Saturday, August 31, 2013

Romans 10:1
1Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

In our scripture today, Paul tells of his prayers for the people of Israel.  How do you think the action of praying for a person or region before ministering to them helps develop a love for that person or region? 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Galatians 5:13-14
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Choose a specific ministry in your church that is functioning well and trace the connections between that ministry and love. (For instance: We can see that people in our church genuinely love high school students because they are more than willing to go on retreats with them and do the work necessary to make the retreat successful. )

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
 the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an
expert in the law, tested him with this question:
 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest
commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

To what degree would you say love of God and love for
people guide the various functions of the church? Should it be guiding more or less than it does now?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Matthew 20:28-33
29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” 34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

From today’s scripture, think about how Christ’s example of compassion motivates us to serve others? Did compassion make your list on yesterday’s reflection?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.


List some of the various motives people or churches can have for serving God. Then reread verse 14.  Did love make your list? How can our love for God be the best motivation for service?

Monday, Aug 26, 2013

1 John 4:11-18
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Reread today’s scripture thinking about why we choose to love. Have you ever thought about the love we show others being an extension of the love God showed for us?  How does this change the way you show love to others?

Weekly Theme August 25 through 31

Chooses to Love

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men (and women).  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart.  If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For Christ’s love compels us…”
 -2 Corinthians 5:11-14a

A trait of a church that heaven applauds is that she loves the people in her community as well as her call to reach them.  Why does a church that pleases God love the people in the
community and the call to reach them for Christ?  Because we love Jesus and we know that Jesus loves people, and wants those people to know his saving grace. We are then filled with love for the people that Jesus loves so we do whatever we can to reach them.  When we love the people of our community and we want them to know Christ then we will serve the people of the community with a glad heart.  Our actions will be characterized by a sustainable passion – one that does not flare up or die down quickly.
A church that chooses to love the people in its community will always find the time, energy and money it needs to reach those people for Christ.  Why?  Because we make sure that we do that which we love.  That kind of church will be a church that heaven applauds.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies,
 they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Today’s scripture is a very common scripture reading. We hear it all the time at weddings. The reason for self-feeding is not obligation but love. The only reason to study  is to deepen our relationship with God. It is that relationship that leads to spiritual maturity. How is your relationship with God? Does it make a difference to think about the source of our growth is love? What does this mean for you and your relationship with God?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Psalm 16:5-8
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Reread verse 8. According to this verse, what do you think is our responsibility and what is the benefit? What does this look like in your life?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hebrews 4:12
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

As you read the scripture for today, how do you think the word of God is alive and active. How is it alive in your life or how can you make it alive in your life?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Psalm 119:32-35
32 I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.
33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, 
    so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.

In this passage what benefit to following Christ is described? What are  some practical ways you can run in the path of God? What does it look like when Christ sets our heart free?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

1 Corinthians 3:1-9
1Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul reminds us that we will grow up and start on solid foods like a baby does. But in addressing the Corinthians he is concerned that they are not mature enough because they have let other things get in the way. What do you think are some typical barriers to self-feeding? Why do you think some people find it difficult to regularly read the Bible, pray, and spend time alone with God?

Monday, Aug 19, 2013

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

How does Psalm 46:10 encourage you to be a self feeder? How would you apply this to everyday life?

Weekly Theme August 18 through 24

Promotes Self-Feeding

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” 
-Philippians 3:12-15a

              A Church that heaven applauds is a church that is filled with spiritual self-feeders.  The reason why heaven applauds that kind of church is because if we are taking responsibility for our spiritual feeding then it is a sign that we are growing and maturing as individual disciples and as a church.
             Heaven applauds a church that is full of spiritual self-feeders because that shows that the people of that church are growing and developing in the faith as they should.  People who take the responsibility to make sure they do what needs to be done in order to grow spiritually are going to be the kind of people who will face challenges and difficulties in the church with wisdom and maturity and not out of childish self-interests.  We should all strive to see how the Holy Spirit wants us to grow and deepen in our faith and then take the steps to make sure that it happens.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

 Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again:
Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

Our scripture today reminds us that we need to reflect on our lives and what God is doing. We often turn to scripture when we want to know God more deeply, This week we have looked at one way to be in the scripture through Lectio Divina, which is a way of praying the scriptures, allowing the words to speak to us in new and revelatory ways. Since we turn to scripture because it shows us the truth of God’s divine movement in creation, then it follows that we should also feel free to seek that truth in our own lives and experiences. The Lectio Divina process is applicable to not only scripture but also to our lives. Reflect on these questions today :

1. Pick an event in your life — it can be something that has happened recently or a memory from long ago. Choose an event or memory that touches your heart in the same way that a word or phrase would in scriptural Lectio Divina.

2. As you recall this event, what aspects of it stands out to you? Think about the setting and the circumstances. What is your initial reaction to this memory?

3. Ask yourself where God was present or absent in this experience. Did you feel God’s presence at the time? Or was it not evident until later?

4. Offer the event to God and rest in the silence and peace of God’s presence. How is God calling you forth into doing or being through this experience? Allow God to use this encounter to touch you, and shape you in your life today.

Friday, August 16, 2013

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
1And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the
testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.


Today we will try Lectio Divina. This is a process of reading the scripture three times.  After each reading answer the questions here for that reading and then read the scripture again. This process will help us focus on scripture in a different way.

1st Reading: What is one word or phrase the Holy Spirit impresses on you? Meditate on that.

2nd Reading: Enter into the scripture passage. What do you feel? What specific situation in your life today relates? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd Reading: What is God’s personal invitation for you from the scripture? You can write down what God may be saying to you, write a prayer of thanks, or rest quietly in God.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Acts 16:22-34
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

Today we will try Lectio Divina. This is a process of reading the scripture three times.  After each reading answer the questions here for that reading and then read the scripture again. This process will help us focus on scripture in a different way.

1st Reading: What is one word or phrase the Holy Spirit impresses on you? Meditate on that.

2nd Reading: Enter into the scripture passage. What do you feel? What specific situation in your life today relates? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd Reading: What is God’s personal invitation for you from the scripture? You can write down what God may be saying to you, write a prayer of thanks, or rest quietly in God.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Isaiah 30:15-21
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “In repentance and rest is your salvation,  in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it. 16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.‘ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.‘
Therefore your pursuers will be swift! 17thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” 18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! 19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. 20 Although the Lord gives you
the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Today we will try Lectio Divina. This is a process of reading the scripture three times.  After each reading answer the questions here for that reading and then read the scripture again. This process will help us focus on scripture in a different way.

1st Reading: What is one word or phrase the Holy Spirit impresses on you? Meditate on that.

2nd Reading: Enter into the scripture passage. What do you feel? What specific situation in your life today relates? Write down a prayer or pray quietly.

3rd Reading: What is God’s personal invitation for you from the scripture? You can write down what God may be saying to you, write a prayer of thanks, or rest quietly in God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Psalm 3
1Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
There is no help for him in God.” Selah
But You, O Lordare a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. 
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the 
Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set 
themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing 
is upon Your people. Selah

The word Selah is hard to translate, but a general translation is to “stop and listen.”  A church that is always learning knows that it’s greatest tool is reflection. Yesterday we learned that our mistakes deserve a quick funeral and a long reflection.  The rest of this week we will look at a way for us to stop and listen called Lectio Divina. Do not let the Latin name scare you because it is a great way to stop and listen to our scripture and our lives. What do you think is the benefit of reflection? How can reflecting help us to always be learning? 

Monday, Aug 12, 2013

Proverbs 14:4
Without oxen a stable stays clean,
    but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

As you read today’s scripture you may have no clue what Solomon is talking about. What Solomon is saying is that if our goal is a clean stable, we won’t have any strength or effectiveness. But if we want strength and effectiveness we better buy a shovel. The truth behind this is that the best way for us to learn is through our mistakes. We are all
human and we all will make mistakes both personally and as the church. The trouble we can run into is that to keep a clean stable we sweep our mistakes under the rug. This is not to say that we dwell on our mistakes but that we should learn all that we can from our mistakes and then forget about them. Has there been a time when you wanted to just forget about a mistake? Can you imagine finding strength and effectiveness from a mistake or a failing? Why or why not?

Weekly Theme August 11 through 17

Is Always Learning
“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.”
-Psalm 119:66
              If we want to be a church that heaven applauds then our attitude should be that we can always learn.  We should always be looking for new sources of wisdom and more effective ways to do ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.  Why should we do that?  Because the good news of Jesus’ love and grace deserves the best we can give it. 
Churches that are always learning and trying to find new ways to be more effective for the cause of Jesus Christ are churches that remain alive and energetic.  Churches that are always learning will be growing by effectively offering the good news of Jesus Christ to more and more people.
The Church of Jesus Christ is the bearer of the greatest treasure that the world has ever known.  The treasure that the Church of Jesus Christ possesses is the salvation that comes through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We cannot be content to be satisfied that we have received this treasure. We must be driven to learn and find ways that make the treasure alive and real to other people so that more people can come to know the life-saving presence of Jesus in their lives.  That’s why the church must always be learning and seeking new wisdom.  We must always be learning how we can be more effective in sharing Jesus with others.  That will please God and that will be the kind of church that heaven applauds.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Romans 8:28
1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my
co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Our scripture today reminds us that the work of Christ is not done alone but side by side. There is always going to be conflict. The question is can we rise above the conflict for the cause of Christ. will you stand side by side with your brother and sister in Christ for God’s work in this world? Isn’t this cause so much larger and more worth our time than our conflicts? Spend some time praying about relationships in our church. Ask God to strengthen and bless them. Ask God for help in mending torn or broken relationships.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Matthew 18:15-20
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

As you look at our scripture today, think about the many things God can do through the church if we work together for the greater goal which is the cause of Christ. What is one action you can take this week to promote or restore greater unity in our Christ’s church?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

John 17:20-26
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Our scripture today is Jesus’ prayer for us to be united. In life unity is a hard thing to find. Inside the church there is always going to be conflict that threatens this unity. It is not the conflict that is the problem but how we deal with it. The question to ask is not is there conflict but are we dealing with conflict in a healthy way. What are some healthy ways individuals within a church can disagree and still be unified? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ephesians 4:29-5:2
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

As you read today’s scripture, do you think there are any reasons why it might actually be healthy for churches to disagree? Explain.