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“Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?" - John 11:8 (NLT)
Allied forces were trapped - stranded on the beaches of France with German forces quickly approaching. For three long days, British, French, and Belgian troops were stuck at Dunkirk hoping for a miracle but expecting the worst.
Back home, British heroes stepped up to offer what they could in the effort to bring their troops home. Civilians who owned yachts, merchant ships, fishing boats, and motor boats - with no special training for combat - crossed the English Channel under the protection of the Royal Air Force to bring their troops back to the homeland. In just 8 days, over 300,000 troops were brought home from the beaches of France. One of the greatest military miracles of the 20th century came on the shoulders of courageous people who owned “little ships” and were willing to help.
Jesus wanted to take the disciples back to Judea to help Lazarus. The disciples were terrified - the last time they were in Judea, it didn’t end well. They had every reason to expect arrest, stoning, or death if they went. But Jesus knew the greatest stories take place when we gain the courage to walk straight into uncomfortable, or even dangerous, situations.
People around us are struggling. They’re new to their faith and want to grow. They are desperate to find a place of belonging. They’ve been beaten by life. They need someone to offer up their “little ship” to help them through a hard place. You may not have a boat, but God has given you passions, interests, and gifts in common with the people around you. Have you ever considered that God may have given you that passion or gift because someone else needs you? It may require our time and effort. It may even be uncomfortable at times. But when we follow Jesus through our fears, we always get to be part of a great story in someone else’s life. Are you willing to offer those gifts up to help the people around you find their way back home?
- Have you ever felt stranded in life before? Who were the key people who helped you in that season of life?
- If time and fear were no issue, what type of group would you start? Ask God to give you courage, and take a step!
"There are twelve hours of daylight every day… " - John 11:9 (NLT)
Today is a day filled with opportunity. Whether you’re a morning person or a night-owl, each day is a gift of at least 16 hours for most of us. Do you think of each day as a blank canvas - an opportunity for creativity, opportunity, and investment? The Apostle Paul understood the importance of opportunity - he told the people in Ephesus to make the most of it (Eph 5:16). Why? Because life is hard. Someone reading this probably recently received a concerning medical diagnosis, held a crying baby through the night, wrapped up a tough day at work, or experienced the hate of racism.
We have an opportunity each day to meet people in their struggles - to share the Good News that Jesus not only sees our pain, but He cares. Whether you’re a career professional, college student, single mom, or young dad, we all need a place where we can connect with other Christians to see the world through the right lens. We need a place where we can share our struggles and hear the struggles of others. We need a place where we can continually be reminded of God’s goodness even when there doesn’t seem to be much good news around us.
That’s the purpose of Southland Groups. Groups are a place to be encouraged, challenged, supported, and cared for. They’re a place to dive into something you love, take off your mask, and make a few friends. They’re a place to be reminded that God’s story is bigger than the stories playing out on the news or social media this week. Has life been hard? Do you need a few good friends? Has it been awhile since you laughed? Connect with others in a Southland Group this fall - they’re a safe place for everyone.
Take 5 minutes to evaluate your priorities this morning. Consider using these questions:
1. Who are you investing in?
2. How are you growing spiritually?
3. Where do you spend most of your time?
Spend some time praying over this question: “Am I making the most of every opportunity?”Share Tweet
Do you need to start or join a group? I’d love to help you take that next step!
"Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” - John 11:21 (NLT)
What’s your most common response when someone asks, “How are you?” My answer is usually the robotic, “I’m great! How are you?” It’s easy. It’s what I assume everyone wants to hear. And yet it isn’t always true. Too many times I walk away from that question thinking, “If they only knew…” That’s why having friends is so great. Friends are people you can be brutally honest with. You don’t have to sugarcoat how you’re feeling or give the “I’m fine” answer. In fact, they expect honesty from you. My friend Michael is a guy I can be completely honest with. He can tell when I’m holding something back or being less than honest about what’s going on in my life. He helps me be vulnerable so that I don’t have to carry my burdens alone. When we get together every week to catch up, we are both really honest about the struggles we’ve experienced over the previous week. And when the good things in life happen, they’re even sweeter because I can always share with him.
Mary and Martha were both brutally honest with Jesus. They were disappointed that Jesus didn’t show up sooner. They didn’t tiptoe around how they were really feeling. They didn’t offer the standard “Thanks for coming” line to him. They cut straight to the chase and let him know how they were really feeling - where were you, Jesus? If there was ever a time to put on a mask and act like everything was okay, surely it was when they were speaking to the Son of God, right? But Jesus was their friend - someone they could let their guard down and be real with.
That’s what I love about following Jesus - His love compels us to take off the mask and be honest with Him, ourselves and others. He doesn’t ask us to pretend life doesn’t hurt or suppress all the questions. In fact, when we allow our questions to honestly surface, He often trades our doubt for faith (John 11:22).
Do you have a place to let down your guard and be real?Share Tweet
When was the last time you were honest with Jesus about how you really feel? Take 5 minutes to let your guard down and share your heart with him.
This weekend, the Southland Groups directory will open. Pray about joining a group where you can let your guard down and connect with others.
"I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying." - John 11:25 (NLT)
A few weeks ago, my son Luke went to the Children’s Garden at the Arboretum. He couldn’t wait to show me the sunflower Farmer Brown sent him home with. Over the past few weeks, he has taken surprisingly good care of that sunflower - he waters it and makes sure it gets sunlight. For a 4-year-old, Luke seems to understand that growth involves a few key ingredients - sunlight, water, and intentionality.
Our relationship with Jesus is like that little sunflower Luke brought home a few weeks ago - it needs a few key ingredients:
Time - You can’t really get to know someone until you spend time with them. Jesus wants to be our friend, and that begins with setting aside a daily time to hang out with him!
God’s Word - God wants to speak to us through His Word. It is alive and active, and it will speak into every need, emotion, or situation we could encounter. By reading God’s Word, we learn who He is, what He has done for us, and how we are called to respond.
Prayer - Prayer is a 2-way conversation. A conversation with a good friend doesn’t require any checklist or formalities - it’s natural and organic. As we pray, God listens to our needs, shares His heart, and helps us grow more mature in our faith.
Other Christ-followers - God created us to do life in His family - the Church. When we spend time with other Christians, we walk away challenged, encouraged, reminded of God’s goodness, and able to lighten the load others are carrying. Walking through life with other Christians helps us put our words into actions.
Are you cultivating your life with Jesus? There are a lot of distractions out there that claim they will bring satisfaction and joy, but Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Make your relationship with Him priority #1 today.
"When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled." - John 11:33 (NLT)
One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is a man far from home. He’s the right-hand man for the King. He’s got it made as the king’s cupbearer - a pretty good gig at the time. One day, his brothers show up and let him know that things are not going well back home - the city is in trouble, the walls have been torn down, and the gates are destroyed. Nehemiah falls to his knees in tears and prays to God. A funny thing happens as he prays - he becomes the answer to his own prayer. Through the rest of the book, Nehemiah travels back to Jerusalem, pulls everyone together, and gets the walls rebuilt. Compassion drove Nehemiah to action.
When Jesus saw the grief that Mary, Martha, and their friends were experiencing, He wasn’t indifferent to it. An anger welled up in Him, an anger that led to action. From that anger came the command to “Roll the stone aside” (John 11:39). There’s a time to do something about the pain we see others experiencing. More often than not, seeing the need is the call to meet the need.
What keeps you awake at night? Do you have a specific burden? Is there a group of people whose struggles you identify with? Stay at home moms craving connection, single parents searching for support, men and women living in isolation, grandparents raising their grandchildren. What group hits close to home for you? Maybe God is calling you to create a space where people can heal, form friendships, and grow.