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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Week of May 1

Encountering Jesus

The significance of smaller

Day 1: John the Baptist was created with a purpose – and his expressed purpose is stated in the book of John…” I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”. How refreshing to live in the freedom of clear purpose. Have you considered your life’s purpose?  What part of your story does He want to use? What events and which people led you to Jesus? Take some time to consider the following questions. Do I know what my purpose is? How have I encountered Jesus? How do I show others the greatness of Jesus? Slow down for a few minutes and put some responses on paper. Reflect and pray. 

 

Day 2: Read John 1:19-23. Put in your own words and describe John’s job description? Do you think he struggled with his purpose or ever wanted to exchange it for something else? The idea of purpose is not a small topic, and it’s one the people everywhere wrestle with often. How well did you articulate your purpose?  Look back at yesterday’s response. Ultimately, our purpose is to worship and adore God and tell others about Christ. It is to reflect the greatness that already exists in God. But HOW that looks for each of us is different because we are all uniquely, creatively gifted. There is NO ONE else created with your exact gifting and abilities, so He is looking for YOU to fulfill your calling (at school, work, home) in the unique way YOU were created. Think about the gifts and experiences that God gave to John. What gifts and abilities has God given to me to further His purpose? What mistakes or trials has He used in my life to impact another?  

 

Day 3: How are you doing on your questions about purpose? Keep working on the delightful discovery process. Today, you can take another step in your relationship with Jesus. One way to honor Jesus is to pursue the passions and desires inside of us. These are the wrongs, sins or injustices in this world that break our hearts. Write or speak the answers to these questions: “What breaks my heart that mirrors the heart of God?” “What makes me ‘come alive’?” and “What is a Holy passion that I have already done something about?” As you do write down some thoughts, ask God to speak to these passions. In this way, you are encountering Jesus. Talk about these questions at small group or with a friend this week.

 

Day 4: Where Holy passion meets Holy purpose is a sweet spot to live. There is freedom and an ‘alive-ness’ that gets us out of bed and excited to live this beautiful life God gave us to live. How wonderful! But what happens when God’s purpose and plan include taking a lesser ‘seat at the table’ or it is marked with pain and suffering? What if you are not recognized for the efforts or you just feel like you are waiting your turn?  Or what if you are not seeing fruit and feel like you are just treading water? Read Colossians 3:23-24. Consider John and his efforts at elevating Jesus, even to his dying breath. These are difficult questions to wrestle with. Are we serving for some recognition from another or seeking to serve God? What is the motivation for fulfilling your purpose?

 

Day 5: What a huge week! Celebrate the times of reflection with Jesus as you reflect on your purpose, which ultimately brings glory to God. You’ve gained an understanding your true purpose, plans and passions that God has for you along with identifying your unique abilities and experiences to love others. In living your purpose, you are encountering Jesus on a daily basis. The world sees Jesus through you. John the Baptist knew his purpose. Jesus knew His purpose. We can have direction in our lives if we know our purpose. Do you have the courage to live it out – day after day, week after week, year after year? That would be a life well spent. Write down five ways you can fulfill your purpose that honor God and value people over the weekend. In this way, you are taking steps to know and become like Jesus.

 

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Week of April 24

Encountering Jesus

Day 1: Read John 1:1-4 John starts off with bold and declarative statements. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Notice he doesn’t start with Jesus human birth in Bethlehem or mention Mary or Joseph. No, John declares that Jesus is God, is with God, and was with God in the beginning. Think on your life and your beginning. How many years have you been on this Earth? Ponder even your parents and grandparents’ beginning.  Contrast that to God and Jesus’ presence before the beginning of the world. Since we can never take a break from our own mind, we can get trapped into our small and limited perspective. Consider God presence’s through the existence of time. In doing so, you are entering into worship as your mind is filled with questions, wonder, mystery, and awe.  

 

Day 2: Find a place outside to read your devotion today. John 1:3 states, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” We have all created something. Have you made something: a mug in 6th grade or maybe you are handy with the sewing machine or wood? John says Jesus made things, actually everything! Pick something in creation – a cardinal, an oak tree, the Grand Canyon, or whatever. As pleased as we can be with some of our own creations, consider what He has made. Thank God for the creation all around you. Maybe create a poem, sing, or listen to a song to capture some of God’s beauty through your lens.

 

Day 3: Have you experienced some dark days, embarrassing days, or regretful days? Sure, we all have. If you could redo a day, a season, or your life, would you take that opportunity? Unfortunately, we cannot rewind our life and do it over. But there are second chances. Read John 1:11-13. Jesus’ own did not receive him. His people or His lineage did not accept Him. Today, we too can miss God. When we get caught up in chasing our own success and seeking to create our own identity, we can miss Jesus. Jesus came not for the healthy, but for the sick. Receiving him begins with acknowledging our mistakes. Consider your past mistakes and the true need in your life. Is there a place in your life that needs some of God’s direction, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy? Do you need his admiration or love? Specifically bring to mind areas of struggle, and In that posture, receive Him today.

 

Day 4: Take a minute to pray. Ask God to quiet your mind down, jot on a piece of paper any distractions that keep you from concentrating. Offer this time to God. Read John 1:12-13 two times, once with an emphasis on received, a second time on believe. What does if meant to receive and believe? Belief or faith have two aspects. First, there is a sense of knowing. This knowing can be an intellectual knowledge or even an experience. Either case there is a sense of assurance, like stating a fact. The other part of believe has to do with action. When one believes something, the evidence is seen in their daily routine, their actions, their values, attitudes, and words. The beliefs the follow identify them. Consider your belief in Jesus. How did you know Jesus yesterday? How did you follow Jesus yesterday? Is what you believe evident in the choices you made?  

 

Day 5: On Easter Sunday, we celebrated life transformation. Many people took a step in baptism. They declared a belief in Jesus of knowing Him and following Him. When we follow Him, we look like Him. Reflect on the past month. Open a calendar and review the events of your life. If you keep a journal, read the entries and prayers. How are you following Jesus? Think through the different roles you play: grandparent, child, brother, friend, classmate, employee, supervisor, teammate, small group member. How do you resemble Him? Let God speak to you about what you discover.  Offer him a surrendered heart, a follower’s heart and let Him speak.

 

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Week of April 17

The Cross: Where Stories Are Changed

Easter Sunday

Day 1: Everybody has a story. On Palm Sunday, Jack helped us focus on one part of Jesus’ story – His entrance into Jerusalem. Crowds were screaming in Jesus’ favor, celebrating Him for what they believed would be His story; a King who would oust Rome and make Israel great again. From their perspective, it was the story they wanted and needed. One scene is of a crowd screaming Jesus’ favor. Yet a few days later another scene takes place. An angry mob shouts, “Crucify him!” Read John 19: 30, 40-42: A cross of execution, a tomb of death, the loss of hope itself. At this point, it looks like the story of Jesus was over. Death is final, right? Yet, we know it doesn’t end there. And Jesus tells us that our story, even when it looks bleak, doesn’t end. Consider a time in your life when the future looked bleak? What were you telling yourself, what was the story in your head? Did you believe you were in the final chapter of your story destined to live physically, emotionally and spiritually in this reality forever?

Day 2: When reading John 19, we know there is another chapter, but Jesus’ family and disciples did not; they were in the middle of their story, and their perspective was Jesus’s life was over. As Cory said Sunday, Easter rewrote Jesus’ story, their story, and has the power to rewrite every story since. How has Jesus changed your life? One of the next steps from the weekend was to write a brief phrase of how Jesus has changed your story. Doing this as a spiritual practice can lead to praise and gratitude, hope and faith for the future, and/or bring you to prayer for the areas of our story currently in need of the hope and power of Easter. Take a few minutes to recall life before and life after. 

Day 3: The empty tomb speaks to the reality that stories change.  Our story can change and that transformation is a real hope. Before we can identify with what the empty tomb can mean, we have to embrace it as a place of darkness, isolation, and death. There is something real that we have been saved from. On Easter we shared “Cardboard Testimonies” and 

baptisms. Both spoke to the reality that we each have tombs and the darkness in our lives. We all have a past. What are the stones in your life that keep you entombed, keep you from trusting more in God? What steps could you take today, to acknowledge them to God and to the people you’re in community with?  Identifying the stones is the first step in seeing them rolled away. 

Day 4: When do you appreciate the sun? After days and days of rain, right. There is something innate in us. We take our health for granted until we are sick. How do we unlearn this pattern? To actually do so, we first have to see that areas of wholeness and transformation in our lives. Our lives are different now than they were 2-5 years ago. There was some aspect of your life that you thought could not or would not ever change….yet it did. God did it. To cultivate gratitude and wisdom, we can remember God and this change in our lives. Reflecting on how God has worked in the past in your life, gives you momentum and faith that transformation is possible. That is how spiritual transformation works. It is a journey of finding health and wholeness in one area only to discover another area of life that God is ready to transform. Refer back to Day 3 and the stones in your life. Pray today with renewed hope and belief that God has been and is working in you. 

Day 5: Yesterday, we looked at finding the courage and faith to go on even after we have discovered yet another area of our life that is in need of transformation. Read John 20:26-29 & John 21:15-17. Both Thomas and Peter are incredible examples of the ongoing journey of spiritual transformation. Both were direct disciples of Jesus, walked with him, ate with him, lived with him for three years, yet both continued to have clear next steps to take. Steps Jesus pointed out to them and then called them to take in order to come out of their darkness. At LSCC, we ask – what is your next step? What stone is keeping you isolated in the darkness of your current tomb? What is possibly the next step you need to take? Is it a conversation with someone or     possibly prayer and journaling. Don’t remain in this darkness, sin, struggle…this tomb.  Ask the Father for the next step. And     like the Easter story, you will find new life.  

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Week of April 10

The Cross: Where Stories Are Changed

Worship The King Who Is Worthy

Day 1: Read John 12: 12 -19 and reflect on the scene that unfolds as Jesus enters Jerusalem. People are cheering “Hosanna!,” which means “Save Us Now.” But the assembled crowd has a different expectation. Their collective cry in John 12:13 is for Jesus to overthrow the Romans and take back their capital city as “King of Israel!” Jesus knew their hearts were driven by these worldly gains (see John 6:15; Acts 1:6). Soon many would be crying “Crucify him!” Reflect on your own “Hosannas.” When you cry out to God is it typically based on your terms searching for a specific outcome? If God doesn’t answer how you prayed, what is your response? Take a few moments to consider how did God respond? Where is He working? How can you still worship Him?

 

Day 2: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey colt and not on a white stallion befitting of a king. The disciples dispatched to get the colt were obedient to Jesus and honored his request. This action fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-10) even though none of the disciples remembered the prophecy until after Jesus’ ascension. This seemingly minor detail demonstrates the obedient heart of Jesus and his disciples. Has God recently put on your heart an act of obedience, big or small, that He wants you to act on? If nothing comes to mind, ask God if there is a step that He may want you to take? How can you commit to follow through and not lose sight of God’s call for you today? Take a few moments to pray for the names you wrote on your prayers cards on Sunday.

 

Day 3: On Sunday, Jack shared that no matter why the crowds were cheering for Jesus, He deserves all our praise. In Luke, the Pharisees asked Jesus to quiet the huge crowd, which He responded by saying, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:39-40. The crowd may have had false motives for worshipping Jesus, but it was still true. Jesus Christ is worthy of praise even if we don’t fully understand why. What 1-2 steps you have taken to personally declare that Jesus is worthy of not only praise, but living for Him? Give Him praise again today! Share your praise with a child at the dinner table or with a friend to encourage them.

 

Day 4: Read (or listen on the Bible app) John 18-20. As you do, consider how this passage establishes Jesus as King for eternity by offering those who follow spiritual freedom from the oppression of sin. Compare this to the shortsighted thoughts of those wanting a ruler to change their lot on life while on earth. Now pull out the prayer cards from Sunday. If you don’t have them, pray for people you know who need to experience the truth of who Jesus is and the life He offers them. Be still and listen for how God may want you to pray for them. Consider inviting one, or more, to be your guests at Easter Sunday service (9 & 10:30am) or to the Passion Experience, 4-8pm this Friday (April 14).

 

Day 5: In Luke 9:51 we learn that Jesus’ Palm Sunday trip was purposeful: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." While just five verses earlier his disciples argued over which of them was the greatest, Jesus was setting his sights on the cross. It was time to fulfill his mission: to die in Jerusalem as the very embodiment of his Father’s love for sinners. What the disciples soon learned – and what we all must learn – is that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is our journey. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24). Pray these two verses for yourself and write down what the Holy Spirit shares. What do you need to deny. What is holding you back from taking up his cross daily? Consider this reflection as you come to Easter Sunday service.

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Week of April 3

Home: Where Stories Are Made

You Will Be OK

Day 1: Begin this week by reading through the Next Steps “Take 5” Questions below. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth into you as you consider and answer the questions. Write down your thoughts, responses, and what God is showing you. Use the “Take 5” questions this week as a conversation starter with your family or possibly a close friend.

 

  1. Have you learned to be content with God, even when you don’t receive what you want from God?  Or is your contentment linked directly to God doing for you what you want Him to? 
  2. Identify those things that concern you and attempt to consume you.  Intentionally & purposefully, commit and submit these realities to the Lord, applying the truths from Psalm 131, Psalm 46 and Lamentations 3.
  3. Name the voices that have the most influence in your life.  Are they voices that are consistent with the truths you desire to implement in your life?  When our faith is weak and our perspective skewed, we need people around us who will speak life-giving truth to us, remind us of God’s presence, and who will draw our attention outside the realm of our immediate circumstances and back upon the realm of God’s eternal faithfulness.  Do you have people in your life that do this for you?  If not, who could be one of those people? 

 

Day 2: As our stories unfold, we often face trials and challenges.  Many of us have paragraphs, chapters or entire sections of our storylines that are filled with hurt and pain. How can we “be ok” when things – circumstances – are not ok? Read Psalm 46: 1-3. God is our refuge…our help, but what exactly does help look like? In the midst of it all God is present, he is with us; that is our help. Help is not a removal of the pain or fixing the situation how we want it fixed. Help is the reality of the presence of God with us in and through it all. Re-read Psalm 46:1-3. Think about the ways that God’s presence with you provides a refuge (a haven, a safe place) and strength (courage, endurance).  Take a few minutes to take these and write out a prayer thanking God for His faithful presence.

 

Day 3: Continue to meditate on Psalm 46: 1-3.  What does the psalmist say is a result of God being our refuge, our strength, and ever present help? Therefore (because of that) we will not fear. He isn’t describing a spontaneous emotion of fear or being fearful of something, rather the psalmist is referring to a state of being where fear has consumed us in such a way that everything is seen through the lens of that fear. How might a shift in perception from “I’m not going to be ok unless…” to “You are with me. You see me. Help me to see you”, change how we view life’s difficulties? Without this shift in perspective we are in danger of being gripped by fear at every turn. The call is for us to move beyond fear of difficulties to seeing Jesus despite the difficulties. A family at the dinner table all interacting with their smart phones may be in the presence of one another and they may even see one another but they are not present with one another. What practices do you have in place that help you engage in God’s presence? How does the family at the dinner table move from being at the table together to actually interacting and engaging with one another? Focus attention, conversation, removal of distractions? How can you practice these types of things with God? How can you be present with Him today?

 

Day 4: Being ok when things are not ok isn’t putting on a game face and pretending to be ok. Read Lamentations 3:19-20. This is real stuff. Honesty of “I’m not ok”. Now read verses 21-23. “Because of Your love and presence with me, I will not be consumed… I will be ok”. Where are you today? Is your soul downcast? Are you feeling overwhelmed?.  Give yourself permission to be honest with yourself, with God and a trusted friend. If this is where you are right now, speak it, put words to it – through prayers, through journaling, through lament.  This is relationship. This is community. Consider praying this prayer: Father, I don’t like what is happening right now. I’m feeling overwhelmed. Thank you that I can pour out the deepest part of my soul to You. Help me to remember that you are with me, You are my refuge, You are my strength and because of your love, even though I may not see it right now, I will be ok. Help me be present with you and be engaged in your presence.

 

Day 5: Read Lamentations 3:19-26. Could it be that at times when we are waiting to be “ok” we are waiting on our own definition of  “ok” – our definition of the goodness of God, faithfulness, deliverance, and even His salvation (v. 26)? What if these things have less to do with fixes of circumstances or solutions to problems and more to do with experiencing a deeper intimacy with God? Are you taking time to engage with God for the purpose of relationship or to solve a problem? Go back to Day 3 of the devo. What specific ways are you practicing the presence of God? How are you focusing your attention on Him?  What practices have you put into place where you are consistently talking to Him and allowing Him to speak to you?

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Week of March 27

Home: Where Stories Are Made

Love vs. Lust

Day 1: Begin this week by reading through the Next Steps “Take 5” Questions below. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth into you as you consider and answer the questions. Write down your thoughts, responses, and what God is showing you. Use the “Take 5” questions this week as a conversation starter with your family or possibly a close friend.

  1. Talk through the definitions given for love and lust. What do you think of these definitions? In what ways do you see them being displayed in society? In your own home? Your marriage? Your life?
  2. When it comes to recognizing the deception of the enemy, are there any subtle ways that you may be allowing him to have access or influence into your home? Your marriage? Your life?
  3. What is one practical next step you can take and / or that your family can take to ensure that you are actively seeking to protect your home from temptations of impurity? To ensure that you are actively seeking to guard your hearts?

 

Day 2: In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that there are two very different plans being laid out for our lives. Satan has a plan for destruction, while God has a plan for a full and abundant life. In Proverbs 5:18-20, Solomon writes that a man should be “satisfied” by the wife of his youth, but not be “captivated” by an immoral woman. The contrast between these two concepts illustrates the two plans for our morality and sexuality. Cory talked about the Hebrew words here: ravah - to bathe, to fill or to satisfy; and shagah - to stray, to wander, to be devoured. Remember that the context of shagah is one of wandering from the path and being devoured by a wild animal. Think about the concepts here. Take 5 minutes to pray about them. Where do you lean? Are you more satisfied or captivated?

 

Day 3: On Sunday, Cory illustrated Satan’s plan by using two jugs of water. One he cut into with a saw and the other using pin pricks. The results:  Both jugs ended up being empty. Which method do you think the enemy is most likely to use on Christ-followers? Would he outright inform us that a relationship will lead to an affair? Or would Satan make us comfortable every step of the way until we have wandered so far from the path that we have no idea how to return? That’s when we end up devoured. While that seems to bear such finality, remember that there is still hope! “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 Jn 1:9)” Have you wandered from the path of sexual purity? Think about the little things. What direction is it taking you? Remember that we serve a God who is faithful. He is a good Father who is waiting with arms wide open for you to return.

 

Day 4: The path out of shame, despair, and bondage only comes when we bring it to the light. Confession of sin exposes those things that prefer to remain in darkness. In Ephesians 5:8, Paul writes, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” Think about past or current sin and struggle. How has God worked when it was exposed to the light? How much easier is it to “live as people of light” when we allow the light of God to shine in us? Most times, this path towards conquering any sin is made easier when it is not taken alone. God has designed us to need one another in order for us to find freedom. Make a list of people who you can confide in and vice versa. Do you need to reach out to one of them today? Refer to the insert in Sunday’s program. For men, if you want to take an intentional step, consider signing up for the Conquer Men’s short-term group (www.mensconquergroup.com).

 

Day 5: Read Ephesians 6:11 & 18. Don’t assume that you could never be tempted. Head the advice Paul gives the church at Ephesus. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers. You will face temptation!  Recall the practical tips that Cory gave in the message. What tips have you implemented? Prayer is definitely a weapon we can use. Spend a few minutes asking that God would give you strength to be aware of the strategies of the enemy who wants to destroy you!  Pray for your family, your friends, & your church family. If you are married, pray for your spouse. Pray that you would be satisfied with each other in intimacy as God intended.

 

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Week of March 20

Home: Where Stories Are Changed

Sacred vs. Shame

Day 1: Begin this week by reading through the Next Steps “Take 5” Questions below. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth into you as you consider and answer the questions. Write down your thoughts, responses, and what God is showing you. Use the “Take 5” questions this week as a conversation starter with your family or possibly a close friend.

 

  1. Talk about the difference between God’s view of sexuality being sacred and Satan’s attempt to twist it into the realm of shame.  In what ways have you seen the impact of shame have an impact upon others?  Or upon yourself? 
  2. Discuss the difference between conviction, which is from the Holy Spirit (I feel bad because of what I did); and condemnation, which is from Satan (I am bad because of what I did).  Which do you sense to be stronger in your life? 
  3. Is there any secret sexual sin in your life that you need to acknowledge and admit?  Will you confess this sin to God today? Will you take the needed steps to find help to live in purity from this day forward? (books, short term group, talk with a friend or pastor)

 

Day 2: Before the fall, Genesis 2 says that Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. There is an obvious physical aspect to this statement. Can you imagine standing naked in front of another and not feeling shame? Yet, emotionally and spiritually Adam and Eve stood transparent or naked before one another. They felt understood, accepted, close, and vulnerable. By God’s design this kind of intimacy was the context for a sexual relationship. In other words, sexual intimacy results from emotional intimacy. Whether married or not, when have you experienced meaningful emotional intimacy with another person? Why did you feel connected, accepted and vulnerable with your spouse or a close friend? If this is difficult, why do you think you have had trouble with intimacy? Ask God for His insight.

 

Day 3: In Genesis 3, the story of human history changes forever. In this chapter, the first couple wrote a story that has influenced every story thereafter. Read Genesis 3:1-7. In one impulsive moment, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. What did they realize immediately? They were naked. What was the first thing they did? They covered themselves. They hid. They experienced brokenness, embarrassment, and confusion for the first time. We see this everywhere today. News and entertainment media seeks to uncover or to expose lies, scandals and deceit. We all can relate to shame. We have all felt shame. How long does it take you to remember a moment of shame? Did you seek to cover up a situation? How did you do that? How did that affect intimacy with any person(s) involved? Shame is the antithesis of intimacy. One will drive the other away. They cannot coexist. God desires intimacy with us. Satan seeks to shame us. Does shame reside in a corner of your heart? If so, bring that to God. He seeks intimacy. Thank God for his pursuit of us.

 

Day 4: God intends sex to be sacred. In the confines of marriage, the physical act of sex is the result of a relationship of closeness and intimacy. Satan, through our culture, plants subtle and not so subtle messages that we can find sexual fulfillment outside of marriage. For those trapped in that lie, people chase after this illusion of fulfillment. It doesn’t take long for shame to become an ever present companion. Shame seeks to lock us in a box telling us that we are unlovable and unworthy. Yet when we sin, we experience another emotion, a God-given emotion. This emotion is guilt or conviction. The Holy Spirit uses guilt to separate the person from the action. “I have done bad, not I am bad.” God uses guilt to lead us back to intimacy through repentance. When has he used guilt to lead you back to him?  

 

Day 5: During Sunday’s message, Cory challenged us to turn from shame and towards healing. He asked us two personal questions. Is there a sexual sin that has been done to you that you need to acknowledge? Is there a sexual sin done by you that you need to admit? If you haven’t done so, take time to honestly answer these questions. Bring your sin or pain to Jesus, who seeks to heal hurts. This is the first step. God uses people to bring us restoration. He has designed us for community. Do you need to reach out to a trusted friend and to share what you just revealed to Jesus? Maybe it is a pastor or a professional counselor. God is desiring intimacy with you. Don’t let shame hold you back.

 

 

Week of March 13

Home: Where Stories Are Made

Parenting on Purpose - Panel Discussion

Day 1: Begin this week by reading through the Next Steps “Take 5” Questions below. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth into you as you consider and answer the questions. Write down your thoughts, responses, and what God is showing you. Use the “Take 5” questions this week as a conversation starter with your family or possibly a close friend.

1. What is my family rhythm? Grab a piece of paper and pencil and map out what happens in a typical week for my family. Observe the rhythm of a typical week. Identify times spent together with my children that could be used to be a spiritual leader.

2. Now that I’ve discovered my family’s rhythm, what is one step I can take to ensure that I am impacting my kids (grandkids) with Biblical truth in order to help them to know and become like Jesus?

3. Who is one person I could talk with to gain wisdom and insight on parenting?

Day 2: Parents and grandparents are called to be spiritual leaders. God desires to use us as instruments to guide our children down a path to know and become like Jesus. Samuel Brengle, former commissioner of the Salvation Army, said spiritual leadership is “attained by confession of sin, and much heart searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold uncomplaining embrace of the cross, and by eternally looking unto Jesus crucified.” Our children learn more about God by our actions than our words. How does your life reflect the love of Jesus? Take a few minutes to consider this. Ask God to show you how your actions are influencing the children in your life.

Day 3: In this series, Home: Where Stories Are Made, we are reminded of the opportunity we have to write a new chapter in our lives and shape others’ stories. Read Proverbs 22:6. As you may have heard Sunday, this passage is a principle, not a promise. Parents seek to shape their children’s future in one of two ways. Some are snowplows clearing a path of happiness for them. They run ahead attempting to fix problems. A second approach some parents take is to prepare and equip children to handle the obstacles on their own. What is your approach? Are you snowplowing all the obstacles off your child’s path, or are you training your child to be ready for the path ahead? What can you do to prepare them? Maybe it’s as simple as a conversation about something that happened in a relationship with a friend. Take time in your weekly rhythm to talk with your child about what they are encountering. Affirm and show your confidence in them. Pray for and with them and the current trials they are facing.

Day 4: A parent’s voice is important when it comes to influencing children. How children respond to mom or dad’s encouragement and direction is an indicator of the effectiveness of their influence. Proverbs 1:8 encourages children to “listen to your father’s instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teachings.” However, the way in which we deliver that instruction is very important. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Take a moment to pray. Let God search your heart and reveal ways you may be exasperating your child. Write down what He reveals. Ask God for the discernment of when to listen and when to speak. Remember James 1:19. Consider the timing of your instruction before giving it.

Day 5: The Bible encourages us to seek counsel. Just read Proverbs! (See Prov. 11:14; 12:15; 13:10) God gives us wisdom through His words in the Bible. He’s also given us a community of Jesus followers who have experienced similar challenges. Name some people in your life who you admire. Consider some of your current parenting (or non-parenting…marriage, friendship, finances, purity) problems. Why not seek out wise people and ask their advice?  Also, find some great parenting resources on our website at www.lscckc.org/parent-resources. Still stuck. Contact Kevin Hartman, Family Pastor, kevin.hartman@lscckc.org and he may be able to connect you with someone of wisdom in your area of need. 

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Week of March 6

Home: Where Stories Are Made

Parenting on Purpose

Day 1: Begin this week by reading through the Next Steps “Take 5” Questions below. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth into you as you consider and answer the questions. Write down your thoughts, responses, and what God is showing you. Use the “Take 5” questions this week as a conversation starter with your family or possibly a close friend.

1. Parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, teachers:  What is it that you truly value and want for your kids or the kids in your life? Write out a purpose statement that represents these values, one that is significant enough to come back to and get clarity from at times when you are pressed or tempted to go another way.

2. What was your understanding of the idea of “parenting the hearts and minds of our kids, not simply their performance or behavior”? What steps could you take to be more intentional in forming their hearts and minds to become more like Jesus? What will help shape and give direction to your kid’s or student’s life when your voice is not around?

 

Day 2: Take a deep breath and clear your mind from the noise surrounding you. Our hectic lifestyles and the culture we live in support our tendency to default to protecting our kids from struggle rather than preparing them for struggle and learning to struggle well. Think about times of significant growth in your life. Did growth tend to come during periods of ease and comfort, or pain and struggle? How has struggle done its work in your life? No healthy person wishes struggle on anyone, much less our kids. However, we know struggle and pain will come to them throughout their lives. How can you be intentional in helping a child or student in your life learn to struggle well, rather than simply removing the struggle? 

 

Day 3: Author Reggie Joiner in Parenting Beyond Your Capacity states, “What I give to my children or what I do for my children is not as important as what I leave in my children.” Reflect on what has been one of your greatest moments as a parent, or greatest memory of your parents. How does this remembrance support Joiner’s statement above? As you think about this jot down on paper how it ties back to your purpose statement from Day 1. Then write down a challenge you may currently be having with one of your children. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you a Christ-filled way to approach this challenge as a purposeful parent.

 

Day 4: Read and reflect on how Deuteronomy 6:1-9 defines what the purpose in our own parenting and in supporting the parents/families around us should be. How does the rhythm of the world conflict with these commands? What activities, attitudes and electronic devices need to go away or be used differently to help you establish a more healthy, intentional rhythm or pace of life? How does the myth of quality time pull us away from becoming an intentional parent? Write down ways this myth is keeping you from doing life with your kids or the young people in your life. What steps can you take to more consistently find opportunities to speak into their lives as life happens?

 

Day 5: Recent studies have shown that 75% of young adults leave the church when they head off to college. A substantial number of these young adults do not return. Whether unprepared for the onslaught of anti-Christian attacks from secular humanism or just being caught up in the fast-paced nature of society, this youth exodus is real. Take a moment and write down the names of adults that are currently speaking into the lives of your children. Then write down the kids and young adults that are not yours that you have a unique opportunity to speak into their lives. Look at your lists and answer the following questions. How intentional have you been in leveraging the power of the “other adult” as a potential key influence in the life of your children and the children you know? How could you purposefully and intentionally take a next step to engage and speak into the life of a kid, student or parent today? Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you opportunities where you can make a difference by putting your written purpose statement to work.

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