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Friday, February 27, 2015

Formation Friday: Polycarp of Smyrna

"Though you do not see Him, you believe, and in believing there is unspeakable joy."

This past week, Christians around the world remembered one of the great martyrs -- Polycarp of Smyrna (70–155 AD).

He was one of the earliest leaders of the church, having been a disciple of the Apostle John (as in the writer of "the Gospel of John, 1,2,3 John and Revelation" -- that John).

Polycarp is a celebrated figure in the history of Christianity. He is one of few men we have detailed accounts of that lived as connections to both the biblical apostles and the age of the early church fathers. Several ancient sources document the contributions of Polycarp to Christianity, including his letters written to the church at Philippi, in which he encourages the members to remain strong in their faith and to flee from materialism.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday Word: Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

Do you hear the angst in his voice? This psalm was written by King David, probably while he was fleeing from Absalom, his son; certainly at the time he wrote it he was king (see verse 11), and hard pressed by those who sought his life.

My question for us to consider is, why don't we write like this anymore? Why don't we feel this angst, this desire, this
overwhelming need for more and more of God.

Why do we not "earnestly seek", "thirst for", "faint for" as David and so many other biblical authors did?

Is it because we are too easily satisfied?
Maybe because we "feel good" too easily about our spiritual life.
Maybe because we have no real needs, we have everything at our fingertips, we have... an app for that.

This week can I challenge you to analyze yourself and find what it is that keeps you from expressing (really feeling and desiring) your love for Christ the way David longed for God.

This week, join me in feeling the angst.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;your right hand upholds me.


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: A Rudder Prayer

Your first thoughts.

They set a precedent. The way you spend your first hour charts the course of the rest of your day.

Your first thoughts are like a rudder for the course of your day.

Start the day on your smartphone? You will likely be chained to it every spare second.
Spend the first hour worrying about work or school? You'll find yourself preoccupied with those tasks until you go to bed for the night.
Begin your morning seeking God? You'll find Him...and you'll see Him more in every single moment.

Seek Jesus, and He will take you where He wants you to go.

Let the words of this prayer act as a rudder, steering the direction of your day.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How You Can Reclaim Your Time

"Where did all the time go?"

Have you ever found yourself asking that question? It's always a question with at least a hint of regret. It's always accompanied with a wish that you had enjoyed the moments more fully.


It's the one thing we can't get back once it's gone.

Time is constantly moving, constantly going. Each moment is here briefly, and then is gone forever. Once a moment is gone, you can't get it back.

And as many blessings as they give us, there's nothing in our lives that wastes our time more than our gadgets.

How many hours have you wasted on your iPhone...on your Xbox...on Facebook...watching Netflix...playing games...browsing...doing everything you can to be distracted and not enjoy the present moment? I know I've done all those things.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Formation Friday: Checklist Christianity

This week we are taking a break from our traditional Formation Friday posts that usually center around a great christian from history and quotes from him/her and instead want to touch on the idea of spiritual formation itself.

Spiritual Formation does not occur through a checklist.

That is to say, we do not become conformed to Christ simply because we spend an extra 5 minutes reading the Bible every morning.
We don't become more Christlike by fulfilling a check list of dos and don'ts.

  • Went to church: Check!
  • Shared the Jesus picture on facebook: Check!
  • Had my quiet time: Check!
  • Donated to the homeless guy on the street corner: Check!
  • Put on Christian radio in the car: Check!

(Didn't go to the bar, didn't wear yoga pants outside, guarded my eyes from that TV commercial... etc.)

Spiritual Formation does not occur in a vacuum of independence. It doesn't happen in a space we carve out once a week to put our church face on and perk up our ears to listen to the preacher.

It just doesn't happen by anything we try to do.
Especially anything we try to do half-heartedly.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Defeat ISIS

How did God change the course of human history?

I like this question, because it makes me think.

I like this question because it makes everyone think, from the elementary aged kid learning how to subtract to the Bible scholar and world renowned theologian.

I like this question because it is not so easily answered. In fact, one would ask if it even can be answered…

Perhaps though, we need to ask a clarifying question:
Was there ever a time that God was not changing the course of human history?

For my purposes in this post, I want to answer it this way:

Through one person.

God can change history through one person.
God HAS changed history through just one person.

Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Esther, Mary, and anyone ever hear of… Jesus?

Or a little more contemporary… George Washington, Amy Carmichael, Martin Luther, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa…

All of these are good answers, all of these are answers deep enough to expound upon in books, many, many books if we wanted to write them.

What about ISIS?
Is God changing the world through one group of terrorists/warriors/ Islamic militants ?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Word: Ephesians 1:3-14

Have you ever wrestled with your belonging?

Perhaps I should rephrase... Do you ever wonder whether or not God accepts you?

Have you ever felt like you don't belong in God's Kingdom, the church?

The Apostle Paul spilt a great deal of ink talking about belonging and acceptance to the Ephesian church. Perhaps the most beautifully described at the very beginning of his letter, which is our text today.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: More of You

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."
Psalm 42:1-2


I need You, God.

I am broken.
Bind me up with Your healing touch.

I am empty.
Fill me up with Your Spirit.

I am thirsty.
Satisfy me with Your living water.

I am hungry.
Let me feast on Your word.

I am dead.
Make me live by Your breath of life.

I am weak.
Eclipse my weakness with Your grace.

I am sinful.
Purify me by your purifying fire.

I feel alone. I can't see you, I can't touch you. You seem so distant.
Help me trust that you are here, and you are working in this.

I need You, O God! More of You, less of me.


Evan Smith

is a Pastor currently living in Phoenix, AZ. He majored in New Testament Studies at Ozark Christian College. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. More than anything, Evan wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God.

The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Evan's Website

Friday, February 13, 2015

Formation Friday: Herrnhut Moravians

The most famous prayer vigil of all time, one that lasted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year… for… more than 100 years… 

...was started by a group of people that are perhaps the most unlikely if you were to judge them from their appearance.

These people were not clerics, priests, pastors, monks, or nuns.

They were refugees, farmers, blacksmiths, tradesmen of all sorts; families who were looking for a bit of heaven to be found upon the earth.

A grand ragtag group of Moravian refugees, fleeing from religious persecution from other Christians, came together and created a utopian society, but not like those portrayed in famous novels like Anthem or Brave New World, these men and women based everything they did, believed, and practiced in their prayer and worship of Jesus Christ.

This group became known as the Herrnhut Moravians, later and presently known as the Moravian Church.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Forgotten Promise of the Bible

"God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling."
Psalm 46:1-2

Filling the pages of Scripture is the most astounding promise in the universe: 

You can have as much of God as you want.

"At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom" (Mtt 27:51 NLT).

When Jesus delivered His spirit and breathed His last, He purchased for us access to the very presence of God. The curtain in the temple, separating the manifest presence of God from all mankind, was torn in two. The sin that isolated us and kept us hidden has been abolished, and God's presence is available to every man, woman, and child.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wednesday Word: 2 Timothy 2:8-13

"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself."

The call is clear, “share in suffering”. (See verse 3)

Paul emphasized again and again throughout his letters and in his ministry that he suffered for the cause of Christ, and he suffered well.

Now he writes to remind his protege Timothy, but he gives him an image and an example that will carry him through, “Remember,” an imperative and probably the most important command Paul gives to Timothy, “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!”

Paul pleads with Timothy to remember, the Greek word (μνημονεύε) has a deeper meaning: Paul not only wants him to remember, but to keep thinking about this, recalling it constantly, having a thirst to remember and respond, remember and be forced to mention.

It forces me to think of Jeremiah when he said that the word of God was in his, “heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: Love

In the last 2 years since becoming a father, one of the most important things I've learned is this:

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

Many of the most damaged parent-child relationships are a result of the parent's absence or neglect. God didn't show us his love by simply not punishing us for sin. He displayed his love by sacrificing himself to give us life. Love is never indifferent.

I desperately want to grow in this truth. Sure, I can't sacrifice myself or my time for every person in the world, my city, or even my neighborhood. I just don't have that capacity. But what about those I'm called to love? Am I living the sacrificial love that is never indifferent?

Think through the people in your life. Family...friends...acquaintances...maybe even somebody you pass on the street but have never met. Who is in need of a love that is not indifferent?

Take that image, take those people, and think of them as you pray these words....

Saturday, February 7, 2015


“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
-Romans 12:2

High theology.
High Christology.

That is the make-up of the first 11 chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans. And then, here in chapter 12, comes a shift. Paul moves to the practical.

The “So, what!?” of his letter.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Formation Friday: Amy Carmichael

"You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." 

Some know her as a writer, the author of over 40 books. Others know her as a missionary to India, one of the most famous people influenced by the great Hudson Taylor. In her day, hundreds of orphans in India knew her as "Amma," their word for "Mother."

Amy Carmichael was born on December 16, 1867 in County Down, Ireland. She was the oldest of seven children born to a miller named David and his wife Catherine, both devout Presbyterians. David moved the family to Belfast when Amy was sixteen, but it was not two years later that David fell sick and died. At 17 years old, young Amy Carmichael quickly learned the responsibility of providing for many.

Even from a young age, Amy had a desire to spend her life investing in the kingdom. Elisabeth Elliot tells a story of an event that changed Amy as a child. She writes,
"Once back in Ireland, as Amy and her family were returning from church they chanced upon an old woman carrying a heavy bundle of rags. Amy and her brothers took the bundle and helped the old woman to her destination. To Amy, this act of sacrifice and kindness was "hated." As they turned and walked along, they passed by the other Churchgoers and worried what these "respectable people" would think. Before bringing the woman to her destination Amy and her brothers passed by an elaborate Victorian fountain. A voice impressed upon Amy's heart the words from 1 Corinthians 3:12-14: "Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble. If any man's work abide...." That afternoon Amy sought God privately in her room anguishing over the idea of what would last in eternity from her own life. The lessons of obedience and sacrifice from that day would echo through the rest of her life."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Word: Philippians 2:12-13

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

These two verses have always made me pause and think.

Work out your salvation?
With Fear and Trembling?
Paul, what are you talking about!?

I never quite could understand why he put this in here, and honestly I may never know what was going through Paul's mind when he wrote these words. The key to understanding these verses however, lies threefold:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pursuing the Presence: Rest

Let me give you a reminder to start this post:

Slow down.

Take your time with this. Play the video at the bottom of the page and let it focus your thoughts on the words of this Scripture and this prayer. 

Pray these words over your day, your week, your life. 

Have some more time? Pray it over your best friend, your family, even your "enemy." 

And then be still. Let the truth sink in. Let God speak back to you.


"Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; 
I have no good apart from You.'"

Psalm 16:2



You alone sustain. You alone satisfy.
Only You are worthy of Glory and Honor and Praise.

I rest in You this day.
I rest in Your steadfast love.
I rest in Your completed work.
I rest in Your lavish grace.
I rest....trusting that You are in control right now.
I rest....trusting that right now I am exactly where you want me to be.
I rest, for I belong to You. You are the one that really matters.

Be supreme in my heart, my mind, my life today.
Pry open the fingers of my heart,
help me release to You whatever is most precious to me.

May seeking You, O Jesus, and seeking Your kingdom,
be the one and only obsession of my life.

Remove any obstacles, overcome any weaknesses that hinder your work in my life.

I am Yours and Yours alone.



Evan Smith

is a Pastor currently living in Phoenix, AZ. He majored in New Testament Studies at Ozark Christian College. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. More than anything, Evan wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God.

“The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Evan's Website