December 23, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: We are weak, but God is strong. When our hearts feel weak, remembering God’s presence with us can give us strength. There are many reasons we can be sure God is with us. Settle in your chair and consider these four: First, God has created the world and the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3). There is not a place we can go that He is not there (Psalm 139). He shows us His beauty and greatness in creation everywhere we look (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). Second, the life of Jesus shows us God is with us as a person. God is not far off and aloof. He came and lived as a man. Weak and suffering, joys and sorrows - He can identify with us in every way (Hebrews 2:9-18, 4:14-5:10). Third, the death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that God wants to be with us and has taken down every barrier that separates us from Him. We can be sure that nothing stands in the way or can take us away from Him (Ephesians 2:11-22, Romans 8:31-39). Fourth, He has given us His Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, as a gift and a promise that He is with us forever (John 14:16-27, Ephesians 1:13-14). Read some of the scripture passages from above and spend a few minutes meditating on the reality of God’s presence with you.  

Day 2: All of us encounter dark, discouraging times simply because in our heart we feel like we have no strength to take the next step and do what our mind knows we need to do. Have you ever felt heart weakness? For me, reoccurring problems at work and not seeing change in areas of my life I really care about lead to weakness in my heart. When does your heart feel weak? Read I Samuel 30:1-6. David was not yet king, living in foreign territory, was sent home from battle, and then arrived home to discover this situation. What does it say David did at the end of verse 6? Have you ever found strength in God in such a dark or confusing time? How did that happen? Solitude? Prayer? Remembering His promises in His Word? Worship music? Talking to a trusted friend? Listening to an encouraging message or reading an encouraging book? Were you at the Christmas Eve service and do you recall the “Bob, I am with you” story? Identify ways you have found strength from God in the past. 


Day 3: Jesus felt very weak in his heart in the garden of Gethsemane. Read Mark 14:32-42. When Jesus was troubled in His heart so deeply, He went to a quiet spot with a few of his closest friends, asked them to watch and pray. Then Jesus got away by Himself and prayed repeatedly to His Father about his situation. When our hearts feel weak, removing ourselves from distractions and pouring out our hearts to God the Father while listening to Him can be a powerful experience. We can see from Jesus’ life that he had a pattern of going to a place of solitude early in the morning or late at night to be alone with his Father and pray. Being in a regular pattern of alone time in God’s presence is healthy for the strength of our hearts. At the same time, don’t go it alone. Jesus brought friends with Him, told them what was going on in His heart, and asked them to watch and pray. When your heart is feeling weak, tell friends what is going on in your heart, spend time with them, and ask them to pray for you.  Then take some time to be alone with God, reduce distractions, and pour out your heart to Him.  

Day 4: Sometimes we feel weak because we are weak. There are things we simply cannot make better or make happen. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Does God sometimes leave us in a weak state for a reason? What is that purpose? Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. To show our strength or to show God’s strength?  When we are weak, we need to remember that God’s answer is sometimes not to make us strong, but to show His strength in our weakness. When Jesus was crucified, did He look strong? But now we look back and see God’s mighty strength. In the midst of our weakness, let us trust God’s strength to do good. Take an area of your life where you feel weak, where your heart struggles. Like Jesus in the garden, yield it to God by presenting your requests to God for the situation, and then saying with Jesus, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36, NIV).  Pray and search for God’s strength in the midst of your weakness.  


Day 5: We may not be physically strong or successful in this world but remembering our hope can help our hearts be strong. In Psalm 42, David tells his own heart repeatedly, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? … Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (Psalm 42:5). Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b). What does Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18? Keeping perspective and remembering our hope is so key to the strength of our hearts. What are some ways that you can remind yourself of where our hope lies? A verse on a window? A reminder on your phone? A new habit? Build Scripture regarding our hope into your life. When the Holy Spirit reminds you of those truths, take heart and have hope that He is strengthening your heart.  

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December 16, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Four Conditions Of The Heart

Day 1: In Matthew 13:3-9, we find Jesus teaching the crowds with parables. As Doug mentioned in his message, the word parable means “to place alongside.” A parable is a story or comparison used alongside a teaching to make it more understandable. This parable teaches about the kingdom of heaven and how the Word is sown and received based upon the condition or “soil” of the heart. Jesus closes the parable by saying, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The phrase “let him hear” carries the idea of paying attention to, understanding and obeying. We will consider the four soils described in this parable over the next few days. But today, simply ask yourself, “Do I have ears to hear when the Bible is preached, such that I’m obeying, or following, what God is saying to me?” Take some time to pray. As you do, consider your process for hearing and allowing life-giving truth to be worked into your life. What have you been working in your life lately? Ask God to help you be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. (James 1: 22-25) 


Day 2: Read Matthew 13:18-19. Like a seed, the word of God has life – it’s living and powerful as Hebrews 4:12 teaches...the word is living and active. So it’s not hard to see why Jesus would compare the Word to a seed that fell on four types of soil. Today’s verses refer to the soil beside the road, where the seed fell and was trampled under foot (Luke 8:5). This resulted in the birds eating it up. This soil represents the hardened heart, unreceptive to God’s Word. So Satan snatches away what was sown. We must all consider what things in our lives might contribute to a hardened heart. What contends for your heart’s devotion and causes the most resistance to God?  


Day 3: Read Matthew 13:20-21 We’ve all had experiences where something initially grabbed our attention but, in time, we realized we really had no interest in it. The excitement had waned because our devotion to it didn’t go deep. Well, Jesus says this happens to some who initially receive the Word with joy, but they later fall away when the Word brings internal discomfort or conflict. They go from responsive to unresponsive to the truth. This is the “shallow heart”. Does your life reflect an ongoing receptiveness to God’s word despite the costs of obeying Jesus? Or has your faith been shallow? Have you seen your faith become withered by the trials of life? Here is a foundational question Jesus is challenging us to consider. Do you believe trusting in yourself or God will produce a life of purpose and of peace?  


Day 4: Read Matthew 13:22 The third soil Jesus presents in this parable represents the anxious heart. This heart is distracted by the cares and desires of this life and this prevents the word of God from bearing fruit in this individual. In Matthew 6:24, while teaching about wealth, Jesus says no one can serve two masters. And in 1 John 2:15 we’re commanded, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Just a few weeks ago, the sermon series “How to Be Rich,” reminded us of the importance of being content. In this parable, we again see the dangers of desiring wealth and worldly things – it chokes the word of God in a person’s life. Take a moment to make a list of concerns you have in life right now. Make a second list of biblical truths you’ve read, discussed in small group or have heard preached recently. Consider how you can actively focus on the truth of God’s Word rather than the concerns that have burdened you. Then a take step to begin memorizing 1-2 truths, so you can turn to them when worry begins to creep into your heart.  


Day 5: Read Matthew 13:23 The last soil Jesus presents is the “good soil,” which represents a healthy heart. This heart’s good health is reflected by its fruitfulness. It’s important to see that of all the soils, this one is the only one that bears any fruit. A fruitful life from God’s perspective can only result from one type of heart – a heart that hears the word in a way that results in obedience. As you consider the descriptions of the four hearts, which one describes you this week? Here’s an assignment. Look up these verses regarding the various conditions of the heart and evaluate the condition of your own heart. Job 41:24, Ps 12:2, Ps 61:2, Ps 66:18, Ps 73:21, Ps 78:8, Ps 81:12, Ps 101:4, Ps 101:5, Ps 109:22, Matt 13:15. Now look up the characteristics of a healthy heart. Meditate on these and share your insights and questions in your small group, with your kids or with a friend this week. Deuteronomy 10:16, 1 Chronicles 12:33, Psalms 51:17, Psalms 112:7, Proverbs 15:13, Isaiah 66:1-2, Matt 5:8

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December 9, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1. Read Matthew 23:26-28. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the condition of our hearts. As a believer, God promises you that he will “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...” (Ez. 36:26 NIV). We have also seen the value of our own rhythms of spiritual disciplines in maintaining this new heart. If we want our outward behavior to look like Jesus, then we need to pay very close attention to the inward condition of our hearts. We’ve reflected much during this series on the condition of our heart. What have you learned about your heart recently? Do you see areas of your life where you are like the Pharisees who Jesus is addressing here - appearing clean on the outside but filthy inside? Consider the conversations and behaviors over the last couple of days. Pray the prayer that David penned in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, andlead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT) 


Day 2. Read Luke 20:20-26. Here we find the religious leaders trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Him into trouble. Jesus amazed them in His answer, seeing them as duplicitous. We are reminded here again of the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance with no regard for the internal heart – theirs or Jesus’s. As a result, even their acts of surrender and discipline were mixed with false motivesand their hearts were left largely unchanged. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Pr. 11:3 NIV) Ask yourself, Do I have a duplicity within myself which undermines, invalidates, and brings into question my stated desires and objectives? Or do I live as the upright, with integrity and authenticity of heart and motivation? It’s hard to admit, but we all have duplicities in us. Take some time to think that through. Consider your thoughts and behaviors in the different settings in your life. Are you the same person in every setting? How and when are you not? Acknowledge these areas. Confess and ask God to continue His renewing work on your heart. 


Day 3. Read 1 Peter 2:11-17. While this passage may seem to contradict what we read earlier this week about the Pharisees emphasis on outward appearance, consider what Peter is saying as it relates to your heart. As your heart leads, your life will follow. Jesus emphasized the same things in Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” and later in vs 48 He says “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This is impossible to achieve, but if we are following Jesus, our lives will reflect Him. None of us will achieve perfection on Earth, but as we look to Jesus, we can see where we truly align with His perspective and where we need to adjust. Is there a strained relationship or a recent hurtful conversation that you’ve allowed to justify your attitude? Because of it, have you given yourself permission that you don’t have to love? How closely would you say that your life aligns with His right now?  


Day 4. Read Titus 2:7-8. This is one of many passages in scripture where we are encouraged to live above reproach. If our hearts are aligned with Christ, we can therefore reflect His light to the world around us. The result will be a good reputation with outsiders and a clear conscience, with others having nothing bad to say about us. Accusations will be silenced because we are living honorably in every way. In this way, we live a life of consistency rather than duplicity. How about your reputation? Would you say that you have a good reputation among others? Sometimes it takes those around us to let us know our duplicities. The writer of Hebrews says “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” (Heb. 13:18 NIV) Ask your closest friends to be honest with you about your reputation. Then ask them to pray for you, and in the same manner, pray for them. Your community in the local church, those you serve with or are in group with, is vital in encouraging you to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27 NIV)  


Day 5. On a personal note, I believe that the best way to live your life is to be yourself. If, in being yourself, you find that you don’t like what you see, you need to work to change those things at the very core of your being, not just try to act better. If you find that you are prideful, focus on humility. If you are angry and bitter, work to forgive those who have wronged you. You are not alone. Paul writes “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Phil. 1:6 NLT) and “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13 NLT) God is the same in all situations and all day long. We can find comfort in God even though we can be a mess. He will always be faithful, always be good, and always be with you. He will not give up on changing your heart. 


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December 2, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Our Hearts Need Rhythm

Day 1: Read Mark 12:28-31. Loving God with our whole being is at the core of what it means to be a Christ follower. Ok, so we’re supposed to love God with everything we are and with everything we have, but how do we do that? Can we just decide one day to love God and try really hard to care about Him? The problem is that loving relationships don’t really work that way. Whether it is a parent, a child, a spouse, or a friend, loving relationships take time and effort. Furthermore, a healthy relationship is marked with two-way communication, two-way affection, quality time, and serving one another. We don’t love God because we have to, but because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) The creator of the universe loves you. The God who made the stars in the sky loved you so much that He became a man to die for you in your place. (Romans 5:8) As a result, we spend our lives loving Him in return. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is who we are to be. How and when have you experienced love from God?  

Day 2: Maintaining a loving relationship for a lifetime takes discipline and effort. With familiarity, our hearts are prone to wander. Our love can lose focus and grow cold. Life’s distractions can overwhelm us and get in the way. Yet, no matter how far away from God we get, Jesus still invites us to walk beside Him, to live life together, and to work alongside one another. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Just as two oxen would be yoked together to work in a field, so we too are yoked with Jesus. We learn His rhythms. We learn to pull life’s heavy load with Jesus. We are not alone. You see, our hearts need rhythms, regular patterns and habits that will keep us connected with Jesus. What regular rhythms, patterns, or habits exist in your spiritual life? How do you acknowledge God and spend time with Him throughout your week? Take some time to write down your thoughts. If you struggle in this area, the book, Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas could be a good resource.  

Day 3: Read John 15:1-17. How do we remain or abide in God? What daily rhythms exist in your life that help you abide? Perhaps it is daily hearing from God’s word by meditating on scripture, or perhaps you’ve built time into your day to talk with God in prayer. How else can we build rhythms into our day that will help us to remain in God? There are many ways. Here are examples taken from the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas: being outside in nature, going for long walks, looking at the stars, hunting or fishing are ways that we can marvel at God’s creations and give Him worship; looking at a beautiful piece of art, listening to music, or watching a skilled performance can move our hearts to acknowledge God; finding a quiet solitary place to retreat to can be the key to connecting with God; or choosing to fast as a way to make God a priority. Others use structured prayers, rituals, and Christian symbols that have been part of church history for over a thousand years. Recall the rhythms that have been significant in Pastor Cory’s life or in the lives of the people who shared on Sunday. A new rhythm may help you remain in God in a fresh way. Pick something and try it. 

Day 4: Read John 15:12-17. Spiritual rhythms, ones that keep us abiding in God, will result in overflowing love for others. The greatest commandment is to love God AND to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-31) Loving others will always be the fruit of a growing relationship with God. Spend a few minutes to consider a verse Pastor Doug shared in a recent message – Proverbs 23:26. As we practice walking alongside Jesus, our hearts will gradually be transformed into loving hearts. What rhythms exist in your life that create opportunities for you to love other people? What does loving people look like for you? Who are the people in your life right now you can love and how do you love them? What about your hobbies/passions - can you love people through that? Do you just attend Sunday services or do you help make services welcoming and inviting? What rhythms exist (or could you add in your life) that will help you love others as you abide in Christ?  

 Day 5: Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27. If you want to win a race, you have to train for it. In the same way, our hearts need training. The rhythms, habits, and spiritual disciplines that we place in our lives are crucial for heart transformation. God uses these practices to train us, shape us, and to prepare us to be able to do His work. It’s not about reading your Bible and having a quiet time every day because that’s what you’re supposed to do. No, it is that the quiet time or other habit allows us to understand who Jesus is, who we are, and how we can live more like Him. If we truly intentionally pursue Him, together the church, the body of Christ, is able to combat the brokenness of this world (in such places like Honduras where Audrey & Esther serve) with such a powerful love that even the gates of hell will not be able to withstand it. (Matthew 16:18) This devotional is not just a list of things for us to do. Instead, I pray that God would stir inside each of our hearts with a longing desire to find ways to spend more time with Him, and that as a result of abiding in God, our family, co-workers, classmates and neighbors would see God’s love though us. That is the life God dreams for us to live.   

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November 25, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: HEART JOURNEY The word journey can be explained as an ongoing trip toward a final destination or goal. Each of us are on a journey. Not just a journey to a location, but a journey of the heart that is moving toward our goal or destination of becoming more like Jesus. Sometimes that journey takes detours and gets off-track. Let’s slow this journey down and take a moment to reflect on what is in our hearts. Is there an attitude or series of choices that are moving you more toward Jesus? What attitudes or values might be keeping you from going directly toward your goal of Christ? Is there something or someone taking you off-track? Is there someone walking alongside you in your journey who you can talk to about these things? Invite them to speak truth and encouragement to you as you reflect on your (and their) current track in this journey of the heart. 


Day 2: CLEAN HEART - IDOLS One of the things that gets us off track in our journey is the value we put on other things in our life. We have been blessed with many great things, opportunities and relationships. But when these blessings or desires take up the highest position of adoration or aspiration in our hearts, we have begun to elevate these things as idols. This keeps us from fully following after Jesus. Ask yourself these questions: Am I open to God searching my life/heart, purifying or redirecting my attitudes, thoughts and choices? Where or when do I settle for things as they are and don’t want my things or my life to be different? Another way to ask; Are love, joy, compassion, or patience (see fruit of the Spirit) overflowing in my life? Read Ephesians 4:18-19. Are you willing to let God help you see your heart where you have lost sensitivity? Let’s get honest with God. We aren’t going to surprise Him with our secrets. He knows.  


Day 3: HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD Once we have allowed God to illuminate the dark places of our hearts, those things that we had put in higher importance than God himself, we then can begin to realign. Deuteronomy 10:16 says to remove the idols that are giving you identity. By bringing our idols and hardened places to Him, we need to humble ourselves before Him. We do this by admitting we have put other things above Him. We let Him take the highest place in our life, in our minds, in our hearts. We humble ourselves and give Him permission to make the adjustments in our lives needed to soften the hardened places in our hearts. Take time today to humble yourself before God today. A position of kneeling is a position of surrender. Read Psalm 139:23-24. Confess those things that you have let take higher priority in your life than Jesus.  


Day 4: RENEW YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS/DEVOTION God’s word says that when we confess our sin, He is just and faithful to forgive. What hope! God WANTS a renewal in our relationship with Him! And He is joyful to take first place in your heart again! So, we can be confident in presenting ourselves to Him as we continue our journey with Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). We can be confident that He will walk with us and keep our hearts soft and sensitive to Him and His ways of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and forgiveness through His Spirit that He puts within us. Our hearts can be DAILY shaped and realigned through His Spirit guiding us in our journey with Jesus. Trust Him and this process. A heart is being formed. His desires are becoming your desires.  


Day 5: LOOK AT HEART EXAM again In the October 28 devotional (you can access it online at or through the LSCC app) we were encouraged to take a Heart Exam. This exam is a way to do a daily ‘checkup’ with Jesus and let His Spirit speak through examining these questions in regard to your heart. Here are a few of those questions (some modified):  

  • How much focus, time and energy did I give to money, a possession, or a potential possession in that last week/month?  

  • Was there ever a time in my life when I thought, “If I were to ever achieve ______, then I would be satisfied/successful?”  

  • Name one or two of the highest values for my life. Does that value line up with a centering on God or does it place God to the side?  

Go back to the devotional on that week to read the full heart exam. Print out these questions so you can read and evaluate them on a regular basis. Add your own questions to that exam that YOU know you need to keep checking up on with God. Place them somewhere that you will see and remind yourself of this matter of the heart. 

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November 18, 2018

A Matter Of The Heart

Day 1: Our hearts need saving! This week Cory focused on Jacob, his deception, his sin, his transformation. Genesis chapters 25-32 give us a glimpse into Jacob’s life. It is a fascinating story. Read Genesis 25:19-34, 27:1-10 and 27:22-35 if you don’t have time to read all eight chapters. Deception is all over the place in these chapters. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We too struggle with our own wayward heart. Just as Jacob fought the battle, we hold onto our own sinful ways. We sometimes sit dormant in our selfishness or brokenness. Think of a newly planted seed. Will we spring forth in life, open to become anew, or stay lifeless and asleep? As we continue in this series, pray today to find openness while looking at your own heart, your own burdens, and your own temptations to avoid God and devise your own plans.

Day 2: Read Genesis 32:22-32. The seed in the ground begins to sprout – a change of heart. In this chapter, Jacob wrestles with a man but somehow he knows there is something special with this man. In some way, that isn’t clearly explained in the text, Jacob knows he has wrestled with God. It says in Genesis 32:38, “… you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In this wrestling match, God gives Jacob a new name. Do you know what the name “Jacob” meant? He is a deceiver. Yet in this interaction, God renames Jacob “Israel”. He’s given a new name, a new identity, a new inheritance. He will no longer be identified as a deceiver. Before we can transform our hearts, we must surrender. When was the last time you consciously surrendered to God? Was it today, last week or has it been a while? Write a letter to yourself and God or pray a prayer relinquishing your struggle. And you, as a new sprout, may continue to grow and flourish as God changes your heart.

Day3: Jacob not only received a new name, but a new identity, a new heart and a new inheritance. He sprung forth from the ground- from sprout to a new creation - a living plant. Jesus gives us a new life. Read John 3:2-6. “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT) Isn’t that awesome news? Jesus, thank you for making me new! Thank you for the new life, a new birth. You have given me something that I could never get for myself. I’m made new today!

Day4: Yesterday we embraced forgiveness and grace, a new heart. That is God’s supernatural, life giving part. How do we stay in God’s love? How would we “fertilize” and nurture ourselves to “become more like Jesus”? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” One practical step is to guard your new heart (Proverbs 4:23), and continue to develop your new life – as Jacob embraced his new name/identity, Israel. Ask God to speak to you. Be open to exploring ways to further your relationship. Turn away from isolating yourself seeking to change your heart through your power. Move towards freedom that comes from knowing and becoming more like Jesus. Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 and make that your prayer for today.

Day 5: Plants reach a point of bearing fruit and harvest, but without proper care, they wither and die. How will you continue to tend to your own plant - but also, tend the rest of the garden? It is encouraging to hang around people with a new heart. Do you see that in your life? Who feeds you? How can you spend more time with those people? Who do you feed? How about giving of yourself to another? What does that do to your heart? How can you help others in church on Sundays, through a serve position or by some informal way? Through community and serve, you’ll find care, help, and direction. You’ll develop and grow – living a transformed life for yourself, and, also, to “spread the good news” to others. Pray: Dear Father, I want to surrender my heart to you. I trust you. You’ve created for us a new life through your son, Christ Jesus. May I continue to grow, allowing you to change my heart for your great calling.

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November 11, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory mentioned how the authors of scripture used the word heart. They weren’t limiting it to feelings but used it in reference to the center or to the whole of our lives including our thoughts, our emotions, and our will. Take a few minutes to reflect on Sunday’s message and take an inventory of your heart; not just your emotions, but all of you. Make a list of what fills your desires and thinking and decisions. What do you think about? What do you long for? What pressures or stresses you? Consider the motivations for the decisions you make. What actions do you take day to day? Apply these questions to specific parts of life like money or time or relationships to discover more about your heart. Is the Holy Spirit bringing anything to mind? Pray this prayer from Psalm 139:23-34 (The Message): “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me. Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about. See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” Be open to learning about your heart today.

Day 2: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). What priority do you place on guarding your heart? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it was worth it to cut off a hand or gouge out an eye if it would keep one from sinning and from hell. In the same sermon, He also said that things you do in your heart like despising someone or thinking lustfully about them make you guilty even if you haven’t done the action (Matthew 5:21-30). Both of these reference our hearts. Jesus knew the importance of the condition of our hearts, “above all else.” Other verses in the Bible describe that God knows our hearts and will judge what is in them. Do you often consider the state of your heart? Are there things that you know are not good for your heart but that you allow in your life anyways? What has positively affected your heart the most?

Day 3: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). What does guarding our hearts look like? The Proverbs writer give us a few clues in the surrounding verses. Read Proverbs 4:20-27. He encourages us to keep God’s Word in front of us, not talk in a corrupt way, and to carefully do what is right and good. Filling our minds with truth from God’s Word is an important part of guarding our hearts. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We can also guard our hearts by following the instructions that God gives us for the pathways of our heart: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), “Whatever is true... noble… right… pure… lovely... think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b). Guarding our heart involves taking action. Proactively studying these and other scriptures reveal what encourages or discourages God’s heart and will help us in forming our own heart. Is there an action step in guarding your heart that God has brought to your attention? Do you have a family member or a friend you could talk with to help you in guarding your heart? Set up a time to meet.

Day 4: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Who is responsible for your heart? Can others control your heart? What is the one thing you have control over in any circumstance? The same event can happen to two people, but the heart of each person can go a different direction. When something happens, where do you allow your heart and your thoughts to go? What patterns of thought or attitudes are you building in your life? Recognize the power and the responsibility for what happens in your heart. Ask Jesus to help you guard your heart. Pray and look for ways He wants to work with you to expose or change the thoughts and attitudes that go through your heart or your mind. Be vigilant in guarding your heart. 

Day 5: “Above all else, guard  your heart,  for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). If you are not careful about what is happening inwardly, things may happen outwardly that you do not desire. James says, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). Thought patterns lead to action patterns. Pay attention to what is in your heart. What is happening in your heart shapes who you are becoming. Every thought, decision, and attitude you allow or reject is like a building block of your life, for good or for bad. The heart is the starting point. Consider the weight of this verse. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

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November 4, 2018

How To Be Rich

Day 1: Last week, Steve talked about leaving margin in our fields for generosity. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. God gave the Israelites the Law to teach them how to live a holy life (Leviticus 19:1-2). What wisdom or principle can we gain from this passage? While we may not be farmers, we still do work to produce income and wealth. Is there margin in what income we earn to allow us to be generous to the, “poor and the foreigners living among us?” It doesn’t really matter how much we earn if we spend it all. If we don’t have the margin in our budget to be generous, we can’t help people. Was there a practical financial step you took from week two of our series? How about this week? Is there something in your spending that you can say, “no” to in order to say, “yes” to being generous? It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe, pack your lunch this week instead of going out to eat. Maybe say “no” to your favorite coffee shop this week. Set aside those dollars to be prepared to help someone.   


Day2: Read Mark 10:42-45. Jesus, the King of Kings, came to turn reality on its head. Kings are to be served; we all know that. Yet, Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. The Roman Emperors of Jesus’ time would give away coins to the populous in order to curry favor with the people, yet Jesus demonstrated a different way. Jesus gave without seeking reciprocity. He gave out of love with no expectation of repayment. When we give our money and our time, what do we expect to get in return? Do we want to be remembered for our generosity? Are we motivated by the approval of others, or do we give with the heart of a servant expecting nothing in return? Recall the Heart Exam Tool from last week. Take time to reflect. How are you different after having been through this series, “How To Be Rich”?  


Day 3: Read Luke 14:12-14. Does this mean we have to call our family and cancel Thanksgiving this year? What is Jesus really getting at in this passage? True generosity is not transactional. We don’t give in order to be paid back someday. Instead, we show love to others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We love, serve, and give freely in response to God’s love, service, and generosity toward us, and ultimately it is God Himself who will repay us. It is a heart issue. It’s not about how much we give, rather it is about why we give. With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us will be preparing to gather around our feast tables in order to give thanks for our many blessings with our families. Is there someone you need to invite to join your family celebration this year? Is there a way you and your family can engage in blessing others this holiday season without any possibility of being rewarded? Talk as a family or with a friend. Make a plan and take action. 


Day 4: Read John 13:3-17. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. The King kneeling to become the servant. This is what following Jesus looks like. Generosity in humility, love through service, not because we have to, but because we are overwhelmed that the Lord God would humble Himself to the point of dying on a cross like a common criminal (Philippians 2:5-11). We are called today at home, school, work, or wherever we are, to take up the basin and towel to serve those around us. Consider when we sing together songs on Sundays, we have the chance to prepare our hearts to go out and serve generously those around us. What is your experience in singing worship to God? Through listening or singing, does it cause you to be grateful? How did last Sunday’s worship affect you? Did it cause you to think/act differently the rest of the day or on Monday?    


Day 5: Read Acts 2:41-47. The first Christians were marked by their generosity. Everyone around them could look at them and know that there was something different about these people. Their allegiance had been changed (Matthew 6:24). Their focus was no longer the pursuit of a comfortable life with a big house and plenty of things. Rather, they became a radical infectious movement that forever changed the world. Generosity changed the world once. What would happen if the Church became known for its generosity again?  What would happen if we chose to model today what the early church modeled in its day? Does this sound far-fetched and impractical? Well before you stick a, “for sale” sign in your front yard, consider this: our lives are lived one conversation, one decision, one action, and one step at a time. You don’t have to sell everything and go live in a commune in order to live a generous life. It’s not all or nothing. It’s about living from a changed heart. Our lives are lived generously because of God’s generosity shown to us. Have you evaluated your personal management of money lately? Consider Financial Peace University ( Or commit to regular church giving, stepping into a serve position, creating margin in your budget or some other step towards developing an attitude of generosity. 

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October 28, 2018

How To Be Rich

This week’s devotional is about awareness. Likely you will experience discomfort as questions and scriptures may reveal issues or barriers between you and God. Invite God into this process. Awareness is a first step in the transformation process.  


Day 1. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10. For the last two weeks, we have been reminded that we are rich. We all are so very rich in every aspect of our lives, yet our constant pursuit of money can keep us in a perpetual state of “want.” Read verse 6 and think about this for a few minutes. How content do you feel in what you have? How is your heart?  


Day 2. Read Matthew 6:19-21. What do you see as the difference between “treasure on earth” and “treasure in heaven”? Jesus warns us to be wary of attachment to our possessions as a source of joy, security and significance. This is not just about our stuff, this is bigger than that. This is about what we truly value, what is in our hearts. In whom or what do you really trust? Where does your joy truly come from? Where are you storing your treasures? 


Day 3. Read Luke 16:10-11. The material things we have are insignificant in comparison to our true riches in heaven, and yet the way that we handle them reveals a great deal about us. God is concerned about the state of your heart more than your social status and our stuff. Ask yourself, how am I trustworthy with what God has given me? Does my relationship with Jesus shape my view and use of my possessions or do my possessions shape my view of Jesus? Which direction is that going as I reflect on my day-to-day choices? Do my beliefs line up with my actions and attitudes?  


Days 4 & 5. Regular Heart Exam 

Be still for a moment, acknowledge the presence of God with you. Ask for the Spirit to examine your heart regarding money and possessions, and your pursuit of both. Ask to become aware of these things and to receive what is revealed without rationalizations or condemnation from self or the evil one. Answer some (if you don’t have time for all) of these questions with what your heart reveals not what you wish, but what is actually true in you. Resist rushing through these questions. Be prepared come back to this tomorrow.  


  • How much focus, time, and energy did I give to money and possessions, or potential possessions in the last week, month? 

  • Was there a time in my life when I thought, “If I ever make $___, I would be super generous.” Are you?  

  • Do I believe more money or more stuff will help take the pressure off, help me be content, or worry less, and be happier?   

  • Do I believe I would be more secure, important, respected if I had more money, a better car, nicer house, bigger title…? 

  • Do I think that I will be more generous as soon as I get settled in my career, get a house, get married, or get the kids through college?  Am I still waiting on another life event to happen?  

  • Is one of my highest values for my life, my kid’s life, a strong income and comfortable life?  

  • Do I believe wealth indicates God’s pleasure with me or others?  

  • Have my resources changed how I relate with money, others, or God? 

  • Do I believe if I were wealthy, I would be more compassionate and generous than the rich people I know?   

  • Could others better understand Jesus life, teaching, and Kingdom vision by observing my relationship with money and possessions?  

  • Would I be comfortable discussing the answers to these questions honestly with another?  


Reflect on what you’ve just done. Does any answers surprise you? Are there any noticeable emotions present like guilt, frustration, embarrassment, or relief? What will you do with what you discovered? Consider a couple of steps to take over the next few days. Discuss 1-2 of these answers with a friend or family member.  Take time to pray and journal for 30-60 minutes. Write one of these questions on a note card to remind you this week. Sign up for Financial Peace University starting in January. 

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October 21

How To Be Rich

Say “NO” In Order To Say “YES”

Day 1: Read I Timothy 6:6. Hey rich person. Yes you! How is being rich working for you? This week Paul tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain…is itself great wealth. Gain to us often means newer, bigger, upgrade, latest model, more square footage, extra stuff and extra savings. Paul had a different view. He says if you want great gain or great wealth, learn to be content. Contentment is more valuable than the stuff we acquire. What areas of your life cause you to feel trapped into comparison and temptation? When do you struggle with contentment? Often times, your spouse or close friend has a different struggle in this area. In a moment of honest reflection, why do you think discontentment is a struggle for you?

Day 2: Read I Corinthians 10:23-24. To truly be rich we will have to learn to say, “no” to ourselves. In the 1980s, Nancy Reagan coined the slogan “Just say NO” empowering children to stand against drugs. The idea was to say “no” to something that might bring temporary enjoyment and pleasure in order to say “yes” to something better and longer lasting. The same is true when it comes to generosity. There will be times that we will have to say “no” to ourselves. “No” to our children. “No” to more stuff. “No” to more status. “No” to more security. In order to say “yes” to God resulting in a lifestyle of generosity which leads to great gain. Keep this slogan in the back of your mind today. Choose to intentionally say “no" to yourself when you have the resources to say “yes.” This is likely not an issue of right or wrong but a decision to deny yourself in order to teach yourself to be content and to honor God.

Day 3: It seems like the more we have the less we should want. But that is not how appetites work. Think about the stage of life in which you were most content. Cory discussed an early time in his marriage when he and Amy were very content when outwardly they possessed very little. Most likely, we can all recall a time when we experienced contentment even though we lived simply. Read I Timothy 6:7-8. Who in your life demonstrates gratitude and contentment? What do you admire about them? Thank God for them. Consider contacting them today and ask them how they have developed contentment. 

Day 4: Read Romans 12:1-2, 9-21. We see and hear advertisements daily. How can we find the power to say “no” when we have the resources to say “yes?” The answer is in a word: AWARENESS. Back in the day, people bought mostly based on need. Today, we buy mostly based on want. Our want is magnified by awareness. If I was not aware of the new version, the latest upgrade, etc. I would not want it. Saying “no” to self and “yes" to being rich involves awareness. Awareness can fuel our discontentment out of a desire for more. Or it can propel us toward increased levels of generosity as we become aware of needs that really matter. Where can you avoid unnecessarily exposing yourself to environments that make you discontent?  Where can you start exposing yourself to needs, causes and opportunities that cultivate contentment and generosity? Take a step to cultivate awareness towards causes that truly matter and make a difference. Here are some local opportunities:  

  • LSCC partnership ministries: Hillcrest, Rachel House, If Not for Grace, Lullaby of Hope, 

  • Pro Deo After School Program. Support and accountability for teens grades 9-12.

  • Rebuild Together. Help elderly stay in their homes by doing repairs.

  • One Good Meal. Provide hot meals to seniors.

  • Veteran’s Community Project. Help build tiny homes for homeless vets. Contact Anna Peterson or 573-247-9623.

  • Serve Our City. Deliver Thanksgiving meals to community.

  • Neighborhoods. See a practical need in your neighborhood. Contact your HOA to see how your family could serve. 

  • Prepare to respond to a need. Consider carrying $20 cash with you ready to respond and bless.

  • Pay it forward. Pay for someone’s meal.

  • Give yourself space to help, bless, and respond to live generously.

Or you may already know of a need; go make a difference.

Day 5: Read I Timothy 6:9-10. Being good at being rich is not just a matter of deciding what to do with your money, it also includes a healthy understanding of what your money is doing with you or to you. Money has an effect on its owners. Many people who have money spend a lot of time looking for ways not to lose it or to accumulate more of it. The key is to possess money without it possessing you. Greed must be controlled or pulled at its roots. Consider times you wanted something out of your reach. What sacrifices did you have to make? Did it require sacrificing time with family, integrity, unhealthy work habits, missed opportunities? Was the sacrifice worth your desired outcome? Meditate on I Timothy 6:6. What learning do you take from this life experience? 

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October 14

How To Be Rich

Day 1: Read I Timothy 6: 3-10. We are RICH. We ARE rich. Have you taken time to consider that since hearing the message? What do you consider to be rich? One definition we heard yesterday was, “Rich is having more than we need.” In what ways do you experience ‘having more than you need’? Have you taken time to understand and reflect on the richness that you enjoy in your material possessions? What about the riches you have in relationships? What riches do you possess in your faith? Take time to thank God today.  


Day 2: One of the Next Steps from Sunday’s message was the following: Make a list of your “rich people” (that’s you) possessions and opportunities. Sit down and write that list out today. After you list these, answer the following questions: Do I own these or steward these? Do I look to freely borrow or share or do I not? What do these answers reveal about my attitude towards money? Thank God today. Also, consider this prayer; God, show me how I can give, share or borrow. How can I be generous today?   


Day 3: The results of your answers to yesterday’s “richness” have the power to change your views of money. We all are so very rich in every aspect of our lives, yet our constant pursuit of money can keep us in a perpetual state of “want”. God cares about how to be rich as we experience richness. Make two lists; one list of significant items that you need to buy in the next twelve months. The second list would be things that you would like to purchase in that time. Done? Ok, read Philippians 4:11-13. (Recall we read this passage in last Friday’s devotional.) What secret does Paul share with us about living in contentment? We like to quote the last verse, but we can miss the context. Paul is content in all financial circumstances because of the trust he has and the strength he receives from his relationship with Christ. He knows the “who” is more important than the “what”. Life is more than houses, cars, clothes….more than status, popularity or success. Real depth in life is found in relationships with people and with Jesus. We know this to be true. Yet the lure and pull for “more” leaves us constantly in a mindset of “need” that gives money a hold on our lives. How does your life – how you spend your time and resources – reveal how you view relationships? Do our spending habits and where we focus our time paint a different picture? How well do our actions follow our words? Thank God for His provisions in your life even if they don’t seem adequate.  


Day 4: Read Isaiah 30:1-5. God had provided for Israel’s needs in the desert, but their faith eventually began to waiver and instead, they turned back to Egypt and their love of riches. Here is a penetrating question we can ask ourselves. In what ways are we like the people of Israel? If we have lost our way, where do we place our trust? In what/whom do you place your trust and hope? If you had to list 3-5 “objects” of trust, what would be on that list? Which one tempts you to trust in over trusting in God? We can be bold in our prayers. Ask Him to give you faith to trust in Him over everything else. Lastly, take some time to thank God today.  


Day 5: Read I Timothy 6:17-19. Paul gives a warning for Timothy to pass onto the people he is leading. What is the two-part warning? The first is arrogance. It’s easy to judge others based on their clothes, house, or job. Those who are “rich” can see themselves as superior. And the poor can view the rich in the same way. Paul instructs us to shift our focus from comparison and status to doing good to all regardless of wealth or position. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can be generous today. Throughout your day, look for opportunities to help another. Also, watch for ways to accept help from another. Don’t let pride get in your way. God may have sent them your way for a reason. Finally, thank God for His provisions in your life.  

October 7

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1: Last Friday’s devotional was on Romans 8:28-29. Read it one more time. Here is an excerpt from Friday, “God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced.” Where in your life can you trust that God is working for good? Declare it. Write your response or share it with a friend, spouse or a parent. Here’s a third option. Say it aloud in a prayer to God. Does this affirm your trust in Him? This is moving away from worry into worship.  


Day 2: Read Genesis 15:1-6. Two realities are at work here. Abram (same as Abraham) recognized and even verbalized to God, “You have given me no children…” He was old. Decades had come and gone. Many other men and women in his tribe had children maybe even grandchildren. Yet the conversation (actually a vision) with the Lord goes on. Abram was having a defining moment, and God was real. As Abram is looking up at the stars, a second reality sinks in. He believes that God is going to give him descendants – many of them! What situation at school, work or at home are you faced with two realities? Have you simply decided on a logical, rational path or outcome? How about entertaining an alternate perspective? Have you heard from God on the subject through prayer, some scripture passage or through a conversation with a Christ follower? It may or may not address a specific outcome, God may simply give clarity about an attitude or behavior to possess in the middle of your storm. Can you find contentment and trust in what He has given you?  


Day 3: Pick up from yesterday’s reading. God gives Abram a vision and tells him that he is going to have many descendants. Immediately he makes a sacrifice to God. Abram acts on this new hope and belief, he steps onto its path. Yet years go by and no child. Read Genesis 16:1-4. Sarai and Abram decide on how he can have many descendants. Sarai offers him her servant to have a child. They took God’s promise into their own hands after years of thinking and worry. Believing they were doing right, they veered away from faith. At the time, it seemed like a great idea but probably not one they ran passed God. They acted out of their worry and assumed. When was the last time you stepped forward, made a decision, spoke up and realized that it wasn’t helpful, maybe even hurtful to someone or yourself? What did you learn from that situation? Did you learn it, or simply feel bad for it?  


Day 4: Do you know the Old Testament story of King Jehoshaphat? Before we get to that, do you think this guy had a nickname? As king maybe not, but growing up I’d guess some neighbor kids wanted to shorten that one. I digress. Several nations are plotting to attack Jehoshaphat’s people. Serious trouble is on the horizon. Read II Chronicles 20:5-12. Like the day two’s devotional there are two realities; The enemy is upon them, and God is powerful and mighty to overcome any army. The king chose to believe and trust that God was going to work for good and he acted on it. Recall and read I Peter 5:6-7. Whatever threatens your peace, what brings you peace? Offer your current worry to God in prayer. And if you find no relief, ask a friend to pray for and with you. There are times when the worry is so loud that you need support from others (trusted friend, small group member, a pastor, a counselor) to believe that peace can come to you even if you can’t believe it for yourself.   


Day 5: This week we’ve been considering the what if circumstances of life, verses the love and care of God. This is Faith 101. I’m not saying that we should all have graduated from this course, but that this idea is at the core of our following of Jesus. We will continue to journey on this road. How can we engage in life with a perspective of faith? Philippians 4:4 says for us to rejoice in the Lord. Open to this passage in the Bible. Having a perspective of faith can look like verses 4-9. If you’re like me, you’d love to live this way but often drift in and out of it. Keep reading verses 10-12 more help will be revealed. Again, this would be an amazing way to live, above the circumstances. Wow, how can one achieve this kind of life? It’s in verse 13!! Did you catch it? Yes, trust in who and how God is. We don’t have to live this life on our own trying to achieve any of this. We start by trusting Him! Write “Trust Him – Phil. 4:13” on your dashboard, mirror or hand. Let’s just do that today and we will have a chance at living out the first 12 verses of that chapter. In addition to this response, consider coming to the night of worship on Sunday at 6:00pm to declare your trust in the one who is trustworthy.   


September 30

A Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Fix Your Thoughts

Day 1: Read Philippians 4:4-9 two or three times. What phrases stick out to you? Reflect on what is real in your life that leads those phrases to be more prominent to you at this time. Present a request to God. As you read the verses, hear them spoken to you, over you, for you. What is the tone and tenor of the voice speaking these words to you? Is that voice pulling for you, wanting something for you, revealing mercy and love for you? Or do you hear anger, condemnation, and failure spoken at you? What has most formed in you the character of the voice you hear? A parent, teacher, pastor, or some other figure in your life, or the voice of the Spirit pointing you to Jesus’ life and words? Present a request to God, the Word of Life, to speak words of life to you.  

Day 2: Reread Philippians 4:4-9. Paul seems clear on who he is and who he is following. His identity is set, not shaken by imprisonment. He seems convinced God is good, present with him, and in him. Paul’s confidence is not misplaced for he has released trying to control circumstances and is accepting of what has come his way. He is choosing to trust. He has recognized that he has been given peace. He is calling the Philippians to a peaceful way to live and be. He is becoming peace to others. God gives us peace and calls us to live in a peaceful way. What is a practical step you can take to live on a more peaceful path or bring peace to a relationship? 

Day 3: Paul is in prison writing about God’s presence, nearness, peace, and trustworthiness. What do we know of Paul’s experiences that formed him to this level of trust in God? What practices could have helped convince or deepen his conviction of God’s goodness, presence, forgiveness, and his identity in Christ? Flip through Acts chapters 8-28 to begin to discover or rediscover this imperfect person’s faith. Paul had trusted during some difficult times, and it built trust into him. He can say God is present and good because Paul had found God to be present and good in the past. These experiences helped shape how he sees current and future trials. Because of his past, he now knows God is trustworthy. What experiences have helped build trust in God in your life? When were you reminded of His presence to give you sufficient confidence that it is right to depend on Him now?  

Day 4: On Sunday Cory asked us a couple of important questions; “Think about what you think about.”, and “Think about how you think about how you think.” What kind of lens does your thinking create? How might that lens affect not only how you see an issue or event, but how you might respond to it as well? Paul tells us to “fix our thoughts on…” How could this simple call help us identify the lens we tend to look through? This isn’t a simple “thought replacement” exercise he is calling us to. It is a call to remember, to realign our perspective to who Jesus is, what He has said, what is real and of value in His Kingdom. It is a call to help move us from how we view an event to what is ultimately real about the event. What do you spend most of your day thinking about? How does that affect your words and behaviors? Consider a past experience where your lens saw one thing, and yet God acted in another way. Read Romans 8:28-29.  

Day 5: Yesterday we ended with reading Romans 8:28-29. Reread it again today. If it is familiar to you, be slow to allow it to speak to you. These verses aren’t meant to talk us into thinking different, rather they are meant to show us something meaningful about God, His care and love for us even in a storm. God is working for our good toward a purpose. All things contribute to us being formed to the likeness of His Son. It is a call to remember, like communion, that God is with us, in us, knows us, and loves us. Even in a storm, we can be assured. We are not forgotten or misplaced. Some of us can get lost on asking questions like did God cause or allow this storm or did I do something wrong that led to this storm. These questions are God’s business not ours, and we may miss the reality that God is with us at a time when we most need Him and His assurance. Pray. Allow God the privilege of defining what is “for our good”. Ask God to shape you to be more like His Son and to see good that He is working out in you and those around you.      


September 23

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Anxiety Over Our People

Day 1: Read Genesis 21:9-20. What a mess. This passage in Genesis plays out like a modern-day soap opera or episode of Downton Abbey. Ishmael, the only son and heir to Abraham, saw all of his hopes for an inheritance shattered with the birth of Isaac. Sarah clearly felt threatened by the presence of this mocking boy who was a bitter reminder of her infertility and a competitor for her son’s inheritance. Abraham was upset because Sarah had told him to drive Ishmael and his mother out into the desert possibly to die alone. But God stepped in and promised hope. God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed…” God had a plan. He was doing something important. For Hagar, alone in the wilderness without water, the situation seemed bleak and dismal as she set her baby down to die. But God stepped in and provided everything that Hagar and Ishmael needed. Everyone in this story was worried, fearful, and anxious. But God is good, and He is faithful. Is there a character in this story you can relate to? What fears, worries, and anxieties are you struggling with? Get under His mighty hand. In due time, He will lift you up. He always cares for you.  

Day2: Read 1 Kings 17:7-16. It’s hard for me as a modern Mid-Westerner to understand what it must be like to be afraid of starving to death. To be perfectly honest, I get pretty grumpy just missing a meal, and I don’t miss many of those. I can’t imagine coming to my last morsel of bread and then having some strange man ask me for it. What would my family eat? I suspect I would not respond as politely as this widow did. Stories like this one in the Old Testament can seem strange, distant, and even far-fetched. It’s hard for us to reconcile our understanding of a kind and loving God. How can God let women and children starve? Yet, God had a plan, and He provided for this widow and her child. Suffering happens in this broken world. There is plenty in this life for us to be worried about, yet our God is good. Is there someone or something more worthy of putting our trust in? Take a moment and consider this: every time you take a breath, it is a gift from God. Every time you take a sip of water, God is providing for you. God is in charge, He is sovereign, He is good, and He has a plan. We can worry about our relationships, our careers, our children, and our futures, but in the end, we are dependent on God for everything. Take a walk or pull up a chair in front of a window. Reread, pray and listen. If you have children, how might you pray for them today? How can your love and presence be a reminder to them of God’s love and faithfulness?  


Day 3: Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does worrying accomplish? Can all of our worries add a single moment to our lives? Why do we have so little faith? Ok, I get it: believe more, try harder, trust more, and worry less. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop worrying. But it’s impossible. Who wouldn’t like to be less anxious? It’s not as easy as just trying harder, and for some, struggling with depression and anxiety has been a life-long battle and medical condition. So how do we trust God and believe more? Verse 33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Maybe it’s not just about worrying less. Maybe it’s about changing our focus. Often, we worry when we’re focused on ourselves. What does God want us to focus on instead? Try this: take out a piece of paper and make two columns. On one side, write down a list of things you are fearful, worried, or anxious about. On the other, list out the things you believe God might want you to be focused on instead. If you are having trouble, ask a small group member or trusted friend. Keep this list and refer back to it today.  


Day 4: Read Psalm 23. God is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. (Remember our Psalm 23 Series?) As our Good Shepherd, we can trust God, and He will take care of us. He is our provider. Even in the darkest valleys, we need not fear because God is with us. Would you consider memorizing this Psalm? When you find yourself struggling with anxiety, pray Psalm 23 back to God. Acknowledge Him as your Good Shepherd in your life and in the lives of your family and friends.  


Day 5: Read Philippians 4:6-7. Prayer is a powerful weapon to combat anxiety. As believers, God calls us His children. (John 1:12) Just as a child can come to their parent to ask for help, so we too can come to God our loving father. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone… how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Author C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” When we approach God in prayer, it is not God’s mind which we are seeking to change, but rather our own hearts. If you struggle with worry and anxiety, consider building prayer into your daily routine. Find three times today to set aside 3 minutes to pray or set an alarm on your phone or create an appointment with God. For parents, instead of praying for certain outcomes in your children’s lives, pray for God to grow you in loving and walking alongside them.  


September 16, 2018

Perfect Peace For A Perfect Storm

Day 1Read 1 Kings 19:1-3 Elijah was afraid, and he ran. We might look at the story and think he had every reason to run since someone wanted to kill him. Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It alerts us of danger and can motivate us to respond appropriately. Elijah was warned and he responded by fleeing to safety; so far, so good. But what happens next? Read the verses again, but this time, continue through verse 4. That escalated quickly! Instead of allowing fear to do the work of warning and motivating, Elijah let his fear completely redefine and shape his perspective. He moved from running to protect his life to wanting to give up his life. Notice he even begins believing a false narrative, “I am no better than my ancestors, I can’t go on.” Fear moved from a healthy place of warning and motivating movement, to controlling, re-framing, and manipulating the truth. Can you relate? When have you allowed fear or worry to grip you and change not only your perspective but your inner narrative and beliefs? In verses 3-5 we see that Elijah left his servant and journeyed on alone. Are you alone in your stuff? Or are you journeying with others? Who helps you maintain a perspective of truth? 

Day 2Read 1 Kings 19-5-7 and Psalms 102:1-7 “Forgive me for what I said when I was hangry.” When we are weary and overwhelmed, when we feel that we can’t go on, we may want to hide, isolate, and draw everything inward. In doing so, we may end up neglecting simple self-care activities and routines. Sometimes the most spiritual and wisest action we can take is to eat and rest. Even when we don’t necessarily feel like it, a walk can help. Acts of self-care are inherently good for us. Are there areas of self-care you are neglecting? Physical needs that aren’t being attended to? Medical needs that you are postponing? What step can you take today toward better self-care? You may not feel like doing them. Do them anyway. Continue to engage with family and friends. Is there someone who can help you? Ask a friend to go on a walk or meet for lunch. Or, perhaps there is someone you could reach out to and encourage. 

Day 3: As a pilot, your eyes are your primary sensory input while in the air. Looking outside, you see the ground below and the vast sky all around you. But all of that falls apart when you're in the clouds. The way to overcome flying in the clouds is to trust your instruments. When a pilot follows the instruments, nothing circumstantially changes. The cloud coverage and the illusion of which way is up are still there. Even though you look out the window, it may not feel right but when you engage back into your instruments you are reassured. What happens when we find ourselves in a cloud of worry, despair, or even hopelessness? Where does our minds lead us when the false narratives try to convince us our hope is lost, that we are alone, and God has abandoned us? How can you trust God’s truth, even when it doesn’t feel like truth?  Read John 14:18-20. What practices do you have or know about that help you reflect and take on God’s perspective? Is worship, community, serving, prayer, stillness, and reading and reflecting on God’s word a part of your life rhythm? 

Day 4: Read Psalm 88. As we read this Psalm, we are, in a sense, reading a private journal. Here we see David pouring out his innermost emotions, fears, anger, confusion, and questions. He doesn’t hide or shy away from God but is real with Him. We know much of what David is saying wasn’t a completely accurate picture.  David was not cut off from God’s care. God had not rejected him, nor covered him in wrath. It felt like that to David, yet he knew he could be honest with God about it. There are times, or there will be times, when we are angry, frustrated, overwhelmed and may even feel that God is against us. During these times, we may want to withdraw from God, hide or even pretend away our emotions and feelings. Have you ever laid your heart and emotions bare before God like this? If you are at a place of confusion, worry, doubt, anger or frustration, consider writing out a prayer or journal to God. Although it may feel scary to express these emotions, there is power in writing them out. Try it. If you need more encouragement today, listen to the song “To the Table” by Zach Williams. Hear the words and bring your fear, sorrow, and worries to Him.  

Day 5: Read Psalm 139. As you read pay attention to David’s perspective. He is frustrated and angry. He is calling out for the death of his enemies. We can relate. Then we come to verses 23 and 24 and something changes. David intentionally steps into his practices of seeking and allowing God to bring him back to a new perspective, into a “way everlasting.” There is no fix to the reality he currently faces, but a change of perspective back to the reality of who God is and how He says things really are. What step do you need to take today to align your perspective? Are there practices you need to incorporate into your routine? Are there areas of self-care you need to attend to? Are you consistently and intentionally engaging with others in community?  

September 9, 2018

Perfect Peace in a Perfect Storm

*Note for this week’s devotional: In light of this message series, we recognize that there are real forms of clinical anxiety and depression. Prayer, meditation and reading Scripture are powerful tools to help us deal with real issues of life. However, there are situations where professional help and even medication are right and necessary. As a devotional team, we pray these words bring hope and inspiration, not shame and isolation. Anxiety and depression are real, and know that you are not alone.  

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory explained that humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand is an important step to experiencing peace. We are so easily “big” in our own eyes. It is easy to think we know best, make our own decisions, take control of our life, and chase our own pursuits. But then, we worry because our knowledge to make decisions and our ability to control is limited. When you find yourself worrying this week notice it. Journal, talk to a friend, or take a quiet 5-10 minutes to think about the source of the worry. After noticing your worry, remember that God is big, far bigger than what we worry about. He cares about us, loves us deeply, knows all, is in control, and ultimately, he himself can fulfill us. Here is something to try. When you identify worry, think of a corresponding truth about God. For example, if you worry because a situation is out of your control, find a verse about God being in control. Whatever worry comes up, humble yourself and acknowledge that God is stronger, more in control, and more good than whatever fear, circumstance, or struggle you face. Let your worry remind you how big God is.   

Day 2: The absolute starting point for any kind of peace is humbling ourselves to accept the peace with God that we have in Jesus. Sometimes we are so big in our eyes that we try to accomplish peace with God or think that there is some way to peace with God other than God’s way - Jesus’ death and resurrection. Trying to make peace with God by any other way results in inner turmoil, fear, or self-denial. Read Romans 10:1-13. Why did the Israelites not submit to God’s righteousness?  What can we do to be saved? Accepting and believing these truths is the first humbling step that puts us under God’s mighty and caring hand. It is also a lifelong pursuit to absorb the fullness of the peace with God that we have in Christ. Read Romans 5:1-11 and meditate on the effects of the peace of God that has been accomplished in Christ.  

Day 3: Humbling ourselves is a process of acknowledging God is who he says he is, laying down our own thoughts and opinions to believe what God says is true, and adjusting our lives to live in a way that is consistent with God. If I am doing things my own way, don’t I rightly worry? In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus says to focus our energy and attention on his kingdom and his righteousness, and God will provide for our needs. Evaluate your life. What is your focus? Is there any way you can be more in line with God’s priorities? Will you humble yourself to pursue God’s priorities, or will you continue to do what you want? Make it public and tell a friend how you want to realign your life. Ask for their support.  

 Day 4: One of the biggest challenges and temptations is to worry about our circumstances. We can easily think that if we do everything right, then we shouldn’t have trouble and everything should go well. But is that true?  

  • Jesus promised in this world we will have trouble. John 16:33  

  • Paul asked if trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or violence (which Paul experienced) means we are separated from the love of God. Romans 8:35-36  

  • James said to count it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. James 1:2  

  • Peter said that for a little while we suffer grief in all kinds of trials so that our genuine faith results in glory. 1 Peter 1:6-7  

If Jesus and his disciples experienced suffering, can we trust God, lean on him and strive ahead knowing that God works for the good of all who love God and are called by him? Instead of worrying about what bad things might happen, think about God who is with you through those things and will bring about good. Consider Peter, James, and Jesus as you read Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-39. 

Day 5: Read Daniel 3:8-30. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did right by not bowing down to an idol. They left the outcome in God’s hands and were thrown into a fire. But in the midst of the fire and most likely their own death, they proceeded. For them, they’ve found peace through faith in their God in spite of terrifying circumstances facing them. And as you read, a fourth person is seen in the fire. God was with them and in this case, he miraculously rescued them from the fire. What stands out to you as you read this account? Spend time in prayer to God. What can you apply to your current circumstances or view of God?  

September 2, 2018

Trekking Through The Christian Life

Day 1:  Read Hebrews 12: 1-2 Have you been on a journey recently, this summer? Where did you go? What did you do? What memories do you have? We are all on a journey whether we realize it or not. This passage tells us to run (journey) with perseverance the race marked out for us. Journeying through life calls us to movement, steps, intentionality and perseverance. My journey is not your journey, my next step is not your next step. There is something personal and unique about my journey with God. Yet it is through community that our journey is stirred, takes on meaning, and helps us stay the course. Are you currently on course in your journey? Are you asking and answering questions about your journey with God? Do you have someone or a group who knows how you are doing? Consider those around you who provide support and encouragement for your journey. Are you in a small group? September is a popular time for many to join a group. If you are in a group, how well is the group doing at encouraging each other on in the journey of life and faith? 

Day 2:  Read Psalm 119:105 & Hebrews 12:1.Stay the course! Doug told the story of a very difficult journey they had to make above the tree line, in thin air, to get to where they were going. Tired, weary legs, blistered feet from the boots…but they did it together. When they made it to the valley, they celebrated their accomplishment and realized how they grew during the journey. We are all tempted to pause our journey and take a break. However, sometimes, we don’t get back on the trail. What tends to pull you off course? What are familiar or even current excuses that see in yourself? Does your heart pull you off course? What is the sin that so entangles you? Is there something doing more than entertaining you but “discipling” you away from the course – news, social media, politics, sports? What is most shaping your course? If you find yourself off course, what would it take to course correct?

Day 3: Read Genesis 15:1-6. Sometimes life just does not seem to make sense. Our vision is too blurry, Our scope is too narrow. Our understanding is too small. When the Lord invites you into His tent (world) to speak to you through the scripture, others, or circumstances, do you tend to believe by faith ordoubt? Is God asking you to do something or giving you direction but fear or excuses have paralyzed you to take a next step? Spend some time in prayer, seek a trusted believer out to discuss, and embrace the risk. Remember God is the God of protection, inspiration, renewal, perspective, transformation, love, care, and patience. If you need a reminder, walk outside tonight and look up at the stars.

Day 4: Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-10 & Proverbs 17:3. When the journey gets difficult…when expectations don’t get met, when circumstances are painful, when we feel burned out, when life throws us a curveball…are we fixing our eyes on Jesus? These are the moments that change us and allow us to grow in the likeness of Jesus. Difficulties build character in us for future journeys, our own benefit and for the sake of others. What can we learn thru our current difficulty? How is character being formed during a present trial or obstacle? What does God have for you? Is He purifying you? Is He demonstrating the power of the Gospel through you? Resolve yourself to trust, to have faith, in the midst of your journey. 

Day 5: Follow the leader. Read John 12:24-26. Who are you following? This question is essential and tells us whether we are growing spiritually or in some other way. Jesus tells us that anyone who wants to serve Him follows Him. So, again, who are you following? Will they take you where you hope to go, lead you to be who you hope to become? Following Jesus is not easy or easier. It’s just better. Jesus models and teaches us a better way to live more in line with how we were created to live. We will find the deepest meaning, purpose and significance following him. Are you following Jesus? What evidence currently supports that you are following Jesus? Look past your spiritual habits and church or small group attendance. The more compelling evidence is in attitudes and behaviors you’ve been displaying over the past few days. 

Week of August 26

DNA: We Were Made For This

Pass It On

Day 1. Read Matthew 28:16-20.A disciple is someone who is following Jesus and intentionally seeking to become like Him. Jesus is now telling his disciples to make disciples. The early church understood that to believe and follow Jesus, or to be a Christian, was to be his disciple. There is no separating the two. In addition, a disciple is someone who is making other disciples. How exactly do we do this? How did Jesus do it? Through scripture, we see that Jesus’ greatest effort, focus, and investment of time was through growing relationship with the 12 and maybe even more so with the 3 (Peter, James and John). They experienced every imaginable life situation – together. The disciples had spent enough time with Jesus to know how he thought, what he cared about, what he taught and what he valued. They didn’t just hear him preach a message, they saw him live a message. Jesus made disciples by investing time to develop relationship. Who does Jesus want you to influence, invest time in, and to develop relationship with? Who is around you? What about the neighbor next door? The co-worker across the hall? The other parents sitting on the bleachers next to us week in and week out? Another student on my team? In my class? Whose path do you naturally cross? Throughout this week open your eyes to the people who are already in your life.

Day 2: Read Matthew 28:16-20 again. What do you think of when you read “Go”? Some may think of the apostle Paul. Paul traveled throughout the known world making disciples.  Another aspect of “go” is “as you go” or “wherever you go.” If we’re honest, this is hard. We love Facebook-worthy, Instagram-story-worthy things. We are drawn to the notion of big, change-the-world kind of “go” activities. However “As you go” looks more like, “this is going to become part of my LIFE” instead of something I add to my life. This is living in a different way. It is being a good friend, not pretentious, not putting on an “I’ve got it all together” face and I’m here to help you. It is learning to admit “I don’t have it all together and I need you as much as you need me.” Learning to be authentic, honest about real life stuff, and connecting in a meaningful way with people who may be different from us. Those who first heard these words may have heard differently than how we read it today. This was a directive to cross racial, economic, nationality, political, religious, and gender divides. What does the community around me look like? Does it look like me? What is one step I can take over thecoming week, month, and year to cross a divide in the world that I’m already engaged in? 

Day 3: Read Luke 11:46. Cory mentioned that in a relay race a runner passes the baton to the next runner and so on. The question becomes, WHAT am I passing on? What did Jesus pass on? Am I passing on something worth carrying? Or am I passing on a heavy burden that will only serve to weigh others down…merely a bunch of rules to follow? Jesus’ message was not merely rules to obey but a way to live that changes who we are from the inside-out. Who Jesus is, is what he passed on. What we discover about Jesus and how we engaged in that relationship is what we pass on. The most important question we can then ask ourselves is, “What step do I need to take in the coming days to discover Jesus?”Read 2 Tim. 1:5, 2 Tim 2:2  

Day 4. In yesterday’s verses from 2 Timothy we see faith being intentionally passed on. We pass faith on unintentionally, too. A few weeks ago, Steve shared that we are the church. You and I are the witnesses to our family, our co-workers, neighbors, and community of who Jesus is and what it looks like to follow Him. What do my attitudes, my actions, my opinions, my words, give witness to? Are they worthy to be picked up by the person next to me? How would our neighbors describe us? Who is the person our employees, employer, teachers, coach, classmates, or the person we disagree with, describe us to be? What about those we engage with on Sunday mornings? Would the type of person being described by all these people be generally the same or would it seem like dramatically different people? Does my unintentional faith witness match my intentional one?  

Day 5: Following the services last Sunday, we took the time to celebrate 30 years of LSCC in the community. We came together and shared stories of life change and began intentionally looking forward to what is yet to be. Think about who you saw, who you talked to, and stories you shared. Now consider a person who wasn’t there, but could be in a year, 5 years, 10 years from now because of a choice you make today to see someone and to choose to invest in relationship with them? Who might find their way to a life of following Jesus and join a community of faith? Do you remember the Next Steps card from Sunday? Think back over the devotions from this week. Who will you take intentional steps with to discover more of Jesus? Who will you intentionally pass your faith on to? Who will you cross a divide for to love and be Jesus to? Identify the steps you need to take.Write them down. Keep the card in a place you will see daily or weekly.Tell someone the steps you have identified and ask them to support and pray for you.  

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Week of August 19

DNA: We Were Made For This

Luke 19:1-10. Story of Zacchaeus

Day 1. Imagine that it’s November 3, 2015, and you are in the crowded streets of downtown Kansas City. You know that sometime soon, the crowd will erupt as fans strain to get glimpses of the World Series Champions Kansas City Royals. But as you work the crowd vying for a spot, you recognize that from any position you find, you still can’t see. So, what do you do? Well, you climb up the stoplight pole, of course, just for a chance to see the team whose greatness everyone has seen and heard about. Now, read Luke 19:1-5. There were probably less than 800,000 people in Jericho the day that Jesus arrived, but the crowd that followed Him was large enough – and apparently tall enough – that Zacchaeus simply could not see. Jesus’ reputation preceded Him wherever He went, and in each city, the people clamored to get an opportunity to hear Him teach, to be healed, to experience Him personally. Consider today what a privilege we have to be able to know Jesus through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit.  

Day 2. Read Luke 19:1-6. What do we know about Zacchaeus? Imagine that the guy on the stoplight pole (see yesterday’s reading) was the head of the regional IRS office and was exploiting the taxpayers for personal gain. That was Zacchaeus. He was not just a “wee little man” as the familiar song goes. He was a wealthy, powerful, and greatly disliked man. Why do you think a man in his position was so determined to see Jesus? Maybe he just wanted an opportunity to experience the presence of this man that everyone was talking about. Or perhaps, despite all that he had gained, he knew that there was something that he still lacked. Either way, when Jesus called to him, Zacchaeus made a choice to respond. He invited Jesus into His home. Read verses 8-10. We don’t know what Jesus said to Zacchaeus in their time together, but we do know that it resulted in a changed perspective. Zacchaeus acknowledged his exploits and vowed to make it right! If Jesus was sitting at your dinner table, what things might you want to change or make right? Pray about it. Acknowledge it and declare it to Jesus.  

Day 3. Read Luke 19:5. Despite the crowds gathered around Him, Jesus chose to look up and acknowledge the despised tax guy in the tree. Jesus called him by name! He was aware of Zacchaeus and chose to pursue him. Throughout the course of Jesus’ life, He was continually looking up to take note of those around Him.  He chose to engage, to forgive, to love, and to save those who knew theywere lost.This is the heart of Jesus. It was how He lived and who He was. It’s also how He invites us to live. As we seek to know and become like Jesus, consider the ways that you can be aware of those around you. How well do you know the people you live your life among? Have you considered inviting your neighbors or co-workers into your home for a meal? What steps can you take to create margin in your life, so that you can have the space to look up and notice? 

Day 4 Read Luke 19:9-10. What does Jesus say is His ultimate purpose? He came to seek and save the lost. This is His pursuit of us. As He looked up toward Zacchaeus, Jesus is looking up at you as well.  He sees you and knows you completely. He sees through your religion. He sees beyond your sinful past - your failures, cheating, and facade - and He loves you. To be like Jesus is to reflect Him, and to follow Him means we choose every day to respond to know Him and to become like Him. Jesus spoke truth to Zacchaeus and His words stirred Zacchaeus to make a change! What truth is Jesus speaking to you? What change is he calling you to pursue? Do you hear Him?  

Day 5. Read Luke 19:7. What does this verse say to us about the crowd? What was their perception of Zacchaeus? How did they feel about Jesus’ decision to dine with a sinner? How often are we more like the crowd than we are like Jesus? Make it personal. Do I see those around me as sinners and pass judgement on them? Or do I see them with compassion? Who am I more like? When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, we see that He not only healed the lame, comforted the grief-stricken, and fed the hungry. He also had compassion on the politician, the tax collector, and the prostitute. Are we living like Jesus? Do we care for the soul of the person as Jesus did? Consider the people you’ve encountered in your life today. Is there anyone you’ve clearly judged or disregarded as “too far gone”? 

As you go about your day today, be aware and look up to see those around you. We just may find that we don’t know how we can be like Jesus to them. Let that turn into your prayer.

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Week of August 12

DNA: We Were Made For This

Day 1: Let’s be honest, death is scary and none of us wants to die yet how much do we actually consider dying? What if heaven is a real place, and if so, how do we get there? Read John 3:1-21.Nicodemus came to Jesus to find out more about who this Jesus character was. Jesus responds by telling Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God (experience a different kind of life) unless he has been born again spiritually. John continues to explain that anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life (verse 15), and that God loved the world and He gave His only Son, and that anyone who believes in Him will not die but live forever (verse 16). If you been around church for any length of time, you’ve heard this all before. In fact, we can become so used to hearing it that we can become numb to Jesus’ words. However, what would it look like today if you lived out this statement? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Have you been born again? How does this belief affect how you live today? Take some time to pray and right down your thoughts. 

Day 2: Yesterday we asked the question, “How do we get to heaven?” While this is important, there is much more to Christianity than eternity. Sometimes in our faith we can become more fixated on what we can get from Jesus rather than on following Him. Read Matthew 19:16-26.One day a man asked Jesus, “What good deed do I have to do to live forever?” Think about why Jesus answered him the way he did. The man just wanted to know what he had to do to get to heaven. Why didn’t Jesus just say believe in me and you’ll be saved? Why did Jesus tell him to give his money away and follow Him? According to Jesus himself, truly believing in Jesus will always coincide with a life of following Jesus. The two cannot be separated. For this young man the cost of following was too great. Is there anything in your life that may prevent you from following Jesus? Is there anything in your life so valuable that you are unwilling to let it go in pursuit of Jesus? Maybe it’s a job, relationship, or some dream of what you want to accomplish. Be honest and willing to wrestle through your thoughts with God in prayer. 

Day 3: Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” There is nothing we must do to be saved from sin in death. It is the free gift of God through faith. And yet Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Here is the principle; don’t miss it: grace is free but following is costly. The Christian life is one that is marked both by belief and by following. Because we believe that Jesus, being both fully human and fully God, died for us in our place on the cross, we therefore respond in gratitude by taking up our cross and following him. Are both belief and following true of your life today? What does it mean for you to take up your cross daily? Maybe it means making some huge life changing decision today, but more likely it will require you to make small sacrificial decisions each day. Read Romans 12:1-2 then take some time and write down one step that you can take to sacrificially follow Jesus today.   

Day 4: Before we move on today, how did you do on your action step from yesterday? Take a few moments to reflect on that. Now let’s move onto today. Is it possible for us to believe all the right things and yet have a useless faith? What good is a faith that doesn’t actively follow Jesus? Read James 2:14-17. Every day we live in a world where people are broken, hungry, hurting, and in need of hope. The magnitude of all that is wrong in this world is so great that it can leave us overwhelmed, incapacitated, and paralyzed into inaction. Yet, we are not alone. As a result of our new birth, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Also, when we come together with fellow believers as the church, even the gates of hell will not prevail against us. (Matthew 16:18) As Jesus’ followers, we are able together to make a difference. When we live out our faith together following Jesus, we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37) Consider your words: Is there someone today you can encourage? Consider your prayer: who needs prayer and how can you pray for them? Consider your actions: who can you love for 30 seconds at a time today? Consider your community: who is around you that together you can make a difference? 

Day 5: Read Luke 5:1-11. When confronted with the person of Jesus, the first disciples were asked to make a decision. Today, we are asked to do the same. In response to who Jesus is and what He has done, will you followHim? Will you choose to walk along side of Him, to learn from Him, to care about what He cares about, and to live your very life as an act of sacrificial worship one day at a time? Following doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or have everything figured out. Instead, it means taking simple steps to pursue Jesus, working with and alongside Him in a daily relationship. (Matthew 11:28-29) I encourage you to take some time today to reflect. Maybe go for a walk around your neighborhood. Find some time just to get away and be with God. Tell Him that where He leads, you will follow. Be quiet and see if the Spirit nudges you in some way.

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