November 11, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory mentioned how the authors of scripture used the word heart. They weren’t limiting it to feelings but used it in reference to the center or to the whole of our lives including our thoughts, our emotions, and our will. Take a few minutes to reflect on Sunday’s message and take an inventory of your heart; not just your emotions, but all of you. Make a list of what fills your desires and thinking and decisions. What do you think about? What do you long for? What pressures or stresses you? Consider the motivations for the decisions you make. What actions do you take day to day? Apply these questions to specific parts of life like money or time or relationships to discover more about your heart. Is the Holy Spirit bringing anything to mind? Pray this prayer from Psalm 139:23-34 (The Message): “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me. Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about. See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” Be open to learning about your heart today.

Day 2: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). What priority do you place on guarding your heart? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it was worth it to cut off a hand or gouge out an eye if it would keep one from sinning and from hell. In the same sermon, He also said that things you do in your heart like despising someone or thinking lustfully about them make you guilty even if you haven’t done the action (Matthew 5:21-30). Both of these reference our hearts. Jesus knew the importance of the condition of our hearts, “above all else.” Other verses in the Bible describe that God knows our hearts and will judge what is in them. Do you often consider the state of your heart? Are there things that you know are not good for your heart but that you allow in your life anyways? What has positively affected your heart the most?

Day 3: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). What does guarding our hearts look like? The Proverbs writer give us a few clues in the surrounding verses. Read Proverbs 4:20-27. He encourages us to keep God’s Word in front of us, not talk in a corrupt way, and to carefully do what is right and good. Filling our minds with truth from God’s Word is an important part of guarding our hearts. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We can also guard our hearts by following the instructions that God gives us for the pathways of our heart: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), “Whatever is true... noble… right… pure… lovely... think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b). Guarding our heart involves taking action. Proactively studying these and other scriptures reveal what encourages or discourages God’s heart and will help us in forming our own heart. Is there an action step in guarding your heart that God has brought to your attention? Do you have a family member or a friend you could talk with to help you in guarding your heart? Set up a time to meet.

Day 4: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Who is responsible for your heart? Can others control your heart? What is the one thing you have control over in any circumstance? The same event can happen to two people, but the heart of each person can go a different direction. When something happens, where do you allow your heart and your thoughts to go? What patterns of thought or attitudes are you building in your life? Recognize the power and the responsibility for what happens in your heart. Ask Jesus to help you guard your heart. Pray and look for ways He wants to work with you to expose or change the thoughts and attitudes that go through your heart or your mind. Be vigilant in guarding your heart. 

Day 5: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). If you are not careful about what is happening inwardly, things may happen outwardly that you do not desire. James says, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). Thought patterns lead to action patterns. Pay attention to what is in your heart. What is happening in your heart shapes who you are becoming. Every thought, decision, and attitude you allow or reject is like a building block of your life, for good or for bad. The heart is the starting point. Consider the weight of this verse. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

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November 4, 2018

How To Be Rich

Day 1: Last week, Steve talked about leaving margin in our fields for generosity. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. God gave the Israelites the Law to teach them how to live a holy life (Leviticus 19:1-2). What wisdom or principle can we gain from this passage? While we may not be farmers, we still do work to produce income and wealth. Is there margin in what income we earn to allow us to be generous to the, “poor and the foreigners living among us?” It doesn’t really matter how much we earn if we spend it all. If we don’t have the margin in our budget to be generous, we can’t help people. Was there a practical financial step you took from week two of our series? How about this week? Is there something in your spending that you can say, “no” to in order to say, “yes” to being generous? It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe, pack your lunch this week instead of going out to eat. Maybe say “no” to your favorite coffee shop this week. Set aside those dollars to be prepared to help someone.   

 

Day2: Read Mark 10:42-45. Jesus, the King of Kings, came to turn reality on its head. Kings are to be served; we all know that. Yet, Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. The Roman Emperors of Jesus’ time would give away coins to the populous in order to curry favor with the people, yet Jesus demonstrated a different way. Jesus gave without seeking reciprocity. He gave out of love with no expectation of repayment. When we give our money and our time, what do we expect to get in return? Do we want to be remembered for our generosity? Are we motivated by the approval of others, or do we give with the heart of a servant expecting nothing in return? Recall the Heart Exam Tool from last week. Take time to reflect. How are you different after having been through this series, “How To Be Rich”?  

 

Day 3: Read Luke 14:12-14. Does this mean we have to call our family and cancel Thanksgiving this year? What is Jesus really getting at in this passage? True generosity is not transactional. We don’t give in order to be paid back someday. Instead, we show love to others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We love, serve, and give freely in response to God’s love, service, and generosity toward us, and ultimately it is God Himself who will repay us. It is a heart issue. It’s not about how much we give, rather it is about why we give. With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us will be preparing to gather around our feast tables in order to give thanks for our many blessings with our families. Is there someone you need to invite to join your family celebration this year? Is there a way you and your family can engage in blessing others this holiday season without any possibility of being rewarded? Talk as a family or with a friend. Make a plan and take action. 

 

Day 4: Read John 13:3-17. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. The King kneeling to become the servant. This is what following Jesus looks like. Generosity in humility, love through service, not because we have to, but because we are overwhelmed that the Lord God would humble Himself to the point of dying on a cross like a common criminal (Philippians 2:5-11). We are called today at home, school, work, or wherever we are, to take up the basin and towel to serve those around us. Consider when we sing together songs on Sundays, we have the chance to prepare our hearts to go out and serve generously those around us. What is your experience in singing worship to God? Through listening or singing, does it cause you to be grateful? How did last Sunday’s worship affect you? Did it cause you to think/act differently the rest of the day or on Monday?    

 

Day 5: Read Acts 2:41-47. The first Christians were marked by their generosity. Everyone around them could look at them and know that there was something different about these people. Their allegiance had been changed (Matthew 6:24). Their focus was no longer the pursuit of a comfortable life with a big house and plenty of things. Rather, they became a radical infectious movement that forever changed the world. Generosity changed the world once. What would happen if the Church became known for its generosity again?  What would happen if we chose to model today what the early church modeled in its day? Does this sound far-fetched and impractical? Well before you stick a, “for sale” sign in your front yard, consider this: our lives are lived one conversation, one decision, one action, and one step at a time. You don’t have to sell everything and go live in a commune in order to live a generous life. It’s not all or nothing. It’s about living from a changed heart. Our lives are lived generously because of God’s generosity shown to us. Have you evaluated your personal management of money lately? Consider Financial Peace University (fpu.com/1076089). Or commit to regular church giving, stepping into a serve position, creating margin in your budget or some other step towards developing an attitude of generosity. 

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October 28, 2018

How To Be Rich

This week’s devotional is about awareness. Likely you will experience discomfort as questions and scriptures may reveal issues or barriers between you and God. Invite God into this process. Awareness is a first step in the transformation process.  

 

Day 1. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10. For the last two weeks, we have been reminded that we are rich. We all are so very rich in every aspect of our lives, yet our constant pursuit of money can keep us in a perpetual state of “want.” Read verse 6 and think about this for a few minutes. How content do you feel in what you have? How is your heart?  

 

Day 2. Read Matthew 6:19-21. What do you see as the difference between “treasure on earth” and “treasure in heaven”? Jesus warns us to be wary of attachment to our possessions as a source of joy, security and significance. This is not just about our stuff, this is bigger than that. This is about what we truly value, what is in our hearts. In whom or what do you really trust? Where does your joy truly come from? Where are you storing your treasures? 

 

Day 3. Read Luke 16:10-11. The material things we have are insignificant in comparison to our true riches in heaven, and yet the way that we handle them reveals a great deal about us. God is concerned about the state of your heart more than your social status and our stuff. Ask yourself, how am I trustworthy with what God has given me? Does my relationship with Jesus shape my view and use of my possessions or do my possessions shape my view of Jesus? Which direction is that going as I reflect on my day-to-day choices? Do my beliefs line up with my actions and attitudes?  

 

Days 4 & 5. Regular Heart Exam 

Be still for a moment, acknowledge the presence of God with you. Ask for the Spirit to examine your heart regarding money and possessions, and your pursuit of both. Ask to become aware of these things and to receive what is revealed without rationalizations or condemnation from self or the evil one. Answer some (if you don’t have time for all) of these questions with what your heart reveals not what you wish, but what is actually true in you. Resist rushing through these questions. Be prepared come back to this tomorrow.  

 

  • How much focus, time, and energy did I give to money and possessions, or potential possessions in the last week, month? 

  • Was there a time in my life when I thought, “If I ever make $___, I would be super generous.” Are you?  

  • Do I believe more money or more stuff will help take the pressure off, help me be content, or worry less, and be happier?   

  • Do I believe I would be more secure, important, respected if I had more money, a better car, nicer house, bigger title…? 

  • Do I think that I will be more generous as soon as I get settled in my career, get a house, get married, or get the kids through college?  Am I still waiting on another life event to happen?  

  • Is one of my highest values for my life, my kid’s life, a strong income and comfortable life?  

  • Do I believe wealth indicates God’s pleasure with me or others?  

  • Have my resources changed how I relate with money, others, or God? 

  • Do I believe if I were wealthy, I would be more compassionate and generous than the rich people I know?   

  • Could others better understand Jesus life, teaching, and Kingdom vision by observing my relationship with money and possessions?  

  • Would I be comfortable discussing the answers to these questions honestly with another?  

 

Reflect on what you’ve just done. Does any answers surprise you? Are there any noticeable emotions present like guilt, frustration, embarrassment, or relief? What will you do with what you discovered? Consider a couple of steps to take over the next few days. Discuss 1-2 of these answers with a friend or family member.  Take time to pray and journal for 30-60 minutes. Write one of these questions on a note card to remind you this week. Sign up for Financial Peace University starting in January. 

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October 21

How To Be Rich

Say “NO” In Order To Say “YES”

Day 1: Read I Timothy 6:6. Hey rich person. Yes you! How is being rich working for you? This week Paul tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain…is itself great wealth. Gain to us often means newer, bigger, upgrade, latest model, more square footage, extra stuff and extra savings. Paul had a different view. He says if you want great gain or great wealth, learn to be content. Contentment is more valuable than the stuff we acquire. What areas of your life cause you to feel trapped into comparison and temptation? When do you struggle with contentment? Often times, your spouse or close friend has a different struggle in this area. In a moment of honest reflection, why do you think discontentment is a struggle for you?

Day 2: Read I Corinthians 10:23-24. To truly be rich we will have to learn to say, “no” to ourselves. In the 1980s, Nancy Reagan coined the slogan “Just say NO” empowering children to stand against drugs. The idea was to say “no” to something that might bring temporary enjoyment and pleasure in order to say “yes” to something better and longer lasting. The same is true when it comes to generosity. There will be times that we will have to say “no” to ourselves. “No” to our children. “No” to more stuff. “No” to more status. “No” to more security. In order to say “yes” to God resulting in a lifestyle of generosity which leads to great gain. Keep this slogan in the back of your mind today. Choose to intentionally say “no" to yourself when you have the resources to say “yes.” This is likely not an issue of right or wrong but a decision to deny yourself in order to teach yourself to be content and to honor God.

Day 3: It seems like the more we have the less we should want. But that is not how appetites work. Think about the stage of life in which you were most content. Cory discussed an early time in his marriage when he and Amy were very content when outwardly they possessed very little. Most likely, we can all recall a time when we experienced contentment even though we lived simply. Read I Timothy 6:7-8. Who in your life demonstrates gratitude and contentment? What do you admire about them? Thank God for them. Consider contacting them today and ask them how they have developed contentment. 

Day 4: Read Romans 12:1-2, 9-21. We see and hear advertisements daily. How can we find the power to say “no” when we have the resources to say “yes?” The answer is in a word: AWARENESS. Back in the day, people bought mostly based on need. Today, we buy mostly based on want. Our want is magnified by awareness. If I was not aware of the new version, the latest upgrade, etc. I would not want it. Saying “no” to self and “yes" to being rich involves awareness. Awareness can fuel our discontentment out of a desire for more. Or it can propel us toward increased levels of generosity as we become aware of needs that really matter. Where can you avoid unnecessarily exposing yourself to environments that make you discontent?  Where can you start exposing yourself to needs, causes and opportunities that cultivate contentment and generosity? Take a step to cultivate awareness towards causes that truly matter and make a difference. Here are some local opportunities:  


  • LSCC partnership ministries: Hillcrest, Rachel House, If Not for Grace, Lullaby of Hope,  lscckc.org/serve-partnerships 

  • Pro Deo After School Program. Support and accountability for teens grades 9-12. prodeoyouthcenter.org

  • Rebuild Together. Help elderly stay in their homes by doing repairs.

rebuildingtogether.org

  • One Good Meal. Provide hot meals to seniors. onegoodmeal.org

  • Veteran’s Community Project. Help build tiny homes for homeless vets. Contact Anna Peterson or 573-247-9623.

  • Serve Our City. Deliver Thanksgiving meals to community. lscckc.org/serveourcity

  • Neighborhoods. See a practical need in your neighborhood. Contact your HOA to see how your family could serve. 

  • Prepare to respond to a need. Consider carrying $20 cash with you ready to respond and bless.

  • Pay it forward. Pay for someone’s meal.

  • Give yourself space to help, bless, and respond to live generously.

Or you may already know of a need; go make a difference.

Day 5: Read I Timothy 6:9-10. Being good at being rich is not just a matter of deciding what to do with your money, it also includes a healthy understanding of what your money is doing with you or to you. Money has an effect on its owners. Many people who have money spend a lot of time looking for ways not to lose it or to accumulate more of it. The key is to possess money without it possessing you. Greed must be controlled or pulled at its roots. Consider times you wanted something out of your reach. What sacrifices did you have to make? Did it require sacrificing time with family, integrity, unhealthy work habits, missed opportunities? Was the sacrifice worth your desired outcome? Meditate on I Timothy 6:6. What learning do you take from this life experience? 


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October 14

How To Be Rich

Day 1: Read I Timothy 6: 3-10. We are RICH. We ARE rich. Have you taken time to consider that since hearing the message? What do you consider to be rich? One definition we heard yesterday was, “Rich is having more than we need.” In what ways do you experience ‘having more than you need’? Have you taken time to understand and reflect on the richness that you enjoy in your material possessions? What about the riches you have in relationships? What riches do you possess in your faith? Take time to thank God today.  

  

Day 2: One of the Next Steps from Sunday’s message was the following: Make a list of your “rich people” (that’s you) possessions and opportunities. Sit down and write that list out today. After you list these, answer the following questions: Do I own these or steward these? Do I look to freely borrow or share or do I not? What do these answers reveal about my attitude towards money? Thank God today. Also, consider this prayer; God, show me how I can give, share or borrow. How can I be generous today?   

 

Day 3: The results of your answers to yesterday’s “richness” have the power to change your views of money. We all are so very rich in every aspect of our lives, yet our constant pursuit of money can keep us in a perpetual state of “want”. God cares about how to be rich as we experience richness. Make two lists; one list of significant items that you need to buy in the next twelve months. The second list would be things that you would like to purchase in that time. Done? Ok, read Philippians 4:11-13. (Recall we read this passage in last Friday’s devotional.) What secret does Paul share with us about living in contentment? We like to quote the last verse, but we can miss the context. Paul is content in all financial circumstances because of the trust he has and the strength he receives from his relationship with Christ. He knows the “who” is more important than the “what”. Life is more than houses, cars, clothes….more than status, popularity or success. Real depth in life is found in relationships with people and with Jesus. We know this to be true. Yet the lure and pull for “more” leaves us constantly in a mindset of “need” that gives money a hold on our lives. How does your life – how you spend your time and resources – reveal how you view relationships? Do our spending habits and where we focus our time paint a different picture? How well do our actions follow our words? Thank God for His provisions in your life even if they don’t seem adequate.  

 

Day 4: Read Isaiah 30:1-5. God had provided for Israel’s needs in the desert, but their faith eventually began to waiver and instead, they turned back to Egypt and their love of riches. Here is a penetrating question we can ask ourselves. In what ways are we like the people of Israel? If we have lost our way, where do we place our trust? In what/whom do you place your trust and hope? If you had to list 3-5 “objects” of trust, what would be on that list? Which one tempts you to trust in over trusting in God? We can be bold in our prayers. Ask Him to give you faith to trust in Him over everything else. Lastly, take some time to thank God today.  

 

Day 5: Read I Timothy 6:17-19. Paul gives a warning for Timothy to pass onto the people he is leading. What is the two-part warning? The first is arrogance. It’s easy to judge others based on their clothes, house, or job. Those who are “rich” can see themselves as superior. And the poor can view the rich in the same way. Paul instructs us to shift our focus from comparison and status to doing good to all regardless of wealth or position. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can be generous today. Throughout your day, look for opportunities to help another. Also, watch for ways to accept help from another. Don’t let pride get in your way. God may have sent them your way for a reason. Finally, thank God for His provisions in your life.  

October 7

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1: Last Friday’s devotional was on Romans 8:28-29. Read it one more time. Here is an excerpt from Friday, “God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced.” Where in your life can you trust that God is working for good? Declare it. Write your response or share it with a friend, spouse or a parent. Here’s a third option. Say it aloud in a prayer to God. Does this affirm your trust in Him? This is moving away from worry into worship.  

 

Day 2: Read Genesis 15:1-6. Two realities are at work here. Abram (same as Abraham) recognized and even verbalized to God, “You have given me no children…” He was old. Decades had come and gone. Many other men and women in his tribe had children maybe even grandchildren. Yet the conversation (actually a vision) with the Lord goes on. Abram was having a defining moment, and God was real. As Abram is looking up at the stars, a second reality sinks in. He believes that God is going to give him descendants – many of them! What situation at school, work or at home are you faced with two realities? Have you simply decided on a logical, rational path or outcome? How about entertaining an alternate perspective? Have you heard from God on the subject through prayer, some scripture passage or through a conversation with a Christ follower? It may or may not address a specific outcome, God may simply give clarity about an attitude or behavior to possess in the middle of your storm. Can you find contentment and trust in what He has given you?  

 

Day 3: Pick up from yesterday’s reading. God gives Abram a vision and tells him that he is going to have many descendants. Immediately he makes a sacrifice to God. Abram acts on this new hope and belief, he steps onto its path. Yet years go by and no child. Read Genesis 16:1-4. Sarai and Abram decide on how he can have many descendants. Sarai offers him her servant to have a child. They took God’s promise into their own hands after years of thinking and worry. Believing they were doing right, they veered away from faith. At the time, it seemed like a great idea but probably not one they ran passed God. They acted out of their worry and assumed. When was the last time you stepped forward, made a decision, spoke up and realized that it wasn’t helpful, maybe even hurtful to someone or yourself? What did you learn from that situation? Did you learn it, or simply feel bad for it?  

 

Day 4: Do you know the Old Testament story of King Jehoshaphat? Before we get to that, do you think this guy had a nickname? As king maybe not, but growing up I’d guess some neighbor kids wanted to shorten that one. I digress. Several nations are plotting to attack Jehoshaphat’s people. Serious trouble is on the horizon. Read II Chronicles 20:5-12. Like the day two’s devotional there are two realities; The enemy is upon them, and God is powerful and mighty to overcome any army. The king chose to believe and trust that God was going to work for good and he acted on it. Recall and read I Peter 5:6-7. Whatever threatens your peace, what brings you peace? Offer your current worry to God in prayer. And if you find no relief, ask a friend to pray for and with you. There are times when the worry is so loud that you need support from others (trusted friend, small group member, a pastor, a counselor) to believe that peace can come to you even if you can’t believe it for yourself.   

 

Day 5: This week we’ve been considering the what if circumstances of life, verses the love and care of God. This is Faith 101. I’m not saying that we should all have graduated from this course, but that this idea is at the core of our following of Jesus. We will continue to journey on this road. How can we engage in life with a perspective of faith? Philippians 4:4 says for us to rejoice in the Lord. Open to this passage in the Bible. Having a perspective of faith can look like verses 4-9. If you’re like me, you’d love to live this way but often drift in and out of it. Keep reading verses 10-12 more help will be revealed. Again, this would be an amazing way to live, above the circumstances. Wow, how can one achieve this kind of life? It’s in verse 13!! Did you catch it? Yes, trust in who and how God is. We don’t have to live this life on our own trying to achieve any of this. We start by trusting Him! Write “Trust Him – Phil. 4:13” on your dashboard, mirror or hand. Let’s just do that today and we will have a chance at living out the first 12 verses of that chapter. In addition to this response, consider coming to the night of worship on Sunday at 6:00pm to declare your trust in the one who is trustworthy.   

 

September 30

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Fix Your Thoughts

Day 1: Read Philippians 4:4-9 two or three times. What phrases stick out to you? Reflect on what is real in your life that leads those phrases to be more prominent to you at this time. Present a request to God. As you read the verses, hear them spoken to you, over you, for you. What is the tone and tenor of the voice speaking these words to you? Is that voice pulling for you, wanting something for you, revealing mercy and love for you? Or do you hear anger, condemnation, and failure spoken at you? What has most formed in you the character of the voice you hear? A parent, teacher, pastor, or some other figure in your life, or the voice of the Spirit pointing you to Jesus’ life and words? Present a request to God, the Word of Life, to speak words of life to you.  

Day 2: Reread Philippians 4:4-9. Paul seems clear on who he is and who he is following. His identity is set, not shaken by imprisonment. He seems convinced God is good, present with him, and in him. Paul’s confidence is not misplaced for he has released trying to control circumstances and is accepting of what has come his way. He is choosing to trust. He has recognized that he has been given peace. He is calling the Philippians to a peaceful way to live and be. He is becoming peace to others. God gives us peace and calls us to live in a peaceful way. What is a practical step you can take to live on a more peaceful path or bring peace to a relationship? 

Day 3: Paul is in prison writing about God’s presence, nearness, peace, and trustworthiness. What do we know of Paul’s experiences that formed him to this level of trust in God? What practices could have helped convince or deepen his conviction of God’s goodness, presence, forgiveness, and his identity in Christ? Flip through Acts chapters 8-28 to begin to discover or rediscover this imperfect person’s faith. Paul had trusted during some difficult times, and it built trust into him. He can say God is present and good because Paul had found God to be present and good in the past. These experiences helped shape how he sees current and future trials. Because of his past, he now knows God is trustworthy. What experiences have helped build trust in God in your life? When were you reminded of His presence to give you sufficient confidence that it is right to depend on Him now?  

Day 4: On Sunday Cory asked us a couple of important questions; “Think about what you think about.”, and “Think about how you think about how you think.” What kind of lens does your thinking create? How might that lens affect not only how you see an issue or event, but how you might respond to it as well? Paul tells us to “fix our thoughts on…” How could this simple call help us identify the lens we tend to look through? This isn’t a simple “thought replacement” exercise he is calling us to. It is a call to remember, to realign our perspective to who Jesus is, what He has said, what is real and of value in His Kingdom. It is a call to help move us from how we view an event to what is ultimately real about the event. What do you spend most of your day thinking about? How does that affect your words and behaviors? Consider a past experience where your lens saw one thing, and yet God acted in another way. Read Romans 8:28-29.  

Day 5: Yesterday we ended with reading Romans 8:28-29. Reread it again today. If it is familiar to you, be slow to allow it to speak to you. These verses aren’t meant to talk us into thinking different, rather they are meant to show us something meaningful about God, His care and love for us even in a storm. God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced. Some of us can get lost on asking questions like did God cause or allow this storm or did I do something wrong that led to this storm. These questions are God’s business not ours, and we may miss the reality that God is with us at a time when we most need Him and His assurance. Pray. Allow God the privilege of defining what is “for our good”. Ask God to shape you to be more like His Son and to see good that He is working out in you and those around you.      

 

September 23

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Anxiety Over Our People

Day 1: Read Genesis 21:9-20. What a mess. This passage in Genesis plays out like a modern-day soap opera or episode of Downton Abbey. Ishmael, the only son and heir to Abraham, saw all of his hopes for an inheritance shattered with the birth of Isaac. Sarah clearly felt threatened by the presence of this mocking boy who was a bitter reminder of her infertility and a competitor for her son’s inheritance. Abraham was upset because Sarah had told him to drive Ishmael and his mother out into the desert possibly to die alone. But God stepped in and promised hope. God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed…” God had a plan. He was doing something important. For Hagar, alone in the wilderness without water, the situation seemed bleak and dismal as she set her baby down to die. But God stepped in and provided everything that Hagar and Ishmael needed. Everyone in this story was worried, fearful, and anxious. But God is good, and He is faithful. Is there a character in this story you can relate to? What fears, worries, and anxieties are you struggling with? Get under His mighty hand. In due time, He will lift you up. He always cares for you.  

Day2: Read 1 Kings 17:7-16. It’s hard for me as a modern Mid-Westerner to understand what it must be like to be afraid of starving to death. To be perfectly honest, I get pretty grumpy just missing a meal, and I don’t miss many of those. I can’t imagine coming to my last morsel of bread and then having some strange man ask me for it. What would my family eat? I suspect I would not respond as politely as this widow did. Stories like this one in the Old Testament can seem strange, distant, and even far-fetched. It’s hard for us to reconcile our understanding of a kind and loving God. How can God let women and children starve? Yet, God had a plan, and He provided for this widow and her child. Suffering happens in this broken world. There is plenty in this life for us to be worried about, yet our God is good. Is there someone or something more worthy of putting our trust in? Take a moment and consider this: every time you take a breath, it is a gift from God. Every time you take a sip of water, God is providing for you. God is in charge, He is sovereign, He is good, and He has a plan. We can worry about our relationships, our careers, our children, and our futures, but in the end, we are dependent on God for everything. Take a walk or pull up a chair in front of a window. Reread, pray and listen. If you have children, how might you pray for them today? How can your love and presence be a reminder to them of God’s love and faithfulness?  

 

Day 3: Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does worrying accomplish? Can all of our worries add a single moment to our lives? Why do we have so little faith? Ok, I get it: believe more, try harder, trust more, and worry less. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop worrying. But it’s impossible. Who wouldn’t like to be less anxious? It’s not as easy as just trying harder, and for some, struggling with depression and anxiety has been a life-long battle and medical condition. So how do we trust God and believe more? Verse 33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Maybe it’s not just about worrying less. Maybe it’s about changing our focus. Often, we worry when we’re focused on ourselves. What does God want us to focus on instead? Try this: take out a piece of paper and make two columns. On one side, write down a list of things you are fearful, worried, or anxious about. On the other, list out the things you believe God might want you to be focused on instead. If you are having trouble, ask a small group member or trusted friend. Keep this list and refer back to it today.  

 

Day 4: Read Psalm 23. God is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. (Remember our Psalm 23 Series?) As our Good Shepherd, we can trust God, and He will take care of us. He is our provider. Even in the darkest valleys, we need not fear because God is with us. Would you consider memorizing this Psalm? When you find yourself struggling with anxiety, pray Psalm 23 back to God. Acknowledge Him as your Good Shepherd in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.  

 

Day 5: Read Philippians 4:6-7. Prayer is a powerful weapon to combat anxiety. As believers, God calls us His children. (John 1:12) Just as a child can come to their parent to ask for help, so we too can come to God our loving father. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone… how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Author C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” When we approach God in prayer, it is not God’s mind which we are seeking to change, but rather our own hearts. If you struggle with worry and anxiety, consider building prayer into your daily routine. Find three times today to set aside 3 minutes to pray or set an alarm on your phone or create an appointment with God. For parents, instead of praying for certain outcomes in your children’s lives, pray for God to grow you in loving and walking alongside them.  

 

September 16, 2018

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1Read 1 Kings 19:1-3 Elijah was afraid, and he ran. We might look at the story and think he had every reason to run since someone wanted to kill him. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It alerts us of danger and can motivate us to respond appropriately. Elijah was warned and he responded by fleeing to safety; so far, so good. But what happens next? Read the verses again, but this time, continue through verse 4. That escalated quickly! Instead of allowing fear to do the work of warning and motivating, Elijah let his fear completely redefine and shape his perspective. He moved from running to protect his life to wanting to give up his life. Notice he even begins believing a false narrative, “I am no better than my ancestors, I can’t go on.” Fear moved from a healthy place of warning and motivating movement, to controlling, re-framing, and manipulating the truth. Can you relate? When have you allowed fear or worry to grip you and change not only your perspective but your inner narrative and beliefs? In verses 3-5 we see that Elijah left his servant and journeyed on alone. Are you alone in your stuff? Or are you journeying with others? Who helps you maintain a perspective of truth? 

Day 2Read 1 Kings 19-5-7 and Psalms 102:1-7 “Forgive me for what I said when I was hangry.” When we are weary and overwhelmed, when we feel that we can’t go on, we may want to hide, isolate, and draw everything inward. In doing so, we may end up neglecting simple self-care activities and routines. Sometimes the most spiritual and wisest action we can take is to eat and rest. Even when we don’t necessarily feel like it, a walk can help. Acts of self-care are inherently good for us. Are there areas of self-care you are neglecting? Physical needs that aren’t being attended to? Medical needs that you are postponing? What step can you take today toward better self-care? You may not feel like doing them. Do them anyway. Continue to engage with family and friends. Is there someone who can help you? Ask a friend to go on a walk or meet for lunch. Or, perhaps there is someone you could reach out to and encourage. 

Day 3: As a pilot, your eyes are your primary sensory input while in the air. Looking outside, you see the ground below and the vast sky all around you. But all of that falls apart when you're in the clouds. The way to overcome flying in the clouds is to trust your instruments. When a pilot follows the instruments, nothing circumstantially changes. The cloud coverage and the illusion of which way is up are still there. Even though you look out the window, it may not feel right but when you engage back into your instruments you are reassured. What happens when we find ourselves in a cloud of worry, despair, or even hopelessness? Where does our minds lead us when the false narratives try to convince us our hope is lost, that we are alone, and God has abandoned us? How can you trust God’s truth, even when it doesn’t feel like truth?  Read John 14:18-20. What practices do you have or know about that help you reflect and take on God’s perspective? Is worship, community, serving, prayer, stillness, and reading and reflecting on God’s word a part of your life rhythm? 

Day 4: Read Psalm 88. As we read this Psalm, we are, in a sense, reading a private journal. Here we see David pouring out his innermost emotions, fears, anger, confusion, and questions. He doesn’t hide or shy away from God but is real with Him. We know much of what David is saying wasn’t a completely accurate picture.  David was not cut off from God’s care. God had not rejected him, nor covered him in wrath. It felt like that to David, yet he knew he could be honest with God about it. There are times, or there will be times, when we are angry, frustrated, overwhelmed and may even feel that God is against us. During these times, we may want to withdraw from God, hide or even pretend away our emotions and feelings. Have you ever laid your heart and emotions bare before God like this? If you are at a place of confusion, worry, doubt, anger or frustration, consider writing out a prayer or journal to God. Although it may feel scary to express these emotions, there is power in writing them out. Try it. If you need more encouragement today, listen to the song “To the Table” by Zach Williams. Hear the words and bring your fear, sorrow, and worries to Him.  

Day 5: Read Psalm 139. As you read pay attention to David’s perspective. He is frustrated and angry. He is calling out for the death of his enemies. We can relate. Then we come to verses 23 and 24 and something changes. David intentionally steps into his practices of seeking and allowing God to bring him back to a new perspective, into a “way everlasting.” There is no fix to the reality he currently faces, but a change of perspective back to the reality of who God is and how He says things really are. What step do you need to take today to align your perspective? Are there practices you need to incorporate into your routine? Are there areas of self-care you need to attend to? Are you consistently and intentionally engaging with others in community?  

September 9, 2018

Perfect Peace in a Perfect Storm

*Note for this week’s devotional: In light of this message series, we recognize that there are real forms of clinical anxiety and depression. Prayer, meditation and reading Scripture are powerful tools to help us deal with real issues of life. However, there are situations where professional help and even medication are right and necessary. As a devotional team, we pray these words bring hope and inspiration, not shame and isolation. Anxiety and depression are real, and know that you are not alone.  

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory explained that humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand is an important step to experiencing peace. We are so easily “big” in our own eyes. It is easy to think we know best, make our own decisions, take control of our life, and chase our own pursuits. But then, we worry because our knowledge to make decisions and our ability to control is limited. When you find yourself worrying this week notice it. Journal, talk to a friend, or take a quiet 5-10 minutes to think about the source of the worry. After noticing your worry, remember that God is big, far bigger than what we worry about. He cares about us, loves us deeply, knows all, is in control, and ultimately, he himself can fulfill us. Here is something to try. When you identify worry, think of a corresponding truth about God. For example, if you worry because a situation is out of your control, find a verse about God being in control. Whatever worry comes up, humble yourself and acknowledge that God is stronger, more in control, and more good than whatever fear, circumstance, or struggle you face. Let your worry remind you how big God is.   

Day 2: The absolute starting point for any kind of peace is humbling ourselves to accept the peace with God that we have in Jesus. Sometimes we are so big in our eyes that we try to accomplish peace with God or think that there is some way to peace with God other than God’s way - Jesus’ death and resurrection. Trying to make peace with God by any other way results in inner turmoil, fear, or self-denial. Read Romans 10:1-13. Why did the Israelites not submit to God’s righteousness?  What can we do to be saved? Accepting and believing these truths is the first humbling step that puts us under God’s mighty and caring hand. It is also a lifelong pursuit to absorb the fullness of the peace with God that we have in Christ. Read Romans 5:1-11 and meditate on the effects of the peace of God that has been accomplished in Christ.  

Day 3: Humbling ourselves is a process of acknowledging God is who he says he is, laying down our own thoughts and opinions to believe what God says is true, and adjusting our lives to live in a way that is consistent with God. If I am doing things my own way, don’t I rightly worry? In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus says to focus our energy and attention on his kingdom and his righteousness, and God will provide for our needs. Evaluate your life. What is your focus? Is there any way you can be more in line with God’s priorities? Will you humble yourself to pursue God’s priorities, or will you continue to do what you want? Make it public and tell a friend how you want to realign your life. Ask for their support.  

 Day 4: One of the biggest challenges and temptations is to worry about our circumstances. We can easily think that if we do everything right, then we shouldn’t have trouble and everything should go well. But is that true?  

  • Jesus promised in this world we will have trouble. John 16:33  

  • Paul asked if trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or violence (which Paul experienced) means we are separated from the love of God. Romans 8:35-36  

  • James said to count it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. James 1:2  

  • Peter said that for a little while we suffer grief in all kinds of trials so that our genuine faith results in glory. 1 Peter 1:6-7  

If Jesus and his disciples experienced suffering, can we trust God, lean on him and strive ahead knowing that God works for the good of all who love God and are called by him? Instead of worrying about what bad things might happen, think about God who is with you through those things and will bring about good. Consider Peter, James, and Jesus as you read Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-39. 

Day 5: Read Daniel 3:8-30. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did right by not bowing down to an idol. They left the outcome in God’s hands and were thrown into a fire. But in the midst of the fire and most likely their own death, they proceeded. For them, they’ve found peace through faith in their God in spite of terrifying circumstances facing them. And as you read, a fourth person is seen in the fire. God was with them and in this case, he miraculously rescued them from the fire. What stands out to you as you read this account? Spend time in prayer to God. What can you apply to your current circumstances or view of God?  

September 2, 2018

Trekking Through The Christian Life

Day 1:  Read Hebrews 12: 1-2 Have you been on a journey recently, this summer? Where did you go? What did you do? What memories do you have? We are all on a journey whether we realize it or not. This passage tells us to run (journey) with perseverance the race marked out for us. Journeying through life calls us to movement, steps, intentionality and perseverance. My journey is not your journey, my next step is not your next step. There is something personal and unique about my journey with God. Yet it is through community that our journey is stirred, takes on meaning, and helps us stay the course. Are you currently on course in your journey? Are you asking and answering questions about your journey with God? Do you have someone or a group who knows how you are doing? Consider those around you who provide support and encouragement for your journey. Are you in a small group? September is a popular time for many to join a group. If you are in a group, how well is the group doing at encouraging each other on in the journey of life and faith? 

Day 2:  Read Psalm 119:105 & Hebrews 12:1.Stay the course! Doug told the story of a very difficult journey they had to make above the tree line, in thin air, to get to where they were going. Tired, weary legs, blistered feet from the boots…but they did it together. When they made it to the valley, they celebrated their accomplishment and realized how they grew during the journey. We are all tempted to pause our journey and take a break. However, sometimes, we don’t get back on the trail. What tends to pull you off course? What are familiar or even current excuses that see in yourself? Does your heart pull you off course? What is the sin that so entangles you? Is there something doing more than entertaining you but “discipling” you away from the course – news, social media, politics, sports? What is most shaping your course? If you find yourself off course, what would it take to course correct?

Day 3: Read Genesis 15:1-6. Sometimes life just does not seem to make sense. Our vision is too blurry, Our scope is too narrow. Our understanding is too small. When the Lord invites you into His tent (world) to speak to you through the scripture, others, or circumstances, do you tend to believe by faith ordoubt? Is God asking you to do something or giving you direction but fear or excuses have paralyzed you to take a next step? Spend some time in prayer, seek a trusted believer out to discuss, and embrace the risk. Remember God is the God of protection, inspiration, renewal, perspective, transformation, love, care, and patience. If you need a reminder, walk outside tonight and look up at the stars.

Day 4: Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 & Proverbs 17:3. When the journey gets difficult…when expectations don’t get met, when circumstances are painful, when we feel burned out, when life throws us a curveball…are we fixing our eyes on Jesus? These are the moments that change us and allow us to grow in the likeness of Jesus. Difficulties build character in us for future journeys, our own benefit and for the sake of others. What can we learn thru our current difficulty? How is character being formed during a present trial or obstacle? What does God have for you? Is He purifying you? Is He demonstrating the power of the Gospel through you? Resolve yourself to trust, to have faith, in the midst of your journey. 

Day 5: Follow the leader. Read John 12:24-26. Who are you following? This question is essential and tells us whether we are growing spiritually or in some other way. Jesus tells us that anyone who wants to serve Him follows Him. So, again, who are you following? Will they take you where you hope to go, lead you to be who you hope to become? Following Jesus is not easy or easier. It’s just better. Jesus models and teaches us a better way to live more in line with how we were created to live. We will find the deepest meaning, purpose and significance following him. Are you following Jesus? What evidence currently supports that you are following Jesus? Look past your spiritual habits and church or small group attendance. The more compelling evidence is in attitudes and behaviors you’ve been displaying over the past few days. 

Week of August 26

DNA: We Were Made For This

Pass It On

Day 1. Read Matthew 28:16-20.A disciple is someone who is following Jesus and intentionally seeking to become like Him. Jesus is now telling his disciples to make disciples. The early church understood that to believe and follow Jesus, or to be a Christian, was to be his disciple. There is no separating the two. In addition, a disciple is someone who is making other disciples. How exactly do we do this? How did Jesus do it? Through scripture, we see that Jesus’ greatest effort, focus, and investment of time was through growing relationship with the 12 and maybe even more so with the 3 (Peter, James and John). They experienced every imaginable life situation – together. The disciples had spent enough time with Jesus to know how he thought, what he cared about, what he taught and what he valued. They didn’t just hear him preach a message, they saw him live a message. Jesus made disciples by investing time to develop relationship. Who does Jesus want you to influence, invest time in, and to develop relationship with? Who is around you? What about the neighbor next door? The co-worker across the hall? The other parents sitting on the bleachers next to us week in and week out? Another student on my team? In my class? Whose path do you naturally cross? Throughout this week open your eyes to the people who are already in your life.

Day 2: Read Matthew 28:16-20 again. What do you think of when you read “Go”? Some may think of the apostle Paul. Paul traveled throughout the known world making disciples.  Another aspect of “go” is “as you go” or “wherever you go.” If we’re honest, this is hard. We love Facebook-worthy, Instagram-story-worthy things. We are drawn to the notion of big, change-the-world kind of “go” activities. However “As you go” looks more like, “this is going to become part of my LIFE” instead of something I add to my life. This is living in a different way. It is being a good friend, not pretentious, not putting on an “I’ve got it all together” face and I’m here to help you. It is learning to admit “I don’t have it all together and I need you as much as you need me.” Learning to be authentic, honest about real life stuff, and connecting in a meaningful way with people who may be different from us. Those who first heard these words may have heard differently than how we read it today. This was a directive to cross racial, economic, nationality, political, religious, and gender divides. What does the community around me look like? Does it look like me? What is one step I can take over thecoming week, month, and year to cross a divide in the world that I’m already engaged in? 

Day 3: Read Luke 11:46. Cory mentioned that in a relay race a runner passes the baton to the next runner and so on. The question becomes, WHAT am I passing on? What did Jesus pass on? Am I passing on something worth carrying? Or am I passing on a heavy burden that will only serve to weigh others down…merely a bunch of rules to follow? Jesus’ message was not merely rules to obey but a way to live that changes who we are from the inside-out. Who Jesus is, is what he passed on. What we discover about Jesus and how we engaged in that relationship is what we pass on. The most important question we can then ask ourselves is, “What step do I need to take in the coming days to discover Jesus?”Read 2 Tim. 1:5, 2 Tim 2:2  

Day 4. In yesterday’s verses from 2 Timothy we see faith being intentionally passed on. We pass faith on unintentionally, too. A few weeks ago, Steve shared that we are the church. You and I are the witnesses to our family, our co-workers, neighbors, and community of who Jesus is and what it looks like to follow Him. What do my attitudes, my actions, my opinions, my words, give witness to? Are they worthy to be picked up by the person next to me? How would our neighbors describe us? Who is the person our employees, employer, teachers, coach, classmates, or the person we disagree with, describe us to be? What about those we engage with on Sunday mornings? Would the type of person being described by all these people be generally the same or would it seem like dramatically different people? Does my unintentional faith witness match my intentional one?  

Day 5: Following the services last Sunday, we took the time to celebrate 30 years of LSCC in the community. We came together and shared stories of life change and began intentionally looking forward to what is yet to be. Think about who you saw, who you talked to, and stories you shared. Now consider a person who wasn’t there, but could be in a year, 5 years, 10 years from now because of a choice you make today to see someone and to choose to invest in relationship with them? Who might find their way to a life of following Jesus and join a community of faith? Do you remember the Next Steps card from Sunday? Think back over the devotions from this week. Who will you take intentional steps with to discover more of Jesus? Who will you intentionally pass your faith on to? Who will you cross a divide for to love and be Jesus to? Identify the steps you need to take.Write them down. Keep the card in a place you will see daily or weekly.Tell someone the steps you have identified and ask them to support and pray for you.  

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Week of August 19

DNA: We Were Made For This

Luke 19:1-10. Story of Zacchaeus

Day 1. Imagine that it’s November 3, 2015, and you are in the crowded streets of downtown Kansas City. You know that sometime soon, the crowd will erupt as fans strain to get glimpses of the World Series Champions Kansas City Royals. But as you work the crowd vying for a spot, you recognize that from any position you find, you still can’t see. So, what do you do? Well, you climb up the stoplight pole, of course, just for a chance to see the team whose greatness everyone has seen and heard about. Now, read Luke 19:1-5. There were probably less than 800,000 people in Jericho the day that Jesus arrived, but the crowd that followed Him was large enough – and apparently tall enough – that Zacchaeus simply could not see. Jesus’ reputation preceded Him wherever He went, and in each city, the people clamored to get an opportunity to hear Him teach, to be healed, to experience Him personally. Consider today what a privilege we have to be able to know Jesus through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit.  

Day 2. Read Luke 19:1-6. What do we know about Zacchaeus? Imagine that the guy on the stoplight pole (see yesterday’s reading) was the head of the regional IRS office and was exploiting the taxpayers for personal gain. That was Zacchaeus. He was not just a “wee little man” as the familiar song goes. He was a wealthy, powerful, and greatly disliked man. Why do you think a man in his position was so determined to see Jesus? Maybe he just wanted an opportunity to experience the presence of this man that everyone was talking about. Or perhaps, despite all that he had gained, he knew that there was something that he still lacked. Either way, when Jesus called to him, Zacchaeus made a choice to respond. He invited Jesus into His home. Read verses 8-10. We don’t know what Jesus said to Zacchaeus in their time together, but we do know that it resulted in a changed perspective. Zacchaeus acknowledged his exploits and vowed to make it right! If Jesus was sitting at your dinner table, what things might you want to change or make right? Pray about it. Acknowledge it and declare it to Jesus.  

Day 3. Read Luke 19:5. Despite the crowds gathered around Him, Jesus chose to look up and acknowledge the despised tax guy in the tree. Jesus called him by name! He was aware of Zacchaeus and chose to pursue him. Throughout the course of Jesus’ life, He was continually looking up to take note of those around Him.  He chose to engage, to forgive, to love, and to save those who knew theywere lost.This is the heart of Jesus. It was how He lived and who He was. It’s also how He invites us to live. As we seek to know and become like Jesus, consider the ways that you can be aware of those around you. How well do you know the people you live your life among? Have you considered inviting your neighbors or co-workers into your home for a meal? What steps can you take to create margin in your life, so that you can have the space to look up and notice? 

Day 4 Read Luke 19:9-10. What does Jesus say is His ultimate purpose? He came to seek and save the lost. This is His pursuit of us. As He looked up toward Zacchaeus, Jesus is looking up at you as well.  He sees you and knows you completely. He sees through your religion. He sees beyond your sinful past - your failures, cheating, and facade - and He loves you. To be like Jesus is to reflect Him, and to follow Him means we choose every day to respond to know Him and to become like Him. Jesus spoke truth to Zacchaeus and His words stirred Zacchaeus to make a change! What truth is Jesus speaking to you? What change is he calling you to pursue? Do you hear Him?  

Day 5. Read Luke 19:7. What does this verse say to us about the crowd? What was their perception of Zacchaeus? How did they feel about Jesus’ decision to dine with a sinner? How often are we more like the crowd than we are like Jesus? Make it personal. Do I see those around me as sinners and pass judgement on them? Or do I see them with compassion? Who am I more like? When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, we see that He not only healed the lame, comforted the grief-stricken, and fed the hungry. He also had compassion on the politician, the tax collector, and the prostitute. Are we living like Jesus? Do we care for the soul of the person as Jesus did? Consider the people you’ve encountered in your life today. Is there anyone you’ve clearly judged or disregarded as “too far gone”? 

As you go about your day today, be aware and look up to see those around you. We just may find that we don’t know how we can be like Jesus to them. Let that turn into your prayer.

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Week of August 12

DNA: We Were Made For This

Day 1: Let’s be honest, death is scary and none of us wants to die yet how much do we actually consider dying? What if heaven is a real place, and if so, how do we get there? Read John 3:1-21.Nicodemus came to Jesus to find out more about who this Jesus character was. Jesus responds by telling Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God (experience a different kind of life) unless he has been born again spiritually. John continues to explain that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life (verse 15), and that God loved the world and He gave His only Son, and that anyone who believes in Him will not die but live forever (verse 16). If you been around church for any length of time, you’ve heard this all before. In fact, we can become so used to hearing it that we can become numb to Jesus’ words. However, what would it look like today if you lived out this statement? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Have you been born again? How does this belief affect how you live today? Take some time to pray and right down your thoughts. 

Day 2: Yesterday we asked the question, “How do we get to heaven?” While this is important, there is much more to Christianity than eternity. Sometimes in our faith we can become more fixated on what we can get from Jesus rather than on following Him. Read Matthew 19:16-26.One day a man asked Jesus, “What good deed do I have to do to live forever?” Think about why Jesus answered him the way he did. The man just wanted to know what he had to do to get to heaven. Why didn’t Jesus just say believe in me and you’ll be saved? Why did Jesus tell him to give his money away and follow Him? According to Jesus himself, truly believing in Jesus will always coincide with a life of following Jesus. The two cannot be separated. For this young man the cost of following was too great. Is there anything in your life that may prevent you from following Jesus? Is there anything in your life so valuable that you are unwilling to let it go in pursuit of Jesus? Maybe it’s a job, relationship, or some dream of what you want to accomplish. Be honest and willing to wrestle through your thoughts with God in prayer. 

Day 3: Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is nothing we must do to be saved from sin in death. It is the free gift of God through faith. And yet Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Here is the principle; don’t miss it: grace is free but following is costly. The Christian life is one that is marked both by belief and by following. Because we believe that Jesus, being both fully human and fully God, died for us in our place on the cross, we therefore respond in gratitude by taking up our cross and following him. Are both belief and following true of your life today? What does it mean for you to take up your cross daily? Maybe it means making some huge life changing decision today, but more likely it will require you to make small sacrificial decisions each day. Read Romans 12:1-2 then take some time and write down one step that you can take to sacrificially follow Jesus today.   

Day 4: Before we move on today, how did you do on your action step from yesterday? Take a few moments to reflect on that. Now let’s move onto today. Is it possible for us to believe all the right things and yet have a useless faith? What good is a faith that doesn’t actively follow Jesus? Read James 2:14-17. Every day we live in a world where people are broken, hungry, hurting, and in need of hope. The magnitude of all that is wrong in this world is so great that it can leave us overwhelmed, incapacitated, and paralyzed into inaction. Yet, we are not alone. As a result of our new birth, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Also, when we come together with fellow believers as the church, even the gates of hell will not prevail against us. (Matthew 16:18) As Jesus’ followers, we are able together to make a difference. When we live out our faith together following Jesus, we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37) Consider your words: Is there someone today you can encourage? Consider your prayer: who needs prayer and how can you pray for them? Consider your actions: who can you love for 30 seconds at a time today? Consider your community: who is around you that together you can make a difference? 

Day 5: Read Luke 5:1-11. When confronted with the person of Jesus, the first disciples were asked to make a decision. Today, we are asked to do the same. In response to who Jesus is and what He has done, will you followHim? Will you choose to walk along side of Him, to learn from Him, to care about what He cares about, and to live your very life as an act of sacrificial worship one day at a time? Following doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or have everything figured out. Instead, it means taking simple steps to pursue Jesus, working with and alongside Him in a daily relationship. (Matthew 11:28-29) I encourage you to take some time today to reflect. Maybe go for a walk around your neighborhood. Find some time just to get away and be with God. Tell Him that where He leads, you will follow. Be quiet and see if the Spirit nudges you in some way.

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Week of August 5

DNA: We Were Made For This

In and Through

Day 1. Have you been told that you are more than what you do? At first read, you may consider these almost one in the same. Yet a distinction can be made from doing and being. Our value, our worth, our importance is not in what we do but who we are. This has spiritual implications. If we want to become like Jesus, we will fall short if we develop only an intellectual understanding and a sound theological foundation. Knowing Jesus includes intellectual reasoning but moves to a more personal experience. Take the relationship I have with my husband as an example. I know him in such a way that I know how he responds in certain circumstances. I know what he does and what he believes. I know how he thinks, what he loves, what drives him crazy. I’m grateful for what he does for me and my family, but what makes our relationship is not what he does, but who he is. Do I know Jesus in that way? Am I intimately familiar with who Jesus IS not just what He DID? Am I working on obeying rules or am I trying to live my life walking by faith with a God I cannot see? The only worthwhile spiritual pursuit is to know Him in this personal, intimate way. Take a minute and read Matthew 5:1-10. As you read, do so with the perspective that Jesus is describing more than what He did but how He lived and how He is wants us to live.   

 

Day 2: Often, we think talking to people about Jesus means we skip right to telling people their sins can be forgiven, and they can go to Heaven. Those are amazing truths to be told, but there is so much more truth in Jesus and the reason He came. Jesus showed us what it looks like to bring the Kingdom of God (or a different way) to our lives and to the lives of those around us. The truth that when Jesus called us to follow him, He was talking about us becoming like Him. Read Matthew 7:1-14. After Jesus describes how He lived and how we are to live (verses 1-12), He says most will not choose it (verses 13-14). If we truly want to become like Him, we must follow Him through the narrow gate because that is a path to heart transformation and life change. This path leads us to intentionally and consistently allow who Jesus to inform who we are and how we live. What currently in my life needs to change to align with what who Jesus is and how he lived? Am I willing, not to seek to change myself, but ask Jesus to change my heart?   

 

Day 3: Read Luke 10:25-37. Jesus tells the parable of a man who crossed racial, economic, religious, and cultural divides to show love and mercy. The ones who went out of their way to avoid the man in need were religious leaders of the nation God had commanded to “be a blessing to all people”. Becoming like Jesus and loving like Jesus means we need to be willing to risk our reputation, sometimes with the religious crowd, to be a neighbor. Jesus didn’t tell a story of a man that traveled across the globe in order to show mercy to someone in need. He was simply going about his life. Jesus says, “go and do likewise. Who is around me? How am I doing in living like Jesus around them? Do I look past the person in front of me or at the person in front of me?   

 

Day 4: Read Matt. 5:13-14 What does being “salt” mean and what does it look like? Salt is used to add flavor and to enhance flavor. Flavor can be considered what is good and beautiful about food. When we are “salt” we enhance and add goodness and beauty to the world and those in it. Who do you know like that? The person that brings goodness, brings beauty to whatever they are involved in? Who extends grace and mercy? Who works for justice and peace? Sometimes people like this are dismissed as naïve or idealistic or possibly in denial of how bad things are. What if they are none of those but rather they have chosen to see what the Kingdom of God is about and have decided to live in that way. What if they have believed that Jesus called us to be salt (and light) in all places? What flavor do I bring to my home, my office, my school, my neighborhood? Do I bring love, goodness, mercy? Do I bring peace or conflict? Does my involvement in the lives of those around me bring out the best in them? Am I making things better? 

 

Day 5: On Sunday, Steve reminded us of the opportunity to participate in the ongoing story of the church that began over 2000 years ago. Starting in those early days and leading up to today, there is a rhythm of being gathered and scattered. Followers come together (gather) and center their perspective on the person of Jesus and to experience worship, truth, love, and community. Then, we enter back into our everyday lives (scatter) to continue to experience worship, truth, love and community by living like Jesus in all that we do. Being the church “scattered” isn’t only starting a ministry or launching a program. It is more about seeing and loving the person in front of you. It might look like leaving the garage open and walking across the drive to engage in conversation with a neighbor. It might mean listening with love and understanding another’s bad day. It might mean risking your own reputation to walk across a divide to love and show mercy to someone not like you. It could look like a hundred different things, but it will always look like Jesus. Ask God to help you see people and to help you love them. Be the church today. 

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Week of July 29

Harmony

I Corinthians 13:8-13

Day 1: On Sunday, we were invited to reflect on this summer series. What was your response? Have you found yourself living out a principle or verse? Does a challenging phrase keep coming to your mind or attitude? Here are some series’ truths or phrases:  

·       I Corinthians 13:1-13. I will show you the most excellent way. 

·       We’ve been given gifts, abilities and experiences to put into use for the sake of the church.   

·       When we don’t see eye to eye, can we still walk side by side.  

·       Having self-awareness is understanding your preferences.   

·       There are different categories of preferences: essential, important and trivial.  Paul tells us to love in all of them.  

·       We often judge people by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions.  

·       Actions without love in our lives are like clanging, irritating cymbals.   

Which of these principles is easiest to live by? Which of these are most challenging to you? Ask God to help you grow in that area. Then take time to thank God for planting a truth that you needed to hear and ask Him to continue to form you into a person who loves. He’s not done with you nor any of us. 

Day 2: Have you seen a tuning fork? It’s a U-shared, two-pronged metal instrument that when struck, produces a pure musical tone at a constant pitch. Musicians use it to get in tune in preparation for performing a piece together. An orchestra does not get on the same pitch by tuning themselves to each other. They tune themselves according to a single source, the tuning fork. At the beginning of this series, we read this passage in I Corinthians 1:10-13. Now read I Cor 2:6-10. We all find wisdom and truth in God through the Holy Spirit because of our relationship with Jesus. God is our “tuning fork” (our source) and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is how we “tune” our hearts and minds to be “in tune” to the consistent truth of God’s heart and mind. One example of “tuning in” is recognizing the Holy Spirit when you are searching for the way of love. Conversely, reflect on how and when you “tune” yourself by something other than our true source.  

Day 3: When dinner is ready on the table and the kids are still playing on the backyard swing set, it’s time to come in. One time when Iexplained this tomy four-year-old, it went something like this, “Hey buddy, it’s time for dinner. We can come out and play after dinner.” Instead of jumping off the swing and heading to the back porch, he ran for the slide. This went on for a few minutes. Then I took another approach. I lovingly grabbed him, picked him up and brought him into the house. I’m not sure if that was the best parenting strategy, but we did all eat dinner together that night. Read I Cor. 13:11-13. At some point, we are to learn to put our childish ways behind us. Since we all have the ability to choose, we will always be tempted to choose the childlike way of what is easy, less, harmful, or just selfish. When God calls to us to step toward a person in love, do we stop ourselves, go, listen, and serve? Or do we keep on swinging on the swing? Living out love that is patient and kind, a love that protects, trusts and hopes for can only be done when we step out of our childish ways. How can this help you today?  

Day 4: Read John 12:23-26. A kernel has to die to produce a multitude of wheat. This is how love works. It is meant to multiply. Loving people produce more loving people. If we seek to live for ourselves, that is all that we will get. But if we follow Jesus and give love away, we grow love. Where is love being multiplied in your life? Refrain from shame or blame when answering. Do you see evidence of love, a love that God daily and freely gives to you, making a difference in your family, among your friends, at work or in your small group? Here may be a harder question to answe; How are the people in your life loving others because of the love you’ve shown to them? Consider the multiplication of love as you go about your day today. “Spirit, help me to notice the person in front of me. Show me how I can love them in such a way that inspires love.” 

Day 5: Reflect on the last two passages we’ve read this week. I Cor 13: 11-13 and John 12:23-26. There’s the act of love and the act of dying to oneself. How are those related? How does becoming selfless promote love? One tangible response to dying to oneself is through baptism. In baptism, we relate to the person of Jesus as He was submersed in the water (as unto death) and raised to life (new life in Christ) as we commit to follow after Him submitting to “tune” our life to Jesus. Can you relate to this through your own baptism or a time when you specifically drew a line in the sand and committed to follow after Jesus? Has that moment produced a change or transformation in your heart and in the way you react and interact with others in love? What is something in your life you know you need to die to so God can raise up new thoughts or actions in that area? Tell a trusted friend of your new commitment and ask the Holy Spirit to remind you, strengthen you and equip you for the task ahead. Go live out love!   

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Week of July 22

Harmony

Selfless Love in a Selfie World

Day 1: It’s hard to be selfless. I know. As my wife has pointed out to me, even when I try to be ‘unselfish,’ I can do it for selfish reasons! In ourselves even our best is like filthy rags because our motivations reveal our true intentions. Jesus showed us a selfless life. Not only that, we have the Holy Spirit in us to give us the ability to live selflessly. We have been given selflessness and the power to be selfless, so let’s live it out like we should. As Jack pointed out, a starting point for seeing this formed in us is to acknowledge Jesus’ selflessness for our sake. This week, let us not look past Christ’s unselfishness, accept and believe his selflessness given to us, and take steps to live in the selflessness of the Spirit. Meditate on II Corinthians 5:21 as you listen to or sing Amazing Love (You Are My King). Worship God for what you have been given in Christ. 

Day 2: Read Philippians 2:1-13 noticing Jesus’ attitude. What was Jesus’ original position (vs 6)? What are the actions he took (vs 5-8)? What was the result (vs 9-11)? Paul is calling us to have the same attitude. What will my actions be if I have this attitude of Christ? What will be the result? Think about Jesus’ words that whoever wants to be great should learn to be the servant of all. How is Jesus’ attitude similar or different to how I relate to God and live toward others? Choose one relationship in your life to answer that question. Jesus is secure himself and guarantees security. Being secure helps me to lay down my interests. Notice Philippians 2:12-13. God working in us, giving us the desire and power (NLT version). This demonstration is evidence of a sincere faith and our salvation. I will lay down my interests and put someone else’s interests first. 

Day 3: Read John 4:27-41. Why did Jesus refuse the disciples’ food? Jesus was probably hungry, tired, and thirsty (4:6-7). What was sustaining Jesus? Do you remember times of joy and encouragement when you believed that you were doing what God wanted you to do? That is the Holy Spirit in you. What was Jesus’ instruction to the disciples (4:35)? Jesus looked outward. Look outward and be perceptive to the need of someone you encounter today, thinking of how you could show selfless love to them. Consider a strained relationship. Is there a person by just the mention of their name, your initial response is to move away not towards them? 

Day 4: Read John 13:1-5. What is the insight we gain from verse three as to how Jesus was able to serve the disciples in this way? In Christ, what power do you have, where did you come from, where are you going? Compare Christ’s security in his position to Philippians 2:6. Security in what Christ has accomplished and given to you is the foundation for selflessness. You can find rest knowing you are cared for; now you can care for others. Jesus did something that no one else wanted to do to meet a real need for purpose of showing the extent of God’s love (13:1). Do I know where I have come from, where I am going? Am I secure that I am in God’s love? Ask God for a way you can serve someone today. Find something that others do not want to do and do it for them. Actually write it down and make a point to accomplish it whether they know it was you or not. You don’t need their appreciation or any response from them. You can do it because you are loved, and in doing so, you communicate God’s gracious love.   

Day 5: Read Matthew 26:59-68. Jesus did not defend himself or deliver himself from their false accusations and mistreatment. He knew it was necessary for his Father’s will to be accomplished for our salvation. To do his Father’s will, he was willing to allow himself to be misunderstood, falsely accused, injustice done to him, mocked, tortured, and killed. We will not experience anything like Jesus did, but can we have this same attitude in our day-to-day experience? Can we be so oriented to following Jesus and loving others that we are willing to be wronged? Our natural hearts are not this way, but Christ’s heart is. To know and become like Jesus is possible as we walk in a daily relationship with him. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us pursue selfless love. It is possible. 

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Week of July 15

Harmony

The Highest Goal

Day 1. Last week, we focused on the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul wrote that even the best spiritual gifts, when exercised apart from love, are meaningless. He writes: “I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” (v1) “I would be nothing,” (v2) and “I would have gained nothing” (v3). Read verses 4-5. How can you test yourself to see if you are motivated by love? Are you patient with others? Are you kind with those you disagree with? Are you jealous? Boastful? Proud? Rude? Is it all about you getting your way? Is it more important to you to be right than to be loving? Consider your motivations. Acting in love desires to build up one another, not tear them down. It desires harmony, not dissention. Think about your last week. If you had any disagreements, even on social media, how would you characterize your response? Did you see patience and kindness in your attitude? Take note of those interactions and pray specifically, “Holy Spirit, what needs to change in me for me to give more loving responses in future opportunities today and this week?”  

Day 2. On Sunday, Cory mentioned the Greek word for patience is “makrothymeo.” This word means both patience and understanding along with a refusal to retaliate. See how James 1:19 correlates. Think about that for a moment - slow to anger and quick to understand. We are living in a world of extremes, a world of us vs. them, a world where we are quick to excuse our own flaws while demonizing those we disagree with. What would happen if I turned the tables and sought to understand rather than to be understood? What if I snuffed the short fuse and took time to listen? Consider a person in your life with whom you have the most differences.  

Day 3. Read Matthew 7:1-5 We tend to judge other people by their actions, and to judge ourselves by our intentions. Reread that sentence. Ouch! Not one of us is perfect, and we will often look to the failure in others in order to justify our own sinfulness, but Jesus says, “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” So, be patient with others as you would have them be patient with you. Show grace to others as you expect them to show grace to you. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (Rom. 3:23) As you go about your week, pay attention to the things that trigger you. Is it a specific person (co-worker, sibling, boss, employee, spouse, neighbor) or around a recurring topic? What step can I take to insert a buffer before I respond or react? Would that help me to take a step in becoming the person I hope to become?  

Day 4. Read John 13:34-35. Would anyone know your faith by observation? Consider yesterday or today. You may be familiar with the Brennan Manning Quote, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.” Love is the basic building block of our faith because God is love. Jesus invites us to imitate him in love because He first loved us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Rom 5:8). We can only give what we have received. How has God shown love to you? Where are you overwhelmed with gratitude because of what God has done in your life? Out of the fullness of that love, we show love to others.  

Day 5. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 again. Is this the kind of Jesus that people see in you? Does your family see love, patience, kindness? Or do they see judgement and condemnation more often? Are you holding grudges or showing forgiveness and mercy? If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Bob Goff’s book “Everybody Always” from the Next Steps Center ($10) and read through chapter 6. In this chapter, he gives an example of how to love a difficult person. When you encounter that person who hard to love, just give them 30 seconds of kindness. In that 30 seconds, pray for the Spirit to give you the grace you need to love them. Then do it again. Eventually, those brief times will add up as the Holy Spirit helps you. You may find yourself more routinely seeking the Holy Spirit and finding kindness. In doing so, you will be stepping into Paul’s invitation of patient love.  

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Week of July 8

Harmony

The Highest Goal

Day 1: Do you have a bucket list? What kinds of things are on it? Bucket lists typically focus on once in a lifetime experiences or places we dream of visiting. If we have a bucket list, we have put thought into it. Maybe you aren’t a bucket list kind of person; but have you considered a “be” or “becoming” list? What would be on that list? What kind of person do you want to be? What would you consider your highest goal as a person? Take several minutes to think about these questions and jot down your thoughts. Our vision at LSCC is for all of us is “taking steps to know and become like Jesus.” So, maybe for you, maybe for me, our bucket list of “be” and “becoming” would include moving towards a person who intentionally and increasingly is thinking, sounding, and living more like the person of Jesus. Love is the most excellent way (1 Cor 12:31) The apostle Paul is telling us his highest goal, restating who Jesus is and how he lived, and who Jesus was emulating, God the Father. There is nothing we can discover about God, nothing we can discover about Jesus, that isn’t also loving. If we are becoming more like Jesus, we are becoming more loving. Thus, the question becomes, am I becoming more like love? If so, how and where?

Day 2: Read Mark 12:30-31.In the book Everybody, Always, Bob Goff says, “Jesus saw loving God and loving our neighbors as one inseparable mandate. They were tied for first in Jesus’ mind. He knew we couldn’t love God if we don’t love the people He surrounds us with.” Love is an action, it can be and is to be, seen. Giving love isn’t merely for those who love me or are like me. Our love is for all people: the enemy, stranger, persecutor, foreigner, the helpless and the opinionated. Love is an attitude, a posture of the heart that leads us more and more to “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” This is a foundational, fundamental part of following Jesus, being Christian, knowing and becoming more like Him. Take time to pray for those in your life who you find it difficult to love. Then, find an opportunity to go love them today even in some small way.      

Day 3: Read Matt 5:44, John 15:12, 17.Jesus didn’t say it would be easy, he said it would work. When we look at the life and teachings of Jesus we see undeniable, uncontrollable, unconditional, and yes, even a reckless love. Take time today to listen to the song “Reckless Love”by Cory Asbury. As you listen to the words think about how the song describes the love of God. How this love acts. What this love looks like. This is how we are to love- as we have been loved. Am I willing to make love my highest goal? Am I willing to choose the way of love even if it could make me uncomfortable, even if it is puts me in a vulnerable place or means I will be misunderstood? When we choose to love, it changes who we are becoming.

Day 4: Read 1 Cor. 13: 1-3.What’s your “thing”? What are you good at? What do you have (or do) that is a gift to others? Maybe you’ve taken a Strengths Findertest or something equivalent. What are your strengths or gifts? Do you have a way with words? Do you have a way of seeing solutions when everyone else is bogged down in the problem? Do you comfort those who are hurting, grieving or lonely? Do you have an ability of bringing opposing views together? Write down a few of your strengths. Now insert them into these three verses and read again. Without being rooted and motivated in love, all these things cease to matter. It’s a sobering thought. Look at the gifts/strengths you wrote down. Do they matter? What are they rooted in? Is there desire for approval or recognition? Is there an agenda of some kind? Spend time in honest reflection. Pray: Father, I ask that you bring truth to me. Help me be self-aware and to look honestly at these things. Give me courage and strength, not only to see, but to change. Help me to recognize whether selfless love is present when my gifts are used. “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

Day 5: Re-read I Cor. 13:1-3.When we respond, even though it may be for others, isn’t rooted in and motivated by love, it is all for nothing. On top of that, our behavior actually becomes an annoyance, an irritant and a hindrance. The descriptive words Paul uses are in effect the opposite of what the gift was intended to produce. It’s off pitch, it’s noisy, irritating. It becomes more harmful than helpful. Can I recognize when what I’m doing is off? What clues or unbecoming behaviors help me to become aware? Do I have daily and weekly patterns to self-reflect and to allow God to speak truth about my heart, my attitude, and my behaviors? Do I have people in my life (community) that through relationship can speak truth to me? To gain some inspiration consider the book “Everybody, Always: Becoming love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people”by Bob Goff as a small group. Through small group community that we have the best opportunity to flesh out becoming like Jesus, becoming love. If you aren’t in a small group, consider starting or joining one. Contact Patrick at Patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org   

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Week of July 1

Harmony

In Spite of Differences

Day 1: What we believe has the power to both unify and divide us. What we believe about politics, religion, and social issues, both brings us closer to people we agree with and separates us from people we disagree with. It takes just one look at our Facebook feed to know this to be true. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.What happens when Christ followers disagree with one another? Do we “unfriend” them? Do we leave the church? Do we put on fake smiles and pretend to be nice to one another? Does Jesus call us to something better? Take some time to reflect and take an inventory. Are you willing to be in fellowship with people who believe or vote differently than you? Write down your thoughts. Do you think you could walk beside them even while not seeing eye to eye? 

Day 2: Read 1 Corinthians 1:10. What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it a combination of Bible knowledge, doing good things, and loving people? Or, is it having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If it is the later, what does it even mean to have a relationship with Jesus? How can we know a man who lived 2000 years ago? Take a moment and consider: what is the core of your faith? How do you get to know someone? Usually, it requires conversation, listening, finding out who they are, and letting them get to know you. We can’t have a relationship with someone without knowing anything about them. This is why our theology (knowledge of God) matters. It is for this reason that we are united in what we believe. Go to www.lscckc.org/beliefs and read it through. How do these statements strike you? If you agree with them why? If you don’t agree with them, that’s ok. I’d like to invite you on a journey to follow Jesus, to get to know Him, and to explore the tough questions. With whom can you discuss your questions? Are some of your questions answered during Sunday services or in your small group? Regardless of where you are at today, stay in pursuit of the questions you hold today.  

Day 3: Yesterday, we took a look at how our beliefs unite us as Jesus’ followers. Today, let’s consider how the things we believe can divide us.Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. While knowledge of God is crucial to having a relationshipwith Him, knowledge can also be a pitfall for us. It is so easy for our perceived knowledge of God to, “puff us up.” We can easily think we’ve got things all figured out and that anyone who disagrees with us is either ignorant or stupid. How silly it is that we mere mortals can often be tempted to think that we have the eternal God of the universe all figured out. (Isaiah 55:8-9) God is so vast and beyond our understanding, that a better for us to approach our knowledge of Him with humility and others knowledge of Him with grace. In dealing with differences of theology, could it be that there might be times when God invites us to walk side by side even when we don’t see eye to eye? Is there someone in your life that disagrees with you theologically? Take some time to pray for them or maybe offer to pray with them. Pray also that God would strengthen unity as he continues to reveal Himself to both of you today.  

Day 4: Read 1 Corinthians 13. It doesn’t matter how right we are, if we don’t have love, our knowledge is worthless. Our theology is only as good as its ability to help us love well. Right knowledge of God and His word will always lead us to love. Take out a piece of paper and write down these words: impatient, unkind, jealous, boastful, proud, rude, demands its own way, irritable, keeps record of being wronged, rejoices about injustice, gives up, loses faith, and hopeless. This is what our lives look like without love, even if we believe all the right things about God. Love doesn’t demand its own way (v. 5a). Keep this list with you today as a reminder of how desperately we are in need of God’s love in us and through us.

Day 5: Read Colossians 3:12-17. In order for there to be unity in the church, there must first be forgiveness. Is there someone in your life that you need to ask to forgive you? Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Take a full five minutes to consider these questions. We, the church, are God’s chosen people, and He declares us holy and dearly loved. Pray that the peace of Christ would rule in our hearts, and that we would be united in the peace and love of Jesus. As you go about your day today, remember that everything you do, you do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Refer back to this statement at the end of the day. How did you represent Jesus today? We are his body and His representatives to the world.

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