Spirit of God

“…No one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:11

This past weekend I was at a staff training at Nebraska Youth Camp for this summer’s counselors and other staff. One of my presentations was on preparing devotionals for the campers. This summer, the camp focus is specifically on God. God is a tough topic to teach on because He is so great. God is huge! He has done so much, and is incomprehensible. As 1 Corinthians says, no one can comprehend the thoughts of God! How do we teach about Him!

Although that is an exhausting subject to think about, look at what else is pointed out:

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” -1 Corinthians 2:11

Our thoughts will not be comprehended by others unless we are willing to tell others about our thoughts. We hold that power to share, or not to. In the same way, God can choose to share or not share, and He has chosen to share with His Spirit.

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may receive the things freely given us by God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12

The Spirit given to us from God interprets His thoughts. We have access to understanding God by His Spirit, but only what God chooses to give to us through His Spirit.

The incomprehensible, huge, vast God understands that we cannot understand Him completely, so He give that knowledge to the Spirit. That Spirit guides our lives when we allow it to. The more the Spirit guides us, and not the world, the more we will understand God.

Educational Method Created by Jesus

Are we expected to be able to live up to the expectations of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) or did Jesus say those things for another reason?

This was the question presented at a preacher’s lunch I attended. The question threw me off guard, because it was one I had never considered, but it also challenged me to truly dive into the sermon on the mount with the goal of answering this question.

In the teaching world, an educator is taught to build up their students using positive reinforcement. Putting stickers on a paper, reinforcing with a “Good Job”, putting the total correct instead of the total wrong, grading easier at first with the expectation to increase the difficulty, reward charts, gold stars, good behavior awards, the list of positive reinforcers is exhausting! There are so many ideas out there because it works! Positive reinforcements create a trust between the student and the teacher causing the student to be willing to learn harder concepts from the teacher because they are more willing to listen to the teacher.

Jesus used this method in the Sermon on the Mount! Matthew 5:3-16 contains 11 positive reinforcement statements that we call the Beatitudes and the salt and light metaphors. Before Jesus begins instructing with His commandments, he first builds trust within His audience. Imagine being on the mountain listening to Jesus speak the words of Matthew 5-7, looking around, making eye contact with you. Read through Matthew 5:3-16, and you will notice that one of the positive reinforcements He makes probably relates to you. Jesus related to all the members of His audience.

This is substantially important because He can now hold his disciples up to a higher level of expectation. Jesus has touched the heart of his listeners, shown them they are important to the kingdom of God, and now can challenge them to live that way. These aren’t just words, they are caring instruction provided by a close mentor.

Think of the person you most love on this earth. You probably value their opinion greatly, and would do more for them than most others. We can live out the difficult commands of the Sermon on the Mount IF we love and trust Jesus enough to do anything for Him.

Before trying to achieve the commands of the Sermon on the Mount, first check and see if Jesus is a trusting friend that you deeply love within your heart. If you can have that kind of a relationship with Him, following His commands will be much easier. You have an important place in the kingdom of heaven. Who are you in Matthew 5:3-16?


Right before Jesus appears before Pilate to be questioned, we see a tragic scene with Peter. Peter most likely gets caught up in the fear of being persecuted as Jesus is being persecuted and denies that he is one of Jesus’ followers three times. The first three gospel writers end the scene with Peter saying:

And he went out and wept bitterly -Matthew 26:75, Mark 14: 72, Luke 22:62

This seems an appropriate reaction for Peter. When we make mistakes and notice we fail in being a follower of Christ, hopefully we are struck with disappointment as well.

It’s kind of like when we get baptized. When we put Christ on in our lives through baptism, we see life as a clean slate. And our hearts have no intention of sinning again.

But then we do… and the guilt can weigh us down.

If we fast forward from Peter’s denial to the end of the book of John, after Jesus has risen, we see an interesting interaction between Jesus and Peter. In John 21, Peter is asked by Jesus three times if he loves Jesus. His response each time is a resounding YES! Three times, Peter denied Christ, and said no, then three times he accepts Christ and says yes! Jesus’ response each time Peter says he loves Him:

Feed my lambs – John 21:15

Tend my sheep – John 21:16

Follow me – John 21:19

It seems that Jesus has forgiven Peter during this final interaction. This is a big deal, because I would assume Peter held on to his guilt about denying Christ for a very long time. Yet Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, and forgave Peter even before the denial took place.

Jesus doesn’t want us to hold on to grief and failure. He wants us to be forgiven so we can find the joy He provides. He instructs Peter, the failure, to reach out through actions (feed my lambs), encourage people closer to Christ (tend my sheep), and follow Him (be His disciple).

We can live knowing we have and will continue to sin, and be miserable, or we can find His forgiveness which leads to joy. Without Jesus’ forgiveness, we won’t be able to be His true disciple. He forgave Peter, He forgives you too.


Our garage was out of hand! So much STUFF was pilling up that it was getting difficult to pull the cars in! It was to the point that once the cars were carefully navigated into their places, we had to strategically duck and squeeze around side mirrors and doors to get out of the garage. Enough was enough! It was time to build shelves to get all the stuff off the ground and out of the way so there was space for the vehicles. The shelves added the benefit of space, but also made all the nick-nacks we needed to access more easily accessible. There was more than one benefit to the shelves. The garage just needed one slight adjustment to make many positive changes.

Repetition is easy. In our spiritual lives it takes less time and is more comfortable for us to keep things the same. Whether it be our daily bible reading, the way we pray, or the ministry projects we are involved in, keeping the same process and schedule makes faith easy. It allows us to do more when we act in repetition. But repetition could cause us to appear to have a strong faith, but really be complacent in our spiritual walk, to the point of going through the motions. Repetition could cause a lot to get done, but nothing fruitful to be happening at all.

The house you live in is a great example of this. Without continual slight modifications the house will slowly fall apart. In the same way, our faith walk staying the exact same will slowly fall apart. What slight changes need to be made in our ministries as a church to be fruitful? What about in your individual ministry? And in your personal spiritual walk? We need to always be seeking slight changes that can be made with this goal in mind:

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… Matthew 6:33

Making Ministry: Listening with Patience

One on one interactions mean we must know how to communicate by carrying on real conversations.  Holding the attitude of Paul in Acts 20, Gospel connections are not made by talking about the weather for an hour.  Gospel connections are made when a conversation fulfills the goals presented in James 5:16:

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

The healing referred to is not only a physical healing, it can also be a spiritual healing.  There is healing in confession of sins and temptations.  Through the many conversations I have been a part of in my ministry, I want to share a few pointers I have learned.  These suggestions do not come from a counseling degree, it is all from experience and careful application of the word of God, which brings me to the first suggestion:

Apply the Word

I do not have all the answers when it comes to scripture (surprising I know).  Sometimes, I am confused about the message of the Bible and how it is interacting in my life.  Being humble enough to share that confusion, and have confidence that God is leading me to clarity is an important part of discussion.  I never approach a Gospel centered conversation pretending to know all the answers.  Instead I willing share the clarity God has given me and how His word is applying to my life.  If we can honestly share our confusion, yet show confidence of faith, it allows Christ to shine through our weakness and trust builds within the conversation.

Quick to Listen

Be a listener.  Desire to know about the person you are conversing with.  Make it your goal to learn as much as you can about that person and you will listen more than you speak. You won’t discuss your life because you will be focused on learning about the life of the other person.  Check your heart as well: Do you desire to guide this person to Christ, or are you digging for your own personal gain?  The desires of your heart are important because they will be felt in the atmosphere of the conversation.  If your heart is truly led by Christ, the conversation will be led by Him as well.  He will give you the things to say and questions to ask.

Go ahead, Ask the Question

“So what ended up happening between you and your boyfriend?  How do your parents handle the hurt?  Walk me through the details of the rape.”

If you are seeking to help, if you genuinely want to lead that person toward the Gospel, the hard, personal questions will pop in your head.  Ask the question, don’t push it away.

You might say, “That’s not your place, that’s to personal!”

When I seek to fulfill the message of James 5:16, I believe we are meant to act differently than the world by not holding in the hard stuff of life, by not digging into the lives of others for personal gain, and by giving our burdens to one another so we can assist in leading to the feet of Jesus.  True believers will live out faith by living together through conversation in the good and the bad.

What makes this digging okay for believers but not from worldly standards: our heart.  Personal gain that the world seeks versus spiritual guidance toward the cross.

Wait for the Answer

When your heart is set toward guidance for that person, when you prayerfully approach a conversation, when you ask the hard question, you must have patience.  Any difficult conversation takes thoughtful time and careful words.  Showing trust is giving time, not trying to fill the silence.


Always end with prayer.  Ask for God’s guidance and remember His power in confession.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

More on Making Ministry:

Making Ministry: One connection at a time (Part 1)

Making Ministry: Healing the Hurt (Part 3) coming soon…

Care for the Widows

Guys CAN make flower arrangements!

Valentines week gave me a great opportunity to talk to my teenage boys about caring for the widows in our congregation.  For a special Guys only devotional, I purchased sets of flowers from a local flower shop and the teen boys created flower arrangements.  During the creation process, we discussed James 1:27, and the similarities between orphans and widows.


When the creations were complete, we drove around town and delivered the flowers.

During our discussion, the boys brought up that we don’t think about the widows often.  They recognized that there is less of a chance of a widow having a closer community of friends and family who spend time with them, and even if they do, there are certainly times of loneliness.  Our widows aren’t people we appreciate often so finding the time to do so was extremely beneficial.


What would you classify as outreach? As a church, we would mention our clothing giveaway, jail ministry, and the numerous home Bible studies that take place. Every once in a while we will add an event like a potato feed or summer picnic. Outreach could simply be defined as reaching out. Are these events ways that we are reaching out to non church members? When we look at outreach with these eyes, it seems so limiting.

In my confusion, I consulted Google (of course!). When I Googled “church outreach”, I found many events similar to the events listed above. There are so many ideas for events in performing outreach, but this effort still seemed… limiting!

The planned events can, and are, beneficial forms of outreach as long as reaching out is included, but if we look at scripture, we will see outreach through different eyes. In Luke 12, Jesus is instructing his apostles on true outreach.

And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God. -Luke 12:8

In Luke 12, Jesus warns not to get stuck in the box. He challenges to live higher than the expectations the world has for us. He reminds us that we have great value in God’s eyes. Outreach can’t be limited to structured events. Outreach is imparting spiritual words and actions to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Outreach is included in the messages we post on social media. Outreach isn’t an every once in a while thing, it is giving the truth about Christ to people every moment of every day.

Congregational outreach is tremendously influential because so much can be accomplished when we choose to work together for the purpose of discipleship, but let us not limit outreach to structured events. Outreach also includes every moment we are interacting with others, in a large group or just one on one. You are of value to both God’s heavenly kingdom and His earthly church when it comes to outreach. May you seek to respond to God’s placement of outreach in your daily life in directing the world to Christ and His church.