Week of July 15

This week concludes the series, “Dare to See Clearly.”  The stories of Abraham and Sarah teach us much about following God’s call and seeing God’s preferred future.  The readings this week are a summary of the stories of the past several weeks.

PRAYER

Lord of all times and places:  Thank you for the example and witness of Abraham and Sarah.  As they learned to trust you more deeply than before, help me to continue to grow in my faith that I may serve faithfully in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – Genesis 12:1-9

God calls Abraham and Sarah to embark on this exciting adventure.  In this call is a promise and a purpose.  What are they?  Are these examples of promises and purposes in God’s call to us?  We may not make the trip in the same way, but how do we live out the faith journey today?

Tuesday – Genesis 14:1-16

Abraham and Sarah followed God’s call and journeyed a long distance to this land of promise.  But this land of promise was not safe.  They faced danger.  Kings went to war.  Lot’s family was captured and held prisoner.  How did God rescue Lot?  Are there challenges you face that threaten to overwhelm you?  How will God use you to respond to the crisis?  And what will God grow and groom in you through the adventure?

Wednesday – Genesis 15:1-21

God once again renews the covenant with Abraham and Sarah.  The writer tells us that Abraham believed God, and God honored that trust.  Abraham’s trust in God was credited as righteousness.  That means God viewed Abraham as in a whole and right relationship with God.  Pastor Phil explained how the divided sacrificed animals were a sign of God’s commitment to this covenant.  Today we have the cross to remind us of God’s faithfulness to the covenant.  What does the cross mean to you?

Thursday – Genesis 16:1-16

Abraham and Sarah grew tired of waiting for God to keep the promise.  It was not only weeks and months, it was years and decades.  Still they waited.  They conceived their own solution.  It brought disaster and has been a point of conflict in human history ever since.  How was this an example of planning for God’s failure?  Have you grown tired of waiting for one of God’s promises?  What will you do to keep the faith?

Friday – Genesis 18:16-33

Fascinating story about God revealing to Abraham the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  Life had seriously declined in those towns, but that is where Lot – Abraham’s nephew – lived.  In the conversation Abraham “argues” with God about the fairness of God’s plan.  What does this story reveal about the character of God?  What does it reveal about the kind of man Abraham has become?  And what does it reveal about the importance and power of prayer?

Saturday – Romans 4:9-25

Paul uses the example of Abraham and Sarah (as does the writer of Hebrews) to illustrate the role of faith.  Because Abraham trusted God, God looked upon Abraham the same as if Abraham had never sinned.  His faith was credited as righteousness.  In the same way, as we trust in the grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ, we will be credited as righteous – true to the faith.  How can you walk in faith today?

Week of July 8th

Sermon Series:  Dare to See Clearly

Prayer-  James 1:12 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Monday –Joshua 1:7-9,  Joshua Installed as Leader

Does God promise health and wealth to those who follow him?  It may appear so, at least in the Old Testament, where God’s promises were linked to the land.  But God’s kingdom is not essentially geographic, it is spiritual and eternal.  Some who are called to serve the Lord may have to endure poverty and deprivation (Romans 8:35-39).

Tuesday –Philippians 4:8-9,  Final Exhortations

Can we choose to think lovely thought?  How can we control the thoughts that come uninvited into our minds?  Paul was not talking about fleeting impressions that invate our thinking.  Thought of temptation or discouragement can come unannounced.  But we can discipline ourselves, making conscious choices to contemplate good things.  Reading uplifting Bible verses and meditating on them, making a mental checklist of God’s attributes, counting our blessings- these types of things can get our thought on the right track. 

Wednesday –Romans 10:9-10,   Salvation

What does it mean to be “saved”?  Salvation comes by faith, but faith is not just knowledge of the facts.  Genuine faith is evident in a loving relationship with God.  Even though sin broke this relationship, God provided reconciliation through His son Jesus Christ.  We are saved when we believe Jesus died and was resurrected, and when we sincerely trust in him as our only way to eternal life.  We cement this through confession of words and way of living.  How’s your walk with God?  Are you sharing your salvation too?  There’s a world that we’re called to share with.  Go share Jesus! 

Thursday –Philippians 4:6-7,   Final Exhortations

Seriously?  Do NOT be anxious?  Sometimes I wonder what God was thinking.  God created me this way, so why shouldn’t I be anxious?  Well… God has called us to care and have concern, but we’re not called to be so concerned that we’re paralyzed and unable to do God will.  Unhealthy anxiety is toxic and keeps us from following God with a glad and open heart.   So… don’t sweat it.  God’s god plans!

Friday – Matthew 6:31-33,   Do Not Worry

Do not worry again?!?!  Does Jesus command us NOT to worry?  This is not so much a command as it is an invitation to rest in the arms of our loving Father.  As humans, we will at times cross the line and fret when we should trust.  But only when we allow ourselves to constantly focus on ourselves instead of God do we violate Jesus’ principle.  His invitation is liberating principle, not another law to be obeyed. 

Saturday – Ephesians 5:19-20,   Do Not Worry Part II

Can we honestly give thanks for everything?  Seriously?  Giving thanks is an act of worship.  Despite difficult circumstances, we can give thanks, knowing that God’s love and concern are unfailing.  That’s amazing Grace!  That’s amazing Love!  Praise God!

Week of July 1st

Independence Day is this week.  I’m thinking about more than just hotdogs and barbecue.  In our anxious, conflicted world I’m thinking about peace.  The prophet Isaiah preached in an anxious time.  The Assyrians had wiped out the Northern Kingdom, and the Babylonians were threatening the Southern Kingdom.  Where is peace?

Prayer

Lord, though the world around us struggles with chaos and conflict, I find my perfect peace in you.  My your Spirit spring up within me that I might trust you even more in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Monday – Isaiah 2:1-4

Though they lived in anxious times of war, Isaiah gives the King a vision of peace.  According to this passage, what makes for peace?  What are the signs of peace?  I don’t have a spear or a sword.  What do I do to turn weapons of war into instruments of peace?

Tuesday – Isaiah 11:1-9

We often read this passage at Christmastime.  What we see fulfilled in Jesus, Isaiah could only anticipate in faith.  In verses 6-9 Isaiah paints a picture of peace.  How would you describe it?  Who is the source of this peace?  How would this vision give hope to a land that was engulfed in fear and uncertainty?  How does Jesus fulfill this vision, not only for Israel in that day, but for us today?

Wednesday – Isaiah 26:1-6

The Kings of Isaiah’s day believed peace came through strong armies and stronger walls.  After all, when David was King, Israel was in her Golden Age.  The borders expanded.  The land was secure, and the people were prosperous.  But that day has gone.  Isaiah reveals the true secret to peace and security.  What is it?  How do we find it?  We don’t talk about armies and walls today, do we?  How do we find peace in the 21st century?

Thursday – Isaiah 32:1-20

Long passage.  I would divide it into 3 parts:  vss 1-8 – a picture of true peace that comes through the righteous rule of a king; vss 9-14 – a prediction of what actually happened; and vss 15-20 – the vision of God’s preferred future.  What is God’s preferred future?  What will trigger it?  If peace is the result of righteousness, how do we become righteous?

Friday – Isaiah 55:1-13

Isaiah’s tone changes from warning to hope, so much so that some commentators believe these words are written by a different hand.  It feels that the disaster Isaiah anticipated has happened.  These are invitations into God’s covenant again.  What are the invitations?  Note the action verbs in your Bible:  come, seek, pay attention, listen, call.  (The verbs in your translation may be slightly different.)  How does peace come in this vision?

Saturday – Isaiah 57:1-2, 14-21

Peace does not come in capitulating to the values and standards of popular culture.  The prophet denounces the pagan culture of his day.  To whom does God give peace?  What triggers this gift from God?  How can we find peace in our world today?

Week of June 24th

Ever break a promise?  It is not simply rearranging the details in an agreement.  The damage of broken trust can linger in one’s life for generations.  That is what is so remarkable about God’s grace.  Even though we humans have often broken covenant with God, God’s grace continues to invite us into covenant over and over again.  While the June 24 sermon focused on God’s covenant with Abram and Sarai, there are many other covenants in the Bible.  Here are a couple of them.

Prayer

Lord, you invite us into relationship with you.  You offer us grace over and over again.  Pour your Spirit into me this day that I may be filled with your power and presence.  Amen.

Monday – Genesis 9:8-17

This is the story of Noah and the flood.  God makes a pledge to never destroy the earth by flood again.  What is the sign of that pledge?  For whom is that sign a reminder?  While God binds the Divine Self to this pledge, what does Noah pledge?  What has God pledged to you?

Tuesday – Hebrews 11:8-12

While Abraham and Sarah’s story is found in Genesis, the writer of Hebrews observes that their covenant with God was not based on perfect behavior.  What was their covenant based on?  Reading Genesis reveals that they were certainly not saints, yet God chose them?  Why?  Why has God chosen you for witness and service today?  On what basis is your relationship with God?

Wednesday – Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Some think the whole book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last words to the people of Israel.  In this passage he repeats the teaching of Exodus 20 – the Ten Commandments.  We often think of these Commandments as a list of do’s and don’ts.  But notice the preamble to the list.  They are based on what covenant?  When did God initiate this covenant?  What did God do to earn the right to invite Israel into this covenant?  (Check out Exodus 20:2).  How does your covenant with God shape your behavior?

Thursday – 2 Samuel 7:1-16

King David was embarrassed that he lived in a palace while the Ark of the Lord resided in a tent.  He wanted to build a Temple, but God had different plans.  What were they?  But more important to God was not the design of the temple but the character of God’s relationship with David.  What did God promise?  How did God plan to deliver on this promise?  How did this compare in value to the construction of the Temple?  What does this teach us about God’s value on your character?

Friday – Jeremiah 31:31-34

Waiting is so hard.  The people were living in exile, far from home in a foreign land as conquered slaves.  Yet, Jeremiah makes a promise.  What is it?  How will this covenant be different from older covenants?  While Israel has broken past covenants, what does God promise going forward?  If this is the same God as today, what does God offer you?

Saturday – Hebrews 9:11-15

The Messiah – Jesus – has become the new great High Priest.  By virtue of his own death on the cross, he has become the substitute for all the animals sacrificed on the altar.  And because he had committed no transgressions, he now can intercede on our behalf.  He becomes our grace.  How will you embrace the grace today?

Week of June 17th

Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes the world seems like a dangerous place.  It would be easy for us to give up and give in… except there is hope in Jesus Christ.  In Jesus God has revealed the power and presence of Divine love in our world.  For those New Testament Christians who not only faced persecution for their faith, but sometimes even death; their hope remained solidly rooted in faith in Jesus Christ.  Here are several passages that guided them in their day … and us today.

Prayer

Lord, open my ears to hear your Word.  Open my eyes to see your truth.  Open my heart to embrace your love.  Amen.

Monday – Romans 5:1-5

Paul is writing a letter of introduction to the church in Rome, so they would understand what he believed and what he preached.  This passage ends with hope, but begins where?  Can you trace the path from the beginning to hope?  And why does Paul say this hope will not disappoint us?  Does this hold true for us today?  How?

Tuesday – 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

Depending upon which version or translation you are using, the word hope may only appear one or two times.  Yet, the theme of this passage is how the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope – in this world and the next.  How does faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ give you hope?  How does it change your perspective on truth and reality?

Wednesday – Colossians 1:15-23

There’s a promise in verses 22-23.  What is it?  Paul talks about the hope of the gospel.  What is it?  How is the “hymn” of verses 15-20 connected to the message of the gospel?  This is why I believe that any message that does not center on the person of Jesus Christ is not Christian and not Biblical.  Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation and the heart of our hope.

Thursday – Titus 2:11-14

Titus was a young associate of Paul’s, a young pastor Paul would put in charge of churches when Paul traveled on to the next mission site.  This letter is Paul’s coaching for young Titus.  What does Paul teach in this passage?  In whom is our hope?  Is our hope to be realized immediately?  If not, what do we do in the meantime?  How does that shape your agenda today?

Friday – Hebrews 6:1-11

This passage is dire warning to those who slide away from the truth revealed in Jesus Christ, but hope for those who persevere.  The writer makes a promise in verse 10.  What is it?  What are the writer’s instructions in verses 11-12?  What does that mean for you and the responsibilities you have for this day?

Saturday – 1 Peter 1:3-9, 13-16

Where does this living hope come from?  What is the pivotal event that reveals the power of this hope?  Trials and troubles do not tarnish this hope.  Quite the opposite; challenges refine our faith and our hope.  It is what God wants to do in us, while working through us.  So in whom do you place your hope?  How does this impact the way we live our lives at work, at school, at home?

Week of June 10

Sermon Series:  Dare to See Clearly

How did it all begin?  What was God’s intent when he started a relationship with His people?  What do you know about Abram/Abraham?  Are we still following God as He intended?  …in the Old Testament or New?  Let’s dig in together and seek for God to help clear our vision, to see what he intended our lives to be. 

 

Prayer

Lord, you created each one of us in your image, unique reflections of your glory and love.  Help us to see the strengths you’ve given us.  Help us not to waste our time clamoring after what you’ve given someone else, but to see the gifts we already possess.  You state in your word that we are your masterpiece, created to do good works you planned for us.  You have plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  Thank you for loving us enough to create us uniquely and individually.  Thank you for caring about each intricate detail of our lives and letting us take part in the universal story you are weaving.  Your work is good and complete, lacking nothing.   In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday –1 Timothy 6:15-16

We frequently desire to see the things that we’re not allowed or able to see.  However; we’re able to see plenty of God’s wonder in the blessings he gives us daily.  Do you ever struggle to see God when you can’t physically see Him?  How are you seeking to see God in your life?  Have you prayed for God to help you see him?  Today? 

Tuesday –Jeremiah 29:11-14,  A Letter to the Exiles

Clearly, God has plans for us.  Plans to see us grow and be blessed, yet we often forget those plans and put our eyes on other goals.  How do you continue to keep your eyes on God’s plans?  What can we do to keep this vision first? 

 Wednesday –Numbers 12:4-9, God Defends Moses

We’re not all going to have the same experience of Moses, but we can all have the experience of following God’s prophet.  We often resist God’s call because we have our own opinions.  How can we discern God’s voice?  What will help you follow God’s voice? 

Thursday –Psalm 5:1-6

God wants us to honor Him.  God wants and desires us to communicate with Him.  …and he requires us to be humble and void of arrogance.  If that is understood, why are we as a church struggling.  Fumbling?  How can we hear God’s voice first and loudest?

Friday – Habakkuk 2:2-6, The Lord Responds

There is great power in writing down our conversations with God.  We frequently forget “those moments” when we experience God in powerful ways.  These special moments are powerful and we’re called to share, yet if our memory fails us… are we honoring God?  No… we’re betraying him.  Seek to honor Him first! 

Saturday – 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul’s Vision

Paul was truly on to something.  We should all speak the name of God to any and all people.  That’s worth reporting and re-reporting!  But… we’re a living reflection of God.  Not our own accomplishments and wins.  We’re called to win for Jesus.  Although this is NOT the plan of the “world” but… we’re called to be a part of the world, not allowing the world to divide us from God’s calling in our lives.  Let’s remain focused on the vision of God.  …and speak boldly. 

Week of May 27

Memorial Day began shortly after the Civil War as a time to honor those who had given their lives in the service of their country.  Over the years many have added a recognition of all loved ones who have contributed to the welfare of our living.  As Christians it is not a day of doom and despair.  We believe in the promise of eternal life.  Here are some passages in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about that.

Prayer

O God, who holds all life in the palms of caring, faithful hands:  we thank you for those who have blessed us with their vision and compassion.  Help us to so live that we may be a blessing to the generations that follow us.  Amen.

Monday – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Paul feels unworthy to be called an apostle, because he once persecuted the church.  But Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road and called him to be a witness.  To what does Paul witness in verses 3-8?  Does this sound like a metaphorical symbol?  Or does Paul really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?  What do you believe?

Tuesday – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

This is one of Paul’s most compelling arguments for our faith.  He believed in Jesus’ resurrection because he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road.  But if we do not believe Jesus was raised from the dead, what does Paul say about our faith?  If we do not believe, what does Paul say should happen to us?  Do you believe?

Wednesday – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

But Paul believed firmly – despite his training that was antagonistic towards Christians, despite his deep scholarship into the Pharisee world, despite his upbringing as a Roman – in the resurrection of Jesus.  Because of that, what last enemy is destroyed?  And if that last enemy is no longer something to fear, how does that change your life?  Your day today?

Thursday – 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

We do not generally baptize people on behalf of the dead, but Paul makes a distinct point.  If we do not believe in life after death and only lived for the hope we can muster for this life; what is the end result?  What is the alternative to hope?  Hopelessness leads to futility, and perhaps some of the senseless violence we see in our world today reveals that.  Eh?

Friday – 1 Corinthians 15:35-49

Ummm!  Now what kind of body we will have in eternity is a question I cannot answer.  I was hoping for a thinner waste and thicker hair.  But God is not limited to our imaginations.  While what God created the first time around, God called it good; I suspect God can envision far beyond what I can see.  I only know that it will be in the image of Christ and that will be good!  Do you experience any disabilities?  Do you endure any diseases?  Are you wrestling with any health challenges?  I believe God’s best healing comes through death in the life to come.  How can that give us hope?

Saturday – 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Finally, we get to the capstone of Paul’s message.  How does God use death?  What is on the other side of death?  Who gives us the victory over death?  So how does that guide our steps and encourage our faithfulness in our journey through life?  The fruit of the disciple’s service may not be readily apparent to each of us, but it is never wasted in God’s economy.

Week of May 20

Sermon Series:  Family Matters

We'll be exploring "What matters to families?" and "Why God wants to be a part of your family?"

Prayer

Father, please shine your infinite light upon us and guide us.  We are made up of many individuals who make a joyful noise unto you.  We thank you for the gifts you have given and the gifts they share.  May other see your beauty in our every note and feel your presence near.  We thank you for all you have done, and we pray that you will guide us in all you want to be do through us now.  Amen!

Monday –Psalm 150:1-6,  Praise Him

Why should we specifically praise God?  There are many reasons to praise God.  They psalm mentions only two:  1 We are to praise God for his acts of power, which refers primarily to his acts of deliverance, though perhaps also to his power in creation and 2).  His surpassing greatness, which refers to who God is.  And how?  With everything we are and have.  God is worthy of the best we can offer in our worship, regardless of our abilities and limitations. 

Tuesday –Psalm 96:1-6,  New Song

What’s wrong with old songs?  Nothing.  This psalm was meant to offer fresh outpouring of praise to God.  Since God’s mercies are new every morning, we always have something new to sing about.  We especially need to avoid growing stale and predictable in our worship. 

Wednesday –2 Chronicles 5:11-14

Have you ever experiences the Holy Spirt in such a way that worship stopped?  Or… have you experienced the Holy Spirit in such a way that worship couldn’t stop because people were so filled?  The Holy Spirit is often a mystery yet inviting and allowing the Holy Spirit the chance to move is the first step of allowing God to do something wonderful. 

Thursday –Colossians 3:15-17

Do you ever find it difficult to be thankful when distracted?  How can you do it?  Realistically, we need to remove distractions and allow God to move us to do new deeds or share new words to others.   Isn’t this an awesome responsibility?  How will you start today?

Friday – James 5:13-20  

While sings praises, why would we ask for oil?  Oil was used for medicinal purposes in the New Testament times.  But, when administered by church elders in the name of the Lord, some believe it takes on spiritual dimensions.  Anointing with oil symbolizes the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. 

Saturday – Ephesians 5:19-20

Can we honestly give thanks for everything?  Seriously?  Giving thanks is an act of worship.  Despite difficult circumstances, we can give thanks, knowing that God’s love and concern are unfailing.  That’s amazing Grace!  That’s amazing Love!  Praise God! 

Week of May 6th

The mentors for each of our eleven Confirmation students have selected a verse to represent their journey of faith over the past year.  So this week’s NEXT Steps looks a little different in order to share each of the selected verses.  Each student’s name is listed with their mentor in parentheses.

Prayer

O God who calls each of us to grow in our faith and our service:  speak to my heart through the witness of our Confirmation students.  Amen. 

Reid Apke (Chet Cox)

1 Timothy 4:12 NIV  "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity."

Wyatt Baker (Tom Zechman)

Romans 10: 10 "With the heart man believes resulting in the righteousness and with the mouth man confesses resulting in salvation."  With Love from your prayer partner always, Grandad 

Michael Berger (Don Berger)

Proverbs 21:21 "Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor."

Caleb Falk (Ed Baldwin)

John 15:5 NIV  "I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing."

Alyssa Hardin (Jean Bricker)

2 Corinthians 9:8 "God will generously provide all you need."

Jacob Lattig (John Perone)

1 Corinthians 9:24 " Don't you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Andra Leary (Cathy Hanover)

Philippians 2:10 "...at the name of JESUS every knee shall bow...”

Wally Myers (Karl Kortlandt)

John 12:46 "I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark."

Staci Nation (Genni Nation)

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Alexis Staats (Laura Perone)

Psalm 4:1 NIV "Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayers."

Ella Walls (Suzanne Dulaney)

Matthew 22:37 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

Week of April 29th

Children … what a gift from God!  But not only are children a gift, they are an example for us as followers of Jesus.  Here are several passages about children – some small and young; others bigger and older.

Prayer

O God who is Father to all children – young and old:  put your hand on my shoulder to guide my steps and teach me wisdom that I may grow in grace and truth.  Amen.

Monday – Matthew 18:1-9

Jesus was pretty serious about children, wasn’t he?  What does it mean to be great in the Kingdom?  Is there a difference between being childlike and childish?  Children are often the vulnerable victims of abuse or neglect.  How did Jesus react to that?  How do we care for children today?  What are some of the ways our church is caring for children?

Tuesday – Matthew 18:13-15

In Jesus’ day children were often regarded as a nuisance.  However, Jesus regarded them as important and valuable.  In fact, how do children represent the Kingdom of Heaven?  How should we treat children and other vulnerable people today?

Wednesday – Romans 8:12-17

In Paul’s writings, the relationship of a child with a parent often became a metaphor or example of God’s relationship to us.  In this passage, how are we like children to God?  How do we become God’s own children?  In the Hebrew, “Abba” means “Daddy.”  God’s relationship is intended to be close and intimate.  If God’s children are heirs, what do they inherit?

Thursday – Ephesians 1:3-14

Paul uses the image of adoption to describe the means by which we (nonjews) become part of God’s family.  How did God provide for our adoption?  What blessings come to us because of this adoption?  As adopted children, we receive an inheritance from God.  What is it?  How does that affirmation change your day?

Friday – Galatians 3:27-4:7

Paul again uses the image of adoption to describe our relationship with God.  What do we do today to celebrate that adoption?  Who provides for our redemption so we might be adopted as God’s own children?  If we are God’s children, then we are God’s heirs.  What do we inherit?  How does this inheritance bless you?

Saturday – 1 John 2:28-3:3

How has God – as Father – demonstrated great love for us as God’s children?  Cathy and I have 7 grandchildren.  Today we had lunch with one of the younger grandchildren.  Several times I called him by his father’s name.  We do not know what he will become as he grows up, but he already reminds me of his father.  How do we remind people of our Heavenly Father?

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?