October 20, 2019

Mark

Something Bigger

Day One:“We tend to lose sight of the centrality of the Christian life as a practice, as a distinct way of living (to live a life walking in the ways of Jesus). Instead, we focus on getting our theology just right.” Vreeland . Most of us don’t need more theology or more information, we need to practice – to put into play – the ways and teachings of Jesus in our everyday ordinary lives, as our lives intersect and connect with everyday people. Read Mark 6:6-13. Think about what the 12 knew about what we would describe as the gospel at that time. What did they know of the cross? The resurrection? What didthey know? They knew that Jesus lived and taught that the Kingdom of God had come to them and that living in that Kingdom looked nothing like living in the kingdom of the world. They knew that as they spent time with Jesus, listened to his teachings, watched how he lived, and following His ways, they saw life and were becoming different people. They were starting to resemble Jesus. The model is learning and doing, learning and doing, taking a step, messing up, but all the while learning and doing…with others.Who are you learning and doing with? Who are you processing “out” what God is doing “within”?

 

Day Two:The instructions that Jesus gave the 12 were specific and unique for that time and those 12. Instead of coming to scripture and taking these words to mean that we are to go in the exact same manner, we ask for wisdom from God. “What can we discover about what Jesus was trying to teach the 12?” “How can we bring His life and teaching to life in our time and place?” What might we learn from Jesus instructing the 12 to enter the homes (and lives) of those they encountered? As the 12 were sent out they were going to not only be giving to those they encountered, they were going to be in need of receiving as well. Recognizing that we need to learn from others as much as they can learn from us guards us from pride and seeing others as projects in need of only what we can give. 

 

Day Three: Who are your 12? Your 3? Your 1? Just as each of us can point to several individuals who had a significant impact on our lives, we can be those people in the lives of others.  Neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teammates, …providential relationships. We already have them, we’re not asked to wait for God to bring someone, the call is “as you go” so look around, who are you already interacting with? Who do you already have connection with or share a common interest? Who is seated around you at your kids games? What would it look like to move from a “proximity relationship” to developing a friendship? Invite a classmate or a parent at the game for coffee. See your neighbor tackling a yard job? Ask if they need some help. Notice those who are already around you, you’re already there, so take a step to get to know someone. You can live this individually and as a family. A great opportunity is right around the corner with Halloween. Consider how you might use this opportunity to get to know some of your neighbors, the people who are already around you?

 

Day Four: Discipling, sharing life and faith doesn’t happen in a classroom. It happens in places like hospital waiting rooms, coffee shops, living rooms, kitchen tables, ball fields, bike rides, and breakrooms. It happens in real life. Being a disciple and making disciples is not about teaching or memorizing information, it is about sharing and living a life of following Jesus with others. Discovering what it looks like to follow Jesus when you lose your job. Start a family. Hit health issues. Run a business. We figure out what living like Jesus looks like when relationships are strained, when life is amazing and when it is disappointing. Talking about what we are learning about God and who He is in our struggles is discipling. Encouraging one another, praying for one another, being there for one another is how we influence others and are influenced. Who are these people in your life? Small groups can be one of the best ways discipling is experienced and lived out. Are you in a group? Are you as a group committed to this kind of life-relationship? Consider taking time to talk together as a group about how you are doing with this? Do adjustments need to be made? Do you spend time talking about your lives? What is really going on? Or do you just answer questions? Take the risk of deepening your relationships. It can be messy, awkward, it’s a risk, but it is the way of following Jesus. 

 

Day Five: Have you ever felt like you were someone’s project? That they had some kind of agenda for you? Maybe it was to steer you from those awesome stone-washed 80’s jeans or to see the beauty of going vegan? Nobody likes to be a project, especially a spiritual project. As we cultivate relationships, we must be careful not to attach an agenda to them. Loving others is what we are called to do, agendas just get in the way. Mutuality of relationship eliminates the spiritual project aspect. We each make the other better by sharing our life together. Maybe you are a Christian and your friend isn’t. Check your motives as you pursue relationships. Can you love and relate to this person as they are? Do you see your relationship as one of mutual influence? Do you believe they have things they can teach you? Or do you see yourself as the teacher and them as your student? 

October 13, 2019

Mark

Whose Opinion Matters Most?

DAY 1:Read Mark 6:14-29. It’s easy to read this and walk away thinking, “Herod is bad, Herodias is spiteful, and John the Baptist got a pretty raw deal, but I’m not in this story.” However, our lives reflect all of these characters in more ways than we would be comfortable to admit. This week’s devotional focuses on seeing past the ancient story and bringing it into our modern lives at a personal level. Pray that God would help you to see these four characters as real people, at a real time, in situations filled with pressure, fear, love, loyalty, and all of the human emotions that have the ability to make free will not seem so freeing. Take the time to re-read Mark 6:14-29 a second time. This time, take notes on the emotions and thoughts that Herod, Herodias, and John the Baptist portray and/or feel. Pray that you could recognize critical situations in your own life and identify what emotions and thoughts influence your decisions.

 

DAY 2:Herod is clearly a central figure in this story. Looking at verses 17-28, Herod is pressured into a decision that he didn’t want to make. His decision resulted in a scale of violence that our decisions typically do not, but we’re all at risk of rash decisions in pressured situations. Solomon Asch, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on peer pressure with astonishing results. He asked random samples of people a very basic question where the first person asked purposefully gave the wrong answer. 75% of respondents then responded incorrectly as well. In a private setting, less than 1% of the answers where incorrect. Herod, even though a king who was accustomed to making his own decisions, fell right in line with Asch’s findings. Self-awareness is key to the situations we find ourselves in, so our reference will be on Jesus’ Kingdom’s ways, not the pressure of the situation and following our fear. Pray that God’s presence and ways would lead you in these situations.

 

DAY 3: Herod is backed by the Romans overseeing one of the most politically tumultuous periods in middle east history. Much like English rule in colonial America, Israel is one movement, leader, or event shy of a revolt. Revolutions threaten the people in power, especially a King who has been backed by the occupying Romans. Herod sees this potential revolution in Jesus and his followers. Understandably, it terrifies him. Herod, having regrettably ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, has not forgiven himself nor sought forgiveness from God. Paul wrote to forget what is behind and stain toward what is ahead (Phil 3:13). If we focus on or pretending away past mistakes, we are likely to make poor decisions in the future. God calls us to ask forgiveness of Him and forgive ourselves and learn. Spend some time reflecting on guilt. Are you in need of forgiveness? Seek it, give it, to self and others. Share it with a follower who can help remind you of God’s radical love and forgiveness. God does not see you as your darkest moments!

 

DAY 4: Herodias is living the dream. Although she was already a part of the royal family by being married to Phillip, King Herod’s brother, she was eager to be married to the king himself. Most of us have wanted to improve upon were we are. We associate being a little higher up with the needed change or solution. “If I made a little extra money… If I was the one in charge… If I could organize the solutions… etc.” We can get so caught up in this idea that we lose track of the ways of Jesus. Often good people end up doing bad things to get to the place we believe will offer those much needed answers or changes. And once we’re there, our problems follow, along with new problems created by our actions to get to the new position. This led Herodias to wish for the execution of an honest man and leads us to live outside of the Kingdom. What would it be like to submit to God as to where we should be? Faith looks like trusting God is with us where we are. 

 

DAY 5:Read Proverbs 29:25. Today, we will look at the victim of this story, John the Baptist. Yes, he was imprisoned for speaking the word of God, but he was not killed for it. John was murdered by an insecure king, pressured by his wife, seeking to save face with his guests. Nobody wants to be the victim. So much so that we frequently read and teach these stories in a way that makes John a hero and not a victim. We want the “good guys” to have good things happen to them. Proverbs 29:25says, “Whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” How does this add up? John the Baptist trusted in the LORD and was beheaded as collateral damage from a political/social scandal. God calls us to be faithful and to trust in Him always (Isaiah 26:4). This is an “even if” mentality, not a “so that” mentality. An “even if” faith leads toward discipleship and sacrificial love, where a “so that” faith is really just faith that bad things won’t happen to me. Where in your life are you using a “so that” faith? What would it look like to realign this to an “even if”? Pray that God would use this week’s message and devotional to shape you for critical situations, that you might experience trust in Him when it is hard, that you will have faith “even if” it will not result in our preferred definition of safety.

October 6, 2019

The Jesus I Thought I Knew

Day 1:We all need to be aware and acknowledge we view Jesus through some kind of lens (our culture, history, teaching we have received, time and place that we live) and that lens shapes our view of Jesus. I may view Jesus as my “Personal Savior” but not King and Lord of my life. Or maybe its seeing Jesus as the “Impossible Jesus” who had nice thoughts, but no one can actually live that way in the real world. Or “Warrior Jesus” - he’s on our side, we’re the ‘good guys’, and he’s against those other people, the ‘bad guys.’ Doug mentioned three lenses that can affect our view of Jesus - the Sunday School Lens (true but simplistic), Skeptic Lens (natural explanation without room for supernatural), and Sacred Lens (Kingdom world view). To what degree do these lenses affect your view of Jesus? How do you see yourself moving in and out of each of these? Pray about this, journal to process your thoughts, discuss with your group or a group member. 

 

Day 2: Our view of Jesus shapes our own personal actions and decisions, and vice versa, think about that! The apostle John wrote, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (I John 3:2b-3). Notice that seeing Jesus as he is is transformative.Often we are not honest with ourselves about who Jesus is because we know that to acknowledge who he is will affect something we don’t want to change. Being yielded to Jesus, willing to change is important to be able to see Jesus as he is. Think of anything in your life that you are unwilling to yield to Jesus and change. Why? If Christ-likeness is what it means to be Christian, then what attitudes or behaviors do I find in me that are not like Him? Use these as clues as to areas where you may need to grow in your relational knowledge of Christ and self. Yield these to him, share them with your trusted relationships. Pray to change. Pray to see him as he is in relation to these areas.  

Day 3:Faith is an essential ingredient to seeing Jesus as he is and knowing him more deeply. At the end of the passage in Mark 6, Jesus is amazed at the people’s lack of faith. They could not see Jesus for who he is. Paul told the Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). We can grow in ourrelationship and trust of Jesus by following his life and teaching in faith. Work against the “Impossible Jesus” narrative or lens, come to Jesus life and teachings as life itself, even if you see them in contrast to “how things are or work”. As you engage scripture, pray for the Spirit of God to help you more and more to experience and know Jesus as he really is, and empower you to live in your real life his Kingdoms ways. 

 

Day 4:The Bible can help us know Jesus, the kind of things he said, emphasized, how he related; he is amazing! Read and meditate on Colossians 1:15-23“The Son is the image of the invisible God… in him all things hold together… God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Jesus told his disciples,“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is who God is and how God lives when He comes as one of us. When you spend time in scripture, are you reading it through the lens of who and how Jesus is? It is easy to search the Bible for how to fix our lives, or just to gain information and try to be right. But can we look at and meditate on who Jesus is and pray to increasingly live more like him. In your daily time in God’s Word, intentionally look at Christ and pray for the wisdom to see him as he is. 

 

Day 5:Be a testimony to others of what you see. You have a perspective on Jesus that others may not have. Don’t assume that something obvious to you is understood by another and leave it unlived or unsaid.. In the hymn “Amazing Grace” John Newton wrote that he was blind but now he sees. We are all at risk of being blinded by something in us or our past that reshapes Jesus into something or someone he is not. Living his ways makes a difference, for us and those who witness the kind of story we are living. Do you have a faith, a relationship with Jesus that makes you a person others would want to follow? 

September 29, 2019

Mark

Day 1:  Two weeks ago, we talk about community. Reread Acts 2:42-47. We “broke bread” and enjoyed great fellowship on Food Truck Sundayat LSCC. We huddled in conversation during the service. How did those moments impact your life? Did you take the opportunity to commune with others? In the weeks since, have you made a priority to live your life in the present, eyes up, and engaged with others? If not, what’s stopping you from reaching out and committing to other followers as well? Take some time to ponder how you can become closer to those around you at LSCC and throughout your daily life.   

 

Day 2:  This week, Cory taught on Mark 5:21-43. Read the story of Jairus and the sick woman and their encounters with Jesus. Both take great risk in their lives to come to Jesus for help. Jairus is a high ranking member of the synagogue. By asking for help from Jesus, Jairus could lose his job, his position in the community, everything. He chooses to put those things aside to trust that Jesus can save his ill daughter. The sick woman in the scripture also takes great risk. She would’ve been considered unclean because of her bleeding condition. Although, she wanted to stay under the radar, by touching Jesus, she exposed herself publicly which could’ve ended in much ridicule. Both people, at polar ends of the political/socioeconomic spectrum, put aside their fear of imperiling themselves; they risked trusting Jesus. They trusted his works. They trusted the power of Christ. In what way are you willing to put your complete trust in the Lord despite the risk along the way? 

 

Day 3:  Jairus’ daughter is near death when he asked Jesus to “put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (verse 23).Jesus asked for nothing in return. Jesus didn’t question the man’s earnestness. But Jesus stopped mid-stream because of his other encounter. What did Jairus do? Did he question Jesus? No. He could’ve said, “Jesus, forget that woman. She is nothing. My daughter is dying. We don’t have time.” Instead, Jairus kept his faith. Even when he found out his daughter had died, he kept his trust and faith in Jesus. Jairus witnessed a resurrection. Do you trust in the Lord when things don’t go as planned? How do you respond when your hopes are not fulfilled? What does it look like to trust even when disappointed? 

 

Day 4:  The sick woman in the story suffers from chronic bleeding. She was shameful, embarrassed, and most likely shunned by the community. But, Jesus showed mercy. Jesus healed her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free from your suffering.” (verse 34) Jesus’ compassion to the woman shows how merciful and loving God is. When Jesus encountered her, he chose being merciful to the person over the rules of his religion. He’s walking with a high-ranking member of the rigid synagogue, but he stops to help the lowest of the community. Jesus is helping both people not because of who they are or who they are not, but because it is His nature/character to do so. In our lives, there have been times where we are Jairus. There have been times in our lives when we are bleeding woman in the street. Jesus is there for us always through any of our circumstances. Through our faith, we have access to Jesus. Pray over times in your life when you felt closest to Jesus. Pray over the times you most needed Jesus help, but you didn’t feel worthy. How did you feel about Jesus in both situations? Where was your faith in the highest of times and lowest of times? 

 

Day 5:  God’s sense of timing will confound us. Unanswered prayers, changes in plans, and disappointments might cause us to question God. “Where are you Lord? Have you forgotten me?” Do we become angry? Does our faith waiver? The timing of His grace rarely operates according to our schedule. It’s not, ‘I will not be hurried even though I love you’, but, ‘I will not be hurried because I love you; and I know what I’m doing.’ Jesus invites you to come to Him. He is never too busy. Faith is trusting that He is good and faith makes it right to submit to Him even resting in the reality that God is with us even in the down times. Take some time to evaluate your prayers to God. Are you submitting your requests to him, and are you trusting his power/timing in what you receive? Do you have the faith of Jairus? Do you have the trembling awe of the sick woman?   

September 22, 2019

Mark

Jesus Is On The Way

Day 1: Jesus’ greatest expression of coming to us is seen in the incarnation; He came to us as one of us to show us who God is and how God lives when He is one of us. John 3:16-17begins to tell us what moved Him to come and Philippians 2:5-8speaks to the posture in which He came; love, humility, as a servant. Who would avoid or hide from someone like that? Yet we all do to some degree, intentionally or not. Fear, pride, shame, hopelessness, can all cause us to want to hide things (or even ourselves) from Jesus or even push Him away. What would it look like to be honest about this with Jesus? To honestly and humbly tell Jesus, “Here it is; this is where I am”?  Can you be honest with Jesus about your struggles and who or what you are really hiding from? 

 

Day 2: Are there dead places in your life? Shadowy stuff in your heart that needs to be drug out into the light and changed? You may know and hate these places, or they may be largely unexamined and even unknown to you, but they keep showing up in attitudes or behaviors. What would it be like to begin asking God to show you where they are coming from, to examine your heart, and for Him to expose the darker corners to you? Are you willing to have eyes to see what God reveals? Do you have relationship with another follower who loves you deeply enough to help you see them, to pull them out into the light and allow Jesus to begin to transform and heal them? 

 

Day 3: Read Mark 5:11-17.It’s not always just about my story or my needs, as important or significant as those are to me and God, there are others who have a life going on as well. If you’re the man cleansed or healed by Jesus, you are really grateful Jesus came to you that day. If you’re a pig, or a pig farmer, or someone who depends on the pig farmer, not so much. One event will affect multiple people in different ways; some days we’re the demoniac and other days we’re the pig farmer. What are some practices, disciplines, prayers that could be helpful in remembering it’s not always about me– that there is a greater good, a larger story? How could others help us see and remind us of this reality? How could corporate worship help form this perspective in us, a perspective that brings us once again to the realization we are part of something bigger than ourselves? 

 

Day 4: Read Mark 5:14-17. We would all like to think that there would never be a situation or something in my life that would lead me to want Jesus to go away or leave me alone. And maybe we wouldn’t voice it as directly as the folks in this account did. We’re sophisticated and know that you just don’t say things like that. But, we’ve all lived it and been in that space before. Sin, fear, economics, etc can lead us to some really dark attitudes, motivations, and behaviors. They lead us to, in effect, say to Jesus, “I don’t want you here.” Or, “Leave this thing in my life alone.” The question is, what do we do when we get there? How do we respond and see it for what it is? We bring other followers who aren’t in that same space into where we are. Do you have relationships with followers who love you enough to be with you in real life stuff? To help bring Jesus’ ways to where you are? Who have permission to speak in to the difficult things? Is it a practice of yours to ask the Holy Spirit to show you your heart? Is it a regular practice to reflect on your fears and to examine what you are chasing, worrying about, or trying to avoid?

Day 5: Continuing from Day 4, can you trust Jesus to come to you, even when you are lost in rationalizations or justifications that uphold fearful attitudes that may lead you to want to hide? Can you risk that trust, that He might come to you at your worst? To come to you as a humble servant with love and forgiveness, help and healing? Even as you scream or accuse Him of abandoning you or not caring? Will you risk that trust, believing He would come even for you? Even in this?     

September 15, 2019

Mark

Day 1:Why were Jesus and his disciples so concerned with community? Jesus’ disciples (the founders of the Church) understood that Jesus was not simply an equation that leads to eternal life. Although this is true, they knew firsthand that Jesus was constantly living his life as an example for His followers to, well, to follow. One of the key principles Jesus taught and lived out was loving people.1 Thessalonians 2:8says “Because welovedyou so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Jesus didn’t call us to simply believe some important things, He calls us to a way of life, to love others as he has loved us. There is no better way to do this than to share our lives with people who are naturally in our everyday lives. Pray that God will help you see the opportunities to enhance the relationships in your life this week. Pray that He would show you practical steps to take towards sharing in life with others.

Day 2:Community is a sum of the relationships you are involved in. This is all inclusive. From work to intramural basketball leagues and school to small groups, communities are everywhere. What communities are you a part of? Do you have community in the communities you are a part of? What opportunities to love others do you have in your real, everyday life? Jesus was very clear that loving people was and would be a priority for those who follow Him. Jesus lived and taught as if people need to be loved and to love other and it is by and through this that we become more like him. Jesus taught that there is an inseparable connection between us, we are brothers and sisters, we’re all His kids. Which includes you! Are you in community with someone that is there to love on you as you love others? How about a small group? What steps can you take in your group to care for and love each other? What steps can you take to engage on a deeper level in your small group or with other areas of community you are involved in?

Day 3:Jesus taught that everyone needs community, especially people who don’t already have it, those who are on the outside looking in. He prioritized his time in a manner that enabled him to be with the loneliest people for most of his ministry. This isn’t a coincidence. When Jesus says that it isn’t the healthy who need a doctor but the sick (Mark 2:17), He was with some of the loneliest people of his day talking to, even correcting some of the religious leaders who tended to separate people out instead of include. He knew it would be impossible to love them if he wasn’t with them. Community doesn’t mean a long-distance donation; it means intentional personal encounters with real people. $20 might have the power to feed someone but loving and being there for someone opens the door for Jesus to change their life. Is there someone in your life that needs comforting? How can you step into a relationship rooted in loving them, sharing your life with them, instead of trying to change them?

Day 4:Do you prioritize community? Americans have a serious time management problem. Of all developed countries, we typically work the longest weeks and take the fewest days off. This often makes prioritizing time for relationships very difficult and speaks to what our culture holds as a priority. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, but most of us don’t even know five of our neighbors first and last names. How are we, who are called to go and make disciples by living out the example demonstrated by Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) going to make a real impact if we ignore the second of Jesus’ two greatest commandments (Mark 12:30)? We are implicitly called to love our neighbors, which as Jesus showed us, must be done on a human level in our everyday lives. Think about your neighbors. How can you form relationship with them? Is there a neighbor who could use help with a project? Could you organize a BBQ to get to know one another? What would that look like? The goal being relationship and loving them as Jesus loves and accepts you.

Day 5:Community is one of the hardest things to build. There is no way to fake it. There is no way to do it a “just little bit”. It takes stepping into awkwardness, being vulnerable, a lot of patience, grace and forgiveness, and it will be inconvenient. It is a lot easier to watch TV or relax every evening after work or school than to engage in others, but that is not what the early Church had in mind for one another. The disciples understood that relationships take endurance and perseverance (Acts 2:42-47). Take some time to reflect on what it would mean to you for someone to come alongside you in your biggest struggle or even your successes? What would it be like to have someone to talk to, think with, and pray with? What would it be like to be in community where you are known deeply? What is keeping you from committing to this kind of community? How could being a part of this kind of community change you?How could it help you to become more like Jesus? Are you willing to work for this type of community? Consider spending time with your small group to discuss these thoughts. Take time to honestly discuss where you are as a group and what kind of community you are striving for. If you aren’t in a small group, will you take the step to join one or even start one? Reach out to Patrick Hukriede, Small Groups Pastor at patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org. He can help you.

September 8, 2019

Mark

The Value of Storms

Day 1: Read Mark 4:35-41. Throughout the book of Mark we’ve seen Jesus encounter some pretty crazy things. We’ve seen Him tempted by Satan in the wilderness, help demon possessed madmen shrieking in the synagogue, heal the sick and forgive their sins. We’ve seen Him encounter angry powerful men who wanted to kill Him, as well as deal with massive crowds that all wanted something from Him. And now, we see Jesus having the authority to calm a raging storm. In response to it all, Jesus’ followers ask the most important question anyone will ever ask, “Who is this?” Could it be that this single question is the true purpose of Mark, and ultimately the question each of us is called to answer? Jesus will later ask His disciples this same question in Mark 8:29“But who do you say that I am?”If Jesus asked you, how would you answer? How does your life show how you answer this question? Does your time, your passion, your spending, and your thoughts answer this question for you?  

 

Day 2: Read Mark 4:35-41. When the storm came, the disciples cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”Can you relate? Is there any more genuine and heartfelt prayer in existence than to cry out to God, “Where are you; don’t you care?”If God is both powerful and loving, how can He just sleep through what I’m going through? Yet, Jesus responds, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”Here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t protect them from going through the storm, but He was with them in the midst ofthe storm. How do you think going through the storm affected the disciplesfaith? Would they have been better off if there had never been a storm? Would you be better off without the storms that come into your life? 

Day 3:Jesus came preaching a message that “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” God’s sovereign power is being unleashed here on earth. The impossible is becoming reality. Heaven is breaking through to our normal mundane world. When we read about miracles, it can be hard to believe. They can seem like fairy tales or things that may have happened thousands of years ago that have little to do with our everyday lives. Consider Jonah being cast overboard to calm a storm and is swallowed by a whale. Consider Moses parting the Red Sea or the creation story where God’s Spirit hovered over the dark deep waters. Really? Did Jesus magically calm a storm? Guess what, it’s ok to wrestle with belief. Jesus’ disciples witnessed first-hand the miracles, and still they struggled to have faith. He didn’t leave them. He didn’t stop loving them. Do you think he’ll treat you differently? Read Mark 4:35-41

 

Day 4:Take out paper, pencil, and your Bible. Read Psalm 107:23-32.Take time to be still and listen. Now read it again, andwrite down your thoughts. Finally, read it a third time, and consider praying the words of the Psalm back to God. 

 

Day 5In Mark 4:40-41Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?”The disciples began this story fearing for their lives in the storm, but they end the story being terrified of Jesus. When being confronted by a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity, their response was terror. This isn’t unique to the disciples, take a moment and read Exodus 33:20,1st Timothy 6:16Isaiah 6:5“Woe to me!”I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORDAlmighty.”Read John 14:9-14. “Who is this Jesus?”Could it truly be that through Jesus we can actually lookupon the face of holy God? Is it possible that through Jesus we can stand in the presence of the LORD Almighty, and is it actually truethat we can do even greater things than calming a storm because God the Son loves us and is with us?  

 

September 1, 2019

Mark

Day 1:  Did you attend the Aug. 25 service to hear the message from Mark 3:7-19 about being called out of the crowd? (If not, you can watch a replay at lscckc.org/messages) Refresh yourself with that passage and read Mark 4:1-20 as well. Make note of his audience and see in Mark 4:1 specifically. Why does this parable follow chapter 3? What correlation can be made between these two messages/passages?

 

Day 2:Today is a longer devotional. Break up into two days if you don’t have the time.Let’s look at the three different soils.Read Mark 4:3-8 and 14-20.In your journal or on a piece of paper, make two columns. In one column, give a few phrases about each soil. In the second column, write down the meaning Jesus gives for each of these soils. Look at the three different poor soils. (Complete this exercise before reading on. Ask God to reveal the point of this message as you parse out each soil.) Now let’s review. When speaking about the soil that falls on the path in verse 15, Jesus says that Satan takes it away or that we intentionally or passively reject the words or message of God. The second soil is rocky soil. Ones who hear the word, accept it, but there is no follow through. It’s like someone telling you, “I’ll get back to you. I’ll text you tonight,” but there is no text. No response. Then the third soil has the best chance of success. It does grow from seed to plant, but it is rendered ineffective and doesn’t produce a harvest. Other beliefs, attitudes, pleasures, activities, hobbies, stresses stunt the Word (learning from and following Jesus) from growing as it’s intended. As you consider your life of faith, how can you relate to the different soils? Do any of these soils describe how you currently view your personal devotions, Sunday worship or small group involvement? 

 

Day 3:It’s easy to hide in a crowd. Here are a few words from last week’s devotional, “Crowds hide us from personal responsibility and accountability. Crowds distract us and lead us and give us a false sense of reassurance.” But God, well, we can’t hide from Him. God sees through us. On Sunday, Cory referenced, Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman. In his book, the author uses the term “fan” to describe those in the crowd and offers an analogy of dating. Idleman explains how a man shares his love and devotion to his girlfriend. Then he adds just one condition. “I just want to be able to see other people.” Wait, what? That isn’t commitment. Jesus wants a wholehearted commitment. As you think back to Mark 4, and the good soil (person who receives the word) displays commitment. This is present in “good soil that produces a crop.” What else is going to be evident in the heart of a person that is going to “produce 30,60, 100 times what is sown”? 

 

Day 4: What kind of list did you come up with regarding one who hears the words of Jesus, takes them in, and allows the message of Jesus to produce an exponential harvest? I came up with a soft heart, humility, openness, confession, and an understanding and closeness with Jesus. Would you add to that list? Today, let’s reflect on how to cultivate that soil. Community is an important word in our church. We define it as to know and to be known deeply. If we want to know and follow Jesus (and be good soil), we can look to those around us. Here are some questions to reflect on. Who can speak freely into your life and tell you, with love, that you have gone astray? Who knows you well enough to ask you, “What’s wrong?” Who in your life asks you if you have followed through on what you said you were going to do last week? Then, flip these questions around. Are you that person to someone in your life? If so, intentionally engage in community this week for your and their benefit. If your “soil” isn’t as you wished, find a small group. (www.lscckc.org/groups). Community like this won’t magically happen in a small group. It requires time and trust. But one thing is for sure. Community doesn’t happen unless you go out and pursue it. 

Day 5:Another way to view Parable of the Sower is to consider the different soils can all exist in my life concurrently. Consider the different areas of your life. Your schooling, career, marriage, parenting, your physical health or how you spend your money or your free time? Now read Mark 4:13-20. Ask God if there is an area of your life that He wants to speak into. What do you need to add or remove in your life to allow Christ to grow you more into His likeness? One cannot disconnect the spiritual life from every other area of life. “To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred.”Charles Spurgeon 

 

 

August 25, 2019

Mark

Time To Step Out Of The Crowd

Day 1:You are wanted. You are wanted by God! Can you believe that? In Matthew 23:37-39Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem longing to gather them to himself, but they wanted something else. Don’t be one over whom Jesus weeps because he wanted to draw you near, but you were unwilling! He is calling; respond! Read John 10:14-16, even if you believe you are familiar with the passage. Are you listening? Are you open to hear from Jesus? You are one of the sheep whom Jesus wants, searches for, and loves unconditionally. Is there something that keeps getting in the way of you listening to Jesus? An attitude, motivation, behavior or forgiveness you have not extended? Read Ephesians 2:1-9 and meditate on God’s love and desire for you. 

 

Day 2:Jesus called his disciples because he loved them and wanted them with Him, but also to help them find a purpose. Jesus told some fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Mark 1:17). Jesus later told the same fishermen, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). What is the “fruit” God is calling you to grow? ReadEphesians 2:10, remembering yesterday’s reading. God has called you to be with him, are you with Him in your day to day life? In the decisions you make, in how you respond to people and situations? How are you responding?Are you going to step out of the crowd and follow the ways of the one who calls you?  

 

Day 3:Crowds can hide us from personal responsibility and accountability, they can influence us and give us a false sense of reassurance. Can you think of a time your attitude or behavior was negatively influenced by a crowd? Who is influencing you? The crowd (your news outlet, political affiliation, the podcast you listen to), or Christ and His Kingdoms ways? What do you find running through your mind? What does this tell you about your focus and who or what you are following? As you step out of the crowd, what do you need to help keep your focus on Jesus and his Kingdom’s ways? Practically, what would it look like, what would it involve for you to focus on Jesus in your everyday life? (Philippians 37-14). Are there areas in my life where I am still in the crowd, but I am being called to a new way of thinking and living? What are some steps? What or who do you need to help you take a step? To dig deeper into what it means to personally step out, consider reading the book, Not A Fanby Kyle Idleman (There is a copy for purchase for you at the Next Steps Center in the church lobby).

 

Day 4: Jesus’ disciples are called to be with Him and learn from Him. His disciple saw what He did, heard what He said, and did what He was doing with his feedback. How can we do that? We can read what Jesus did and said in the Bible with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We also have other followers who have been his disciples to show us and coach us. Read I John 1:1-4 John heard and saw things from Jesus and now is passing them on to other believers so we all can have joy and fellowship together in Christ.Who are believers you know who are already doing what you want to experience? It is a process that God works with flawed people such as Jesus’ disciples and you and me. Read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and discover or rediscover who Jesus is. Get in a group or start a group where you can help one another and do the hard work of loving the other members. Check out a Followers Made group (go to the LSCC website (lscckc.org/groups) or Next Steps Center for info).

 

Day 5:After his disciples had been with Jesus, he sent them out. Ultimately, Jesus left His disciples to live out the Great Commandment and the great commission to make disciples. We are Christ’s body, His ambassadors, doing what Jesus would do, living as Jesus lived. Where in day-to-day life are you putting into play what you know and believe? Are you using your gifts for the building up of the body of Christ? Are you making disciples? If we have been in the church 1, 5, 10 years, how have we grown, matured, what fruit do you see? Get in a group, get with another person and get the help all of us need with this, or for the sake of another, help someone else discover growth and fruit in their life. 

August 18, 2019

Mark

Family Under Friendly and Not-So-Friendly Fire

Day 1:  This week Pastor Doug taught on Mark 3:20-35. Mary and Jesus’ brothers arrived to take Jesus in hand because “He is out of his mind.” (Verse 21) Doug relayed the story of his family also questioning his sanity when he became a Christian. In the modern western world, aren’t we sometimes questioned for following Jesus and His Kingdom’s ways?  What steps can we take in our daily lives to turn our position to one of forgiveness, understanding, and prayer while maintaining a Christ-centered life? 

 

Day 2:  Jesus later asks, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”(verse 33)In His time, Jesus’ words would be scandalous. The family unit, the family bond and family lineage would be part of the God-given fabric of thinking and living for the Jewish community. To break that link, would undermine the major pillar in Jewish thinking. However, Pastor Doug taught, “Jesus was not undermining the family but putting it in its proper place.”  Read Exodus 20: 1-17.What does the placement of Commandment 5 mean to you? How are your earthly relationships prioritized with your heavenly relationship? Also, how is your view of self reflected in your daily life? Do you follow the self-involved principles of the “me” generation or is God/Christ the center of your life? What or who might you look to help you discern this in your life? 

 

Day 3:  Jesus forms a new community – a new family – the church. Read Matthew 16:18. In this week’s passages, Jesus says to those in his presence, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”(Verse 35) God’s purpose for our lives is for us to become members of His family, growing in our following, and to manage his creation. God designed life to be lived in community, for God is community. Pastor Doug asked, “What if the church doesn’t have it together?”How does the community of Christ work inside the walls of LSCC? How does the community of Christ extend beyond the walls of LSCC? We are all sinners; no church is perfect. What can we do to further submit to Christ and to His word as our central focus?  

 

 Day 4: As we, the community, committed to taking steps to know and become more like Jesus, are we open to the criticism and judgment that comes our way? Pastor Doug referred to this as “friendly fire or not so friendly fire.” In the past, how have you handled these comments or attitudes? What would you change? How should you respond? How has this criticism affected your walk with Jesus? Pray over each of these bullet points. Take some time to evaluate how you align with Doug’s recommendations:

·       Seek to abide in Jesus, to be with Him

·       Saturate your family with enduring prayer

·       Serve your family in practical, meaningful ways

·       Share your faith – at opportune times

·       Submit yourself to the sovereign God who loves your family more than you do.

·       Sabbath – create the mental space and time needed to begin living the above 

 

Day 5: We ended the message this week with a thoughtful, dedicated time of prayer. In those moments, where did your thoughts focus? Who in your life most drew your attention? In our society, it’s becoming more and more evident that tolerance of opposing viewpoints is waning. Many of us cast aside anyone who thinks differently than we do, politically or otherwise. Pastor Cory preached recently, “We don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk side-by-side.”Mark 5:44says, “But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”It is easier to pray for those we love. It’s easier to pray for what and for whom we agree. It’s easier to pray for an outcome we see as “right.” However, we aren’t always “right”. We aren’t also conflict free. If you feel wronged, or opposed, or confused by another person or situation, how would praying for that person help you? How would God’s love flowing through you change your outlook? Try to take an attitude of forgiveness and sympathy toward another person. Does this open your eyes to the universal church and its members who Jesus calls, “…my brother and sister and mother”? (Verse 35)

August 11, 2019

Mark

Day 1: Read Exodus 20:8-11. After rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt, God renewed His special promise with Israel and lead them to Mount Sinai where He gave the Ten Commandments. The fourth was to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. God had established a rhythm of work and rest from the creation of the world (Genesis 2:2-3), and He wanted His people Israel to follow that rhythm. Why do you think Sabbath, a day of rest and devotion to God, was so important to Him? Why would God, who never tires, establish and observe this rhythm Himself? What role, if any, does Sabbath play in your life today?   

 

Day 2: Read Mark 2:23-3:6. Centuries after God gave Israel the Law, the Jewish leaders were still striving to follow God’s commands. They had created additional rules to ensure they followed God’s law completely. The religious leaders tried to follow the law perfectly to prove themselves holy and to win God’s favor. Jesus revealed that empty rule-following was not what God was after. They had missed the true purpose of God’s commands, to change them on the inside. Jesus turned their understanding of following the law upside-down. The Sabbath command wasn’t given to restrict or oppress people; it was a gift given to refresh and renew them, to lead them to life. Here’s the bottom line: if we observe the Sabbath out of obligation, we’re missing the point. Instead, God has created us to work hard and to rest hard. We need rest. It renews us and allows us to have the margin needed to focus on God.

 

Day 3:God’s holy law shows us how messed up and in need of His grace we are (Rom. 3:19-24). Christ’s death freed us from the burden of the law (Rom. 8:2). We are no longer under law, but grace (Rom. 6:14). We are truly free from rules. (Gal. 5:1-6). So what now? Read Col. 2:13-17. Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of Sabbath rest. In Him we find relief from the burden of this life. In Him we find rest and new life (Matt. 11:28-30). Consider praying this prayer with me: Lord we confess that in the busyness of life, we often ignore you. God we confess that we often think that by living well and following your rules, we will somehow gain favor. God we are dependent on you for every breath that we take. Help us find our rest in you. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us. Amen. 

 

Day 4:This morning I woke up and checked my phone. I made coffee and breakfast while looking at Facebook. On my way to work, I listened to the news. After a busy day I drove home listening to an audiobook. When I got home, I played with my kids, cooked dinner, got everyone bathed, fed, and put to bed. Finally, I cozied up with my wife to watch Netflix and fall asleep. It was a good day, and tomorrow will probably be similar. Most days, I also pray and read or listen to the Bible. I find I often try to fill up the quiet, still moments of my life with something, anything, to prevent me from being left alone in my thoughts. In the quiet, I remember things I’ve done that I’m ashamed or embarrassed of. The quiet screams the truth. I’m reminded of my own mortality and it scares me. Read Psalm 62. Do you find yourself trying to fill silence and stillness in your life? 

 

Day 5: Read Psalm 23. We often fill up the restful parts of our lives, yet, it is often in the quiet when God speaks and works within us. If we don’t allow ourselves space to feel guilty, we won’t repent. If we don’t feel alone and vulnerable, we won’t fall to our knees in need of God. Our hearts cry out for times of rest and fellowship with God. Yet, rest seldom happens by accident. It requires planning and commitment. We have to intentionally set aside time. When is your Sabbath? Maybe it’s going to church or small group. Maybe it’s intentional times of quiet daily prayer. Perhaps it’s long walks, camping, or sitting in silence. It doesn’t matter so much how you observe Sabbath. God desires for you to be with Him and to refresh you with His Holy Spirit. If you don’t currently have a plan for Sabbath, take the time, pull out your calendar and schedule it.

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August 4, 2019

Mark

Day 1:In Mark 2:28, Jesus again refers to Himself as the Son of Man. As stated in Sunday’s message, this term represents Jesus’ exaltation and authority. He is the heavenly one who will come again with great power and glory. As the exalted one, all of mankind will one day bow before Him as sovereign Lord. But we need to ask ourselves, “Is my life submitted to the authority of Jesus right now?” In what specific ways is God calling you to acknowledge His authority in your life? Is it trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Perhaps it’s turning away from some sinful habit. Or maybe it’s developing a new habit of Bible reading and prayer or some other spiritual discipline to grow in Christ likeness? Reflect on this; what would you need to search out or who would you need to help you take a step? 

 

Day 2: Not only does Jesus have power and authority to reign over all, but He is the One who enables us to experience genuine rest and peace. For those who follow Jesus, the Sabbath is pointing us to the rest promised for those who follow Christ in Hebrews 4:1-10.

When you hear of or think of Sabbath and rest, what comes to mind? How do you hear or receive it? As another task or command from God to keep up or comply with, an old concept not relevant for today, or an invitation to a different rhythm and fullness of life? Read Mark 2: 27. Why would God give us the Sabbath? What might be His hopes for us in Sabbath? Have you practices Sabbath before or currently? What have you experienced in your practice? If not, what would it be like to begin a practice of setting aside a day to focus on and do that which brings life to you and to reflect on God as sustainer of life? 

 

Day 3: There are important principles that the Sabbath teaches us. Like the nation of Israel, we need to recall that God is our source for everything. Sabbath not only allows us to have space and time away to rest, but to give our worlds space and time to rest from us! It is one of the disciplines that reminds us the world does not depend upon me, that I do not depend solely upon me, but upon God and ultimately God alone. Think of some ways you can set aside a regular time of rest and renewal as you look to God as your source for everything. What or who besides God have you been tempted to place your confidence in: your career or financial resources, a relationship, certain circumstances? Take some time this week to thank God for His continual provision. Then, begin to make it a practice each week take time to find rest in Him.

 

Day 4: Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath; He holds all authority. Do you believe, are you trusting that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do? We must do the work of wrestling with this in our daily lives and with one another. We can’t expect to grow in our faith until we settle this. (Col. 2:6-7). Is your faith in the authority of Christ firm? Is submission to His authority something you are growing in, reflecting on at the end of your day or over the course of your day? Is it a matter of prayer for you? If not, meditate on the following scriptures and ask God to speak to you. John 3:35, John 17:2, Matthew 28:18 and Colossians 2:9-10.

 

Day 5:In Mark 2:27, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Pharisees had become so focused on rules that they had forgotten about God’s care and concern for people. We too can sometimes miss the point of biblical teachings and what God is calling us to or and has given us. Jesus is Lord over all, and ultimately the commands He gives us in scripture remind us of His concern for us and of our dependence upon Him as we respond in faith and obedience. Much like the commands of a loving parent telling a child not to play in the street. If you were to see biblical commands this way, how would it change your response to what God tells you to do or not to do? Pray and ask God to help you see His heart and love for you within the commands He gives us. 

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July 28, 2019

Hope

This week’s devotional is different from our regular format. We are going to be guided to study scripture by the “Observation Study” method. As with any devotional, don’t let it confine you. The purpose of any devotional is to invite you into a conversation with God. Don’t be afraid to explore different texts, give yourself permission to ask questions and let the Holy Spirit give you counsel. 

 

Steps to the Observation Study Method. 

Let’s study a passage of scripture related to Sunday’s message on Hope. Hebrews 6:13-19

 

Step 1 Pray:Begin with prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the passage, discern the author’s intent and be open to what God may want you to learn and incorporate into your daily life. In Jesus’ own words, the Spirit is our teacher (John 14:26). 

 

Step 2 Read & Observe:Read Hebrews 6:13-19. Read it again, slowly. Write down all of the things that you observe about this passage. What is the author talking about? Add any questions that you may have. Do you know anything about this book? Who is the audience? Do you know why it was written? If you have a study Bible, review the book introduction. Consider what you know about Abraham. What promise did God make to Abraham? Here are a couple of questions to help you as you observe this passage. 

What is the author trying to explain about oaths? 

What does this passage say about the character of God? 

Write down all the observations you can. 

 

Step 3 Interpret:Now let’s consider the point the author is making. What is the point of this passage? Why is this an important promise? What do we learn about God? What does this passage teach us about hope? One word of caution with interpretation. Be careful not to read into this passage that which is not there! How does what you learn about this passage align with other passages or truths that you know about God? If you are unsure about an interpretation, ask your small group leader or one of the LSCC’s pastor. 

 

Step 4 Application:What impact does or could this message have for us today? What is your personal response? Seek to find personal application to your life, your attitudes, behaviors, and faith. 

Here are a few other passages on the topic of hope for you as you go through your week. Use the observation method when studying these verses. Consider the power of the hope we can have through trusting in and depending upon Jesus. 

 

Romans 5:1-5

Ephesians 1:15-20

Colossians 1:26-29

I Peter 1:3-9 

 

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July 21, 2019

Mark

A Little Help, Please

Day 1: Read Mark 2:13-17 reread it several times. To grow as a person often we need to have honest evaluation. Who do you identify with in this story? Consider all before choosing. This isn’t about who you want to be or wish you were, but reflecting on your real life today, your everyday attitudes toward others. Consider the past 2-3 interactions?  Who are you most like in this account? Jesus? Levi? The “many tax collectors and sinners who followed and were eating with Jesus,” or the Pharisees? Who would you most like to become more like? What is helping you? What are you doing that is pulling you farther away? Consider a step you could take to shift your attitudes and behavior. Offer that desire and potential step to God, asking Him for the courage to take that step and for Him to use it to change you.  

 

Day 2: Read Mark 2:17. “I’m not the one who needs _______, they are,” is the attitude and heart of the “righteous” in this text. It’s the antithesis of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). “The Righteous” in this passage is used in a derogatory fashion, to make a point or draw contrast between the posture of the Pharisees and those dining with Jesus. The Pharisees self-assessment may have been they were righteous, but Jesus sees it another way. It’s as if Jesus is speaking back to the Pharisees the attitude within their hearts that He sees in them. Stop there. God knows what’s in our hearts. Ask the Spirit to reveal any attitudes that you may be ignoring. Consider this short prayer several times during today. If He shows you some unhealthy attitudes, confess them to him. If this is difficult, turn to I John 1:9-10.  

 

Day 3: The “teachers of the law” and Pharisees seem to miss not only who Jesus was, but who and how God, The Father, is. It is humbling to see how knowledge can “puff up” and how it shapes our hearts. When God came to us as one of us, this is how He acted; He was friends with, cared for, hung out with those who the “righteous” had written off and despised. Jesus may call us to something that leads us to be despised or rejected, but He does not call us to despise and reject others. Can you see Jesus in those who are far from Jesus, maybe even really far from Jesus? Who are the “sick” among us today?   

 

Day 4: Read Mark 2:17 & Romans 3:10-19. If Jesus did not come for the righteous, but the sick and sinners, then Jesus came for everyone! He didn’t come to start a club for the “righteous”, but to start His Church for everyone who recognizes their sin and brokenness. In Day 2, we referenced the Beatitudes, one of which is “Poor in Spirit”. What does that mean or look like in our life? An awareness of our poverty before God and our need for God in our own lives and in the lives of others. If we lose perspective of our own sinful ways and attitudes, we can easily vilify others to justify or convince ourselves of our own righteousness. Knowing and following Jesus is the only path to righteousness! Ask a close family member or trusted friend, “Am I aware of my own sin?”.  

 

Day 5: The Pharisees were so certain about God and the ways He works in this world. They not only missed God when He came, they viewed Him as a threat to the “god” they had created in their minds. They mastered the content of the Old Testament, were nuanced in their ways of keeping the laws, rules, and following the system, but they missed the point of all of it; they missed finding, knowing, and relating with the big, powerful, mysterious, compassionate, loving God. They turned the means into an end. Doing and following what was supposed to form them to live in humility, forgiveness, and love, but they saw their actions and beliefs become the point itself. We’re all at risk of this in our own lives. Why do we study scripture, pray, worship, attend church? Has any of those become the point instead of what they are meant to do in us which is to lead us to know and become more like Jesus? Do any of these habits feel cold, routine or stale in your life?  

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July 14, 2019

Mark

Going Deep

Day 1:We often conceive of God based on our history and understanding, but God is greater than the small box we have Him in. In Mark 2:1-12, the paralyzed man may have expected physical healing. Jesus did something greater and healed his soul too. The pharisees thought that no man could be God, which fit what they had been taught and understood, and yet Jesus was saying and doing things only God could do. What expectations and preconceived notions do we have about God? Allow Jesus’ teaching to challenge you and break you out of these boxes. Accept that some passages in the Bible seem irreconcilable, and yet they are both proclaiming truths! There are other passages that are hard to reconcile with our life experience and understanding.  Read Matthew 22:41-46 and consider an example of a scripture that made no sense at that time, but we now understand. Embrace some mystery in those passages that are hard to understand and allow them to challenge you to trust God more deeply.  

 

Day 2:Sometimes circumstances happen differently than we expect, and God does things differently than we want. The paralyzed man and his friends probably weren’t expecting Jesus to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” Was that disappointing to them? What do we do when we encounter circumstances that don’t fit our vision of God and what we want Him to do? Do we trust him as Father and Creator even then? What is an example of a circumstance that has happened in your life that is not what you wanted or expected? Can you imagine what God might want you to have or learn from this circumstance? Read Romans 8:28-39 and consider that God is maturing us to be like Christ. Can you, will you trust that God knows what He is doing no matter what and his way is better?

 

Day 3:That Jesus saw forgiveness as the foremost need of a paralyzed man is amazing! Forgiveness is a powerful thing in our lives; it is one of our deepest needs. I have learned that in addiction treatment circles it has been said that the opposite of addiction is connection. That is, we have a deep need for connection and when appropriate connections are not formed in our lives we easily seek connection in ways leading to addictions. And yet when sin happens, what can restore connection except forgiveness? Doesn’t our Creator, our Father say that our deepest need is a restored relationship with Him, a need that is met by the death and resurrection of Jesus? Jesus’ death pays the penalty for the forgiveness of our sins and His resurrection proves that everything is ok again. The relationship is restored to all who would trust him.  Meditate on Romans 4:24-5:2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and thank God for restoring your connection to him through Christ.

 

Day 4:Believing that I am forgiven by God can be a major challenge. I can accept on an intellectual level that I am forgiven, but actually believing that in the deepest recesses of my heart where I daily think and feel is not so easy. It is hardest when I sin. Can I believe then that I am forgiven? Am I even worthy of that? It is not about us being worthy of forgiveness, but about the work of Jesus God’s son to give us forgiveness. He is worthy, that is more than enough. So often in my “box” view of God I feel like God can’t forgive me because of ______, but if I can live better, then maybe I will be forgiven. Or I simply don’t feel forgiven, so I live as if I am not. He doesn’t forgive us on the basis what we have done. God forgives us on the basis of whatHehas done; Jesus’ death and resurrection in our place. Read Colossians 1:12-23, 2:13-14, Titus 3:3-9, and Psalm 103. As you read the passages above, view the greatness of God who has forgiven our sins. Accept what he says, trust Him in faith. 

 

Day 5:God knows our deepest needs, even when things don’t happen like we want or expect. The paralyzed man wasn’t the only person who faced unmet expectations of God. Mary and Martha thought Jesus should come and heal Lazarus, but Jesus waited, Lazarus died (John 11:3-6, 21). The Israelites thought God had sent Moses to deliver them, but when Moses spoke to Pharaoh, things got worse (Exodus 4:29-5:9, 5:19-23). The lives of Joseph, David - the list could go on. In the midst of seemingly bad circumstances when we still don’t see the what we perceive as a good outcome - when our God who is in charge, is loving, and knows what we need better than we do is meeting our deepest needs in ways that we don’t want or expect - what do we do with that? Can we trust? Can we let God define what is good and what is best? Can we remember what David keeps telling himself in a bad situation? “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5) Read Psalm 42 and tell yourself, “I will yet praise Him.”

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July 7, 2019

Mark

Day 1: A few weeks ago, the message focused on prayer and spending time with God. Have you been able to incorporate more prayer into your daily devotional time? Throughout this week’s study, we will incorporate a call to prayer to help focus our actions. In Sunday’s message, we continued our journey through the Gospel of Mark. Cory taught on Mark 2:1-12. As you reread these passages, what stands out to you? Are you moved by the act of support provided by the men bearing the stretcher? When you find yourself in a position to help someone in need, how do you respond? Pray over your response. Ask God to speak to you, “Dear God, What help can I give? What difference can I make? If I tend to not respond, why? Lead me to an open heart to be the stretcher bearer in someone else’s life. Amen.” 

 

Day 2:  The paralyzed man and the men assisting him recognized the authority and power of Jesus. They overcame great obstacles and removed a roof to lower the man to Jesus. Jesus saw the faith in the bearers and the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Verse 5) In our daily lives, do we forget to recognize the power of Jesus over us, both physical and spiritual? “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Verse 10) What a formidable gift Jesus has over our life! He removes our sin. He lifts our spirit. He can help us see again, both physically and spiritually.  Have you fully submitted to this power? Pray: “Dear God, I walk through this world directing my own way, forcing my square pegs into round holes, pushing my will into life. Help me to give that control over to you. I will let go of my own desires and recognize your will, your power, and your great gifts in this world. Amen.” 

 

Day 3:  Jesus saw the faith of the men who worked to bring in the paralyzed man. Jesus saw the faith of the paralyzed man who was willing to struggle to get to Jesus. Faith is seen through our actions. Read James 2:14-17“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (verse 17) The devotional team met this week, we pondered, “Who were these men? Did they know this paralyzed man, or were they acting out of selflessness to a stranger?” Although we will never know, we can try to put ourselves in the shoes of these men. Just as we discussed on day 1, are we willing to be the stretcher bearer for someone in need? Do we put our faith into action when called upon? “Dear God, we know faith requires not just thoughts but action. When we are faced with a task guide us, push us, implore us to understand that call.  Moreover, know that I will hear your call and I will act as a servant to others in faith. Amen.” 

  

Day 4:  Faith requires courage. The scripture tells us people gathered “in such large numbers, there was no room left… and he preached the word to them.” (verse 2) Transporting the paralyzed man to Jesus required great courage for the stretcher bearers and the paralyzed man. The crowd could’ve prevented them from reaching Jesus. Any of them could’ve been hurt. The act of climbing to the roof was dangerous, but everyone showed great courage in their faith. (1 Corinthians 16:13, Hebrews 13:5-6, Deuteronomy 31:6) Pray: Dear God: Give me courage when I am weak. Let me live Isaiah 40:31. I will soar on wings like eagles; I will run and not grow weary, I will walk and not be faint. I will be strong in my faith as I walk with you. Amen.” 

 

Day 5: The Pharisees were present on this day (verse 6). The “teachers of the law” allowed their faulty reasoning to push Jesus away. What a great opportunity they missed! But we are so blessed to grow closer to Jesus as we get to know/understand His actions and His heart. Which path will we choose – Pharisee or believer? Pray: “Dear God, when times are challenging, I don’t want to push you away or doubt you like a modern-day Pharisee. I want to draw closer to you. I want to recognize your true power. I will show faith through actions, and I will demonstrate courage in my faith. Thank you for all your blessings. Amen.” 

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June 30, 2019

Mark

Leper

Day 1: Read Mark 1:40-42. Jesus was on a mission to declare that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He preached and spread this good news so that people could repent and believe. However, Jesus did not just preach with words; He proved His authority with miracles. He cast out demons and healed the sick. One day, a man came to Jesus who was suffering from leprosy. He was sick with a terrible disease that would likely cause horrific suffering and even death. Furthermore, he was probably contagious, so everyone was afraid of him. People likely wondered why this man had been cursed by God. Had he or his parents committed some terrible sin that had incurred God’s wrath? This leper was isolated from society and alone with no hope. Yet, he had hope. There were stories that there was a man named Jesus who could do incredible things. He could perform miracles and heal the sick. So, the leper stepped out in faith, saying to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Imagine yourself in the leper’s place feeling alone and overwhelmed. Did you or do you feel like Jesus can be trusted with your situation? Talk to God about it.  

 

Day 2: Read Mark 1:40-42. When confronted by the leper, Jesus was deeply and emotionally moved. Most English translations translate verse forty-one to say that Jesus was, “moved with compassion” or pity. However, others translate the text as, “Jesus was indignant.” While there is some debate over the meaning of this passage, one thing is clear: Jesus did not heal this man solely to prove His authority. This was not some cold calculated act that only served Jesus’ divine plan. Instead, here in this passage, we see a deeply human Jesus. Jesus is not some aloof deity with no time for us mere mortals. Instead, this is a real man with real human emotions dealing with real life. Are you able to believe that Jesus is God? Does He have the power and authority to do the impossible in your life? Is there also room in your faith to believe that Jesus is truly human, and that He has intimately experienced the frailty, stench, and emotions of real human life? As was said on Sunday, can you trust in the goodness of Jesus?  

 

Day 3: Read Mark 1:38-45. Jesus’ plan was to enter villages and preach in their synagogues. It seems quite likely that this is the reason that Jesus sternly warned the leper not to tell anyone that Jesus had healed him. Jesus didn’t want to draw too much attention too quickly. He didn’t want the crowds to get out of control before He had the opportunity to preach His message. Jesus knew what the consequence would be for healing the leper. In fact, it would have served His plan better to refuse to heal this man altogether. Yet, Jesus said, “I am willing.” Jesus’ compassion for the leper outweighed His own desires. The cool part is, this is the same Jesus we gather for in order to worship, pray to and learn about. Jesus still has compassion for us today. Where have you seen compassion in your life? What is the most compassion God shown you?  

 

Day 4: Read Matthew 8:1-4 & Luke 5:12-15. Being a Christian or Christ-follower means that we seek to know and become more like Jesus. But what does that actually look like for us day to day? Are we to walk around casting out demons and healing the sick? I suppose that it is still possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, and yet, I believe that we can still be Christ-like if we don’t manifest miracles like that. Are there sick people around you? Do we know anyone who is without hope? When you think about the people that Jesus cared about, does it make you think of anyone in particular? When Jesus saw these people, His emotions were stirred, He was willing, and He took action. Take some time to reflect on this. Don’t be content to just believe that we Jesus is full of compassion. Ask God to show you how to express compassion to someone in your life today.   

 

Day 5: Read Mark 1:14-45. Sometimes when I read about miracles in the Bible, it can seem to good to be true. I can almost catch myself reading the gospels like they are a fairy tale with made up stories that are designed to teach some moral truth or principle. Honestly, it’s not just the miracles that are hard to believe. God’s compassion, love, and endless mercy are difficult to process as well. But what if these stories really happened?  What if the world the Bible takes place in is actually still the world we live in? What if the Kingdom of God has actually come near? Wouldn’t that change how we live? Wouldn’t that mean that our own happiness and prosperity isn’t the goal to life? For Christ-followers, Jesus’ Kingdom mission now becomes our mission. How does that change your outlook on the day? 

 

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June 23, 2019

Mark

It’s Time To Get Up!

Day 1: Read Mark 1:29-31. Take notice of the characteristics of discipleship shown by Simon, Andrew, James and John. They were not only with Jesus, but their time with Him produced dependence upon Him – such that they immediately looked to Him to help Simon’s mother-in-law, who was ill. Where do you immediately turn when you have a need? Is your time with Jesus just on Sunday? Do you leave Him at church and move on? Or do you relate to Him in your everyday life? Ask God to open your eyes this week to opportunities to invite Jesus into the everyday details of life this week.  

 

Day 2: Read Mark 1:32-35. Do you ever find yourself starting the day saying, “I have so much on my plate I don’t know where to start?” It’s during these times that we need to be reminded that, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31.) Jesus modeled waiting upon His Father. Despite busyness and fatigue due to days filled with ministry, he got up while it was still dark in order to go pray. To Jesus, prayer was His first work and not His last attempt. Begin to think about practical steps you can take to make prayer the priority of each day. Which of these steps will you take today? What would it look like to take that step? What do you need or who do you need to help you take this step?  

 

Day 3: As we think about the priority of prayer each day, if we follow Jesus’ example, we need to not only have the discipline to get up, but we need a place to go. Jesus got away to a secluded place where the sounds and busyness were gone and He was alone. What place have you designated for meeting with God? For some people it’s outdoors, maybe on a patio or deck. Others have a favorite room they look forward to meeting God in as they open His Word, sit in silence, or listen. Jesus desired to hear the voice of God and so He placed Himself in an environment that helped free Him from distractions. Find your place this week. Make a place and a time that begins to become your and God’s meeting place.  

 

Day 4: Read Mark 1:36-37. The demands of life will always be a threat to our time with God. We can allow the needs of children or other relatives, work and even ministry to hinder our prayers and time with God. Yet, even with everyone looking for Him, Jesus did not let others’ demands upon Him keep Him from time with the Father. Is your priority to know God? Imagine trying to deepen a relationship with a spouse or other family member without ever talking? It can’t happen. So, what boundaries could you set this week to protect your time with God? Is there an activity you might need to interrupt to make room for prayer? What would it be like to let that activity go? What do you imagine would happen? Would you be willing this week to try it and see if what you imagine is what actually happens?   

 

Day 5: Read Mark 1:38-39 Notice Jesus’ response to His disciples when they said, “Everyone is looking for You”. His answer reflected a focus on His purpose: to preach the gospel. Prayer influenced the movement of His day and the trajectory of His life, because He came to do the Father’s will. God’s will for us is to look like Jesus. (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) We can’t be transformed into the likeness of Christ apart from the Holy Spirit working in our lives and through time in God’s Word and prayer. What can you do to incorporate God’s Word into your prayer time? Perhaps it’s reflecting on passages from the sermon or small group study for the week. Maybe it’s reciting memorized verses and asking God to help you apply them to life. Regardless, ask God to speak to you clearly through His Word as you pray this week.  

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June 16, 2019

Mark

Jesus is Stronger!

Day 1:Identify a specific external or internal struggle you are facing. Jesus is stronger. He is the authority over everything in life. He made the world. When he was on earth, his authority showed in what he taught and his power over evil spirits, the weather, health issues, even death. In the first few verses of Mark 1:14-20we see that Jesus’ teachings had a different authority than the words of human teachers. Jesus isthe authority; he isthe expert. Can you base your life on what He says? It is important that we understand His words well; we can stake our lives on them. What do you trust most in your life? Is it God’s Word? Today, find what words of Jesus–what verses in the Bible– apply to the specific area of life you identified as a struggle. Pray. See what verses God brings to mind. Search the scriptures for verses that speak to that struggle. Look online for trusted Christian sources that apply God’s Word to your situation.  Ask a friend or spiritual leader for ideas of verses that are relevant. Make a list of several verses that apply to your struggle. 

 

Day 2:Find a way to regularly remember the verses you identified as relevant to your situation. Jesus is alive and his words have power. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Put God’s Word before you. Let it do its work. Make a reminder on your phone that shows you the verse when you arrive at a certain location or at a key time of day. Write the verses out and tape them where you can remember and meditate on them throughout the day. Set aside time alone during each day to think about those verses, memorize them, and pray about what they mean. 

 

Day 3:Let Jesus’ words penetrate deeply to expose your heart motives. Accept what the Bible says about you, your situation, as true. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit revealing truth to you through God’s Word. Look at your behavior and heart attitudes in the area you are struggling and compare them to what God’s Word says is true. Do your actions and beliefs line up? Is there a heart issue at the root of your struggle? Honestly journal about what God’s Word says about your situation. Do you need to think about yourself in a different way according to God’s Word? Do you need to think differently about others in your life? About your circumstances? About God? Are there changes needed in your life or heart? Pray about what is at the root of heart issues in your life. We are becoming someone who naturally thinks, feels, and lives like Jesus. Imagine what it would look like if you naturally thought, felt like, and lived like Jesus in your situation. Pray for change at the heart level, that your heart would be like Jesus. Have confidence in Him. Lean on His words when you are weak. Apply them to your situation.

 

Day 4:Jesus has power to act; ask him. He is alive and well. Jesus has the ability to make a difference. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you. Read Ephesians 1:19-23.Jesus repeatedly said (John 13:13-14, John 15:7, 15:16, John 16:23-24) to ask Him and He will do whatever we ask in His name (that is, ask him for what he would want). We are invited to ask! We get a hint at the importance of prayer in Matthew 17:14-21when the disciples failed to cast out a demon and asked Jesus what went wrong. He said that this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. Regarding the area in your life that you want to see Jesus work; pray, fast. Make your prayer requests specific, specific to what He would want according to His Word in this situation. Write down your requests to remember them and to have a place to record the answers! Meditate on the powerful name of Jesus as you listen to the song What a Beautiful Nameby Hillsong. Come to God in prayer and fasting for the change you believe Jesus would want. 

 

Day 5:We all need other believers in our life who can come alongside us, pray with us and encourage us. We need that community. Find believers who are safe and share the area of life you are needing Jesus’ strength. Tell them what is happening, what your prayer requests are, and what verses from God’s Word you are remembering. If you feel weak and a failure, share that. If Jesus does something that shows he is stronger than your struggle, share that. We all will benefit from seeing and celebrating Jesus’ power in our lives. 

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June 9, 2019

Mark

Be Filled

Monday:Read Mark 1:7-8 & John 3:26-30.John the Baptist, in Mark 1:7-8, understands he is not the main character in this story. John has grasped the idea, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Relinquishing control is a critical step in beginning a journey of allowing the Spirit to lead toward a path of growth. This is an acceptance that as the Spirit comes in, the person gives up control. This is not the same as two partners coming together with 50-50 control but of one owner selling to a new, more deserving owner and steadily following their lead. Take time to reflect to see where your heart is with this. Do you find yourself following, or continuing to negotiate for control?

Tuesday:Read Mark 1:8.John is very clear about what he and Jesus are both offering in this verse. The Old Testament promises a time where God will live with His people. John is saying the time for this has finally come. He uses the symbolism of being baptized to illustrate this good news. His baptisms in water represent repentance, a change of mind, by going into the water as their old self and coming out of the water as someone on a journey of following. He draws a distinction between this baptism in water and being baptized in the Spirit. Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a visual representation of anything, but instead a fulfillment of God’s promise that one day He will live amongst his people. 

Wednesday:The Gospel of Mark begins, not ends, with John speaking of God’s Spirit in us. Sometimes we talk or think of the goal of the Gospels as leading us to accept Jesus as Savior. Surely that is part of the Gospels, it’s just not the whole story. Mark has placed the significance of the Holy Spirit in our lives at the beginning because the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is the beginning of knowing and becoming like Christ. Our journey with God does not become complete once the Spirit enters into us, but instead it begins as the spirit that is inside of us begins to work His way through us. Jesus’ life is depicted by four different books to give us a living example of what a Spirit filled life looks like. As followers of Jesus, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us. But like any relationship, our trusting and learning to lean on and hear the Spirit’s guidance and care for us takes intentional time to develop. There are steps to discover and take. It is not enough to just be given the ingredients to bake a cake, we must actually put the ingredients together and follow through in baking the cake. What is a step for you in learning to listen to and relate with the Spirit in your life? 

Thursday:To be transformed in how we think, feel, and act is the sovereign work of God through His spirit, requiring constant focus and attention on our part. Jesus believed whole-heartedly that change was not only possible, but that it was necessary for us to live the kind of lives available to us. It does not have to wait. The idea that we need the Spirit in us to be saved and one day go to heaven would be foreign to Jesus and diminish not only His life and teaching, but our lives as well. Jesus wants more from us and for us in this life. How are you actively learning to listen to the Spirit, to know Jesus and to bring His teaching to life in your life? Do you see the fruit of His Spirit growing in you? Do you see peace, patience, kindness, compassion, love growing in you and how you think of and relate with others? 

Friday:Having God with us through His Spirit makes real transformation possible. The Spirit leads us to know Jesus, and transforms us to become more like Him. But what does that really look like? It looks like taking steps. Just as Day 3 mentions, the Spirit entering us is just the beginning of who we can become. What steps might the Spirit be leading you to explore and take? Is it knowing Jesus more deeply, what He said, how He related with people, what He seemed to care about, how He lived, to know Him relationally? Is this a step of beginning daily prayer and studying? Beginning to see people through a lens of loving and serving them? Listen to what the Spirit might be trying to help you see in you, and a step He is leading you to take. Do you have community that encourages and holds you all accountable to living out His Kingdom ways?

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