Week of February 18

Psalm 23

He Leads Me

Day 1: Read Psalm 23:2 out loud. Notice how the Lord as Shepherd knows how to make David rest when he needs it. Often our view is to live life to its fullest until we’re physically and mentally exhausted. We are starving for rest. Even our vacations are filled with must-sees and have-to-dos. Yet God’s view for us is to rest in Him each day so that we can truly live. Read Mark 6:30-32. How do Jesus’ words to his disciples speak to you on the difference between doing and being? We all like a big God that conquers, but we also need a comforting God that refreshes. What action step can you take this week to break away from the world’s busyness, recognize the lack within your own soul, and just rest in Him? 

 

Day 2: To lead means to guide or bring along. Jesus, our Shepherd, is not behind us yelling “Go!” He is ahead of us bidding us to, “Come.” Cory shared Sunday how sheep that are pushed tend to scatter while those being led recognize and respond to a trusted voice. The first emphasizes movement, the second fosters relationship. Are you responding to God relationally as He bids you to “come”? Now think of how this translates to how we can become more like Jesus when we deal with others. How are you leading the people God has given you to lead – are you pushing them to move or are you leading as Jesus would through peace, patience, kindness, love, forgiveness and care? Are those you shepherd a means to an end or lives entrusted to you to help steward toward a reliance on God? 

 

Day 3: Close your eyes and think of green pastures and still waters. What picture pops to mind? Most likely it’s a favorite location or activity filled with peace, rest and satisfaction. Now compare this picture to the messiness of day-to-day life. How many times in scripture does Jesus remind us there will be trouble, that life will be a struggle? How do those times contrast with the picture of peace you had in mind? Think of Jesus’ own life on this earth. He lost friends and family, was betrayed, arrested, beaten, faced injustice and suffered a painful death. Yet, his last words on the cross were “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Luke 23:46. He knew and trusted the goodness of a Good Father. What do you have in your life to remind you of your Good Shepherd when troubles hit? A small group? Prayer? Quiet time with scripture? One-on-one time with an accountability partner? Remember your go-to choice the next time you need help bringing God’s perspective and His peace and rest into the troubling circumstances you face. 

 

Day 4: Cory shared from Phillip Keller’s book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” that four realities prevent sheep from experiencing green pastures and quiet waters. Fear, friction within the flock, flies and other irritations, and lack of food. The presence of a good shepherd alleviates these issues, allowing his sheep to rest. Like sheep, we face these realities in our lives. Read John 10:14-16. What do these words tell you about the type of relationship Jesus wants with you? How does this knowing you are known by Him help you rest better in the understanding you have a Good Shepherd ready to deal with the fear, friction, flies and famine you face? Share some thoughts or emotions you experience in your small group or with a friend. 

 

Day 5: To be led, we must be willing to follow. Like Cory shared in the first week, Americans bridle at being compared to sheep. Timid? Dumb? Defenseless? Come on! This is the country of John Wayne and Rambo. But Jesus is not demanding we follow Him. The choice is ours. He pursues us, like the Good Shepherd He is. Not just once and awhile, but constantly.

What in your life, your choices, your attitudes are holding you back from trusting the rest that Jesus offers? The culture pushes us to be busy, perform, produce and achieve. Does your daily rest and rhythm match the rhythm of our culture or the rhythm of God? God wants to lead us to green pastures and quiet waters. Find a quiet place today to reflect on how the rhythm of your life keeps you away from this peace. Ask the Good Shepherd to tend to your heart, to care for your needs. Get in line with His rhythm and see where He takes you.   

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Week of February 11

Psalm 23

The Lord Is Enough

Day 1: Picture this. You anxiously squirm in the seat of a small airplane quickly ascending. The side door of the plane intentionally open because you will be stepping out of it shortly. Dressed in full gear strapped to your body, you lower your tight goggles in place. Standing up, you walk toward the door. The tips of your boots creep out past the edge of the open frame. Intense wind whistles around you pushing, urging you out to the wide expanse. Then in an instant, you jump. Question: What are you placing your trust in? Your parachute. Daily, knowingly or not, we place trust in someone or something. When your feet hit the floor in the morning, when you grab your car keys, when you walk through the school’s front doors, when you flip on your toddler’s bedroom light, what are you deeply trusting in? Pay attention today. Come back to this devotional at the end of the day. Notice where or in whom you place your trust?  

Day 2: Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (ESV) Interesting verse. I shall not want; but what is it trying to say? There are things we want every day: chocolate, caffeine, nicotine, Netflix, a great deal, a listening ear, Instagram, something to complain about, to be alone; we are filled with wants. Yet, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Remember the parachute in Day 1. The parachute provides a skydiver complete trust during the descent toward the Earth, yet he or she may still want for as soft a landing as possible, or to be on target. But their safety is in relying on the parachute. Read John 10:14-16. Jesus is the good shepherd. He loves His sheep. He cares for them. They listen to him. Jesus is helping us see we can rely on and trust in Him for our deepest needs. Today as you go about the regular activities of your day, find a way to remind yourself, He is my good shepherd; He knows me, I can trust, He is good and wants good for me, it is right to hope.  

Day 3: Most likely, something in your life is amiss. Issues at work, a reoccurring conflict with a co-worker, boss, or employee. Maybe its stressed relationships with friends or family, or the house being a mess, the car dying, debt piling up. You may wish those were your problems, you just received a diagnosis that makes it hard to have hope. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. I am, will be ok. Read Matthew 6:28-34. Rest in the care and goodness of the shepherd. Reflect back on other difficult times. You’re still here. God is still good. He knows you and is with you.  

Day 4: Read 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 and Philippians 4:11-13. Paul knew something of struggle, hardship and want. He learned contentment was not tied to circumstances. He trusted. He discovered deep trust and faith through struggle, injustice, and pain. Today step toward your hardship or struggle. Reach out to someone you’re in community with, share the struggle, fears, doubt. Let struggle and perspective do its work in leading you to trust and rely on the Good Shepherd more deeply. Reach out to God, share your hurt and fears in prayer, sit in quiet and trust His presence with you. Recite Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Listen to what He has to say.   

Day 5: There is freedom in following the shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want. This freedom is available to you. Read Romans 8:28-39. These verses speak to struggles. They don’t call us to deny them, but to remember how God has acted, that He is still good, still with us in our struggles. Freedom and even peace comes from knowing I am a beloved child of God. God is saying there is more to the story than our immediate chapter. In John 14:27 Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. This is peace that we don’t experience because of any circumstance or good break. The world doesn’t offer this kind of peace. Knowing our Shepherd is still with us can give us this peace. Do you know of this kind of peace? Try practicing a daily trust in Jesus’ words (either of these passages) as you go about the activities of your day.  

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Week of February 4

Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Day 1: Read Psalm 23 slowly, as if you’ve never read it before. Try a different translation. Meditate on it phrase by phrase. Pray that God would give this familiar Psalm new life and meaning to you. Read it again as a prayer to God. After you read, take a few minutes to write down the words and phrases that stood out, or may carry a unique significance in your life right now. Include any questions you have about a verse or phrase that you could investigate later. As you go about your day, remind yourself of the memorable word or phrase. When your day is over, return to what you wrote and take time to pray further.  

 

Day 2: Read John 10:14-15. Jesus knows you intimately. Just as He refers to a close relationship with the Father, Jesus knows you in the same way. In Psalm 139:1, David writes, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” There are no secrets or hidden places in our lives. He guides us along the right paths. He is close beside us. He gives us courage to enter the day we may be dreading. This is the kind of shepherd who Jesus is,

a good shepherd. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He knows you. With all honesty, do you believe this today? Do you believe He is a good shepherd to you? If yes, celebrate that. Think about the events of this day believing He will shepherd you through them. Pray for your children or others in your life. Pray that they may truly sense the Shepherd in their lives today. If no, it’s ok. Consider why you have doubts. Open Psalm 23 again. In what ways does this Psalm not match your view of God right now?   

 

Day 3: Read Isaiah 46:3-4. Today, let’s focus in on the first phrase of Psalm 23. David writes in vs 1, “The Lord is my shepherd.” David doesn’t say that the Lord is a shepherd, or the shepherd. He says that the Lord is MY shepherd. Before David was a king, he was a shepherd himself, responsible for the care of his father’s flock. He knew that a shepherd would be aware not only of the whole flock, but also of each and every individual sheep. In Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus teaches that the Good Shepherd will search out the one who is lost and celebrate when the lost is found. Have you ever considered what it means that God, who created the universe and all that it contains, cares for you? “I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Is. 46: 4b) A core question we all ask ourselves is this. Do I matter? Am I valuable? Do I like myself? If we answer yes, it means that we recognize and appreciate the uniqueness that He has made. We value our attributes, our personality, our strengths, our talents. Write down the qualities you admire about yourself, the qualities the God formed to make you.  

 

Day 4: Read Ephesians 1:13-14. What do you know about sheep? A quick Google search will reveal that every sheep has a unique personality. They instinctively band together for safety. Their keen vision and hearing gives them excellent senses to know and follow their shepherd. If the Lord is my shepherd, the implication is that I am His sheep and I belong to Him. On Sunday, Cory shared that shepherds will identify their sheep by putting distinctive “ear marks” on them. Is it clear to others that you have been “marked” by the Shepherd? Journal about this question or talk it over with a friend sometime today.   

 

Day 5: Read John 10:27. Yesterday, we learned that a sheep has a good sense of hearing, which enables them to recognize and follow the shepherd’s call. How are your senses? Are you aware of the Shepherd’s voice in your life? One of the best ways to learn to hear the voice of the shepherd is to know the Bible as this is a primary way that He speaks. The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Ps. 119:105) As you study the Scripture, listen for His leading. While we often value self-sufficiency and the ability to figure it out on our own, we need to recognize our dependency on Him. This is a mark of true spiritual maturity. The Good Shepherd knows you, cares for you, claims you as His own, and leads you. Is self-sufficiency getting in your way from hearing God? How have you been listening to the Shepherd’s voice to follow where He is leading? As you read the Scripture passages this week, what did He say to you?  

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Week of January 28

Living Different

How To Walk Securely

Day 1: Proverbs 10:9 says, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Regardless of where you are at in your spiritual journey, most of us can agree that it is better to be honest than to be a liar. We all want to be the good-guys in our own life story. We can all acknowledge that we aspire to lives of integrity, but all too often we fall short. There are two paths to Integrity: making good decisions and owning up to bad decisions. Read Genesis 3. When we make a bad decision and do something we’re not proud of, our first response can be to blame someone else or to try to cover up and hide from our sin. However, in the end we are very likely to be found out, and the consequences will be worse as a result. Is there anything in your life that you are afraid maybe found out? What if your boss, parent, spouse, or children knew? Be brave; take time to pray and reveal your secrets to God first. Then take some time to be still and listen.  

 

Day 2: Read Ephesians 5:1-14. Because of Christ we no longer live in darkness but in light. Before knowing Jesus, we followed our own paths possibly afraid to be exposed to the light. But now we have been raised up from the darkness and filled with God’s light. We are freed now to walk with integrity. Is there a step you need to take in order to make right a wrong? Is there someone you need to confess or apologize to?  Write it down. Make a plan. What step can you take this week to make things right and come into the light? If so, confess and come back into right relationship with God.  

 

Day 3: Read Proverbs 10:9. People of integrity walk safely. That sounds great, but does this mean that if we live in integrity daily, we won’t have any problems? Of course not. Jesus Himself lived a life of complete integrity, yet He was arrested, beaten, and sentenced to death. Instead, integrity is how to live life best, even in hardship. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.” God’s Word is not just a long list of rules. Rather, it shows us how life is best lived. Even more than that, it reveals a person to have a relationship with. As we enter into a real relationship with Jesus, He will begin to make us more like Himself. Integrity will be a side effect of spending time with God in His Word, and the side effect of having integrity will be a life of security even in the midst of hardship. What step can you take this week to intentionally hear from and be shaped by Jesus? Do you talk with someone daily or weekly about what God is teaching you? Are you in a small group? If you are in a group, when have you last discussed how Jesus is shaping some part of you?  

 

Day 4: Most of the important events along life’s path are marked by a sense of insecurity and uncertainty: leaving for college, finding a job, a first date, getting married, moving, losing a parent or spouse, etc. Sometimes it is ‘crooked path’ decision that cause this uncertainty. Whatever the case, it is possible to have joy, peace, and security in all circumstances. Read James 1:2-4. Is there anything in your life robbing you of joy and freedom due to some, ‘crooked path’ decisions: financial issue, secret desire, judgmental heart, sexual sin, pattern of lying, or uncontrollable anger. Who or where can you turn to help you? The support of another can help us find our way back and an honest heart before God reminds us that He has never left us.  

 

Day 5: Read Matthew 11:28-30. In this passage, Jesus uses the metaphor of the yoke. A yoke is a wooden harness for two oxen. When they are yoked together and attached to a cart, oxen can pull a tremendous load. Furthermore, it was the common practice to put a strong adult ox who knew how to carry a heavy load with a young untrained ox. When yoked together, the young ox would slowly learn how to pull the heavy load. Jesus knows that our load is too heavy for us on our own, and we don’t know how to carry it. Instead, He invites us into His yoke, to learn from Him as we grow in His strength. And, when we enter into Jesus’ yoke, the burden will feel light even though a great load is being carried. This is the life of integrity spoken of in Proverbs 10:9! As we live our lives alongside Jesus, yoked together, our paths will be safe and secure even in peril or hardship. Today as you get ready for work, school, taking care of children, or whatever He has for you, tell Jesus that you accept His offer to take His yoke and walk alongside Him. Memorize Matthew 11:28-30 or reflect on these verses during the day.  

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Week of January 21

Living Different

Gratitude

Day 1:  Unexpressed gratitude can be difficult to see in the mirror. Read that sentence again slowly. Do you believe that? We can feel grateful. As I write to you, I feel more grateful than not. However, there is a difference between feeling grateful and expressing gratitude. Northpoint Community Church Pastor Andy Stanley said it this way, “Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.” Read Luke 17: 11-19. In this story, what stands out to you? Is it the one or the nine? Write out what impressed you or what you believe to be true from this story. Share this story at dinner tonight with your family or with a friend. Ask what stands out to them?  

 

Day 2: As we think about living different in 2018, may we apply this motto, “If you think it, say it.” Our words of gratitude and encouragement don’t mean much if they remain in our own head. They can bounce around in our mind, but if we don’t express to others what we feel about them, then the kind thoughts don’t do others much good. Read Ephesians 4:29. Is this verse stated as a question, suggestion or a command? We’re given clear direction on how to talk. Every time you think of something helpful to say to someone, say it. Don’t assume the other person knows. If you feel a prompting to verbally build another up, follow it. Some may find this difficult because they don’t routinely express affirmation. In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains five ways we give and receive love. Using words is one of them. So you may not be naturally wired to speak out encouraging words, yet we can all practice. Try this. Put five coins in your pocket. When you have spoken encouragement to another, take out a coin. Repeat until you have emptied your pocket.   

 

Day 3: Read Colossians 3:15-17. As we speak goodness, kindness, beauty and gratitude to others, it creates an attitude of grace, mercy, and gratitude in us. Speaking kindness or affirming words during the course of a day benefits both the speaker and the receiver. Remember, giving is better than getting. Think about a time recently you complimented someone (whether a family, friend, or stranger.) How did they respond to your affirming words or compliment? How did you feel afterward? Expressing gratitude is a habit that will develop us into a more caring, loving, and hopeful person. Is there a challenging relationship in your life right now? What would happen if you remained in a perspective of gratitude when you speak with them? Whether thinking about a specific relationship or in general, practice noticing the good today and recount as much as you can tonight before you go to bed.  

 

Day 4: Maybe you are struggling with the devotional this week. You don’t have a lot of gratitude to share because you don’t have gratitude inside of you. Does that sentence resonate with you in some way? Have you experienced deep pain, hurt, frustration or grief? The idea of gratitude may be just difficult right now. Don’t move past this too quickly. Can you identify the source of your pain? Is it a recent event or conversation? Is it a relationship? Or maybe is it a self-destructive habit or thought? Read Psalm 139:1-14. Now read it again as a prayer to God. Ask Him for help and comfort in your struggle today. Is there a specific step you need to take to help you heal from your pain? 

 

 Day 5: Read I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 27, and Romans 11:36. Allow God to use these scriptures to fill your heart with gratitude and reflect on His goodness to you. Take time to express your gratitude to God before moving on to the next sentence. Now turn your attention to the people in your lives. To whom are you grateful? Who has lived their life in such a way that it has positively affected your life? What in their life changed your character or attitude? Or did their actions or words meet some deep need in you? Was it love, respect, or belief in you? Have you shared it with them recently? Have you expressed it in a way to convey the significance it has made on your life? If it has been a while, consider how you can find some uninterrupted time with them to share your gratitude.  

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Week of January 14

Living Different

generosity: The Secret To Happiness

Day 1: Stingy and closed-fisted; open-handed and generous. We each know people who tend to live more one way or the other. Which way of living do you find yourself more admiring of, drawn to or liking? Which way of life seems more alive, full, happy or blessed? Of the two groups, who seems to be living more like Jesus? Reflect on the qualities of a generous person. Does this draw your admiration? What attracts you to a person full of generosity? Is your admiration limited to their giving nature or does it inspire you to pursue generosity in your own life?  

 

Day 2: Reread the last questions from yesterday. How did you answer them? What did thinking through those questions reveal to you? A generous life is one of the clearest indicators that discipleship (or growing to be more like Jesus) is taking place – particularly financial generosity in our materialistic, security-through-strength-and-money Western culture. Generosity is about living differently with the finances given to us because we are being formed more into the likeness of Jesus. Generosity forms us in the same ways that prayer and Bible study do. It speaks to whether our prayers and time in Bible study are changing our hearts and being incorporated into how we actually live! Take some time to reflect on these statements and following questions: I am forgiven. Am I becoming more forgiving? I am loved. Am I becoming more loving? I have been given much. Am I becoming more giving?  

 

Day 3. On Sunday Cory asked the question, “Do you consider yourself to be generous”? Take some time today to sit with that question and reflect. What do you look to in order to answer that question? What do the patterns, decisions, and choices you make reveal about what you genuinely value? Do they speak to movement and growth with an increasing trajectory toward generosity, care and well-being of others? Do you find you want to cling to a handful of times when you acted generously or do you see consistent evidence of a lifestyle of generosity and openhandedness? Do you see continuing growth in your generosity? Perhaps in the past you took some meaningful steps. Have you become stuck or plateaued in living a generous life? What are some of the obstacles to becoming more generous? What is a next step you can take to address what hinders you from becoming more generous? Would you ask God to show you the obstacles and steps you need to overcome or take?  

   

Day 4: Worry, fear, anxiety, envy, self-protection, lack of contentment, seeking safety/security through money, contempt for others. Why would Jesus say so much about these things? What do these things do to our hearts and our minds? What impact do they have on our hope, faith, and our ability and willingness to love and trust? Jesus is showing us a way to live different - a way to live more full and abundant lives! These things consume our thoughts, erode our souls, lessen our trust in God and form our hearts in such a way that we end up living small, self-absorbed lives. It’s not mere sentiment or ideology when Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than receive” and for us to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Who doesn’t want to be dealt with generously, forgiven freely, loved fully? Reflect on where and when you are most likely to make choices that are small, inward, fearful. Notice what is going on when this happens and particular times when you are at risk of defaulting to one of these life stealing behaviors, attitudes, or mindsets. Does this show a lack of trust in a generous God? How does this affect your generous living? 

 

Day 5: I often feel like being generous, but I don’t always act on it. I even like to give myself partial credit for wanting to be generous. It’s one of the silly mind games I play that doesn’t lead me to an actual demonstration of becoming more generous or more like Jesus! We reflected in Day 3 about obstacles to generosity in our lives. As we did, some of us would have identified financial strain as an obstacle. Strains from unforeseen disasters and hardship, others self-inflicted by how we live. Either way, both are very real. One available step is to get into the next Financial Peace University group that starts Wednesday, January 24. You can sign up on the website (www.fpu.com/1056532) or at ConnectU next weekend. This group can help you dig out of a mess or simply find a way to live different financially so that you have financial margin to act on the desires and promptings to become more generous.   

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Week of January 7

Living Different

Mirror, Mirror

Day 1 - Cory’s message on Sunday detailed two scriptures that command us to live different by not just listening, but doing. Read the first passage, James 1:22-25. Reflect on how the mirror analogy is used as a physical description to challenge our spiritual nature. When we look into a mirror, our image is reflected back. If our face is covered with grime or our hair is a mess the mirror will reflect that. If we choose to walk away without cleaning our face or combing our hair, we might want to believe we are “looking good”, but just because we are no longer looking in the mirror does not mean the grime and messy hair are not there; we are deceiving ourselves. The same is true when we look at scripture and think, “Oh, that is truth! That is wise! Amen!” as we close the book and go about living as we did before. James boldly states that without becoming “doers of the word” all our receiving, reading, researching, and reflecting on the Word of God is useless. Ouch! Filling our head with knowledge of the Bible is nothing unless we act on it and allow it to change us. What has God already told you to do in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet? What has He revealed about certain attitudes or behaviors that you haven’t addressed? Reflect on the ways you deceive yourself. We all do it. We all have our ways of looking the other way when it comes to our own stuff. Write down an action step to take this week to transition from listening to doing. Share this next step with someone who will keep you accountable. 

Day 2:  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:25). James invitation here is to continually place our trust in God’s perfect law, the law of freedom. But laws are often seen as being restrictive, not freeing or what not to do. Do you view God’s perfect law as hoops to jump through to appease Him or to prove your love? Or do you view it as God providing us instructions on how best to live? The law of liberty provides direction on the best way for us to live, giving us a path for knowing and loving God more deeply, and to becoming more like Him. The perfect law of God is an expression of God’s character, of who He is, and how much He cares for us and His desire for us to live fully and freely. Reflect on that lasts sentence. Do you believe that? Can you sense His presence with you now, urging you to trust Him? Write down what you hear. 

Day 3: We are all headed somewhere and becoming someone. The things I do (and don’t do) determine where I will go and who I will become. Cory used a U-Haul as an example of how simply making an outward circumstantial change seldom results in an inner heart transformation. We carry our personal “stuff” with us; we just end up unpacking it in a new spot. To experience true life change we must not just listen (or know), we must do. Allow God’s Word to affect how we live and who we are. For example, I can know that the 25mph speed limit in my neighborhood is for my own safety and the safety of others, but unless I change how fast I drive in my neighborhood, the speed limit is rendered useless to me (and to my neighbors!). What attitude, belief, habit, or behavior, have I not allowed God’s word to effect change in me and how I’m living? What is something specific I can do to move from simply knowing to doing?  

Day 4:  All of us have experiences where in the middle of doing something or NOT doing something, we realized we were making a mistake. Think about a current struggle or hurt you’re dealing with. Did anyone try to warn you where you were heading? Was the situation driven by taking advice from an untrustworthy person? Or possibly a poor judgment made in the moment where you pretended the likely outcome might not happen? What rationalizations, justifications, or minimizing did you tell yourself? Think back to the ways we deceive ourselves from Day 1. What steps will you take to change these patterns and behaviors? How will you make sure you are seeing and telling yourself the truth? Spend some time with God asking Him for insights into your current situation. Share what you hear with your spouse or accountability partner. 

Day 5: The Leaning Tower of Pisa drops 1/20th of an inch closer to the ground each year because of two reasons. The 179-foot tower was built on marshy ground (pisa translation) and the foundation is only 10 feet deep. Pisa is a real-life example of what happens when you build a structure on a shaky foundation compared to firm ground. What are you building on that will lead to a leaning tower? Maybe you don’t even notice it, but inch by inch you are moving away from where you want to go and who you want to become. Read Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus is talking about how two different people chose to build their foundation for life. Both heard the words Christ spoke. Both built similar houses nearby each other. But one withstood a very severe storm and the other crumbled. Jesus is telling us by following His teachings “by living this way” (not by simply hearing), we will be equipped to weather the storms that will come. What are you building on? What attitudes, behaviors, or habits are establishing a shaky foundation in your life? What steps will you take to begin building on the teachings of Jesus? Pray for God to show you how His words can become part of your life today. Then do what you hear.  

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Week of December 31

With ALL My Heart

Before You Begin: This devotional is a year-end reflection exercise. Each day will build on the next, with the hope of God speaking as you reflect. If possible, spend additional time working through each day. Yet, do not stop half way through this week trusting God has something unique for you as you complete the week’s readings and reflections. Last helpful hint…have a journal or device available to write out or capture your thoughts.  

 

Day 1: How do we grow in our faith? Participation in a small group, regularly serving others, or a daily time of hearing from God through reading the Bible, reflection, and praying? Consider your spiritual practices in 2017. In a journal, write out all of the activities and practices you did or tried. Take five minutes to collect journals, sermon notes, bible study guides, books. Go to our website, quickly peruse LSCC Sunday messages (lscckc.org/messages), review podcasts that impacted you, and pull out your Bible. Recall the books you read and/or verses you may have studied or memorized. Are you surprised at the amount or variety of activities or practices? Do you have notes, prayers, or reflections (thoughts) you captured? Take time to reflect; which of these were most helpful in changing an attitude or behavior? Ask God to show you and to reveal Himself as you do this exercise. Set aside some additional time in your calendar this week to reflect on what is or has been most helpful.  

Day 2: Read John 5:1-7. Jesus asks a lame man if he wanted to get well. Last summer, Jack shared a message from this passage asking the question, “Do you want to get well?” The first thing that comes to my mind may be a physical healing. Sometimes, we can experience a miraculous physical healing from God. However, a more pertinent question is this; do you want to get well emotionally, relationally, or spiritually? The devotional this week is an act of ‘getting well’. On Day 1, we pulled together resources and jotted notes of the different spiritual practices we did last year. Take some time to page through and remember what you did. Pray as you do this asking God to stir you. Create a list of 5-10 of the most impacting truths you discovered. As time allows, take 1-2 of these and write down what may have prevented you from living them out. How they have changed your thinking, a behavior or relationship? Has it changed how you view or relate with God?  

Day 3: Recall the message series in Judges: Broken People, Faithful God. Read Judges 2:1-10. Cory reminded us of the power of passing on our faith. If you heard that message, you will recall three chairs. The first chair represented Joshua’s generation. The second depicted the next generation. The final chair represented a third generation, that of Joshua’s grandchildren. Was this third generation following God? See verse 10. The point? There was a failure to pass on. How does this lesson impact you? Reflecting on our own spiritual walk. How are you passing on your faith to the next generation and EVERYONE around you? In a journal, cite at 4-5 of the biggest joys or accomplishments in 2017. Do the same with the biggest struggles or sins you’ve dealt with. Tomorrow, we will reflect on them.  

Day 4: Take a few minutes to pray. Remind yourself of God’s presence as you step into this devotion. Remove distractions and give yourself time. Pull out your lists of life events from yesterday. Pick an accomplishment/joy. Describe it. Why was it a highlight? Who played a part in it? What role did God play in it? Now do the same with the struggles/sin. Consider how these events have contributed to shaping you today.  

Day 5: John 20:24-31. What does verse 31 say? Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ may have what? Life! Having life means having joy, peace, purpose, love, healing. Remember last Easter service at LSCC. Several people walked across the stage holding pieces of cardboard. One side gave words of pain, regret, loneliness, or sin. The other side revealed healing, gratitude, inward change, life! Having authentic faith in Jesus changes us. Reflect on how Jesus has worked in your life this year. How will that impact 2018 – your relationships, your career, your heart? Now think of how these changes will affect the next 10 years and those around you. This is how legacies are formed. Take time to thank and praise Him. Jesus is working in you and through you to reveal Himself to those around you.  

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Week of December 24

And He Shall Be Called...

Prince of Peace

Day 1. “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6) When Isaiah wrote this prophecy about Jesus, he was writing about things to come. We now live in a time in which Jesus has come. Isaiah was looking to the future with hope, we can now live in that hope. Jesus is here! As we close this series, think about the last four weeks. How has your perspective of Jesus changed? How have you seen Him as a Wonderful Counselor? Mighty God? Everlasting Father? Prince of Peace? In response to these messages, are there any steps that you desire to take in the coming year? 

Day 2. Read Isaiah 9:6-7. Jesus was described as the coming Prince of Peace. But what does this mean? Was Jesus’ birth intended to end all wars and conflict? Clearly this is not the case, or we would have no hope at all! In Colossians 3:15, Paul encourages the reader to “let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” His peace is in our heart, not in the world around us. Our peace comes from a confident hope in the truth of who Christ is. He is the one who saves us. He is our mediator and the only way to God. He is a good father, one who will always be by our side. How does your life reflect these truths? Are you living out of a peaceful heart or a distressed heart? Where are you troubled in your life? Reflect on this for a few minutes. Acknowledge your distress to God and ask Jesus for His peace.  

Day 3. Read Philippians 4:6-7. Are you anxious? Let your requests be known to God… Pray about it, and He will give peace beyond reason. While we usually think of peace as the absence of conflict, true peace is found instead in the presence of Jesus. Peace is not the alleviation of difficult circumstances but is a state of being that happens when you’re in the middle of it. We can have peace in spite of circumstances; This peace comes in the form of the presence of the One who is the Prince of Peace. Paul encourages us to have “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” When do you have trouble accessing Jesus’ peace? If you wrestle with anxiousness, what are the symptoms or signs (in your behaviors or your words), which could help you become more aware?  

Day 4. Read Luke 2: 13-14. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels declared peace! In God’s plan, the presence of Jesus on Earth is the only thing that can bring peace and deliverance from the distresses we experience in life. Read John 14:23-27. These are Jesus’ words shortly before His death. How does Jesus say that we will receive this peace? See verse 23 again. God will make His home in us. Somehow, someway if we follow and love Jesus, He will be in us and the Holy Spirit will remind us of the profound peace of Jesus. If we pursue in obedience, He will provide peace. If we trust, He will provide peace. Can you recall a time when you felt this kind of peace? If so, describe it by writing in a journal or sharing with a friend. If not, ask God for help. If you search, He will answer.   

Day 5. Read Isaiah 26:3. Do you stand in need of peace? Have you experienced the Prince of Peace? If not, it may be because you have not recognized your sin is a barrier between you and God. If you want the peace that Jesus gives, it begins with a simple yet life- changing decision. Jesus came to give us peace – to relieve the consequences of our shortcomings (our sins) – and to walk this life with us. If you are in need of this “perfect peace,” tell God the following: First, recognize that there is not one of us who is without sin, including you. Be honest with Him. Then submit to Him acknowledging that you will follow Him going forward. If you have already trusted Jesus, recall the first time you experienced the Prince of Peace. What difference did that make in your life? If you just made a decision to trust Jesus with your life now, do you have a sense of peace? Whether you’re a long-time Christ-follower or you just made the decision, share your thoughts from this devotional with a person of faith, a friend or family member, maybe with a pastor. Here is one who would celebrate with you, LSCC Small Groups Pastor, Patrick Hukriede Patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org  

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Week of December 17

And He Shall Be Called...

Everlasting Father

Day 1: Read Isaiah 9:6 and Psalm 27:10-14. Think with me for a moment about your father or authority figures in your life. What has characterized your emotional relationship with them? Do you find yourself wanting to please, appease them, hide from them, and work harder to make them proud? Did you fear them or feel safe with them? These questions are difficult, but they help us understand our deeper behaviors, attitudes and motivations. Since we have all had an earthly father, we all have had an imperfect father. Take a moment to consider one way your dad missed the mark (it may or may not be difficult). Don’t minimize it. Don’t run from it. Recognize the impact it has had on you. How have you handled this pain? Have you minimized it, rationalized it, or spiritualized it? Have you held it, felt powerless by it, or argued with it? Have you grieved it and forgiven it? Whatever your answer, how has that pain affected your view of God the Father?   

 

Day 2: Read Isaiah 44:2-5 and Isaiah 46:4. While Christian men, fathers, and husbands ought to reflect God, God is never a reflection of man. It is our job to be like Him not God’s job to be like us. Not ever. He is God. He stands alone. No one can compare. Let’s not get this backwards. The realities of our father’s shortcomings do not impact who our Everlasting Father is. There is a temptation to use an unrealistic measuring stick on our earthly fathers. (Not to excuse instances of abuse or neglect, which are serious issues that need careful and most often professional attention.) Are there ways you compare your earthly father to your heavenly one? How do your behaviors and attitudes toward God affect how you relate with Him or with people in your life?  

 

Day 3: Read Isaiah 49: 15-16. Our Everlasting Father knows our stuff. He is aware at all times of the condition of our hearts and souls. He knows where we are weak and vulnerable. Your walls are clearly evident to Him. Do you see God as one who is safe or do you see Him as a harsh father pointing out the messes you’ve made? How does Isaiah 49:15-16 describe the Everlasting Father? He is all in. He is invested in you. He has you engraved on his hand. He is not absent, clueless, unaware, withdrawn, or angry. He knows. How could these thoughts shape how you think about God? Is it mere information or can you relate to Him at an emotional level? Consider attributes or qualities of God like love, forgiveness, patience, kindness, boldness, respect, generosity, compassion. He desires to show you how to live these qualities out in real, tangible ways. Pick one quality. Praise God for this attribute of Himself and pray for Him to help you to further develop it in your own life.  Write your quality on a 3x5 card and put it in a visible place.   

 

Day 4: Read Romans 12: 2-3 and Galatians 6:7-9. Because of a childhood hurt or negative experience that we received from our father (or parent figure) we can, at times, revert back to those feelings and behaviors as if we are still under their control, influence, power and authority. Yet as we heard on Sunday, our Everlasting Father desires to influence and impact us more than any other voice or negative experience. He has set us free. To live in this freedom takes prayer, study of God’s Word and people to journey with. Do you know the heart vs. head knowledge idea? We can intellectually know our Everlasting Father is strong, loving, kind and for us, however, our heart or emotions don’t believe it. Who in your life can you have these kinds of conversations with? Does this kind of conversation come up in your small group? If so, discuss as your group. If not, can you think of someone who you could discuss this devotional with and meet them for breakfast?  

 

Day 5: Read Zephaniah 3:17. This has been an intense week with opportunity for some heavy lifting by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We will always be our Everlasting Father’s little girl or little boy. We will never outgrow the need to be his child; to immerse ourselves in the Father’s love, to receive an embrace, to be reassured. Think of the word everlasting; that is a long time! God is a Father who does not go away, does not abandon, does not give up, does not disown. He is here for you and me. A Wonderful Counselor and an Everlasting Father, He models fatherhood: comfort, love, correction, instruction, an ear to listen and a voice to call us to step out. Take some time today to worship the one who shall be called Everlasting Father. Consider an expression of worship that is out of your norm and acknowledge Him.   

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Week of December 10

And He Shall Be Called...

Wonderful Counselor

Day 1: Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” We live in a broken world. Darkness is all around us. Sickness, lies, violence, cruelty, and selfishness are everyday commonplace things. Even worse, we can become so used to this darkness, that we become numb to it. We can become blind to the brokenness all around us. Recollect several examples of darkness you have seen, read or heard about in the last day? We can even become blind to our own brokenness too. How quickly we often overlook or excuse our own dark thoughts, words, and actions. If possible, make the room you’re sitting in dark. Then, light a candle and notice how it affects the room. Read John 8:12 Take some time to prayerfully consider the dark spaces in your life. If you have difficulty, what part of your life is Jesus not present? Where do you separate your faith from your life? Take some time to write down some of your thoughts. 

 

Day 2: Did you identify areas of darkness in your life yesterday? If not, what is the stumbling block? Isaiah 9:6 says, “And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor…” In the midst of darkness God promises to send a Counselor. Read John 1:1-14. The God who created everything became human, and His life has brought light to everyone. Think about this: God became human. We don’t worship some distant strange deity in the sky. Instead, we worship a God that has been hungry and tired. We worship a God who has had to wake up and go to work, walked in the rain, had sore muscles. He experienced the hurt and lost friends to death. We have a God who understands what it’s like to be human. We have a God we can talk to and have a relationship with. We have a real person to counsel us. Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor. Take some time now to worship Jesus. Think about who He is and what He has done for you. Sing or listen to Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes. Is He one who you can trust to help you in your own darkness?  

Day 3: Good counselors can help you identify your issues and can give you a perspective that you can’t see yourself. The reason Jesus is a good counselor is that He knows you inside and out. He knows your motives, hurts, baggage, and emotions. He knows your whole story because you are His creation. Read John 4:1-42. Jesus saw past what the Samaritan woman wanted and helped her to see what she truly needed. Jesus shined a light into the brokenness in her life and showed her where to find true healing and satisfaction. Do we allow Jesus to counsel us in our lives? It is one thing to receive counsel, but it is another thing to accept it and to let it change you. What area(s) in your life could you use counsel, scriptural counsel? Or has He already given His counsel? Maybe it is not asking again but taking the answer He has already given. (Recall Gideon – Jdg. 6) Consider the life issues you shared on Days 1 and 2.  

 

Day 4: How do we let Jesus be our counselor? Read Matthew 7:24-29. Perhaps the most obvious way to let Jesus counsel us is though His own words in Scripture. When people give us advice or counsel do we compare it to the truth in the Bible? When we think we have heard from God, do we compare it to how Jesus counseled us to live? Speaking of Psalm 119:24, it says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” God gives us counsel through his Word. What habits exist in your life to help you listen to God’s Word. Do you have a time or a place that you read Scripture? If this is not a habit in your life, set a reoccurring alarm or calendar appointment on your phone this week to remind you to set aside some time to read the Bible. Come expecting God to give insight of Himself and how He made you to live.  

 

Day 5: Do you have someone in your life that you go to for counsel? Maybe it’s a professional, parent, spouse, or friend. Maybe it’s someone in the church. These counselors can be some of the most important and influential people in our lives. As followers of Jesus, we want to take steps to know and become like Him. With Jesus as our example, we too can be wonderful counselors to one another. In the local church, we have the opportunity to give and receive scripturally based counsel to one another. We are to function as the, “body of Christ” to build each other up. (Read Ephesians 4:11-16Do you have a person in your life who gives you scriptural counsel? Have you spoken with them in a while? Is there someone who you might need to make yourself available to listen to? If not, what steps can you take to begin such a relationship. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen with intentional effort. Consider joining a small group during our next Connect U on Sundays, January 14 & 21. A trusted friend is of great worth.  

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Week of December 3

And He Shall Be Called...

Mighty God

Day 1: And He Shall Be Called… Read Isaiah 9:6A prophecy from hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, our Christ. A predictor coming from the prophet Isaiah during hard times. And what he said comes in the face of what Israel was experiencing at the time. They were seeking security by their own means looking for a mighty warrior to come in and save the day. Isaiah was telling them that the Mighty God was coming – a Prince of Peace. God would show up in such a way only to be described as mighty. Yet, Israel didn’t recognize Jesus when He did appear. They were trusting with their own ways for security and in their own view of how God was going to provide security. How have you been trusting in your own ways? What are you depending on to be “mighty” in your life? Does the burden rest on you or do you see God working in and around you? 

  

Day 2: Unto US. “For unto US a child is born…” Who is the “us” Isaiah is speaking of? Is it just Israel? Who else could it be? In this context, it is not just those following after God, but the WHOLE WORLD. This isn’t a selective group that God picked. God shares this message (describing the characteristics of Jesus) to everyone, whether they know or acknowledge Him or not. All have access to Him. And He shall or will be called as Isaiah says. This is a command not an option. If He is real in my life, how do I make Him real in my conversations? Who in your life do you avoid including God in your conversation? Reflect on this question. How do you see God as mighty? Consider asking this question a few times today. Maybe it is asking the person you normally write off or avoid talking about your faith. Avoid a debate. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Their answer may give insight on how you can pray for them.  

 

Day 3: Mighty God in the form of a little baby. A child. And it is THIS child that is called The Mighty God! What an absurdity that God would choose a baby. All the power and might of the Almighty God contained in the person of the baby born in a barn. God chooses the low to bring might, power and wisdom in the world. A baby. A laborer’s son. A servant. Throughout His life, Jesus expresses humility, meekness and love. Then powerfully and mightily, He defeats death as He becomes the sacrifice for us allRead Isaiah 9:1-7. Consider those walking in the darkness seeing a great light. Consider the child and that the government will rest on his shoulders. 

 

Day 4: The Need of a Mighty God. In the time of Isaiah, the country was in trouble. The people were in need. Just as we are in need of a Mighty God. But are we aware of it? It seems to be that we (in these days) tend to make our own ways and create the god we THINK we need, rather than knowing God for the God He is. We know God, our Mighty God, through in Scripture and experiencing it in our life. Read Psalms 93 and 95:1-7It has been once said, if someone fails to appreciate the sculpture of Michelangelo or the music of Mozart, this is more a judgment about him than about the work of art. Spend some time in prayer or listen to a song while recognizing the awe and might of God.  

 

Day 5: Who Do You Declare Him to Be? At the time of Jesus’ birth, He was in a lowly position. But in Isaiah, He shall be called “Mighty God”. And one day, every knee shall bow before Him and confess that Jesus is Mighty God – King of Kings! People across the world argue who Jesus truly is. But the truth remains of what He SHALL be called. Period. So think of the audacity of us to come up with our own ideas of who Jesus is outside of His true identity! The question is, are you convinced, without a doubt that Jesus truly is Almighty God? It’s a powerful question – with eternal implications. And if you do believe that Jesus is King – do you live as if you HAVE a King? Do you submit your life to your King? Is this submission observable through your behavior? Your choices? Your attitudes? Your private life? Are you extending mercy and forgiveness? Showing patience? Are you extending kindness, love and actually BECOMING a more loving person? It seems an impossible task, yet while staying in step with the Spirit, He will help us to know and follow our King. 

Week of November 26

Thanksgiving Weekend

The Gift of Thankfulness

Day 1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Think about everything that is going on in your life this week. How’s the family? The job? Is the budget tight? Are you fighting addiction or self-doubt? Are you sick or exhausted? Give thanks. Wait, what? In all circumstances give thanks. No, that can’t be right. But yes, this is what Paul is telling us. If you are or have ever walked through hard times, remember that these times give us opportunity to discover God in ways that we otherwise could not. James expands on this when he writes in James 1:2-3 “…when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow...” If this is where you are, don’t lose hope! God is bigger than any circumstance! He is the light in your dark place! So, take a deep breath, and as you breathe out, exhale a prayer of thanksgiving to the one who is transforming you!  

Day 2. Read Mark 10:17-22. When the young man came to Jesus, what was he looking for? He was looking for how to earn eternal life. While it seemed that the man had everything, Jesus said, “one thing you lack…” In our blessed and prosperous culture, Jesus reminds us that our desire for more can get in the way of our contentment and therefore our attitudes are not thankful. We assume that to be blessed means to have more, but sometimes the biggest blessing comes in the form of subtraction. Think about that. What would you do if God called you to give away the things you most valued to pursue Him? What is your biggest obstacle towards gratefulness and contentment?   

Day 3. Read John 4:7-30. The Samaritan woman’s interaction with Jesus was very different from that of the young man in Mark 10. Where he was a religious and disciplined man, hoping to earn God’s favor, she was seeking avenues of finding her own self-fulfillment and worth. She was looking for meaning in places that true life cannot be found. Yet Jesus, in the midst of her brokenness, saw past her circumstances and invited her to experience real life in Him. What are the things that you tend towards to find fulfillment? Where do you go to find life? Think about those things for a minute. Do they lead you towards a heart of gratitude or do they leave you wanting more? What are the negative effects of this type of life? Jesus offers us a life fulfilled in Him. Pray that God would give you the strength to receive it. 

Day 4Read 1 Corinthians 15:57. At the very center of our faith is the reality that Christ died on our behalf and was raised to life again in victory over death. Because of what He did for us, we can be thankful, for we share in His victory! If we are in Christ, we are not bound by rules and regulations that no man could accomplish as the young man in Mark 10 sought. And we have grace for when we sin as the Samaritan woman learned. Jesus’ desire for us is to give us real life, a better life, eternal life. Are we so stubborn in our do-it-yourself perspective that we cannot simply receive His unearned grace? Thankfulness comes from understanding and accepting that every breath of life is grace - undeserved and unearned -  from the Father. And living a life of thankfulness to God spills over to gratitude and generosity with others in our life. Think about that as you go about your day today. God loves you even when you don’t deserve it! Let that sink in and permeate every thought, action, response and attitude. Allow yourself the freedom to be thankful! 

Day 5Give thanks to God.  What does gratitude look like as a lifestyle? If a child receives a gift that is disappointing, cries about it, and then says thank you, is the child truly grateful? We cannot will a thankful heart into existence, but we can practice the remembrance of what He has done. This centers our focus on Christ, and can soften our hearts towards legitimate Holy Spirit transformation. If you have a journal, consider this next step. Every time you find yourself unsatisfied, stop and write it down, and then write a few things next to it for which you are thankful. If you’re not a writer, practice it in thought or say it out loud. For example: “God, I am feeling discontent with my job, but you have given me life, you have provided for my family in this, and you have given me opportunity to share your love with those around me. Thank You!” 

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Week of November 19

Broken People, Faithful God

Spirit of Worship

Day 1. Cory’s sermon on Sunday revolved around the Spirit of worship and how despite facing overwhelming circumstances, Gideon chose to first worship before “doing it afraid.” God’s first assignment for him is sobering (Judges 6:25-27). He calls Gideon to destroy the altar to the false idol, Baal, that his father owned and then sacrifice their family’s prized seven-year-old bull as an offering. What's the point in telling us this? If you want to learn how to trust God, you must first set your own house in order. Before God can use you mightily, He must be magnified in your own life, in your own home. Private worship prepares us for public power from God. There are no short cuts. So, is there an idol you’ve been holding on to? A reoccurring problem or trial that you’ve failed at in the past? A family situation that seems hopeless? Confess these circumstances to God and ask Him to move mightily in your life. Then be ready to act in faith, clothed by the Spirit of the Lord (Colossians 3:12-14). 

Day 2.  God’s second assignment for Gideon seems even more challenging. Read Judges 7:1-15. We see in these verses God systematically reducing Gideon’s force from 32,000 to 300. Yet, despite being outnumbered 450 to 1, Gideon chooses to bow in worship before the victory. Why? Gideon knew then what Jesus would share later in Luke 18:27: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Armed with God’s plan of trumpets, torches and jars, Gideon’s army victoriously threw the Midianite masses into disarray. God is looking to glorify Himself on earth through people who are fully dependent on Him. People who believe He is with them and are ready to charge the hill in the name of the Lord. God doesn’t need our majority vote to move mountains. In fact, He doesn’t even need us. Yet He invites us to join Him. What circumstantial army are you facing today that needs God’s strength? Can you sense His presence with you now, urging you to trust Him? Pray and ask if there is anything holding you back from trusting Him with your circumstances today. Choose to worship Him rather than to stare at the army you’re facing.  

Day 3. Our vision at LSCC is to take steps to be more like Jesus. Worship is one of the three core commitments, along with Community and Serve, for seeing this vision come alive in ourselves and the lives of others. Worship is about re-centering ourselves on God and His perspectives, including participation in the weekend worship services. But becoming more Christ-like means worshipping like Jesus did. It wasn’t just something He did once a week, but an integral part of His life. What is taking precedence in your life over giving regular worship to God? What keeps you from altering your priorities to spend more time with Him? Consider discussing with a friend or your small group.  

 Day 4.  Last week Cory defined the Hebrew word labash as an “everyday act of putting on a garment.”  He challenged us to take a shirt and write down the areas in our life where we need to be clothed by the Spirit. What words would be hanging in Gideon’s closet at the beginning of Judges 6? Read Judges 6:15 for a clue. Gideon was just an ordinary man. He had no clue God could work miracles through him. What words would be on the back of your shirt? One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that God only uses special people. If you are a born-again believer, you are God's child (John 1:12), His friend (John 15:15), and His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). Like Gideon, you’re a one-of-kind person with a story already authored by God to win more for His kingdom. Do you see yourself as He does? He sees a masterful work with a specific mission to fulfill. Will you believe that today? If so, consider the spiritual clothing you can put on to live out this trust.  

Day 5. To worship God is to be submissive to Him. Where are you not submitting to God through worship and prayer and trying to do it your own way? Give God the wheel and let him drive for a change. The ride might not feel as comfortable at first, but the more you submit to His control, the greater the transformation you’ll achieve. As we’ve learned in Judges, success is determined by God's power, not ours. Declare your dependence on Him in prayer throughout today and on Sunday during corporate worship. Experience the joy of having Him direct your thoughts, words, and actions.  

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Week of November 12

Broken People, Faithful God

Spirit of the Lord

Day 1: In Judges chapter 6, we find Gideon and all of Israel scared, hungry, and hiding in mountain caves. Gideon literally hid himself in order to collect grain to eat. Yet, in the midst of this God calls Gideon, “mighty hero.” What irony! Yet, Judges 6:12 says, “The Lord is with you,” and Judges 6:34 says, “the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon.” The reason God called Gideon a mighty hero is not because Gideon had superhuman strength or power, but because the Spirit of the Lord was with him. Think back on this last week. Has there been a time when you felt afraid, weak, powerless, or out of control? How did you respond in that situation? Often in life we can feel afraid and defeated. Yet, Romans 8:37 says that we are, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Read 2 Timothy 1:7 out loud, and take some time to pray and reflect.  

Day 2: In Judges 6:14, the Lord says to Gideon, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” What strength does Gideon have? Gideon sums it up best in the next verse, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Gideon by himself was nothing. His strength was in the One who sent him. Where do you find your strength? What has the Lord sent you to do? Read Matthew 28:16-20. On our own, this command can seem scary and impossible, rightly so. Take some time to consider and pray. Is there someone today at your work or school, or even in your own family who could use a hand or some encouragement? Who is God sending you to invest in? Write their name(s) down, and ask God to help create an opportunity for conversation or a way to serve them today. 

Day 3: In Judges 6:34 it says, “the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon.” This phrase, “took possession,” can also be translated, “to be clothed with.” Gideon was clothed with the Spirit of God. Colossians 3:9-14 uses similar imagery when it says your old nature (our attitudes and behaviors before we began following Jesus) has been, “stripped off,” so now, “put on your new nature,” and that you, “must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… above all, clothe yourselves with love.” The clothes we wear can say a lot about us. Often, clothing can be our way of showing people how we want them to view us. We also choose clothing for specific jobs: suits for important meetings, coveralls for working outside, coats for protection from the cold. Clothing can prepare us and protect us for living life. Go outside today; maybe you can go for a walk. Feel the crisp fall air. Have the leaves begun to turn yet? Winter will be here soon. What clothing have you put on to prepare you for life? Read Colossians 3:9-14. As you interact with people today make a point to be aware of your spiritual clothing. They can see what you’re wearing. 

Day 4: Gideon was, “clothed with the Spirit” (Judges 6:34). This Hebrew word labash refers to the everyday act of putting on a garment. What a beautiful metaphor. How can we choose to daily be clothed with the Spirit of the Lord? One common tool used by many Christians is to pray through Ephesians 6:10-20. Take your time and pray through each of these pieces of armor. Picture yourself putting each piece on one by one. Remember our series on the Holy Spirit? As you put on these items, pray that this would allow you to be in step with the Spirit. If you’ve never done this exercise before, it may even seem silly at first, but try it anyway. You may find that it will affect your thoughts, words, and actions throughout your day. 

Day 5: Read Hebrews 11:32-34. When we act in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit amazing things can be accomplished. Yet, being, “clothed with the Spirit of the Lord” does not mean that we no longer experience fear. Instead, it means that even when we are afraid, we are still able to move forward in faith to take action. Gideon went to battle with 300 men armed with jars, lanterns, and horns. Of course, they were afraid! Take out a piece of paper or write in your journal something daunting that you think God might want you to do. Maybe there is a conversation with a neighbor, colleague, or family member that needs to happen, but you dread doing it. Maybe God wants you to invest your time, talent, or money somewhere. Maybe there is a risk that God wants you to step out in faith and take this week. Write it down and refer back to it several times. Think about it, pray and step into faith despite your fear. Then watch to see what God does.  

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Week of November 5

Broken People, Faithful God

Spirit of Fear

Day 1: Read Judges 6:14-17 and 2 Timothy 1:7. As part of the repeated cycle of rescue, God calls forth and then sends out Gideon to rescue Israel from the Midianites. A theme evident in Gideon’s responses is fear. The spirit of fear was a legitimate reality for Gideon and can prove to be the same for us. When faced with abnormal events or circumstances, a typical response or reaction is often fear. This was the case for Gideon and the Israelites. The spirit of fear caused Gideon to question God and to seek further signs from God when the directive was already clear. Rather than stepping out and moving forward in obedience, Gideon chose to test God by asking for further proof of His leading. This is what fear does. Fear often makes us look for further confirmation. What is the most significant fear in your life? Can you find the source? How are you dealing with this fear? Are you stuck, paralyzed, or ignoring it? Has it affected your attitude towards relationships or other areas of your life? Consider journaling your responses this week.  

 

Day 2: Read Judges 6:33-40 and Philippians 4:6. Based on God’s response to Gideon’s test, it seems as if his motive was good. Gideon’s request for proof was not him saying, ‘God I don’t think so. There is no way! It’s impossible!’ But rather, ‘God, I think I have heard your voice and have received your direction. I want to be willing to follow and be faithful. BUT the directive you have given seems so beyond me and the odds don’t seem to be in my favor. So before moving forward, I would like to confirm that it is really you that I heard from.’ When faced with a significant challenge, it is wise to seek clarity. When unsure if you have heard the voice of God, do you have people in your life to give you godly council? Who? What practices do you have in place to hear from God?  

 

Day 3: Read Judges 7:1-11 and Isaiah 41:10. After God’s confirmation, Gideon got up early and marched forward as far as the spring of Harod. Interestingly, the word Harod means to tremble or to fear. It’s here at the spring of Harod that Gideon and his army chose to halt their progression and stop for the night. Fear can cause us to halt and can prevent us from progressing onward. Have you ever not gone out for a sport or tried out for the band because you were afraid? Have you ever avoided talking to the new person in the class, at work, in the neighborhood, or maybe even here in the church because you were afraid? Have you ever decided that because of the circumstances (size of the army) in front of you that it would be best for you to stop (at the spring of Harod)? How can we face fear? Acknowledge it. Use it to lead you to bigger faith. Denying our fear will enslave us. During the next day or two, notice what causes fear in you. Consider writing them down as you identify them or at the end of the day. Then, ask God to help you to understand it and for the Holy Spirit to help you rise above it.    

 

Day 4: Read Judges 7: 2-3 and Psalm 23:4. Fear not only can cause us to slow down but can also be the reason for turning around. 22,000 men went home because they were timid and afraid. The reality is fear is contagious. One person’s fear and trepidation can easily spread to another. God did not want the fear of some to demoralize the rest of the army and put the entire effort in jeopardy. Fear can cause us to turn around. Has this ever happened to you? You were heading one way but then because of fear you decided to reverse your direction? Is someone else’s fear driving you? Or are you the person who influences others? How do you guard your heart against this type of thinking, behaviors and beliefs? Now, take a few minutes and meditate on Judges 6:12. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  

 

Day 5: Read Judges 6:5, 7:12 and Deuteronomy 31:6. Fear can also cause us to lose focus. There were at least 135,000 Midianites and their number of camels were too many to count. In an era when most armies traveled by foot, if an army had horses or camels it was considered a luxury and a great military advantage. So as Gideon and his man came upon the Midianites, it was only natural for their eyes to become fixed upon the size of the enemy army and upon their camels (like sand on the seashore). Fear can cause us to focus on what we don’t have rather than upon that which we do have in Christ. It can cause us to place our focus upon all of the reasons why we can’t, rather than upon the strength of our God who most certainly can. Notice when you start listing excuses. Is God telling you to continue forward even though the obstacles seem many? As we read, Gideon still played his part. He still prepared and led his army. What would it look like today to refocus and take a step of faith in who God is instead of letting the fear boss you around. Write down Deuteronomy 31:6 on a 3x5 card and memorize it. This will help you to believe something that is already true.  

Week of October 29

Broken People, Faithful God

Life Lessons

Day 1: Broken People – Faithful God: Over and over through the book of Judges we see a people who knew God and committed themselves to a relationship with Him yet time after time fell away. And just like the Israelites, we often have the same cycle of brokenness. We can make small compromises and rationalize our attitudes. We minimize and justify our behaviors. We ALL have tendencies to veer away from our heartfelt commitment to our loving God. What does this look like in your life? Consider the past. What are common attitudes, behaviors, and actions that have caused you to turn away from God? Write these reflections in a journal as they can be a gift and a future warning to you. Thank God that He has shown you sin and brokenness. He loves you.   

 

Day 2: Willful sin: Judges 6:1-10. We are reminded from last week’s message on ‘Repeated Rescue” and our propensity to fall away from the commands of and relationship with God. It can feel like a no-win situation, a hopeless battle. Yet read Philippians 2:13. We can have hope today. With the Spirit advocating for us, He gives us a desire for obedience. Remember, the Spirit of God is GREATER than our places of need (failure). God’s discipline is not condemning and accusing, but it gives us the power and strength to get back up and turn back to the Father. Look up and read “When God Ran” – Benny Hester. Remember your list from yesterday. Rest in God’s forgiveness and love today.  

 

Day 3: Becoming. Judges 6:11-12. When an angel encounters Gideon in a winepress, he is living out a ‘small’ story. Yet notice how he addresses Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” The angel sees him not as he is, but as he WILL BECOME. And Gideon becomes that, a mighty warrior! Not in his own strength, but in the strength God provides. Was there a coach, teacher, parent, or relative who spoke into you who told you of special ability or character qualities they saw in you long before you saw it in yourself? Do you think those words impacted your future? Notice again the angel’s words. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” God is present with Gideon and with us. He does not leave us alone. He speaks encouragement and belief in us. So if He is with us and speaking into what we are becoming, is He calling you into something? Is it a job change, the next game, an upcoming performance, or a new volunteer position? Or is He leading you to a conversation, a new habit or to finally seek some significant help? “For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” Philippians 4:13 (TLB) 

 

Day 4: Answering. Judges 6:13-14 Gideon had questions. Did you catch the angel’s answer? He didn’t directly answer Gideon’s questions. We too have questions, and at times, God does not appear to answer. But God does not ignore His children and He does not ignore you. He sees you. He hears you. He loves you. Will you trust his counsel, His heart, and His loving direction? Maybe He has answered but it isn’t the answer you were looking for. God really does want good things for you. But can you allow God to define what is good for you and trust that it is the good that you need? Read Jeremiah 29:11 again in a different version that you typically read. Pray with faith that He is for you even in the midst of uncertainties in your life.  

 

Day 5: Stop living small. Live bold and inspired! “It’s not about getting more of the Spirit, but of allowing the Spirit to possess and to control more of our lives.” When God calls us into a bigger story, it’s not based on our own abilities, but it’s about who He sees in us and what He’s calling us into. Like Gideon, God sees us in our fears, pain and failure, yet He loves us and calls us to be a part of a greater story. He is inviting us to the transformation work of becoming like Jesus. What situation, habit or attitude in your life are you willing to allow God to discipline and help you? In what ways can you trust God this week (next decisions or steps) that would lead you into the greater story God is calling you into? Set aside an hour or a morning and have a conversation with God.  

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Week of October 22

Broken People, Faithful God

Repeated Rescue

Day 1:  On Sunday, Cory continued our journey through Judges by recapping the mess the people of Israel were in when they stopped following God after the death of Joshua’s generation. It’s indeed easier to serve God when strong leaders like parents, pastors or Christian mentors are present in our lives. Yet God wants us to have a direct, independent relationship with Him. Think of your own life. Did you follow God while growing up in a Christian family only to “walk away” when you left home? Do you follow God around your believing friends, but not when alone or around unbelieving friends? If we serve God from a concern to please others, we are not truly serving Him. He wants a direct relationship with each of us individually so no matter where we are or who we are with we will respond to life’s circumstances through His eyes. As we did last week, continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to uncover areas in your life where peers and other worldly pressures have seeped in to take your eyes off Jesus. 

 

Day 2:  Throughout the book of Judges, the people choose to reject God. Seven times they fail to obey God’s command and choose other idols offered up by the culture. And as we see in Judges chapters 2 & 3, sinning against God has its consequences! No one gets away with it. They defy God by making alliances and treaties with those He says to drive out of their land. They even marry the people of Canaan thinking they’ll be able to worship God unimpeded by their defiant choices. Their “I am an exception to the rule” attitude leads to punishment and oppression. Where are you believing this narrative in your life? Do you believe you’ll abruptly alter course from a worldly choice before it negatively affects you or those you love? We can say things like, “I can manage (fill in the blank)”. We can often tell ourselves these lies, and the culture we live in reinforces them constantly. Ask a friend or family member (parent, child, sibling) who is pursuing Christ if they see any influences from the culture that you may have failed to recognize?  

Day 3: We were reminded on Sunday, man’s defiance and “getting what they deserved” could have been the end of this story. After all, the Israelites got what they wanted – freedom from God’s laws and covenant – which led to consequences by removing His protection. But instead, God raised up rescuers (Judges) to save the Israelites from their attackers. Read Judges 2:18-21; 3:7-11 and 3:12-15 for examples of the continual cycle of man sinning and God rescuing. As you read these verses, note how each time God extends his mercy BEFORE repentance. How does this change your view of God’s mercy? Do we have to first get our act together, our mess cleaned up, before He will reach out in love? While the choice to sin results in punishment, God steps in with mercy and grace instead of wrath and judgment as soon as we cry out. Even before we admit or commit to changing our sinful ways, He acts. Reflect on specific examples where God has shared mercy and grace in your life.   

 

Day 4: The cycle of rescue we see in Judges is a message of hope for us today. No matter how far we have walked away from God, as we turn back toward Him in true repentance, He will grant rescue. However, rescue is not necessarily a relief from the hardship we face from our sin. For example, a rescue from irresponsible spending does not make the debt disappear. But by bringing our sin of overspending out of darkness and into the light of God’s path, we no longer add to its strength. We are still in debt, but no longer under its power to destroy us. What are the places in your life in need of God’s rescue? What next steps can you take to invite God’s guidance, mercy, forgiveness and grace into these places?

 

Day 5: Read out loud: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but worldly sorrow leads to death.  2 Cor 7:10 The godly response leads to spiritual formation and transformational change. While worldly sorrow reflects a sadness on the effects of someone’s sin and being caught. Compare Peter’s remorse with that of Judas. Both disowned Jesus but one repented and was restored to faith and service while the other’s sin led to his death. Revisit Travis’ question from last week: what areas of your life are you failing to drive out because you’re more familiar with the practices of our culture than the commands of God? Pray for repentance with godly sorrow and write down your thoughts in a journal.   

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Week of October 15

Broken People, Faithful God

Failure to Drive Out

Day 1: On Sunday, Travis encouraged us to ask ourselves, “What areas of my life am I failing to drive out?” Think about this question for 5-10 minutes, and then journal about these areas in your life. Write your answers in a journal. Be honest and bold with yourself, and God will be honest with you.  

 

Day 2: Read Judges 2:11-13. We are naturally inclined to follow the path of least resistance. For the Israelites, it was easier to join in with the customs of those around them than to keep the laws and covenants established by God. While we are not likely to be openly worshipping Baal or Ashtoreth, we may find ourselves influenced by the voices of our own culture. What have you listened to, read, or watched in this last week? Do those things lead you to or away from Christ-like attitudes and behaviors? Paul reminds us in Romans 12, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Ask yourself, have I become more familiar with the practices of our culture than the commands of God? Pay attention to what you take in on TV, internet, social media or the conversations you have with others. Is there something that you need to give less influence in your life? When and how much are you taking in the Bible? Consider how would Jesus react and respond in our world today.  

 

Day 3: Read Judges 2:10 Last Sunday, Cory and our Family Ministry team spoke on ways that we can raise up the next generation to know God. Cory used the illustration of three chairs. If you missed it, go watch the October 8 messages replay online at www.lscckc.org/messages. When we know the truth, but choose to settle into our cultural norms instead, we find ourselves living in the second chair – not fully driving out those norms. Our vision is “Taking steps to know and become like Jesus.” What does it mean to “know”? This generation of Israelites knew the stories about the work of God yet failed to truly believe and pass them on. What does it mean to “know” to the point that it causes an inward transformation leading to outward behaviors? What truth in Scripture do you live out, thus pass on? Likewise, what truth of Scripture do you “know” but not live out on a regular basis? Read your journal from Day 1 and ask, “Based on my actions, what do I really believe?” Spend time praying Romans 12:2 to God.  

 

Day 4: Read Romans 7:21-25 Even Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, fought the same battles we face today: Wanting to do right, but being sabotaged by his own nature. The truth is, we are incapable of becoming like Christ on our own, and reliant upon the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot save ourselves, nor can we empower our own transformation. The Holy Spirit works in us to these ends, as our advocate and guide. Only when we step with the Holy Spirit can we truly become more obedient to the commands of God rather than the practices of our culture. Refer back to the last message series or read into Romans 8 to remind you of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life. Live with that truth in mind today.  

 

Day 5: We can’t do this alone. We need to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we need the encouragement of other believers with whom we can be honest and open and real. As parents, our calling is to invite our children into our spiritual journey. And as children, we can be reminded that our parents aren’t perfect, but are willing encouragers in our lives. Read Romans 7:21-25 again with your family or some close friends. Discuss how our nature and culture are sometimes contrary to God’s truth. Focus on this: “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Pray together, and discuss the truth of Christ, we can pursue holiness and turn from sin. Is there a struggle or area which you commit to take a step in obedience towards Jesus? Share with your family or friends what you will drive out of your life. Pray for one another inviting the Holy Spirit on this journey. 

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Week of October 8

Broken People, Faithful God

Passing It On

Day 1Read Judges 2:7-10. Joshua’s generation both heard stories of God’s faithfulness and experienced it with their own eyes. Yet the generation after Joshua “did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty works he had done for Israel.” Joshua’s generation failed to pass their faith on to the next generation. Thus, they quit passionately pursuing God. The more we love God, the more we love what He loves! (Matthew 22:36-39) The greater your love grows for God the greater it grows for others. Your faith is passed on through their words and actions! In Sunday’s message Cory used three chairs to represent the regression of Israel’s relationship with God. Chair 1 represents a person committed to love and follow God; the person sitting in chair 2 knows and loves God but compromises his standards; finally, the person in chair 3 chooses not to acknowledge God or the things He has done. What chair are you sitting in now? What behaviors in your life support your conclusion? What behaviors would be a cause for skepticism? Ultimately, how has your life positively impacted others’ faith? Write down your thoughts or share them with a friend.  

 

Day 2: Read Psalm 78:1-8. Israel’s rollercoaster relationship with God was a reminder of God’s patient, unending love for people and Israel’s failure to pass on their faith. Read further into the Psalm to understand the history. The influence of God’s love seldom lasted beyond a generation. Our faith must be passed on, so others can know God themselves. Our influence has an impact on the future trajectory of those who are around us and those who come behind us. With whom has God given you influence? Spouse, child, co-worker, neighbor? Write down the names of 3 to 5 important people to you. Take some time to pray for them and their love for God. Where do they need encouragement in their faith?  

 

Day 3: Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Passing faith along to children or to anyone else cannot be left to happenstance. Intentionality is required to influence others to know and become like Jesus. Most of us chose to follow Jesus because someone was intentional about sharing their faith with us! Deuteronomy 6 says our motivation to do this is uncompromising love for God. It then becomes our responsibility and privilege to see everything we do as an opportunity to influence others. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31) Giving God a spot on your list of priorities isn’t enough. He wants to be in the center of everything you do. Only then will He be able to use you as the influence He created you to be. Go back to the list you made yesterday. Beside each person’s name write down a potential next step: text a friend to meet for lunch, take your spouse on a date, tell your child a story, etc.

 

Day 4Read Joshua 24:1-16. One of the best ways to pass your faith along is through stories. God is writing His grand narrative and your life story is a part of it. Just like the nation of Israel, God is at work in your everyday life! Before we shake our heads at Joshua’s generation and their failure to pass on their faith, consider this. Do you see His miraculous work in your life? When have you told a personal story of God’s faithfulness to another? Or do you fall into the trap of seeing the problems and details of life that you walk right past God’s work without even noticing? So where is God at work in your life? Remember, God is not bound to only working in the good circumstances. He actually works through our fears and failures too. Write down a couple stories or say them aloud to yourself right now. Plan to share one of these stories today.  

 

Day 5 Reflect. Remember who you are in Jesus. Ephesians 1:3-8 teaches that if you have accepted that Jesus died to pay the price for your wrongdoings, you are an adopted child of God! Timothy Keller writes, “The moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’.” God loves you no matter what you’ve done, or not done. Receive His forgiveness and recognize your life as a story filled with examples of His grace and mercy, ultimately His love. Then, resolve to sit in the first chair, commit to love what God loves; commit to share His love with those He has given you influence. Pray to the Spirit for eyes to see Him at work in your life. Pray for the list of people you made on day 2. Pray for awareness of opportunities to share your story with them. 

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