Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Grace of Giving

Author: Rachel Kidd

Paul’s teaching about Christian stewardship 

Money is a tense subject, something that causes arguments and fights in nearly every relationship. Having too much or too little can put a strain on even the healthiest marriage, and poor money management can lead to immense stress.   

Some pastors even avoid the subject of money altogether in hopes of avoiding this tension. But, good stewardship and understanding of money is an important factor in spiritual wellness. Paul and his ministry provides us with a clear picture of how to teach about money and what good stewardship is in a Christian context.  

Faithful Stewardship 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 

 In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides us two of the greatest chapters in the bible on the subject of stewardship. An adept salesman with keen diplomacy skills, Paul persuades Gentiles to give to a collection to benefit persecuted Jews In Jerusalem and Judea. Paul had incredible empathy for these particular persecuted Christians, as they were the primary targets for his own crusade against the church prior to his conversion. While Paul’s ministry was primarily centered on Gentiles, like those at the church in Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossi, he was able to raise an impressive collection for the persecuted Jewish Christian community.  

Paul holds up the giving patterns of the Corinthians, or the Maccedonians, to the Phillipians as an example of faithful stewardship. He tells us about the principles that should be involved in our stewardship.  

Primarily, he says that we must give ourselves to God. Paul did not accept monetary gifts from non-believers on principle, he only accepted gifts from those who were faithful. He asserts that you must keep in the will of God in order to further the will of God.  

Joyful Giving 

As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;  their righteousness endures forever.” 

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. –2 Corinthians 9:9-13  

Paul also says that giving should be of our own volition. He emphasized the importance of giving only when the Lord leads us to, rather than at the coercion of a pastor or spiritual leader. We give because we love Him, because we are grateful for what He has done for us, and because we are full of joy and want to give back to Him. Our motivations should be love and gratitude, joyfully giving back to God a portion of what He has given us. 

It may seem difficult to imagine giving joyfully when you are not financially blessed. Maybe you are struggling, much like the Phillippians in poverty. They gave out of their severe poverty in a time of trials. Paul says that their giving was based on what they had, not what they did not have. God blesses us with money as He sees fit and with whom He can trust us with. If you have little now and do not tithe 10% as commanded, then you will not give more if you had more.  

Paul explains that our gifts are not measured by their size or worth, rather on the attitude with which we give. Paul called giving a “grace” because we are enabled to give by His power and blessings on our lives. It’s proportional to what we have, not to what we could have. All that we have is God’s, we are simply stewards of it, called to further the kingdom of God with our wealth. When we give freely to God what He has given to us, God responds to our good stewardship. God provides for us and makes sure that we have all we need. When we give of our own volition in joy, God sees us and blesses us in return.  


Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

What Would Jesus Do?

Author: Rachel Kidd

Growing up in the renaissance of Western cultural evangelicalism, I remember nearly everyone I knew had all the trappings of Jesus-freak culture. We wore our WWJD bracelets with pride, a physical reminder to ourselves and to everyone else, that we were Christians and proud to be so.  

But, I began to realize that wearing a bracelet does not a good Christian make. Wearing a WWJD bracelet doesn’t inherently make me good or Christ-like. In fact, the bracelet alone doesn’t even make me a Christian. Neither does a Jesus-fish on the back of your car, a Third Day t-shirt, a Bible verse in your Instagram bio, or even regular church attendance on Sundays.   

Christianity was born long before American material culture. It began with the birth of a baby in a manger in the modern heart of the Palestinian West Bank, in Bethlehem.   

Jesus was a poor carpenter, a friend to fisherman and prostitutes, an advocate for the silenced, and healer of the sick. If Jesus had been born today, would He be nestled in luxury in the U.S.? I’d argue that He wouldn’t. In fact He would likely be born in the middle of the conflict in the Middle East, gunfire and bomb explosions; modern warfare marking His entrance into the world. Forced from their homes, Jesus and His parents might be nation-less refugees searching for safety in neighboring countries, just like they fled to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s violent anger.  

What does it mean to be a Christian?  

The bible tells us that Jesus is the model for a perfect, godly life. We are called to pursue a Christ-like life as His disciples, a life-long pursuit of holiness that can only be found through a relationship with Jesus.  

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 

–1 Peter 2:21-23 

Because Jesus lived a perfect life and sacrificed Himself on the cross, to be followers of Christ we are asked to follow in His steps. To be a Christian means to live like Jesus.  

What does it mean to live like Jesus?  

In 1 Peter, we see that living like Jesus means rebuking sin and being truthful. While it is impossible to live a perfect, sinless life, we should be striving for that ideal. As we grow closer to Christ through scripture reading, Christian community, and prayer, we find ourselves becoming more like Him.  

 Jesus is the Word 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  

2 Timothy 3:16-17 

Timothy tells us that scripture is the key to training us to become good Christians. All scripture is God-breathed, meaning that it comes from the source of all truth. It is a tool to teach us, to guide us in the way of righteousness, and equip us for what God has called us to.  

Jesus is Life 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  

Hebrews 4:12 

In order to use the scriptures as God intended, as a living sword designed to penetrate into our hearts and judge our darkest thoughts, we must be good students of the Word. Understanding scripture and meditating in the word of God  

Jesus Relied on the Spirit 

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.  

Acts 5:32 

In Acts, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit. He says that the power of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is given to those who obey God. When we live in obedience to the scripture, we are sanctified and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

In the New Testament, we see evidence of this gift in early believers through their ability to speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift, enabling the believer to speak in languages that they were unable to before. These can be earthly or heavenly languages, a sign to everyone who can hear that you are filled with the spirit.  

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  

Acts 2:4 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  

1 Corinthians 13:1 

However, speaking in tongues is not the sole evidence of being spirit-filled. This verse tells us that this ability means nothing without love. This incredible miraculous gift is worth nothing more than mere noise without love. 

Jesus Decreased so that the Father Might Increase 

He must increase; I must decrease.  

John 3:30 

 In order to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus, John tells us that we must decrease in order for God to increase in us. To be more like Christ, we are called to become less sinful, less selfish and proud, and to be more loving, gentle and faithful.  

 To become less is not to be less of who you are, like your personality or passions, rather it means to work actively against your sinful nature and pursue holiness. As we are sanctified, or becoming more like Jesus, we are allowing Him to increase in our lives. We can see and experience the goodness God has to offer as our thoughts and desires align with His.  

Sanctification requires faith and daily diligence, spending time in the Word and in prayer. It means having a supportive community of fellow believers, like iron sharpens iron, who will hold you accountable to your faith. It means living in love, forgiving those that hurt you, giving freely, and pursuing peace.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

All in Love

Author: Rachel Kidd

Do everything in love. 

Corinthians 16:14 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 

Proverbs 17:17 

We all have an innate, God-given desire to love and to be loved by others. As infants, we need the loving touch and tender words of our parents and caregivers to grow. As children, we need unconditional love and acceptance, and loving discipline as we develop. As teenagers and adults, we need the loving support of community in order to thrive. Romantic love brings joy to marriage and loving your own children as a parent is another layer to that love.  

We also have a God who loves us, so deeply and unconditionally. He created love for us, calling us to love one another and treat each other well, as He loved us. Love in the modern context can seem dulled, a cheap alternative to what God designed for us. We see love over and over again in the scriptures, a constant reminder of God’s will for us; love for eachother and for Him. But is all love created equal?  

The Four Loves

There are four types of love that align with God’s design. C.S. Lewis explored these types in his 1960 book, “The Four Loves.”2 He begins his study of love with an introduction to St. John’s famous declaration; God is love. Lewis warns against conflating the two, love and God, without a safeguard in place.  

St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god” ; which of course can be restated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God (Lewis, 17).   

Affection (Greek: Storge) 

Affection is comfortable love, the nostalgia you feel in your hometown or the safety of your mother’s embrace. Often associated with the love children have for their parents and parents for their children, storge is rather undiscerning and does not rely on attraction or compatibility.  

Lewis called storge love humble, the kind of love that lives with “un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…” (Lewis, 56-57).  It is the love of the mundane, the people you see so often they become important features in your life, like pets or coworkers.  

Friendship (Greek: Philia) 

Friendship can also be overlooked in our culture, overshadowed by family or romantic connections. But, deep connections with friends and a strong community can be incredibly fulfilling. Lewis explained that “to the Ancients, friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it” (Lewis, 87). Unlike other types of relationships that are formed out of pure necessity or chance, friendship is a conscious decision made out of simple desire. Lewis described friendship as that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen. You got away from all that: This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels” (Lewis, 93).   

We enjoy companionship and so we create it. Often, we form friendships with others based on common interests and shared values. We build close bonds with friends overtime, supporting each other through hardships and celebrating successes.  

Romance (Greek: Eros) 

Beyond simple sexual desire for the act, “Eros wants the Beloved”. To be in eros love is to desire one person, to love them fully. C.S. Lewis says that lovers are “absorbed in each other”. 

While we are cautioned to be careful with romantic love, Lewis also tells us that eros love is a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for the church.   

“In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being… It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival” (Lewis, 126).  

When we love our spouse in this way, we get a taste of what it means to love so completely and better understand God’s love for us. Lewis describes it eros as having the unique ability to “obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving” (Lewis, 137).   

Charity (Greek: Agape)  

The love of mankind or agape love is the ultimate goal, to love others as God loves us. It is unconditional and eternal, forgiving and true. Agape love is something deeper than what Lewis calls the other three “natural loves.” It goes beyond a feeling, it is “goodness… the whole Christian life in one particular relation” (Lewis, 163).  

It is the beauty and curse of being human, the nature of love and the pain of loss that Lewis explains is God-willed.  “Even if it were granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. Christ comes at last to say “Why hast thou forsaken me?”” (Lewis, 169). 

Five Love Languages 

People give and receive love in different ways. Knowing how you love best is important to feeling secure in your relationships. Being conscious of how your friends, family, and significant other receive love improves relationships by reducing conflict and improving emotional intimacy.  

The Five Love Languages were developed by counselor Dr. Gary Chapman to help people improve their relationships by better understanding their unique personalities and needs.  

  1. Physical Touch. A hug from your best friend, a kiss from your spouse, or the cuddles from your dog make you feel loved and secure.  
  1. Acts of Service. When your loved one does something to make your life easier, like picking up dinner for the family on their way home or doing the laundry, makes you feel supported.  
  1. Quality Time. Quality over quantity, you value uninterrupted time with your loved ones and the ability to connect with them in person.  
  1. Words of Affirmation. Encouraging and positive words make you feel valued in relationships.  
  1. Receiving Gifts. When your loved ones take the time to pick out a gift that they know you’ll love, you feel understood and connected with that person.  

Take the Five Love Languages Quiz3 and find out your love language. This is a great quiz to take with your partner, as a family, or even with friends to improve understanding and communication in your relationship.  

Love and Loss 

In an incredibly powerful conclusion to “Four Loves,” Lewis urges us to love, even though it makes us vulnerable to heartbreak and pain. In fact, he says that avoiding love in fear of the pain it may cause, only further separates us from God.  

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. 

Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Faith & Doubt

Author: Rachel Kidd

Part of growing up is coming to terms with big questions and what the answers mean for your life. I was raised by two faithful Christian parents, who were each raised by two faithful Christian parents of their own. I come from a legacy of people with strong convictions and rock-solid foundations of truth. I went to church every Sunday and youth group every Sunday night nearly my entire life. And yet, I doubt.

Ever since I could read, I had questions. Really, even before that- I’ve been questioning authority since I learned to talk. “Why?” I would ask my mom and dad, “why do I have to eat my broccoli?” “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have two little brothers and no sisters?” My grandparents like to tell stories of my defiant personality as a toddler. Once, after playing with a new baby doll my Nana had bought to be played with at her house, I tried to take the baby home with me. She stopped me at the door and asked me to leave it there. I hugged the baby doll close and said, “share Nana, share!” I clearly understood the concept, asserting my own understanding above the authority in front of me. My grandmother of course laughed, but took the baby back anyway.

As I got older, my questions became more complex, as did the answers. Sometimes, I couldn’t even find the answer to satisfy my question, no matter how fervent my search. “Why does God let horrible things happen?” “Why do some Christians do horrible things in the name of God?” “Is there more to life than this, than what I can see?” Often, I wasn’t satisfied with the standard answers spouted at youth group or Sunday School. I asked my dad, one of the smartest people I know, who has a doctorate in theology and a seminary degree. Sometimes, even he didn’t know, or his answer wouldn’t make sense to me. I prayed for answers, read theological texts and scripture, discussed with other believers and non-believers alike. I wanted clarity, concrete answers to my big questions. To this day, it has yet to come.

Can we be faithful while still having doubt?

I have many, many unanswered questions and doubts. And yet, I can still be a believer. Faith is not dependent on having it all figured out. God doesn’t need us to be 100% sure of everything. It is impossible to fully understand why God chooses to act in the ways He does or why He allows evil to persist on earth for the time being. Yet, in choosing to worship Him and follow Him anyway, we are acting in faith.

Faith is believing despite not seeing.

Mary’s Faith

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’m a virgin.”

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God.

“Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. But nothing is impossible for God.”

Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”

Luke 1:34-38

When the angel appeared to young Mary, she was a virgin. She understood it was physically impossible for her to become pregnant, even when the words came from the mouth of a heavenly angel. She asks the angel, “how can this be?” He tells her that she will conceive the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, reassuring her that even what is impossible, is made possible by God.

Mary, I can imagine, was scared and confused, struggling to understand what the angel said. And yet, she chooses to act in faith anyway. Without fully understanding, Mary says yes, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Peter and Doubt

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31

We see Peter as a figure with a great deal of insecurity and fear that he grapples with throughout the Gospel. Despite being a close disciple of Jesus, he betrays Him three times the night of His death. He acts in violence in the Garden of Gethsemane. And he sinks in the Sea of Galilee.

Peter calls out to Jesus, testing him by asking him to let him walk on water too. Jesus tells him to come, allowing Peter to walk on the water’s surface. And yet, despite being a part of this miracle, Peter’s fear of the storm causes him to sink. He doubts Jesus and His power to control the very wind and waves He created. As Peter sinks and starts to drown, he calls out desperately to Jesus, asking to be saved. Jesus pulls him up, but challenges Peter’s lack of faith.

Because Peter allowed his fears, or doubts, to overcome his faith, he began to sink. Jesus reminds him, and us today, that faith keeps us afloat. Doubting God’s power causes us to stumble, leading us astray and to potential dangers. Faith causes us to experience the power and wonder of God.

The Cursed Fig Tree

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:18-22

While some may read this passage as a funny story of a hungry Jesus who becomes angry at a fig tree without any figs, we should moreover see the power of faith. Jesus tells the disciples that faith without doubt is immensely powerful. Faith can make disappointing fig trees shrivel up and die, it can make mountains throw themselves into the sea, and it can bring answered prayers.

Throughout each of these stories, we see faith in the miraculous birth of Christ, in Peter’s walk on water, and in the cursing of the fig tree. Mary may have been afraid and confused, but her faith allowed the great miracle of Jesus to be performed through her. Peter, while faithful in many other ways, fell short as he walked on the sea towards Jesus. His doubt prevented him from truly experiencing the gravity of his experience with Christ on the stormy sea. Through scripture, we see God rewarding the faithful and rebuking the doubters. Even when the faithful are frightened and don’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what God is asking them, their faith carries them through.

Abraham in Genesis 22:12-14 is another example. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son that he had waited so many long years for, Abraham doesn’t understand. He is terrified of losing his beloved son. And yet, he takes Issac up the mountain to die anyway. Because of his faithfulness, God blesses Abraham.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:12-14

Abraham demonstrates that when we act in faith, even when we don’t understand, God provides. He takes care of His faithful followers, blessing them for their strong faith.

Today, while I may not be taking baby dolls from my Nana’s house anymore, I still hate being told what to do. I like to think that I am competent and wise, but usually, my parent’s advice is far better than my own wisdom. I am still learning to heed the advice of people wiser than me, still learning to act in faith to God’s commands, especially when I don’t understand them. I only hope to walk in the faithful legacy left for me by my parents and grandparents, and the great faith-bearers of the bible like Mary and Abraham.

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Free Will and Jesus

Author: Rachel Kidd

What is free will? 

Writing on or discussing free will can feel more like playing the game Operation than a relaxing day at the beach. Tedious like a dissection, trying to understand free will can end in a pulsing headache rather than clarity. Here, we are discussing the issue of choice and what Jesus tells us about the power of free will, as well as the freedom and responsibility that comes with it to provide you with a clearer understanding of free will.  


Free will is the power to decide how you will react or what you will do in any given situation. The beauty of being human is the freedom to make new decisions daily, to make and commit to our promises, and to practice personal autonomy. If you’re miserable at your job, there’s nothing stopping you from quitting. If you feel stuck in your hometown, you can move tomorrow. If you want to get back into running, you can tie on sneakers right now and hit the pavement.  


Yet, our choices usually have limitations placed upon them, whether they be circumstantial or capped by wisdom. You might not be able to quit your job, because you need to be able to pay your bills and support yourself. You might not be able to afford to move out of your parent’s house. You might not be physically able to run anymore, due to injury or age. Maybe these choices are all technically within your power, yet it isn’t wise to make them right now or at all.  


You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial”  

–1 Corinthians 10:23 


This verse reminds us that all choices have consequences. Just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. We should be thinking about the implications of our decisions and if they are wise. Considering the timing and prayerfully considering God’s will can help us make good decisions and exercise responsibility with the great freedom we are given.  


But as Chrstians, we are also committed to make decisions with love and consideration for others. Our choices don’t just impact our own lives, but they can reverberate to the lives of others. When we make a big move or quit a job, we might be alienating friends and family or inconveniencing your team. While it may be a good choice for you, it might be negatively impacting people around you.  


The very next verse in the chapter tells us this, reminding us that we are to also be considerate of others.  


Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others  

—1 Corinthians 10:24 

Verses on Free Will  

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 

John 7:17 


John tells us that we have the ability to choose to do the will of God, confirming that if we choose to do so, we will find truth. The key word here is choice, indicating that we have the ability to follow the will of God or not.  


For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified —Romans 8:29-30 


In Romans, we are told that God knew beforehand who will be saved by His son. He then predestined them for sanctification and salvation. This aligns with what we know about God, that He is omniscient and just. We see that God is not pre-selecting, rather He simply knows what will happen. This allows people to still be held responsible for their actions on earth, while still revering God as the ultimate authority.  


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. –-1 Corinthians 10:13 


Paul reminds us of God’s faithfulness through temptation and the promise of His power. I think about the fact that Jesus became man and faced all the same trials and temptations as us. He shares that common humanity with us and is truly able to empathize with our plights. He is both God and man, understanding the struggle to remain in the will of God and possessing the ability to spare us.  


This verse embodies the free will question to me, explaining that we have the choice to succumb to temptations, but that God also provides a way out for us. We are not merely puppets controlled by a distant puppet-master, rather we are autonomous individuals with the ability to seek guidance from the almighty God.  

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What is forgiveness? 

Author: Rachel Kidd 

We all want to be forgiven for our mistakes. When we bump into someone at the grocery store or forget about an important date, we usually want to be forgiven as quickly as possible. For little blunders, like stepping on someone’s toe, typically, a quick “I’m sorry” is met immediately with “that’s okay,” and all is forgiven. More egregious errors, like a car accident, usually take longer to be resolved and time for the relationship between the offender and the offended to be restored. Because we are human, we often struggle through our anger, hurt, and pride to forgive and be forgiven by others.   

Forgiveness is an intentional decision to let go of our resentment and anger towards someone else for an action that hurt us. It allows us to be in a continued, restored relationship with that person without hurt eroding it. When resentment is allowed to build up, it eats away at the fabric of the relationship and eventually destroys it.  

Forgiveness is essential to both interpersonal relationships and our relationship with God. Because of our sinful nature, we are inherently separated from the close relationship we were designed to have with God the Father. God cannot tolerate sin, no matter how much He loves us. This is why Jesus died to restore that relationship, forgiving all our sins that hurt God.  

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9 

The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins and believe in the Lord, He will forgive us.  

Verses on Forgiveness 

We were shown incredible grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and the scripture reminds us repeatedly that we are intended to extend this grace to others.  

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:32 

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. –-Colossians 3:13  

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. —Matthew 6:12-14  

This section of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, specifically asks God to forgive us as we have forgiven others. It is a reminder to be constant in both asking for and extending forgiveness to others. It also indicates the importance of forgiveness, that it was included in the model Jesus gave us for prayer. He intentionally modeled and spoke about forgiveness, emphasizing how crucial it is in a faithful walk with God.  

What does it look like to forgive as Jesus forgave us?  

Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor 

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 

 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! 

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. 

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. 

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. 

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. 

When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 

 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” —Matthew 18-21-35 

 Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive people “seventy times seven” times, extending a more than generous amount of grace. He then explains this concept in the form of a parable through the relationship between a master and his servant, who owed him a great deal of money. The servant is clearly in over his head, unable to even fathom repaying the debt to his master. He begged for pity and patience. His master did feel pity for the man, choosing to forgive him of his debt entirely.  

But the man then leaves and encounters another servant who owed him some money. He is angry and demands repayment, even when the other servant tells him that he is unable to pay. The man has the other servant arrested and shows no mercy. Hearing of his actions, the master rebukes the servant and tells him that because he showed mercy on him, he should have done the same to his fellow servant. As punishment, the master sends him to prison, destined to be tortured until his debt is repaid in full.  

Jesus gives us a glimpse here of our fate without forgiveness. He says that if we refuse to forgive others, we are destined to be judged for eternity. Because we were so graciously forgiven and Jesus paid our debts, shouldn’t we extend that same forgiveness to our friends and family, even strangers?  

Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness, the one who died so that all my sins could be forgiven and my relationship with God the Father would be fully restored. I know I sin every day, and I am far from perfect, but I still long for that forgiveness so I can be in a relationship with God. How can I then turn to a friend and refuse to forgive them for hurting me? How much more has God forgiven me? Jesus reminds us that our debts have been forgiven, debts that we could never even begin to repay. He urges us to lend that same forgiveness to others, giving them the gift that has been so generously given to us.  

Church Development Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

God and Money 

Author: Rachel Kidd

As someone who likes the finer things in life, I often consider the implications of money. What does it mean to have money and acquire wealth as a Christian? It is a sticky morality question, one with so many burrs and thorns that it seems easier to just not touch it at all.  

Money is a necessary evil in the modern world. We work hard for it, live off of it, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how the world would function without it. But, the question I ask is who do you serve? Are you a slave to your money or is it merely a tool for survival? 

 Jesus was not wealthy on earth and neither were His disciples. They were regular, peasant folks who worked physically demanding jobs. During Jesus’ ministry, they were nomadic, traveling often by foot from city to city across Israel. They were often dirty, hungry, and slept under the stars. Today, they might be van lifers that traverse the globe in beat-up vans, bathing in streams, and hiking trails. Their goal was not to acquire the most wealth, but to dwell in relationship with others and spread the gospel.  

Verses on Money  

Many of the verses on money in the gospels are found in Matthew, who was a former tax collector himself. Tax collectors at this time were notoriously corrupt, stealing from the poor and lining their own pockets. Once a hoarder of wealth, Matthew left it all behind to follow Jesus and embraced a life of pious poverty.  

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. 

Matthew 19:24 

When talking to Jesus, a rich man asks how he can be good. Jesus tells him first to follow the commandments. The man agrees and says he keeps the commandments. Jesus then says he could sell his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor, so he can follow Him. The man then leaves discouraged, because he can’t bring himself to sell his many belongings.  

He is so attached to his belongings, wealth, and status, that he chooses these over Jesus. He can’t see past his tangible, earthly things, that he turns down eternal glory in heaven. And that is what Jesus warns the disciples about, telling them that it is hard for the rich to enter in the kingdom of heaven. The poor on earth have little to lose and much to gain, striving for a reward they can’t have on earth. Yet, the wealthy are secure in their money and life on earth and find it difficult to give it up just for the promise of an intangible reward.  

The disciples all gave up their livelihoods fishing to follow Jesus. While not insignificant, their wages were likely meager. But, Jesus promises that they will be rewarded in heaven for their faithfulness with twelve thrones, where the last will be first and the first will be last.  

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 

Matthew 6:24 

Much like the rich man could not part from his wealth in order to follow Jesus, this verse tells us that we cannot be followers of more than one master. We can’t love money so much that it clouds our faith. When you serve money, your life doesn’t have room for anything else.  

Living for wealth obscures your vision, making it difficult to see where you may be hurting others, particularly the exploitation of people in industry. When the goal is simply to make as much money as possible without consideration for the human and environmental consequences, so much can be destroyed.  

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.  

Luke 6:21 

Those that understand what it means to be hungry can better appreciate feeling full and satisfied. Those who understand poverty, housing insecurity, can better appreciate being safe and comfortable. God sees people that don’t have much and promises them more in heaven. He sees their pain on earth and promises an eternal solution, one that can be more fully understood and appreciated by those who have lacked.  

The wealthy cannot truly appreciate the promise of heaven in this sense, because they are already safe and secure. While they may enjoy the richness of eternal life, they simply cannot be grateful in the same way the poor can. The ones who have struggled and suffered are going to be the most grateful recipients of this abounding grace.  

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

Matthew 6:19-21 

Of course, money makes the world go ‘round, as they say. But, I believe that Jesus uplifted the most vulnerable and poor of us, understanding their deeper appreciation for the promise of heaven. He asks us to live in such a way that we are looking towards eternity, seeking out rewards in heaven instead of how many houses we can own or purses can line our closets. These riches can easily be lost to time, thieves, or deterioration. Our heavenly rewards for faithfulness and compassion however, are eternal and everlasting.  

As much as I enjoy nice things, I hope my focus is less on the material and more on my relationships with God and the people around me. I don’t believe that Jesus is calling us all to be nomads for Him, but rather to turn our focus outward and make sure we are serving Christ, not money first.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Living Out the Fruit of the Spirit

Author: Rachel Kidd

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23  

What are the Fruits of the Spirit?  

My mom often quoted Galatians 5 to me and my little brothers growing up, often when we were whining or fighting with each other over the remote. Basically, whenever we were demonstrating the opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit, is when she reminded us of their virtue.  

And she was correct, of course, as she always is. The Fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I had them memorized as a kid, and I could still rattle out the song for you today. They’re all wonderful virtues and you;d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that. Everyone wants their children to embody these traits, but the process of fostering them is the much greater challenge.  

 Instilling the fruits of the spirit in your children, or in yourself as an adult, is certainly more involved than singing a song. It requires consistency, great love, and most importantly, relationship with God. To be human is to fall short of the glory of God and the fruits of His spirit, but his Son allows us to commune with the saints. In other words, the fruits of the spirit are the harvest of a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit.  

How do you become more loving?  

John 15:12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 

Jesus commands us to love each other self-lessly, as He first loved us. Jesus is the perfect model of love; deep, abounding, grace-filled love that we so desperately need.  

How do you become more joyful?  

Romans 15:13. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

This verse tells us that God is the source of all hope, peace, and joy that can only be found in believing in Him. The Holy Spirit is the conductor of sorts, the power to imbue us with overflowing joy.  

How do you become more peaceful?  

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Much like Romans tells us that God is the source of peace, this verse tells us that God can unburden us from our anxieties. He has the power to take those crippling fears, doubts, and worries off of our shoulders because He cares for us. Free from anxiety, we can rest peacefully in the knowledge that our God has our back.  

How do you become more patient?  

Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. 

This Proverb reminds us of the virtue of patience, calling us to be slow to anger. It is of course easy to lash out when we’re upset, to hurt others when we feel hurt. I have often said things out of anger to people I love that I immediately regret. This verse warns me of this habit and reminds me of how foolish I feel after a tense argument.  

How do you become more kind?  

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 

Being kind is not being nice. It is deeper and genuine than surface-level niceties. This verse reminds us of the power of kind and encouraging words from our friends. Words have the power to tear down and destroy, but also the ability to bolster confidence and make you feel invincible. Let us use our words wisely and carefully; to be kind.  

How do you become good?  

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 

Goodness comes from God, and how do we become more like Him? Just like our Savior forgives our sins and desires a relationship with us, so we can forgive the people in our lives. As difficult as it may seem to forgive people who may have hurt us deeply, forgiveness can lighten our own emotional burdens and improve our relationships.   

How do you become more faithful? 

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Sanctification, or the process through which a relationship with God changes us, involves confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness. Only God can forgive sins and only He can make us whole.  

How do you become more gentle? 

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 

Like catching flies with honey, responding to the world with gentleness is often the most effective. Not only that, but it is godly as well. To meet the cruelty of life with sweet softness is a radical way to show God’s love.  

How do you become more self-controlled?    

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 

Not to say that being a Christian is synonymous with timidness, this verse reminds us of the power of Christ. He emboldens us as his church with power, not necessarily physical power, but internal. His Spirit is one of careful self-control and overwhelming love and as we grow in our faith, so we flex our spiritual muscles.  

The Fruits of the Spirit do not grow spontaneously. Rather, they produce fruit from careful cultivation through a deep relationship with God. We cannot expect a full harvest of Fruit without working the land. Growing our faith, and our Fruit, requires study of the bible, fellowship and communal worship with other believers, and prayer. These are the farmers’ tools. 

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Perfect Love

Author: Rachel Kidd

What is perfect love?  

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 

1 John 4:18 NIV  

We know that God is love and that He is perfect. But what does it mean to love perfectly? John tells us here that love not only is the absence of fear, but that love actively pushes out fear. To love is not to intimidate with threats of retribution, rather it is peaceful and harmonious.  

Fear has no place in perfect love, no matter the intention.  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Romans 5:8 NIV 

Despite His hatred for sin, Jesus demonstrated perfect love by dying for us in the most horrific way. Crucifixion was a horrific way to die, agonizingly slow and painful, designed to be a warning to dissuade other criminals. Yet, Jesus, the only perfect man to ever live, who was fully God and fully man, chose to die for us sinners on the cross. This act can only be described as perfect love, a divine act of grace for a people so wholly undeserving.  

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints.  

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 

In a competitive world, it can be hard to imagine relationships with others without competition, arrogance, or rudeness. We see it all the time, from road rage to yelling at a waitress for a mistake in an order. But, what if we chose to live with love in mind? What would the world look like if we were kind to each other, humble, patient, and long-suffering? I can imagine that it would be a world much like heaven.  

How can we show that love to others?  

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 

John 13:34 NIV  

I have two younger brothers, the middle is 2 ½ years younger and the littlest is 7 ½ years younger than me. I was the de-facto babysitter and the responsible party in all matters of disagreements and shenanigans. With two hyperactive and intelligent brothers, you can imagine the scrapes we managed to find ourselves in, from kitchen concoctions gone wrong to broken heirlooms.  

To be honest, I found it really difficult to love my brothers for most of my childhood. I just wanted to go out without being asked “where’s your brother?” or “go find your brother.” I didn’t want to chase a little boy in circles around my middle school or crawl through round racks of clothes in a department store, searching for the missing toddler (both true stories). It began to be a matter of resentment, an anger I carried for many years. Of course, it’s in our nature to feel anger- in fact, Jesus Himself felt angry (Mark 3:5). But, the issue lies in what we do with that anger.  

Anger and fear go hand in hand. And we know that fear has no place in perfect love. In the same way, anger that causes fractures in relationships is far from the vision God has for the love we show our brothers and sisters. The resentment I carried did not foster a loving relationship with either of my brothers, it created a dividing wall between us, eroding the closeness we once shared.  

Once I realized that this anger was preventing a relationship with my brothers, I had to take a step back and evaluate. I needed to spend time in prayer and reflection to process my resentment. It took time, grace, patience, and God’s intervention, but my anger began to dissolve. I realized that my parents were doing the best they knew how, that my brother’s never intentionally tried to take anything from me or my childhood, and that my whole family loves me.  

In order for me to begin to show love for my brothers that even resembles the perfect love of Jesus, I first had to work through my anger. God allowed me to process those childhood feelings in order to rebuild those relationships, making them more perfect in His grace. And that is the key element of perfect love; an absence of anger and an abundance of God’s grace. Without both, love cannot be perfected.  

Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Missing Jesus in God’s Word 

Author: Charles Hegwood

Reading God’s word is essential to following Jesus. We need those marching instructions. The Bible is a place that we meet with God as we read. Reading scripture invites us into the presence of the King of Kings. At least this is what reading the Bible is supposed to be. Many times we read with an assortment of motivations. But we must hear John as he writes to us, “Don’t read the Bible and miss Jesus.” Finding Jesus in the text is the greatest invitation to the greatest scavenger hunt in the history of the world. As you study God’s word make sure that you do not miss the Word, Jesus, God in human skin.  

A Read and a Miss  

In John 5:39 Jesus essentially says, “go and find me in the Scriptures.” By the way this includes the Old Testament as well. In the immediate context of John chapter 5, the Pharisees, “pore over the Scriptures.” That is a reference to the Old Testament. John is saying that it is more than simply finding Jesus in the Scripture. Instead, this verse implies we must find Jesus. I find Jesus’ words both a blessing and a warning. The blessing is that we can go to all Scripture with the expectation of finding Jesus. But it is also a warning. We must not miss Jesus in the Scriptures. This was the problem with the Pharisees.  

Earlier in chapter 5 Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath. This was a big problem for the Pharisees. Jesus’ healing violated their rules regarding the Sabbath. They begin to confront Jesus and turn up the pressure. It is in this context that we arrive at the conversation that is going on in 5:39. Jesus does not deny the fact that the Pharisees knew the Scriptures. On the contrary, they “poured over them.” The Pharisees and the scribes were experts in knowing their Bible. They should have seen Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. They should have had no problem with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They should have known Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath. The problem lies in their motivation and interpretation. Jesus did not fit what they wanted. They missed the Word of God despite knowing God’s word.  

The Mirror of Scripture 

We often read the gospel accounts of Jesus and the Pharisees with blinders on. We think, “those Pharisees just did not get it.” And yet we must see that when we read Scripture it is a mirror. We cannot simply laugh at the ignorance of the Pharisees without seeing the warning of Jesus to the modern reader. Let the Holy Spirit use the Bible as a sword to cut away our callousness. We are often like the Pharisees. When we read scripture it should be like looking at ourselves in the mirror in the morning. We might not like what we see, but that is what we need to repent and change. As Jesus called out the Pharisees’ mistake, we too are being called out.  

Brothers and sisters let us not pore over the scripture everyday and miss Jesus. This is the warning that John, in writing this account, is trying to tell us. Read the Bible and find Jesus in the text. Meet with Him there. When we do, we will see our sin laying out exposed. We repent and are ushered into the presence of Jesus. But when we read with wrong motivation and interpretation we miss Jesus and miss time with Him. How sad it would be to spend time reading the Bible and never see Jesus, and never seek Jesus. We miss the whole point when we do this. The results are that we become the Pharisees. We become calloused toward the working of the gospel in our lives and in the lives of others. If that is you today, the good news is it is not too late.  


It would be a tragedy to miss Jesus as we read, but if that is you, as it has been me in the past, then I have good news. You can meet with Jesus in His word today. Open your Bibles to the Old Testament or New Testament and find Jesus. It is like the greatest scavenger hunt you could ever embark on. When we seek Jesus in the text it brings a sense of excitement as we read God’s word. And something else begins to happen.  

We begin to see how wonderfully interconnected the Bible really is. We see how truly all of Scripture is telling one story. It is telling the story of how God steps down into human history to take on flesh and redeem His lost children. Jesus is whispered throughout every corner of the Bible. Only go and find Him. See the wonderful tapestry that Scripture weaves. Embrace it and be inspired by it. Read the Bible with the expectation to find Jesus and you will find Him. The more you do this the more you will see. This truth has guided me throughout my journeys through the Bible. It has been one of the increasing joys in my life. So enjoy the blessing and heed the warning. Do not read the Bible and miss Jesus.