The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it
-1 Thessalonians 5:24
In most sports, to excel it requires focus and discipline in the basics. For Football, it’s blocking and tackling. For Basketball it’s the free throw. No matter how many times they have done it, most professionals of their sport practice the basics everyday. I would have to say the most basic discipline for excelling in a Christ-filled life is regular time alone with God.
It’s so easy to hit the ground running (or groggy) each morning, without so much as a thought for God and His purposes. The things that fill up our day do not fully satisfy. In fact, the pursuit of good grades, money, or success (and just about anything else) will only leave our soul’s empty, if we don’t focus on the basics first. Spending time with God alone is important, and one of the best ways to hear from God is through scripture. Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Spending time with God and reading His word are nothing new, but focusing on these basics makes all the difference.
Bible Study Tool For Teens – S.O.A.P.
When I was a teen, one of the tools that helped me focus on spending time alone with God most mornings was called S.O.A.P. A key element in creating any habit is starting some sort of a routine. There are plenty of good devotionals out there that are a great way to get you started in alone time with God, but what I love about S.O.A.P. is that it get’s you right into the word. S.O.A.P. stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. Here is the breakdown:
S – Scripture
The very first step is to start by reading the Bible. Yes, simple. During your reading, pick a passage that stands out to you and read through it 2 or 3 times. You could use a daily devotional or Bible reading plan.
O – Observation
Next, read through the passage you chose a few more times, asking key questions that help you think about the meaning of the scripture. My favorites are “What is this scripture actually saying?”, “What does this tell me about God?”, or “What does this scripture tell me about myself?”. The goal is to get to a point where we can explain the passage in our own words. Also ask “who“, “what“, “when” and “why“.
A – Application
Next, we ask the hardest question of all: how does this passage apply to me? How can we apply what we read to our lives? Is it telling us something we should or shouldn’t do? Is it showing us something positive to put into our lives? Or maybe it’s showing us something negative that we should remove from our lives? There are many directives in the Bible that are somewhat easy to come up with a personal application to. But we can even pull out applications from narratives if we dig a little.
P – Prayer
Finally, pray. Talk to God about what you read. Ask Him to clarify anything you have trouble understanding. Commit to Him your application.
Just do it!
Whatever method you use, I encourage you to commit to a routine that includes spending daily time alone with God. It is basic, but it is so important. Why? Because when we spend time with someone, they tend to rub off on us a little bit. Don’t you want God to rub off on you?
I encourage you to try S.O.A.P. out! It works great to use in journaling as well! If you lead a group of youth, this is also an amazing tool to equip your students with.
Can you really see proof of God in Nature? It’s a great question that I’ll get to in a moment.
I love when fall really starts to kick into full gear. You get the excitement of football fast approaching the postseason, the basketball season has gotten underway, and I even enjoy the crisp cold Northern California air in the morning. I’m even tempted to pick up a hot beverage to enjoy even though I really don’t like them [I know, I know I’m a little weird, but I’ve come to terms with it]. Living in wine country this time of year can be really invigorating; color is all around you, and just stepping outside can turn around a bad day.
One of my favorite things about the changing of the seasons is that it reminds me that God created nature with order. Fall follows summer, winter follows fall. The seasons come and go like the best designed clockwork. The changes of the seasons are so dependable that most of us probably take it for granted; planning our lives, and especially our vacations, around weather that is months away. Although we cannot always predict weather on a specific day weeks in advance, have you ever experienced the leaves changing to their autumn color 6 months early? I haven’t. This kind of order does not come from chaos.
Imagine bringing home a piece of furniture from Ikea; You transfer the box from your car inside your home, and eventually you build it. None of us expect that the furniture will randomly assemble itself if we leave it alone in the box long enough. This is because, deep down, we understand that something as complex as a piece of furniture must be designed and built.
Is There Proof Of God In Nature?
In the Bible, Paul tells us that even if we had no other way of knowing about God, there is proof of God in nature. Nature is so much more complex than a piece of furniture, and if we are willing, we can see God’s creativity and workmanship in anything we deem “natural”.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:20
May you find enjoyment in the changing of the seasons. I hope you can be open to seeing proof of God in nature. God is the creator of order. He is also crazy in love with us, and He desires to have a personal relationship with you.
Don’t you love it when you go to church and the sermon topic is on money? Maybe it’s just me. The reality is that most church goers get extremely uncomfortable when the topic of money is preached from the pulpit. Some of the reasons for the discomfort I’ve heard are: “…the church just wants my money”, “…if only they knew how little I make” or “…I don’t need someone telling me what to do with my money.” I want to briefly go over two of God’s promises about money. If you grasp these promises, I think it will help you relax a little bit more during those “money” sermons.
Money is definitely an issue with most of us. It may not surprise you that one of the most commonly associated words with money is “worry”. Jesus knew about this 2,000 years ago; during his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus urges his listeners to store up treasures in heaven, because no one can steal it, and it’s value isn’t affected by the stock market. He then says “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Talk about a money sermon. His listeners were probably getting as squirmy as many of you do. But then Jesus transitions immediately into the topic of worry. Jesus illustrates that besides humans, nothing in nature worries about the future, God simply takes care of them; are we not God’s most valuable creation? Look at the rest of Jesus’ words on this topic:
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
When we worry about money, it reveals a heart issue; we are not trusting God to take care of us. Well, let’s look at some promises God has made to us about money.
Two of God’s promises about Money
1. When you tithe, God will give supernatural provision.
I said it. Tithe; one of the most scary words you hear in church. It’s right up there with surrender, self-control, and patience. But honestly, tithing is not a requirement. God does not NEED our money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, plus he owns the hills. So why is tithing important to God? Because money tends to become our master. So God set up the tithe to free us from the love of money. And to make it easier for us, God attached one of the most amazing promises to the tithe; that when we do it God WILL provide. In fact, God challenges us to TEST Him on this promise (SEE Malachi 3:10). One of the reasons many of us let money become our master is because we falsely believe that money will provide for us. Money is a tool of provision, but it is subject to lose it’s value in a bad economy, and it can be stolen. Tithing was made for your benefit. So next time you hear tithing brought up in church; relax. Tithing is not a requirement, but a tool of love for us from God.
2. When you make giving a life habit, you will be happier
God made us in his image. One of the many things we can pull from scripture is that God is a giver. It is then reasonable to conclude that we are to be “givers”. If logic isn’t enough, Jesus said that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (see Acts 20:35). The greek word for blessed used here is makários which also translates into a more common english word, happy or happier. If you are like me, this statement is a little confusing, because if I’m being honest, sometimes receiving makes me happier than giving. But when you dig into the grammar in the greek, it isn’t talking about a moment, but more like a lifestyle. So the statement could be translated happier is the one who orders their life around giving, rather than receiving. If you have any experience in giving to someone in need, you are familiar with that deep joy that seems to erupt from within us when we give. Imagine if we ordered our life around giving, and actually put it in our budget to give some of our money away every month to meet the needs of others? This is the joy, or happiness, available to us when we make giving a lifestyle.
Give with a cheerful heart
These two promises related to money are there because I think God is aware of how easy it for us to fall into the trap of serving money. But ultimately, giving is between you and God. Paul tells us that we should give what we have decided in our own hearts to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. And that God loves a cheerful giver (See 2 Corinthians 9:6-8). If you cannot give a tithe cheerfully, don’t. But also don’t miss the opportunity to be happier by planning giving into your budget. The tithe (literally 10%) is a great number that scales to your income, and puts you under God’s supernatural provision, but if you can’t do that, maybe try another percentage.
I hope you let these promises sink in, and that they allow you to relax a little more any time you hear a “money” sermon on a Sunday morning. Remember, giving is for OUR benefit.
In The River is a great praise song that will get your congregation moving! It is originally played in the Key of Dm (Relative Major of F). It is written by Josh Silverberg, Chris Quilala, Mark Alan Schoolmeesters and Ryan Williams. But you probably know the song from Kim Walker and Jesus Culture.
Song: In the River Artist: Jesus Culture & Kim Walker Smith Original Key: Dm (F Major) CAPO 3 [Verse 1] G Em There is a river where goodness flows Bm D/F# There is a fountain that drowns sorrows G Em There is an ocean deeper than fear Bm D/F# The tide is rising, rising [Verse 2] G Em There is a current stirring deep inside Bm D/F# It's overflowing from the heart of God G Em The flood of heaven crashing over us Bm D/F# The tide is rising, rising [Pre-Chorus] G Em Bursting, bursting Bm D/F# Up from the ground, we feel it now G Em Bursting, bursting Bm D/F# Up from the ground, we feel it now [Chorus] G Em We come alive in the river Bm D/F# We come alive in the river G Em We come alive in the river Bm D/F# We come alive in the river [Instrumental] G Em Bm D/F# [Verse 2] [Pre-Chorus] [Chorus] [Bridge] G Em Break open prison doors Bm D/F# Set all the captives free G Em Spring up a well, spring up a well Bm D/F# Spring up a well in me G Em Nothing can stop this joy Bm D/F# We're dancing in the streets G Em Spring up a well, spring up a well Bm D/F# Spring up a well in me [Instrumental] *[Chorus] [Pre-Chorus] [Chorus] ----------------- *Alternatively you could end: [Chorus] x2 [Tag]
G Em Spring up a well, spring up a well Bm D/F# Spring up a well in me
G Em Spring up a well, spring up a well Bm D/F# Spring up a well in me
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” -Luke 6:37