Devotionals

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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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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