Devotionals

May 19, 2019

Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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May 12, 2019

Mark

Mother’s Day

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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May 5, 2019

Mark

THINKING BACKWARDS

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

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April 28, 2019

Mark

Intro to Mark

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

   

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

 

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

 

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

      

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

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April 21, 2019

Final Week

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

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

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

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

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

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April 14, 2019

Final Week

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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April 7, 2019

Final Week

A Deliberately Reckless Response

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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March 31, 2019

Final Week

NOT THAT KIND OF KING

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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March 24, 2019

By Faith

A Simple Theology of Faith

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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

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March 17, 2019

By Faith

The Price of Faith

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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March 10, 2019

By Faith

Recovering Stolen Property*

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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March 3, 2019

By Faith

Recovering Stolen Property*

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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February 24, 2019

By Faith

Having Faith in the Midst of Fear

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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February 17, 2019

By Faith

Walking By Faith In the Midst of Failure

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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February 10, 2019

By Faith

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

 

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

 

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February 3, 2019

By Faith

Faith Leads to Action

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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January 27, 2019

By Faith

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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January 20, 2019

By Faith

Lack of…

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

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

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

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

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

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January 13, 2019

By Faith

Foundation Of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 6, 2019

A Matter of the Heart

Risks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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