Thirst: 40 days of seeking God through scripture, prayer, and reflection

I’ve been working on a spiritual growth project the past few weeks based on Psalm 42:2:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

The World offers so much! Unfortunately it takes time and pain to discern its true emptiness. We are promised satisfaction and fulfillment, instead we are handed momentary distraction and self-deception. Even the best this world has to offer never satisfies the needs of our soul. Many of us have recognized a deep longing for something more: God’s presence, the power of his Spirit, and the guidance of his Word.

The idea behind THIRST is simple: each day will have a single verse, a simple prayer, and a thought for reflection. My encouragement and prayer for you is that you would Go and Meet God, his Son is the Living Water which ends our deep thirst.


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Four essential leadership responsibilities

“The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.” (Jeremiah 2:8)

600 years before Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah spoke out against the rebellion by ancient Israel. They followed “worthless idols” and became “worthless” themselves (Jer. 2:5). In this teaching, Jeremiah makes it clear that all different kinds of leaders had turned from God. His warning is still relevant today.

Leaders SEEK God’s work. A primary responsibility of priest was to help people connect with God. Their leadership moves people closer to God’s presence.

Leaders move people in a particular direction. Moms move their kids toward maturity. CEOs move their employees toward profits. Coaches move their team toward victory. Teachers move their students toward learning.

For the leader in God’s kingdom, there is a great temptation to appear spiritually successful. When activity and attendance become more important than authentic worship, it’s clear that the leader is no longer looking to work alongside the Holy Spirit.

Surfers catch waves. They get into the right spot and the wave moves them forward. It looks like a lot of fun. It’s ridiculous to imagine a surfer trying to create his own wave to ride. This is a good picture of spiritual leadership. Rather than create our own plans and pray that God blesses them, we ought to be looking for where God is already working and move alongside the work he is doing.

All believers are called to be “priests,” (1 Peter 2:9), and we can’t do this if we aren’t looking for where God is moving in our homes, churches, and communities.

Leaders KNOW God’s heart. The teachers–literally, “handlers”)–of the law were responsible for educating the people about God. On the surface, it seems like an impossible paradox, how can the people who teach others about God not actually know him themselves?

Any believer with even just a little bit of experience knows how easy it can be to fake spiritual authenticity. It’s so much easier to look good without actually being good. There is tremendous pressure to appear like we have it all together. This poison enters a community when there is too little grace shown.

Spiritual education is far more than knowledge and understanding…more than memorized verses and correct answers. The only orthodoxy that really matters is the pure heart living in obedience to Christ. Isaiah proclaimed a similar warning:

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13)

Leaders FOLLOW God’s commands. In ancient Israel, the “secular” leaders still had a spiritual responsibility to follow God. Lacking the title of prophet, priest, or teacher wasn’t a license to lead selfishly.

Spiritual leadership involves a ton of “non-spiritual” decisions. But the point is that there really is no such thing as a non-spiritual decision. God cares about it all, and he as a plan–and that plan includes details and logistics. There may be no scripture that tells you:

  • exactly how to steward your resources
  • what time the program should start
  • when a tradition should be quietly laid to rest

But God still has a plan, he’s still leading us, and it’s our responsibility to follow him.

One of the temptations in this area is to allow our convictions get compromised by popular opinion. It’s so much easier to please our critics than it is to follow our convictions.

Leaders are obedient and follow God’s leading.

Leaders SPEAK God’s words. The prophets were an ancient form of social media for God. He said it, they passed it on. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work.

Words are powerful, every leader knows this. There is a huge temptation to use words that work rather than words that are true.

When we presume to speak on God’s behalf, when we are clearly pushing our own agenda, we are not being faithful to the calling God has placed in our lives.

Leaders in God’s family need to develop their discernment, to clearly see where God is moving. We need to develop our spiritual authenticity, because without a connection to God, everything we do is empty. Leaders need to be obedient to their convictions in order to follow God’s leading. Finally, we must be careful to speak the truth and avoid the “spiritual” manipulation of others.


Bible Study Guide: 1 Timothy Chapter 1

Background Information

Acts 19: Paul in Ephesus

EPHESUS efʹə-səs [Gk. Ephesos—‘desirable’]. An important seaport city of the Roman province of Asia. In the NT it is mentioned in Acts 18:19–28; 19:1, 17–20; 20:16f.; 1 Cor. 15:32; 16:8; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:18; 4:12; Rev. 1:11; 2:1. (Ephesus. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised.)

Read 1 Timothy chapter 1.

How does Paul describe:
(a) His role/calling?
(b) God and Jesus?
(c) Timothy?

What was Timothy’s mission in Ephesus?

What’s more important, the command, or it’s goal? Why or why not? What is the connection between the command and the goal?

How can a person be sure to develop the kind of love that comes from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith?

In your opinion, does Paul sound arrogant when he says that the gospel has been entrusted to him? Does this set him up as better than others? Why or why not? How do verses 12-17 impact the answer to this question?

Based on this passage, 1:3-11, what does it mean to use the law properly?

How was Paul trustworthy, when it was God’s grace that was “poured out” on him–grace that included Paul having faith and love? What clues from the text support your answer?

The lynch pin of this chapter is found in verse 15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” For you personally, how is the “trustworthy saying” in significant?

Check 1 Timothy 4:14 for “prophecies once made about” Timothy. It’s clear that others spoke into Timothy’s life, affirming God’s calling in his life. Based on this passage, why would it be important for Timothy to recall them?

Has anyone ever spoken into your life like this? What did they say? What was it like?

Based on all the teachings in this passage, how can a person avoid shipwrecking their faith?

What do you think Paul means when he said that he handed them (Hymenaeus and Alexander) to Satan? Does this mean it’s ok to give up on people? Why or why not?

From With The Word, a devotional by Warren W. Wiersbe:

The work in Ephesus was not easy, and Timothy wanted a new assignment; but Paul urged him to stay where he was and get the job done (1:3). The next time you want to abandon your assigned place, consider the arguments Paul gave Timothy for staying where he was.

For the work’s sake (1–11). What Paul warned the Ephesian elders about had come true:false teachers were in the church (Acts 20:28–30). The pastor’s job is to warn them and teach the people the truth. If he abandoned the flock, Timothy would be a hireling and not a shepherd (John 10:12–13).

For the Lord’s sake (12–17). Jesus died to save sinners, and He lives to equip and enable His servants to do the work of the ministry. The same God who empowered Paul could empower Timothy—and can empower us today. God is faithful!

For our own sake (18–20). God had equipped Timothy, called him, and given him a solemn charge. There was a battle to fight, and he dare not run away. If we flee the post of duty, we rob ourselves of opportunities to grow, to serve, and to glorify God.

When the winds of adversity blow, set your sails in the right direction, and let Christ handle the rudder. Otherwise, you may be shipwrecked.

Responsibility — Someone defined responsibility as “our response to God’s ability.”


Inspiration trumps intention

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19)

His intentions were sound and unassailable:

  • Joseph was kind and he had no intention of disgracing Mary.
  • Joseph was righteous and he had no intention of being associated with godless behavior.
  • Joseph was reasonable and his plan made sense: his fiancee was pregnant, he wasn’t the father, and his intention was to put the situation behind him.

His intentions had everything we could ever hope for when faced with a difficult situation. He was gracious, godly, and wise.

His plan had everything except God’s approval. God had a different design, one that went beyond Joseph’s personal godliness and limited perspective.

Following Jesus means living by faith. This doesn’t discount reason and being intentional. Reason is important, but is is nothing but a candle compared to the sun that is faith.

A quiet spirit holds more value than an encyclopedic mind. Humility will hear God speak when knowledge shuts him out. Knowledge puffs up… (1 Corinthians 8:1)

So: think things through. Plot the best course. Anticipate the hurdles and weigh the possible outcomes. But once this easy work is done, take time to hear God speak. Because:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)


Finding wisdom, gaining understanding

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. (Proverbs 3:13)

I have five kids and I love being a dad. My biggest responsibility, as I understand it, is that they would discover God’s perfect design for their lives. A big part of their individual design means growing in wisdom and understanding.

I’m not interested in impressing on them a long litany list of what NOT to think or do or say. We don’t respond well to legalism, it overwhelms us with a deeply rooted sense of guilt and undermines our confidence.

Instead, I want my kids to learn how to think, both critically and compassionately.

I devised a simple exercise that to help them gain deeper understanding. I used a six sided dice as a visual reminder. Here are six ways to understand a thing:

The best place to begins with identifying a short and simple description of whatever it is that we are trying to understand. The friend of foolishness is assumption, so it’s best to begin with a basic definition. Based on common sense and common experience, how would you describe the object you are seeking to understand?

Here are a couple of examples that we’ll return to for the length of this article.

  • coffee cup: an object for holding a drink and keeping it warm
  • hope: expecting something good to happen in the future

Look to the right and consider what is LIKE the object of our understanding. How does it compare to other truths, teachings, and things?

  • coffee cup: It’s like glass, in that it holds a drink. It is like a status symbol, because it’s made from expensive materials and boasts a coveted logo. It is somewhat like an oven, in that heat is involved.
  • hope: It’s like faith, because it’s trusting in something unseen. It is like joy, because positive feelings are involved.

Look to the left and consider how this object is UNLIKE other truths, teachings, or things.

  • coffee cup: It’s not like a plate, because it’s poor for holding food.
  • hope: It’s not like fear, which has a negative expectation for the future. (Although it is LIKE fear, in that it is future focused…). Hope is not like certainty, proven facts. The sun is shining now: truth. The sun will shine tomorrow, hope.

Look beneath the object and discover it’s roots, foundations, assumptions, and causes. A stream can rise no higher than it’s source. What was the origin of your object? What is it dependent upon? What roads lead to the thing you are trying to understand?

  • coffee cup: People like to drink coffee (I like coffee!!) so there is a need to make it portable.
  • hope: It is always grounded in an object, we hope to gain approval of a person, hope to win it big in Los Vegas. Hope comes from dark and difficult times, at least, it shines brighter. Hope comes from the fulfillment of past promises, I can trust the future because of a proven past.

Look above the object and see what comes next. Where does the new road lead? What ripples will it make and what kind of impact will be felt.

  • coffee cup: It’ A coffee cup is the potential for enjoying a favored beverage…or bringing one to a friend who might also enjoy a coffee. If it’s a sentimental mug, it can lead to warm memories and even thankfulness of good things past.
  • hope: Each and every action a person takes comes from hope, it is impossible to do anything without some kind of agenda. We get up and greet the day with a set of hopes, we go to bed at night with another set of hopes. I hope for acceptance, so I’ll put on a fake smile. I hope for advancement, so I’ll work really hard. Hope is paramount among the attributes of the heart, because from hope, all our actions spring.

Humble yourself and realize that all of your looking will never let you see the whole picture. We all have blind spots and limited understanding. To truly understand a thing, we must be ready to learn from others, and more importantly, learn from God.

  • coffee cup, hope: you tell me, what am I not seeing on my own?


Seeking Greater Understanding

What is it?
What is it like?
What is it not like?
Where did it come from?
Where will it lead?
Who can help you see past your blind spots?


trusting God more

One reason we love the movies is because they transport us to a fantastic world where impossible things happen … like they are no big deal:

  • Danger and desperation drives the hero jumps out of window and the helicopter happens to be there to save him.
  • Just in the nick of time, the blind guess is correct, and the right wire is cut and the bomb doesn’t explode.
  • Or someone is literally hanging off of a cliff, and just as the last hand looses it’s grip, someone else reaches out in time to save them from certain death.

Most of us respond with the appropriate amount of awe, and while smiling, we turn to a friend and say, “that’s cool.” For the few of us who have no heart, imagination or joy, we cynically say, “that’s impossible, that would never happen. Nothing is orchestrated like that”

Here’s the reality: every moment of every is orchestrated, but the creator of the universe. Nothing happens outside of his power.

Perhaps we could lay to rest some of our fears and insecurities if we started taking God’s love and his power more seriously.

  • He is watching us at every moment.
  • He is whispering to us constantly–and sometimes shouting.
  • He has proven our value with the sacrifice of his son.
  • He is picking us up gently when we fall.
  • He is teaching us how to live and leading us along a path that is perfect for who we are and could become

Everything and every one in this world will let you down. Except God. He his faithful. He is worthy of our trust. Any pursuit that isn’t after him is empty, like chasing after the wind.

“I will never break my covenant with you” (Judges 2:1)

Gaining understanding in the wake of your anger

We get angry. We don’t all act the same when we are angry–some of us hold it all in (implode) and others let it all out (explode).

Anger is connected to our values, our sense of what is right and what is wrong.

(Of course, we’re not always right! Many of our values are based on our selfishness. We may be delusional or we may be inspired, but either way, we live our of our values.)

Anger is what happens when we see, experience, or do something wrong. The intensity of our feelings is determined by just how wrong we feel something is. Anger is a catalyst for action, and typically it is wildly impulsive. For most of us, the lion’s share of our regrets rest firmly on the things we’ve done because we were angry. It’s no wonder this teaching from Psalm 4 is in scripture:

“In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” (Psalm 4:4)

Here are four things worth thinking about after you get angry–so that you can gain greater understanding–and “not sin.”

trigger1. TRIGGER
Specifically, what triggered your anger? Anger can make memories fuzzy and the details fade into the background while the sheer intensity of our feelings take center stage. Identifying the specific triggers will set us up to win the next time we face a similar situation.

scales2. ISSUE
Go beneath the surface: what was the main issue that made you upset? Work to understand exactly what you felt was wrong and why it shouldn’t have happened.
Everything in our hearts is connected. We rarely experience a powerful feeling like anger without it being influenced by earlier circumstances.

dominos4. RESPONSE
Take a look at your reaction while angry. What did you feel, say, or do because you were prompted by your anger?


Finally, take time to consider what impact your actions (or non-action) had on others.

This may seem like a lot. It is.

We are complex. We have lots of thoughts and feelings … and they come fast. They often sit in tension with one another–how normal is it to be “of two minds” on something? Spending the time to dissect everything that goes into our anger is important. We must identify our thoughts, feelings, and actions before we can evaluate them against God’s design for our lives.






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