need to know that Jesus is no stranger to our ordinary places....

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Needing Jesus

Let’s not slip into that place where we feel like our good behavior earns us a place in Jesus’ party. ...

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Those People

So many people will say that they like or even admire Jesus, they just can’t stand his followers. ...

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Connect with Jesus

We throw our lives open in healthy and joy-filled ways and invite the people that God’s placed in our lives to join us as we connect with our Savior....

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Follow Me

We must choose every day to follow Jesus....

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Calling the tax man

Jesus changed everything for Levi, as we’ll see this week. ...

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Be Reconciled to God

Being reconciled to God is both a once-for-all-time kind of thing and an every-day-I-live-and-breathe kind of thing....

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Fully forgiven

The barriers between you and a healthy relationship with God have come down. You have no more reason to hide....

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The Ministry of Reconciliation

We have a role to play. God has commissioned us. What a blessing!...

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Reconciled to God

Underpinning today’s passage is the story that tells us that something had gone horribly wrong between us and God....

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Two Realities

Because the new is here, the old has gone. The old may remain for a beat or two, but it’s gone just as surely and securely as if it had already been eradicated....

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The New is Here

Celebrate this. Sing it. Shout it. Write it on your walls. Christ has made us new....

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A New Point of View

The trickle-down effects of our relationship with Christ continue to unfold in today’s passage. ...

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We died

Death in all it’s forms ...

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Live For

Love is not a finite resource, but our priorities do shape the way we express our love. ...

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Talkin' 'bout a Resurrection

They knew their message would seem like nonsense. But they shared it anyways....

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Searching for new

If Jesus can come back from the dead, what is impossible for him?...

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Angelic Guidance

Why doesn’t God make this extraordinary circumstance more ordinary?...

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Time to wonder

Taking time to wonder doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And it’s tough to do in our frenetic, fast-paced, get-things-done culture. But it has an impact....

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Within Expectations

What they found at the tomb didn’t align with their expectations. The tomb was opened and the body was gone....

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The cross shows

You are dearly loved by God. And he proved it on the cross....

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More than Reform

The place where prayer and action meet is a place where we can connect with God....

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Not (Just) a Teacher

Jesus did a great deal of teaching … but his teaching wasn’t what he was known for in his lifetime, what he was remembered for by his disciples, or what from his life has had the most significant impact on the world....

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About a Revolution

Jesus’ revolution is marked by Jesus’ character. His love, patience, compassion, and mercy will come stamped on his every action. He’s delightfully and maddeningly consistent....

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Difficult Decisions

Reflecting on your own decision-making process might help you to connect more deeply with Jesus in this pivotal moment in his story....

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A Connecting Church

The church is more than a Sunday morning gathering for music, sermonizing, and donuts. It’s bigger than us. ...

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Going to look for Saul

Who are the great partners that God has brought into your life ...

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Parachuting in

Barnabas’ posture had a tremendous impact on his experience and on the way others experienced him. We’re at our most healthy when we cultivate a similar posture....

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Outsiders reaching outsiders

It took outsiders to reach outsiders....

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Disrupting Default Segregation

Ethnic segregation, socioeconomic segregation, political segregation … left to our own devices we’ll surround ourselves exclusively with people who look, spend, and think just like us....

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Small Faithfulness

What might God do with your faithfulness?...

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Talk to God about it

The Lord of all the cosmos has chosen to treat you as a friend ...

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Underestimating Jesus

This gap between who Jesus really is and who people perceive him to be shows up for all of us....

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ME

Jesus isn’t just alive on the other side of the cross and the empty tomb, he’s present in the lives of his people. ...

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Prayer for the persecuted church

Opponents to God’s work in the world today can appear in various forms. Some come equipped with little more than snide comments and teasing. Others carry knives, bombs, and the hammer of unjust laws....

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Prayers of Protection

Turn away and pray and it will be okay. ...

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Radical Reorientation

The Lord isn’t done with our transformation at the moment of our initial conversion. Every day we follow him he works in our hearts and souls to change the way we think, love and live....

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The Light Wins

No one is too lost to be found. No one is too stuck to be freed. No one is too evil to be loved....

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Contested Space

Every inch of ground gained by the kingdom of God has to be taken from other little imposter kingdoms....

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Pay closer attention

The miracles earned him a hearing....

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Ready for Opportunities

How do we go from being unprepared to being prepared? ...

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Cross-cultural connection

God’s power is put on full display when his followers cross racial, ethnic and cultural lines with the news and love of Jesus....

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Direction without details

Philip will get more instructions later in the passage. All he’s given to start with is a direction. But that was enough....

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A Dose of Joy

In a world that’s clearly not the way it’s supposed to be, God has intervened....

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Disruptive Forces

God is wildly available to us in these seasons of disruption....

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The Source of Celebration

The arc of the universe bends toward celebration....

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Strength and Joy

Take some time today to meditate on the strength-giving joy of the Lord....

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A Noble Cedar Kind of Church

The Lord’s work in our hearts is to turn us back toward community in healthy and generous ways....

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From Mourning to Celebration

The goodness of the Lord gives us a reason to celebrate....

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After the end

What do you do at the end of a great, good project? We’ve talked about building and rebuilding families, careers, homes, churches, and communities. But what happens next?...

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CC + GG = RR

If we were going to draw it into something like a formula, it might look like this: Committed Community + Generous God = Remarkable Results....

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The Dung Gate

The whole community is blessed when someone is willing to step in and do the work no one else wants to do....

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Women at work

Those daughters of Shallum, those strong women, worked as hard as all of the rest of the men. And their work was noted both by Nehemiah and by God....

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Getting your hands dirty

There is an intimate connection between your willingness to get your hands dirty and your ability to bless people....

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The Lord notices

Your particular part in God’s good work has not gone unnoticed by him....

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Gracious Hand

Nehemiah’s testimony about God’s gracious hand at work for him gave the people the faith they needed to actively move into the future....

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We and Us

“We” creates space for “us.”...

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Telling trouble

Sometimes you need someone to tell you when you’re in trouble....

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Due Diligence

A patient due diligence process prepares us to step into the work we’ve been given to do in a knowledgeable, prepared way....

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Quiet Start

We live in an age that struggles with secrecy....

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The Place for Planning

As people of faith, we don’t have to be afraid of planning. The same God who speeds and catches us when we take our leaps of faith can inspire and guide us when we plan....

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In the beat

The active, rough-and-tumble, dangerous phase of the Jerusalem rebuilding project was peppered with prayer. Connecting with God in prayer filled the beats between moments of action. ...

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What is it you want?

We often are only in touch with the surface of our desires. We rarely dive into their depths....

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Fear and Faith

Fear is not the absence of faith. Even the faithful feel fear. Fear can serve us well, pushing us onto the path toward wisdom. But fear makes a terrible master....

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Positioned Perfectly

We believe that the Lord still does this: he positions people perfectly to pursue their destiny. ...

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The Basis for Our Confidence

You also can store up for yourself a supply of conviction about the Lord’s willingness to keep his promises....

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A Prayer of Corporate Confession

Nehemiah’s willingness to identify himself with his broader family and community in confession positions him powerfully to lead his entire community in mission....

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False Bad News

The Lord is present in our lives and history, whether the news is good or bad. When his people practice prayerful engagement, they discover that their activist God is already deeply engaged: bringing restoration, resisting evil, and generating hope....

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People and Structures

One of the things we love about Nehemiah’s story is that he manages to care both for people and structures. He doesn’t just have warm and fuzzy sympathetic feelings for his fellow Jews, he also cares about the state of Jerusalem’s walls....

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Asking the question

Choosing to care does something in our souls. The Lord works with that choice, enriches it and expands it and nourishes it. Choosing to care slips you into the center of God’s great work....

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Growth and Vulnerability

Life in the church brings our vulnerabilities to the surface. This is perhaps never more true than when a church is growing....

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The Lord's outside influence

The Lord delights to do the seemingly impossible....

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One barrier-breaking example

Don’t encourage people to imitate your behavior. When they’re inspired by the Lord’s work in your life, encourage them to connect with God....

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The Blessing of Community

When the Lord grows a community, when the Lord grows a church, when the Lord grows a person … the blessings spill beyond that the life of that community, church, or person....

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God at Work

The political and military machinations of the world powers look like ultimate powers, but God is also at work. God’s work continues even in seasons of difficulty and uncertainty. And God’s work is the work that matters most....

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Good Soil

There is good soil out there, soil that’s been prepared, hearts that are ready to hear and accept that word of the Lord. ...

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3 Barriers

Jesus insightfully lists 3 things that can keep the word of God from bearing fruit in your life: worries, wealth, and distraction....

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Prepare for trouble

Troubles and persecutions can come as a result of our faith. If we haven’t put down deep roots, our faith won’t survive....

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Hard Soil

The soil on the path has not been prepared to receive the seed....

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Reckless and Generous

God’s kingdom is marked by the reckless generosity of the king. ...

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Particular Purpose

How will we respond to Jesus’ great act of service? Gratitude. Shame. Joy. Confusion. Worship. So many responses are available to us....

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Recalculating Your Route

Will you choose to serve? This is a daily choice, a choice that goes against the grain of the world, a choice that God uses to transform us....

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An Examined Grumpiness

When do you find yourself feeling grumpy about the way other people talk to or about God?...

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A "No" from God

Our prayer requests fly to God, but we can’t pretend to fully comprehend the full impact of each flap of their wings....

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Manipulating God

James and John are comically transparent in their attempt to manipulate Jesus. Aren’t we all?...

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For Seekers and Stumblers

The kingdom of heaven is available to both seekers and stumblers. Some of us searched high and low looking for a place and a community where what God wants done is done. Others of us went looking for friends, free food, and a little spiritual icing on the cake we call life and stumbled into this great and wonderful kingdom that God is bringing to fruition in our midst. God...

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Worth Rearranging Your Life

What do you consider to be so worthwhile that you’ll rearrange your life? This question can give you insight into your priorities, your dreams, and the challenges of your current life situation....

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Comparing and Contrasting Parables

Great engagement with the scriptures begins with good observation of the text. As you read these parables, what stands out to you?...

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Kingdom Parables

The Kingdom of Heaven is worth it!...

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Kingdom of Heaven

How would you fill in this blank: “The kingdom of heaven is like _________.”?...

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Seeking God's Kingdom

What would happen if we all committed to seek God’s kingdom first in 2017?...

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Your Resolutions and God's Kingdom

Every resolution you make in this new year can contain a kingdom component if you are willing to seek it out. Losing weight, reading more, decluttering, taking a vacation, calling your kids … each and every one of these can be used by our heavenly Father to advance his kingdom in our lives and in this world....

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Kickstart change

This time of year many of us will ponder making resolutions to live life differently in 2017. The changes that take place in our lives might have a tremendous impact on our relationships and our participation in God’s kingdom. ...

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Reflecting on 2016

Mary’s practice of treasuring what has happened and pondering them in her heart is a practice that can serve us well in our own lives....

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Boxing Day Rest

Rest. Rest. The weary world rejoices. ...

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Reaching out at Christmas

Who can you surprise with a Christmas invitation this year?...

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Christmas across divides

Our differences don’t go away; they just cease to keep us apart....

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Even for the religious

Wouldn’t it be great if all of us had our eyes fixed on Jesus and our hearts filled with joy? ...

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Christmas on the margins

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world...

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Christmas is for everyone

Because Christmas is for everyone, Christmas is for you and for everyone you love....

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Christmas tension

Going home for the holidays can be difficult....

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God can join your story

There’s no story that God cannot join....

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Caesar vs. Jesus

Don’t go to Jesus expecting to find a king like Caesar Augustus. He has his own personality, his own priorities, and his own values. The kingdom in which Jesus rules and reigns differs tremendously from the empire of the Caesars....

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God and good outcomes

God is not thrown by the twists and turns life throws us. He can leverage and redeem them. He can see to it that good comes about despite them. And this can help us trust him....

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Unintended consequences

The ripple effect of one small decision can be felt throughout a community or throughout a lifetime....

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The Lord will fulfill his promises

Blessed are you if you believe the Lord will fulfill his promises to you....

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Given spectacular work

Time and time again the Lord has empowered both women and men to speak up in the power of the Spirit and testify about Jesus. And he empowers us today....

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Your faith-giving story

Have you ever considered this possibility: God’s faithfulness to you may be used to bolster someone else’s faith?...

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The choice to give credit

Crediting the Lord is a choice that we make. And it’s a choice worth making. ...

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Disappointment with God

One of the Christmas surprises we have to reckon with this season is the surprise of disappointment. We have such high hopes for God’s work and intervention. But they won’t always be fulfilled....

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Mary's Song

When Joseph found out about the pregnancy, he went and took a nap. When Mary found out, she went to visit a friend and sang a song....

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A simple, mechanical question

God connected with history in a new way in Jesus. He connects with us in a new way through Jesus today....

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The Surprising King

Through Christmas, Mary was pulled into God’s bigger story. And we are too. Through Christmas we’re invited to participate in significant ways in God’s subversive kingdom....

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A Surprising Greeting

You are highly favored and the Lord is with you. ...

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A Surprising Location

What resources do you think are necessary for things to change for the better?...

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Joseph's obedience

In those early years of Jesus’ life, his adopted father sheltered him from political powers that would gladly have taken his life and obstructed his saving mission....

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A Bigger Perspective

Once Joseph received this bigger perspective, his reason for being afraid went away. When he chose to listen and believe, his life changed....

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The influence of character

Joseph didn’t ask for this burden, but he did the best he could to navigate this difficult challenge in a faithful way....

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Surprising everyone

Christmas came as a surprise for everyone involved. No one would have expected God to act in this way....

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Christmas history

God wants to meet us in the real world. ...

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Generous happiness

Our generous God wants us to share his happiness. ...

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Held Accountable

Wherever you are on the spectrum, your relationship with the master makes a tremendous difference. ...

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Hustling and hiding

What are we doing with what God has entrusted to us?...

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Each according to ability

Not everyone starts from the same starting place....

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Generosity and Gratitude

Without gratitude generosity falls to the wayside....

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Sacrificial Generosity

Sacrificial gifts have a deeper significance than gifts that are given out of our surplus; the difference between someone giving you the shirt off their back and a shirt out of their closet....

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Who gave more?

Who gave more: the wealthy or the poor?...

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More than the temple

Place your devotion on Christ himself: the one who made you, loved you, rescued you, and gave you purpose....

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God paying attention

Jesus didn’t just pay attention to the large gifts of the wealthy; he also paid attention to the significant gift of a poor widow....

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Big Religious Show

Healthy conversations about God and money can help us become generous-hearted people....

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Your heart and your treasure

Jesus cares about your “treasure” because he treasures you and knows the impact that our resources have on our allegiances....

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The gift of the kingdom

God has so much more for us than we could ever gain on our own....

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Generosity and trust

You can’t separate generosity and trust....

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A bigger perspective

What would happen if God’s people truly learned to trust him?...

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Worry and Generosity

The practice of generosity can be used by God to liberate us from the weight of worry....

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Our Margins and Our Lord

God is God and we are not....

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Work in the margins

The Lord pays attention to the margins of our lives and those who live on the margins of society....

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The Blessing of Margin

Preserving margin blesses both the people keeping the margin and their community....

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Challenges to margin

Margin ain't easy....

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Maintaining Margin

Few things prove harder to maintain than healthy margin....

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The Generous Image

If we are made in his image, it should not surprise us that when we are living a generous life, it brings us joy, too....

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Generous joy

God is so committed to being generous with us that he starts us out in paradise and secures for us eternal joy at the sacrifice of his Son....

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Generous sharing

God not only makes a wonderful creation, he generously shares it with people that they might tend to it in a way that he would....

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The Generous Maker

You are uniquely and brilliantly designed by a generous God who has stamped you with his image....

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Generous Creator

God has given us signs and signals of his character in the generosity of the wonder of all that he has created....

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Spoil love

Don’t let conflict with a brother or sister stop the overflow of God’s love in you....

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What motivates us to serve?

Fear can motivate us to serve others. So can love. On the surface, you might not be able to tell the difference between the two. ...

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More than words

God didn’t just say that he loved us. He showed us. He backed up his love with action....

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Love starts with God

Because God loves first, God gets to decide who we are to love....

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You need to know God is love

This Sunday we’ll replace our regular worship services with a community-wide day of serving our community together. And this is directly connected to our belief that God is love....

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It worked

The blessed life we experience when we obey God is actually the by-product of something else. Let’s circle around to take a look at it....

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Faithfulness Matters

Faithfulness matters to us because we have a God who has proven himself faithful....

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How will it work?

We may know what he will do, but the how stands beyond our comprehension. ...

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Strange plans

The Lord often works in mysterious ways. That popular proverb prompts peace until you’re stuck in the middle of a weird “mysterious-ways” situation....

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Juxtaposition