Week of September 17

God In You

What Can He Do?

Day 1:  For most of us, the Holy Spirit is either a complete mystery or we already hold an opinion of who He is and what He does or does not do. As Cory mentioned, there are many extreme beliefs surrounding the Holy Spirit and how He works in our lives and the world today. These beliefs shape how we relate with and understand the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Take a few minutes to think about your personal opinions and beliefs. What, or who, has influenced these beliefs? Have they been influenced by extremes or by what Jesus taught? If we want to know and become like Jesus, we will need to seek truth about the Holy Spirit and the role He plays in transforming our heart. Read John 15. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any opinions or beliefs that are keeping you from fully engaging in understanding and seeking His truth. Ask Him to teach you, guide you, and reveal truth to you. 

 

Day 2: Read through John 14. The Holy Spirit is described as the Advocate: “a person who pleads for or on behalf of another”, “one who supports or promotes or champions the interests of a cause, group, or a person” Synonyms: champion, backer, promoter, supporter. The Holy Spirit is our champion. He pleads with us on our own behalf. He is not a prosecutor or accuser (someone who leads the case against someone). Questions to consider…have I viewed the Spirit more like a prosecutor or an advocate? Will I believe the teaching of Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit as my advocate and my champion? What would it look like to begin understanding and viewing the Holy Spirit’s role as my advocate instead of a prosecutor? How would that change the way I understand the Holy Spirit and the role he has in my life?  

 

Day 3: If the Holy Spirit is our advocate, what is He advocating for in our lives? He is promoting and championing the “cause” in each of us to step-by-step become increasingly more like Jesus. Re-read the definitions and synonyms for advocate from Day 2. What thoughts come to mind about having someone who, without fail, advocates for you and you becoming like Jesus? What is encouraging about that? What reservations or possibly fears come to mind?  

Pray with honesty about any doubts or fears you may have about the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask for Him to reveal any thoughts or attitudes that hold you back from trusting Him and His purpose in you. 

 

Day 4: When we open the Bible, we have the Holy Spirit to help us understand it, not simply to gain informational understanding, but rather for personal heart level change. This is a Spirit-driven process of forming our character at a heart level that will result in living differently. As the Spirit reveals Jesus and His heart, we will find the path to becoming like Him. Do you have established patterns where the Spirit is free to reveal Jesus and his heart to you? Do you come to scripture with a check-list or an agenda? Does the Spirit have the freedom to speak or not speak as He desires? Take a couple of minutes to sit quietly. Consider asking the Spirit “is there something you want to show me? Is there something in me you want to speak to and change?” Thank the Holy Spirit for the truth of His presence with you. Read through John chapter 16. As you read, read to hear and apply, not simply to master the content. Try to free yourself from what you think you know and allow the Spirit to guide and form you. Journal about the experience. Was it difficult? If so, what was difficult about it? Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like anything was accomplished. It isn’t always about accomplishing – but it always about trusting in His presence and relationship.  

 

Day 5: Read John 17. Use the prayer and questions from Day 4 as you begin. What does it mean to you that in addition to revealing Jesus to us, the Spirit gives us power to become like Jesus? Remember the purpose is not only to reveal Jesus to us but for us to be changed at a heart level to become like Jesus. This is where the work of transformation becomes a reality. We are given the power to do it, but we must take the steps. What steps do you have in place or put into place to move from hearing/seeing a truth to moving that into a behavior, attitude or lifestyle change? “Direction, not intention, determines destination.” Andy Stanley. Identify the steps you need to take – the direction – and share that with someone. 

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Week of September 10

God In You

The Wonder and Work of the Holy Spirit

Day 1: On Sunday, Cory started a four-week journey of exploring the wonder and work of the Holy Spirit, the God who actually resides within every Christ-follower. He challenged us to read John chapters 14-17 each week during this series. Cory gave us more than a Holy Spirit 101 detailing what the Bible says about who the Holy Spirit is. He said that if our goal is to just increase our head knowledge, we would miss the true gift Jesus left for us: the life-giving ability to experience the Holy Spirit in a one-on-one relationship. Have you prayed to the Holy Spirit? Read John 14. Jesus is giving his last words to the disciples. These are important words for Jesus. Before you read, pray this. “Holy Spirit, teach me about Yourself and the relationship you desire to have with me. Help me understand more of You. Help me to learn how to hear You.” Write down what jumps out at you as you read this chapter. 

 

Day 2: Read John 15 and add to your notes about who the Holy Spirit is and how He can interact with us. One description of the Holy Spirit is as our advocate, our helper, our personal champion. Who in your life would you consider is ALWAYS in your corner and ALWAYS speaks the truth? The person who has your back no matter what situation you’re in or difficulty you are facing. Have you ever thought of the Holy Spirit in this way? How might accepting His unconditional support, honesty and love impact your life? Go ahead and bend His ear with something you’re struggling with today. Then spend time listening. 

 

Day 3: Continue reading John, chapter 16. “In the name of the Father, the Son and…the Holy Spirit.” All of us have experienced saying these words out loud and in prayer. Yes, we’ve included the Holy Spirit, but how often do we live with an awareness of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit, so that we could live in faith and with purpose. In Forgotten God, Francis Chan says the true source of the church’s power is in igniting and enabling the Spirit of the living God within those who follow Christ. But Chan says while most Christians admire the gift of the Holy Spirit, they often neglect to open it. We can ignore tapping into the “power within us,” choosing to go it alone and rely on our own strength. Is there a challenge facing you, a conflict with a friend or family member that seems insurmountable? Do you feel alone in this? Confess to your Advocate that you cannot solve this situation by yourself. As you dialogue with Him request wisdom and insight. Admit you need help; you need power that only the Holy Spirit can generate. Be still. He will answer, not through your intellect but within your soul. 

 

Day 4: Think of a marriage that you hold in high regard. What is it that makes you smile when you think about their relationship? Maybe it’s how they constantly finish each other’s sentences. Or how one always laughs at the other’s story, even though it’s been told a hundred times before. What you don’t see are the years behind the scenes of intentional relationship building. How their love has been tested and forged by walking through good and hard times together. How trust and mutual reliance are outcomes of a daily choice to live relationally. Jesus wants us to have this same approach with the Holy Spirit. To live out the relationship daily with a partner who is pulling for you, working to make you more like Jesus, and showing you how to remain an effective follower in a confusing world. Just like the husband and wife you thought of earlier, there’s an undefinable oneness ready for those who embrace the Holy Spirit. Are you hearing His unique voice in your life? Reflect on your relationship with the Holy Spirit. 

 

Day 5: Finish the week by reading John 17 and capture additional insights or questions about the Holy Spirit. In Luke 24:49, Jesus instructed the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the Spirit. They had been by Jesus’ side for three years, had witnessed His teachings and seen His miracles. They even were sent out to teach and heal in Jesus’ name. Yet He asks those who knew Him best to wait. How does this command from Jesus prioritize the importance of having a growing relationship with the Holy Spirit in your daily walk? From chapters 14-17 or from this week’s reflections, write down some next steps you can take to know the Holy Spirit in a deeper way.

 

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Week of September 3

Total Eclipse of the Son

Day 1: 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” A.W. Tozer once said, ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.’ So how we see God really matters. Paul is telling us that God Himself helps us know Him. God sheds ‘light’ on our hearts so we see His character and His heart, the essence of who He is. Think about your own view of Jesus and God the Father. What has most influenced your perspective? Think about your earliest memories of God. How did your parents’ view of God shape your view? Consider the most significant influences regarding your current view of God. How has Scripture, prayer, talking with other believers shaping your view of God today? In 3-4 sentences, describe God.   
 
Day 2: 2 Cor. 4:4 “In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” On Sunday, Jack referenced the solar eclipse as a good metaphor of what happens inside the soul when anything comes between us and God. As the moon passes between the earth and sun, it blocks our view of the sun. Paul says Satan blinds unbelievers by keeping them from seeing who Christ is. Satan doesn’t need to damage our eyes to blind us. If he puts an obstacle in front of our face, it blinds us from seeing anything else. Think of an unbeliever you know well. What stands between them and God? A great question to ask would be what or who has shaped your view of God the most? Consider how you would answer that question. Pray God would give you an opportunity to have a conversation with a friend.   
 
Day 3: Ezekiel 14:10 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces.” In this passage, God is showing Ezekiel what is going on in the hearts of the leaders of Israel. They ‘set up idols in their hearts’. They loved something more than God Himself. Our idea of an idol is a wooden image covered in gold. A modern-day author, Timothy Keller, says that idolatry is when I turn the good things in life into the ultimate thing. I treasure His gifts far more than Him. How can the moon hide the larger sun from view? Because it’s nearest the earth in a solar eclipse. Try this. Close one eye and hold a penny an inch front of the other eye. The penny really impairs your vision. That’s how an idol can hinder your view of God. It’s all you see. Do you have anything that impairs your vision of God? Because God is a loving God, ask Him to search your heart. He just may reveal something that has become an idol to you.  
 
Day 4: 
Luke 18:22,23 ‘When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.’ God is the one who gives us the ability to get wealth. (Deut. 8:18) He’s not against wealth unless it consumes us. Obsession with any gift will ruin us. Whether it’s relationships, friends, food, sex, talents, money, hobbies, etc. The moon is most beautiful when it’s in its place. Reflecting the light of the sun. But if it comes between us and the sun, all we see is a black disc. Has a gift from God ultimately hurt you because it captivated your heart. Do you treasure gifts more than God? Has anything in life become so important to you that the idea of no longer having it would totally devastate you? If so, talk to God about it. Confess how it has blocked you from God.  
 
Day 5
: Luke 18: 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” We often use this verse to remind ourselves that with God, we can do all things. But let’s look at the context of this verse. Jesus just said it is ‘hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God’. Why? Because it’s so easy to love our riches more than God. And it’s so hard to love Him more than anything else. We’re just too self-centered. So, the disciples asked how it’s even possible for anyone to change his own heart. Jesus replies by saying in effect, ‘It is impossible for you to give it up. But God can help you do what you can’t.’ This promise is about the impossibilities of the heart. So, if you desire to be free of what holds you captive, ask God to help you. He will. 

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Week of August 27

Vision Series

SERVE

Day 1: Read Mark 10: 35-45. This passage gives a clear distinction between our selfish nature and the person Jesus is calling us to be. We can lean towards self while Jesus leans towards others. James and John bring their request which was all about place, position and honor. When the others heard about the request, they were indignant. "What makes James and John better than or more special than us?" The request of the two and the response of the ten all point towards self. Because we see this kind of behavior repeatedly in the lives of those who were closest to Jesus, we would be wise to pause and examine our own motivation and heart. Where do you see selfishness most in your life? With co-workers, your boss or the people you manage, your teacher or teammates, with your spouse, parent or with a son/daughter? What areas of life do you find yourself acting out of self? In your journal, write down some observations and take a few minutes to pray. 

 

Day 2: One place that selfishness likely goes undetected is in our motivations. It is easy to believe that at least I am “other focused” because I am serving. The nature of serving can cause us to believe that anything we do in the way of “serve” is clearly “living like Jesus”. Read Mark 10:42-45. Jesus' response to selfishness is to challenge his disciples to become servants as He modeled this behavior in the way He lived. Serving can be position, task, or location oriented but being a servant has very little to do with how, where, or even who we serve. It is simply an outflow of who we are. By the Spirit, we are moved to step into situations in an attempt to meet a need. Have you ever considered your motivations to serve? Why do you serve where you do? Are you serving out of an obligation or guilt or in response to God? Is there something deep inside of you that wants to be recognized? Are you really serving because you want to control the situation? Ultimately, serving helps us develop a way of life that Jesus modeled and calls us to live. 

 

Day 3: The heart level of serve is not focused on “Am I serving?” but on “Am I a servant?” To be a servant does mean that I will serve. But just because I do serve that does not necessarily make me a servant. To explain further, if I am a servant then I not only serve in some specific roles, but I live as a servant. Read Isaiah 61:1-2 and Matthew 25:21. See how God has called us to serve, not just once a month on a Sunday, but every day and in every way. Jesus lived and served by the “as you go” mentality. As He was going about His day, He would be faced with a life situation and He served. The children wanted to come to Him, so He sat down and talked with them. The multitudes were hungry. Jesus recognized this, and He fed them. Becoming a servant is becoming someone who, like Jesus, freely steps into situations and lives to give of oneself for the sake and benefit of others. Find a way to remind yourself to serve "as you go" today. 

 

Day 4: Read Acts 4:32-37. This passage states that the believers (the church) were united in heart and mind, sharing everything they had with one another because they felt that what they owned was not their own. Their actions of service flowed from having a servant’s heart. They both knew Jesus and were becoming like Him. Sometime we can get off course is in our understanding of serving. Is serving just a task on the list to complete, then to move on? What steps do you need to take to move from serving to becoming a servant? These verses in Acts are challenging to read. Do they represent your current thinking about your possessions, time or money? What would it look like for you to take a step toward this kind of lifestyle? Talk at the dinner table or with a friend on what God is teaching you about becoming a servant. 

 

Day 5: The past three weeks we have looked at worship, community and serve. Take some time to reflect and pray for 5-10 minutes. Have you worshipped "in all that you do"? How have you been intentional in your relationships? Who are in your circles? How are you moving from just serving to being a servant? Recognize some recent devotional reflections, conversations and your actions in response to these questions. Thank God for how He is working in your life. He is good! Ask Him to show you how and where to put your focus today. Remember that the three commitments provide opportunity for us to take steps to be changed. The continual question…what steps do I need to take? Are these steps changing me at a heart level to become more like Jesus?

 

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Week of August 20

Vision Series

Community

Day 1: Read Acts 2:42-47. The people described in this community were living life together. In fact, they are intentionally practicing the Three Commitments that are the focal point of this entire Sunday message series: Worship, Community and Serve. It is impossible to separate these activities as you read these verses. From this passage as well as from Sunday’s message, what aspects of this community caught your attention? Re-read these verses. Reflect on your own relationships. What are some examples of this type of community in your life? In the last week, consider who you’ve eaten with. When was the last conversation you had about what God was doing in your life? Have you asked another person what God is teaching them? When did you last borrow or lend something? 

 

Day 2: Recall Sunday’s message and the three-circle diagram. In your journal or on a scratch piece of paper, draw it out. Put yourself in the center and label the circles: outer - Crowd, middle - Group, inner – Best Friends. Begin writing some names in each circle. Consider the different parts of life: work, school, hobbies, Facebook, hunting buddies, teammates, people from church, those who moved away, small group, long-time friends. How about parents, siblings, children, and other relatives. Which family members fit in which circle? Since we have limited time and energy, we can only have so many relationships in our lives. Consider the outer circles. What are some observations or questions that come to you? Is there tension in one of these circles? Are you trying to fit people into your middle circle? How many people would you guess are in your middle circle? Is that too many or not enough? Is someone pursuing you and is God calling you to that relationship or is one relationship taking you away from other important relationships? Invite God into this time. Write down some of your observations and identify a potential next step in community. 

 

Day 3: Come back to the circles you drew yesterday. Take a few minutes to review your relationships. Has God revealed something? Are there any names you wrote down who you’d consider moving from one circle to another? If you haven’t already, list all the people in your inner circle; those who are your closest or best friends. These are the people who know the most about you. You may come up with one name or more than 10. Limit it to under 10. What qualifies someone to be in this inner circle? What do you offer in the relationship and would you be in their inner circle? Do these people bring out your best? Are these the individuals who root for you the loudest? Spend time thinking about these relationships. Again, write down some of your reflections and re-visit them at the end of the day or tomorrow. Ask God for a next step to take. Have a conversation with someone about your insight. 

 

Day 4: Read Acts 4:32-33, I Thess. 2:8. We've reflected on our relationships the past few days. Of the names of people in the circles you've drawn, some have the same heart and mind. Some people in your circles desire to know and become like Jesus. That is how they live their lives. This leads to ask the question. What does this community look like in your life? Do you belong to a group of people who meet together for the purpose of growing, challenging, and supporting each other in following Jesus? It is with these people, intentional conversations happen about how we are living out our faith. If you are currently in a small group, take time to pray for the purpose of the group, not to only consume information or truth but to understand it and use it. Pray for each member and their own journey towards becoming like Jesus. If you are not in a small group, pray that God would show you how or where to find people of the same heart and mind. 

 

Day 5: This week we've reflected on aligning our community with community described in Act 2:42-47. Small group is a great expression of community. Today is about action. If you are in a group already, commit to the people in that group. Find ways to experience the life on life relationship described in Acts. Consider reaching out to a member today or initiate a group gathering. Make a commitment to invest more of yourself in your group this fall. If you are not in a group, consider joining one. Fall small group information is on our website (www.lscckc.org/groups). September 10 and 17, we are hosting Connect U. These two Sundays we invite people to explore LSCC small groups. It is the best time of the year to join a small group. Or maybe you may have some people who you want to pull together to start a group. If you want to talk about the possibility of doing that, contact Patrick Hukriede (patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org), Small Groups Pastor, for help in taking that step. Be intentional in your pursuit of community.

 

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Week of August 13

Vision Series

Worship

Day 1: Worship is a matter of the heart. A heart aligned in adoration to a known God – Who makes Himself known through His Word, prayer, other people, His Spirit and even through the world He’s created. The Bible says that all of creation worships Him. And yet, people throughout history have often gone astray from worshipping God and turned to other things. You see, when we worship someone or something, it becomes an object of affection. Besides God, we can express our affection towards people or stuff. Celebrities, sports teams, a social circle, music groups, TV shows, etc. We can worship our house, our status, even our own kids or other important relationships. Reflect on this. What or who is the object of your affection? If something would compete with God in your life, who or what would that be? 

 

Day 2: On Sunday, Cory talked about the potential we have to separate in our minds ‘sacred’ worship versus ‘secular’ living. Attending church is in one box and watching the ball game is in another box. Consider these questions by yourself, around the dinner table or in your small group. How do people separate church from the rest of their lives? Describe how we as people live this way. Why do we do want to separate? Then, discuss this question. In what ways can ‘you’ separate sacred from secular? A.W. Tozer wrote, “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.” 

 

Day 3: Let’s talk about worship in the corporate sense. The Bible talks about the importance of meeting together to acknowledge God and give Him honor and adoration. During worship services, people express worship in a number of ways: raising hands up to Him, bowing down before Him, using our voices to sing, silently fixing our attention on Him, reading the Bible, sharing stories - all to the glory and praise of God. This kind of adoration we read about in Scripture. In what ways do you surrender yourself and offer reverence to God during worship? How do you outwardly express this internal surrender? Are there some distractions you face in worship? Do you allow enough time to prepare yourself to worship before the service? How can awareness help you to realign your heart and enter more fully into corporate worship? 

 

Day 4: God makes it very clear that we are not to live separated lives. To KNOW Jesus is to LIVE like Jesus. In every daily action or word spoken, our affection and love for God overflows to everything we do when we are living like Jesus. I Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” Consider a circumstance from the past few hours or last evening. Was worship present in that situation? Why or why not? Consider your next few hours. How might this perspective of worship change your attitude, words or actions? How is your heart and attitude expressing worship? 

 

Day 5: When God is our ultimate object of affection, our love and adoration of Him overflows to the objects of His affection, which are the people around us. It overflows in everything we do…every service, every task, every side conversation, every action and reaction. I Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” and Romans 12:2 “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” Worshipping God changes us from the inside out, and in turn, affects the people around us. In this way, ALL of our actions (even the mundane parts like eating or drinking) ALL of our life is to be lived with the motive and intention of bringing glory to God. What specific next step is God asking you to take to become a person who worships? Find a way to remind yourself to worship throughout today.

 

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Week of August 6

Encountering Jesus

Second Chances

Day 1: At the start of John 21, we find Peter on the Sea of Galilee fishing. Cory shares that Peter was looking to the familiar for comfort. Possibly to ease his guilt and shame over his betrayal of Jesus. Or maybe to gain clarity on why Jesus died instead of establishing the new earthly kingdom like he had expected. Either way, Peter was confused and retreated to his old way of life. What earthly comfort do you run to when you face guilt or shame from having failed or sinned? Reflect if or how these activities may be a self-driven distraction to hide from God. Are these diversions stopping you from taking the next step to discover what God has uniquely planned for your life? Self-awareness is a powerful tool. Learn your cues. Have a conversation with a friend about your hiding places and allow them to share theirs. You can help each other. 

 

Day 2: Read John 21:7. Note what happens when John recognizes Jesus. Peter jumps in the water to be the first man on shore. Peter continually sought to prove his love for Jesus by boasting about it, arguing with his “rival” disciples (read Luke 22:24-34) and even rashly using his sword to lop off an ear. But this time Peter learns that Jesus has a different benchmark for testing one’s love for Him – one of sacrificial service. Reflect how Jesus pursues this impetuous and flawed man in John 21:15-22. He doesn’t punish and shame, but forgives and restores. Jesus reminds Peter of his God-given identity, that his scene of betrayal would not define his life’s story. Are you in need of a restoration? Stop. Turn around. And fall into the loving arms of the Savior chasing you. Like Peter did on the shore, experience the God of second chances. 

 

Day 3: In Not a Fan, the prerequisite book for Followers Made -  six-month discipling experience at LSCC, author Kyle Idleman states: “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.” Read John 21:15-19. Jesus’ “Follow Me” command to Peter at the end of Verse 19 punctuates what Christ expects from him. And us. To walk in His steps, live as He lived, serve others as He did, and to even lay down our lives for the “sheep” if necessary. What would it look like in your life to move from a well-wishing, fan waiving, Phileo love to a surrender-all Agapao love for Jesus and people? Are you a self-empowered fan or a Spirit-filled follower? God is pursuing you for a purpose. He is calling you to follow. How do you plan to follow Him today? Give some specific examples. 

 

Day 4: Review John 21:20-23. Right after Peter receives his personal call from Jesus to follow him, he asks Jesus how John’s life will unfold. It’s easy to fall into this trap of what our life looks like compared to others. That’s the way we sinners are wired. But Jesus doesn’t judge any of us according to our superiority or inferiority over someone else. Read Ephesians 2:10. Spend some quiet time thanking God for His unique plan and purpose for your life. If uncertain of your calling, ask God for direction. Thank God for using people, like you and me, for His purposes. One part of Followers Made discipleship group at LSCC is a process of discovering or deepening the unique calling God has given you. If you haven’t been through, consider Followers Made this fall. 

 

Day 5: John 21 is a chapter of heart-change transformation for Peter. Jesus calls him to live the story God has written for him and as we see in the book of Acts. Peter used mightily by God as a leader of the early church. At LSCC, we have three commitments we ask each to make to reveal God’s unique story for our lives. Consistently re-align our perspectives with God’s perspectives by making Worship an integral part of our daily lives. Embrace a lifestyle where we are known and know others deeply by engaging in community. Engage in an intentional lifestyle to serve others as Jesus did, without any expectation of being served yourself. Over the summer, we have encountered Jesus through this message series. Reflect on last week and previous messages. What one to two messages or truths have stirred you during the series? Where is God inviting you to take a step? Take time to share with your spouse, a friend or in your small group.

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Week of July 30

Encountering Jesus

Joy

Day 1: Read John 15:9-11. From reading these few verses, what is Jesus telling us about how we can have joy? If we remain in His love by obedience to his commands, our joy will be overflowing! It is conceptually simple, but practically difficult. The Message describes remaining in Jesus’ love this way; "Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love." Say you have guests in your home and you tell them, “make yourselves at home,” what do you mean by it? Guests will almost certainly respect your home because they value the relationship you have together. Since they value the relationship, they seek to respect the home. As we make ourselves at home in Jesus’ love, we will be obedient in the freedom that He gives us there. Think about it. Consider making yourself at home in His love. Does that change how you view your relationship with Jesus, how you view obedience? 

 

Day 2: Read John 15:9-11 again. If I obey, then I will have joy, right? Not necessarily. The Pharisees were obedient to the letter of the law, but in Matthew 23, Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” How joyful does that sound? The Message states verse 10 this way. “That's what I've done-kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love." The more our hearts are changed and we become like Jesus, the more intimately at home we are in His love. Our obedience is not something we must do in order to just get the benefit of joy. Joy flows from a heart that is being transformed. Do you think this is true? Is this how you have experienced joy? 

 

Day 3: Read John 15:1-12. Joy comes from remaining in the vine. As Jesus remains in the Father, He implores us to remain in Him. In fact, it is a command. In order to bear fruit we must remain in Him. The evidence of this ‘remaining’ relationship is joy. Sometimes it is easier to understand joy when we see the opposite of it. Consider the attributes of a joyless leader. Describe why it is difficult to follow that kind of leadership? In a broader sense, how would you describe joylessness? Here are a few behaviors or attitudes: quick tempered, irritable, sarcastic, controlling, pleasure chasing, self-focused, etc. You know the question is coming. Where are symptoms or areas of your life where there is a lack of joy? 

 

Day 4: Read Eph. 3:18-19 Begin today with this verse as a prayer: “Jesus, let me understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Your love is. Let me experience Your unfathomable love. Make me whole in the fullness of life and power from Your Father.” This is what abiding in His love is like: Knowing, experiencing and being fulfilled in it. Keep this in your heart as you go throughout your day. Find ways to remind yourself of it. Repeat the prayer knowing that the more we find ourselves at home in his love, the more we will naturally imitate Him. Then we will begin to take on His heart, mind, and attitude. Remember lack of joy in our own lives becomes a place where transformation can occur. A place to follow and obey. Look at the how you live. Ask yourself, what would it look like to have joy where I am currently joyless? Pray that the Spirit would show you a perspective of joy through following. 

 

Day 5: Read Ps 16:11. You are not alone. As a follower of Christ, we are promised the presence of God. Consistent with the Psalmist writing in Psalm 16, Paul writes in Galatians 2, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” He is not only with us, but living in us. How does that idea change your perspective? He is certainly aware of our heart and our motivations. Is obedience merely a means to an end? What does Jesus want for us? To become more like Him. Why? As I become more like Him I begin to live as I was created to live. So reflect on Sunday’s message and the past few days. Where are you experiencing joy, missing joy? Remember Jesus’ words In John 15: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you… you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” Make a point to share something you learned with a friend or in your small group.

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Week of July 23

Encountering Jesus

Love's Full Extent

Day 1: In the passage from John 13, we encounter Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. All of them. Even the ones who denied and betrayed Him. In reading this account, an obvious question comes to mind, ‘How could those men do such a thing to Jesus?’ without stopping to reflect on ourselves. Many of us have a mental list of the sins that we will never do. However, it’s very easy to rationalize other, more sociably acceptable sins. Have you reflected on your own heart and actions lately? Do you hold an attitude that dishonors, denies, or betrays your friendship and love for Jesus? Sit back in your chair, reflect and allow God to reveal any sin that comes to mind. If so, confess it to Him now. Remember this. If Judas, who betrayed God’s own Son, is still worthy of receiving His love, then ANYONE is. Anyone includes YOU. You are forgiven. He loves you. As you’ve confessed your sins, enjoy the reminder of His promise over you “…I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3 

 

Day 2: We are LOVED! Forever loved…no matter what. Romans 8:39 says, “No height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” not our sins or betrayals or attitude of the heart. Although if we’re honest, we have some ugliness in the depth of our hearts that we don’t want to reveal. They are especially disheartening when we (who have been forgiven much), struggle to love and forgive those around us. Cory said it this weekend. “We often tend to withhold love and care from those who hurt us.” How did Jesus respond to those who hurt Him? He washed their feet and loved them anyway. Who in your past has hurt you? Have you been able to respond in forgiveness? How have you ‘washed their feet’? Is there a step you need to take toward loving one who has hurt you? 

 

Day 3: When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He was displaying love to them. He did not skip over Judas or stop this exercise knowing that He illustrated His point. He washed Judas’ feet. Jesus gives us a powerful example to love those who hurt us. Do you struggle to love a particular family member or friend? Is there a person at work who repeatedly offends you? Does one person come to mind? Maybe it isn’t a someone but a group of people. Jesus’ model is for all of us to follow. Jesus loved BEYOND His pain or preferences. His love breaks the cycle of disrespect and responds with the power of selflessness and forgiveness. Consider the erosion that takes place in a person’s heart when there is a refusal to love. Examine your own heart and mind. Has any judgmental attitude made a home in your heart? 

 

Day 4: Remember yesterday’s devotional? Though goodness does flow from us, we acknowledge the truth that hard-heartedness can surface within us. However, this is not Jesus’ heart as He displayed in washing the disciples’ feet, even the feet of Peter and Judas. If Jesus responds in love, why is it a struggle for us to love? Jesus, who loved us in spite of our disloyalty, loved us until the day He died (and beyond). Loving us cost Jesus. It cost him death on a cross. We have been forgiven, and it cost His earthly life. In what ways does love cost you something? Are you willing to pay the price of love? Consider a step today that will cost you. 

 

Day 5: Loving like Jesus is the call – the commitment. Not loving is NOT an option if we are committing to live like Jesus did. We don’t heed this call to love because it seems reasonable, easy or practical. We heed His call because Jesus calls us. Read John 13:34-35. We are commanded to love. Will this be hard? Yes. Impossible? No. Necessary? Absolutely. The challenge for today. 

 

Be committed to love – no matter what. No matter the cost. No matter the betrayal. No matter the hurt. LOVE WINS. Ask Jesus to help you to love. He knows how to do it.

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Week of July 16

Encountering Jesus

If Only...

Day 1: Think about the message Jesus receives from Mary and Martha in John 11:1-6 and how He responds. “Lord, the one you love is sick” communicates to Jesus that Lazarus is ill. But it also indicates to us Jesus’ close relationship with the family. Though unspoken, a request has been made by the sisters. They have experienced how Jesus has miraculously met the needs of so many others and most likely expected their plea would result in Lazarus being healed. Jesus responds by promising Lazarus’ sickness will not result in death. Jesus adds that He and the Father will be glorified in the process. Then Jesus delays traveling for two days. Have you experienced times when God seemed slow to respond to your prayers? How did this make you feel? Review how similar the words from Martha and Mary are when greeting Jesus in Bethany (John 11:21, 32). What do their reactions say about their feeling of Jesus’ timing? How does Jesus’ respond to both sisters help you deal with future delays?

 

Day 2: Read John 11:7-16. How do the disciples respond to Jesus’ willingness to go to Judea and minister to Lazarus? They knew they would be traveling into territory where they could all be killed. As the conversation continues, the disciples learn that Lazarus is already dead so imagine how their confidence in this mission might be shaken even more. After all, didn’t Jesus promise earlier that Lazarus would not die? Reflect on how Thomas responds in faith. Has God put a request on your heart that requires you to get out of your comfort zone and boldly place your trust in Him?

 

Day 3: When Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, she responds that she knows all about the resurrection on the last day. Jesus then issues a statement that stretches her faith, while promising to overthrow the power of death over man. Read and reflect on these words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Who but God could say these words? Jesus ends verse 26 with a simple question. Read it out loud and then notice how Martha responds. The demonstrations of Jesus’ ultimate power had not even come yet, but Martha affirms her belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Her faith and obedience as a believer is a model for all of us to follow. Read John 11:40. What must we do to see the glory of God? Ask God how He is trying to stretch you. An attitude you need to change? A forgiveness you need to extend? A habit you need to break?

 

Day 4: The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). But before he wept, he “groaned with the spirit and was troubled.” There’s no doubt that the scene at the Lazarus’ tomb has Jesus emotional. But what is he reacting to? Is he caught up in the grief displayed by family and friends? Was his humanness showing through as He mourned the life of Lazarus? With only weeks away from the cross, was he contemplating his own death? Take a few moments to enter this scene and reflect. After some silence, consider Martha, Mary or the other mourners. They readily accept that Jesus can heal, but do not even consider he can raise a man from the dead. Nor do they fully understand that he was sent by God to conquer sin and death. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the one thing that he preached and demanded above all else is that people believe him. Read John 11:14. When has it been hard to believe Jesus? Is it hard to believe him in some area of your life?

 

Day 5: Consider the message from Sunday as you read John 11:32-36. Though Jesus is fully God, he is also fully human. Despite knowing that he will miraculously change the circumstances of that day, he enters into the grief with Mary, Martha and those who are mourning together. Jesus is present. If you have time, read Genesis 16 and consider God’s heart towards Hagar. In her despair, Hagar says to God, “You are the God who sees me”. He is troubled when He sees us grieving, afraid or overwhelmed. If you are in a trial right now or in the middle of a circumstance that is beyond you, be reminded he loves you. Invite him to sit with you a while.

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Week of July 9

Encountering Jesus

So That...

Day 1: Read John 9:1-2. So much of life can be confusing. Circumstances unfold in ways that seem unfair. Questions go unanswered; or at times are answered in ways that we don’t understand. Others receive blessings while we don’t. Are they more deserving of blessing than me? Have you asked that question? We may be enduring challenges and struggles or facing uncertainties that don’t make sense. Why? This was the question asked by the disciples of Jesus in John 9:2 regarding a man who had been born blind. Jesus why? Why was this man born blind? Why has he had to endure this trial for all these years? We often ask similar questions. Jesus why? Jot down 2-3 ‘why’ questions you have asked God? Then, consider the assumptions that you make about God and life. 

 

Day 2: Read John 9: 2-3. The disciples ‘why’ question was rooted in tradition. Bad things happen to bad people – someone’s sin must have caused this. Whose? Their question was an attempt to explain God. Our questions are often rooted in tradition as well. "I’m trying to love You and live for You, God. So why am I continually faced with challenge and trial? Aren’t you a good God who loves to give good gifts to people? Where are those good gifts? When will the blessing come?" Our questions are often an attempt to explain God and his actions. And when we can’t explain God in ways that make sense, it can be easy to become disillusioned and distance ourselves from God. When bad things happen or things don’t work out as we had hoped, do we feel that God has somehow let us down? Not kept up His end of the deal? Do you believe that you can avoid tragedy and disappointments if you just a “good enough” Christian? (Read Hebrews 11: 32-40) 

 

Day 3: Read John 9: 3-5. Jesus response to his disciples, ‘This happened so that…the power of God might be seen.’ We tend to view the circumstances of life in light of how they make us feel. Doesn't God want to bless us and give us good things? He does but that is not his ultimate point. God wants us to view the circumstances of life in light of how they make Him known. Could it be that difficulties in life may be so that God might be displayed to us, in us and then through us? Consider the why questions you wrote down in Day 1 through the lens that God's ultimate goal is not our happiness or contentment. What are we learning about or discovering about God as we face this “thing” in our life? How are the difficulties moving us toward a closer relationship with Jesus? How are they teaching us about living a surrendered life? 

 

Day 4: Read John 9: 9-15. The most beautiful people in the world are typically those who have known difficult roads and seen Jesus on the journey. We get to know the deep places of God in the midst of it. As you encounter Jesus - the faithfulness of Jesus, the healing of Jesus, the provision of Jesus – would others see and hear these things in your life? This man born blind did. He declared what He knew of Jesus, which included what Jesus had done for him. He did not have years of bible school or a complete understanding of who Jesus is and all that He was. But without fear, he boldly and clearly declared what he knew. I once was blind, but know I can see! This is what Jesus did for me. What about you? What has been your disability, your trial, your dark season? In what ways is Jesus changing you? What is your ‘so that’? I once was ___________ but now I _____________. 

 

Day 5: Read John 9:24-25. As we become like Jesus, we experience healing and change. Every place in us that is unlike Jesus is a potential place of healing and restoration. When we are changed at a heart level we begin to live differently; when we live differently people see God. They see the person that was once angry and mean-spirited now speaking peace and kindness to others. They see the person who is suffering maintain a sense of peace and joy. They see a greedy person become a generous one. This is the miracle of heart transformation that God can do in you. How are you different? Can you look at where you were 5 years ago, 1 year ago, 

6 months ago and see a heart level change? Reflect on one way God is changing you in the midst of pain or unexplained circumstances. This very well may change how we pray. God, I do not to want to accumulate blessings, instead I want my heart to be transformed.

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Week of July 2

Encountering Jesus

Truth AND Grace

Day 1: When Jesus encountered the adulterous woman, we see His heart for the sinner – namely, us. There is an internal shame button that can get triggered any time we get ‘caught’ or ‘found out’ in our sin. But like Romans 3 states: “There is no one that is righteous…not even one.” When was the last time you were aware of your sin? Have you acknowledged your sin before God today? What about yesterday? Consider your thoughts, attitudes and actions. Read John 8:1-11 and notice any habits (or symptoms) that reveal sin in yourself. In doing so, you will see your own need for truth and grace. 

 

Day 2: Surrounding the adulterous woman, we find a group of people who were her accusers. These people, the Pharisees, no doubt had a solid sense of right and wrong. They followed the Bible and the teachings within. They were looking to hold others accountable for what they knew to be true. What do you think about the need for telling the truth to someone? The Pharisees wanted to debate and outsmart Jesus. Isn’t it remarkable how they used a human being in an attempt to win an argument? Reflect on your own heart and intentions. Can you recall a time recently when you needed to be a truth-teller to be right rather than to love a person? What stirs in the hearts of us to judge in this way? 

 

Day 3: Recall the devotional from yesterday. Did you remember an instance where you told someone the truth in order to prove that you were right? Maybe it was just an internal dialogue in your mind or you shared these thoughts with someone else. Now consider the person. Picture him/her. What gifts and strengths does this person possess? Describe their personality. How would you say that God would describe this person? In light of viewing someone from Jesus’ eyes, what ‘truth’ do they need to hear? Take the rest of the week to pray for this person. 

 

Day 4: In Cory’s message, he asks this question: Is there someone in your life to whom you need to extend grace by offering forgiveness, seeking to understand their struggle, or in sharing their burden even if it doesn’t seem fair? The nature of grace rests firmly on the reality that it is not fair. Consider this: What in me demands that others need to “pay their dues”? Is this Jesus’ example of grace and mercy? Do I have the same measurement of fair and right when it comes to people who are completely unlike me (that I don’t like or maybe agree with) as I do of my own children, people I love, or even myself? Notice Jesus’ response to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” There is quite a difference between bringing people to Jesus vs. bringing people before Him. In your own words, how would you describe the difference? 

 

Day 5: Go back to day 1. Literally. Reflect and remember the grace you have received. Have you been judged by Jesus or have you received forgiveness for your sin? This question has significant ramifications. Feeling judged by Jesus pulls us into the world of rules and judgment. When we see ourselves in this light, it is only natural to view others through a similar lens. Do I look around for those who are violating the rules? In John 8, as the Pharisees ruled with judgment, Jesus simply loved this woman. Looking at her, he said, “Neither do I condemn you” offering her acceptance despite her past. Then speaking love and hope to her, He said, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t point to her to the past but to the future. What sin do you need to confess and accept Jesus’ forgiveness? What is He calling you to step away from or to move closer towards?

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Week of June 25

Encountering Jesus

At The Crossroads of Belief

Day 1: Have you had a great teacher, one who could make history come alive or algebra bearable? Someone who knew his or her stuff and were worth listening to? Believing their content, even their sincerity in presenting it is different from believing in them as a person of character. They knew their stuff and you responded by listening. How do you find yourself responding to Jesus? Great teacher, good content, worth a listen? Or as King, Savior, Creator, and one who gives a new way of life? Look openly at the attitudes you hold, the values reflected in your choices. Ask a person you are in community with to help you. How are you responding with your life to Jesus? Do you simply believe Him, having made a decision about Him, or do you believe in Him and follow as a disciple?

 

Day 2: Read John 3:1-4. V2 – “we know you are a teacher from God”. Nicodemus had made a decision about Jesus, but he came at night. Maybe he could talk with Jesus, even begin a relationship with Jesus and nothing would really have to change. In V3 Jesus tells Nic, “You must be born again.” Nic will have to put aside what he thinks he knows and be born again into a new way of life, a new way of understanding how things are. We tend to think of BELIEF as accepting something as real or true. Biblical belief is a commitment to follow and making a decision about Jesus is not the same as following. Jesus tells Nic to rethink everything, to start again. How is following Jesus changing your thinking, priorities, motivations? What is your next step in following Jesus?

 

Day 3: One of the steps Doug mentioned in the message was to “Begin our day in a whole new way” perhaps by reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matt. 5-7, slowly, as if for the first time, and listen to Jesus announce how His Kingdom is. How do you respond to Jesus’ teaching? Head knowledge? Heart knowledge? Head and heart belief in Him – the way of His kingdom and the new life He is calling you to? This sermon is Jesus announcing His Kingdom, its values, how it works. It’s a call to rethink everything, move past what we think we know and begin to live in and live out this new way of life. What is your attitude about Jesus teaching in these 3 chapters? Do you believe Jesus really meant for us to follow/live these teachings? Do you see His teaching reflected more and more in your life? Can you identify a next step for you to take in following Jesus?

 

Day 4: Read John 8:31. “If you ABIDE (some translations say HOLD) to my teaching, you are really my disciples”. ABIDE/HOLD = remain in, dwell in, keep alive by doing, obey or follow, make it alive in your life and the lives of others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say here’s the new rules. It was His announcement of how the Kingdom of God is! He is teaching us how to walk in this new way of life – teaching us newborns how to walk. How are you doing, both behaviorally and attitudinally (at a heart level) in abiding in this new way of life? Do you ever think of this teaching of Jesus as impractical, nice but not how things really work, or as something for the over-achievers? What will it mean in your life today to ABIDE in this teaching?

 

Day 5: Yesterday we read John 8:31. Reread John 8:31 today. “If you ABIDE/HOLD to my teaching, (then) you are really my disciples”. To say it another way; If you’re taking steps to remain in my teaching, making it alive by following it – you are really my disciples. Jesus seems to believe His disciples are the ones who follow Him, who abide in His teaching – those who are reorienting their lives around His teaching, even the Sermon on the Mount! Look back to day 2, Nicodemus had made a decision about Jesus – he believed Him, but Jesus would not accept a relationship with Nic where he simply believed – Jesus wanted Nic to follow, to rethink everything and learn to walk in a new way of life. Is your identity as a disciple tied to a prayer you once prayed, an aisle you once walked, a confirmation process you went through, or how much you know about Jesus or the bible? Or are you trusting you are a disciple because you first trusted Jesus and now follow him – taking steps to know and become like Him?  

 

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Week of June 18

Encountering Jesus

Do You Want To Get Well?

Day 1: Read John 5:1-5. Physical disabilities are real life issues that affect many. This man’s disability plagued him for most, if not all, of his life. While some will face life’s challenges nobly and rise above circumstances, others will just wait it out, hoping the issue will just resolve itself. Even if we are physically healthy, we all experience disabilities of the heart, mentally or emotionally. Struggles with desires, habits, fears, insecurities, broken relationships, or unresolved grief are real. As we begin this week, take a moment to pray that God would reveal the disabilities of your own heart. What keeps you from living a more fulfilling life? Do you feel trapped in a hamster wheel? Are there past encounters or abuses that keep you from living a full and normal life? As you encounter Jesus in this story, reflect on areas in your life where you are not well.

 

Day 2: Read John 5:5-6. Yesterday, we sought to discover disabilities that lie within our own hearts. Do you recall the trials in your life that have left wounds or are there daily reminders that you are not well? Today, let’s take another step toward the healing process. Jesus simply asks the man, “Do you want to get well?” Ask yourself the same question. Do you want to get well? Some responses may go something like this: I don’t think it is really a problem. I just manage it myself. It is just going to be an on-going issue for me. Either we can respond by allowing our disabilities to define us or we can allow Jesus in to begin to change us. Changing our behaviors often occur only when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than pain of change. What steps have you taken to heal from pain? Recognize the path that you are on. Acknowledge God in this process. Do you know your next step? Pray that the Spirit of God would give you awareness and empower you to take a healing step. 

 

Day 3: Read John 5:7-9. When asked if he wanted healing, the man did not answer directly. Notice he responded immediately with excuses, not recognizing Jesus. This man didn’t know Jesus. We all have reasons for living wounded. It can be easy to explain how we have gotten stuck in life and reluctantly allowed our limitations to hold us back. Stop and think about this. You may have identified your disabilities and expressed a need for healing. What conclusions have you made about your circumstances? Jesus interrupts the man’s excuses and simply says, “Get up… and walk.” Through encountering Jesus, this man was healed. What does this mean for you? Consider the reasons we use that hold us back. What would it look like to “Get up…and walk.”? 

 

Day 4: Read John 5:10-13. The Jewish law forbade a person from doing work on the Sabbath and the penalties were severe. This included things as simple as carrying a load. These Jews were the religious leaders of the day and they spoke with the authority of the Law. Jesus, however, speaks freedom to us with much greater authority as the Son of God. “… through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2) As you continue to take steps toward healing, there may be those who will discourage you in your journey, but through it all, keep your eyes on Jesus. Spend time in prayer and scripture so that you can recognize the voice of truth. Consider the previous days’ devotional times. Especially if facing adversity, pray that God would reveal His truth to you as you seek Him today. 

 

Day 5: Read John 5:14. Jesus is not suggesting that the man’s disability was a direct result of his sin. Rather He was saying that a life of sin would have greater consequences than living with a life-long disability. Jesus confronts this man. He has been changed physically but not changed spiritually. Jesus desires a healing of the heart more than a physical healing. He heals and transforms us, so we know and follow Him. Wherever you are in your disability of the heart, trust in His guidance. Jesus reminds us that “In this world, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Take heart! Whether you’ve experienced healing or are waiting for it, our response is to follow Him.

 

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Week of June 11

Encountering Jesus

Pack Your Lunch

Day 1: Read through John 6:1-15. Consider this quote from Rohr as you read: “The flow of grace through us is largely blocked when we are living inside a worldview of scarcity, a feeling (or belief) that there’s just not enough…” Who in the story acted from a worldview of scarcity? Who acted from a worldview of abundance? Focus on your inner narrative as you go through your day. What is your first thought when you recognize a need in the life of someone around you? What thoughts go through you head? “This is too much”, “I don’t have near enough time for that”, “the problem is too overwhelming”, “What good can one person actually do anyway?”, “There just isn’t enough (fill in the blank) to go around”. “I need to protect what is mine”. Take a few minutes to ponder the times you find yourself thinking and acting from the worldview of scarcity. 

 

Day 2: Think about the boy from the story in John 6:1-15. He didn’t know what would be done with his lunch when he gave it. Maybe the disciples would sit down and enjoy it. Maybe it would be given to Jesus so he could have the energy to continue teaching. Against all that was logical or practical and even against how the world seemed to work, this boy chose to reject the common worldview of scarcity. What teachings might the boy have heard that day? “Blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…”? “But seek first the kingdom of his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mind and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” This boy believed the teachings of Jesus. He trusted in the divine reality of abundance. Abundance of goodness, grace, love, and mercy of God. With faith and trust he offered what he had. Have you seen God provide exceedingly when it appeared there wasn’t going to be enough? 

 

Day 3: The concept of abundance vs. scarcity is completely counter-cultural. Our culture can send a message that feeds greed, fear, and over consumption. We live in a relentless stream of marketing. We are led to believe we need more. Where in your life do you hear that message? Repeatedly throughout the gospels we see Jesus trying to move the disciples and his followers from their own worldview of scarcity into the reality of divine abundance. Throughout the gospels we see the disciples making decisions from a mentality of scarcity; advising against feeding the crowds, against too many people wanting to be healed, against crowds wanting to be near Jesus, and keeping the children, who would surely be a drain, away from him. Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus feeds the crowds with a little amount there was more than enough? Not just enough or just the right amount but an abundance - more than we could possibly need. Where do you have a scarcity mentality? What are you holding tightly? What would that situation look like if you responded from abundance instead of scarcity or fear? 

 

Day 4: Let’s think again about our story from John 6. What if this young boy had looked around at the hungry crowd and decided that they didn’t deserve to be fed. After all, “they must not have planned ahead.” “They probably are following Jesus around for all the wrong reasons, they probably aren’t even real followers!” “I know some of these people, you should see how they live!” Two weeks ago, Cory shared that Jesus’ eyes were open to the real need of real people. Jesus chose to take steps toward the people, to build bridges of friendship with them. When we encounter and follow Jesus, He expects us to do the same. Have you allowed yourself to believe another isn’t deserving? Sit quietly and ask God. Do you need to seek forgiveness? Ask him to see people as he does. 

 

Day 5: Seeing the needs around us can be overwhelming. Even if we are able to find our way to believing the reality of divine abundance we can be paralyzed by the enormity of need. How do we push past this? Read Matt. 25:34-40. Jesus didn’t say, “There was hunger and you fed the world.” He says “I” – a person – was hungry and you fed “me”. We aren’t called to solve a problem, rather we are to love and serve a person. Think back to the message from Sunday. We are to bring what we have, present it to God and allow Him to use it and to multiply it; to do what we can do and see what God will do. Where can you bring what you have? In your neighborhood? Your community? Your workplace? Who can you feed today? He doesn’t expect you to bring more than you have.

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Week of June 4

Encountering Jesus

Open Your Eyes (II)

Day 1: Last week, we considered the “other” people in our life, people we may have ignored or written off. Yet, as we follow Jesus, we discover that He didn’t write us off, and He doesn’t write off others. Consider how you approach people. Are there people, maybe groups of people that you have given yourself permission to ignore, judge, even vilify or not see? What does that reveal about the condition of your heart? Read John 4:6-7. Jesus started the conversation, with an outsider, a Samaritan woman, one of “those” people in his religion and culture. Is there something you need to see in this interaction? A step you could take today or this week that could help form your heart to become more like Jesus? Ask God to show you your heart, to continue to change you to be more like Jesus.   

Day 2: In John 4, Jesus took the opportunity he had to speak to someone very different from Him. Jesus didn’t label her so He could dismiss her, he started a conversation and offered compassion, kindness, respect and love. As followers of Jesus, we are not only people who have been shown great forgiveness, mercy, kindness, love… we have the opportunity to become people who are forgiving, merciful, kind, and loving! People who are becoming more like Jesus! As you walk through the day, notice your internal comments about others and how those comments shape your behavior. Those messages are not only shaping your behavior, they are shaping your heart as well. Pray; Father help me to follow and become more formed into the image of your Son.   

Day 3: Reread I Cor. 13 from last week’s devotion. Would your day be different if you spent it responding to others with kindness, gentleness, patience? Wouldn’t that change you? In John 4, Jesus wasn’t in a hurry to grab a quick drink and get on his way. He didn’t walk past the Samaritan woman. Jesus didn’t let the pace of life or the fatigue of His trip to blind Him to those around Him. Like Jesus urged His disciples in John 4:35, ask God to wake you up and help you to look around. As you go about your day at work, home or around town, pace yourself, notice others. God may have a seed for you to plant, a person to love and show truth to.

Day 4: Yesterday, we were reminded that the harvest is ripe. From the example of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman, we can see that many of the people we are prone to label or dismiss are actually people God loves and are a part of our mission field. In John 4:13-14, Jesus went from talking about ordinary water to living water. At some point in time – maybe this week, you may have the opportunity to share God’s story with another person. One of the most powerful ways we can do that is by sharing our story and connecting it to God’s story. How has God changed your story? How is God changing your story? Could you share this story with someone and help them find life as well? 

Day 5: Read John 4:13-18. What kind of neighbor are you at work, home, school? Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman shows us how following Him changes our attitudes and behavior with strangers. How much more could following Jesus affect our attitudes and behavior toward those in our daily lives? Isn’t it just as easy to be surrounded by people we know at work or school, even our small group and to look past them just as we would a stranger? How are you doing with loving your neighbors, your literal neighbors? How we are loving them is one way we plant seeds in their lives and our relationships. What would it be like to be intentional this week with the neighbors in your life? Maybe that is an initial conversation, or it could be they are a friend already. If that’s the case, maybe its time you shared your story of how God revealed Himself to you, either a recent simple truth or a pivotal moment in your life? What would it look like for your small group to share their stories with one another? Take 4 minutes each and share – it will change and deepen your group, and it might change a life!  

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Week of May 28

Encountering Jesus

Open Your Eyes

Day 1: Read John 4:1-10 and reflect on the scene that unfolds as Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus opens the conversation with a request for a drink of water. She responds with her own question on why he, a Jewish rabbi, is acknowledging her existence as she is part of the mixed race of Samaria. She knew their conversation was taboo. In the eyes of most Jews, including the disciples at this point, she was not worthy of Jesus’ time. But Jesus took the time to talk to this woman despite being from the other side of the tracks. Is there an “other” category in your thought life? Could it include people of another city, race, political party, or neighborhood. Or possibly even a certain church they attend or university they root for (think KU/MU). Reflect on who is in your “others” list. How did they get there? Does one issue or personal affiliation define someone in your eyes? How would that match up with Jesus’ perception of them?

 

Day 2: The normal time for women to get water was either early morning or late afternoon when it was cooler. The Samaritan woman was there at noon, possibly because her immoral lifestyle had ostracized her from other women in her community. But Jesus saw her through God’s eyes, not through the eyes of man. God’s love is for everyone. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and think about how these words call us to love those we meet. Does God ask us to keep score of their sins? To put our needs before theirs? Pray for God to show you how to love the “other” person in your life. Write down their name. Then keep track of how He challenges you with new opportunities to follow Him.

 

Day 3: The Samaritan woman was going about her daily chores, minding her own business, when this stranger asked her for a drink and then steered the conversation into spiritual matters. She wasn’t seeking to know God. In fact, her guilt over her current live-in boyfriend and her five failed marriages most likely caused her to keep her distance from God. Jesus was seeking a someone who wasn’t even seeking Him. What opportunities exist for you to seek out someone this week that you have possibly ignored in the past? A co-worker. A parent on your kid’s ball team. A neighbor. A stranger. Step out of your comfort zone and share the love exhibited in 1 Corinthian 13 with them. Pray to the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to steer the conversation to spiritual matters so they can come to know the Savior. 

 

Day 4: Reflect on the words “spiritually thirsty.” No liquid can forever satisfy our physical thirst (not even Gatorade!), but Jesus will quench the spiritual thirst of all who repent, obey His lordship, and drink of Him (John 4:13–14). The Samaritan woman was satisfied when grace found her, and she became a witness to the fact that Jesus really is the Savior of her soul and of the world (John 4:39–42). Write down a list of several people you know who have encountered the living water of Jesus Christ. Reflect on how the experience has changed them. Add your personal story as well. Based on the transformation you have witnessed take time to worship God’s for his salvation and transformation.

 

Day 5: Read John 4:31-28. The disciples arrive back at the well with food and are confused on why Jesus refuses to eat. His answer, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John 4:32) is counter to their perceived mission which is to have lunch and continue their travels north. Imagine their surprise as villagers begin streaming in to meet Jesus after hearing the Samaritan woman share her story. Jesus proceeds to teach the disciples their need to develop a harvest mindset. How often do we focus on the natural when we should have been awake to what God was doing spiritually around us? This mindset puts the will of God and His work above everything else. Take a moment to slow down and reflect in silence. Open yourself to God’s mindset today. Make a point to talk with a friend about how God may want you to engage and love someone in your life whether this person is seeking God or not.

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Week of May 21

Encountering Jesus

A New Heart

Day 1: Confidence is a funny thing. We long to have confidence in our education, work, our parenting, how we should treat our spouse. Ultimately, we want to have confidence that we are living a fulfilling life, a worthwhile life or at the very least that we “know what we are doing”. Nicodemus sought this confidence. As a Pharisee, it was more than his job. Nicodemus’ confidence in the Jewish law and traditions became his status and even his identity. This confidence moved to certainty, he became so certain in what he thought he knew, he almost missed Jesus. The Apostle Paul had confidence Read Phil. 3:4-6. Oxford Dictionary defines certitude is defined as “absolute assurance or conviction that something is the case”. When have you been certain about something lately? Did your certainty make you more or less loving? 

Day 2: Nicodemus, a man of certainty. Or was he? Despite his religious pedigree, he came to speak with Jesus. He wanted to learn more about him. As Jesus does so well, he pierced Nicodemus’ heart. He challenged Nicodemus’ certainty and religious framework. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”. What, born again? Where in his vast educational experience has he learned about being born again? He was confused. Good chance Nicodemus left this interaction with Jesus having more questions than when he came. How do we handle our doubts? Do we push them away? Do we seek to find simple, tidy answers? Do you have doubts about God and do they draw you closer to Jesus or push you further away? Jesus can handle our doubts. What emotions accompany the doubts that you have? Express your doubts. Nicodemus did. Has someone once told you with certainty that doubt and faith are opposites? 

Day 3: Like Jesus did with Martha, he confronts Nicodemus and his thinking. Read John 3:16-18 in the context of this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. Eternal life comes not from a religious set of standards or a confidence of one’s adherence to religious practices. That is what Nicodemus knew. It only comes through knowing and believing that Jesus was the Son of God. This results in a changed heart because of a daily life-changing relationship with Jesus. How has Jesus changed your heart? How is Jesus changing your heart? Take some time to consider this. Ask a friend the question. Also, consider how you see Jesus changing the heart of someone close to you? Thank Jesus for being in the heart changing business. 

Day 4: After Nicodemus’ late night conversation, he must have repeated Jesus’ words over and over. Consider this Old Testament passage. Read Ezekiel 36:25-27 in the eyes of Nicodemus and his conversation with Jesus. Nicodemus discovered that eternal life comes through a new heart and a new spirit. Somehow we are transformed from the inside. If Nicodemus had read this passage outside of his certainty, how could it have informed some of his questions? Nicodemus continued to pursue Jesus. He was leaving his legalistic ways in the past, and following Jesus. Discipleship is always a journey, even for Nic. In what specific ways are you following Jesus today? Are you pursuing Jesus with the help of others thru a small group and through your own disciplines? With the summer approaching, do you have a plan? Write down your plans and be intentional to encounter Him during the summer. 

Day 5: Read John 19:38-42. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are making the preparations to bury the body of Jesus. Think about them applying the incense and wrapping with cloths his beaten and mangled body. Reflect on Nicodemus’ first interaction with Jesus. John 3:1-21. As he is wrapping Jesus’s lifeless body, do you think Nicodemus had a new perspective on eternal life and pondered the words, “born again”? Even in His death, Nicodemus encountered Jesus. Take a few moments and sit in silence. Surrender your heart and open your hands. Jesus, as I encounter you now, is there something that you want to say to me?

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Week of May 15

Encountering Jesus

Free To Be Yourself

Day 1: Read Luke 10:38-42. Martha is a woman who lost sight of what was important, and Jesus rebuked her. This is the story of Martha that is the most well known. We remember her and perceive her based upon what we think was a weakness and a mistake which was being more concerned about the task at hand and less concerned about her relationship with Jesus. She failed once and ever since we won’t let her off the hook or give her grace. We can miss the other qualities and the person of Martha. Her life was more than that one encounter with Jesus. Have you written off someone based on one interaction or your discovery of a less than desirable personal attribute? Is there someone in your life who gave a bad first impression and you have not let them off the hook? Or do you need to set a friend, family member or co-worker free from your judgment? 

Day 2: Read John 11:5-6, John 11:20-24, John 12:2-3. Martha is a woman we can come to respect, appreciate and desire to emulate. She opened her home to Jesus. She was teachable. She was a servant. She continued to be who God called her to be and gifted her to be even after receiving a rebuke. Jesus was calling Martha to become the woman God had created her to be. He was calling her to follow, be teachable and be the best person she could be. How do you see yourself? Do you only see the mistakes, failures, and inadequacies? It takes great courage to see that you are more than your shortcomings. Ask God to show you how He sees you and refrain from interjecting your own self-judgments. 

Day 3: Read Luke 10:40. This verse helps us understand the issues that led to Martha’s meltdown. When we compare ourselves with other people we will lose our contentment and become critical. Second, when we project ourselves upon other people it makes a mess out of things. The one thing that was needed was to be present and open to Jesus. When we lose our steadfast mind and lose our Jesus-centered focus, we will also lose our joy. Selfishness or our pride comes out. Jesus will not tolerate his kids picking on each other. He does not play favorites. Have you compared yourself to someone else this week? Where was your last meltdown? Take a few moments and consider the person Jesus wants you to be. Confess a selfish attitude, harsh word or out of control action. Turn to Jesus. Ask Him to help change your behavior and regain a centeredness on Jesus. 

Day 4: Read Hebrews 12:5-7. Jesus was not disciplining Martha for where she was in her home but for where she was in her heart/mind. Jesus’ rebuke was not without the presence of His love. We can learn from Isaiah 26:3. God will not keep us in perfect peace when we are somewhere we are not supposed to be. Jesus disciplined Martha. He seeks to shape and guide us to produce goodness, maturity, and love. Through this encounter, Jesus is inviting Martha to know and become like Him. What about you? Based on the reflection from yesterday, reconsider a time when Jesus needed to redirect you. How are you going to respond to that discipline/correction? What lesson is God trying to teach you? 

Day 5: Read Hebrews 12: 1-2. Character grows through time and experience: day after day, month after month, year after year. Martha was a person of character as she remains in relationship with Jesus and with others. Specifically, we see Martha’s character and heart through her thoughtfulness, service and her faith. The days are passing us by. How are you running the race? How diligent are you in pursuing Christ-likeness? Are you in small group relationships where you are encouraging one another’s faith? Rewind to the beginning of the year. How have you been intentional in 2017? Use this time to refresh your commitment or desire to resolve yourself to rejoin the race that is marked out specifically for you.

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Week of May 8

Encountering Jesus

Come and See

Day 1: Read John 1:35-39. When Jesus calls his first disciples, He simply invites them to “come and see”. They went with Him and simply stayed the rest of the day.  John doesn’t expand on what may have happened while they were with Him, but we can know that this encounter with Jesus was enough to convince them that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus has also invited us to “come and see,” but how do we really encounter Him? One way is to simply practice the presence of God, recognizing that He is with us and we can always breathe a prayer, give thanks or even ask a question. Write down 10-15 simple ways or occasions that you can, or already do, recognize His presence. Take time today to be in His presence – while driving, working, exercising or even while you wait. Slow down enough to listen. You may find that you encounter Jesus in a most unexpected way.

 

Day 2: Read John 1:43. Jesus said “Come, follow Me,” and Philip followed. Some of these new disciples of Jesus had heard the proclamation from John the Baptist that the Messiah was coming. They were awaiting the opportunity to meet Him face to face. They were ready to follow. So are you waiting for Jesus today? Are you ready to follow? As you continue the practice of His presence, prepare yourself to follow Him where He leads you. As you do, there may be an occasion when He simply says. “Just come. Then you’ll see.” Surrender the entire events of the day over to God. Take a few minutes now to pray that God would prepare you to follow and then simply listen.

 

Day 3: Read John 1:40-42 & 45-46 Andrew was so convinced that Jesus was the Messiah that he brought his brother Peter to Him. Philip, too, was convinced and invited Nathanael to join in this following. Echoing Jesus words, Philip says to the skeptical Nathanael, “Come and see for yourself.” These first disciples were eager to invite others to encounter Jesus for themselves.  Who have you invited to see Jesus in the past? Is there someone in your life now who may need an invitation? Or perhaps, someone could use some encouragement to pursue Jesus today? Has God been prodding you to meet a practical need of someone in your life? Take some time to pray for them. Ask God if there is some way you can show love to them today. If no one specifically comes to mind, ask God to put someone in your path and be ready when the Holy Spirit nudges you.

 

Day 4: Read John 1:47-49 Remember, Nathanael was a skeptic who needed more evidence to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus gave him the evidence needed by telling him about himself. He knew Nathanael before the encounter even began. Jesus knows us just the same because He has always been (John 1:1-2). Since He knows us so intimately, we can experience deep meaning in relationship. Think about when and where you are most able to connect with God? Do you have a place where it seems easier to hear from God? At home, a coffee shop, or a walking trail? Seek out that place and meet Jesus there. Read some scripture or consider the past couple of days of practicing His presence. He is excited to meet with you.

 

Day 5: The vision of LSCC is for all of us to take steps to know and become like Jesus. What practical steps have you taken this week? What is your next step? Is it to continue practicing the presence of God day-by-day? A great opportunity to grow in your relationship with Jesus is through small groups. How are you encountering Jesus through your small group? Reflect on that. If you are not in a small group, consider the 8 week class on the book of John on Wednesday nights. Or we are set to launch Followers Made men’s and women’s groups soon. To find out more, see the announcements from Sunday’s program, on our LSCC app under ‘calendar’ or online at www.lscckc.org/events.

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