Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalm 46:10
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Both scriptures today invite us to “Be still.” How do you think intentionally slowing ourselves down can prompt us to become more grateful?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Mark 6:30-32
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

We looked at these scriptures last week but they still speak to living a grateful life. How can these verses help you become more grateful in your personal relationship with God? How can they help us as a church be more grateful?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures
   forever; his faithfulness continues through all 

As you reflect on today’s scripture, look particularly at verses 1 through 3 and think about the difference between gratefulness and thankfulness. It may seem odd but gratefulness is different from thankfulness, yet both are essential. Thankfulness is the cordial response to a favor done. It is the affirmation when things go our way. It is the hooray after a blessing. Gratefulness, however, is different. It can only be developed intentionally. It begins with a spirit. It’s an attitude, a disposition that we practice whether or not things go our way. Gratefulness is a hallelujah even when there is no guarantee of a blessing.  It is the
confidence to accept whatever God brings. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very grateful and 1 being not very grateful, what is the level of your gratefulness. what is the church’s level of gratefulness? Is there a connection between the two? Explain.

Weekly Theme July 28 through August 3

 “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts.  Glory in his
holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.”
—Psalm 105:1-3
When it comes to the kind of church that heaven applauds gratefulness is a big part of the picture.  The question we need to ask is: Do we have true gratefulness as one of the characteristics of our church?  Are we able to accept God’s timing and direction when it comes to what we do in the church? Or are we all about what we and want it when we want it?  If it is the latter that is not representative of an attitude of gratefulness.

As a church body and as individual members are we grateful for what God is doing in us and through us or are we always looking for what we think is wrong with the church?  If we are always critical and evaluating then that is not representative of an attitude of gratefulness.  As a church body and as individual members are we grateful that God has given us the resources that we need in order  to do ministry, such as this location, building, finances and people and a community surrounding us or are we always looking at what we don’t have?  If we are always looking at how the glass is half empty then that is not representative of an attitude of gratefulness. A church that truly pleases God and deserves the applause of heaven is a church that lives with the spirit of gratefulness in all situations.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the
    proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.
3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.
4 The Lord works out everything to its proper  
   end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.
The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
    Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
    through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.
When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
    he causes their enemies to
    make peace with them.
Better a little with righteousness
    than much gain with injustice.
In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

The third trait of a church that lives heart first is that it is willing to live a surrendered life. Are you willing personally to surrender your life to God in Jesus Christ? The church follows a surrendered life by being willing to change and adapt to God’s needs in their community. Take time to think about this. Discuss the difference between a church program or ministry that’s simply up and running and being maintained and a program that is truly used as a conduit of life change and spiritual impact.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hebrews 12:4-11
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.And have you completely forgotten this word of
encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens
everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.
For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Our second trait of a church that lives heart first is that the church has a larger capacity to receive godly correction.  How does God correct us individually and how does God correct the church? How do you feel about yielding to God’s discipline? Does the thought of this scare you? Be honest.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus
answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”.
Starting today we will look at three traits that make up a church that lives heart first. The first trait of a church that lives heart first is that it is quick to forgive. Reread the scripture for today. Do you struggle with  forgiveness? Why is forgiveness so hard? How can you practice forgiveness in your life and in the life of the church?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2 Timothy 4:5-8
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his

Today Paul tells us about keeping the faith and running the race for the cause of Christ. What can our church learn from Paul’s example about living heart first in this passage?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or
received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Mark 6:30-32
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Today’s scripture describes that to live heart first means living with sustainable excellence. Describe what you think it means to live a passionately balanced life. What safeguards might you need to build into your life to go the distance when serving the Lord?

Monday, July 22, 2013

1 Peter 5:2-4
 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

As you read the scripture today, how do you think it describes the motivation for service? What might this look like when lived out in your life and the life of the church?

Weekly Theme July 21 through July 27

 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
—1 Peter 3:15
A church that heaven applauds is a church that knows what it is about and fulfills that mission with a heart that is focused on Jesus and is filled with passion.  A church that has heart and passion will always be asking this question, “How is what we are doing helping us to fulfill what Jesus is calling us to do and how does what we choose to do bring glory to Jesus?”  Because of the focus that kind of question brings to ministry when that kind of church makes a decision to do something they know why they are doing it, how it fits into their overall mission and then they can put every ounce of their heart and passion in doing it.  A church heaven applauds never gets involved in doing things just to create a lot of activity and keep busy. A church heaven applauds never does things because they have always done things. 

A church heaven applauds does ministry because it helps them achieve their mission and it serves a purpose.  Then when the people of that kind of church are involved in ministry they truly know that what they are doing makes a difference in people’s lives and makes a difference for the Kingdom of God.  That kind of church does ministry with a purpose which involves heart and passion.  The people of this kind of church are invested in doing ministry because they know that it isn’t just activity, it makes a difference.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and
   wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together 
   in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

It is hard to talk about the church’s identity without talking about our identity. Psalm 139 stands as a great reminder of who and whose we are. Reread the scripture is there a word or phrase that speaks to your identity?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt
loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your
Father in heaven.

As you consider our scripture today, what are some practical examples of how we can be “salt” (a preservative in the midst of decay) and “light” (illumination in darkness) both within the church (building) and apart from it during the course of the week?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we
profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up
meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Philippians 2:14-16
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Look at both of our scriptures today. What do you think is the relationship between the “gathering” and “scattering” functions of the church as described in these passages? In other words, what are we called to do when we come together as a church for Sunday service? What are we called to do as a church for the rest of the week?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Today we hear that we are God’s chosen people. What does it mean to you personally to be chosen by God?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2 Timothy 2:3-4
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

Today’s scripture describes the church as a soldier. What do are practical implications does this have for the church’s identity?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Revelation 21:9-10
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Ephesians 5:21-30
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or
wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.

 As you read the scripture today, why do you think it is vitally important that we understand the true identity of the church and then act upon that identity? According to these passages, describe the relationship of Christ to the church.

Weekly Theme July 14 through July 20

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 
—Ephesians 5:31-32
If we follow Christ, we are part of the body of believers that comprises the universal church. Our true identity is a glorious one like a bride on her wedding day. This is an identity that positions us for action. The church is loved and chosen, empowered by god, and set apart for service. Our invitation is always to remember our true identity and then to act on that identity.

When we speak of a church heaven applauds, we mean a local assembly that people can’t get enough of, an irresistible church. Yet more important, it means that we’ve remembered our true identity as the bride of Christ and are living in the light  of that identity. Such a title means that we’re in the process of developing into a glorious bride. Ultimately, a church is irresistible because a church reflects Christ’s glory—and Christ is the One who is truly irresistible.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Matthew 6:9-13
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

In the prayer that Jesus taught us we pray, “Your Kingdom come.” This can only be done when we continue to seek the presence of God in Jesus Christ.  The author Wayne Cordeiro  explains that the church must focus on this by “painting a church’s atmosphere with the colors of
heaven.” How do you think this can align a church’s heart with heaven? And what might this look like?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Psalm 148:18
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on
Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

As you consider our scripture today, what does it mean to you to call upon God in truth? And as you continue to think about God’s presence share a time when you have experienced God’s presence.