Christian Living youth ministry

Overstanding God’s Word

The book of James will punch you in the face. Repeatedly. This passage from James 1 came up at our retreat last week and was freshly illuminated to me.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25

Our students were doing an inductive study of Mark 4. And one of the groups was asked to act out and explain verses 21-25. When presenting, a student said something like this,”You shouldn’t just hear the Word and put it on the shelf, or even under something. You should put it over everything else you are doing.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. How many times am I tempted to just understand God’s word? God’s not just asking me to understand the Bible, He’s asking me to “overstand it” by putting it above everything else.

So simple a 16 year old can teach it to me. But incredibly difficult to live out on a daily basis.

Oh, that I might be a man (and we a people) who doesn’t just understand your word, but is bold enough to overstand it by putting it into action.

Christian Living

The God of Discomfort

God doesn’t call us to a life of comfort.

As an overweight, gainfully employed, hyper-educated American Christian– that phrase convicts.

Recently, when I spend time in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit has illuminated in me this truth in a brand new way. God doesn’t call us to live a comfortable life. He calls us to a radically life of discomfort.

I tend to read my culture and my experience into the Bible so much… my life is pretty cushy. I tend to think that since I’m typically comfortable in life, the people God lifted up to me as examples must have lived equally comfortable lives, right?


On and on, the Bible is full of stories of people called to live uncomfortable lives. There are endless examples!

When I hear people talk about what they like or dislike about their church it bothers me to hear so much talk of comfort.

  • We want music we are comfortable with.
  • We want to be around people like us, people who make us feel comfortable.
  • We want the preaching to challenge us, but never to make us uncomfortable.
  • We want a church with a great kids ministry so we can feel comfortable about leaving our children there.
  • We want comfortable seating.
  • We want to serve the church in ways that are convenient and comfortable for us.

When I hear Christians (myself included) talk about the life we want to live, we all desire comfort!

  • We want jobs we are comfortable with.
  • We never want to be sick, that’d be uncomfortable.
  • We want comfortable shoes.
  • We want a comfortable bed.
  • We want a big, cushy Lazy-e-boy recliner to watch football.
  • We want to marry someone who is comfortable to be around, and our friends are comfortable with.
  • We want friends we are comfortable with.
  • When we think of vacation, we want things to be über comfortable!

As I stare at my Bible this morning and ponder this, I’m left with this question:

What if God is calling me to live a life of radical discomfort?

What if following Jesus makes those around me uncomfortable?

What if the church I’m called to be a part of never feels comfortable?

What if steps of faithfulness lead me to great and greater steps of discomfort?

What if my desire to be comfortable is leading me further away from Jesus instead of closer to Him?

Church Leadership hmm... thoughts illustrations Talk Notes

Illumination: Who does that?

Hmmm“I’ve read that passage 10 times in my life, heard several messages in church, but never understood what God was trying to teach me until your message. Thank you.”

This is something that most Bible teachers and pastors hear from time to time. It’s meant as a compliment to the preacher… and it is. It is a compliment to preparation, creativity, and delivery. When I receive that compliment it always helps validate the hours of work that go into everything from simple lessons to the most complex sermon to a weekly youth group talk. But the primary compliment goes to God. When I hear that comment I know that the Holy Spirit has done something in that person’s life.

Here is the definition of illumination I learned in college:

The Illumination of the Bible (also relates to pneumatology) That supernatural help of the Holy Spirit which enables man to understand and comprehend the meaning of God’s revelation.

Illumination has two aspects as it relates to us. First for unbelievers, illumination is the Holy Spirit helping the person to understand God’s truths for the purposes of salvation. Practically, this is what makes the difference between someone who has heard the gospel message 20x’s and not responded and responding to the 21st time. Second for believers, illumination is the action of the Holy Spirit when you understand God’s revelation to you. (99% of the time that revelation is the Bible)

Practically, what does illumination look like or feel like?