Devotionals

Week of May 20

In Remembrance of Me

Day 1: Quick history lesson: The Bible is a story about promises. Our modern Bible is divided into two testaments, which are also called covenants. A covenant simply means a solemn promise or agreement made between two parties. The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, focuses on a special promise between God and the family of a man named Abraham. (Genesis 15) God made a covenant with Abraham, promising that his family would become a great nation, He (the Lord) would forever be their God, and that they would inherit a special land. Every nation of the world would be blessed through them. Thus, the Old Testament is a story about God’s plan for the people of Israel.Read Exodus 2:23-24.The story of Exodus tells us how God kept His covenant promise by delivering Israel from slavery while in Egypt. Is this story familiar to you? Does this story relate to your life today? Why does the story of Abraham still matter thousands of years later? Try this:Right down your thoughts on paper including questions about God and this story.  

 

Day 2: Read Exodus 12:1-14, 31-32. (Read the whole chapter for the full account.) Yesterday’s devotional was about God and His promise to Abraham and Abraham's people. While they were in Egypt, God kept His covenant promise by delivering Israel from slavery. God then established the Passover feast as a memorial to be celebrated by His people forever (Exodus 12:24). God wanted His people (the nation Israel) to remember that He had done great wonders and had delivered them, and that He also accepted the sacrificial blood of a spotless lamb in order to protect the people from judgement. He had been faithful to His covenant with a sacred promise to bless them, multiply them, and to be their God (Genesis 17:1-8). Do you have celebrations or practices that remind you of God’s faithfulness? Has God done anything in the past year that you can say thanks for or that you wish to take time to remember? Try this:The next time you eat with others, stop and give thanks to God. If you feel comfortable, ask those at the table with you these same questions.  

 

Day 3: Jesus and His disciples sat down together on the night that Jesus died to celebrate the Passover meal. As a Jewish Rabbi, observing the Passover was a fundamental part of Jesus' faith. It was in the context of this celebration that Jesus would introduce the New Covenant. Read Luke 22:15-20.Jesus was taking theold practice of Passover and making something new. This is what the prophet Jeremiah had promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. In the Old Covenant, Israel was freed from the bondage of slavery, yet in order to keep up their end of the promise, they were given a long list of rules to obey in order to be holy before God's eyes. Jesus’ New Covenant, however, is unconditional. This New Covenant, according to Jeremiah, changes our hearts, allowing us to know God in a personal way. It provided for the forgiveness of our sins. In return, we simply are to believe. What are the implications of the New Covenant for you today? Does this alter or change your view of God? How will you respond today to Jesus’ invitation to enter into His Covenant? Try this:Consider listening or singing a favorite worship hymn or song. 

 

Day 4:  As Jesus and His disciples remembered the Passover together, Jesus said, “Do this (eating of the bread and wine) in remembrance of me.” Was Jesus replacing Passover with something new, namely, The Lord’s Supper? Read Matthew 5:17.The Passover was to be practiced forever to remind Israel that God had rescued them from slavery by the blood of the spotless lamb. Now in the New Covenant, Jesus declared that He is the spotless lamb that delivers us from the slavery of sin and death, and that God’s firstborn son will be the only firstborn son to die. By becoming the lamb, Jesus is fulfilling the covenant with Israel, and in doing so, the whole world will be blessed. Read Genesis 12:1-3.Try this: Take a ten-minute walk today and reflect on how Jesus has spiritually delivered you.  

 

Day 5: When we take bread and juice (or wine), we are remembering what Jesus did for us, freeing us from mistakes and regret. Read Galatians 5:1.What freedom have you found through remembering Jesus in communion? When we take communion, we take it with others identifying as followers of Jesus, who unite together through the following of Jesus. He (Jesus) simply said that if we want to be His disciples, we will be known by how we love others. Communion is a chance for us to remember, “Is there anyone in my life I am unwilling to love?” Try This:Be honest and consider this: Who is at the top of the list of people I amunwilling to love? Do you even have oneof these mental lists? Is Jesus calling you to forgive or to love without condition?

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Week of May 13

Mother's Day

Day 1: Sometimes, things just happen. We don’t choose them. We can’t change them. We just find ourselves in a situation that is less than ideal and often downright discouraging. What do we do in response? If we’re honest, we can often times respond in less than God-honoring ways. We can start the ‘who done it’ blame game. We can complain, "Woe is me" and fall into the victim mentality. We can become bitter and withdrawn. Think about a challenging situation in the last week or two. How did you respond? Is this response a typical pattern for you? Did your response bring you closer towards God or further away? If you turned further away, what beliefs do you have about the character of God that keep you distant? If you turned towards Him, how has this difficult situation deepened your trust in Him? Can you honestly say, “I’m in the middle of a difficult situation, yet I will still praise God.” 

Day 2: When have you carried around pain, frustration or anger and you desperately wanted the situation to change? As the desperation took over, YOU began to take over. You took control by coming up with your own solution to fix the problem. Can you relate to the story of Leah? Maybe there was a person (maybe a family member) who you’ve felt rejection from and you’ve tried to please them with different behaviors, witty conversation, gift giving, or other methods to please. The never-ending madness of "maybe this time", only to feel rejected again. In the message on Sunday, Leah fell into the trap of using things (in this case her children) to try over and over to fill a void. Like Leah, can you identify a pattern of behavior you use to fill a void?  

Day 3: You’re enough. You are loved. You are worthy. You are valued. You have been equipped with all you need. God is for you! Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Do you believe this? Or are you currently striving to fill a void? Do you think Jesus can truly fill this void? Take several quiet moments to get honest with God and ask Him if you are holding onto something that you are getting your value from. What is that carrot dangling just out of reach that you keeps striving for more? Write it down or write a word on your hand. Carry it with you. Ask God for a person or a time to release it.   

Day 4: He’s enough. Jesus is sufficient. Think of it. Jesus is greater than that one thing you want most in the world. Does that make sense in your mind? Does it make sense in your heart? Jesus can satisfy our deepest needs and desires. If we come to terms with that, we can feel peace and gratitude. Think about a time you experienced the provision and preparation of God when you have been in the middle of crisis and struggle. You tasted this peace and thanked Jesus. Write down or offer a prayer to God for how He has satisfied you in the midst of past struggles.  

Day 5: Recently a small group challenged each other to share reasons they are grateful daily. This daily practice is an opportunity to lead the group members into becoming people that are more grateful. This action of recognizing goodness in their lives and sharing it aloud with another will change them. There is power in sharing with someone. You can start with a gratitude journal then move from just a quiet, personal declaration of gratitude to actively articulating to others. If you’re married, share these thoughts of gratitude with your spouse. Share with a friend. Find someone who will commit to sharing daily examples of gratitude. Communicate gratitude directly to the people who you are grateful for. Notice how expressing gratitude effects the rest of your day.

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Week of May 6

Reactions to the Resurrection

Senioritis

Day 1: Senioritis - getting a glimpse of the next season but stuck in a current reality. How many days left before graduation? Of course, you know. But senioritis isn’t just for those graduating. We all still experience a senioritis feeling at times. Consider car shopping. Sitting behind the wheel in the showroom, you instantly notice that new car smell. Everything is clean, shiny and fancy. The seat heater is awesome! When it is time to return your old car all of the sudden it smells worse and you notice you don’t even have floormats anymore. Whether it is school, a new car, a different job or whatever, there is a real force pulling us to the next season. But right now we are stuck in the waiting period. Is it more or less difficult to wait when you know the season ahead? Read Acts 1:4-9. Did you catch the senioritis there? Jesus told His disciples to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit who will help them during the next season. The disciples’ response - they were looking for something different. They thought they knew the future. Do you feel stuck in a current reality seeing the next season on your horizon? Give some words to it. Do you have fear and anxiety about the future? Do you find yourself complaining about the present? Have you given yourself permission to slack off? How is being stuck affecting your heart or attitude today?  

Day 2: Sometimes we can find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control leaving us perturbed. Maybe we’ve even thrown in the towel and are just going through the motions. Being in that state of mind makes it easy to long for something else. For you, maybe it is looking for the next thing or holding on to what you once had. Either way, it’s easy to recognize not being mentally or emotionally present in a current situation. Not being present plays out in many ways. We spend most of our time, effort, thoughts or energy on what we think will happen. Yet doing so, we are in danger of missing God. More often God uses our pain and struggle to show us more of Him and of who He wants us to become. If you are stuck today, what are some ways God could use this current situation? How open areyou to hearing and following Him at this time? Write out some possible learning He desires for you. During this season is joy, contentment, kindness, forgiveness, and love present? Do you think Jesus is more concerned about your heart or your future?  

Day 3: Read Jonah 4. Expectations: the act or state of expecting or being in anticipation. When our expectations are not met, when things don’t turn out the way we thought they were supposed to, we often wonder why. There is nothing wrong with asking the tough questions. But when you get the tough questions answered and you don’t like the answer, what do you do with that? Do we close the book on the subject? This is why community is so important. Some of us are wired to trust our own thoughts more and not seek a second opinion. When doing so, we become more certain of ourselves. Being in community with others challenges us. Do you have all of the answers about why you are stuck today? What are they? Have you discussed them with others you trust? Do you look for agreement or are you open to their opinion without judgment? 

Day 4: Waiting. It can be easy to coast when we near the end of a semester, a job, or a task. Have you said, “I’ll get serious when the next season arrives” or “Life is going to be so much better when ____” . But is that what God wants for you? Or does He want to give you something more? In the book, The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley states, "Direction NOT intention determines destination." People don’t decide their future. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future. What current habits are deciding your future? Share your thoughts with a friend.  

Day 5: Read Psalms 37:23-24; Psalms 147:10-11. Get out a pad of paper to help you answer some of these questions. Ask God - What do you want to do in me or through me in this season? Am I putting more hope in my next season over God? How can I better prepare for the next season? Does God want to prune something in me? Where am I comparing my season with another and how does that hurt me? What does comparison do to my heart? Is that the kind of person I want to be? Pray for a change within your own heart instead of a change in your situation and find comfort in these verses in the Psalms.  

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Week of April 29

Reactions to the Resurrection

Our Reaction to the Resurrection

Introduction. This week, we will be doing a lot of reading, so bookmark your Bible in Matthew chapters 5-7. As we have learned over the last few weeks, Jesus followers had different responses to His resurrection. Some doubted, as Thomas did. Some pursued Him, as Mary did. Some were broken by their own failures. Judas took His own life as a result, while Peter’s repentance started a movement that began the Church. We may know many facts about Jesus, yet how well do we know His heart? Each day this week, we will look at a portion of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount and simply ask a few questions.  

Day 1. Jesus begins this sermon by describing those who are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you read Matthew 5:1-12, pay attention to the attitudes that Jesus calls blessed. What are the results of having each of these characteristics? Where do you see strengths and weaknesses in your own life? Jot down or memorize one of the verses. Pray that God would reveal opportunities to demonstrate this verse over the next few days. Ask for His help. In doing so, you will be building an experience with Him.  

Day 2. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live differently – called to be salt and light. Read Matthew 5:13-16. What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”? Reflect on the last week(s) in your own life. In what ways have you been salt? How have you given light to those around you (shown mercy, kindness, comfort, etc)? In verse 16, Jesus specifies that as we do these things we bring honor to God - to worship Him by reflecting His goodness and mercy to those around us. Look for opportunities in the week ahead to shine His light.  

Day 3. Read Matthew 5:17-48. The disciples were familiar with the rules that Jesus taught about here. While the religious leaders and Phariseessought to uphold the letter of the Law of Moses, they didn’t really grasp it’s true meaning. Chasing the rules will only lead to failure. Pursuing a relationship with Jesus, however, leads to greater trust in a relationship with Jesus. Read these verses again. Instead of reading them as rules to follow, see how someone with a soft heart towards God could respond in right and good ways.  

Day 4. Read Matthew 6:19-34. If you worry about money, you are not alone. Most of us at one time or another are concerned about it – either we don’t make enough, or we haven’t saved enough for retirement, or we won’t have enough to pay for our kids’ education, etc. While our reality seems to necessitate having significant financial resources, Jesus simply invites us to trust. In vs 27, He says “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” What does Jesus say that we should be concerned with in vs 33? And what will God provide? Are you more concerned with money than with the characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven that we looked at in Day 1? If so, confess to God and ask Him to give you the faith to trust Him for your provision. Do you have a friend you can share with? He/she can be a support to you. At the same time, you may be able to be a support to them.  

Day 5. Read Matthew 7:24-29. How does one build his house on the rock? Who encourages, reminds and challenges you to follow Jesus? Consider the people in your life. How often are you giving and receiving spiritual and emotional support? If you are in a small group, what is one step you can take to reinforce the foundation? If you’re not in a small group, what is a step you could take over the next couple of weeks towards joining or forming one? One next step may be to join a “Followers Made” group. Contact Patrick at patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org for more info. 

Summary.  If you have time, look at the rest of the Sermon on the Mount specifically in Matthew 6:1-18 and Matthew 7:1-23. How has your perspective changed by reading through Jesus’ teaching this week? What are the specific steps that God is calling you to practice as you relate to Him and to the people in your life? Spend some time in prayer today thanking Him for His invitation for us to follow. Ask Him to grow and change you. We all know that reading and even talking about this teaching doesn’t make us more like Jesus, rather it is as we knowing and following Him.

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Week of April 22

Reactions to the Resurrection

Brokenness

Day 1: We’ve all blown it before; it’s a universal experience. Peter blew it, so did Judas, and to some extent their story is our story. If you just thought, “I would never…,” remember that’s how Peter’s failure began! Judas had hoped for a different kind of Messiah and King, but he was disappointed. Peter was afraid. In pivotal circumstances, neither one of them could get past their fear or disappointment. They left their Shepherd. What has led you astray this week? What emotion, attitude, or desire when combined with a difficult circumstance has taken you where you didn’t want to go? Disappointment? Fear? Anger? Frustration? Pride? Anxiety? Instead of hoping or praying not to have those emotions, attitudes, and beliefs, what would it be like to ask God to help you with them and to discover where they come from?  

 Day 2: If you have blown it, now what? How you respond may be as important as the sin committed. Judas stepped away from community and isolated himself. He responded in hopelessness; he ended his life. In the same way, Peter was distraught. We don’t know the guilt he may have been hiding or the prayers he may have prayed. Despite guilt, anguish, embarrassment and shame, Peter chose to stay in community. With that choice and humility, Peter put himself in a place to be reconciled to Jesus. Read Luke 15:11-32. As you read, put Peter in the place of the younger son. Then put yourself in the younger son’s shoes. In this parable Jesus is saying, “This is our Father!” In the same way, that is how Jesus was with Peter and how He is with us. This sacrificial love and forgiveness is available to us thru Jesus. Is there an old sin or failure that has created one of the emotions, attitudes, or beliefs you identified in Day 1? Can you take a step and voice your sorrow or guilt to the Father? Do you need to voice it to someone you have community with, or risk an apology to someone who was hurt by your failure?  

Day 3: “Come as you are” is Jesus’ invitation to us. Not come as you want to be or think you should be but as you are right now. “As I am.” That is powerful to take in. We don’t like being weak, broken, poor, or vulnerable. Culture and our selfishness whisper for us to go and hide. Read Matt. 5:3-10 and 2 Cor. 12:8-10. Jesus says there is beauty in our weakness, poverty, meekness. He says that those who embrace these qualities will receive his Kingdom. Peter ran (or swam) toward Jesus just as the younger son ran to the Father in yesterday’s reading. He has seen Jesus forgive others, heard the parables, and built enough trust in Jesus to run to him. What would running to Jesus look like for us now? Imagine a child approaching a parent in sorrow, does the parent need to hear much before they bend down, hug and forgive the child? How much more so with our Heavenly Father. Reflect on this picture with your Heavenly Father.  

Day 4: Read Rev. 3:20.You may have heard this verse used evangelistically, but in this verse Jesus is talking to his followers who have lost their way, inviting them back. He is with you, no matter how guilty and hopeless you feel, Jesus is there, actively offering forgiveness and ongoing relationship. Read John 21: 15-17.Jesus meets Peter where he is. With three stinging denials burned into his head and heart, Jesus provides him a way to confront each denial with an affirmation of following and love. Forgiving Peter, or forgiving us, is not some legal transaction, or an eraser from a sin ledger. Forgiveness is always a desired act of sacrificial love on Jesus’ part. Forgiveness is about relationship. How do you picture or understand Jesus’ forgiveness towards you? Disgruntled, forced, put out or bothered by? Is there something in Peter’s story of forgiveness that needs to become a part of your story?  

Day 5: A living, resurrected Jesus forgave Peter and changed his life. He offered Peter another chance. Jesus didn’t just forgive him, he called him back into life. A life of purpose, meaning, significance, and following. How are you living out forgiveness? Have you experienced forgiveness from God lately? Consider the last time, mustering courage, you turned toward God and admitted a sinful attitude in your heart? If something comes to mind, how did forgiveness affect your heart, your relationship with the Father? But what if you don’t recall the last time you asked for forgiveness? Why do you think that is the case? Luke 7:47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

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Week of April 15

Reactions to the Resurrection

Pursuit

Day 1: From the time Mary encountered Jesus for the first time, we see in scripture her seeking Him out. Mary pursued Jesus, she sought out his company and His presence. Who do you enjoy being with? Why do you enjoy being with them? Think about at least one person you genuinely enjoy spending time with. Is it the conversation that you enjoy? Is it laughter? Is it the ability to fully be yourself when you are with them? Is it just easy to be with them, doesn’t matter what you are doing, just being together is life giving? Is it all these things? Think back to the person you enjoy being with most. Write out 3-5 reasons you enjoy being with this person. Do you think any of these reasons might have been Mary’s reasons for wanting to be with Jesus? Why or why not? Can you translate any of the reasons you wrote down to your relationship with Jesus?

Day 2: Imagine you are going to meet friends for coffee and conversation. You enter the crowded restaurant and begin to look around for your friends who have already arrived. In a corner, you see one of your friends trying to get your attention. You make eye contact and you see his eyes light up as he excitedly motions for you to join them at the table. Your friends are excited you are there and you feel immediately welcomed. Conversation is flowing between the three of them, and they are eager for you to join in. This is a safe place. Now imagine these friends are God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Spirit. Does this change the scene? If so, in what way? In the Magnificent Storyby James Bryan Smith, he writes, “Members of the Trinity are intermingling, known and fully known. Each of us is designed for and invited to participate in the greatest, truest, most real, most intimate relationship that exists: that of the Father and the Son. The Spirit reveals this to us and invites us to join.”We are welcome. We are wanted. We are invited in. How might understanding the relationship in this way change how, and maybe even why, you pray? How might it change the way you interact with God? Imagine the scene described above for a time of prayer today. Consider writing about what you experienced in your journal.  

**This weekend Cory mentioned a Next Step Challenge: To spend a total of 60 minutes pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus. For the remainder of the week we have provided four different ideas to help you focus on being in His presence. 

 #1: What words come to mind to describe God? What words come to mind when you think about Jesus? Are they the same? Read John 14:9. “If what you imagine God to be like is anything other than Jesus, then you have the wrong image of God.” -Keasler. Our image of God profoundly impacts our relationship with him and Jesus. We can’t have one without the other. Spend 15 minutes reading and meditating on John 1:1-5, John 14:9 and Hebrews 1:3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to learn more about Jesus and yourself.  

#2: Beauty is meant to draw us to the ultimate beauty, which is God himself. Take 15 minutes to listen to something beautiful. Before you begin, take a moment to pray and remember that Jesus is present with you. Listen to whatever music you find beautiful, whatever speaks to you. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Notice the sound and nothing else. You might think about what you like about it. Or you may want to think of nothing and just enjoy the sounds. As the music ends, think about how God has given us our senses, not just for useful things, but also to take in beauty. How does the beauty you’ve just heard reveals attributes of God?   

#3: Set aside 15 minutes for a “prayer walk”. The idea is to spend time in conversation with God while you engage in your surroundings. If a walk isn’t feasible, consider taking a drive or sitting on the back deck. Notice the trees, or the birds, maybe people walking by, or children playing. Imagine walking with a good friend and enjoying not only one another’s company, but the beauty surrounding you. What do you see? What is on your mind? Are there things that are worrying you? Things you are excited about? Talk to God as you would a close friend. As in all good conversations, both speaking, and listening are involved. What is God saying to you? What do you learn from the surrounding nature?  

 #4: Through serving, attending to the needs of someone else, we are following the example set by Jesus. As we love, live, and serve as He did, we deepen our relationship with Him. Think about how you can help someone today. Maybe it is someone at work overwhelmed and could use some help. Maybe it is a mom with her hands full with kids and groceries. Maybe it is someone standing on the corner in need of a meal. Ask God to open your eyes to see someone you can serve. What do you learn about God through serving another?  

One more step: Think back through the different ways you encountered the presence of Jesus this week. Was there anything that surprised you? What did you discover? Consider talking about these practices with a friend or your small group.  

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Week of April 8

Reaction to the Resurrection

John 20: 24-29

Day 1: Read John 20. Jesus’ first followers did not merely believe in the resurrection; they saw it firsthand. In fact, they were so convinced of the resurrection that many of them were willing to give up their lives for their belief. In many ways it’s easy to be envious of those first disciples. How much easier would it be to believe if you could see and touch this man who died and came back to life? Instead, we are asked to believe the impossible about a man we’ve never met in person. Did Jesus truly rise from the dead? Is He alive today? And if so, what are the implications for our lives? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Blind faith can often be a weak and immature faith, whereas a faith that is tested and thought-through will be a stronger faith. Write down doubts you have about God or the issues you have about having a faith in Him. Put it on paper.   

 Day 2: What happens when we die? I mean, how do we really know? What if we have created the idea of God so that we don’t feel scared and alone? What if Jesus died but never actually came back to life? 1 Corinthians 15 speaks to this. Death is our enemy. No matter how rich or happy we are, no matter how good or loved we are, we are all going to die. Yet, the resurrection of Jesus declares to everyone for all time that there is hope! Do you have a safe community that you can be real and discuss faith and doubt with? Is there someone in your life who you admire? They live a life of character and faith. How do you think they would respond to your list from yesterday? Do you know how they’d answer? Could you ask them?  

 Day 3: Read John 20:24-31. When Thomas was told that Jesus was alive, he responded by saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Can you relate to Thomas? Where is the proof? Are there areas of your faith that you say to God, “Unless I can see for myself, I won’t believe?” When Thomas finally saw Jesus alive in person, Jesus didn’t reject, shun, or push Thomas away because of his doubt. Rather, Jesus invited him to come and see, to touch, and to place his hands here. Then Jesus toldThomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” If there is an area of your faith in which you struggle with doubt, know that Jesus won’t reject you. Instead, He says, “Come see for yourself.” Take some time to pray that Jesus would reveal Himself to you today. Full disclaimer - He may answer your prayer and show up in ways you least expect.  

Day 4: Where do our doubts come from? What feeds them? Are they driven by fears or past circumstances? Add to your list from Monday. Where did these doubts originate? The more we understand our doubts, the better we will be able to make peace with them. Is it possible to believe in God yet struggle with disbelief? Go back to what you do know about God: His power, His love, and His goodness. How does your picture of God and His character affect your doubts? Read Mark 9:14-27.Consider praying back to God the words of the man from Mark 9:24, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus wants to work in your life, but He is looking for you to have faith in Him. Notice, He wanted the father to express belief before he healed the boy.

Day 5: Once Thomas had the evidence to settle his doubt, he was able to respond in faith, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). In one pivotal moment Thomas went from doubting that Jesus was alive to believing that He is the living God. Read Romans 6:5-14.Once we move from doubt to belief in the resurrection, our lives are able to radically change. Just as Jesus is raised from the dead, so we too are given new life, and not just new life some day in heaven, but new resurrection life here and now. Everlasting life doesn’t start someday when we die; it starts when we believe. That doesn’t mean that you will never struggle with doubt again. It doesn’t mean you won’t struggle with sin anymore either. However, it does mean that you have completely changed and will never be the same. What is next for you? Do you have enough evidence to answer your doubt? Or do you need to remain in the doubt for a time? Maybe this week you see that Jesus is asking you to believe? If so, what would that mean for your day today? 

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Week of April 1

Easter Sunday 

It Is Finished - Part II

Day 1: Read John 19:30 out loud. We know the Easter story is more than a story about bunnies and chocolate-filled eggs. It’s a time of celebrating the remarkable story of Jesus. With His words, “It is finished” Jesus paid the price in full for our sins, past and future, by dying on our behalf. The shepherd we recently discovered in our last message series, Psalm 23, He became the lamb, a substitutional sacrifice that restores the relationship between us and God. It is done. Jesus ultimate sacrifice is our renewal. Write a note to Jesus acknowledging his sacrifice. Include something that has changed in your life in the past year because of your relationship with God. This act of writing will slow you down and invite you to be open and honest with Him. 

Day 2: Easter is a message of hope, an invitation to experience the joy of taking steps to follow Jesus. We don’t need to clean up first, either. But often our issues, problems and frustrations take up all our time, keeping us at arms-length from Jesus. We get stuck. Or worse, we fall into the trap thinking we can manage our own sin. Consider the toughest problem in your life right now. Have you determined the options or solutions without seeking assistance from God? If He were to speak into your situation, what might He say? Where might you find insight from God?

Day 3: Once during a sermon, a minister presented a bottle of strychnine labeled “Poison” to his church. He then removed the poison label and substituted a new one titled “Peppermint Candy.” He asked, “Can you see the problem here? The milder we make the label, the more dangerous the poison’s presence.” His message: it’s time for all of us to put the poison label back on sin. We can make excuses or dance around our own behaviors and attitudes. Consider regret in your own life resulting from decisions you made or chose not to make. What specific emotions settled in your heart as a result? Can you recall? Avoid moving past these questions without remembering a specific instance in your life. It is acknowledging this pain that gives personal meaning to Jesus’s statement, “It is finished.”

Day 4:  Yesterday, we reflected on the issue of regret and sin in our lives. If you took time for personal reflection, you stepped back into the emotions caused by your behavior and attitudes. You experienced the shame like the day you first recognized your wrong. When Jesus finished his work on the cross and through the resurrection, He assumed the power and right to take our sin upon Himself. As a result, we can experience forgiveness. In light of your reflection of past sin, have you tasted forgiveness? What does forgiveness do to your soul?

Day 5: After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” John 19:28. Jesus did not sip the sour wine until his mission was complete. His declaration of being thirsty reminds us of his humanity. After six hours of hanging on the cross, he is physically spent. He wets his lips to declare His mission finished. Cory shared a different type of thirst on Easter morning. The spiritual thirst of a desire to be in relationship with God, both today, and for eternity. By admitting our wrongs, accepting Jesus as our Savior, and choosing to follow Him, we experience two realities. We will one-day experience heaven with God. Amazing! Second, we experience fulfillment in life through knowing Him today! Our vision at LSCC is for all of us to take steps to know and become like Jesus. We do so by actively incorporating the commitments of worship (re-centering our lives with God), community (doing life together), and service (loving and serving others). What practical next step can you take this week to build a closer relationship with your Savior? Can we support you? Email Small Groups Pastor, Patrick Patrick.hukriede@lscckc.org. He or someone from his team will respond back to you. 

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Week of March 18

Psalm 23

He Pursues Me

Day 1: Read through Psalm 23 again. As we conclude this series, think about the themes that we have learned. "My" Shepherd, He is enough, He leads, He guides us through, He restores, He prepares a table for us. What steps over the course of this series have you taken? Take five minutes to consider these messages. Flip through the past devotionals and message outlines. What conversations have you had with your small group? What have you written in a journal or prayers have you prayed over the last seven weeks? How are these steps changing your attitudes and how you live? Thank Jesus for how He is pursuing you and how you are following Him.   

Day 2: Psalm 23:6 begins with “Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” This is a statement of certainty. Not maybe. Not what if. David knew the character of God through experience and found him to be trustworthy. On Sunday, as Cory defined “goodness” in verse six, he said, "that which is beautiful, excellent, joyful, fruitful, correct and righteous," and unfailing love as an act of kindness, love or mercy." God does not passively wait in the clouds for us to find Him, but in His unfailing love, He pursues us with all goodness. This doesn’t mean that only good will happen in our lives, but it means that if we respond to his pursuit we trust that He will work out good in the middle of our circumstances. In the creation account found in Genesis 1 & 2, God says everything He created is good! In the gospels, we learn that Jesus came to forgive us of our sin and restore our relationship with the Father, and that is very good! So today, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Phil 4:8)  

Day 3: This Psalm concludes with the phrase, “and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Think about it in this context. He will pursue me as long as I live, but as a follower of Jesus, I will dwell with Him forever. What does forever look like? Have you really thought about what happens after “all the days of our lives” are over? In Psalm 73, the Psalmist was struggling over the prosperity of the wicked in contrast to His own experience of trouble. Read that Psalm and take note of his conclusion in verse 26. “He is mine forever.” Remember your current situation will pass, but your relationship with the good Shepherd can go on from today and will last forever.  

Day 4: We’re all being pursued by God. We might not recognize it. We might not want or appreciate it. But we can’t escape it. Being chased our entire lifetime by the goodness and unfailing love of God, none of us has ever lived a day outside of His pursuit of us. We may not sense it, we may even reject it, but we cannot be outside of it. Consider the example of Joseph in Genesis 50. Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Joseph trusted God during his dark valleys. God showed kindness, love and mercy. How are you responding to the Shepherd’s pursuit? Do you see His goodness? Do you find yourself holding back from God in any way? How is His pursuit of you challenge or change your perspective?  

Day 5: God's pursuit of us is fully realized when, in His goodness and unfailing love, Jesus took on flesh, and gave up His life on the cross in our place. Knowing the cross was ahead of him, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) If you have believed in and are following Jesus, this sacrificial love with which He has pursued us will be reflected in our lives and to others around us. By following Jesus, goodness and love naturally passes through you to others. That is the mark of a follower of Jesus. Consider two things today. Have you taken the initial step of admitting the wrong in your life and trusting in Jesus, the Good Shepherd? If you have, how is your life reflecting a trail of goodness to those around you?

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Week of March 4

Psalm 23

Restore

Day 1: Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” He restores my soul. When has the Shepherd restored your soul? Was it recently or has it been a while? Consider how Jesus goes about restoring one’s soul. Do you remember the green pastures and still waters from verse two? For some, the green pastures are a familiar coffee shop, the back deck, a walk through a wooded trail. Others experience still waters in the middle of a song or in a scripted prayer. Wherever or however Jesus restores your soul, pursue Him. Put yourself in a place to allow Jesus to restore your soul today, maybe even right now.   

Day 2: Travis’s message on Sunday’s was titled, “He Restores Me.” Notice what Jesus does not restore here. He does not a restore a position, friendship, an outcome, a circumstance or even health. Sometimes in life restoration does happen: a relational conflict is mended, a better job is found, a debt is fulfilled, a cure is found. However, David writes that the Shepherd restores his soul. The soul runs deeper than a thought or feeling. We find the soul in our emotional center. It is where peace, love, acceptance, worth, and joy reside. Settle into your chair. Close your eyes. Invite the Shepherd to restore your soul. Play a song. Speak a favorite verse or recite Isaiah 40:31 or 57:10. Pray and allow your Shepherd to restore your soul.  

Day 3: Read Psalm 23:1-4 emphasizing the verbs – makes, leads, refreshes, guides. The Shepherd invites us along the way, along a path. This is a path He knows well. The Shepherd travels this path knowing each twist and turn. He is comfortable and sure on this path. I don’t know about you, but this is not a difficult intellectual choice for me. I want this path. He is a good Shepherd. He has shown Himself caring, wise, and faithful. Yet, I wander from this path. How about you? When in your daily routine do you find yourself off the path? Is there a particular stress or problem that causes you to drift? Become aware of it. In doing so, repeating a word, phrase or verse can bring you back. If you haven’t memorized Psalm 23, try it. If memorizing is new or difficult, start with the first four verses. You will discover, by reciting these verses, He can guide you to green pastures and still waters simply by removing yourself mentally from a situation for even a brief moment.  

Day 4: Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” The paths of righteousness, or the right paths, are where Jesus is guiding you and me. Consider these paths for a few moments. Are these paths well-lit and easy to find? How do we know if we are on the right path or the wrong one? Who or what determines right from wrong? Surely, I can. God has given me a mind to figure out life. Since we’re made in His image, his likeness, there is some truth to that statement. Yet remember the pivotal word from yesterday’s devotional. He guides. It is not God’s design for us to sort this all out on our own. He wants us to follow Him. Write down 1-2 big decisions you are considering. Ask Him to reveal His path. Pray about it several times, not for your solution but for His solution.  Share with another Christ follower who doesn’t have a stake in the decision.  

Day 5: We may be similar. I like simple, easy, straightforward. Give me a list to follow, and I’ll be happy to oblige. Are you like that or not? Maybe you find rules confining. Recall Psalm 23:3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” In order to follow these paths of righteousness that align with God’s wishes and desires, just give me the list or the formula. What should I do? What should I not do? Just spell it out, and I will build it into my life. Unfortunately, that leads us down a wrong path. It can look right and appear we are traveling down the right road, however, Jesus warned the religious teachers of the day, that the path isn’t following rules. (See Matthew 12:1-14 for an example.) It is patterning our life after Jesus. We follow Jesus by being in relationship with Him through practicing habits like prayer, serving others, discussing Scripture with other Christ-followers, and committing to take steps together. Who in your life are you specifically encouraging on their journey of following Jesus? What is a step that you are taking? Does anyone else know about it, and are they supporting you? Following the Shepherd on the right paths happens with other sheep.  

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Week of February 18

Psalm 23

He Leads Me

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Week of February 11

Psalm 23

The Lord Is Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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Week of February 4

Psalm 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Week of January 28

Living Different

How To Walk Securely

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Week of January 21

Living Different

Gratitude

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Week of January 14

Living Different

generosity: The Secret To Happiness

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

 

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

 

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

   

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

 

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

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Week of November 19

Broken People, Faithful God

Spirit of Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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Week of 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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