February 24, 2019

By Faith

Having Faith in the Midst of Fear

Day 1: Fear, all healthy people experience fear. But have you ever found yourself or visited with someone who was afraid of fear? Let that sink in. As Jack spoke of Exodus 14, the people were trapped between the sea and an approaching army. They had cause to feel fear. The doctor calls, a spouse leaves, the job ends, a friend betrays. There are many disruptions and losses to endure in this life. We will all feel fear and uncertainty; some things are just scary. How do you respond? Where do you typically turn, to whom or what do you find yourself looking to when you feel fear? 

 

Day 2: Re-read day 1. Over and over, scripture say, “be not afraid.” That is, don’t sit in your fear, don’t take counsel from it, don’t trust in or follow it. Fear won’t take you where you want to go or help you become who you are called to be. Fear is a horrible leader and a cruel god. Yet even when we are neck deep in fear, we can consider God. We can reflect on His character - who He is, how He is, and what He has said are His ways which lead to life. We can choose to trust and depend on Him for everything however He may choose to act. Emmanuel, which means God is with us! Can I trust, have faith, depend on and live a life with God even in the circumstances and losses of life? What would that take, who would you need in your life, day in and day out, to help you more deeply to know and depend on Him? 

 

Day 3: Fear lies to us. It tells us to go when we should pause and be still. It can paralyze us when we should act, tells us to seize control and manipulate when we should submit and follow, leads us to retaliate when we should offer forgiveness and pursue peace. Think back to a time when you were genuinely fearful. Where were you? What were the circumstances? Reflect on the desperation you may have felt in your fear, how alone fear said you were, and what fear may have called you to? Read Numbers 13:26-33. The people ignored the directive to go into the land God had promised. Fear led the people to call what God had called good, bad. Fear led them to see and report giants, to even speak as if they had interviewed the giants “we are like grasshoppers to them.” Fear led them to lie to the whole community. 

 

Day 4: On Sunday, Jack asked us if we could trust God to hear our cry? What does it mean that God hears your cry? Would He know your pain or struggle, remember where you are? Or does it mean something more? Do you need God to answer your prayers in a specific way? Do you need a desired outcome? If the prayed for result does not appear, then what? Does that mean He is not trustworthy or that He is not who He says He is? Give those questions an honest reflection. If appropriate, include this in a prayer to God, “I do have some needs and requests to ask of you, but no matter the outcome or how You choose to act, I will trust You and cling to the reality that You are good. I choose to live by faith in who You are and what You can do.”    

 

Day 5: In Exodus 14, the people were trapped between the sea and an approaching army. They had cause to feel fear, and they listened to it and took its counsel. They presumed to know a better way than the way God had taken them. Have you been there? There are times when our ways or paths are removed, and we turn to God as our only hope – or even as our last hope? Turning to God when all options have evaporated is faith, it’s just a hard way to practice it! But what does faith look like when you have multiple options? It’s infinitely more difficult to trust God and follow His ways (to have faith) when we have what looks like three or four good options. Daily and weekly life-giving habits can center us and help us to hear the bold step He is calling us to take “out into the sea.” Consider your current spiritual habits. How are they helping you, growing your faith, changing you more into the person you are created to be? Do you need to make some changes to your habits? 

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February 17, 2019

By Faith

Walking By Faith In the Midst of Failure

*The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37. It does not end until Genesis does. For those interested, we recommend reading these 14 chapters if you get a chance, as there is value in comprehending the context of a story as well as coming to your own understanding of events that took place. For the more time sensitive study, we will focus on Joseph’s walk with God in a few examples given to us throughout these 14 chapters.  

 

Day 1: A common misconception about faith is the idea that it is developed instantaneously. Looking at the story of Joseph, it could be easy to think that he always had faith and, therefore, was the recipient of miracles. However, Joseph’s journey from being sold into slavery to sitting at the right hand of Pharaoh took 20 years. Although this is summarized in four chapters of the Bible, Joseph had to live this out day by day (Genesis 37, 39-41). What challenges do you think Joseph faced with keeping faith? How do you think Joseph remained focused on maintaining his faith throughout these hard times? What does remaining focused on your own faith look like in times of difficulty? 

 

Day 2: Try to think about the progression of situations Joseph finds himself in without thinking about where he ends up. Read Genesis 40:1- 41:1. Imagine how Joseph sought to maintain his faith after the cupbearer forgot about him? Do you think Joseph was focused on his current situation in prison? In this chapter, we see that Joseph desired to be freed from prison in verses 14 and 15, but is that what motivated him? Joseph spent another two years in prison before the cupbearer finally remembered him and helped him to freedom. Those two years would have felt crushing if Joseph’s faith were built upon the outcomes he desired. If his faith was not centered on potential outcomes, what was it centered on? 

 

Day 3: Read Genesis 39:2-20. When Joseph was serving Potiphar, it would have been in Joseph’s best interest to keep Potiphar’s wife happy. Joseph instead followed God’s path and was punished for it. God uses life circumstances to develop us, just as he did with Joseph. In many cases, these situations come from actions or events that we have no control over. It is easy to feel victimized in these times. Surely Joseph could relate to this feeling. Even so, he continued to pursue God instead of blaming him or trying to fix it himself. If Joseph had succumbed to Potiphar’s wife and taken his situation into his own hands, he would have missed out on a different and better future. Why is it so difficult for us to give up control and follow God’s plan? Do you face a decision or a fork in the road right now? How does it require faith of you?  

 

Day 4: In Joseph’s story he continually finds himself in tough situations and in need of God’s help. God used these times to fortify Joseph’s faith and transform him into the person we can now read about. The first encounter we have with him, Joseph is bragging to his less-favored brothers about being the best of them all resulting in them selling him into slavery. God uses the struggle of Joseph’s journey after this to change him into the person, 20 years later, that shows mercy to his brothers in their time of need, even though he would have had complete authority to deny them help. This is a change of heart. How does living faithfully change people? Why is being faithful worth it? Joseph seems to be a very capable man, yet he trusts his life, situations, and outcomes solely on God. How can we be more like this? 

 

Day 5: Joseph clearly demonstrated what it means to live a life with God. Through taking steps with God, having faith in God, and sacrificing selfish desires to pursue God over the span of his lifetime, Joseph shows that this is a long process. Although having faith is an active choice, there is not a faith “switch” that just needs to be turned on. Through following God and seeing the evidence of a better life, Joseph was able to continually choose to have faith in God’s plan. We can do the same. What are some of the hardest things about choosing to have faith? What habits can you implement to protect and build your faith? What decisions do you need to make to better follow God in order to live a faith-filled life?  

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February 10, 2019

By Faith

Day 1: This weekend during service, we connected, via video, with couples  at the “LSCC ReCharge Marriage Retreat Weekend” in Branson, MO. The event provided a time to unplug and relax together, laugh together, and learn how to thrive in relationship with your best friend. Retreat, with spouse or personal, can provide beneficial refocus with God who is ,Himself, a great retreat. “You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your word to renew me.” Psalm 119:114 When have you had a time for withdrawal from daily stress? Whether it’s a formal break, or simply quiet time over coffee at your home one morning, seek quiet, focused prayer time to further your relationship with God.  

 

Day 2: Cory taught this week on 1 Kings 18 and the story of Elijah. Elijah promises, and prays, for rain to end the terrible drought plaguing Israel. He goes to the mountain to ask again, and again, and again for rain. Elijah asked a servant to check for sight of a rain cloud seven times. Often, we ask God to move and in the way we’d like, and the timing we’d like. We move forward and yet, the voice of God is sometimes quiet, and the response from heaven seems silent. Where do you put your faith when your prayers go unanswered? How do you cope when what you want doesn’t align with what God lays before you? Read Jeremiah 29:11 

 

Day 3: Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” During our school days, graduation was the goal, but the learning was in the classes and knowledge we gained during that process. Often when overcoming obstacles, what we learn is as important, or more important, than the outcome. That’s also true in God’s plan for us. As Cory taught, sometimes the process is the breeding ground for faith and a deeper journey with Jesus. Consider the times in your past where God seemed silent, what perspectives did you gain? What lessons do you now see that God was teaching you? Take some time to think and pray about a past season in your life – maybe 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Consider this quote from Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer as you pray. “God has taught me to focus not on results, but on obedience.”  

  

Day 4: When you find yourself waiting in the process, instead of turning from God out of complaint and frustration, commit to do as Elijah did, and turn toward God. Continue to seek him and learn from Him – allowing him to shape your life and character into the likeness of Jesus. When we get caught in a rain shower without an umbrella, we put our heads down as the water pummels our face, soaks our clothes and weighs down our shoes. Without the shelter in the storm, we are miserable.  When we get caught up in the storm of life, we trudge along with protest and worry. If we seek shelter in the Lord and with other supportive believers, we still experience the storm, but we can feel relief and respite in His loving protection. Consider a recent struggle or obstacle. Have you experienced hardship with a close friend or co-worker, faced job loss, marital strife, illness, injury or another calamity? Are you struggling today with issues that seem to be raining down on your life? What steps can you take to turn toward God in this valley? Read Hebrews 12:2.  

 

Day 5: The worship song by the Newsboys says, “When the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid, because I know that you love me, your love never fails.” (Your Love Never Fails). Just as Elijah held fast to his faith, hold tight to your faith in the process of life. His love will never fail you! Find a favorite worship song that reminds you of God’s faithfulness and his unfailing love. Take time to listen and reflect. Before going about your day, think about the people around you. Is there a boss, co-worker, classmate, family member or friend who could use some encouragement to continue to fight, to keep the faith, to know that they are not alone?  

 

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February 3, 2019

By Faith

Faith Leads to Action

Day 1: At the start of this current message series, By Faith, we looked at the importance of having a foundation of faith, based upon Luke 6:46-49. Read that passage. True faith results in obedience to Christ, which is like building your house on a rock. Yet when someone professes faith but doesn’t obey Jesus, it’s like building a house on sand. That house will eventually collapse.  Think about what types of activities occupied your time this week. Did those activities include acting on the words of Jesus because you believe what He says? How about the pattern of activities that occupy your life? What kind of foundation would that pattern suggest you are building for your life? 

 

Day 2: Read James 2:14-17. Do you feel the gravity of James’ words? He says faith, if it has no works, is dead. Like the foundation of sand was useless to support the house, faith without any works is powerless and of no effect. This reflects one of the themes of the book of James; that authentic Christian faith means that believers have a responsibility to practice what we preach. We should not be like the person who says, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and doesn’t choose to help a brother or sister in need. What’s one way you think God is calling you to live out your faith this week? Is there a practical need you can meet in someone’s life?  

 

Day 3: Yesterday we read that faith, if it has no works, is dead. James is not teaching how to be saved, but how to live once you are saved. Works have nothing to do with securing our salvation. Rather, works are the fruit of the new life God has given believers. Read Ephesians 2:8-10. We are reminded here that salvation is a gift by grace through faith, not a result of works. But notice, that those who have been saved are saved for good works – works that God prepared in advance for us to accomplish. That’s an amazing thought -- God has a plan for how your life is to glorify Him. When was the last time you sensed the Holy Spirit prompting you to accomplish a work He’s prepared for you to do? Write out the steps you will take today to obey. 

 

Day 4: Read James 2:18-20. James issues a challenge here by saying, prove your faith without showing any works. His argument is that it’s not possible. We are to show our faith by our works. Why? Because that’s how we glorify God. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. (NASB). This suggests that our works not only glorify God, but they benefit people. Does the way you treat and care for others clearly demonstrate that you have faith? If not, pray and ask God to help you overcome any attitudes or beliefs that prevent you from serving others. For some, the obstacle to overcome could be a failure to truly trust in Jesus Christ. In that case, ask God to grant you genuine faith and a relationship with Jesus. Then reach out to someone within the church who can help you take the next steps in a walk with Jesus.   

 

Day 5: This week we’ve looked at establishing a rock-solid foundation of faith by not just professing faith only but by practicing what Jesus has commanded. This demonstrates that our faith is not dead, as we accomplish good works that glorify God. What better way to end the week than by looking at Abraham. Read James 2:20-24. James says that Abraham was working out his faith, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected. Perfected means completed. As a result of offering his son Isaac on the alter, Abraham’s faith was shown to be complete. That is, the expected fruit of genuine faith actually appeared in his life. Why did Abraham’s life produce fruit? Simply put, he believed that God was faithful to do what He had promised. Take some time to recount the ways God has proven Himself faithful to you. Now pray that He will help you live according to what you’ve seen to be true of Him. 

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January 27, 2019

By Faith

Day 1: Read Matthew 8:1-4 What does the man with leprosy tell Jesus? What is his attitude towards Jesus’ ability to heal him? He wasn’t doubting Jesus’ ability to cleanse his leprosy. He knew it depended on Jesus’ will. Is this your attitude toward desires and needs in your life? Do you have confidence in what God can do and you leave it in His hands whether he is willing to do it? Identify a struggle you have in your life or a request you have for God, perhaps something that you brought to God on Sunday.  Recognize God’s great ability and leave it in His hands. Pray this prayer regarding your need, “Lord, if you are willing, you can _________.”  

 

Day 2: Read Matthew 8:5-13 The centurion knew who Jesus was and the power He has. He knew what Jesus could do and based his request on that. Think about who you know God to be. It is one thing to believe that God could do something in theory. It is another thing to believe that He can do something in your life. Is there anything that you are confident God wants to do in your life? Who do you believe Him to be? Knowing who God is and what He wants to do gives sureness to our requests. Seek to grow in knowing God and learning of his will in our lives – the man or woman he wants you to be. Then you will grow in confidence in your requests.  

 

Day 3Read Matthew 8:5-13 again. Jesus said He would go to the centurion’s house to heal his servant, but the centurion knew how great Jesus was; that Jesus was capable of healing his servant from a distance. Jesus was already on his way to heal the servant, but the centurion asked for something more because he knew Jesus’ authority and power. Do you see God working in your life, but you know he is capable of more? Don’t be afraid to ask God for more in line with what you know of God and His greatness. Name off a few places where you know God is already working in your life or another’s life. Now, in light of who God is and His will and His promises, do you believe there are greater things he could be doing? Ask him! 

 

Day 4: Read Matthew 9:18-26 The ruler knew that Jesus could heal his daughter and he thought the action that was necessary was Jesus coming to put his hand on her and she would live. So, he invited Jesus to come to his house to put his hand on her. The woman with bleeding knew Jesus could heal her and she thought the action that was necessary was touching his cloak. So, she touched his cloak. In both cases, they had faith and so they took the action they thought necessary. It was not that the specific action itself did the trick. Their faith is why Jesus healed. They took action because of their faith, and in their actions, Jesus saw their faith. What do you have in your mind that your faith would have you do? Is there a need or request you brought to God on Sunday and there is something you believe God would want you to do about it? Take action.  

 

Day 5: Read Matthew 9:27-30 Jesus told the blind men, “According to your faith it will be done to you.” (Matthew 9:29). To some degree what God can do is affected by what we believe He can do. Not that He is limited by our faith in actuality, but that He limits Himself, holds Himself back, when faith is lacking. Are there specific areas in your life where you lack faith – where worry or fear exist? Meditate on who God is according to his Word. Exercise faith in God over the situations in your life. How would that change your attitude, actions, and perspective? And who knows what God will do if you trust Him in these areas! Pray and persist. Continue taking steps of faith in him.   

 

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January 20, 2019

By Faith

Lack of…

Day 1: Last week we looked at Abraham’s faith. Read Genesis 22:11-14 and Hebrews 11:17-19. Abraham believed that, “The Lord will provide.” He trusted God. True faith is always based in trust. It’s a relationship. We believe that God will provide for us because that’s who He is. This week we looked at what Jesus said about faith. In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus reasons that there is no need to worry about tomorrow because God already knows what we need, and we are valuable to Him. We belong to God, and He cares about us and for us. At least, that’s what Jesus claims. How is your faith today? Do you believe God sees you are valuable, and that He will care for you? Sometimes, when we struggle with our faith, it helps us to remember who God is (our provider), and it can help us to remember what He has done for us. After all, God did not make Abraham kill his only son as a sacrifice. Instead, God provided a sacrifice, and ultimately providing His own son, Jesus, for us.

Day 2: Read Matthew 8:23-27. If you were in a sinking boat with Jesus what would your response be? I don’t know about you, but I would probably be yelling, “Wake up Jesus; we’re all going to die!” Yet Jesus says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” The author and creator of the universe was in the boat with the disciples, and yet they were still scared. Is it possible that there are times that our lack of faith causes us to live in fear? Life has a way of being scary. Jobs, relationships, sickness, children, etc. can cause us to make fear-based decisions. Lacking faith can lead to worry, fear, and panic, but Jesus says, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) Settle on this story and that last sentence for a moment. Write down a few of your thoughts. Is there a way to remind yourself that God is with you today?

Day 3: Read Matthew 13:53-58. “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” The people in Jesus’ town weren’t ready to believe who Jesus was and, as a result, they missed out on what God was doing. Could it be that there are times when we miss out on what God is doing because of our lack of faith? God is doing amazing things all around us; He invites us to be a part of it and yet often we choose to not be a part of it. Read Mark 9:17-24. I love how this father responded to Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Faith is not black and white. It’s not simply on or off. We can have faith, yet we can still doubt. We all have a measure of faith. Consider praying these words today, “God, I believe in you, but it’s not easy. Help me to overcome my disbelief. God, help me to not miss out on what you are doing all around me. Deepen my faith and trust in You today.”

Day 4: Read Matthew 14:22-33. Peter took a huge step of faith! He stepped out on the water to come to Jesus, but then his faith wavered and he began to sink. Often times in life we can step out in faith, but when we realize what’s going on around us, our faith can waver. Guess what, that’s ok. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” God will be there to catch us when we fall. It is far better to step out of the boat and risk sinking than to never get out of the boat because our faith isn’t strong enough. Is there something scary in your life that Jesus is inviting you to step out in faith in? Maybe it’s a conversation you don’t want to have. Maybe there is something God wants you to give but you are scared that you won’t have enough. Whatever it is, write it down, pray about it. Will you commit yourself to stepping out in faith today?

Day 5: Read Matthew 17:14-21. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Is this true or was Jesus exaggerating to make a point? Maybe it’s a little of both. Recently, my seven-year-old son asked me about Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” “What does this mean,” he asked. “Can I fly and crush boulders with my bare hands, Daddy?” How would you respond to him? Right or wrong here is what I told him, “Buddy, how is it that birds can fly?” “Because God made them that way,” he replied. So I asked, “Why are elephants so strong?” “Because God made them that way, Daddy,” he said. I responded, “Animals can do amazing things because that’s what God made them to do. What do you think God made us to do? Perhaps, God made us to love Him and to love others, and God has given us the power to do that in amazing ways, and nothing can ever stop that.”  What has God made you to do? Consider memorizing Philippians 4:13 and repeat it today. Even more than that, try living it today.

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January 13, 2019

By Faith

Foundation Of

Day 1: We spent the last two months in a series, A Matter of the Heart. Before turning our attention towards faith, consider some of the lessons you learned or rediscovered about your heart and God’s heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV) Did you become more aware of the condition of your heart? Are you more familiar with the risks of ‘heart disease’ in your life? How would you describe your spiritual heart condition today? What are the best rhythms, or spiritual exercises that align your heart with what God cares about?

Day 2: As we move into this next series, the idea of faith is interesting to consider. We throw around the term faith quite a bit. One common example is when we say we ‘trust in our favorite sports team’. We have ‘faith’ or we can believe our team can win the big game. If they win, our faith grows. But if not, our faith or devotion in the team can weaken. In instances like this, faith is conditional. If we’re not careful and aware, we can apply that same conditional rationale to our faith in God. When things are going well, we tend to have much faith. When not, our faith in Him can waver. Consider the definition of faith Pastor Cory shared on Sunday. Faith, “a firm persuasion, conviction and belief in the truth, reality and faithfulness of God.” What current circumstance in your life has the ability to build or weaken your faith? Reflect on how life circumstances can affect one’s faith.

Day 3: Hebrews 11:1. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (NASB) “The assurance of things hoped for,” how can one have assurance or confidence in someone or something? For me it comes down to predictability. Can I rely on or trust in someone? How about you? How would you describe having confidence or faith in another? Yesterday we read that faith can waiver based on circumstances. To have a deep foundation of faith in someone or in God means that through all of the ups and down of life, through all of the unexplainable realties or pain in life, we know that someone will remain consistent and true. We can trust in their character. Read Hebrews 11: 1 in a variety of Bible translations. If you need a resource, download the You Version Bible app or use the Bible linked through our LSCC App. After reading 4-5 versions, pick one and read it over and over. What can you learn about faith through this one sentence?

Day 4: Read Hebrews 11: 1 and 2 Corinthians 4:13-18. Faith is the assurance of what we do not see. In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul challenges us to fix our eyes, not what is seen, but what is unseen. This is another element of faith. The seen vs. the unseen. Physical objects can be looked at and touched. Consider the things that are seen in your life. Would you say those things are temporary? What is Paul trying to show us? Now how about the unseen things in your life? Did your answer include values, character, or relationships? Talk with a friend or family member about our pursuit of the seen and the unseen. What unseen things are you pursuing?

Day 5: A Christ follower may contend that faith in Jesus matters for two reasons: It determines one’s eternity and helps one in this life. Read Romans 4:4-8 and 8:38-39. We cannot work to be made right with God. Instead, God makes us right (righteous) through faith in Him. Being right with him means being with Him today and every day going forward. “Blessed are those who transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered.” For the one who walks in this faith every day, there is peace knowing that an on-going relationship with God (in heaven) is an ultimate reality. We don’t need everything in life to be right or great today. The life we live on Earth will bring disappointment, hurt and trouble, yet what is not right on Earth, will be right in heaven. Are you living an on-going life of faith? Have you surrendered ultimate control of your life and pursued this relationship with God? If not, are you ready or is something holding you back? If you have, how is your faith, your relationship with God, present in your day today?

Day 6: Read Hebrews 11:1 Recite your favorite version of Hebrews 11:1 from memory if you can. What word builds your faith? Find two times during the day to recite this verse allowing it to encourage you.

Day 7: Again recite Hebrews 11:1 from memory. How are you doing? Do you have it mostly memorized, partially memorized? Having this verse in your mind can help you through the worst or most terrifying days. Figure out a plan to practice memorizing it until you can recall it and let it give you hope and a fresh perspective.

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January 6, 2019

A Matter of the Heart

Risks

Day 1: Happy New Year! Last week, Pastor Jack spoke to us about the newly arrived 2019. He challenged us to consider, “Will this be a new year for you, or will this just be like last year?” Over the last week, what have you discovered in yourself, and your life, for changes in the new year? Where will you focus to seek a new heart as we jump into another trip around the sun? Read Isaiah 43: 18-19 and Jeremiah 29:11. Pray to the Lord over these passages, and trust that the future is gifted, blessed and protected by the Father. Ask for the openness to travel a path of new discovery - full of love - on our journey to live and become more like Jesus.

Day 2: Pastor Steve continued our discussion of heart this week evaluating our “risk”. The bible states in several passages the pitfalls of our sinful nature.  Read Colossians 3:5-8 and Galatians 5:19-21. Jesus points out to us- to help us quit kidding ourselves- to realize/admit we are the biggest threat to our own hearts, of doing our heart’s damage. Doctors educate us about physical heart disease, and it’s contributing factors. Spiritually speaking, what factors are contributing to your heart disease? Consider your own attitudes, values, motives, behavior, patterns of thought, etc. Are you open to clearly see where your heart might hold Christ-likeness vs. Christ-unlikeness?

Day 3: Luke 15:11 holds the story of the prodigal son. A passage you may have learned from your early Sunday school days. The focus is always on the younger son who returns home, but what about the older son? The older son, although outwardly doing the right things, developed a sense of entitlement that led to pious resentment and contempt inside his heart. Just as the Pharisees outwardly wore adornments and were strict moralists, Jesus assessed them to be whitewashed tombs, dead to God on the inside. They had mastered their scriptures, knew all the right language, but were far from God. “First clean the inside of your cup.”  This is a clear call for each of us to become aware of our individual risks through disciplines, practices and community in our lives to address our interior lives, our hearts.  As children, we are taught the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have done unto you. Matthew 7:12. As adults, we learn the Latin legal term, “Quid pro quo” – a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something. What’s your motivation for your behaviors toward your spouse, coworkers, friends? Examine your heart; are you seeking to be more like Jesus with love/devotion, or seeking a “tit for tat”, self-serving outcome like the older brother in the story?

Day 4: Continue Matthew 7: 13-14. “Narrow Gate vs Wide Gate” Which path will you follow? At first, starting through the narrow gate seems daunting, tight, restrictive. Disciplines, practices, study, self-awareness, and change are difficult to adopt, but as you travel the narrow way, aligned to the kingdom of God, the path widens. You discover the freedom of life to fullest and a grateful heart. The wide gate, although easy at first, leads to a life that destroys us from the inside out. The things along this path that start out as appealing eventually turn on us and begin to own us. Read Ephesians 5:3-6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Which path are you traveling? The choice for this path comes many times a day, the good news is the narrow path to Jesus Christ is always available! 

Day 5: What are my next steps? What changes can I make in the New Year that lead to living and to becoming more like Jesus?

  • Prayer and worship – To realign my perspective to God’s perspective, rather than vice versa.

  • Bible Study – To help me to better know Jesus.

  • Serve – To shape my heart away from self-absorption.

  • Community – To walk with others, and to have them walk with you; asking and answering the hard questions about our attitudes, thinking and ultimately, our heart. lscckc.org/groups - is a resource for those seeking community and connection.


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December 30, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1:  Read Galatians 5:1, 22-26.  As we heard on Sunday the greeting, “Happy New Year” raises a question. Will next year be a NEW year or will it just be another year like all the years before? This can be a haunting question especially the older we get. Years pass by faster with age. Yet, we are all capable of and at risk of finishing next year as we did this year. Where have you changed for the better? Another way to ask is where is the fruit? (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control.) Maybe even consider the last 3, 5, 10 years. As we close 2018, consider these questions: What were the major activities or issues that kept you from growing in your life and your relationships? How are you treating others? Are you more generous, compassionate, forgiving, graceful, merciful, or a serving person than you were at the close of 2017? Conversely, where did we see change, transformation, love, obedience, and more dependence on Jesus? What do you see coming out of your heart through your attitudes, patterns of thoughts you are locked into, and behaviors that flow from these attitudes and patterns even in within the last couple of weeks?  

  

Day 2: Read Psalms 123 and Matthew 13:21. We all have some bad habits, and habits are difficult to break. Is there a habit you do over and over year after year? Though you really don’t want to, you find yourself having the same attitudes. Maybe they are relational problems. Are you having the same unhealthy conversations with your spouse, parent or child? Maybe they are internal issues. Are there patterns of insecurities, failures, fears, addictions or self-centeredness? Ever say, “I can’t keep living this way!”? Yet deep in your heart you don’t believe you can really change. It may feel hopeless. Can I challenge you? This actually may be a heart problem or a faith problem. God will meet us where we are, but it means us surrendering our plans, our attempts. What do you need to surrender today? What obstacles did you recognize or remember as you read yesterday’s devotional reading?  

 

Day 3: Read 2 Corinthians 3:18, 5:17, Zechariah 7:11-13. Let’s talk about our need for a new heart. Why do we still need a new heart if old things are passed away and all things become new? Because this transformation of actually becoming like Jesus is not just a one-time event but a lifetime process. We are given a new heart. A heart that is soft instead of hard. Flesh instead of stone. Pliable instead of stubborn. One that desires to please God instead of self. The direction of our heart has turned around (repented). Instead of being inward on “me”, we look upward on God and outward on others. Yet our heart is not fully like His yet. Set in the right direction we want to please Him and in the process of being changed, yet we all know even of instances today when this does not describe our heart. What caused your heart to be hard or stubborn this week? What hurts your heart? Ask God to touch those areas of your life. Come to Him with hope.  

 

Day 4: Read Ecclesiastes 11:5 and Romans 12: 2-3 The Apostle Peter was all over the board in his spiritual journey of change and transformation. Peter was a fisherman and decided to stop fishing to hang out with Jesus for three years. Peter saw, experienced, and heard all that Jesus said and did. He understood his sin in the presence of Jesus; he had a great revelation of who Jesus is; he rebuked the idea of Jesus’ suffering and death and boasted that he will never deny the Lord. After his death and resurrection, Jesus restores and shows Peter mercy and gives him another chance while on the beach. Then, Peter starts believing in faith and stepping into the calling Jesus had for him. Eventually, Peter authors three books of the Bible and becomes one of the most significant leaders of the early church. This is a great snapshot of a journey or life of following and becoming more like Jesus. Though Peter matured he never fully arrived; we say and do stupid or shameful things, but we can continue taking steps by daily choosing to hang out with Jesus, submit to His will and ways. In doing so, we learn to care what He cares about. Proverbs 23:26 challenges us to let our eyes delight in his ways and change our hearts. What about you, where are you in your journey? Have you resolved to address a habit, attitude or relationship? Are you going to surrender to him in the hopes of starting a new year?  

 

Day 5:  Read I John 1:5-9 God is light, and we experience him when we walk in the light. Yet we all know darkness. A sinful nature still resides in us. Even though this process of change is different for each of us, there is one ingredient that is the same for all. Transformation involves failure, repeated failure. It involves learning from our failures. Trust God with your failure. Lean into Him and give your failure over to Him. Repent and forgive yourself and others if needed. Step back into the light as quickly as you can. As you set out to be renewed this year and resolve yourself to be different or rid yourself of a harmful habit or attitude, lean into God. You will receive deep fullness of his presence and miraculous transformation of your character. Walk boldly in the light today.  

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December 23, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: We are weak, but God is strong. When our hearts feel weak, remembering God’s presence with us can give us strength. There are many reasons we can be sure God is with us. Settle in your chair and consider these four: First, God has created the world and the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). There is not a place we can go that He is not there (Psalm 139). He shows us His beauty and greatness in creation everywhere we look (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). Second, the life of Jesus shows us God is with us as a person. God is not far off and aloof. He came and lived as a man. Weak and suffering, joys and sorrows - He can identify with us in every way (Hebrews 2:9-18, 4:14-5:10). Third, the death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that God wants to be with us and has taken down every barrier that separates us from Him. We can be sure that nothing stands in the way or can take us away from Him (Ephesians 2:11-22, Romans 8:31-39). Fourth, He has given us His Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, as a gift and a promise that He is with us forever (John 14:16-27, Ephesians 1:13-14). Read some of the scripture passages from above and spend a few minutes meditating on the reality of God’s presence with you.  

Day 2: All of us encounter dark, discouraging times simply because in our heart we feel like we have no strength to take the next step and do what our mind knows we need to do. Have you ever felt heart weakness? For me, reoccurring problems at work and not seeing change in areas of my life I really care about lead to weakness in my heart. When does your heart feel weak? Read I Samuel 30:1-6. David was not yet king, living in foreign territory, was sent home from battle, and then arrived home to discover this situation. What does it say David did at the end of verse 6? Have you ever found strength in God in such a dark or confusing time? How did that happen? Solitude? Prayer? Remembering His promises in His Word? Worship music? Talking to a trusted friend? Listening to an encouraging message or reading an encouraging book? Were you at the Christmas Eve service and do you recall the “Bob, I am with you” story? Identify ways you have found strength from God in the past. 

 

Day 3: Jesus felt very weak in his heart in the garden of Gethsemane. Read Mark 14:32-42. When Jesus was troubled in His heart so deeply, He went to a quiet spot with a few of his closest friends, asked them to watch and pray. Then Jesus got away by Himself and prayed repeatedly to His Father about his situation. When our hearts feel weak, removing ourselves from distractions and pouring out our hearts to God the Father while listening to Him can be a powerful experience. We can see from Jesus’ life that he had a pattern of going to a place of solitude early in the morning or late at night to be alone with his Father and pray. Being in a regular pattern of alone time in God’s presence is healthy for the strength of our hearts. At the same time, don’t go it alone. Jesus brought friends with Him, told them what was going on in His heart, and asked them to watch and pray. When your heart is feeling weak, tell friends what is going on in your heart, spend time with them, and ask them to pray for you.  Then take some time to be alone with God, reduce distractions, and pour out your heart to Him.  

Day 4: Sometimes we feel weak because we are weak. There are things we simply cannot make better or make happen. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Does God sometimes leave us in a weak state for a reason? What is that purpose? Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. To show our strength or to show God’s strength?  When we are weak, we need to remember that God’s answer is sometimes not to make us strong, but to show His strength in our weakness. When Jesus was crucified, did He look strong? But now we look back and see God’s mighty strength. In the midst of our weakness, let us trust God’s strength to do good. Take an area of your life where you feel weak, where your heart struggles. Like Jesus in the garden, yield it to God by presenting your requests to God for the situation, and then saying with Jesus, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, NIV).  Pray and search for God’s strength in the midst of your weakness.  

 

Day 5: We may not be physically strong or successful in this world but remembering our hope can help our hearts be strong. In Psalm 42, David tells his own heart repeatedly, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? … Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 42:5). Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b). What does Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18? Keeping perspective and remembering our hope is so key to the strength of our hearts. What are some ways that you can remind yourself of where our hope lies? A verse on a window? A reminder on your phone? A new habit? Build Scripture regarding our hope into your life. When the Holy Spirit reminds you of those truths, take heart and have hope that He is strengthening your heart.  

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December 16, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Four Conditions Of The Heart

Day 1: In Matthew 13:3-9, we find Jesus teaching the crowds with parables. As Doug mentioned in his message, the word parable means “to place alongside.” A parable is a story or comparison used alongside a teaching to make it more understandable. This parable teaches about the kingdom of heaven and how the Word is sown and received based upon the condition or “soil” of the heart. Jesus closes the parable by saying, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The phrase “let him hear” carries the idea of paying attention to, understanding and obeying. We will consider the four soils described in this parable over the next few days. But today, simply ask yourself, “Do I have ears to hear when the Bible is preached, such that I’m obeying, or following, what God is saying to me?” Take some time to pray. As you do, consider your process for hearing and allowing life-giving truth to be worked into your life. What have you been working in your life lately? Ask God to help you be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. (James 1: 22-25) 

 

Day 2: Read Matthew 13:18-19. Like a seed, the word of God has life – it’s living and powerful as Hebrews 4:12 teaches...the word is living and active. So it’s not hard to see why Jesus would compare the Word to a seed that fell on four types of soil. Today’s verses refer to the soil beside the road, where the seed fell and was trampled under foot (Luke 8:5). This resulted in the birds eating it up. This soil represents the hardened heart, unreceptive to God’s Word. So Satan snatches away what was sown. We must all consider what things in our lives might contribute to a hardened heart. What contends for your heart’s devotion and causes the most resistance to God?  

 

Day 3: Read Matthew 13:20-21 We’ve all had experiences where something initially grabbed our attention but, in time, we realized we really had no interest in it. The excitement had waned because our devotion to it didn’t go deep. Well, Jesus says this happens to some who initially receive the Word with joy, but they later fall away when the Word brings internal discomfort or conflict. They go from responsive to unresponsive to the truth. This is the “shallow heart”. Does your life reflect an ongoing receptiveness to God’s word despite the costs of obeying Jesus? Or has your faith been shallow? Have you seen your faith become withered by the trials of life? Here is a foundational question Jesus is challenging us to consider. Do you believe trusting in yourself or God will produce a life of purpose and of peace?  

 

Day 4: Read Matthew 13:22 The third soil Jesus presents in this parable represents the anxious heart. This heart is distracted by the cares and desires of this life and this prevents the word of God from bearing fruit in this individual. In Matthew 6:24, while teaching about wealth, Jesus says no one can serve two masters. And in 1 John 2:15 we’re commanded, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Just a few weeks ago, the sermon series “How to Be Rich,” reminded us of the importance of being content. In this parable, we again see the dangers of desiring wealth and worldly things – it chokes the word of God in a person’s life. Take a moment to make a list of concerns you have in life right now. Make a second list of biblical truths you’ve read, discussed in small group or have heard preached recently. Consider how you can actively focus on the truth of God’s Word rather than the concerns that have burdened you. Then a take step to begin memorizing 1-2 truths, so you can turn to them when worry begins to creep into your heart.  

 

Day 5: Read Matthew 13:23 The last soil Jesus presents is the “good soil,” which represents a healthy heart. This heart’s good health is reflected by its fruitfulness. It’s important to see that of all the soils, this one is the only one that bears any fruit. A fruitful life from God’s perspective can only result from one type of heart – a heart that hears the word in a way that results in obedience. As you consider the descriptions of the four hearts, which one describes you this week? Here’s an assignment. Look up these verses regarding the various conditions of the heart and evaluate the condition of your own heart. Job 41:24, Ps 12:2, Ps 61:2, Ps 66:18, Ps 73:21, Ps 78:8, Ps 81:12, Ps 101:4, Ps 101:5, Ps 109:22, Matt 13:15. Now look up the characteristics of a healthy heart. Meditate on these and share your insights and questions in your small group, with your kids or with a friend this week. Deuteronomy 10:16, 1 Chronicles 12:33, Psalms 51:17, Psalms 112:7, Proverbs 15:13, Isaiah 66:1-2, Matt 5:8

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December 9, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1. Read Matthew 23:26-28. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the condition of our hearts. As a believer, God promises you that he will “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...” (Ez. 36:26 NIV). We have also seen the value of our own rhythms of spiritual disciplines in maintaining this new heart. If we want our outward behavior to look like Jesus, then we need to pay very close attention to the inward condition of our hearts. We’ve reflected much during this series on the condition of our heart. What have you learned about your heart recently? Do you see areas of your life where you are like the Pharisees who Jesus is addressing here - appearing clean on the outside but filthy inside? Consider the conversations and behaviors over the last couple of days. Pray the prayer that David penned in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, andlead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT) 

 

Day 2. Read Luke 20:20-26. Here we find the religious leaders trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Him into trouble. Jesus amazed them in His answer, seeing them as duplicitous. We are reminded here again of the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance with no regard for the internal heart – theirs or Jesus’s. As a result, even their acts of surrender and discipline were mixed with false motivesand their hearts were left largely unchanged. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Pr. 11:3 NIV) Ask yourself, Do I have a duplicity within myself which undermines, invalidates, and brings into question my stated desires and objectives? Or do I live as the upright, with integrity and authenticity of heart and motivation? It’s hard to admit, but we all have duplicities in us. Take some time to think that through. Consider your thoughts and behaviors in the different settings in your life. Are you the same person in every setting? How and when are you not? Acknowledge these areas. Confess and ask God to continue His renewing work on your heart. 

 

Day 3. Read 1 Peter 2:11-17. While this passage may seem to contradict what we read earlier this week about the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance, consider what Peter is saying as it relates to your heart. As your heart leads, your life will follow. Jesus emphasized the same things in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” and later in vs 48 He says “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This is impossible to achieve, but if we are following Jesus, our lives will reflect Him. None of us will achieve perfection on Earth, but as we look to Jesus, we can see where we truly align with His perspective and where we need to adjust. Is there a strained relationship or a recent hurtful conversation that you’ve allowed to justify your attitude? Because of it, have you given yourself permission that you don’t have to love? How closely would you say that your life aligns with His right now?  

 

Day 4. Read Titus 2:7-8. This is one of many passages in scripture where we are encouraged to live above reproach. If our hearts are aligned with Christ, we can therefore reflect His light to the world around us. The result will be a good reputation with outsiders and a clear conscience, with others having nothing bad to say about us. Accusations will be silenced because we are living honorably in every way. In this way, we live a life of consistency rather than duplicity. How about your reputation? Would you say that you have a good reputation among others? Sometimes it takes those around us to let us know our duplicities. The writer of Hebrews says “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” (Heb. 13:18 NIV) Ask your closest friends to be honest with you about your reputation. Then ask them to pray for you, and in the same manner, pray for them. Your community in the local church, those you serve with or are in group with, is vital in encouraging you to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27 NIV)  

 

Day 5. On a personal note, I believe that the best way to live your life is to be yourself. If, in being yourself, you find that you don’t like what you see, you need to work to change those things at the very core of your being, not just try to act better. If you find that you are prideful, focus on humility. If you are angry and bitter, work to forgive those who have wronged you. You are not alone. Paul writes “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Phil. 1:6 NLT) and “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13 NLT) God is the same in all situations and all day long. We can find comfort in God even though we can be a mess. He will always be faithful, always be good, and always be with you. He will not give up on changing your heart. 

 

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December 2, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Our Hearts Need Rhythm

Day 1: Read Mark 12:28-31. Loving God with our whole being is at the core of what it means to be a Christ follower. Ok, so we’re supposed to love God with everything we are and with everything we have, but how do we do that? Can we just decide one day to love God and try really hard to care about Him? The problem is that loving relationships don’t really work that way. Whether it is a parent, a child, a spouse, or a friend, loving relationships take time and effort. Furthermore, a healthy relationship is marked with two-way communication, two-way affection, quality time, and serving one another. We don’t love God because we have to, but because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) The creator of the universe loves you. The God who made the stars in the sky loved you so much that He became a man to die for you in your place. (Romans 5:8) As a result, we spend our lives loving Him in return. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is who we are to be. How and when have you experienced love from God?  

Day 2: Maintaining a loving relationship for a lifetime takes discipline and effort. With familiarity, our hearts are prone to wander. Our love can lose focus and grow cold. Life’s distractions can overwhelm us and get in the way. Yet, no matter how far away from God we get, Jesus still invites us to walk beside Him, to live life together, and to work alongside one another. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Just as two oxen would be yoked together to work in a field, so we too are yoked with Jesus. We learn His rhythms. We learn to pull life’s heavy load with Jesus. We are not alone. You see, our hearts need rhythms, regular patterns and habits that will keep us connected with Jesus. What regular rhythms, patterns, or habits exist in your spiritual life? How do you acknowledge God and spend time with Him throughout your week? Take some time to write down your thoughts. If you struggle in this area, the book, Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas could be a good resource.  

Day 3: Read John 15:1-17. How do we remain or abide in God? What daily rhythms exist in your life that help you abide? Perhaps it is daily hearing from God’s word by meditating on scripture, or perhaps you’ve built time into your day to talk with God in prayer. How else can we build rhythms into our day that will help us to remain in God? There are many ways. Here are examples taken from the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas: being outside in nature, going for long walks, looking at the stars, hunting or fishing are ways that we can marvel at God’s creations and give Him worship; looking at a beautiful piece of art, listening to music, or watching a skilled performance can move our hearts to acknowledge God; finding a quiet solitary place to retreat to can be the key to connecting with God; or choosing to fast as a way to make God a priority. Others use structured prayers, rituals, and Christian symbols that have been part of church history for over a thousand years. Recall the rhythms that have been significant in Pastor Cory’s life or in the lives of the people who shared on Sunday. A new rhythm may help you remain in God in a fresh way. Pick something and try it. 

Day 4: Read John 15:12-17. Spiritual rhythms, ones that keep us abiding in God, will result in overflowing love for others. The greatest commandment is to love God AND to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-31) Loving others will always be the fruit of a growing relationship with God. Spend a few minutes to consider a verse Pastor Doug shared in a recent message – Proverbs 23:26. As we practice walking alongside Jesus, our hearts will gradually be transformed into loving hearts. What rhythms exist in your life that create opportunities for you to love other people? What does loving people look like for you? Who are the people in your life right now you can love and how do you love them? What about your hobbies/passions - can you love people through that? Do you just attend Sunday services or do you help make services welcoming and inviting? What rhythms exist (or could you add in your life) that will help you love others as you abide in Christ?  

 Day 5: Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27. If you want to win a race, you have to train for it. In the same way, our hearts need training. The rhythms, habits, and spiritual disciplines that we place in our lives are crucial for heart transformation. God uses these practices to train us, shape us, and to prepare us to be able to do His work. It’s not about reading your Bible and having a quiet time every day because that’s what you’re supposed to do. No, it is that the quiet time or other habit allows us to understand who Jesus is, who we are, and how we can live more like Him. If we truly intentionally pursue Him, together the church, the body of Christ, is able to combat the brokenness of this world (in such places like Honduras where Audrey & Esther serve) with such a powerful love that even the gates of hell will not be able to withstand it. (Matthew 16:18) This devotional is not just a list of things for us to do. Instead, I pray that God would stir inside each of our hearts with a longing desire to find ways to spend more time with Him, and that as a result of abiding in God, our family, co-workers, classmates and neighbors would see God’s love though us. That is the life God dreams for us to live.   

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November 25, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: HEART JOURNEY The word journey can be explained as an ongoing trip toward a final destination or goal. Each of us are on a journey. Not just a journey to a location, but a journey of the heart that is moving toward our goal or destination of becoming more like Jesus. Sometimes that journey takes detours and gets off-track. Let’s slow this journey down and take a moment to reflect on what is in our hearts. Is there an attitude or series of choices that are moving you more toward Jesus? What attitudes or values might be keeping you from going directly toward your goal of Christ? Is there something or someone taking you off-track? Is there someone walking alongside you in your journey who you can talk to about these things? Invite them to speak truth and encouragement to you as you reflect on your (and their) current track in this journey of the heart. 

 

Day 2: CLEAN HEART - IDOLS One of the things that gets us off track in our journey is the value we put on other things in our life. We have been blessed with many great things, opportunities and relationships. But when these blessings or desires take up the highest position of adoration or aspiration in our hearts, we have begun to elevate these things as idols. This keeps us from fully following after Jesus. Ask yourself these questions: Am I open to God searching my life/heart, purifying or redirecting my attitudes, thoughts and choices? Where or when do I settle for things as they are and don’t want my things or my life to be different? Another way to ask; Are love, joy, compassion, or patience (see fruit of the Spirit) overflowing in my life? Read Ephesians 4:18-19. Are you willing to let God help you see your heart where you have lost sensitivity? Let’s get honest with God. We aren’t going to surprise Him with our secrets. He knows.  

 

Day 3: HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD Once we have allowed God to illuminate the dark places of our hearts, those things that we had put in higher importance than God himself, we then can begin to realign. Deuteronomy 10:16 says to remove the idols that are giving you identity. By bringing our idols and hardened places to Him, we need to humble ourselves before Him. We do this by admitting we have put other things above Him. We let Him take the highest place in our life, in our minds, in our hearts. We humble ourselves and give Him permission to make the adjustments in our lives needed to soften the hardened places in our hearts. Take time today to humble yourself before God today. A position of kneeling is a position of surrender. Read Psalm 139:23-24. Confess those things that you have let take higher priority in your life than Jesus.  

 

Day 4: RENEW YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS/DEVOTION God’s word says that when we confess our sin, He is just and faithful to forgive. What hope! God WANTS a renewal in our relationship with Him! And He is joyful to take first place in your heart again! So, we can be confident in presenting ourselves to Him as we continue our journey with Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). We can be confident that He will walk with us and keep our hearts soft and sensitive to Him and His ways of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and forgiveness through His Spirit that He puts within us. Our hearts can be DAILY shaped and realigned through His Spirit guiding us in our journey with Jesus. Trust Him and this process. A heart is being formed. His desires are becoming your desires.  

 

Day 5: LOOK AT HEART EXAM again In the October 28 devotional (you can access it online at lscckc.org/devotional or through the LSCC app) we were encouraged to take a Heart Exam. This exam is a way to do a daily ‘checkup’ with Jesus and let His Spirit speak through examining these questions in regard to your heart. Here are a few of those questions (some modified):  

  • How much focus, time and energy did I give to money, a possession, or a potential possession in that last week/month?  

  • Was there ever a time in my life when I thought, “If I were to ever achieve ______, then I would be satisfied/successful?”  

  • Name one or two of the highest values for my life. Does that value line up with a centering on God or does it place God to the side?  

Go back to the devotional on that week to read the full heart exam. Print out these questions so you can read and evaluate them on a regular basis. Add your own questions to that exam that YOU know you need to keep checking up on with God. Place them somewhere that you will see and remind yourself of this matter of the heart. 

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November 18, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Day 1: Our hearts need saving! This week Cory focused on Jacob, his deception, his sin, his transformation. Genesis chapters 25-32 give us a glimpse into Jacob’s life. It is a fascinating story. Read Genesis 25:19-34, 27:1-10 and 27:22-35 if you don’t have time to read all eight chapters. Deception is all over the place in these chapters. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We too struggle with our own wayward heart. Just as Jacob fought the battle, we hold onto our own sinful ways. We sometimes sit dormant in our selfishness or brokenness. Think of a newly planted seed. Will we spring forth in life, open to become anew, or stay lifeless and asleep? As we continue in this series, pray today to find openness while looking at your own heart, your own burdens, and your own temptations to avoid God and devise your own plans.

Day 2: Read Genesis 32:22-32. The seed in the ground begins to sprout – a change of heart. In this chapter, Jacob wrestles with a man but somehow he knows there is something special with this man. In some way, that isn’t clearly explained in the text, Jacob knows he has wrestled with God. It says in Genesis 32:38, “… you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In this wrestling match, God gives Jacob a new name. Do you know what the name “Jacob” meant? He is a deceiver. Yet in this interaction, God renames Jacob “Israel”. He’s given a new name, a new identity, a new inheritance. He will no longer be identified as a deceiver. Before we can transform our hearts, we must surrender. When was the last time you consciously surrendered to God? Was it today, last week or has it been a while? Write a letter to yourself and God or pray a prayer relinquishing your struggle. And you, as a new sprout, may continue to grow and flourish as God changes your heart.

Day3: Jacob not only received a new name, but a new identity, a new heart and a new inheritance. He sprung forth from the ground- from sprout to a new creation - a living plant. Jesus gives us a new life. Read John 3:2-6. “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” 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!” (NLT) Isn’t that awesome news? Jesus, thank you for making me new! Thank you for the new life, a new birth. You have given me something that I could never get for myself. I’m made new today!

Day4: Yesterday we embraced forgiveness and grace, a new heart. That is God’s supernatural, life giving part. How do we stay in God’s love? How would we “fertilize” and nurture ourselves to “become more like Jesus”? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” One practical step is to guard your new heart (Proverbs 4:23), and continue to develop your new life – as Jacob embraced his new name/identity, Israel. Ask God to speak to you. Be open to exploring ways to further your relationship. Turn away from isolating yourself seeking to change your heart through your power. Move towards freedom that comes from knowing and becoming more like Jesus. Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and make that your prayer for today.

Day 5: Plants reach a point of bearing fruit and harvest, but without proper care, they wither and die. How will you continue to tend to your own plant - but also, tend the rest of the garden? It is encouraging to hang around people with a new heart. Do you see that in your life? Who feeds you? How can you spend more time with those people? Who do you feed? How about giving of yourself to another? What does that do to your heart? How can you help others in church on Sundays, through a serve position or by some informal way? Through community and serve, you’ll find care, help, and direction. You’ll develop and grow – living a transformed life for yourself, and, also, to “spread the good news” to others. Pray: Dear Father, I want to surrender my heart to you. I trust you. You’ve created for us a new life through your son, Christ Jesus. May I continue to grow, allowing you to change my heart for your great calling.

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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.