Week of Oct 13th

Week 6- Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

The fruit of a congregation or the fruit of an individual disciple reveals the true nature and character of the church or individual.  Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”  What kind of fruit does our church produce?  What kind of fruit is your witness and service producing?

Prayer:  Gracious God, plant the seed of your Good News deep into my soul so I may produce good fruit – fruit that reflects your power and presence in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


MONDAY- Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus told this story as a parable.  It is an example to reveal an important point.  How many different kinds of soil are there?  What makes each of them distinct and different?  What do the different types of soil represent? (You can read Jesus’ interpretation in Matthew 13:18-23)  Which kind of soil do you choose to be?

TUESDAY – Matthew 7:13-23

What does fruit reveal?A lady once bragged about her new dwarf apricot tree … until she picked a juicy ripe plum from its branches.What did that fruit reveal about that tree?Jesus uses this insight in the middle of talking about false prophets.What kind of fruit would be bad fruit?How about good fruit?Jesus goes on to say many will claim to be his disciples, but what will be missing?What kind of fruit can you bear today?

WEDNESDAY – John 15:1-8 and 16-17

These are among Jesus’ last words to his disciples.  Again, he affirms that they are to produce much fruit.  But what else does he reveal?  Who is the vine?  Who are the branches?  Who is the vineyard keeper that trims and prunes the branches?  Why does the vineyard keeper trim and prune the branches?  Can you think of a time when you faced tremendous challenge, but looking back grew great fruit?

THURSDAY- Ephesians 2:19-22

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is unique in that he does not seem to be addressing a laundry list of problems.  His image here is not of fruit, but the construction of a building.  Jesus is the cornerstone that marks where everything else should be positioned.  The apostles and prophets – generations who have kept the faith while going before us – are the foundation.  Who are we?  What is our calling?  Who is the One who calls us?

FRIDAY – Ephesians 4:11-16

The Holy Spirit has given each of us special talents to contribute to the body of Christ.  What is the purpose of these gifts?

  1. Verse 12 a

  2. Verse 12 b

  3. Verse 13 a

  4. Verse 13 b

  5. Verse 14

  6. Verse 15

SATURDAY- 1 Peter 2:4-10

Peter, like Paul, uses the image of the construction of a building.  Jesus is once again the cornerstone that aligns the rest of the stones into a wall.  Peter says we are what?

  1. Verse 5

  2. Verse 9a

  3. Verse 9b

  4. Verse 9c

How will you proclaim the praises of God today?

Week of Oct 6th

Week 5- Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations:  Passionate Worship

To be a radical, world changing church, we must have radical worship.  So what is worship? A lot of people think that it’s about a feeling or emotion that we receive when we sing the songs we like, or hear a sermon that we enjoy. Others say it is where they connect with others on Sundays (or other days of the week). DA Carson says “Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.” 


Prayer:  Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


MONDAY- 1 Chronicles 16:23-31

What does it mean to worship in the splendor of His Holiness?  It’s not entirely clear.  Many think this means to worship in Holy Attire.  It may also be related to the idea of a holy assembly-arrayed in holy splendor.  However, this is understood, the primary point is that we are to praise God properly, as he deserves.  How do you worship the splendor of God?  Does our local church do this? 

TUESDAY- Psalm 29

Apparently… the psalmist has heard the voice of God.  Although most people have not audibly heard the voice of God, we can “hear” the voice of God through scripture, nature, friends & family, time of prayer, etc…  The voice of God can help direct us without the limitations of using our ears.  God’s voice is louder because He is always interacting with His people in deep and meaningful ways.  How have you recently heard the voice of God? 

WEDNESDAY- John 4:21-24

How do we worship in the spirit and in truth?  True worshipers must worship in the power of God’s spirit and in accordance with His truth.  In John’s Gospel truth is associated with Jesus the Messiah.  We are to know and worship the one and only God, the God revealed I the Bible through Jesus the Messiah.  True worship is a matter of the heart.  It demands more than just outward motions. It is an inner submission of oneself to God. 

THURSDAY- Psalm 99

How can we worship at God’s footstool?  God’s footstool was linked specifically to the temple.  But in a broader sense, the earth can be called God’s footstool, as heaven is called God’s throne.  To worship at God’s footstool does not mean going to a certain location.  Rather, it suggests and attitude of submission and humility before the majesty of God.  God’s presence does not reside at the temple.  The Sprit of God is with us.  Does this give you comfort and security?  If God is with us, who could be against us?  

FRIDAY- Romans 12:1-2

How can we know God’s will?  We can know God’s will by honoring and obeying Him, and by refusing to be influenced by societal pressures.  As we replace our old way of think and adopt an entirely new perspective in line with God’s point of view, we’ll begin to recognize God’s will more and more.  We’ll find it easier to hear his voice in a variety of situations.  God may not dictate the details of our lives, but he will give us spiritual principles for everyday decision.  Knowing God’s will results from doing his will as revealed in scripture. 

SATURDAY- Psalm 100

How are God’s people like sheep?  Sheep are very dependent animals.  They need a shepherd to protect them and guide them to good pasture and water.  Like sheep, people need someone to lead them.  When people follow the Lord, they find spiritual safety and nourishment.  When they follow their own sinful desires, they risk eternal death from spiritual hunger and thirst or from spiritual predators. 

Week of Sept 29th

Week 4- Five Practices of Fruitful Christians:  Risk-Taking Missions & Service

Ponder your circle of acquaintances for a few moments.  Who do you enjoy most:  those who have an inward, self-absorbed focus or those who have an outward, other person kind of focus?  Jesus was a “man for others,” and he calls us to outward missions and service, too.

Prayer:  Gracious God, your focus and attention is always outward.  Jesus lived a life of sacrifice and service.  Tune my heart to the Spirit of Jesus that I may be a blessing to others in his name.  Amen.

MONDAY- Mark 1:16-20

From the very beginning Jesus called his followers to focus outward. When he called the first disciples, it was to fish for people just like they used to fish for fish.  They don’t hop in the boat all by themselves.  So Peter and Andrew, James and John learned to go looking for people who needed hope and help.  Who will cross your path today that will need some hope and help in Jesus’ name?

TUESDAY – Matthew 10:32-42

 I am haunted by verses 38-39.  It is an oxymoron – we lose life when we think we have found it.  We find life when we lose it for Jesus’ sake.  Happiness apart from Jesus is an illusion.  Mission and purpose in Jesus’ name is the key to fulfillment.  How do you find your life in Jesus’ name?  Anyone needing a cup of cold water in your day today?

WEDNESDAY – Matthew 25:31-46

This story of Jesus amazes me.  Someone pointed out to me that neither group recognized Jesus among those in need.  Those who responded to the needs merely did so because they were faithful to their call.  But there were just as surprised as the other group that King was among the group of the needy.  Could Jesus be among the people who will cross your path today?  How will you reach out and help?

THURSDAY- Matthew 22:34-40

They were trying to trip him up.  They recruited a teacher of the law to ask him a question to embarrass or discredit him.  But Jesus answered by quoting the Old Testament.  Deuteronomy 6:4 is the greatest commandment.  But Jesus took it one step further by identifying the next one:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Some scholars think Jesus intended the second one to interpret the first one.  As if to say, here is how you love God – love your neighbor.  Loving God, then loving neighbor, becomes the motivation for sacrifice and service.  Which of your neighbors needs your love today?

FRIDAY – Matthew 28:16-20

In Matthew’s gospel, these are Jesus’ last words to his followers.  They are the Great Commission.  He instructs them to go into all the world to make disciples.  This is not about inward peace or union with the universe.  This is not about comfort and ease.  This is not about peace and prosperity.  It is about sacrifice and service.  True joy comes in serving others in Jesus’ name.  Can you think of some examples when you sacrificed and served others that gave you great joy?  If not, I have some great opportunities for you!

SATURDAY- Acts 1:4-8

Dr. Luke wrote the story of Jesus and then the sequel, the story of Holy Spirit working through the followers of Jesus.We do not know who Theophilus was, but in the Greek it means:“lover of God.” So maybe Dr. Luke was writing to us, too.In this passage, Jesus predicts how they will respond when they experience the power and presence of God through the Holy Spirit.They will become bold witnesses to the ends of the earth. I invite you to pray for the Holy Spirit today – so you may be a bold witness in your own end of the earth!

Week of Sept 22

Week 2- Five Practices of Fruitful Christians:  Extravagant Generosity

Have you noticed that generous people are blessed generously?  It is a principle Paul teaches in his letter to Corinthians.  But it not just there.  We see it in the Old Testament, too.  Here are several passages to ponder.

 

Prayer:  Gracious and Generous God, you have first given so freely to us with life and family and friends.  But most of all I thank you for the gift of grace through Jesus Christ.  Help me to be gracious and generous today in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

_______________________________

 

MONDAY- 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

The Apostle Paul was collecting a mission offering from the gentile churches in Greece and Turkey to benefit the church in Jerusalem.  The Macedonians who were poor went over the top with their generosity.  The Corinthians who were not poor worried Paul.  Would they respond like the Macedonians?  So Paul is teaching them about generosity and grace.  What stands out to you in this passage?  What kind of attitude does a Christian develop to be a generous and gracious Christian?

TUESDAY – Malachi 3:7-12

The people of Judah were struggling.  They had returned from exile, rebuilt the Temple and the city; but the excitement had worn off.  They were growing complacent, and they were “robbing God.”  What does it mean to “rob God?”  What did the prophet teach them to do?  What was the promise of God if they did follow through?  Does this promise still apply to today?

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY – Genesis 14:17-24

This is where the concept of a tithe began.  Abram gives 10% of the loot of battle to the priest of God, Melchizedek.  Why would Abram do such a thing?  If we read chapters 13 & 14, we see that Abram and his nephew, Lot, part ways.  Then Lot gets caught up in a war among kings, he and his family are captured.  When Abram learns of this, we rounds up his servants and rescues Lot.  He is so grateful to get his nephew and the family back, that he expresses his thanksgiving by giving a tenth to the priest of God.  How do you express thanksgiving to God for the blessings you receive?

 

THURSDAY- 1 Chronicles 16:1-3

The ark had been captured by the hated Philistines.  For years, it remained in seclusion until David became King.  He resolved to bring it back to the capitol city, Jerusalem. You can read part of the story in chapters 13-15.  When the ark was returned, David celebrated.  He offered burnt offerings to God in thanksgiving for the return of the sacred box.  Then he did something rare.   He distributed to every Israelite, men and women, a loaf of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake.  Likely, David could afford it.  He was king.  But it is unlike most of the kings of that day to be so generous.  Why was David generous?  Because God had blessed him.  How did he respond to God’s generosity?  He became generous to others. How do you respond to God’s blessings for you?

 

FRIDAY – Acts 5:1-11

Odd and tragic story.  At the end of chapter 4 we see Joseph, nicknamed Barnabas, sold property and gave it to the disciples.  What is different about Ananias and Sapphira?  Were they obligated to give any of the proceeds to the apostles?  No.  But the liked the acclaim Barnabas received.  They wanted to be thought of being generous, without being generous.  And it killed them to be exposed.  Are you generous?  How would anyone know it?

 

SATURDAY- Acts 11:27-30

In this passage we see the disciples determine to give to the relief effort as they had means.God blesses each of us differently.God invites us to use those gifts generously.How are you using the gifts you have received?

Week of Sept 15th

for-church.png

Week 2- Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Faith Forming Relationships refers to all the ministries that help us grow in faith outside of weekly worship: Bible studies, Sunday school, small groups, and retreats where we learn in the community of other Christians. By these practices we mature in faith; we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. 

Prayer:  God, you have made the heavens and the earth.  You have revealed your beauty in creation
and inspired the book that we are now about to study.
Please help us now as we read together.
Take us deeper into understanding more about you
and your love for us.

Amen.


MONDAY-Hebrews 10:19-25

Although we rarely say the words, “spur one another” there is a great need to surround ourselves with people who speak truth into our lives and can help pick us up when we feel low. Who are the people you can count on? Do you have people (locally) who you meet and fellowship with?  

TUESDAY-Ephesians 4:13-16

What is a mature Christian like?  A mature Christian is continually growing in Christ, constantly thinking and acting ore like Christ.  Though Christians will never be perfect while living in a sinful world, God’s goal still is that we become like Christ. What areas are helping you the most: prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and intentionally growing a Christ centered relationship?  

WEDNESDAY-John 13:34-38

What’s the test of Loving one another? Peter failed.  Big time!  Yet… Jesus chose to build his Church upon Peter and his future obedience.  God measurers love by obedience, not by warm feelings and emotions.  In his first epistle, John said that believers know that they love one another by loving God and carrying out his commands.  Love and obedience are so closely connected.  

THURSDAY-Mark 3:13-18

Fisherman, tax collector, a thief, a zealot?  Jesus didn’t recruit Harvard grads.  He went to the most unlikely places for students to follow Him (a teacher and Rabbi). This doesn’t mean that they were the wrong people, because God always uses and equips those who are called.  This should give us great hope. God can and will use all of His children for something.  We all have a purpose.  The challenge for many is to allow God to use us.  And… to find contentment and satisfaction in where God has placed us.  

FRIDAY- Acts 1:12-14

Take special note!  Friends, students, men & women, family… they were all gathered together.  Praying!  There is something powerful about joining together in prayer.  Perhaps you’ve heard Jesus’ words from Matthew 18:20  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” I’m certain Jesus’ friends, family, and followers wanted to be close to Him during this scary moment of time.  

SATURDAY- Acts 2:42-47

Did the first Christians live communally?Are we expected to sell our possessions and give to the poor?They voluntary shared with each other, but they weren’t required to share in order to become believers.Some find the roots of socialism in these verses, yet the key phrase dispels that notion, “who had need.”Nevertheless, their example shows how the gospel can rearrange everything in our lives.These communal arrangements were not meant to model economics for every Christians community.Still, it shows the radical changes brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Week of Sept 8th

What makes life meaningful and fulfilling?  Is it material goods?  Is it fame and popularity?  Is it a lifestyle of ease and comfort?  The Bible teaches us about a fruitful life characterized by five practices:  radical hospitality, faith-forming relationships, extravagant generosity, risk-taking mission and service, and passionate worship.  Here are several passages highlighting radical hospitality.

 

PRAYER:  O God, You first offered me grace when you formed me in my mother’s womb, and breathed into me the breath of life.  Thank you for grace.  May my life offer grace to others in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Monday- Genesis 1

God does not need us.  God is not dependent upon us to give God meaning and purpose.  Yet, God risked everything by creating us and a space for us to live.  This is so God could live in relationship with us, even though we would inevitably create problems.  This became so serious that God became human in Jesus and took the rejection and pain of the cross in order to reveal the grace of hospitality once again.  If we have been given this grace, how do we extend grace to others?  In what ways will God move through you today to extend radical hospitality/grace to someone else?

Tuesday – Genesis 18:1-15

Abraham was just minding his own business.  Three visitors show up.  I guess in a desert one does not have many walk-in guests.  So Abraham instantly offers hospitality:  water for cleansing and refreshment, bread for food, cool shade for rest.  It turns out that these three visitors are either angels or God or some combination of the above.  God reveals to Abraham that he and Sarah will finally have a son.  Later in the chapter, God also reveals the plans for Sodom and Gomorrah.  What would Abraham have missed had he not offered hospitality?  What opportunities are awaiting you?

Wednesday-  Hebrews 13:1-6

The writer is wrapping up his letter with several instructions to the church.  I see three instructions in the first verse.

13:1 –

13:2 –

13:3 –

How are these examples of radical hospitality?  What examples of radical hospitality would you give from your life?

Thursday – Mark 5:21-43

A story within a story, but both examples of Jesus’ hospitality.  In both cases, Jesus made space for others, especially for those in need.  He made space in his time schedule.  He made space in his attention and he made space in his grace of healing.  He always seemed open, if not eager, to give of himself for others.  Erik Routley called him the “man for others.”  How can you be the man or woman for others today?

Friday – Mark 10:46-52

Bartimaeus was a blind beggar.  He was a nobody.  People basically ignored him.  But when he heard Jesus was passing by, he refused to be silenced.  He cried out for Jesus to have mercy on him.  Jesus made space for him.  Jesus stopped and invited him into a conversation.  Jesus turned his focus on him.  Jesus inquired about his need.  Jesus healed the man.  Jesus’ hospitality is a game-changer.  Whose game can God use you to change today 

Saturday – Luke 5:12-16

One of my fave stories.Jesus breached several barriers of religious and social etiquette to encounter this man that society had shunned.He had leprosy.It was a disease that would separate him from family, friends, community, and church.But Jesus broke through all those barriers to embrace him, and heal him.Could it be that some of our rules of religious and social etiquette keep people separated today?Could it be that we are more interested in protecting our images and perceptions of safety and comfort, than in helping people with real life problems?Who might be healed if we broke through barriers today?

Week of Sept 1st

Is heaven for real?  What is heaven like?  There is a lot we do not know about heaven.  Partly because if we did know, how would we describe it.  I suspect it is far beyond my ability to comprehend, let alone put into words.  And partly because some of the things I would want to know are not likely the most significant truths.  Here is some of what the Bible teaches about heaven.

PRAYER:  O God, You move in mysterious and wondrous ways from before the beginning to long after the end.  To be in your grace and to be filled with your joy is heaven.  Keep my eyes and my heart focused on Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life.  Amen.

Monday- John 14:1-6, 15-18, 27-31

Jesus was facing his own death.  I suspect there was so much more that Jesus wanted to teach them, but time was running short.  So he focused on the most important.  The promise was not that their wildest dreams would come true, or that they would live happily ever after.  What was the promise Jesus gave them?  Jesus offered this promise several times.  How would this promise sustain them through all the challenges and difficulties they would face?  How does this promise sustain you?

Tuesday – 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Okay, Paul is not talking about heaven.He is writing about the difficulties he is facing, and has done so on behalf of the believers in Corinth.But the last three verses reveal what motivated and sustained him through all those troubles.His relationship with God through Jesus Christ focused his attention farther out and farther up than before.On what did Paul focus?How does your focus give you hope and strength for each day?

Wednesday-  2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Paul had been through a lot, but his hope was in a future that could not be threatened by the troubles he endured.  This was a future he embraced when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  It changed his life.  How do these verses picture his hope?   What is the meaning of an “eternal dwelling in the heavens?”  Paul is very Greek in thinking about being in the human body vs some kind of spiritual being beyond.  But his mission is in verse 9.  How can this day be your gift to God?

Thursday – Revelation 4:1-11

John has a vision.  Perhaps it is a glimpse of worship in heaven.  Can you imagine what he describes?  Don’t let it sprain your brain.  Remember John is trying to describe in human terms what cannot be described.  It is so far beyond our imagination, let alone our reason; that it becomes incredible and even mythological.  But what can we gleam from this image?  It is fantastic!  Being in the presence of God is moving and passionate.  It is joyous!  And mere human words will be inadequate to describe it.  Would this encourage a people who are suffering?  Would this help someone keep the faith in danger?  Sound like something you would enjoy?  Who needs a video game when heaven is filled with this?

Friday – Revelation 21:1-8

John wrote this letter to encourage people in dangerous and difficult times.  In the midst of struggle and scuffle, John reveals who wins the cosmic battle between good and evil in the end.  What does John describe life will be like when God rules?  What happens to death, and grief, and pain, and sadness?  Who will receive these gifts?  Who will not?  How will you keep the faith in the difficulties you face?

Saturday – Hebrews 11:32-40

Did you notice the last two days devotions were the same as 2 weeks ago?  Those topics overlapped.  But this passage haunts me.  It not strictly about heaven.  There are many who have gone before us have not “received what was promised” so that we would have opportunities because of them.  Have their blessings been delayed so that I would receive the invitation of grace?  Is their heaven only complete upon my faithfulness?  For what blessings will I wait while others respond to grace?  Heaven is not a place for my gratification, but for the glorification and worship of God.

Week of August 18th

There are many ways to read and interpret the Bible, and many controversies because of that.  I find that the closer I can get to the purpose and message of the original writers and audiences, the more likely I will interpret the message more appropriately.  Revelation is a book that has been interpreted by many people in many different ways – often trying to predict a future that even Jesus said he did not know.  A better way to understand the message of Revelation is to grasp its original purpose. Then ask if God is speaking to us today in a similar manner.  Here are six passages.

 

PRAYER:  O God, You move in mysterious and wondrous ways through men and women throughout history. With your Spirit illumine my mind and warm my heart that I may keep the faith in difficult times.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

MONDAY- Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-7

John is writing to seven churches to encourage them in a difficult and dangerous time.  Many of them were facing persecution, threats, and even death.  But because the situations is so treacherous, he cannot speak openly and directly.  So he speaks in “code.”  For example, when he talks of Babylon, he really means Rome. When he uses the number seven, it may not be intended literally seven items; but a symbolic number representing a completeness and a wholeness.  What is John’s message to the church at Ephesus?  What did he praise?  What did he criticize?  If John were speaking to you, what would he praise or criticize?

TUESDAY- Revelation 3:7-13

There are seven letters to churches.  This is just one of them – the Church in Philadelphia (modern day Turkey, not Pennsylvania). What does John praise?  Of what does John warn?  What does John promise?  What is his message for Christians today who face difficult times?

Wednesday – Revelation 3:14-22

John has strong words for this Church.  What does he threaten?  Why? How does God use difficult and challenging times to groom and grow us into maturity?  Can you think of some times in your past where you grew strength and endurance because of the challenge?  How can God use current challenges to continue to groom and grow you? John uses a phrase at the end of each of these letters to the seven churches.  What does he mean by this?  How might we listen to these messages today?

Thursday – Revelation 4:1-11

John has a vision. Perhaps it is a glimpse of worship in heaven.  Can you imagine what he describes?  Don’t let it sprain your brain.  Remember John is trying to describe in human terms what cannot be described.  It is so far beyond our imagination, let alone our reason; that it becomes incredible and even mythological.  But what can we gleam from this image?  It is fantastic!  Being in the presence of God is moving and passionate.  It is joyous!  And mere human words will be inadequate to describe it.  Would this encourage a people who are suffering?  Would this help someone keep the faith in danger? Sound like something you would enjoy? Who needs a video game when heaven is filled with this?

Friday – Revelation 21:1-8

Yes, we skipped a lot of fascinating images and stories in between.  But John wrote this letter to encourage people in dangerous and difficult times.  In the midst of struggle and scuffle, John reveals who wins the cosmic battle between good and evil in the end.  What does John describe life will be like when God rules?  What happens to death, and grief, and pain, and sadness?  Who will receive these gifts?  Who will not?  How will you keep the faith in the difficulties you face?

Saturday – Revelation 22:1-5

As you imagine the scene John describes, what do you feel?Who is the source of light and life in this picture?What is the promise?If this is John’s message to a church in dangerous times, what would John say to you in our times?Who is the source of light and life in your picture?What is the promise in your situation?How does this help you keep the faith in the difficulties you face?

Week of August 11th

Why pray?  If our lives are determined by fate and we have no impact on the impersonal forces of reality, prayer would be a waste of time and effort.  On the other hand, if there is a God who is impacted by relationships and interactions with the human creature, then prayer would be the richest and most fulfilling of all activity.  Which do you suppose the Bible teaches?

 

PRAYER:  O God, who has formed me in your own image and breathed in me your own breath:  I yearn to live in relationship with you, to encounter your grace in every moment of every day.  Teach me to pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

MONDAY- 2 Chronicles 7:12-18

King Solomon completed the construction of the Holy Temple.  The Dedication Ceremonies were a tremendous party for and with God.  Much of the sixth chapter is King Solomon’s prayer. In this passage we read God’s response to Solomon’s prayer.  In verse 12 God acknowledges that God has heard the King’s prayer and has chosen action based on that prayer.  Then God makes a promise in verse 14.  If the people act this way, God will do this.  If they do that, God will respond in another way.  Do you believe God responds to your prayers, too?

 

TUESDAY- Genesis 18:16-33

God has appeared to Abraham to reveal that God’s promise of a son is now about to happen.In the midst of that conversation, God reveals the plan to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah.God is anticipating some kind of judgment upon the cities.Abraham, out of compassion for the people, barters with God.And God seems to welcome it.God is influenced by Abraham’s prayer, and God acts according to that relationship with Abraham.Do you believe God hears your prayers, too?

Wednesday – Exodus 32:7-14, 31-33

Moses had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  They arrived at the holy mountain where Moses had encountered God in the burning bush.  He was gone such a long time.  The people lost their focus and created a golden calf to worship.  God had delivered them from slavery, and provided them through the wilderness.  How easily they forget, and begin to worship idols!  God threatens to destroy the people.  Who changes God’s mind?  Why? Do you believe God listens to your prayers, too?

 

Thursday – 2 Kings 20:1-11

Hezekiah was a good king.  He was faithful to God.  But God revealed through the prophet, Isaiah, that Hezekiah’s days were ending.  How did Hezekiah respond?  How sincere was the King?  How did God respond?  What did God promise to do?  Isaiah even promises to provide a sign to confirm God’s promise.  Is God affected by your prayers, too?

 

Friday – Acts 12:6-17

It was a dangerous time in Jerusalem.  James, John’s brother, had been assassinated and Peter was thrown into jail.  The believers – fearing the worst – gathered to pray.  But it appears some of them had doubts that God would answer their prayers.  Rhoda became a powerful witness for God and Peter that day.  Does God answer your prayers – even when you have doubts?

 

Saturday – Luke 8:40-48

In case you think you may have to be some special saint to have your prayers answered, here is an amazing story of a woman who had never met Jesus, but believe in his compassion and his power.She may not have prayed some official church prayer from a book, but the yearning of her heart was more intense and more authentic.As soon as she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, Jesus was aware of her presence, her need, and her faith.He acted in response to what she needed.And she was healed.Do you believe God acts in response to your needs, too?

Week of August 4th

Worry!  It is part of the human condition.  From Alfred E Neuman (What, Me Worry?) to Bobby Mcferrin’s hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy;” every generation has had its share of worries.  We may not worry about being eaten by dinosaurs, but now it is nuclear proliferation, global warming, and an unproven quarterback for the Buckeyes.  But our faith promises peace in the midst of worry.  Here are some passages to ponder this week.

PRAYER:  O God, the Source of all true peace:  we live in anxious times.  Teach us to trust in you with our “ginormous” problems and our daily fears.  Keep our eyes, our ears, and our hearts focused on your power and your presence.  In Jesus name, we pray.  Amen.

MONDAY- Matthew 11:28-30

Let’s start with Jesus’ words.  In this chapter Jesus hears questions and doubts from his cousin, John the Baptist.  He is confronted with questions, suspicions, and resistance.  Even though he does magnificent miracles, people still don’t believe.  These are tense moments.  What does he promise in these verses at the end of the chapter?  If Jesus believes this for himself in his anxious moments, how does that change the way you manage your worries?

TUESDAY-  John 14:15-31

If yesterday’s reading was tinged with worry, ramp up today’s reading 10 times.It is the night before Jesus’ death.The disciples have been arguing.They still don’t seem to get it.Time is running out.How does Jesus respond?He seems to recognize their fears, their anxieties.What does he promise?Does Jesus recognize your fears and anxieties?What does he promise to you?

Wednesday – Isaiah 26:1-6

These were anxious moments in Israel’s history.  Judah’s cousins in the Northern Kingdom had already been conquered and wiped out by the Assyrians.  Now the Babylonians had overthrown the Assyrians, and were threatening the Southern Kingdom.  Isaiah recognizes that the people have lost their way.  They put more trust in Egypt to save them, instead of God.  But he holds out a vision of a day when the people will trust God again.  How is verse 3 a promise for the people of Isaiah’s day?  How is verse 3 a promise for you?

Thursday – Lamentations 3:22-24

Many historians believe Jeremiah survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom.  This book, lamenting the disaster, speaks of hope for the future.  These verses frame one of my favorite hymns.  How does one avoid worry in the ashes of disaster?  How does one find hope in the wreckage of tragedy?  Jeremiah has an answer!

Friday – Ephesians 2:11-22

Worry and anxiety come as a result of threat and fear.  But the secret sauce is to focus on the One whose power and grace is greater than all else.  So God gives us peace through Jesus Christ.  See verses 13 & 14.  If God is willing to go to this extreme to forgive our sins and restore us to relationship, how much more God will provide for us and protect us in anxious times.  Why worry?

Saturday – Philippians 4:6-9

Scholars believe this may have been Paul’s last letter, likely written while in a Roman prison facing his own death.  Yet, the letter is filled with hope and joy and peace.  How can this be?  What does Paul describe about his faith in these verses?  What are the habits and practices he uses, even though he faces danger and disaster every day?  How can these habits and practices help you in anxious moments?

Week of July 28th

Studies are showing our youth to be a special and unique generation.  And we see signs of that in the youth of Lewis Center Church.  They are passionate about their faith, committed in their service, and hopeful for their future.  God loves the youth and our task is to love them, encourage them, and pray for them.  Here are some passages about youth in the Bible who played significant roles.

 

PRAYER:  O God, no one is too young or too old to answer your call to follow you.  I pray for our youth.  The challenges are complex and never ending.  Send your Spirit upon them to guide them as they become our leaders in the future.  Amen.

MONDAY- Jeremiah 1:1-10

God knew Jeremiah before he was even born.  Talk about an early start.  Though Jeremiah felt that he was too young to serve as a prophet and spokesperson for God, God instructed him otherwise.  God’s response was not to make him old, but what?  God made two promises:  (See vss 7&9 as well as verse 8).  How does God fulfill these promises in you today, no matter what age you are?

TUESDAY-  1 Samuel 17:20-52

Long passage, but fascinating story.Young David is sent to check up on his brothers, and no doubt, to bring food and supplies.He happens to show up just as the army is confronted with the giant, Goliath.King Saul claims David cannot fight Goliath.Why?(vs 33)How does David respond?(vs 37)David cannot wear the King’s armor.It does not fit him.Instead, he takes advantage of his skills and his strengths.How does God use this young person in the history of Israel?How does God use you, no matter what age you are?

Wednesday – Luke 1:26-38

Mary was young, likely a young teenager.  For an angel to appear to her and inform her that she was about get pregnant, and that her son would be the Messiah; that would be difficult to believe.  Yet, she laid aside all of her dreams and all of her plans; so she could serve God faithfully.  Compare her response (vs 38) with Zechariah’s (vs 18) or Moses (Exodus 3:11) or Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) or Gideon (Judges 6:15)?  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Thursday – Mark 10:42-45

Was young Mark – sometimes called John Mark – an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.  My old Greek Prof thought John Mark was the young man referred to in Mark 14:51-52.  Barnabas recruited young John Mark on that first missionary journey with Paul.  Later Barnabas took John Mark on other missionary journeys.  And today, we believe the Gospel According to Mark was written by or inspired by young John Mark.  From a young eye witness to early leader of the faith.  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Friday – 1 Timothy 4:11-16

Timothy was one of Paul’s young lieutenants.  He would accompany Paul on his missionary journeys.  Sometimes Paul would leave him in a town to continue the work as Paul moved on.  Sometimes Paul would send Timothy to deliver a message or to investigate a problem when Paul himself could not go.  But Timothy was young.  What did Paul advise?  How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Saturday – Luke 2:41-52

Someone pointed me to this story recently. Even at the age of 12 Jesus was aware of God’s calling on his life. What did he tell his parents? We don’t know everything. In fact, we know next to nothing between his birth and his 12th year. Jesus was answering the call, yet he still obeyed his parents (vs 51). One is never too young or too old to answer God’s call. How is God calling you today, no matter what age you are?

Week of July 21st

Prayer:  Father God we praise you for the ultimate gift of love in your Son. What a marvelous light of hope you have given to our dark world. We thank you for fulfilling your law perfectly in Jesus Christ when not one of us could. We confess that we cannot save ourselves, and we are grateful for the good news of salvation in Christ alone. Please embolden us with the Holy to bear witness to Jesus. It is in his name and for his sake that we pray, Amen. - Luke 2:22-35

 1st week of “Asking for a Friend”    We answer the question, “How Can We Trust the Bible.”  This week’s scripture lessons are focused on helping us continue to develop our faith and grow, even then it is sometimes difficult.  


MONDAY-1 Timothy 4:10-12 (NIV)

10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.  11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

TUESDAY-Acts 16:30-31 (NIV)

30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

WEDNESDAY-1 Thessalonians 2:13(NIV)

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

THURSDAY-Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

FRIDAY-John 14:1-4(NIV)

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

SATURDAY-Numbers 14:11(NIV)

11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?

Week of July 14th

In the process of transforming our character, one of the most challenging changes in our lives is overcoming hate.  There are many different symptoms of hate:  fear, prejudice, anger, anxiety, insecurity, bitterness, and more.  But when we encounter God’s grace, it recomposes everything – how we look at life; how we look at others; how we look at ourselves.  Here are some passages to teach us about dealing with hatred.  

PRAYER:  O God, you became human in Jesus to reveal the alternative to hatred:  the grace of self-sacrifice.  Through the cross I can be free to forgive and love others.  Fill me with your Spirit that others may be set free in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


MONDAY- Genesis 4:1-16

Hatred began early in the human condition.  In this story Cain’s hatred led to the murder of his brother, Abel.  But with whom was Cain really angry?  It wasn’t Abel.  We do not know the reasons for God’s rejection of Cain’s offering.  But the writer makes it clear that Cain had a choice. He could have made things right with God, but he chose to make Abel the target for his violence. And it had long ranging consequences.  So, is Cain his brother’s keeper?  He is his brother’s brother.  Who is your brother/sister?  How does your relationship with God shape the way you relate to others?

TUESDAY-  Genesis 37:1-11

This is another story of bitter enmity. Joseph dreamed that someday he would rule over his brothers, even though he was one of the youngest.  His brothers resented that attitude and the favoritism his father showered upon him.  It led to serious violence.  But through it all, Joseph grew into a spiritual leader.  How?  Check out Genesis 50:20.  He could have returned hatred for hatred, but he chose another path.  What is an alternative to hate?

Wednesday – Luke 23:32-49

This is part of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was a violent act, not only intended to kill a man but to terrorize the conquered people. It was designed to break the spirit of the convicted man as well as all of his countrymen.  But Jesus responded in a unique way.  Instead of breaking his spirit, he offered a gift to his tormentors.  What was it?  How did that affect the soldiers watching him?  And the crowds?  How is Jesus an example for us today? 

Thursday – Acts 7:54-60

There is no scholarship that suggests Stephen knew Jesus face to face; but he certainly was filled with the Spirit of Jesus.  The religious authorities were enraged with Stephen.  His message about Jesus threatened to undo all they stood for. Usually, the basis for hatred is anger, and the basis for anger is insecurity.  One feels threatened – whether the threat is real or imagined. But Stephen, though he was in real danger, chose a different response.  How did Stephen answer?

Friday – 1 John 2:9-11 and 1 John 4:19-21

Some people think serving God gives them permission to disrespect other people.  Not so, according to these verses.  We cannot love God if we do not love others.  Love for God will inevitably and instinctively lead us to love others.  It is part of the transformation God’s Spirit works within us.  When we are confident of God’s grace for us, we are free to offer grace for others – even those who are just as sinful as we are!  Who irritates you the most?  How will God work through you to love them a little more today?

Saturday – Galatians 5:16-26

The Apostle Paul saw this as a battle between the fallen human nature (flesh) and the power and presence of God (spirit).  The characteristic of fallen human nature is hatred; hatred of others, hatred of God, and even hatred of self.  But Jesus came to offer us the power and presence of God’s Spirit that can offer an alternative: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  What is the alternative to hatred?  In what ways will you encounter God’s power and presence today?

Week of July 7th

I am grateful to live in this land with so much privilege and opportunity.  And I am grateful for those who have gone before me who have given themselves in service and sacrifice so I can enjoy these blessings. But there is One to whom all of us are called for a higher allegiance.  It is God who has given us life, and redeemed us from the meaninglessness of sin and death.  So we worship not our country nor our flag, but the God who stands over all space and time. So what is the relationship between the Christian and nation?  Here are several passages to teach us.

PRAYER:  O God, you are the true source of freedom and liberty.  Focus my heart on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so I may be a defender of truth and grace in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   

MONDAY- Psalm 2

We like to pretend we are the masters of our own destiny, and we do have many freedoms that other lands do not allow.   What does the Psalm writer teach us about who really is in charge?  What is the source of wisdom?  And what are the results of rebellion?  Israel learned this the hard way.  If God allowed Israel – God’s chosen people – to be conquered because they rejected God; why would USA be immune?

TUESDAY- Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Israel had just escaped from slavery in Egypt.They knew little of leadership and government.Moses is teaching them how they should govern themselves as they enter the Land of Promise.What does this passage reveal about true faithful leadership?What should the leader avoid?On what should the leader focus?How does that impact the way you lead?

Wednesday – Psalm 21:1-7

This Psalm is credited to King David.  He knew something about humble beginnings as a shepherd and the power of privilege. Yet, this song reveals the “secret sauce” of faithful leadership.  What is it? Does this apply to us “commoners” as well as Kings and Queens?  How does this shape your leadership?

Thursday – Romans 13:1-7

When I get to heaven, I want to ask Paul about this part of his letter.  He teaches us to submit to authority.  Why?  Yet, the Roman government authority later persecuted the church and martyred Paul among several others.  At the same time, Paul never teaches that I should embrace my own authority.  I am to submit to Christ’s authority first and always. I am never directed to “do as I please.” Under whose authority will you function today?

Friday – Luke 22:24-30

It was the night before Jesus’ own death.  Perhaps it was the seating arrangements.  Maybe it was just the tension and uncertainty of the week, but the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest.  Jesus teaches them that true greatness does not come through position and power, but how? How did Jesus demonstrate this? (Check out John 13.)  How would leadership like this change our world today? How would your leadership like this change your world?

Saturday – 1 Timothy 2:1-7

We have many leaders in our world today:  government officials, safety service personnel, teachers, medical experts, business gurus, and more.  Paul is teaching young Timothy (and we readers) to do what for the leaders in our world.  What is our responsibility to them?  Why does God expect this?  What has God done to reveal this to us?

Week of June 30th

Prayer:  O God, we trust in Your power to create, to sustain, to enable. But we could not trust if we did not know that You are always near. Be with us, Lord, as we are gathered here to worship You. Help us not to check our minds or our hearts at the door, but enable us to bring all that we are to You, so that we might experience Your touch upon all aspects of our life. We pray this because of, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

MONDAY- 1 Kings 5:13-18

30,000 men to move rocks to build a foundation!?!?! I’ve seen the rocks.  Some are larger than a school bus, but this is what it took to build a house for God in the Old Testament.  The prophet Samuel warned that a king would impose his will upon the people, yet they demanded a “King” from God.  Sometimes God will give you exactly what you desire.  Maybe we should all reconsider our desires from God and ask what He would ask of us.   Wouldn’t that be a strong foundation for a relationship?

 

TUESDAY- Romans 15:17-22

Paul talks about building a foundation in his letter, yet here he longs to build a new foundation that hasn’t been started by someone else.  However, often we are not provided this luxury.  The name of Jesus has been spread across the world, and we’re called to help further that message.  We may never receive the “perfect” situation or environment to our purposes, but we may be called to come along and water the seeds of faith that may have been planted by someone else.  

 

WEDNESDAY- Matthew 7:24-27

How many times have you seen a house on the news get swept away by a raging river or sea waves?  Hurricanes and storms seem to be extremely destructive to homes who have weak foundations.  Although we’ve been warned, we still see people don’t take precautions.  Is this a difficult lesson?  How strong is your foundation? 

 

THURSDAY- 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the difference between worldly and spiritual wealth?  One may be poor in the eyes of the world, yet rich in faith.  Worldly wealth concerns one’s financial assets, but Jesus urged us to stock up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:20).  We can acquire heavenly treasures by doing good, showing generosity and seeking the spiritual good in others and ourselves.  Providing for another’s physical needs out of love for Jesus is another way to obtain wealth beyond this world.

FRIDAY- Mathew 16:17-20

What can we bind and loose today? We can bind and loose what the Lord has prohibited or permitted in Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16-17).  To bind means to “forbid, refuse or prohibit.” To “loose” means to “permit or allow.” Jesus intended that the apostles inspired teaching should become the standard for our faith and practice.  God also gives special wisdom and power to the church during times of earnest prayer.  

SATURDAY- 1 Peter 2:4-5

How are Christians like living stones?Believers are the stones of a building, but this building is a living, spiritual building, the church.The living Stone is Christ, the most important building block.When people look at your life and testimony, are they able to see Jesus as your “Living Stone”?What is one way to improve your foundation with God?What can you do today or this week?

Week of June 23rd

character-under-construction.png

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

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

MONDAY- Repentance:  Acts 2:37-47

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

TUESDAY- Remission:  1 John 1:5-10

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

Wednesday – Redemption:  Romans 5:6-11

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

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

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

Friday – Reformation:  Romans 8:1-11

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

Saturday – Reward:  Matthew 6:25-34

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

Week of June 16th

character-under-construction.png

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

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

Monday- Psalm 90:1-12

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

Tuesday - Psalm 139

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

Wednesday – 1 Peter 1:13-16

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

Thursday – 1 John 4:7-19

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

Friday – John 3:16-17

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

Saturday – Matthew 28:16-20

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

Week of June 9th

goblet.png

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

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

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

Monday- John 8:2-11

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

Tuesday -  Luke 5:12-16

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

Wednesday – Ruth 1

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

Thursday – Genesis 50:15-21

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

Friday – Job 42

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

Saturday – Luke 8:43-48

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

Week of May 19th

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

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

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

Monday - Philippians 4:1-8

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

Tuesday -  Isaiah 26:1-6

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

Wednesday – 1 Kings 19:9-19

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

Thursday – Colossians 3:12-17

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

Friday – Matthew 6:25-34

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

Saturday – John 14:1-6; 15-18; 27-31

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