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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June 2, 2019

Mark

The Value of Repentance

Day 1. Repentance. Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries with a similar call, a call to repent. Repentance literally means to change our mind or to change our thinking. Change, rethink, choose a different path, or go another way. How do you view repentance? Do any of these words come to your mind: weakness, stubbornness, humility, anger, hopelessness, hopefulness? Take a few minutes to contemplate your own working definition of repentance. Read Mark 1:4-5, 14-15. How would Jesus describe repentance? Pray and ask the Father to show you anything that does not lead to life, is not consistent with being a citizen of His Kingdom. 

  

Day 2. Read Matthew 5:4-6 Do you have a heart that can mourn your own thoughts or actions from time to time? Do you hunger for things to be “right”, that is, in harmony with God’s Kingdom (or how God intends things to be here on earth)? Are you longing for God to have His way, with and in you, and in your areas of influence? Recall the message on Sunday. Is there something in your thinking, attitude, behavior that helps hold up sin and brokenness in you or your area of influence? Did the Holy Spirit bring something to your mind? What would it look like to repent, to change your thinking, in your mind and to trust God to provide a different way?   

 

Day 3Read Mark 1:4-5, 14-15 again. Repentance is a change of mind or rethinking what or how we have been living. Confession is critical. Why is confession so important? Why does it matter? It’s the only way to receive forgiveness and restoration of relationship. I can forgive someone, but if they reject it or ignore it, there is no reconciliation of the relationship. But God loves us and wants relationship. While it’s true I will benefit from forgiving them, without them accepting my love and forgiveness, there is no reconciliation. Repentance is our ongoing “yes” to God’s free gift of grace and forgiveness. Is there something you need to confess to God or to another to move toward restoring relationship?  

 

Day 4Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 Has anyone ever called you out or had a hard conversation about an attitude or behavior of yours? How did that initially feel? What did you have to fight through to actually repent? Self-defense, blame of others or circumstances, rationalizations–what eventually helped move you to repentance? A stern attitude on their part, a threat of punishment, their care, concern, or even love they have for you? In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that it is God’s kindness and goodness that leads us to repentance. Repentance is owning our stuff and sin not to belittle, but to offer real life and freedom. The gospel writer, Luke, in his day,called it times of refreshment. Could you use some refreshment? Is there something you need to either let go of or maybe it’s to own and accept?  

 

Day 5. Have you ever wanted to hide from God? As silly as that sounds, we all have some ways of hiding. We can avoid God like we would someone at the grocery store by going down another aisle. We can cease to pray or skip church or small group, but that won’t get us what we want or need. It just leaves us in our sin and stuff, and usually deepens it. Picture a parent, friend, co-worker, or spouse who has acted badly. Once you move past wanting to angrily straighten them out, don’t you want them to understand how their actionshurt you and others? How much more so does your Father in heaven want you to understand how you have acted and how it has hurt your relationship with Him? Are you willing to trust the goodness of God, His goodness to forgive you, His goodness to restore what was lost and begin healing that which is inside of you? What would it be like to stop hiding, to pray, and to repent? Read Psalm 145:8-21 and enter into a conversation with God.  

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May 26, 2019

Mark

Come. See. Follow.

Day 1: Read Mark 1: 1-13.  Cory walked through these verses in the preceding weeks of this series. We learned about the writer of Mark, his audience, and his perspective for writing. We’ve also examined the development of John the Baptist, and his role in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. We revisited the baptism of Jesus – as the Spirit descended, God’s voice said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11. In Mark, Jesus’ public teaching is beginning to unfold. When you think about the first 13 verses of this chapter, what touches you? John the Baptists’ selfless view of Jesus? The voice of God declaring Jesus His son? Have you felt the love of God, your heavenly father, has for you?  

 

Day 2:  This week Pastor Jack taught on Mark 1:14-20. Jesus proclaims, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” (verse 15) Jesus also calls to his first disciples— Simon, Andrew, James and John, “Come, follow Me,” (verse 17). The call to follow in Mark 1 is a call for these men to leave their old lives behind and become His full-time disciples, a perfect picture of repentance. However, before He asked for this kind of commitment (the same commitment He asks of us), He first called them to get to know Him. One reason many don’t follow Jesus wholeheartedly is because they haven’t seen Jesus for who He is. Read John 1:39. How can we get to know Jesus? What are some of the ways that have helped deepen your relationship with Jesus? How can we “Come and see?” 

 

Day 3: One way we can get to know Jesus is to spend time with Him. Wouldn’t it have been glorious to sit at the feet of Jesus in the flesh? I can’t imagine being in the presence of His human form as the disciples did. However, we can spend time with Him. What does spending time with God do in us and for us? Ask Him to reveal himself to you. It’s one thing to know truths about God and it’s another thing to “see His glory” (Exodus 33:18). Study His revelation of Himself in His word. What do this week’s verses reveal about who and how Jesus is?  

 

Day 4:  What is God calling us to do? He calls us to a relationship and to discipleship. Jesus calls us to follow— first and foremost in friendship. But this is not a casual friendship without any expectation or commitment. Couples have a choice after their marriage ceremony, continue to grow and deepen their relationship or stop connecting. In a similar respect, we are saved, but where does our relationship with Christ go from there? Are we living our lives with Him? Do we live for Him yet not with Him? Do we talk about Him more than to Him? How can we get to a place where we treasure Christ so much that we’re truly following?  

 

Day 5: : The second call is to discipleship. What is discipleship? its being His student or apprentice – not just knowing who He is or what He says, but becoming like Him and doing what He does. It’s following Christ - not only with companionship but with obedience and surrender. Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ To follow Jesus as our King is to choose His will over our own.  This choice to follow Him, live like Him, and yield to His ways is a choice we make every day, hour by hour.  Looking at your own life, where have you surrendered and truly become a disciple of Christ?  Where do you see a potential next step – perhaps where you push your own will, and not His?  

 

Day 6: What is our response to His call?  

Will you “Come and see”? Not just once but always? (Psalm 27:4

Will you “Come and follow”? It’s a decision you make daily. 

Will you leave it all to follow Him? What does it mean for you to leave all and follow Him? Jesus says we should count the cost.  

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May 19, 2019

Mark

Day 1: Read Mark 1: 1-15.What’s going on here, voices from heaven, spirit birds, and talking with the devil in the desert. Its easy to read a passage like this and think, “I know this story,” and miss how reality altering this is. In the midst of everyone’s mundane lives, something is happening that will change everything. Heaven breaks through and the impossible starts becoming reality. People were doing their normal everyday life, and this John the Baptist guy shows up proclaiming that something incredible was about to happen. Get ready! Repent, confess your sins and seek forgiveness. Someone is coming who will cleanse you with the Holy Spirit Himself. The Son of God has arrived as one of us, and His Kingdom reign is happening now. Take some time to reflect. What does this story have to do with your life here and now, how you live and relate with God and others? Is it true? and if it is, what does it mean for us?

Day 2: Read Mark 1:9-12.Jesus was baptized by John and lead into the wilderness for forty days. A Jewish person of that day would have thought of the Exodus, God’s delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery. Just as Moses lead Israel through the waters of the Red Sea to wander in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus passes through the waters of baptism and is lead into the wilderness for forty days. Something was happening here. God’s Kingdom plan of rescue and deliverance was continuing. All of history was leading up to this moment when God’s own Son would deliver us from the bondage of sin and death and usher in His Kingdom way of living and relating. Jesus was baptized and tested in the wilderness to prepare Him. Up until now, Jesus had lived a quiet life as a carpenter’s son, but now something new was beginning. What if He stopped there, treated it as a point of arrival and was satisfied? What if Jesus thought, “that was cool, and went back to his normal life?” What would we have missed out on? What would all of history missed out on? Is there “an arrival mentality” at risk of showing up in your life of following Jesus? Where are you at risk of resting in the relationship you have with Christ? Is there no next step? 

Day 3: Read Mark 1:9-15.We just celebrated the Easter season. Many around the world practice Lent leading up to Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a forty-day season reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Lent is designed to test us, sharpen us, and prepare our hearts for celebrating Resurrection. Yet, we can get through the Easter season and think to our selves, “that was cool, back to life as normal.” What if the practice of Lent and Easter itself was intended to shape how we live everyday? What if we haven’t arrived yet? What if Easter just marks the beginning? Take out a piece of paper, and make a list. What new things might God be calling you to? What work has He been preparing? What difficult thing might you be avoiding? 

Day 4: Read Mark 1:12-19. It is springtime. The birds are back and flowers are blooming. Spring is a season of new life. It’s also a season of milestones and transitions. Kids graduate and go off to college or seek their first job. They leave their parent’s homes, get married, move to new cities, meet new people, and begin their adult lives. It can be a bitter-sweet time. Saying goodbye to old friends or boxing up your kid’s belongings to take them to college can be difficult. It can also be easy for us to think, “We made it. No more testing. No more homework. No more driving kids to...” Yet, there is danger in thinking we have arrived. It can lead us to a passivity that lulls us into inaction. What milestones are you going through in this season? Each is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with God or to drift from Him. As you move forward to what’s next, commit to following Jesus? Use the milestones that lay ahead to discover new ways to worship, relate with others, and to serve. 

Day 5: Read Mark 1:19. James and John left everything to follow Jesus. At this moment, their lives changed forever. Ever wonder how Zebedee felt. They were his boys, his workers, maybe his future. No more daily breakfasts or fishing together. This was better for his kids. Maybe he knew that. However, he must have mourned at what he had lost. Transitions can be hard. A year ago my Father-n-law dies. My Mother-n-law is a wonderful Godly woman, but I know she struggles to understand how she could possibly move forward now that her life has changed so drastically. However, there is good news. To my mother-in-law, to Zebedee, to the empty nesters that say good bye to their children, to the young man or woman setting off to begin their new life, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” We’re not alone. Jesus, the Son of God, calls us to relationship with Himself. He says, “Come live your life with Me.” What is your next step in living your life “with” Jesus? 

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May 12, 2019

Mark

Mother’s Day

Day 1: Mark 1:11, And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  God’s voice beamed down from heaven just as Jesus was being baptized by John in the Jordan River. Jesus had yet to perform any miracles, but still the Father said He was pleased with his Son. Do you believe the same principle applies to you? Is God pleased with you? God doesn’t love you less when you go astray, and he doesn’t love you more when you’re “good.” Read Ephesians 2:10 and Zephaniah 3:17 and remind yourself of how God sees you today. If He sees you this way, how does he see your co-worker, family member, classmate, etc.?  

 

Day 2: God made you with a purpose. In all honesty, do you believe that you are a unique, hand-crafted God design? We tend to look at others – see their strengths and characteristics, and wish we were more like them. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Have you experienced that thief? God has already put his stamp of approval on you – your height, your freckles, your talents, your laugh, everything. Read these passages. What is God saying to you about the specialness that is you? How does this change how you view your schedule or plans for today? Read Psalm 139:13-14, Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 1:4-8, Matthew 10:29-31. 

 

Day 3: This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and next month we celebrate Father’s Day. Parents of younger children, let’s continue to raise successful, achieving children. But in the same token, let’s not compare our children to other’s children wishing for them to be smarter, faster, wiser when they are just as God made them. And for those of you who are parents of adult children, what does it look like to love and to show respect to your kids? Likewise, children, God made your mom and dad for a purpose. Honor them and thank them. Pray for them. Show grace and understanding. Whether parents or children, or both, reflect on the last time you’ve lost patience and lacked grace. Read John 13:33-34 and practice it in your family relationships.  

 

Day 4:  Where is your identity coming from? To what am I looking to reaffirm that I am ok, or even who I am? That is an easily glossed over, deep question. When I get a new car is there something in me that feels better when I sit at a stoplight? Does my significance go up when I get a promotion or raise at work?  What is happening in me at a heart level when I see a specific attitude or behavior that needs to be transformed by God? Read Matthew 6:19-24. Who or what is your master outside of God? What comes into your mind? Now consider this quote from Lysa TerKeurst, “Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling—all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace. Words used to describe us being with Him.” (Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely). Notice where you get your identity today. How can you affirm yourself and in others? 

 

Day 5: Jesus teaches us to hold admiration for others. Do you see others who you hold in high regard? Admire them, learn from them, celebrate them, but you be you! Admire, love and celebrate all that you are in God’s eyes. Romans 8, “Nothing can separate you from God.” When it comes to God delighting over you, you didn’t earn it, you just are. Why? Because you are His son or daughter. He cannot love you more – and he will never love you less. He loves you and needs you to be you, in keeping with how He made you and why you are here. Pray today for a greater sense of self and acknowledge who you are in God’s eyes. Embrace love and acceptance knowing your heavenly Father is always shining favor on your life.  

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May 5, 2019

Mark

THINKING BACKWARDS

Day 1. Mark 1: 2-3: ‘It is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ – a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him’. Over 500 years before Jesus would show up, the Prophet Isaiah is telling us that a King is coming. He’s telling us how different or unexpected the One who is coming is and will be, how everything we know or thought we knew will be changing. That His kingdom’s ways will be so unexpected, someone will be needed to come before him to help us take it all in. Are you still able to be surprised by Jesus and His Kingdom’s ways? What has surprised you recently about Jesus and living as a Christ-follower?   

 

Day 2. Mark 1:2 ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’. This unusual figure, John, begins to proclaim a new King is coming, and the people should take notice and prepare themselves for His reign – for this new reality. In the US we elect a president in November, and they take office toward the end of January. We have real-time coverage of the election and the administrations transition into office. At the time this was written, when a new King took the throne, a proclamation would be made throughout the Kingdom. It was news as well as a call to the people to prepare themselves to live under the new King’s reign. This is the call of John the Baptist, to repent, to prepare for the new reality that is coming. What goes into your preparation to live in Jesus’ Kingdom’s ways each day? What would or could that look like? Take 5-10 minutes and pray. Ask God to reveal areas in your life where you need a change. Is there someone you are in conflict with, an attitude you are holding, a sin you are hiding? Let John’s words sink into your heart. Prepare the way for the Lord!  

  

Day 3. John appears to lead one of the more selfless lives in all of scripture, and lived well, lived with purpose, significance, and meaning. John discovered ways to switch his loyalties and focus from himself to Jesus. Can you see or identify areas or patterns in your life where this is an ongoing struggle for you? What do you recall from your prayer time yesterday? Continue to pray for God to show you an area of your life where your loyalties and focus are still tied to holding on to your life and ways and for Him to point you to a step or discipline that might be of help. Who in your life could honestly and lovingly help you to see areas of selfishness? When can you talk with them next?  

 

Day 4. In the early 2000’s a book came out titled “Leading from the Second Chair”. It was a book for the majority of us who are not the primary leader in the organization we serve, team we are on, or the purpose we are pursuing. John is the embodiment of a second chair leader. A clear leader, who works toward a purpose and vision, who understands he is not the primary person, but works and serves both his leader and his leader’s purpose. John was a servant. When we talk about the serve commitment around here, Johns posture and attitude is a great example to us. He knew he had a significant role to play, a contribution to make, but it didn’t become about him, it was about helping others know Jesus and calling them to prepare to live in Jesus’ Kingdom’s ways. Describe what it means “it’s all about me.” When do you recognize that mentality in your own life?  

 

Day 5. How does serving play out in your life? Can you point to regular examples in the different parts of your day and week where you focused on helping someone else? Pull out a sheet a paper or write in your journal examples where you are regularly making it about others rather than yourself. Are these actions bringing you closer to God meaning do you feel more alive? Or is this serving draining or frustrating? Why is that so?  

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April 28, 2019

Mark

Intro to Mark

Day 1: Mark starts his gospel with this, Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark is telling his readers that this is the start of the good news! It began with the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, that John the Baptist would come with a message of repentance to prepare the way for Messiah. What makes this news good? It was the news that the Son of God was coming into the world to begin to bring His Kingdom and carry our sins. Mark's opening starts with the proclamation of the Messiah's arrival and connects it to the unfolding story or God. What practical steps can you take this week to grow your anticipation of what God may desire for you as we walk through Mark’s gospel as a church? Simply start by reading Mark’s Gospel this week, you can do it! Read it as if you were reading it for the first time. Pray for God to show you who Jesus is, what He said, how he related with people, and what he seemed to care about so that you might know Him, that you might bring His teaching into your life, that you would discover a step that God would use to lead you to become more like Jesus. 

   

Day 2: Read Ephesians 3:6. Paul reminds us of the scandal of the gospel, that it is for everyone, both Jews and Gentiles. Surely this is part of “the good news” Mark begins with. Most agree, Mark was writing to Gentile followers in Rome who were experiencing persecution. Their inclusion in the Gospel, the good news they had received, was not one of personal comfort or acquired knowledge, it was a call to a different way of thinking and living. One that often put them at odds with the Empire. The call to follow Jesus was a call that included suffering, and in that, the hope of transformation as well. (Romans 8:18) How do you receive suffering? No healthy person seeks it, but over and over again in scripture we see people changed and deepened in their relationship with Christ by it. Am I prone to focus hope on escaping suffering, denying it, or to be with God in it and to allow it to do its transformational work in my life?  

 

Day 3: Read 2 Timothy 4:11. Mark was a part of the early church. The Book of Acts tells us a church met in his mother's house. Mark later accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul's first journey of planting churches. But it was Mark's relationship with Peter that scholars believe most influenced the writing of Mark's gospel. 1 Peter 5:13 indicates that Mark was Peter's spiritual son. Some believe Mark was in Rome with Peter before his death, and Paul sent for Mark as he awaited his own execution in Rome, both speak to the bond of love these believers shared with one another. As Christians, God desires for us to experience this kind of community and discipleship with one another. Do you have community? Have you done the hard work of finding and fighting for community in your life? Is there someone in the church that you could call a spiritual son, daughter, father or mother? Pray for the courage and intentionality to find those folks or to more deeply share your life and service with those you are in community with. 

 

 Day 4: Mark 1:1 again. “The beginning of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ (Messiah), the Son of God.” What is the good news/gospel that is being announced in this proclamation? Is the “beginning” here in reference to Jesus’ life, the beginning of his ministry and teaching, the beginning of the journey toward the cross and resurrection, the beginning of the ushering in of the Kingdom of God/Heaven, the beginning of God/Jesus reclaiming His reign on earth as it is in Heaven, the beginning of Jesus reconciling all things to Himself? Surely it is all of that and more! Remember last week’s message, are we like the two guys on the road that Jesus visits with, who were so certain in what Messiah would be and do that they missed Him? How might you understand and live the call of the “good news” Mark is sharing with us in a fuller way? Pray for God to show you more and more of His good news as you read Mark and we journey through it together as a church. 

      

Day 5: In day 1 you were encouraged to read through the book of Mark; how is it going? As a church, we will be going through the Gospel of Mark for the remainder of the year. What would it be like that if at the end of this calendar year, you had read through Mark multiple times as we walk through it together as a church? What might you discover about this “good news” that Mark is telling us about? How could your relationship with Jesus be changed or deepened? How might you know Jesus and be more like Him as we celebrate Christmas and bring in a new year? Do you think the you of this coming December would be grateful and potentially changed for you having done so, or bothered that you invested that much time? If you have fallen off in your reading, there is still time! 

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April 21, 2019

Final Week

Day 1: Read Luke 24. Our main focus will be 13-35, but the power of these verses expands when placed in their context. Read Luke 24:15. Much like the two guys in this story, we are all on a path going somewhere. Jesus wants to come alongside and walk with us, to meet us wherever we are on our path. Are you open to a conversation with Jesus, similar to the one these men had? Jesus wants to engage with us on a personal level, no matter what we believe we know, we have to be willing to hear and respond if we want to truly know Jesus, and become more like Him.

Day 2: Read Luke 24:17-24. While Jesus was walking with these two men, He asks them a simple question. The men openly responded with their concerns, doubts, and feelings about all that had happened. Jesus does not decide to go another way or write them off as missing the point. He leans in and helps to create an understanding through showing them the bigger picture. Jesus can help clarify our doubts, struggles, events, and anything else that may seek to overwhelm us. He will also walk with us in them. What issues do you need to bring to God? Are there areas in your life that you question God’s motives or lack understanding? What current events in your life, or the culture we live, are at risk of shaping how you see Jesus or even want Him to be? Are you open to discovering a bigger Jesus than your current lens may allow? What or who do you need to help you become aware of how or where you are reshaping Jesus to your purposes?

Day 3: Read Luke 24:28-29. As these men walked and talked with Jesus, relationship began to form, they started to connect with him. When they got to where they were going, they didn’t want him to move on. As Jesus walked and listened to these guys, they leaned into the relationship that began to form with Jesus. Jesus wants to be a part of our lives, but that requires something of us as well. We all have a step to take, an openness to having Jesus rework our thinking and view of the world and what He is doing in it. What is a step you could take to open yourself to relationship or deepening your relationship with Jesus? These two guys would have missed Jesus and the life change that followed if their posture remained one of certainty. They may have dismissed this stranger that was walking with them as someone who didn’t get it. Is there something you are so sure of that it could actually keep you from hearing or knowing Jesus?

Day 4: Read Luke 24:30-32. As these men leaned into Jesus, He revealed Himself for who He truly was and is. This wasn’t by accident. When we take steps to know and become like Jesus, He reveals himself in ways that we would have not seen otherwise. Had these men let Jesus continue on past their village, they might have, or would have missed knowing Jesus. The same is true for us. As we follow Jesus, taking and working His teaching into our lives, we are changed, we know Him in new ways and in new circumstances, similar to how we develop and deepen relationships with others. Is there an “area” of your life that you have not relationally shared with Jesus? Something you are yet to let go of or that you may even be hiding from Jesus? What would it look like, what would it take to expose it to Jesus and allow Him to love you and change you even in that area of life?

Day 5: Read Luke 24:33-35. Think how normal and easy it would have been for these two guys to have missed knowing Jesus and all He began to do in their lives. They easily could have let Jesus just keep on walking, or been kind enough to this stranger to give Him a meal but not share it with Him. Where, in your everyday life, might you be at risk of missing Jesus as well? They practiced hospitality, kindness, or maybe it was an act of compassion or mercy to this stranger that left them in a position to see and hear fully from Jesus. These are acts to a stranger that Jesus Himself had taught, even claiming that when they did these things to the least among us, it would be doing them to Him. They were able to meet Jesus, get to know Him, and be grown by Him through living out His teaching. Who will you meet today that needs more than a polite hello or a promised prayer? How can you be more intentional in loving the person in front of you, even if love looks like a simple conversation or sharing a meal?

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April 14, 2019

Final Week

Day 1: Whether you go to church a lot or not, sometimes we can miss, overlook, who Jesus is. Take a few minutes and slowly read Colossians 1:15-20. Do you see the power and authority that Jesus has? Jesus was there before anything was formed and has the most power of anyone in all creation, yet what did He do with it? He humbled Himself more than any other. The greatest king of all the universe bent low to serve His creation. That is who He is. The greatest power in the universe shows the greatest humility-- a Heart to serve. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Heart of our Father, the Heart of our King, the most powerful of all the universe, is to bend low and serve. What power do you have? You do not have the power to create a rainstorm or rule those in authority, but we all have power because we all can influence people. So, what do you do with your power? How do you bend lower to serve others in more humble ways? Who are the humble in your life? Meditate on the one who is the most powerful in the universe who was with the Father from the beginning of time.  

 

Day 2: Jesus is the King who washes dirt. Yes, He washed dirt off the toes of the disciples, but on a much greater scale He washes the dirt off our souls. Notice the extremes in Peter’s reaction to Jesus washing His feet. Read John 13:6-10. At first Peter doesn’t want Jesus to wash His feet at all, then He wants Jesus to give Him an entire bath, even though Jesus said Peter was already clean! Peter was confused. Some of us may feel the same. We feel too unworthy or guilty, or perhaps because we are too proud to even admit that we have a need or that selfishness does reside in us. If you haven’t asked forgiveness for the sin in your actions and in your attitudes, imagine Jesus standing before you right now. Allow Him to wash from your Heart all your sin. Accept His cleansing and that you are clean. Unless we accept and allow His washing, we have no part with Him. Others of you may need to Hear something else. How often do we refuse to accept the forgiveness Jesus offers us? Sometimes we as believers may come begging to Him for forgiveness that He has already given. If He has forgiven you, are you still living as unforgiven?   

 

Day 3: How was Jesus able to do these extreme acts of humility? We get a clue in Philippians 2. Read Philippians 2:5-11. Notice that He, already being God, did not have anything to attain; rather, He laid down His life for us. Jesus was secure in His position as God yet was able to lay down His life. We have been given the life of Jesus, His righteousness, as a gift. Our standing and status before God is secure because it has been achieved by Christ’s work. The more we are sure of our standing before God because of Christ’s work, the more able we are to lay down our lives and serve because we have no need to attain good standing with God. Are there areas in our lives where we are feeling the need to be heard, to be known, to make a point, or to be noticed? These may be symptoms that we are not resting in our identity but feel the need to defend ourselves. If we have accepted Christ’s gift, we are taken care of; now we can take care of others. Remind yourself of the security of your position in Christ by reciting or looking up verses that describe who you are in Christ and what has been given to you in Christ.  

 

Day 4: When you look at a king, there are normally certain characteristics that help you identify Him as a king. He is dressed well, has many people surrounding Him (including some guards), uses His power daily, and lives in luxury. Contrast that with what Jesus describes as identifying characteristics of His kingdom: loving and serving. Read Luke 22:24-30 and John 13:34. Reflect on the characteristics of the world’s kingdoms compared to the characteristics of Jesus and His kingdom. What would someone looking at your life from the outside see? What would your children, parents, spouse, boss, those who report to you say? When are you the one to be served or the one who serves?  

 

Day 5: The greatest King in the world cleanses me personally and secures me as His very own child. As His child, He tells me to love others (His other children). As I become like Him in loving and serving, where do I start?  Start with the real needs of the very people who are before you now. In Jesus’s time, washing feet was a basic need, a routine and mundane task. Some may have felt it was beneath them, not their job, or simply didn’t want to do. Sometimes when we want to be like Jesus, we think of grand tasks, big projects, great ministries, things we do once a month with people from our church. That is one place to serve. But what about the other places and people we are with? Jesus served the disciples in an immediate, ordinary need. When looking to love and serve, keep it simple and real. Who are the people you can serve today? Ask God to show you needs you can meet today, and then keep your eyes and ears open. He will give you opportunities.  

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April 7, 2019

Final Week

A Deliberately Reckless Response

Day 1:  Are you observing Lent- the 40 days preceding Easter? Traditionally, Lent provides a time for preparation and focus, reminiscent of Jesus' time in the wilderness before he started his public ministry (See Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13). Jesus withdrew to the wilderness to set aside the distractions of the worldly life and focus on God, and God's will, for him. As we draw nearer to Jesus’ last days, what steps can you take to refocus your eyes on God’s will and desires for you? These weeks are a time of readying ourselves to experience the death of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. How can we prepare to receive this afresh, and not miss or pass through another Easter season? 

 

Day 2: This week Cory taught on a genuine encounter with love. Read Matthew 26:6-13. The woman enters the home of Simon the Leper to anoint Jesus with expensive oil. She receives much criticism from the disciples for her extravagance. However, Jesus recognizes the woman’s actions as that of love, worship and sacrifice. Having felt a deep love and acceptance of Jesus, she offers a response. How can we come to a place of gratitude and worship Jesus with similar passion? How about others in your life? Have you sacrificed for those you love (spouse, child or loved one)? What might be a loving sacrifice you can offer today? How about during the next worship service you attend?  

 

Day 3: Matthew 26:8, “When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. Why this waste?” Perhaps you identify more with the disciples in this story.  They willingly express loving gratitude to Jesus in calculated ways that are purposeful and intentional. Some of us may want to show our love to Jesus only in ways that are controlled, make sense, fit into a plan, and are not too costly. Where are you on the scale of spontaneous love to controlled love? To express any love, we must first open our lives to Jesus and receive this type of love from Him. How has Jesus shown spontaneous, extravagant love to you? Consistent, steady, controlled love? Spend some time reflecting on how you are loved. Just rest in that for a while.  

 

Day 4: The woman in the story (Matthew 26:6-13) provides an example of reckless abandon in her worship. Several ago, at a Casting Crowns concert, my husband and I observed a man attending alone, but totally engaged in the show, singing and dancing. You’ve heard the phrase “dance like no one is watching.” This guy was! He was truly in the moment. He was fully open to worship and spontaneously showing his joy. My husband said, “We should be that guy.” We often still say, “Be that guy…” completely and utterly able to exhibit praise and love without regard for those who misunderstand or misinterpret our actions. Based on your relationship with Jesus, whatever that might currently be, what would it look like to express your love for Him? Like the woman pouring out oil on Jesus or the guy at the concert, what would an unashamed act of love toward Jesus look like for you? 

 

Day 5: As we near Easter weekend, spend some time reflecting on the depth of God’s love toward you (the price He paid; the suffering He endured; the fullness of God’s love on display toward you). Did you do it or just keep reading? Seriously, pause and collect your thoughts on his final moments of his death. Revisit the last days of Jesus life leading up to his trial, crucifixion and sacrifice. Over the coming weeks, consider reading Matthew 26 and the rest of the book. What is your response to Him? Does love for Him stir up inside you? If so, how can you express it to Him?  

 

Dear Lord: Please give me the receptive heart to hear your word in me. Let your light shine through me in my daily life. We know the great sacrifice you laid out for us when you sent your son to suffer on the cross. May we live each day to your glory - and to honor that sacrifice. With your love we offer our love, both to you and to others, always. Amen. 

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March 31, 2019

Final Week

NOT THAT KIND OF KING

Day 1: Read Matthew 21:1-9. At the beginning of Jesus’ final week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem being hailed as King. The Jewish people had long awaited the Messiah, the savior and liberator, who would rescue the Jews. These people knew and believed the promises of God as revealed through the scriptures, and they were excited to finally see God do an amazing thing in their midst. And yet, this crowd would soon abandon Jesus to death on a Roman cross. What happened? Why were they so fickle? This crowd wanted Jesus to be their king. They wanted Him to be the kind of king they understood, namely, a political and military king who would wage war against the Romans. Jesus disappointed them. He failed to meet their expectations. Jesus had indeed come to be their King, but not in the way they wanted. God had a different plan. Is it possible that like the crowd that day, we could find ourselves disappointed in Jesus because He fails to meet our expectations? Is it possible that we want Jesus to be our King, but only on our terms? As long as God blesses us, provides for us, and gives us health, it is easy to serve Him, but what happens when things don’t go the way we think they should? Recall the message from Sunday. What did Jesus come to do when he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey?   

 

Day 2: Read Zechariah 9:9-13. This is what the crowd in Jerusalem was excited about. After being conquered for centuries by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, they just wanted peace and freedom. They wanted to prosper, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, they missed what Jesus had really come to do. Jesus was coming to break the power of sin and death. He came to offer grace, forgiveness, and true freedom. He came to demonstrate that His Kingdom exists not through the power to kill or destroy, but through the power of sacrificial love. Take time to worship King Jesus now. Acknowledge and confess that just like the crowd, our thoughts and desires often fall far short of God’s plan for His Kingdom. 

 

Day 3: Read Mark 1:14-15. The Kingdom of God is here. Jesus’ message was that the rule of Messiah on earth that had been promised in the Old Testament was here, and that the Messiah had come. Jesus lived and taught as if He was and will be in charge. He taught with authority and lived as if this world was His to speak into. Jesus came into Jerusalem as the King of the Kingdom of God and the King over all of creation. It was for this reason that He was executed. By claiming to be King, Jesus was not just a threat to the religious leaders, but to Caesar himself. (John 19:14-16) So what does this mean for us? Are we citizens of God’s Kingdom? What does it look like for us today to live under the reign of King Jesus? Take out a piece of paper and write down some ideas of what this looks like in your life. Is there something that you need to submit to King Jesus’ rule and authority, e.g., finances, relationships, habits, etc. Perhaps, it simply means finding practical ways to live your life as if you are not the one on the throne today.  

 

Day 4: Read Luke 19:37-44. As the crowds cheered, Jesus wept. He wept because the people of Jerusalem were missing out on what would truly bring them peace. He wept because they did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them. What a moment. The crowd cheers to make Jesus King, and He mourns over their spiritual blindness. The Pharisees tell Jesus, “rebuke your disciples.” Essentially saying, “how dare they call you King.” Where do you see yourself in this story? What would your response have been if you were there that day? Take a few minutes putting yourself in the story knowing that the rest of the story had not yet unfolded.   

 

Day 5:  Read Philippians 2:5-11.  Jesus did not come as a conquering King. Instead he came as a humble servant. He served God the Father and us even to the point of death. Let that sink in. The servant King died for us, and now He is seated on His rightful throne. As a result, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is Messiah and King. Revelation 5:13 says, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’” This is what Jesus’ Kingship ultimately looks like. Therefore, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” We live our lives in humility and service because that’s what King Jesus did. As you interact with people today keep Philippians 2 in your mind and heart. How will serving like Jesus shape your words and actions to the people around you today? 

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March 24, 2019

By Faith

A Simple Theology of Faith

Day 1: Psalm 62:11-12, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.” Pastor A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing to us…”  What comes to your mind? This week be open to digging deeper than our pat answer about who God is. Let’s explore what we truly think God wants to do in us, through us, for us and with us. Starting a daily journal this week, go deeper into your heart and faith to discover a greater understanding of God. Not simply, “How I should view God?” but, How do I view God?”  

 

Day 2:  Who is God in our lives? Before we can see and receive who God truly is, we need to identify and acknowledge the views and beliefs we already have. If we fail to do this work, we risk applying a topical fix to an internal problem. In order to replace misguided beliefs and harmful narratives with true ones, these narratives and beliefs must be acknowledged and identified. Have you projected your own brokenness onto God? How has your own pain and trials affected your view of God? List out some of your past pains, and how they have shaped your views. Read Psalm 24: 7-10 and chapter 25.  What in these verses reinforce your view of God and His character? Gut level honest, what verses challenge your current view of God? Pray and ask God to help you see Him as He is not just how you have perceived Him. 

 

Day 3: Where is my faith? What is my particular lens in which I view him? Is God vengeful, punitive or angry? Is my view of God, the Father, match with my view of Jesus? Do I have a harder time relating to one? God is good/loving. God’s goodness means that His greatness will be displayed in our lives too. Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In the season of Lent, we are reminded that the ultimate display of God’s goodness is the cross. Pain and struggle will come for all of us. Will you choose to believe, even then, that God’s love is constant, endless and continuous? This belief is critical to a life of faith. Pray over Psalm 103:2-5. Where do I see God’s goodness today?  

  

Day 4: When do you think of God? Do you open your heart to God on Sunday morning? Do you think of God at a stop sign while driving to work? Is God only on your mind in times of darkness? Are you mad at God when things don’t go your way? Do you think of God when you see your children playing? Do you think of God when the sun is shining? Sometimes do you plead with Him and other times forget He is there? Does your trust and faith in God’s goodness, love, and strength change depending on circumstances? Take time to write these thoughts in a journal or a piece of paper. Reflect on your words, decisions, choices, attitudes, and ways you’ve related to others. When do you think of God? 

 

Day 5: We feel most secure in our daily lives when we are in places we trust with people who love us. For our faith to grow, we must grow in our understanding, acceptance and belief in God’s wild, ruthless, unabandoned love for us. Do you trust that He loves you in this way? Author Brennan Manning wrote in his book Ruthless Trust, “You will trust (have faith in) God to the degree that you know you are loved by him.” Slowly read through these verses: Isaiah 53:3-5 and Romans 8:31-39. To what extent do you feel and comprehend God’s love? Consider the devotional this week. What have you learned about God? Have you seen your faith in Him change?  

 

Dear Lord – thank you for always loving us. Thank you for being a compassionate and capable father. I believe in your greatness. I trust your love. You are infinitely powerful and infinitely good. May my life today reflect that goodness to the world. Amen. 

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March 17, 2019

By Faith

The Price of Faith

Day 1: In the process of heart transformation, God works in his children and we work with him through the cutting away or removing of everything that is not like our Father. It is a work that God does in his children and that he calls us to do (Philippians 2:13).  It is a privilege for those who are his children and is desperately needed because of the devastating effects of sin. This removing of undesirable parts of our lives is both God’s work and ours. Sometimes the loving Father is seen doing the work such as in John 15:1-2 where the gardener (our Father) prunes all the branches (us) who are in the vine (Jesus), in I Peter 1:5-7 where trials test and mature our faith, and in Hebrews 12:5-11 where God is seen disciplining those he loves. In other places we are called to do the removing such as in Colossians 3:5-17, I Peter 1:13-16, and Hebrews 12:1-4. Read the passages above and consider God’s role and your role in cutting away those parts of your life that are not like Him.   

 

Day 2: Identify areas where God may be doing a cutting work in your life. Are there any painful circumstances you find yourself in? Is there a lesson to be learned there? Ask yourself some questions. Do I keep running into the same wall again and again?  Are these areas of my heart that God is attempting to do a deep work in?  How did I or do I treat, think of, and relate to people? Are there patterns that keep taking me off course of becoming more like Jesus? What do the people I love and trust keep pointing out to me, or what does scripture keep telling me or showing me? What do I hear in prayer? What am I obsessing over? Revisit the sermon series A Matter of the Heart (you can watch previous message series online at lscckc.org/messages or through the LSCC app) from a few months ago. Do you remember any areas of needed heart change that God revealed to you? Write down heart attitudes and behaviors that God may be working to cut out of your life.  

 

Day 3: How am I going to respond to God’s work in my life cutting away things that don’t belong as He restores His image in me? Am I going to cooperate with or resist what he is doing in my life and wants for me? Do I have a humble heart that is open to learning and changing? Am I putting myself in a place to hear from God by listening to his Word and other people? What happens when I suffer loss? Do I have a heart that can say with Job, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21 ESV)? Am I willing to follow Jesus and have counted the cost that it is worth it to suffer loss in this world for the surpassing greatness of what he has called me to? Or what keeps me from living that way? Read James 4:1-10 and consider what humbling yourself and submitting to God ‘s work and will in your life would look like.  

 

Day 4: Am I actively cutting away that which I know doesn’t belong in my life or taking steps of obedience that I know will be painful? God does call us, as his children secure and loved in Christ, to remove actions and attitudes in our life that are not like him (Romans 6, Ephesians 4:20-5:20, I Peter 1:3-9). This takes effort and intentionality. He calls us to steps of obedience that may be painful but worth it in the end. Sometimes we are hesitant to take a step in faith because we are aware of the cost involved. Are there any positive steps God is calling you to take that you have not taken because of the pain you anticipate? Is there anything you can do to remind yourself that it will be worthwhile to take the step? Is there anyone that can support and encourage you as you take that step? Are there promises you can hold on to that will help you to go through the pain and arrive at the end goal? Commit to taking a step God is calling you to and make a plan that includes accountability, encouragement, and reminders from scripture to help you through the pain. 

 

Day 5: Trust God, remember his love, and hold onto the benefits in the midst of the painful process you may be currently going through. We are surrounded by God’s love from the start all the way through to the finish of his work in us. Read Hebrews 12. Notice the joy set before him for which Jesus endured the cross (v 2), that God’s discipline comes from love (v 6), and in the end discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace (v 11). What joy is before you? What is the result of the sacrifice God is calling you to endure? When we walk in obedience, we experience fellowship with Christ through his Spirit. In doing so, good comes to others and us in this world, and we are promised rewards in our life and that Christ is returning. Make reminders for yourself from God’s Word that are personally impactful in encouraging you and reminding you of the benefits that are to come. Hold these joys before you in your mind and come back to them again and again while you are feeling the cost of living in faith.  

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March 10, 2019

By Faith

Recovering Stolen Property*

*Due to the cancellation of the Sunday, March 3rd service, this devotional will follow the March 10th service. If you have started working through this week’s devotional, see it as preparation for the coming Sunday. You have a unique opportunity to prepare yourself for this Sunday’s message.

Day 1: A life of faith is found in coming to Jesus, listening to Him, following Him, and becoming like Him. Faith is built, not manufactured. Jesus compares it to building a house. Read Luke 6:46-49. We all understand the building process; one step at a time. We begin with an initial step, maybe we choose the building site. Once we pour the foundation (we will talk more about that later), we don’t automatically start the drywall and roofing. We know it doesn’t work that way, yet we often think our faith does. Think about your own faith. What are some steps that have strengthened and grown your faith? Describe what a “life of step-by-step building faith” might look like. What specifically would that look like for you today? 

 

Day 2Read Luke 6:46-49 again. Notice Jesus said the first builder laid the foundation on rock, but he also emphasizes that the builder did so by “digging down deep.” Building our faith in the person of Jesus is building our life on His character and His unconditional love for us. If we don’t “dig down deep,” we might inadvertently mix some sand into our foundation which will result in a faith that will prove disappointing and lacking. Maybe we mix in our own effort or outcomes. Maybe we mix in some bad theology or cultural beliefs. Jesus tells us that He (and the ways of His Kingdom) is the foundation to build on. My worthiness to be loved is not the foundation. My effort to be good, or right, or pure is not the foundation. Success and life going great is not the foundation. What has perhaps slipped in to your foundation of faith? Consider the following statements: “I believe God is good when…”, “I trust that God is on my side when..”, “I believe Jesus loves me when..”  

 

Day 3: Recently in my small group, we were discussing what trusting God looks like. Someone shared what they called “NATO” – “not attached to outcome”. Our faith is built on the foundation of the person and character of Jesus when we are learning, day-by-day, minute-by-minute, step-by-step, to trust in the goodness and love of Jesus regardless of what is happening in our lives, what will happen, could happen, or doesn’t happen. This weekend we looked at a story where David faced despair (1 Sam 30:1-4). The immediate outcome was horrific. Yet while working through the reality of the situation and his grief, he remembered his God. He re-centered on the reality of the love, mercy, and goodness of his God. Not being attached to outcomes doesn’t mean we don’t care about what happens. It simply means that no matter what the outcome - good, bad, or indifferent - it doesn’t affect the character of God. “Faith is looking at the darkest, blackest fact in the face without it damaging God’s character.” Oswald Chambers 

 

Day 4: Read John 10:1-10 Jesus says that He has come to give us life; full, abundant, true life. What does “life to the full” look like? What does a life of faith look like? Jesus seems to connect the two. Our faith is built, stretched, and grown, as we live out the teachings of Jesus. As we, at a heart level, are becoming like Him. “Those who come to me, hear my words, and put them into practice.” What are we putting in to practice? What did Jesus teach? What did He talk about most? What did He seem to care about? How familiar are you personally with the teachings of Jesus? Reflect on and pray this statement. Jesus, show me what you care about today. Prepare me. Help me to recognize your voice as I go about my day.  

 

Day 5: Consider taking a step today into discovering more about the life and teachings of Jesus. Here are two options: Go back to Luke 6:46-49 or start with Matthew chapter 5 and work your way through chapter 7 in the coming weeks. Before you begin, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you keeping your heart and mind open to what Jesus is saying. Remember Jesus always speaks to us at a heart level. If we simply seek a “rule to follow” we have missed the point. What is God teaching or showing me as I read? Why would Jesus want this for me? He continually invites us to ask questions about the kind of heart he is describing. Is it a heart to seek after or to avoid? What behaviors lead to a new kind of heart? Do you sense any hesitation or resistance in yourself? It is this journey Jesus is inviting us on to build our faith. 

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March 3, 2019

By Faith

Recovering Stolen Property*

*Due to the cancellation of the Sunday, March 3rd service, this devotional will follow the March 10th service. If you have started working through this week’s devotional, see it as preparation for the coming Sunday. You have a unique opportunity to prepare yourself for this Sunday’s message.

Day 1: A life of faith is found in coming to Jesus, listening to Him, following Him, and becoming like Him. Faith is built, not manufactured. Jesus compares it to building a house. Read Luke 6:46-49. We all understand the building process; one step at a time. We begin with an initial step, maybe we choose the building site. Once we pour the foundation (we will talk more about that later), we don’t automatically start the drywall and roofing. We know it doesn’t work that way, yet we often think our faith does. Think about your own faith. What are some steps that have strengthened and grown your faith? Describe what a “life of step-by-step building faith” might look like. What specifically would that look like for you today? 

 

Day 2Read Luke 6:46-49 again. Notice Jesus said the first builder laid the foundation on rock, but he also emphasizes that the builder did so by “digging down deep.” Building our faith in the person of Jesus is building our life on His character and His unconditional love for us. If we don’t “dig down deep,” we might inadvertently mix some sand into our foundation which will result in a faith that will prove disappointing and lacking. Maybe we mix in our own effort or outcomes. Maybe we mix in some bad theology or cultural beliefs. Jesus tells us that He (and the ways of His Kingdom) is the foundation to build on. My worthiness to be loved is not the foundation. My effort to be good, or right, or pure is not the foundation. Success and life going great is not the foundation. What has perhaps slipped in to your foundation of faith? Consider the following statements: “I believe God is good when…”, “I trust that God is on my side when..”, “I believe Jesus loves me when..”  

 

Day 3: Recently in my small group, we were discussing what trusting God looks like. Someone shared what they called “NATO” – “not attached to outcome”. Our faith is built on the foundation of the person and character of Jesus when we are learning, day-by-day, minute-by-minute, step-by-step, to trust in the goodness and love of Jesus regardless of what is happening in our lives, what will happen, could happen, or doesn’t happen. This weekend we looked at a story where David faced despair (1 Sam 30:1-4). The immediate outcome was horrific. Yet while working through the reality of the situation and his grief, he remembered his God. He re-centered on the reality of the love, mercy, and goodness of his God. Not being attached to outcomes doesn’t mean we don’t care about what happens. It simply means that no matter what the outcome - good, bad, or indifferent - it doesn’t affect the character of God. “Faith is looking at the darkest, blackest fact in the face without it damaging God’s character.” Oswald Chambers 

 

Day 4: Read John 10:1-10 Jesus says that He has come to give us life; full, abundant, true life. What does “life to the full” look like? What does a life of faith look like? Jesus seems to connect the two. Our faith is built, stretched, and grown, as we live out the teachings of Jesus. As we, at a heart level, are becoming like Him. “Those who come to me, hear my words, and put them into practice.” What are we putting in to practice? What did Jesus teach? What did He talk about most? What did He seem to care about? How familiar are you personally with the teachings of Jesus? Reflect on and pray this statement. Jesus, show me what you care about today. Prepare me. Help me to recognize your voice as I go about my day.  

 

Day 5: Consider taking a step today into discovering more about the life and teachings of Jesus. Here are two options: Go back to Luke 6:46-49 or start with Matthew chapter 5 and work your way through chapter 7 in the coming weeks. Before you begin, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you keeping your heart and mind open to what Jesus is saying. Remember Jesus always speaks to us at a heart level. If we simply seek a “rule to follow” we have missed the point. What is God teaching or showing me as I read? Why would Jesus want this for me? He continually invites us to ask questions about the kind of heart he is describing. Is it a heart to seek after or to avoid? What behaviors lead to a new kind of heart? Do you sense any hesitation or resistance in yourself? It is this journey Jesus is inviting us on to build our faith. 

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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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