Week of June 23rd

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Okay, maybe I spent too much time with my thesaurus, but here are six words that follow Sunday’s story of Peter meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. Peter had failed. Jesus wanted him to grow through the failure to become the tremendous spiritual leader of the church that Jesus knew he could become. But he had to overcome this obstacle of failure.

PRAYER:  O God who revealed your grace and mercy most fully in Jesus:  unpack your grace in my life to overcome my fears, failures, and frustrations. Help me to grow into the person you dreamed I would become in Jesus’ name. Amen.

MONDAY- Repentance:  Acts 2:37-47

To repent is not necessarily to feel bad or emotional. The emotions often come when we feel sadness or regret; but the true meaning of repent is to change our ways. Once we behaved this way, now we choose to behave a different way. Once we were going this direction, now we choose to go a different direction. If what we were doing leads to failure and defeat, then we repent. We choose a different direction that leads to hope and peace. What direction are you going?

TUESDAY- Remission:  1 John 1:5-10

This is the promise that when we confess – take personal responsibility for – our sins, God is willing and eager to forgive our sins. Our sins are gone. The debt is cancelled. Like cancer that is in remission, there is medically no evidence of the disease. When God forgives our sins, God remits them. They are gone. We can live fully and freely. To move from failure to freedom, we trust in God’s promise to forgive our sins.

Wednesday – Redemption:  Romans 5:6-11

God anticipated our need for redemption. To redeem is to make something that is worthless into something that is valuable. A coupon states in the fine print that it has little or no cash value. But when we redeem it at a vendor, it then becomes valuable and provides some advantage to us. In a more profound way, God sent Jesus to redeem our worthless lives of failure through the cross. Because of the cross, our lives now have value in God’s scheme of things. Your life is defined, not by your failures, but by God’s redeeming work in Jesus. How’s that feel?

Thursday – Regeneration:  John 3:1-8, 16-17

Jesus described this experience of regeneration to be like “being born all over again. ”  We see things in a new way. We hear things in a new way. We experience things in a new way. All because we are new persons. This work of God’s forgiveness regenerates us. It is not just a second chance, but a whole new start. It is a mystery we cannot analyze in a science lab, but it is real. How does God’s Spirit regenerate new possibilities in your world?

Friday – Reformation:  Romans 8:1-11

One of the dimensions of our lives that changes with God’s forgiveness of our failures is that we live in the Spirit of God. A life that is pleasing to God is not something we can muster up on our own. It happens as we turn our lives over to the power and presence of God’s Spirit living within us. God’s Spirit changes our perspectives, our principles, our practices. And that is what leads to a life of joy and peace. True reforming of our lives from sin and death to life, full and free. What a bargain – trading failure for freedom!

Saturday – Reward:  Matthew 6:25-34

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in heaven, but I also believe that God’s gift of abundant and eternal life begins in this space and time. We can live in reward of heaven as we “seek first the Kingdom of God” in the here and now. I confess I often become anxious about the material things, too; but God promises to provide all that we need. And I have lived long enough to see that proven many times over. Old habits are hard to break, but living in forgiveness and freedom sure beats failure. What do you think?

Week of June 16th

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We sometimes refer to God as “Father,” but God is neither male nor female.  Both genders reflect in part the image and character of God.  So when God’s Spirit is at work within us, we become more and more like Jesus who revealed God’s true character to us. Here are several passages teaching us about the character of God.

PRAYER:  O mysterious God who revealed yourself most fully in Jesus:  open my mind and heart to the power and presence of your Spirit that I may worship and serve you faithfully in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday- Psalm 90:1-12

God is transcendent and eternal. God is not limited to our space or our time.  God is so above and beyond our concepts of reality, it is difficult for us to grasp the true character of God.  Some have responded by merely limiting God to what we can understand, or even, what we want. The Psalm writer reveals that God is beyond all of that.  Jesus came to reveal God’s character to us.  That is why relating to God – trusting God – requires faith.  God is beyond the limitations of the human mind and imagination.

Tuesday - Psalm 139

God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere).  When the angel revealed to Mary that she would bear a son who would be the Messiah, Mary asks, “How can this be?”  And the angel replies, “Is anything too hard for God?” God knows us more fully than we know ourselves.  God is not limited by space and time as we are.  We can see signs of God’s presence everywhere.  This raises questions about the problem of evil, but it is not a limitation of God’s character.  It is a deeper understanding of God’s mission.

Wednesday – 1 Peter 1:13-16

God is holy and righteous.  God is the Master Designer and Gracious Creator of all that is.  God understands how things have been put together.  God also knows how the ultimate purpose and mission of the cosmos can become most fully experienced.  According to writers like Peter and Paul, it is in sharp contrast to the impulses of our natural desires.  Holiness and righteousness are God’s characteristics for true peace and wholeness in the world.

Thursday – 1 John 4:7-19

God is love.  God most fully reveals love for the world – creature and creation – in the person and mission of Jesus.  Love is characterized by personal service and sacrifice.  And the way we most fully experience this unlimited, irresistible grace is by offering love and mercy to others.  When we love others, God’s love is “perfected” in us.  That means God’s love grows and develops.  God’s love transforms us into a reflection of Jesus’ character.

Friday – John 3:16-17

There is a line in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” where one of the children ask about Aslan, the Lion who represents God’s power and presence in CS Lewis’ fairy tale.  Aslan is not a tame lion.  He is dangerous, but he is unquestionably good!  God is not tame in that God does not perform in ways to keep us happy and entertained.  God has a bigger mission and purpose.  But God is unquestionably good!  God’s mission and purpose leads to salvation and healing, even when we do not understand it or control it.

Saturday – Matthew 28:16-20

In Matthew’s story, these are Jesus’ last words to his followers. He promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.God is with us. It is the nickname given to the baby Jesus:“Emmanuel.”But note that Jesus’ promise is to his followers as they pursue the mission of making disciples in the world.It is not, “I am with you, do whatever you please.”God’s faithful presence is to equip and inspire us in fulfilling the mission.

Week of June 9th

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12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”  John 1:12 

When brokenness and trauma are inflicted upon us, it would be easy to let those experiences define who we are and who we will become.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Bible is full of stories of people who experienced brokenness and trauma, but by faith in God were transformed into children of God, heirs of all that God has promised.  Here are some of the stories.

Prayer:  God of the healing hand:  deliver me from the disasters and tragedies that want to bury me under a mountain of fear and hurt.  Transform me into your child – chosen and lifted up to live fully and freely in your grace.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Monday- John 8:2-11

This is a powerful story, and it is unfortunate we do not know any more about the young lady. What happened next?  How did her life change?  Did she find hope and healing?  What we do know is how Jesus radically reframed her understanding of her life in the community (not to mention how he reframed the understanding of all the scribes and Pharisees).  First, note Jesus demeanor.  Was he angry?  Was he anxious?  Was he defensive?  I wonder what he was writing in the dirt.  What did Jesus offer the woman – not only in his words, but in his attitude toward her. How does Jesus offer you such grace and respect?  How can we offer grace and respect to others today?

Tuesday -  Luke 5:12-16

Talk about one’s life being characterized by brokenness and trauma.  Likely, this man had done nothing to deserve this fate. Yet, he was cut off from family and community, shunned by everyone.  And maybe he believed he was even distanced from God.  But Jesus does something unique.  He not only acknowledges the man, he touches him.  How can the touch of Jesus heal us from trauma and brokenness? How do we understand ourselves – not as victims – but as children of God?

Wednesday – Ruth 1

When I think of brokenness and trauma, I think of these two women:  Ruth and Naomi.  Loss of a spouse and family is traumatic in any day, but especially for these women. In that day and in that culture, they became most to be pitied.  Their future looked awfully bleak.  But Ruth, out of faithfulness to Naomi and her God, became the great grandmother of King David.  How do you suppose her witness of God’s transforming grace shaped the hopes and dreams of the generations that followed her?  What witness do you share for the generations that follow you?

Thursday – Genesis 50:15-21

And what about Joseph in the Old Testament?  No, he wasn’t perfect, but he certainly did not deserve all the tragic disasters that were thrust upon him.  Joseph’s story begins in Genesis 37.  His insight in Genesis 50:20 reveals a maturity and wisdom that only comes through trials and difficulties.  How can you see God’s blessings in the difficulties you face?

Friday – Job 42

How can I forget Job?  This story is staged as a contest between God and Satan.  Did Job feel like a pawn in the struggle?  Do we?  Yet, through it all he insisted on keeping faith with God.  And in the end, he encountered more of God than he ever realized existed.  He grew. His faith grew.  And he became the spiritual giant that inspires us even today. How does your faith in God reform and transform your picture of God and how God wants to bless your life?

Saturday – Luke 8:43-48

This poor woman had not only been suffering a physical ailment for such a long time, she had used all her resources and received no improvement.  Her life is characterized by disaster, poverty, and powerlessness.  But she had this strange – illogical – faith that if somehow she could touch Jesus, her life would change.  And it did! In more ways than she expected. And what did Jesus call her? “Daughter.”  She belonged.  She had a privileged place in God’s family.  She would no longer be “victim,” but “daughter!”  What name do you carry?

Week of May 19th

“Don’t worry about anything ….”  Phil 4:6

Right!  That’s a little like telling a fish not to swim or a bird not to fly.  Isn’t it in our DNA to worry?  Perhaps, but fixing our concentration on worry can have devastating effects on our health and on our relationships.  Here are some passages about worry!

Prayer:  Gracious and Generous God, you offer your gift of perfect peace through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Wrap your arms of perfect peace around me today so I may bring hope and help to others in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday - Philippians 4:1-8

“Don’t worry about anything….”  Sure, Paul.  That’s easy for you to say.  But wait.  Scholars believe that this is the last letter Paul wrote that we still have today.  And scholars also believe that Paul wrote this while he was in prison.  We also know Paul was beheaded by Roman authorities for his faith in Jesus Christ.  How can Paul tell us not to worry?  Where does Paul tell us to turn our focus?  What do we do while we are turning our focus away from our worries?

Tuesday -  Isaiah 26:1-6

It would be easy to live in Old Testament days, wouldn’t it?No worries?No fears?Wait, while Isaiah was prophet the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, and later the Babylonians would destroy the southern kingdom including the holy city of Jerusalem.Many of the people would be captured and forced into slavery in the empire.How does Isaiah draw this picture of peace in the midst of war and destruction?Check out vss 3-4.How might Isaiah teach us to not worry in our day and age?

Wednesday – 1 Kings 19:9-19

Queen Jezebel vowed to have his head … literally.  Elijah was afraid.  He ran.  He had just won a tremendous victory on Mt. Carmel against Jezebel’s favorite prophets, and she had vowed revenge.  God finds him in this hidden cave far from Jezebel.  He is hiding.  How would you describe his emotions?  Is he … anxious?  Yet, God reveals to him that there is much more going on than he has had the opportunity to observe.  It takes the wider vision of faith.  And when Elijah turns his face away from the Queen and towards God, what does he learn?  How does that teach us about anxiety and worry in our day?  Any Queens vowing to have your head?  Where is your hope?

Thursday – Colossians 3:12-17

The Colossians had not likely gone to Sunday School when they were children.  They were new converts to the faith.  They may have worshiped other Greek and Roman gods, and knew how superstitious they were.  It is a fearful thing to have to constantly appease some divine force so nothing bad happens to us.  But the Christian faith Paul taught was different.  This was a God who became human in Jesus to express grace and love for the world; not fear and tyranny.  What does Paul teach in this passage?  Where should our focus be?

Friday – Matthew 6:25-34

How can we study anxiety and peace without reading these words of Jesus?  What are his examples of security in God’s loving attention?  How does God look at us compared to these examples?  Where does Jesus teach us to turn our focus?  How would doing this affect your day today?  Your relationships today?  Your attitude today?

Saturday – John 14:1-6; 15-18; 27-31

It was the night before Jesus’ own death. Did he worry? Did he wonder if anyone would get what he was trying to teach? Did he ponder what it would be like to suffer what he was facing? We know it was part of his prayers in the garden before his arrest. Yet, he is teaching his disciples (and us) about real peace. Where does it come from? How do you get it? If Jesus could experience peace in these tense moments in his life, what kind of peace could he give us?

Week of May 12th

Prayer:  Loving God, we know your love because we have mothers. We thank you for the mothers who carried us in their wombs, nourishing, protecting and bringing us into the world. We thank you for the mothers who did not give birth to us, yet loved us just the same.  We honor our mothers with lives of service to you in the name of the Risen Christ, for it is in his Name we pray. Amen.

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MONDAY- Deuteronomy 4:9 

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

What lessons can you remember from those who helped you as you grew?   What can you be actively doing or preparing to help others as you’ve been helped?

TUESDAY-  Proverbs 31:10-30

What should we learn from the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31?  We know that, as a partner in her marriage, she has a tremendous influence on her family.  She can integrate her life both domestic and professional, with her family in such a way that their family is stronger in unity.  She is wise in the ways of the world and respected for her strength of character.  Do you think this example still applies today? 

 

WEDNESDAY- Galatians 5:22-25

Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Galatia. Galatia was a province in Rome, and many of the Christians there were Gentiles, or non-Jews. Paul explained that God changes people who trust in Jesus. God gives them the Holy Spirit, who guides them and gives them power to become more like Jesus.How is God changing you?What fruits are you using?

THURSDAY- Proverbs 22:6

6 Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Their minds are fresh and ready to extract what’s put before them, therefore we have such an awesome responsibility to our children and all of God’s children.  How are you reminded of this bit is wisdom?  How do you put it into practice and serve others? 

 

FRIDAY- Exodus 20:12 

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Have you ever considered why God commanded that we should honor our mothers and fathers?  Or… how we should best do this?  And… what if our parents are truly “wrong”?  Regardless, God created us to be in loving relationship.  How can you continue to honor your parents, or the memories of your parents? 

 

SATURDAY- I John 5:6-12

This week look for opportunities to celebrate the work of God as it shows up in your life (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.). Don’t miss out on what God is doing because of a focus on man-made rules and ideas about what God can and can’t do.

Week of May 5th

“What’s in Your Hands?”

May 5-11, 2019

 

Some of the most amazing things God has done in this world was with some ordinary everyday object someone was holding in their hands.  Rather than longing for some tool or object that is dynamic and miraculous, God just asks us to use whatever we already have in our hands.  In partnership with God, amazing things then happen – like the little boy’s lunch that feeds thousands.  What do you need from God?  Could it be that all God wants is what is in your hands?

Prayer:  Gracious and Generous God, you have already placed within my hands all that I need to be faithful and true to your call.  By faith, help me put it back in your hands that your Holy Spirit may accomplish the mission in Jesus’ name  Amen.


MONDAY- 1 Samuel 17

David was not supposed to be there.  That was a place of battle, a place for strong and courageous men, a place for heroes to die.  David was just a boy.  What did he know about fighting giants?  Declining the offer of the latest in armor fashion ware, he simply used what was in his hands – his sling.   His sling and one small, smooth stone was all God needed to slay the giant.  Are you facing any giants?  What do you have in your hands?

TUESDAY-  Exodus 4:1-5

God was calling Moses to step up to the plate and lead his people to freedom.Moses didn’t want to go.He didn’t think he was up for the job.He came up with all kinds of excuses.God asked, “What’s in your hand?”“A staff.”A typical tool for a shepherd.But in God’s hands that simple tool becomes the symbol of God’s power and promise to overthrow the most powerful Kingdom on the face of the planet at that time:Egypt.What overwhelming obstacle do you face?What is in your hands?How can God what you already have to accomplish God’s mission?

Wednesday – John 21:1-14

Do you like fish tacos?  I don’t know if the disciples ate fish tacos, but I’m fairly confident they ate a lot of fish.  Several of the disciples were fishermen.  After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples are tempted to go back to a previous life.  It was what they knew.  But Jesus had called them to follow him.  So they fish all night and don’t catch anything.  Jesus incognito tells them to throw their nets over the other side, and they had more than they could handle.  What did they have in their hands?  Nets, a common tool for fishermen.  But using it as God directs leads to abundance and generosity.  What is in your hands?  How can God use it to bless you and others? 

Thursday – Judges 6:1-19;33-40

Gideon was not top rung leadership material, but then God rarely calls the superstar.  God usually calls the fearful one, the timid one, the one everyone else overlooks.  God chose Gideon to lead his people to safety.  While Gideon is certain God has gotten the wrong guy, Gideon decides to test God’s instructions.  He uses a sheep’s fleece – wool cut from the sheep.  This is a typical object for a shepherd.  But just in case he interpreted it wrong, he tried it twice.  God honored his quest and confirmed the call.  Are you uncertain about your next steps?  What is in your hands?  How can God use it to confirm God’s direction for you?

Friday – 2 Kings 4:1-7

One of the prophet’s widows was in dire straits.  Apparently, there were no 401k’s for prophets in those days.  Elisha asks what she did have – one jar of oil.  Common sense would dictate using it sparingly to make it last as long as possible, but Elisha tells her to pour it out.  They borrow all the containers they can find from the neighbors.  And the only limitation on the amount of oil she poured out was her capacity to receive.  Could it be that God wants to pour more blessings into our lives, but we lack the capacity?  What is in your hands? 

Saturday – Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the King.His job was to test the wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned; not a job with a lot of security and longevity.But he did have access to one important thing:the King’s ear.So when he shared his passion and his vision for his home city; the King was captivated.What is in your hands?What opportunities has God already planted in your path?How might God use those to accomplish God’s mission?

Week of Apr 28th

Children’s Sermon & Testimonies

April 28th – May 4th

One of the most effective tools you have for sharing your faith is the story of how Jesus Christ gave you eternal life and how He has enriched your life. The Apostle John wrote, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard" (1 Jn. 1:3), testifying about his relationship to Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Faithful God, we give you thanks and praise For every story of faith found, Every testimony of healing given, Every experience of hope strengthened, And every revelation of your love received.  We pray for strength and courage to speak Your name with conviction and faith.  When I feel weak, I will turn to you!  Amen! 


MONDAY- Luke 8:26-39  Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

Do you find it easy to believe that there are supernatural (i.e., non-human) entities who are evil?  Why or why not?  Has this always been the case with you?  Have your views changed?  Do you think Jesus believed in demons?  Why do people today doubt? 

TUESDAY-  I Timothy 1:6-14

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 

Paul’s letter to Tim is a careful reminder of the suffering that we’ll all suffer while on earth, but our testimony to share with the world is something that our lost world desperately needs.Where does your strength come from?Who knows or needs to hear your story?

WEDNESDAY- Matthew 10:26-33

We all have fears, but we all have fears.  Many things we fear for no reason.  Some things we don’t fear that we should.  In this text Jesus describes the proper place, of fear.  Three times in this text, the disciples are told by Christ to not fear.  We are told not to fear man, but rather to fear God.  Because we have been made righteous, we have total faith in God’s gift of grace and message(s) that he’s put inside us.

THURSDAY-  Titus 3:3-7

A person is radically changed when they believe on Jesus Christ who came, died, rose again and then had the Spirit of God implanted in each believer to actively live out Christ-like lives.  Why do you think people are afraid to share their faith, despite having an all-powerful father who desires us to share His name and story with others? 

FRIDAY- Psalm 40:9-10

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

What is your glad news to share with others?  

SATURDAY- I John 5:6-12

This week look for opportunities to celebrate the work of God as it shows up in your life (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.). Don’t miss out on what God is doing because of a focus on man-made rules and ideas about what God can and can’t do.

Week of Apr 14

Passion Week – What is it?

Passion Week (also called Holy Week) takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday).

Why is it called “Passion Week”? This name represents the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross. He did this to pay for your sins—the sins of all of His people. To study the biblical accounts of Passion Week, read Matthew 26-27 or other Gospel accounts:  Mark 11-15, Luke 19-23, and/or John 12-19.


Sunday- Psalm 31:9-16

It’s the last few verses that help bring hope.

14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

It’s good to remember the Jesus spent considerable amounts of time in prayer with His Heavenly Father.  It’s likely that He prayed this very prayer.  Maybe this will be your prayer this Holy Week. 

Monday- Matthew 26:14-35

What prompted Judas to turn Jesus in?  Judas greed may have been a factor in his accepting 30 silver coins to betray Jesus.  Some speculate that Jesus’ talk of his burial (v. 12) disillusioned Judas, who may have been put off or confused by the idea that the real Messiah could die.  Others think Judas was disappointed because Jesus seemed unwilling to establish the earthly kingdom many expected.  Whatever the cause, Satan was behind Judas’ act of betrayal.

Tuesday- Matthew 26:36-56

Could God have provided another way for salvation?Scripture tells us that God’s law demanded a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and the death of God’s perfect Son was the sacrifice of atonement made once for all.It is essential for us to grasp the enormity of our sin and the utter hopelessness of our depravity as well as the extent of God’s amazing and gracious love.

Wednesday- Matthew 26:57-75

Why did Jesus refuse to answer the false charges?  These same men had resisted and twisted Jesus’ words before.  Why should he speak to them now?  This was a biased, hostile trial, not an impartial hearing.  The unfair and contradictory changes did not deserve a response.  Jesus did answer, however when the high priest charged him under oath to tell them if he was the Messiah (vv. 63-64)

Maundy Thursday- Matthew 27:1-32

Since Judas confessed, was he forgiven?  It’s obvious that Judas deeply regretted his actions.   Seeing that Jesus was condemned, Judas was seized with remorse (v. 3).  He returned his ill-gotten gains and confessed his sin.  Yet remorse does not necessarily equal repentance.  The despair that led Judas to take his own life suggests that he did not receive the inner peace that comes with forgiveness.  His sorrow, not the kind that leads to forgiveness, seems to be a prime example of what Paul wrote about:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

Good Friday- Matthew 27:33-56

Did one criminal repent or not?  According to Luke, one criminal had a change of heart.  The apparent difference between the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke seems to stem from the timing of events.  Matthew recorded earlier events when both criminals hurled insults at Jesus.  Luke picks up the story when one of them seeing Jesus forgives his executioners (Luke 23:34), decides to believe in Jesus. 

Holy Saturday- Matthew 27:57-66

What kind of seal would have made the tomb secure?The stone covering the tomb’s entrance probably had a rope or cord wrapped across it.The cord was then sealed in wax or clay at each end, so that no one could open the tomb without breaking the seal or cutting the cord.It is possible that the seal included the official imprint of the Roman Empire, so anyone who broke the seal would have been violating imperial law.Of course, the detachment of the soldiers stationed by the tomb added force to the seal.

Week of Apr 7

Week 5:  Time, Parables, Plots, Anointing, Last Supper

Sunday- Psalm 130

Because of Jesus, the Messiah, we can have hope and we can experience the Lord’s “steadfast love and plentiful redemption”. Christmas reminds us that the promised Deliverer of Israel is the “Deliver” of today.  Easter reminds us that our sins have been forgiven.  Have you accepted and opened the free gift of forgiveness from sin that is only found in Jesus, the Messiah? Take a fresh look at the amazing mercy the God has given you and share that hope with others.

Monday- Matthew 24, focused on 24:1-14

Whoa!  Jesus got “really dark” in this chapter.  We prefer to hear Jesus talk about love and hope, but he also recognized and shared that following HIM was not without difficulty.  Nobody promised that being a Christian would lead to a life without concern or difficulty.  How far are you willing to trust in Jesus?  When the going gets tough, are you spiritually prepared to walk with Jesus? 

Tuesday- Matthew 24, focused on 24:45-51

“When will He return?” is often a question that the church has struggled with. Jesus is mindful to share that we need to be on the watch, yet we need the heart of a God follower before that day.We need to be prepared to live a “When will He return?” is often a question that the church has struggled with. Jesus is mindful to share that we need to be on the watch, yet we need the heart of a God follower before that day.  We need to be prepared to live a clean and God honoring life and not living a wicked and selfish lifestyle.  How are you preparing yourself for a lifetime of following God?  

Wednesday- Matthew 25, focused on 25:14-30

Why Parables? The word parable comes the Greek word ‘parabole,’ which means “a placing beside” and therefore is a comparison or an illustration. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain about 30 of these stories while John’s gospel contains no parables but does use figures of speech. A parable is a story taken from real life (or real-life situation) from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn. They are not fables (talking animals/walking trees). They are not allegories where every detail has hidden meaning. They are basically an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

Thursday- Matthew 25, focused on 25:31-46

Whatever else this passage means, it plainly teaches that a day is coming when the Son of Man, pictured as a glorious Shepherd-King in this parable, will judge “the nations.” What do you believe about this? Do you believe that history is headed toward a climactic, inescapable, conclusive day of judgment? How much or little does this coming judgment figure into the way you live from day to day? Are you at all concerned or apprehensive about this day of judgment? Why or why not?

Friday- Matthew 26:1-13

In this chapter, the focus is not on the teachings of Jesus; rather, the focus shifts to preparations for Jesus’ arrest and death:  Jesus speaks again to the disciples of what is going to happen (vss. 1-2); the rulers begin to plot how to arrest Jesus (vss. 3-5); a woman anoints Jesus in preparation for His sufferings and death (vss. 6-13).  Things come to a head, as events align toward the most significant event in human history.Could you imagine sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing these words?Would you be in denial too?

Saturday- Psalm 46  

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.Take courage in God’s word. He will be with you and keep you always. Do you believe this?

Week of Mar 31st

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

March 31st – April 6th

Week 4:  Parables, Kingdom of God, King Arrives, & Warnings

Sunday- Matthew 18, focused on 18.21-35

How large were these debts?  It is clear that 10,000 bags of gold represented a sizeable sum of money- probably millions of dollars.  It was an enormous and hopelessly insurmountable debt.  By contrast, the fellow servant in Jesus’ example owed a hundred silver coins- a much more manageable debt, equivalent to perhaps three- or four-months’ wages.  Certainly, this puts things in perspective of God’s grace. 

Monday- Matthew 19, focused on 19:16-26

Are we saved by faith or by obeying God’s commands?  If this were the only thing Jesus said about salvation, it might sound as though strict adherence to the commandments could earn us a place in heaven.  But Jesus said much more to explain this verse.  For instance, he spoke of outward obedience as an indicator of the condition of a person’s heart.  He stressed that our relationship with God must be our primary focus, but that sincere obedience should grow out of authentic faith. 

Tuesday- Matthew 20, focused on 20:1-16

Does this scripture make you feel uneasy?It does many, yet it explains the extravagant love of God.The thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus never did amazing things in Jesus’ name or fed the poor, yet his faith confirmed that he would indeed would soon be in paradise with Jesus.Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t make me pay what would be “fair” to be with him in eternity.

Wednesday- Matthew 21:1-22, focused on 21:1-17

Why did Jesus ride a donkey instead of a Warhorse?  Donkeys or mules were often associated with leaders.  By riding this young colt, however, Jesus demonstrated his humility and gentleness.  He also fulfilled one of the prophecies of Messiah (Zechariah 9:9) and because this king would be a completely different king of king from any the world had ever known.  Zechariah was painting a picture of the coming king’s humility and grace.

Thursday- Matthew 21:23-46, focused on 21:33-45

Are the Jews no longer God’s chosen people?  Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and Pharisees.  These leaders though of themselves as the wardens of God’s kingdom through Judaism.  The use of the Greek ethnos (translated people) does not indicate a new ethnic group but an organized community.  Jesus was referring to his coming church, which would include both Jews and Gentiles. 

Friday- Matthew 22, focused on 23:1-14

What does it mean that many are invited but few are chosen?  Many (perhaps “all” in view of the Semitic usage of “many”) are invited to enter the kingdom of God, but only a few will become rightful citizens of heaven.  God’s invitation must be accepted, followed by appropriate conduct.  Proper behavior is evidence of being chosen. 

Saturday- Matthew 23, focused on 23:29-39

Why was Jesus so angry with these leaders?He was angry because of their hypocrisy, six times in the chapter Jesus called them hypocrites.The religious leaders had exchanged the holy for the hollow.They were concerned with appearance rather than substance.They made a show of obeying God’s law but consistently violated the spirit of the law.Worst of all, they were leading other people to do the same.Jesus, by contrast, said that he desires genuine spiritual commitment.

Week of Mar 17th

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

 

March 17th– 23rd, Matthew, Chap 8-12:

Storms, Matthew the tax collector called, disciples Sent, & God’s Servant 


Sunday- Matthew 8, focused on 8:23-43 

Does having faith mean we should never be afraid? No.  Jesus meant that God is greater than whatever we are facing, and He is in control.  Knowing God is present keeps fear from paralyzing us.  Do you ever find yourself so focused on your fears that you miss the opportunity to trust in God?  

 

Monday – Matthew 9, focused on 9:9-17

Who were these tax collectors?  They were a group of Jews despised by other Jews for collaborating with the Roman government that ruled over them.  Tax collectors paid the authorities for the privilege of collecting taxes; then they overcharged people, skimming off the top to line their own pockets.  As a result, other Jews saw Jewish tax collectors as both traitors and thieves. What must this mean for Matthew to be called into Jesus’ inner circle of trust and to be added as a student? Clearly, Jesus showed us a way to “love one another.”  

 

Tuesday- Matthew 9:18-38, focused on 9:35-38

How were the crowds harassed and helpless? The crowds to which Jesus spoke were made up of common people, and they were burdened for multiple reasons:  (1) They were prisoners in their own lands, since the Romans had taken over Palestine.  (2)They were overtaxed and needed to work overtime to pay their dues. (3) Most of them were farmers and were worn out by hard work in the fields. (4) Most of them were poor.  (5) They could never live up to the rules and regulation of the Pharisees, so they felt hopeless to become right with God. In short, they had wearied souls. 

Wednesday- Matthew 10:1-15

Is it wrong to use our own supplies or money to advance Jesus’ mission?  Jesus wanted the twelve to be completely dependent on God for their provision.  He wanted them to see that God would provide for them through hospitality of others. In fact, the New Testament churches were repeatedly encouraged to support those who ministered to them.  A personal lack of funds or supplies should not prevent us from advancing the gospel.  Sounds like a mistake, or an opportunity to trust in God?  

 

Thursday- Matthew 10:16-42, focused on 10:16-25 

Who is Beelzebub?  He is theprince of demons, that is, Satan.  Baal was a Canaanite deity: the name was expanded to Beelzebull (meaning “Exalted” or “Prince Baal”).  Baal was a Canaanite god meaning “lord” or “master.”  An early related form was Baal-Zebul.  The Jews ridiculed the idol and its worshipers by changing the name to Baal-Zebub meaning “lord of the flies- or Baal-Zebul or Beelzebul meaning “lord of the dung” or “lord of the dung hill.”  We might be careful to remember that Jesus is the way, and Satan is “lord of the dung hill.”  ;-)

 

Friday- Matthew 11, focused on 11:11-19

What role, if any does doubt have in the Christian life?  Even people with strong faith ask tough questions in stressful times.  John was suffering unjustly, so it is not surprising that he sought answers from Jesus. Further, since Jesus’ action as Messiah differed from what many Jews expected, reports of Jesus’ activities must have puzzled John.  Jesus answer was intended to bring reassurance:  the miracles Jesus performed gave evidence that he was indeed the onewho was to come.  

 

Saturday- Matthew 12:1-21, focused on 12:15-21

Why didn’t Jesus want anyone to know he was the messiah?Practical issues may have caused Him to shun popularity.The crowds were already becoming large and unmanageable, and at times Jesus needed to get away.At other times, he had to be firm in leaving one group of people so he could minister to another.Another factor, large crowds would have attracted even more attention.

Week of Mar 10th

Walking Through the Book of Matthew

Matthew, Chap 1-7: Birth, Baptism,

Wilderness, Sermon on the Mount, & Teachings


Sunday- Matthew 1 & 2, focused on 1:18-25

Although some might consider this “scandal” tame in today’s society, this was a matter of life or death for Marry in the first century.  In the eyes of the community, Mary has committed adultery, which was a sin punishable by death, usually stoning.  Joseph was afraid to take her as his wife because it was equivalent to admitting that he was the father of the child.  Do so would have brought him social disgrace and caused him to become religiously impure.  On one would have wanted to associate with him for fear of becoming contaminated, which would also have had a direct impact on his carpentry business. 

Monday – Matthew 3, focused on 3:1-12

Did John the Baptist invent baptism?  No, but John’s baptism was unique. After Judah’s exile to Babylon in 586 BC, Jewish rabbis used baptism as a rite of cleansing.  John redefined this sacred use of water as a public sign of repentance.

Tuesday- Matthew 4, focused on 4:1-11

What would have been wrong with turning stones into bread?  The issues was not the temptation itself but the motive behind it.  The devil often appeals to our pride, hoping that we will take matters into our own hands rather than trust in God.  If Jesus had turned the stones into bread, he would not have been depending on his Father in heaven. 

Wednesday- Matthew 4, focused on 4:18-25

Could you imagine the courage and faith it took to visit Jesus and hope to be healed?  The news about him certainly spread and many came to witness his teaching and seek healing.  We frequently (i.e. incorrectly) attribute to Biblical stories as a time when Jesus was “truly” among us and healing.  God continues to do amazing miracles in our lives today, yet why don’t we hear these stories as frequently?   

Thursday- Matthew 5, focused on 5:1-12

Why did Jesus turn our value system upside down?  He wanted to disrupt the conventional wisdom of the time that said the wealthy and influential enjoyed more of God’s blessing than the poor and powerless did.  Jesus wanted his followers to see that material things are only temporary and certainly not the only reality.  He didn’t want them to think of their current situation as signs of God’s bl4essing or judgement.  Instead, he wanted them to see that the poor can be spiritually wealthy.

Friday- Matthew 6, focused on 6:5-15

Why pray for God’s will to be done?  When we do, we yield to God’s authority.  It is a humble admission that God knows better than we do about what is right.  This prayer also acknowledges our desire to see God’s kingdom (the realm where his will is always done) fully manifested.

Saturday- Matthew 7, focused on 7:15-23

How do we guard against false prophets without judging?  Jesus’ command not to judge is a caution against condemning others.  Pointing out heresy, however is not condemning others but merely discerning an obvious error.  In this case, Jesus urges us to be on the lookout for those whose lifestyle and teaching stand as an indictment against them. 

Week of Feb 3rd

Salvation:  it is a religious word, we do not use much anymore.  But if all roads lead to heaven and grace covers all of our sins, there is not much need for salvation.  But in the Bible, there is a high price paid for salvation.  And our response is more than to simply show up on judgment day.  Here are som passages about salvation to ponder.

PRAYER

O Holy and Gracious God, reveal your truth through your Word that I may live in the grace of your salvation, through Jesus Christ I pray.  Amen.

Monday – John 3:14-19

Jesus is teaching Nicodemus, a religious teacher, about the true nature of God’s plan.  What action did God initiate?  Why?  It is not God’s intention to condemn anyone, but what will lead to judgment/condemnation?  So what is it we need to do to receive salvation?  How do you live that out today?

Tuesday – Mark 8:31-36

These were hard words to hear.  The disciples had given up all to follow Jesus, and now they hear he is to be rejected and killed.  Where did that leave them?  Jesus teaches them a paradox of God’s truth.  What does it take to follow Jesus?  How does one find salvation – save their life?  What will happen to those who do gain all the world has to offer?  How does this truth shape the decisions you will make today? 

Wednesday – Romans 10:9-13

Paul is writing to the church in Rome about the importance of speaking about one’s faith.  To simply be a good person often leads to misconstrued assumptions.  So what does Paul teach about witnessing?  Who is it then that will receive salvation?  In Paul’s day, nearly everyone was either Jew or Greek.  What terms would we use today?  There is no distinction between ____ and ____.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!  Who will surprise you when you discover they are in heaven?  Who will be surprised that you are there?

Thursday – Titus 3:1-7

We live in a culture where we often believe the right politics will solve the world’s problems, and to have political power and influence is the key to salvation.  It is not new to our day.  But Paul – who once had political power and threw it away – teaches something different to young Titus.  What is it?  Who initiated the work of salvation?  How do we earn it or pay for it?  What is the reward of salavation?  How do you plan to live in this salvation?

Friday – Ephesians 2:1-10

The nut and bolts of the gospel in this paragraph.  How would you paraphrase this in your own words?  How do we receive the gift of salvation?  How do we know that?  What are we supposed to do with it?  What is God’s way of life for you?

Saturday – Galatians 2:15-21

Paul was a Jew – a very good Jew.He was a rising star of Pharisees, until he confronted Jesus on the road to Damascus.Therefore, he understood the limitations of the law – living as a good person.Instead of that, what did he discover worked for him?What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ?”How is the power and presence of Christ within us better than doing it on our own?

Week of Jan 27

Do you believe in the Bible?  What do you believe about the Bible?  What we believe shapes how we behave, and what we believe about the Bible shapes significantly how we choose to live our lives.  Here are some passages about God’s Holy word and how scripture continues to remain helpful and provide spiritual guidance within our 21 century lives.

A Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Open my eyes, gracious Lord, as I turn to your word.
I long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed.
Examine me, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.  Amen.

A Prayer After Reading Scripture

May the word I have read, Lord, be planted deeply in my mind and heart.
Help me not to walk away and forget it, but to meditate on it and obey it
and so built my life on the rock of your truth.  Amen.

 

(Both prayers are taken from the 95 prayers in Prayers for Our Lives.)

__________________________________________________________________

 

Monday – 2 Timothy 3:10-17  Specifically v 16

How are the scriptures God breathed?  Scriptures have the breath of God in them; they give life.  The Scriptures are unlike ordinary books; they are God’s authoritative Word.  God initiated the Bible and inspired its writers.  He safeguarded it from error and guided its complication.  The Bible we have is precisely the Word God wants us to have. 

Tuesday-  Romans 15:1-6  Specifically v 4    

Should we read the Old Testament as through it was written for us?  There is a difference between something that was written for us and something written to teach us.  The Old Testament was originally written for Israel as a record of her history, laws and worship.  It was also written to record God’s prophetic commentary on Israel’s present and future.  But as the spiritual children of Abraham, we can profit immeasurably from the spiritual lessons found in the OT today.

Hey you!  If you enjoy the NEXT Steps scripture and prayer guide, let us know.  Drop us an email, make a note on the connect card, verbally tell us, …even smoke signals.  Just… let us know if this is useful.  We’d like to hear back from you and evaluate if the NEXT Steps Prayer and Scripture guide is helpful to people at LC.

Wednesday- Hebrews 4:12-14

What does God’s sharp word have to do with rest?  God’s word is more than letters on a page; it is alive with God’s Spirit and power.  This word of promise judges what’s in a person’s heart:  whether a person is resting in God’s grace for salvation or whether a person is resting in a false security based on obeying religious laws and doing good works. 

Thursday- Matthew 22:23-33

How many times have you heard someone “misuse” God’s written work for their personal agenda?  …or simply misunderstood?  It might give you pause, because nobody wants to misrepresent God’s word or meaning.  Do you think God’s people tend to refrain from using God’s word in fear of making mistakes?  Have you the courage to speak God’s Words to those who desperately need encouragement and a savior?  Who might need a word of encouragement in your life?  Could you meet them?  Call them?  Email them?  Text them?

Friday- James 1:23-25

We all do it.  Right?  We read something important and quickly forgot the value of what we’ve read.  How might we continue to meditate and make God’s word stick in our life?  Are there people in your life who you share scripture with?  If yes… you’re surely blessed to have those people.  If not… who might you begin sharing God’s word with, and grow in His understanding? 

Saturday- 2 Peter 1:19-21 

How did God inspire the writing of the Bible?  The Greek word translated “carried along” suggests a picture of a boat driven by the wind; the same Greek word is translated “driven along” in Acts 27:15 & 17.  This does not mean God dictated the precise words to the writers as though they were stenographers.  Instead, each writer’s personality and literary style are evident.  We can say the writers were supernaturally influenced by God’s Spirit to convey His exact message to humanity. 

Week of Jan 20th

What do you believe about the Holy Spirit?  Millions of books have been written on the Trinity.  What does it mean when we speak of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  How are they three in one?  What is the role of the Holy Spirit?  Here are several passages about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER

O Holy and Gracious God, send the Holy Spirit upon me as I study that I may learn more about your grace and truth in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – Genesis 1:1-5

In the very beginning the Spirit is identified as the power and presence of God.  In verse 2, the writer informs us that it is the Spirit of God that hovers over the unformed waters.  God speaks and creation begins.  What does it mean that God’s Spirit of Creation is the same Spirit who faithfully watches over you?

Tuesday – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

God had rejected King Saul.  He had taken matters into his own hands too many times.  So God sends Samuel looking for the next king – the greatest of all of Israel’s Kings:  David.  What role did the Spirit play in identifying which of the sons should become King?  In verse 13, how did the Spirit become part of David’s life?  Why? 

Wednesday – John 14:15-31

It was the night before Jesus’ death.  It was time for important truths, and I suspect Jesus wondered if the disciples were getting it.  But Jesus knew there was more.  When Jesus left, there is another power, another presence that would continue His work through the disciples and other believers.  How does Jesus describe him (vss 16 & 17, vs 26)?  What does Jesus say is the Spirit’s purpose?  How can the Holy Spirit provide this for you today?

Thursday – Acts 2:1-13

Pentecost – which was a Jewish holy day attracting pilgrims from wide areas in the Roman empire – becomes a significant day in the history of the Christian Church.  Prior to this, the Holy Spirit seemed to come to specific people for a measured period of time.  But on Pentecost, the Spirit came to everyone who believed.  The coming the Spirit broke down all kinds of barriers:  language, culture, and even fear.  Those disciples who were hiding in the upper room were now loudly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in the streets.  How can the Holy Spirit help you overcome fear?

Friday – 1 Corinthians 12

The Corinthians were an exciting, but young church.  Paul was teaching them about spiritual gifts.  The Holy Spirit provides special abilities to each believer for the purpose of witnessing to Jesus and building up Christ’s body.  There are several lists in scriptures.  They are not all the same, and perhaps not in language we are accustomed to using.  What gifts has the Spirit given you, and how can you use them in the ministries of Christ?

Saturday – Galatians 5:16-26

Paul also teaches about the fruit of the Holy Spirit.When one is filled with the Spirit, these are the inevitable characteristics that person will display (see vss 22-23).These are offered in contrast to the other examples of the works of the flesh, or sin.How are these reflected in your life, in your relationships, and in your work?

Week of Jan 13th

Do you believe in Jesus?  What do you believe about Jesus?  What we believe shapes how we behave, and what we believe about Jesus shapes significantly how we choose to live our lives.  Here are some passages about the character and nature of Jesus, the Son of God.

PRAYER:  Matthew 6:9-13 (CEB)

9 Pray like this:  Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. 10 Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.  11 Give us the bread we need for today.  12 Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.  13 And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Monday – Matthew 9:36  Compassion

Jesus never looked away from people; He always looked upon them and had compassion (Matthew 9:36). Whenever people were around him, Jesus understood what their real needs were and sought to address them. For some, physical healing was necessary, for others the root issue was spiritual. In all cases though, Jesus took the time to actually notice that people were hurting—and His compassion drove Him to help them.

Tuesday-  Mark 10:45   Servant

Without a doubt, Jesus was the ultimate servant. Although He was praised as a great teacher and even had a decent following, He made sure to teach them to be servants by actually doing it himself. In Mark 10:45, Jesus even tells everyone: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” Despite having the authority to get anything He wanted, have people praise and pamper him, He did the exact opposite by lowering himself and serving others. 

Wednesday-  Luke 23:34  Forgiving

One of the most startling things said in Scripture is found in Luke 23:34, when Jesus is on the cross and proclaims: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even while bleeding and experiencing pain, Jesus had His heart set on forgiveness—even forgiving those who put Him there in the first place! This is definitely contrary to the everyday mantra of looking out for number one and obtaining personal justice. Jesus was by no means concerned for His own life; all He wanted was to provide a way for forgiveness.

Thursday, Matthew 14:23 Prayerful

No matter how busy His ministry got, He found time to be alone and pray. Whether it is in the garden of Gethsemane, across a river, or on a mountaintop, Jesus disappeared for a while in order to pray to the Lord. People always tried to find Him, and He never turned them away, but He also made sure to make time spent with His heavenly Father a priority.

Friday, Matthew 11.29   Gentleness

There were certainly times where Jesus used stern words, but He knew when gentleness was appropriate. Children seemed to love coming to him, and He made sure the disciples knew not to hinder them when they did so. When speaking with His disciples, mother, or other ladies, He could be very kindhearted and gentle. But, when He was giving someone a rebuke or making a point in an argument, He knew when turning up the heat was necessary and only did so strategically.

Saturday, John 12.12-16 Humble

Jesus had every opportunity and right to demand praise and accolades for His miracles and teachings, but He never did! Even when the crowds sought to make Him king, He rushed away from their grasp. He did not want to become a sideshow performance that people could enjoy. Rather, He wanted to seek and save the lost and offer forgiveness for sinful people. Yes, He could have traveled around in order to show off His powers in other towns, but He chose not to.


Hey you!  If you enjoy the NEXT Steps scripture and prayer guide, let us know.  Drop us an email, make a note on the connect card at service on Sunday, verbally tell us, …even smoke signals.  Just… let us know if this is useful.  We’d like to hear back from you. 

Week of Jan 6th

Do you believe in God?  What do you believe about God?  What we believe shapes how we behave, and what we believe about God shapes significantly how we choose to live our lives.  Here are some passages about the character and nature of God.

PRAYER

O Holy and Gracious God, grant me eyes of faith to see and recognize your power and presence in my world today.  Guide me with your wisdom and strengthen me with your Spirit.  In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Monday – Psalm 90:1-12

God is eternal.  The Psalm writer recognizes that God has been a refuge for people in every generation.  What else does the writer reveal to us about God?  How does this understanding affect the way we choose to live?

Tuesday – Isaiah 43:8-13

The people of Isaiah’s day had a problem.  They thought life was all about them.  And when they headed down some dead-end alleys in their culture, they found themselves in trouble.  Isaiah was trying to warn them.  What does he teach them in this passage?  How would Isaiah speak to us today?

Wednesday – Job 38:25-38

Most of us know a little about the story of Job.  He seems to have suffered immensely due to some contest between God and Satan.  But few of us have wrestled with God’s answer to Job’s questions.  They are not simple answers.  In this passage God finally speaks to remind Job that Job is not God.  It sounds heavy handed in our culture of democracy where we believe everyone is entitled to a voice and vote.  But we are not God, and therefore, we may not be able to grasp truths that go beyond us.  What phrases in this passage remind you who God is?

Thursday – Acts 17:24-31

Paul is preaching in Athens, Greece.  This is the place where everyone loves to talk and talk and talk about ideas.  He tries a new approach talking about the God above all of their other idols and gods.  What does he say about God that distinguishes God from all of their idols?  How is your God above all other gods?  What do you believe?

Friday – 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

The Corinthians were also Greeks, and they had their share of idols to worship, too.  But Paul points out that the Christian God is different.  How so?  How does that make our faith, and our practice different from the rest of the world?

Saturday – Revelation 4

Some voices in the past have insisted that God is really dead, and that we as a human race have outgrown our need for such superstition.But in the end… that may look differently.The writer of Revelation speaking to a church under intense persecution reminds them who wins in the end.What do you believe about the ultimate end of time?

Week of December 30th

Now that Christmas is over, we can go back to our usual routines, right?  Or can we?  Can life ever be the same when we have encountered the heights, the depths, and the breadth of God’s grace?  Does the good news of Christmas have hope for our daily dilemmas?

PRAYER

O God of gracious gifts, guide me to encounter your presence of grace throughout the year.  In the name of Immanuel, who is always with us, Amen.

Monday – Matthew 2:1-12

It may have taken up to two years for the wise men to arrive in Bethlehem.  Likely they were not there the first Christmas night.  That is commitment.  Their encounter first with the star and then with the infant Jesus changed their lives.  Verse 12 indicates they returned home by a different route, but I ponder if they also returned home different men.  How has Christmas changed your life?

Tuesday – Matthew 2:13-18

Christmas did not mean they lived happily ever after.  Life still happens, but God was with Mary and Joseph in the midst of danger.  The required trip to Bethlehem, the narrow escape to Egypt, and the return to Nazareth; these were not likely their plans in the beginning.  Immanuel:  God is with us.  How has God delivered you in the midst of life’s challenges? 

Wednesday – Matthew 9:9-13

Jesus calls Matthew, whom we believe composed the book bearing his name.  Matthew does not reveal many details, but he responds immediately.  He leaves behind his tax-collecting business to follow Jesus.  This is a radical change, but one that leads to a life of significance and mission.  How has God called you into a life of significance and mission?

Thursday – Matthew 9:18-26

A tale of two women healed by Jesus; one who had been sick as long as the other had lived.  But Jesus is drawn by compassion to both of them.  In God’s scheme of things, everyone is important.  God gives grace and hope and salvation to everyone!  Who have you and I overlooked in our daily routine that could use a word of healing, of encouragement?

Friday – Matthew 9:27-31

Ever had eye surgery?  I had a cataract removed several years ago.  What an amazing transformation!  I can’t imagine what it was like for Jesus to heal someone who was blind.  Would that change one’s life?  When we encounter Jesus’ grace, we see everything more clearly.  What is it that Jesus’ grace can help you to see more clearly?

Saturday – Matthew 9:35-38

The purpose of Christmas is not just for us to feel warm and fuzzy inside.  The purpose of God’s grace walking in our shoes is to reveal salvation for a hurting and lost world.  And for whatever reasons, God often chooses the least likely people to carry out this mission.  God has chosen you and me and many others to carry that message of hope.  Who will you encounter today that needs hope?

Week of December 23rd

Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas.  God prepared for centuries to come to earth to reveal the heights and depths and breadth of God’s grace for all the world.  We have the privilege of living on this side of Christmas.  That means hope, joy, and peace!  Here are several passages pointing to God’s gifts in Christmas.

PRAYER

O God of gracious gifts, open the packages of hope, joy, and peace in my heart this Christmas.  Amen.

Monday – Luke 2:8-20

When the shepherds heard the good news of Jesus’ birth, they ran to see the miracle.  Ever wonder why God didn’t announce the good news to emperors and kings and priests?  Maybe they can’t run?  When the gospel captures our hearts, we cannot help but run towards Jesus.  Where are you running today?

Tuesday – Titus 3:3-7

The purpose of Christmas is not just to sing happy songs and bail merchants out of bankruptcy.  The purpose of Christmas is to offer salvation to the world through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was born to reveal the extent of God’s grace for all of us.  How does God’s grace give you hope?

Wednesday – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Paul understood Christmas because he personally experienced the gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Where once he was a fearful persecutor of Christians, now he was a fervent proclaimer of the faith.  How would you express your experience of the gift of grace through Jesus Christ?  Makes Christmas special, eh?

Thursday – Galatians 3:27-4:7

Paul again interprets the meaning of Christmas through the purpose of salvation.  Through the mystery of Christmas, we are adopted into God’s family, heirs of the gift of redemption.  As you gather with your family and loved ones in this holiday season, share the good news of belonging to God’s family through the grace of Christmas!

Friday – Ephesians 2:1-10

I have a friend who loved to preach on this passage.  If he didn’t start here, he finished here.  It is a compelling explanation of the gospel.  We are saved through grace, not by our own effort.  The purpose of Christmas is to offer us grace through Jesus Christ.  And the net effect of grace is that we bless others with the good works of grace.  Sounds like Christmas year round!  How will you bless others with the gift of Christmas today?

Saturday – Romans 5:6-11

Paul is describing the mystery of the gospel to his readers in Rome.  It was dangerous to be a Christian in Rome.  They understood the reality of death, even martyrdom.  Recognizing that Jesus had first died for them – and us – led them to a deeper understanding of the gospel.  Christmas comes to lead us to a deeper understanding of life.  How will you celebrate Christmas this year?

Week of December 16th

Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas.  God prepared for centuries to come to earth to reveal the heights and depths and breadth of God’s grace for all the world.  We have the privilege of living on this side of Christmas.  That means hope, joy, and peace!  Here are several passages pointing to God’s gifts in Christmas.

PRAYER

O God of gracious gifts, open the packages of hope, joy, and peace in my heart this Christmas.  Amen.

Monday – Luke 2:8-14

Do you like to sing?  Somehow in the human spirit, regardless of musical talent, when we encounter the mystery and wonder of God’s work; we want to sing.  The angels sang at the first Christmas.  That’s why we have sung at every Christmas since then.  Where have you encountered the mystery and wonder of God’s work?  How does your favorite Christmas carol reflect your Christmas encounters?

Tuesday – Ephesians 5:15-21

Paul is writing to people living in difficult times.  It would be easy to get drunk and sing.  Some people do, but Paul is encouraging them to be filled with the Spirit instead.  How would these songs be different?  What kinds of songs are you singing today?

Wednesday – Exodus 15:1-18

Talk about tough times….  The people of Israel were trapped against the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them.  And God delivered them to safety.  No surprise they sang a song to remember the event.  Have you ever felt trapped between the “devil and the deep blue sea?”  What songs would you sing about how God has protected, provided for, and delivered you?

Thursday – 2 Chronicles 5:2-14

Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, and it was the day to dedicate it.  What did they do?  (I mean besides the potluck!)  They sang God’s praises.  What did God do?  God filled the Temple.  Could it be that our praises open the door for God to fill us with God’s power and presence?  If we sang God’s praises every time we felt overwhelmed, how would it change us?  How will you sing today?

Friday – Colossians 3:12-17

Paul teaches the people to express grace and love towards one another.  Furthermore, the church is to let the message of the Messiah dwell in our hearts.  Then we will sing praises to God with gratitude in our hearts.  Not sure what to sing?  Let the message of the Messiah saturate your heart!

Saturday – Revelation 14:1-5

A lot of Revelation is symbolic, but an interesting piece here.  Only the redeemed knew the words of this song.  Why?  Because only the redeemed understood what it meant to be saved.  They were redeemed because they followed the Lamb (Jesus).  Ever notice how people who find Jesus begin to sing?  How is your singing?