By Faith

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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February 3, 2019

By Faith

Faith Leads to Action

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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January 27, 2019

By Faith

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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January 20, 2019

By Faith

Lack of…

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

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

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

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

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

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January 13, 2019

By Faith

Foundation Of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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