Week of April 15th

Money….  I’ve discovered that generous givers love to talk about giving money.  It is the stingy giver that is uncomfortable talking about money.  But Jesus talked about our relationship with money often.  He understood that human nature yearns to control our own destiny and security as opposed to trusting God.  Here are six reasons why people don’t give and some passages responding to those excuses.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have given so generously and graciously to me.  Guide me with your Spirit that I may give to others in your holy name.  Amen.

Monday – Matthew 6:25-34

“I need it for myself.”  Because I don’t trust God to provide for me?  Because I don’t think God can manage this?  Because God is too poor to provide?  What does Jesus teach us in this passage about God’s faithfulness and generosity?  Verse 33 is the key to how we balance our needs with God’s provision.  What does this mean?

Tuesday – 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

“My gift is too small to make a difference.”  Paul is reporting to the wealthy church in Corinth how the church in Macedonia responded to Paul’s mission offering.  How does he describe their attitude towards giving?  What was their capacity?  What impact did it have on others?

Wednesday – 2 Corinthians 8:8-15

“People should solve their own problems.”  You and I have been blessed by the grace of God, most likely through the generosity of many others.  Why shouldn’t others receive that same grace?  And could it be that God’s answer to their prayers is our generosity?

Thursday – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

“Poverty cannot be solved.”  Generosity is not just about what it does for others.  It is also what it does for us.  What does Paul teach in this passage about the importance of generosity?  How does it form, re-form, and transform the giver?

Friday – Acts 2:43-47

“Charity makes people dependent on others.”  Hoarding our assets to punish those who do not have does not create healthy self-sufficiency.  When people become interdependent upon each other, everyone benefits.  Most of us have benefitted from the charity of others.  Have we become the people we accuse others becoming?  How can God’s grace reveal another alternative?

Saturday – Luke 6:37-42

“I don’t have enough.”  Jesus’ teaching comes from the Sermon on the Mount, and the context of this verse (verse 38) is given in the middle of his teaching on judging and forgiveness.  Jesus explains that the measure we use in giving grace to others is the measure God will use in giving grace to us.  If I don’t have enough, is it because I have been unwilling to share what I do have?  How do you measure your generosity?

Week of April 8th

Why? I have a 3-year-old grandson who is in the “why” stage. He responds to everything that is said to him with the question, “why?” It is a normal stage of development for a child and a normal source of exasperation for a parent. (As a grandparent, I think it is funny!)

Why do we do all this mission stuff? It is what it means to serve as a witness for Jesus. It represents Jesus’ compassion and grace. Here are several passages about the early church in fulfilling Jesus’ mission.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, as you have cared for and provided for me, so use my hands, my feet, and my heart to care for others in your loving name. Amen.

Monday – Acts 1:1-8

Any survey of the early church begins with this mission from Jesus. What does Jesus command them to do? Where are they to do it? By what power are they to do it? Why are they to do it? How have you and I benefitted from their faithfulness to this mission?

Tuesday – Acts 2:41-47

Peter preaches about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thousands are drawn to the hope of Jesus Christ in these ragtag disciples. In this passage we see the results. What are they doing? Where are they doing it? By what power? And why?

Wednesday – Acts 8:4-8, 26-40

Things were going so well in the Samaritan revival, something few people expected a few months earlier. Then Philip ends up somewhere else. What does he do? Where does he do it? By what power? And why? Did you know that the Ethiopian Christian Church today traces their beginnings back to this story?

Thursday – Acts 10:1-48

Long passage, but fascinating story. Peter, the Jewish disciple of Jesus, witnessing to Cornelius, Roman officer. Can you name all the barriers that had to be breached for these two to come together? Jew vs Gentile, Conquered vs Conqueror, Clean vs Unclean… Both of them were at risk for this meeting. Why did they do it? What did God do because of it? How have you and I benefitted from it?

Friday – Acts 13:1-5, 42-51

It was in Antioch that Jesus’ followers were first called Christians. It was not meant as a compliment. What happens to Paul and Barnabas? Who initiates this action? Why? What is the result in the second section? How have you and I benefitted from their faithfulness to the mission?

Saturday – Acts 16:1-10

Mysterious vision…why was Paul prevented from sharing the gospel in Bithynia (part of modern day Turkey), but has a vision of a man from Macedonia (part of modern day Greece) begging him to come there. Some scholars have pondered that if Paul had not followed that vision, would the gospel have made it to Greece, Rome, and the rest of the western world? Where would you and I be today, if it were not for the faithful commitment of Paul and others to the mission of Jesus Christ? Who is depending on you to bring the gospel to them?

Week of April 1st

Physical resurrection from death?  Is that possible?  Many think not, and consequently live with a very shallow and impotent faith.  But those who were closest to the scene believed differently, and because of that they experienced a power and presence far beyond the memory of some past event.  Here are several passages from Paul’s writing on the subject.

Prayer

Lord of Easter, come and raise my heart from death and despair to hope and new life.  Fill me with your resurrection spirit that I may live fully and freely in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Paul thought of himself as the least of all apostles, because he first persecuted the church.  And his encounter with Jesus was later than the others, and more brief than the others.  But that encounter changed his life!  And not only his, but many others … over 500 others after Jesus’ death on a cross.  How has the power and presence of the resurrected Jesus Christ changed your life?

Tuesday – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Potent passage:  what does Paul say about our hope in Christ if we do not believe in the resurrection from the dead?  This is unique to the Christian faith – the living God who becomes human, lays down life for all creation, and is raised from the dead to live again.  This gives all of creation hope!

Wednesday – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

So Paul plays on the image of Adam and Eve.  They were the first of God’s creation.  Through them, the species started, and the species failed.  But Jesus comes as a second Adam to create the possibility of life anew.  And in time, all will be aligned in harmony with Jesus Christ.  How does that give you hope for today?

Thursday – 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

If there is no life after death, then Hitler won.  He accumulated all the wealth and power and notoriety one can imagine, and didn’t face any consequences for his choices.  We should all eat, drink, and be merry for death is merely an escape from life.  But if there is life beyond where wrongs are righted and wounds are healed, then everything changes.  With that in mind, how will you live today?

Friday – 1 Corinthians 15:35-49

This is deep and the influence of Greek philosophy is evident.  There is distinction between the natural or physical and the divine or spiritual.  If God created the first creation, God is certainly capable of creating all things new.  While we are short on details in this life, I imagine the next life will fanfabulous!

Saturday – 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

This is one of my favorites.  Some were concerned that their loved ones were dying before Jesus returned.  But Paul believes that this means of passage we call death is God’s tool for recreating us with immortality – life eternal.  So death no longer intimidates us.  One who is ready to die is truly free to live!  Therefore, we live fully and freely with God’s gift of life eternal.  How does that free you to live fully today?

Week of March 25th

We begin Holy Week with the triumphal procession of Palm Sunday when Christ entered Jerusalem and the people laid palms on the road before Him. Five days later, on Good Friday, some of those same people were likely among those who cried, "Crucify Him!"

Prayer

Lord God, I give you thanks, for you are good, and your mercy is endless. Here I stand, at the start of this holy week, this week in which your church remembers Jesus’ passion and death. And I am distracted by many things.  Turn my eyes now to the One who comes in your name.  The One who opens the gates of righteousness.  The One who answers when we call.  I bless you for sending your Son to us, in human frailty. To walk the road, we walk.  Open my eyes that I may see him coming and may praise him with a pure heart.  Amen

Monday –Matthew 21:12-17, Jesus at the Temple

How had the Temple (God’s House) become a den of robbers?  Merchants were selling sacrificial animals and exchanging currency at exorbitant prices.  By turning the court of the Gentiles into a shopping mall, they prevented Gentiles from using this part of the temple as God had intended for prayer?  Is there anything in your life that needed removed so you can re-focus on prayer? 

Tuesday –John 12:9-19, Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

Why did Jesus participate in this procession?  Jesus at the climax of his ministry, was making a very public statement about who he is: the Son of David, the King of kings, the conqueror of sin and sickness.  Conquering generals at that time were given a “triumphal entry” on their return to their home city.  How else should we celebrate Jesus?  Did He allow us an opportunity to worship and celebrate “with” Him?

Wednesday –John 12:20-26, Jesus Predicts His Death

Must followers of Jesus die like he did?  Yes and no.  The death of Jesus was a substitution, atoning death; the death of his follower isn’t.  Jesus died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So also, the believer must die to sin and self and live to God, that is, for God’s glory.  Does this make his death less or more significant to you?  Should we wrestle with this and allow the weight to have significance in our life?  …or accept and live a glad life? 

Thursday –John 12:27-36, Walk while you have the light

Who is the “Prince of This World”?  12:31  This is a title for Satan.  Jesus defeated Satan at the cross.  Though Satan is still active, his tim is short.  In the age to come, Satan will be powerless and confined to forever under judgment.  Sometimes we forget that Satan is still waging a war.  We don’t want to give him too much emphasis, yet we still need to be aware that we are in a spiritual warfare. 

Friday – John 17,  Jesus Prays for his Disciples & All Believers

Was the doom of Judas preordained?  Even though God in his divine wisdom knew exactly what Judas would do, God was not to blame for Judas’s actions.  Judas made his own choice and was responsible for his act of betrayal.  Like all who reject Jesus, Judas was doomed.  Still God used Judas to accomplish his purpose according to his plan.  How does this make you feel?  Can God use anyone?  …even if they stand against Him? 

Saturday –John 19:38-42, Burial of Jesus

Why did these two secret disciples risk discovery after Jesus was dead?  These two apparently kept quiet about their convictions while Jesus was alive.  They probably feared being thrown out of the synagogue.  Now, with Jesus dead, the threat of reprisal was perhaps less likely.  Still to openly ask for Jesus’ body required tremendous courage.  If you were there, how do you think you’d react?

Week of March 11th

When we study the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John, we see the response of many people in verse 30: “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.” This is good news. Because Jesus had said in verse 24, “Unless you believe that I am he [literally, that I am] you will die in your sins.”  So here we have a picture of people passing from death to life. They will not die in their sins.  They will be forgiven.  Their sins will not be held against them.  And when they die, they will go where Jesus has gone — to the Father — unlike the unrepentant, as Jesus says in verse 21, “Where I am going you cannot come.” And so these believers will live in everlasting light and joy.  That is why Jesus came into the world. That is why he spoke these words

Prayer For The Light of Truth:  All powerful and ever-living God, cast out from our hearts the darkness of sin and bring us to the light of your truth.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Monday –Psalm 119:101-109,  Thy Lamp

What kind of lamp was this?  The ancient lamp was a small flat, oil-fed clay lamp.  It gave just enough light to see a short distance ahead.  Similarly, God’s Word gives sufficient light for each step in life.  What’s lighting your ways?  Is it sufficient?  Is it God? 

Tuesday –Matthew 5:13-16, Salt and Light

So what did Jesus mean when He spoke about salt losing its taste or becoming unsalty, becoming useless and thrown out?  Salt can’t become less salty, but… impurities can compromise salt, causing it to become worthless.  It’s often easier to identify the impurities in other’s lives but take some time and examine what might need removed from our lives.  Stay salty and search yourself.

Wednesday –John 1:1-5, The Word Became Flesh

Why did John use “word” as a name of a person?  This term has special meaning to both Jew and Greeks, who used the term word (logos) not only to describe spoken word but also to describe the unspoken word.  The “word” refers to Jesus the Messiah, emphasizing his unity in the Creation Story in Genesis and the beginning of the Gospel of John. 

Thursday –1 John 1:5-9, Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

In what sense is God light?  Light suggests the idea that God is open and honest, that he reveals truth.  Light also represents goodness and purity in a moral sense.  There are no shadows or dark sides to God.  He is perfect and free of sin.  No yin and yang with God.  There is NO evil or bad.  He’s the perfect father. 

Friday – Luke 11:33-36, The Lamp of the Body

What does it mean that your eye is the lamp of your body?  Like a lamp shining on a path, the eye lets light into the body and allows people to see obstacles in their way.  When our eyes are healthy, our whole body navigates well through life.  Similarly, when believers make their central focus Jesus and the message of the gospel, their life will be “full of light.

Saturday –John 12:35-37, Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

Why did Jesus hide?  As Jesus’ public ministry drew to a close, so did the opportunity for the Jews to accept him and the Messiah.  He may have hidden from them to underscore what he had just told them; soon the light would be taken from them.  Are we called to hide too?  Or… are there strategic moments when we need to be alone and still? 

Week of March 4th

Grace is not a blue-eyed blond – so goes the title of one book.  Grace is God’s action towards humanity to free us from slavery to sin and death.  It is revealed most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Grace is God’s act of love and forgiveness purely because God chooses to do so.  I can’t earn it or buy it or deserve it.  I can only receive it and believe it.  Here are some passages to remind us of God’s grace.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you revealed the heights and depths and breadth of God’s grace when you sacrificed yourself on the cross.  Thanks you for grace.  Help me live each day focused on your grace, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – John 1:10-18

Who is the one who gave the right to become children of God to those who believed?  How is he described in vs 14?  Check out verses 16-17.  If the law came through Moses, what did this person bring?  From the beginning this was Jesus’ purpose – to bring you grace.  How does this change your day?

Tuesday – Ephesians 2:1-10

We were dead in our sins, but the good news is that we are saved by what?  Who reveals this to us?  If we can’t brag about how good we are, how should we live?  And what is the purpose for God’s gift – see verse 10?  Is that on your “to-do” list today? 

Wednesday – Galatians 2:15-21

Paul was not happy with the Christians in Galatia.  Some of them wanted to go back to living under the law – following a bunch of rules.  But Paul knew no one can live freely under the law.  Only the grace revealed through Jesus Christ can set us free.  Check out vss 19-20.  What matters most to Paul?  What matters most to you?

Thursday – Romans 3:21-26

No one is perfect.  Under the law, all of us are condemned.  But God has revealed grace through Jesus Christ.  He is the means by which we are free from sin and death.  What does that mean for you today?

Friday – Hebrews 4:14-16

The author is writing to a Jewish audience who would have understood the meaning of Temple worship and Old Testament teachings.  The High Priest was the one who offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  The author is asserting that Jesus is now the High Priest for all people for all of time.  Therefore, we are invited to approach the throne and receive grace.  How do you need grace today?

Saturday – Titus 3:4-7

Paul is writing to Titus, a young pastor, reminding him of the core of the gospel message.  What is it in this passage?  Who initiated it?  Who revealed it?  To whom is it given?  And what is the promise?  How does this make your day a little better?  A lot better?

Week of Feb 25th

Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome to introduce his mission and his faith.  It is the most complete document of what Paul – once fervent Pharisee, now dynamic disciple – believed.  Here is some of what he wrote about Jesus Christ.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, the most complete revelation of God’s love and grace:  pour your Spirit into my life that I may thrive and grow; becoming more like you dream I can become.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-11

For Paul, it is all about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  He does not report Jesus’ miracles or reflect on his teachings.  Instead, he is fixed on the cross and the empty tomb.  In this passage what did Jesus do and for whom did he do it?  What does it mean to “be reconciled?”  If your Bible used a different word in vs 10, what does it mean to you?  How does that make a difference in your day?

Tuesday – Romans 6:1-14

God’s grace is irresistible, but that does not give us permission to sin freely.  What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ?”  How does Jesus give you the power to live in grace, and not governed by sin?  In what ways does this give meaning and purpose to your life?

 

NEXT Steps Scripture & Prayer Guide

 

Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome to introduce his mission and his faith.  It is the most complete document of what Paul – once fervent Pharisee, now dynamic disciple – believed.  Here is some of what he wrote about Jesus Christ.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, the most complete revelation of God’s love and grace:  pour your Spirit into my life that I may thrive and grow; becoming more like you dream I can become.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-11

For Paul, it is all about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  He does not report Jesus’ miracles or reflect on his teachings.  Instead, he is fixed on the cross and the empty tomb.  In this passage what did Jesus do and for whom did he do it?  What does it mean to “be reconciled?”  If your Bible used a different word in vs 10, what does it mean to you?  How does that make a difference in your day?

Tuesday – Romans 6:1-14

God’s grace is irresistible, but that does not give us permission to sin freely.  What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ?”  How does Jesus give you the power to live in grace, and not governed by sin?  In what ways does this give meaning and purpose to your life?

 

Wednesday – Romans 8:1-11

Paul plays on several words, not obvious in the English.  There is a parallel between law and flesh as well as grace and Spirit.  How does living according to the flesh differ from living according to the Spirit?  If law condemns living according to the flesh to death, what does grace do?  How does that affect the way you view your day?

Thursday – Romans 8:31-39

This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.  What is the promise?  Are there any exceptions?  What role did Jesus play in accomplishing this possibility?  Paul had never been to Rome, likely had not met the people of this church, and did not know about their membership or their mission statement.  Yet, he boldly affirms this promise.  Does this promise apply to you?  (You betcha!)

Friday – Romans 12:1-8

Paul discusses the importance of Israel in God’s scheme, and then comes to one of the great “Therefore’s” in the Bible.  He has said everything beforehand to proclaim this.  What does he urge his readers to do?  What is the role of Jesus in all of this?  How does this help shape your day?

Saturday – Romans 14:13-23

A controversy in Paul’s day was whether or not it was okay to eat meat that had been offered to a pagan idol.  (No word on if it was smoked or barbequed.)  What is Paul’s principle?  See verse 17.  Check out verse 20.  What is the second principle?  How would following these principles help us live in peace?

Week of Feb 18th

This is the beginning of Lent – a season of preparing for Easter.  We are centering on the person and mission of Jesus.  Jesus is the central fulcrum of the Christian faith.  Without him our faith would be like a house at night with no electricity – very dark and cold.  This week the passages focus on what Jesus meant when he said, “I am living water.”

PRAYER

Lord, the source of life and love:  pour your living water into my life that I may thrive and grow; becoming more like you dream I can become.  Amen.

Monday – John 4:1-42

This is the whole story.  You may want to focus on verses 7-14.  What kind of water is Jesus talking about?  How does Jesus provide this living water?  For what kinds of things do you thirst?  Is it possible that following the life Jesus calls us to live would quench our thirsts and hungers better than anything or anyone else?  How will Jesus provide living water in your daily routine today?

Tuesday – Exodus 17:1-7

Moses had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  They had crossed the Red Sea and were journeying towards the holy mountain.  They are crossing harsh Sinai desert.  The writer tells us that the people tested God (and Moses).  How did God respond?  How will God respond when you have needs?

 

Wednesday – Joshua 3:1-17

This story sounds a little like Moses and the people crossing the Red Sea, except they do not have an army chasing them.  While scholars believe the Jordan may have been at flood stage at this season, crossing the waters becomes a symbol of entering a new stage of life.  They were entering the Land of Promise.  How does Living Water open the doors to new life and new promise for you?

Thursday – Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:8

No doubt Jeremiah went to Sunday School.  He knew the first Psalm.  How does a tree planted near water thrive?  What waters near you help you to thrive in challenging and changing times?  What is it about Jesus that gives us this living water?

Friday – Revelation 21:1-8

If Revelation is a letter written by the disciple John, now in his latter years; and if it is written to the church in Rome that is experiencing horrendous persecution; how do these words give hope?  How do they give hope to us today?  Who is it that promises to give water from the spring of life?  What does this mean?

Saturday – Revelation 22:1-5

I love to watch water.  I even have a small fountain on my deck that runs during the summertime.  Can you imagine living in a city like John describes in this passage?  Living water that flows from the throne of God!  Of course, this is symbolic, picturesque language to describe what it is like to live one’s life centered on the revelation of God’s grace and wisdom in Jesus Christ.  Water that sustains us, fruit that multiplies healing, life and freedom for all forever.  Is that worth living for?

Week of Feb 11th

One of the ways Christians can speak in a manner that may interest nonchristians is to speak of living well and wisely.  Nonchristians may reject the authority of the Bible, the centrality of Jesus Christ, or even the existence of God.  But everyone wants to live well and wisely.  Proverbs is a series of sayings on wise living.  Not much plot, but deep wisdom.

PRAYER

I honor and reverence your power, your purpose, and your presence, O Holy God.  Teach me that I may grow in wisdom and grace.  Amen.

Monday – Proverbs 1:1-7

Proverbs is a collection of sayings, not always sticking to the same theme.  As you read, which ones stick out at you?  Ponder those for the day.  What does it mean to “fear the Lord?”  How does one “fear the Lord” today?  What insight comes to one who commits themselves to “fear the Lord?”

Tuesday – Proverbs 3:1-10

What does this passage teach about living well and wisely?  Which phrases or images leap out at you?  If many of the Proverbs were collected by King Solomon who grew up learning from his father, King David; what does it mean to honor the Lord with the first fruit of your harvest?  How does one do that today?

 

 

Wednesday – Proverbs 15:1-10

What phrases or verses connect with you?  Do these gems of wisdom speak to your world?  In what ways do they help you live well and wisely?

 

Thursday – Psalm 1

Wisdom literature is not limited to Proverbs.  How does this Psalm speak to living well and wisely?  How does the image of a tree bearing fruit apply to your world today?  What “streams of water” nurture your spiritual health today?

 

Friday – James 3:1-12

The letter of James is often considered the New Testament’s version of wisdom literature.  Does this passage sound a little like Proverbs?  What does it teach us about the importance of language?  If language shapes our perceptions of the world and other people, how important are the things we say?  How will this shape the words you use today?

 

Saturday – Ecclesiastes 2: 1-26

We believe King Solomon penned these words.  Be sure to read vss 24-26.  What does it mean to live well and wisely?  Who would know better than King Solomon?  How does it impact your life?

Week of Feb 4th

Living the Christian life does not mean we will “live happily ever after without a care in the world.”  In fact, choosing to follow Jesus may lead us into more conflict and more difficulties.  This is because the meaning of life is not in ease and comfort but in service and sacrifice.  Here are some New Testament passages where the writers are encouraging the churches in the first century.

PRAYER

Thank you, O God, for guiding us through the difficult challenges of life.  Help me to grow stronger and to live more courageously in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-5

The Apostle Paul had seen his share of challenges.  He knew what affliction meant in anyone’s dictionary.  He glimpsed how God is able to use difficulties to create something more valuable. Endurance produces what?  Have you experienced this?  What in God’s view could be the value of the difficulties you face now?

Tuesday – Hebrews 11:32-12:2

This is sometimes called the Hebrew Hall of Fame.  Many of the heroes of the faith are lifted up as inspirational examples for all of us.  What haunts me is vss 39 & 40.  Some kept the faith even when they did not receive blessing in this life so I could be blessed even more.  How can my present difficulties be used by God to bless someone yet to come … even more?

NEXT Steps Scripture & Prayer Guide

Living the Christian life does not mean we will “live happily ever after without a care in the world.”  In fact, choosing to follow Jesus may lead us into more conflict and more difficulties.  This is because the meaning of life is not in ease and comfort but in service and sacrifice.  Here are some New Testament passages where the writers are encouraging the churches in the first century.

PRAYER

Thank you, O God, for guiding us through the difficult challenges of life.  Help me to grow stronger and to live more courageously in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-5

The Apostle Paul had seen his share of challenges.  He knew what affliction meant in anyone’s dictionary.  He glimpsed how God is able to use difficulties to create something more valuable. Endurance produces what?  Have you experienced this?  What in God’s view could be the value of the difficulties you face now?

Tuesday – Hebrews 11:32-12:2

This is sometimes called the Hebrew Hall of Fame.  Many of the heroes of the faith are lifted up as inspirational examples for all of us.  What haunts me is vss 39 & 40.  Some kept the faith even when they did not receive blessing in this life so I could be blessed even more.  How can my present difficulties be used by God to bless someone yet to come … even more?

Wednesday – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Peter uses the image of gold that becomes more pure, and therefore, more valuable when it is refined by fire.  The challenges we face can refine our character, our wisdom, and our faith into something more valuable than ever.  How are the challenges you are facing growing something valuable within you?  Laura Story after almost losing her husband to a brain tumor wrote the song, “Blessings.”  She asks, “What if your blessings come through raindrops?”

Thursday – 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Quite likely Paul is in prison as he writes this.  Perhaps he senses that his life is drawing to an end.  He is urging young Timothy to keep the faith, no matter the hardship.  Paul has “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”  So Paul anticipates a crown like the winners of an Olympic event.  How are you fighting the good fight, running the race, and keeping the faith?

Friday – 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Stand firm!  You have been called, equipped, and strengthened to proclaim the gospel of salvation.  Stand firm on that faith.  Why?  Because there is always opposition to the truth.  Notice that in verse 17, strength and encouragement come to us in every good work and word – not before, not in spite of, but in the work.  How is God inviting you to stand firm?

Saturday – 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

One of my favorite passages: Paul has endured many difficulties and troubles; yet he sees the resurrection power of God at work.  He focuses on what is yet unseen – true faith at work.  Where is your focus?  How is God using your tests to produce something better?

Week of January 21st

God’s love for the whole world is the compelling motivation behind God’s interaction in history. So when we become transformed by God’s grace and hope, we are compelled by this same love to care about others – all kinds of others: short, tall, skinny, not-so-skinny, light skinned, dark skinned, lots of hair, no hair, speak English and “No hablo anglais.” Here are some passages that reveal Jesus’ commitment to reach the whole world with grace. 

PRAYER 

Thank you, O God, for blessing me with grace. As you have blessed me, so use my thoughts, words, and actions to bless others with your grace. Amen. 

Monday – John 3:16--18

Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, a religious teacher of his day. Jesus reveals that his mission was more than to be a nice man who tells nice stories. Jesus came to reveal God’s gift of life – abundant and eternal. This gift is for the whole world. Who will cross your path today that needs a word of grace and hope? 

Tuesday – John 10:14-18

Jesus is talking with religious leaders, who aren’t quite getting it. In verse 16 Jesus reveals he is looking for sheep not of this fold – not in the established church of that day. What? Jesus is looking for people who are different from us? Who in your path today looks different, but needs God’s grace and hope?

Wednesday – Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus genuinely cared about people. His heart was drawn to them. But his mission was not just to heal as many as he could. His mission is to invite us to join him in the ministry of caring for people. “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord to send out workers into his harvest.” Hmmm! Who might that be? To whom is God sending you today? 

Thursday – Luke 10:1-12

Jesus sent out 70 followers. Despite carrying little with them, Jesus gave them the most important resource: power. Check out verse 17. They overcame many forces and brought hope to many people. If God is calling you today, please know that you have access the most important resource: God’s Spirit of power and grace. How will God use you to touch someone today? 

Friday – Matthew 28:16-20

This is the Great Commission. Jesus commands all of his followers to think globally. “Go into all the world!” This is not about us. It is about what God wants to do through us … in the world … in Jesus’ name. How does God want to use you to bless someone today? 

Saturday – Acts 1:4-8

I love this passage. Jesus is never looking back. It is not about restoring something from the past. It is about moving forward. God is always beckoning to us to move forward. God promises to fill us with power as we faithfully witness to the ends of the earth. Who knows how far your witness will go today!

Week of January 7th

Covenant is at the heart of the Christian faith.  God chooses to live in relationship with all of creation, especially the human creation that God has fashioned after God’s own image.  There are several covenants revealed in the Old Testament.  These reach their highest expression in Jesus Christ.  Here are some passages on the covenants God offers to humans.

PRAYER

Thank you, O God, for choosing to live in covenant with me.  Help me through my words, my thoughts, and my actions to live in covenant with You.  Amen.

Monday – Genesis 9:1-17

The story of Noah begins in chapter 6.  After the flood waters receded, God blesses Noah and his family.  They have been obedient and faithful in a monumental crisis.  Then God offers a promise.  What is it?  (See vs 11.)  What is the sign of this covenant?  To whom is the covenant offered?  What does that mean in light of the floods we have today?

Tuesday – Genesis 12:1-9

We are not privy to the reasons for which God chooses Abram and Sarai – later known as Abraham and Sarah.  We know from later parts of the story that they are not perfect.  But they trust this promise.   What is the promise God makes to them?  How do we see this promise being fulfilled today?

Wednesday – Exodus 20:1-17

Probably the most well-known of the covenants is this one, although we do not always think of it as covenant.  It is important to know the context.  God has heard the cry of the people in Egyptian slavery.  God has miraculously delivered them.  Therefore, God has paid the price for their freedom.  The first verse in this chapter is important.  Why?  How does it set the stage for the rest of the passage?  How has God paid the price for our freedom?  What is our part in the covenant?

Thursday – 2 Samuel 7:1-17

Shortly after David became King, he wanted to build a Temple for God, but God had a different vision – a longer view.  The prophet Nathan reports God’s promises to David.  How many are there?  How had God demonstrated faithfulness to David?  What does God require of David?  Anything?  What does that mean for you today?

Friday – 2 Kings 20:1-11

Hezekiah was king some time after David.  His story begins in chapter 18.  He was faithful to God, but the prophet Isaiah had bad news for him.  What was it?  How did God have a change of heart?  How did God renew a covenant with Hezekiah, keep the covenant with David, and give a sign of this covenant?  Do our prayers make a difference to God?  How does this affect the way you pray?

Saturday – Luke 22:14-20

As Christians we believe all of these covenants are most fully revealed in Jesus Christ.  In this setting on the night before Jesus’ own death, he offers a new interpretation of the covenant.  What is it?  How is it fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross?  Why is it important for us to renew this covenant frequently?

Week of December 31

Jesus Christ is the continental divide of history.  The continental divide is that peak of geography that separates rivers that flow one direction from another direction.  For example, there is a divide in Ohio that separates rivers that flow to Lake Erie from rivers that flow to the Ohio River.  Where one stands in relationship with Jesus Christ shapes our history, just as it has shaped world history.  Here are some passages that teach us about the importance of Jesus.

PRAYER

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, and reign in my life.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-11

Paul is introducing himself to the church in Rome with the most complete description of what he believed.  In this passage, how does God accomplish peace for us?  What role did Jesus play in accomplishing this peace?  What relationship do we have with God because of Jesus?

Tuesday – Hebrews 4:14-16

The writer of Hebrews is writing to an audience that was likely familiar with Old Testament Jewish faith.  The High Priest was the one who represented the people before God.  What role does Jesus play?  What is unique about Jesus that makes him a special High Priest?  What privilege does Jesus provide for us? 

 

Wednesday – 1 John 1:5-2:2

Our sins block our relationship with God.  We live our lives in a dark confusion about truth and reality.  But God has an alternative.  God offers forgiveness.  What role does Jesus play in providing us the option of forgiveness?  What do we need to do to receive forgiveness?  What does it mean for us to walk in the light?

Thursday – Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul was writing to Gentiles, non-Jewish converts to the Christian faith.  Prior to this, they were excluded from the privilege of covenant with God, but now something has changed all of that.  What?  Who?  What did he do?  How does this bring the good news of peace to the world?  How does it change life for us today?

Friday – Philippians 2:1-11

Paul likely wrote this letter from prison.  He has not lost hope or faith.  He is more convinced than ever.  Jesus Christ not only serves as an intermediary or an advocate before God.  He is also the example of what it means to be fully human – redeemed and restored.  If our attitude is more like Jesus, what would it be?  How would this shape our lives today?

Saturday – Colossians 1:15-20

Jesus is not just one guy who seemed to put it together better than all the rest of us.  He is unique.  What does this passage reveal to us about Jesus that makes him different?  Why is the cross important to us today?  Where would we be without the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus today?

Week of December 24

Christmas doesn’t just happen.  I imagine you put in much preparation.  There are cookies to bake, presents to buy, parties to plan, and more.  Likewise, God didn’t just design Christmas because there was nothing left on the “to do” list.  God prepared for this wondrous, miraculous gift of grace.  Here are some Old Testament passages that indicate God was setting the table for Christmas.

PRAYER

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, and prepare my heart for your birth this year.  Amen.

Monday – Micah 5:1-6

When the Wisemen arrived in Jerusalem and inquired about the location of the birth of the new king, the scholars pointed to this passage, especially verse 2.  Micah preached in difficult times, perhaps in those decades before the fall of Jerusalem.  While he could see the threats looming on the horizon, he also knew that God would bring salvation.  He promised God’s ruler would yet come.  Can we trust God to bring salvation to our chaotic, changing world?

Tuesday – Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah was likely a contemporary of Micah.  He offered the King a sign of hope.  The King rejected it, and missed the promise.  What is the sign of hope?  And what is the promise for us today?

 

Wednesday – Isaiah 9:1-7

The threat of the Assyrians on the horizon cast a shadow of gloom and doom over Jerusalem.  The Empires of the world were sweeping up the smaller kingdoms.  But Isaiah offers hope for a day yet to come.  Who is the child that will be born?  How is the birth of this child a promise for us today?

Thursday – Isaiah 11:1-10

Jesse was King David’s father.  Isaiah is promising that a descendent of King David will come one day to lead the world into peace.  What images are most striking to you in this passage?  How does Jesus, a descendent of King David, offer us peace today?

Friday – Isaiah 53:1-12

Much later in Isaiah – some scholars believe this part of Isaiah was written after Jerusalem was destroyed and the people forced into exile – the prophet describes the Messiah who comes not to rule by force, but willing to suffer for the people.  His suffering would bring salvation to the people.  How were these images fulfilled in Jesus?  In the midst of national disaster, how does the suffering Messiah offer us hope then, and today?

Saturday – Isaiah 61:1-11

It is not coincidental that Jesus chose these first two verses for his first sermon in Nazareth.  (Check out Luke 4:16-21.)  Like Isaiah, Jesus came to announce news of hope and grace to a world in turmoil and trouble.  How can Jesus’ message be good news for our world today?

Week of December 17

Ever notice how much music plays a part of our celebration of Christmas?  Many of us have favorite songs like “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bells” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  While the Bible doesn’t seem to have much rap or jazz, there is much music to help us center on the true meaning of Christmas.  Here is a few of them.

PRAYER

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, and echo the songs of salvation in my ears!  Amen.

Monday – Luke 1:46-56

Mary’s Magnificat is a wonderful expression of faith and joy.  What would it mean for Mary to give up all of her dreams for her life and her family to follow God’s call.  Life for Mary became real complicated after the visit from the angel.  Yet, she answers the call with courage and anticipation!  How can her song become my song?

Tuesday – Luke 2:8-20

This was not a “care bear” world.  The Romans were forcing people to sign up for a census to raise the taxes to support their empire.  Matthew tells us that King Herod slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem in hopes of killing Jesus.  This was a violent, oppressive world.  Who was singing in this passage?  And what was the message of their song?  How is there hope for our world today?

 

NEXT Steps Scripture & Prayer Guide

Ever notice how much music plays a part of our celebration of Christmas?  Many of us have favorite songs like “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bells” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  While the Bible doesn’t seem to have much rap or jazz, there is much music to help us center on the true meaning of Christmas.  Here is a few of them.

PRAYER

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus, and echo the songs of salvation in my ears!  Amen.

Monday – Luke 1:46-56

Mary’s Magnificat is a wonderful expression of faith and joy.  What would it mean for Mary to give up all of her dreams for her life and her family to follow God’s call.  Life for Mary became real complicated after the visit from the angel.  Yet, she answers the call with courage and anticipation!  How can her song become my song?

Tuesday – Luke 2:8-20

This was not a “care bear” world.  The Romans were forcing people to sign up for a census to raise the taxes to support their empire.  Matthew tells us that King Herod slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem in hopes of killing Jesus.  This was a violent, oppressive world.  Who was singing in this passage?  And what was the message of their song?  How is there hope for our world to

 

Wednesday – Philippians 2:5-11

Scholars think this passage was actually the words of a song the early church sang.  While it doesn’t quite ring like “Silver Bells,” it does focus on Jesus and the purpose of his coming.  Could it be that the secret sauce of true Christmas joy is celebrating the purpose of Jesus’ coming?  How can you celebrate that this year?

Thursday – Revelation 5:1-14

The Roman Church at the time this was written was under intense persecution.  The pressures on the believers were immense.  So, John paints a picture of victory in the future.  What do they do?  Apparently, saints sing.  What are these songs about?  Who do they honor?  Why does this celebrate hope?

Friday – Psalm 40:1-8

No song book would be complete with a selection from the Book of Psalms.  While these were likely composed and in use before Jesus’ birth, they invite us to hope in God.  Why does this songwriter have hope?  What has this songwriter learned about life?  Does this wisdom work today?

Saturday – Psalm 98

There are three sections to this song:  vss 1-3, vss 4-6, and vss 7-9.  What is the theme of each section?  Note the tense of the verbs.  The first section uses verbs that are past tense.  God has done these things.  The second section uses verbs that are present tense.  And the Psalm ends on verbs of the future tense.  Christmas is the miracle of a God who is on the move, who makes things happen!  What does God want to make happen in our world today?  In your life today?

Week of December 3rd

Prayer

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for you. Amen.

Monday - Isaiah 11:1-9

The prophet Isaiah, writing many years before Jesus' birth, foresaw that the Messiah would come to bring hope and peace to the land. What phrases or images leap out to you as you read this passage? How does Christmas bring hope and peace to you?

Tuesday - Isaiah 11:1-9

Read this passage again. When you come to verses 6-9, ponder what it would mean to live in hope and peace like this today? A Christmas like this would eliminate fear and violence. How can your Christmas become like that today? How do you live in hope and peace?

Wednesday - Psalm 72

This Psalm was likely written in celebration of one of Israel's kings, perhaps Solomon. But long after the kings of Israel disappeared, it was still used because it focused our eyes on the reign of God in the world. What images speak to you about God's reign today? How do we become partners with God today?

Thursday - Psalm 72

Likely this Psalm was written for one of the kings of Israel, perhaps Solomon. But what if we were to read the Psalm thinking of the birth of Jesus? How does it express our hopes an dreams for the coming of the Messiah today?

Friday - Romans 8:7-13

Leap ahead to the New Testament and Paul's letter to the church in Rome. Likely, most of the church was made up of Gentile converts. Long they had thought they were left out. They were not the chosen ones. But Paul offers hope. What is it? Is that hope offered for us, too? How can we experience that hope today?

Saturday - Hebrews 1:1-4

In the past, God spoke through many leaders: judges, prophets, and other dynamic leaders. But in these last days, God has spoken through whom? How does Christmas reveal this wisdom to us today? If Jesus is the full revelation of God's nature and character, what do we know about God?

Week of November 12th

Following Jesus is grounded in gratitude, revealed in prayer, and lived in faith.  To live in faith means we may not be in control and may not know the future with certainty.  But we live freely and fully, trusting in the God who is able to bring good out of even the worst of tragedies.  Here are some passages on living in faith.

PRAYER

O God who invites all of us to trust your grace:  thank you for making faith possible.  Help me to trust you more this day with all that I cannot foresee or control.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Monday –Hebrews 11

The best examples of living in faith.  Some of the stories we may know well, and others have been lost over the years.  Their lives were not simple or easy.  They sacrificed much, but God provided so much more for them and us.  Therefore, we are called to live in faith, too.  How can you live in faith today?

Tuesday --Daniel 3

Three young friends of Daniel who also served as slaves to the empire refused to compromise their convictions and faced death courageously.  Was it dangerous?  Was it risky?  Were they afraid?  “Yes” to all the above, yet they lived in faith that God would provide for them.  How will you live in faith today?

Wednesday – Nehemiah 1:1-4 and 2:1-6

Nehemiah was a wine taster for the King.  Who tests wine for a King?  Someone who is easily disposable.  If the wine is poisoned, we’ll find another slave.  Yet, the King appoints Nehemiah governor over Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city.  Despite threats, fear, plots, and intimidation; Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the walls in 52 days.  How can one go from so low to so high?  Nehemiah lived in faith.  How can you live in faith today?

Thursday – Matthew 9:27-30

This is one of many healing stories.  Two blind men follow Jesus?  What did they want?  What did Jesus ask?  What did Jesus promise?  These men believed Jesus could and would help, and because of it they gained their sight.  How can you live in faith and regain your vision?

Friday – Luke 8:40-48

This is a story within a story.  Focus on the woman in the second story.  Who was she?  Sounds desperate, doesn’t she?  What did she believe?  Jesus is being jostled in a crushing crowd, but he sensed something important happen.  When the woman confessed what she had done – inappropriate for her to do on several levels – Jesus affirmed her.  What did he say?  How can you live in faith today?

Saturday – John 4:46-53

Why would this man plead with Jesus?  Would you and I be any different if we were in the same situation?  What promise did Jesus make and how did the man respond?  Faith is revealed in obedience.  How will you live in faith today?

Week of November 5th

Legacy Sunday is a time to honor our saints.  What is a saint?  Do you know any saints?  Is a saint someone who, like the little girl suggests, lets the light shine through?  The saints in the Bible were not perfect people, but they did keep the faith with God.

PRAYER

O God, thank you for all the saints you have put in my path.  May the light of your love shine through me to encourage others, forgive others, and lead others, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday –Genesis 39:1-6

To Potiphar, Joseph was a saint.  It was based on his observation of his character revealed in his actions.  Obviously, Potiphar’s wife had other ideas in mind.  How was Joseph a saint? Check out 39:21 and 41:38.  What do these verses reveal to us?  How can you be a saint?

 

Tuesday --Daniel 6:1-9

Daniel was a young man separated from his home and his family; and thrust into slavery in the foreign empire.  What made Daniel a saint?  Are there saints today?  How can you become a saint?

 

Wednesday -- Ephesians 4: 1-7 and 11-16

Paul is writing to church leaders in Ephesus what it means to be in the body of Christ.  Healthy churches have diverse gifts in different people.  What is the one common bond?  What is the purpose of diverse gifts?  Who is the head?  What are your gifts and how do you use them?

 

Thursday -- 2 Timothy 1:13-18

Paul describes faithfulness to young Timothy.  What is faithfulness?  What examples does Paul give here:  both negative and positive?  How are you faithful?

 

Friday -- Acts 9:1-19

Who was the saint in this story:  Paul or Ananias… or both?  Paul had certainly done some horrible things to Christians, but God called him.  Ananias was reluctant to go, but God prevailed.  How important is obedience to the saint?  How important is it to you?

 

Saturday -- Hebrews 10:19-25

Sainthood is not developed by our own initiative.  It comes as a response to God.  According to this passage, what has God done that calls us to faithfulness?  In response to God, on what should we focus?  Evaluate your own sainthood.  How are you doing?

Week of October 22nd

This week in worship, we were reminded of the power of Jesus to forgive sins and the value of faith.  We also witnessed the “Cardboard Testimonies” of those in our community who God has forgiven and used in His kingdom to bless others. We’re a community who has been blessed to be a blessing to others.  Those are powerful words to remember this week. 

PRAYER

O God, You have blessed me beyond measure, yet there are times that I forget.  Help to me to keep you first in my heart and mind as I work, play, and rest.  May my heart and mind continue to become more like Yours.   Amen.

Monday –Mark 10:35-45

Why were James and John concerned about having places of importance?  James and John assumed that since Jesus was the Messiah and was heading to Jerusalem, he was about to claim Israel’s throne and over throw the Romans.  Have you ever allowed your personal pride and desire for power influence your behavior?

Tuesday –Matthew 25:31-46

Why would sheep and goats be mixed together?  Although these animals would not have been penned together, they would have grazed fields together.  Several herds could co-mingle, but they would respond to the shepherd’s voice.  This would only work if the sheep knew their shepherd’s voice.  How do we ensure that we know the Good Shepherd’s voice and not the voice calling the goats?

Wednesday – Luke 15:1-7

Have you ever been concerned about the 99 sheep who were left?  Could God possibly be on rescue patrol AND keeping the flock safe too?  Certainly!  In this 1st century culture, the Head Shephard would search for the lost while others would care for the flock.  Have you ever felt that Jesus was seeking you?  Have you ever resisted because you felt you weren’t worthy before others?  We need not feel bad about our savior.  He loves us more than we can fathom. 

Thursday – Mark 6:30-44

Once again, the people, “were like sheep without a shepherd.”  Jesus continues to seek the lost, hungry, and hurt.  The religious leaders had become lost and taught lost faith, yet Jesus came to save.  Are there times in your life when wandered without the shepherd’s care?  What happens to us, is what happens to the world too.  Shouldn’t we talk more about the Good Shepherd?  What would be the benefit?

Friday – Acts 2:45

Are we expected to sell our positions and give to the poor?  Jesus didn’t mandate we sell everything, yet we are called to attend to the sick and poor.  If God has been generous to us, shouldn’t we give generously to others?  What’s the benefit?  What might happen if we following God’s calling in our lives?

Saturday – Exodus 3:7-10

God seems to put a heavy emphasis on keeping His word.  Don’t you think?  Although the land was given to Abraham’s people, God wanted to ensure that Moses’ people would receive what was rightfully given to them.  What does this say about the character of God?  What does this mean to us and our relationship?  Should we consider our promises to God with more care and attention?

Week of Oct 8th

Gratitude is how we embrace grace face to face.  When we neglect to give thanks, we miss out on the best of God’s blessings:  a personal relationship of joy and peace.  When we pause to give thanks to the One who blesses us generously, we see God’s possibilities for abundant and eternal life.  Here are some passages about gratitude.

 PRAYER – God, you are the source of every good and perfect gift.  Open my eyes to see the signs and evidences of your grace every day, in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Monday – Psalm 77

This is one of my favorites.  Compare the tone of the first few verses with verses 13-15.  What has changed?  I think the key is verses 11 & 12.  What if you and I made that decision every day?  How would choosing gratitude change our attitude?

Tuesday – Psalm 100

Every time I visited Aunt Orie, she would recite this Psalm from memory.  I realize that it is a short psalm, but Aunt Orie was 100 years old.  Maybe that’s how you live to 100?  She may have forgotten many other things, but she remembered how to focus her faith on gratitude to God for her life of many blessings.  Gratitude is an attitude we choose.

Wednesday – Acts 16:16-34

The authorities treated Paul and Silas badly, even illegally.  So Paul and Silas are buried in a dungeon with little hope. What do they do?  It’s not the first thing that comes to my mind. But when we choose the attitude of faith in God, spectacular things can happen.  How will you choose gratitude today?

Thursday – Acts 2:41-47

This must have been a powerful experience – the fire of the Holy Spirit infecting every believer.  And one of the characteristics of this transforming experience is that the whole community gathered in praise and thanksgiving.  Is it that they were thankful that new people joined the group or is it that new people joined the group because they were thankful?  Things that make you go “Hmmm!”

Friday – Ephesians 5:15-21

Paul teaches the saints in Ephesus to “give thanks always and everywhere.”  Is this possible?  Yes, if you read verse 18 first, “Don’t be drunk with wine which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit.”  When we focus on the power and presence of God’s Spirit, we will see God work in miraculous ways.  Give thanks!

Saturday – Philippians 4:1-9

This sounds like a great pep talk, until we realize that Paul is likely in prison spending his last days.  In the midst of tragic and trying cirucmstances, Paul chooses gratitude and joy.  Gratitude is an attitude we can choose no matter what the situation.  Where do you need to choose gratitude today?