Be the Change: It Starts With You

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    A Growing Deeper Practice

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. These insightful words from the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, are in tune with the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. After Jesus gives the inspirational and beautiful teaching in Matthew 5-7, he finishes the sermon with these words: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock … But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand …” (read all of the passage in Matthew 7:24-29). The Bible is powerful and transformative—when you put it into practice. Simply hearing the Bible taught and explained is not enough. Even agreeing that the Bible is right and true is not enough. You must put into practice what the Bible teaches. The Word of God becomes transformative when it is practiced. As you practice what Jesus teaches and become a doer of the Word (James 1:22-25), you begin to form new spiritual, moral, and relational habits. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up prematurely. Put the teaching of Scripture into practice and keep putting it into practice. As you consistently apply the best practices of healthy relationships you change and your relationships change. You flourish and others around you flourish, too. This week you dive into many Scriptures to learn these best practices and begin to put them into action.

    Day 1: The Golden Rule

    Read Matthew 7:12. This is the Golden Rule of Relationships. How do you want to be treated? This is how you should treat others. It is that simple. While this is not the final word for what is needed for great relationships, it is the necessary first word. Think About It: How do you want others to treat you? Come up with a list of words, phrases, or short descriptions for how you want to be treated. You will probably come up with a lot of ideas. Look for the top 10 (or 12) that are most important and write them down on a notecard. Put It Into Action: After you have done this, look at that list and ask yourself, “Is this how I treat the people in my life?” Carry around your notecard all week and read it every day. Start treating EVERYONE the way that you want to be treated and watch what happens!

    Day 2: The Attitude of Jesus

    Read Philippians 2:1-5 (and 6-11 to see the rest of the story). Paul wants you to have a certain attitude/mindset about relationships. He wants you to think about people the way Christ thought about them and acted toward them. There are at least five or six key relationship practices in this passage. Empty_Frame_Blue Think About It: Do other people experience you as a humble, good listener who is vitally interested in them…or do they experience you as mostly interested in yourself, your opinions, your projects, your agendas, your needs, etc.? Do this little exercise several times, each time choosing one important person in your life and thinking about how that person experiences you. Put It Into Action: Today, engage in conversations that show a real interest in others and their needs. Find out how others are doing. See if there is anything you can do to help them. Really put this into practice in marriage and parenting. Pray often, asking Jesus to give you an attitude and heart like his.

    Day 3: Imitating God

    Read Ephesians 4:32-5:2. If you have a little more time, read Ephesians 4:17-30. In those verses Paul gives many things we should avoid in relationships, but 4:32-5:2 is the heart of this passage. And at the center of the heart is the command: “Be imitators of God.” Paul is setting a VERY high standard for how we relate to one another. Study these verses to see what it means to imitate God. What specific relational practices has God shown us as he models the way of love? Pray: The best suggestion for follow-up is to copy this passage on a notecard (or mark it in your Bible App) and look at it several times each day. Every time you look at it, turn it into a prayer, where you ask Jesus to help you imitate the ways of God. Pay attention to any opportunity where you may need to sacrifice a little or go out of your way to help someone. Remember, Jesus really went out of his way to love us (refer back to Philippians 2:6-11). Imagine: What will happen in your most important relationships if you act in these ways?

    Day 4: Relationships God's Way

    Read Colossians 3:12-17. As always, you should feel free to read the verses that are around the core passages. There is additional perspective to be gained as you read the larger context. Just be sure to focus on the main passage for this devotional. I want you to do a little deeper study on this passage. Frame_GreenSquare First, see how you are described in 3:12. There are three descriptions. Reflect on what each one says about you. I hope you are excited about those descriptions!

    Second, notice the words that describe your responsibility. What are those words or phrases that describe what you do? (For example: clothe yourself in 3:12.) If you don’t do the things God tells you to do about relationships what do you think will happen? How important is your own responsible engagement in doing what God tells you to do for your relationships to improve?

    Third, there are about 10 relational practices mentioned. Make a list of these practices. You should be noticing overlap with previous passages you studied. Of all the many qualities listed are there one or two that really speak to you? Which ones get your attention? Why are these qualities standing out for you? What is God doing and saying to you about these practices?

    Lastly, is there anyone you need to forgive? What is holding you back? Pray and ask God for strength to forgive.

    Day 5: The Way to Healing

    Read 2 Chronicles 7:14. This is a powerful instruction and promise in the Old Testament. I have meditated on this passage dozens of times. While it was written to the people of Israel to warn them about the potential of their turning away from the ways of God, I believe we can also use this passage to find great insight for how we can experience healing in our relationships.

    There are four things we MUST do if we are to find the healing we need in our land (our marriages, our homes, our families, our churches, our places of work, our nation). Think about each command listed in this passage.

    Humble yourself. What does it mean to live humbly with others? Who are the people who probably do not experience you being very humble? What can you begin to do to change that?

    Pray. Basically, depend on God. You cannot change or fix broken relationships under your own power. You need God’s transforming power. So pray. Pray for yourself. Pray for the other. Pray for the relationships.

    Seek God’s face. Included in this instruction is that we want God’s will to be done in our lives. We want to follow God’s ways in our relationships. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This is true about our relationships. You must want God’s will and ways about your relationships. This weekly devotional resource has been designed to help you discover God’s will and ways about life together.

    Turn from wicked ways. Stop it. Yes, stop it. Stop doing what is wrong. Stop doing those things that hurt others. You can stop. Right now. Own up to your wrongdoing (i.e., refusing to love and being willing to hurt). Choose to love and decide to do no harm. It is not enough to put good things into practice. Stop doing bad things that hurt others. What is on your short list of your most harmful relationship practices that hurt others? Remember what they are and STOP IT!

    Day 6: Be the Change: It Starts With You

    Last Sunday there was a postcard-size reminder for you to use to think about your relationships. On one side there were seven best practices listed. Look over that card to see the seven best practices. Look up the Scripture verses that were provided.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord guide you in all the CHANGES he will make in you. You are loved. • Pastor Brian

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