Monday, September 30, 2013

John 15:17
17 This is my command: Love each other.

This week we are talking about our need for healthy relationships. Throughout this week we will look at some of the scriptures that tell us how to live with one another. In the New Testament, the word  that is translated “one another” (allelon in Greek) appears 193 times in 93 different verses. It is important for God that we have healthy relationships. Christ knew our need for one another. In our scripture today, Jesus does not mince words when He commands us to love one another. Is it hard to love your brothers and
sisters in Christ? Why?

Weekly Theme September 29 through October 5

Healthy Relationships

 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”  “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

In order to function in a healthy manner in our Christian development we need connection and healthy relationships with other Christians.  God has created us to be in relationship with him but he has also created us to be in relationship with other people. Within the church we have a need for significant relationships with other believers.  We need the support system that a network of relationships will provide for our faith development.

Many times people do not think that they need the church in order to be a fully functioning disciple of Jesus.  That is a mistaken understanding of what it means to be a Christian.  If we follow Jesus we are called into community and the community we are called into is the church.  In the church we can relate to fellow believers and they help to strengthen us as we grow in our faith.  Our relationships with other people in the church help to hold us accountable to take the steps we need to grow in our faith.

Socially isolated Christians meaning Christians with no developing relationships with other Christians, are not healthy.  We need a spiritual family. A part of a being in a family is to 
develop and nurture relationships with people in that spiritual family.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Psalm 8
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory  in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]
You have made them a little
     lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Reread our scripture today thinking about if God’s name depicts His character. What does this mean about the kind of God do we serve? If we are being transformed into His likeness, what might it look like as we become people—and churches—of excellence?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Matthew 6:22-23
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light
within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Our scripture today is helpful for the glass half empty conversation. It advises us to seek the light at work in the things we do. It is very easy for us to get caught up in the darkness of this world, but we need to be reminded of the opportunity that our present situation allows us. There are more people in our community who do not believe in Jesus Christ then there are people who believe. See this is not as a dark prospect but as a major opportunity to share the love of God. How do you think adopting a biblically positive outlook on life helps us live with victory, strength, and confidence?  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Proverbs 16:3
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

In other translations this verse reads “God will make your plans succeed.” What do you think are the similarities and differences between “God will make your plans succeed” and “for God to  establish your plans? What does our scripture today teach us about making plans?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Proverbs 20:18, 24
18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
    so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

What does our scripture today teach us about making plans? Give an example.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Proverbs 16:1, 9
1To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of  
   the tongue.
In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

The next three days we will look at verses that speak directly to making plans. What does our scripture today teach us about making plans? Explain.

Monday, September 23, 2013

James 4:13-15
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

Many people use our scripture today as a reason to not make a plan. We know that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, but this scripture is really more about our attitude. What important attitude of the heart do you think is necessary when making plans? Why? 

Weekly Theme September 22 through 28

Has a Plan

  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”
-James 4:13-15

The last trait of a church heaven applauds (a church God loves to bless) is that it has a plan. This kind of church has earnestly sought God’s guidance, developed a plan, and boldly steps forward to implement the plan. This kind of church knows where it’s going or at least a very good idea of its direction. But although this church has a plan in place, it also acknowledges that God can change the plan at any season. It has a plan but a flexible plan. Of course it will be God who directs, but what will God direct if we have no plans. It would be like traveling to a new place without a map or GPS.
There are many reasons we do not plan. We are afraid our plans will fail. We don’t want to plan because that takes us out of the moment. We do not plan because we just could not find the time to plan. There is also sometimes the feeling that if the church plans that those plans are our own selfish plans and we really should just wait on God. But if we plan in the prayer and guidance of God, God will work in, work through, and even work against our plan to build His Kingdom here on Earth. But the truth still remains that if we fail to plan we plan to fail.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Matthew 5:13-16
13 “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.

The church is called to be salt and light in this world.  But this seems to be a contrasting statement with what Jesus instructs us to do in the world when giving. What do you think is the balance between letting your light shine before all men and doing good deeds or anonymously?  What is one step you could take this week to do an anonymous act of kindness?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Matthew 6:1-4
 1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Our scripture today is a continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus gives us three situations to think about our humility in our faith. This is the first situation that deals with how we give. What example of humility can be presented by giving in the manner that Jesus instructs? How do you live this out in your faith walk?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hebrews 12:1-3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have
different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

As we think about humility, we need to be careful that our humility is not a false humility. The term false humility means putting down our own gifts and talents in order to elicit compliment or honor from others. There are three attributes that stand as a test and benchmark for true humility.
1.   Submitting to God.
2.   Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess
       (particularly those that surpass one's own) and giving    
       them the honor they deserve.
 3.  Recognizing the limits of our talents, ability, or
       authority and not reaching for what is beyond our  
 What do you think about these attributes? How can you live them out in your daily life?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Galatians 6:11-18
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

We have another great example of humility in Paul.  He boasted about one thing and one thing only: the cross of Christ.  He certainly could have boasted in his heritage, and/or in his service for Christ. He said little about what he had done for Christ but much about what Christ had done for him. So, as we think about Paul’s humility, reflect on what God has done for you and give thanks to God.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Philippians 2:1-8
1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain coneit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

The greatest example we have of humility, like all things in our faith, is in Jesus Christ. Reread the scripture. What example of humility does Christ set for us? What is one way you can try to live out the humility of Christ this week?

Monday, September 16, 2013

James 4:10
 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:5-6
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

This week we are focusing on being humble. The word humble comes from the Latin word for earth or dirt. So the true definition of humility revolves around being grounded, from the earth, or low. What do you think it looks like for a church to humble itself? How might the Lord lift that church up? 

Weekly Theme September 15 through 21

Humbles Itself

“Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will lift you up.”
-James 4:10
 This is the next to last message in the “Church that Heaven Applauds” series.  Throughout this series we have been investigating the characteristics and traits of a church that pleases God and causes heaven to rejoice.  The trait that we are going to investigate today is that a church that causes heaven to rejoice is one that humbles itself.

A church that heaven applauds is one that humbles itself and does what God calls it to do regardless of whether that mission is flashy, easy, or enjoyable.  Then when the moment of need is over, the people simply return to what they were doing as if nothing had happened.  In other words, no one demands a reward or special recognition.  A humble church is a church that pleases God.  It is a church that heaven applauds.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Matthew 22:34-40
Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

The last step is to look back. We need to look back at where we have come from, in order to remember and reflect on what God has done. Looking back brings encouragement to our hearts and ignites courage for the future. What things has God done in your life? Make a list and keep it somewhere to help you reflect on what God can do. Use this list to give yourself courage to continue to take risks in your life. 

Friday, September 13, 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.

Step four is to look out. Can you hold on to the dream, even through the potential of failure? This is the faith question we need to answer. We have to be able to see the possibility as we trust Christ and to rely on His promise to us to experience the dream come true. How do think remembering that God is faithful will help us in the midst of failure? How do you think we can share this promise with one another to spur one another on to victory?  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hebrews 12:1-3
1Therefore, 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.

Step three is to look around. You are not on this journey alone. As our scripture describes we have a great cloud of witnesses that walk with us on this journey of faith. Who is around you that will serve with you and share the vision God has put within your heart? And who has helped bring you this far? Take time to write names here and offer God a prayer of thanksgiving for these people.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Romans 15:13
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second step is to look inside. Today’s scripture talks about God’s power inside of us. We all have that “one thing” inside of us that defines our choices and decisions. What is it for you? And how do you think this can this help you when dealing with failure?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

 Isaiah 40:28-31
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
As we take risks, we will fail. Moving through failure to victory is a journey of faith and trust. This week we will look at five steps that we can take to move through failure and on to victory. The first step is to look up. When we look up, we see God, and as we focus our eyes on who God is, we gain fresh perspective on our circumstances. How do you think looking to God in the midst of failure can help you move forward?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Matthew 4:3-8
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some
multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

This week we are focusing on how we can take risks in our personal faith walk and as a church. One of the reasons we do not take risks is that we are afraid of failing. But the truth is that our failures allow God to show through our humanness? If we take the risk and fall flat on our face, this opens the door for God to do something that only God can do. Think of the biggest dream that you have to share the love of God with your community. Dream of something so big it will fail without Gods help. Write it down here and pray about it.

Weekly Theme September 8 through 14

Takes Risks

“I am sending you out like sheep among
wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as
innocent as doves.  Be on your guard; you will be
handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them
and to the Gentiles.
-Matthew 10:16-18

An irresistible church takes risks. A risk, in this sense, is when the church steps forward in faith to minister in new Kingdom-building initiatives.  The church responds in obedience to the leading of God.

Like a toddler taking their first steps, if a church does not choose to take risks, a church will not grow. When we purposefully disturb our comfort and stability for the sake of advancing the kingdom, spiritual growth occurs. A church that takes risks is a church which understands faith is alive. Our calling is not to arrive at a destination of stability but to travel a pathway of constant growth and transformation. In order to live by faith, we must be willing to disturb the equilibrium in our lives.

Saturday, September 7, 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.”

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
 baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

How should all functions of the church relate in some way to Matthew 22:34-40 and Matthew 28:18-20? Give some examples. To what degree would you say everything in your church is connected to its mission? Do you get the sense that people know the true function of a church and live that way?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
 baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What does Jesus tell His disciples to do? If we are His
disciples as well, what ways do we live out this commission in our daily lives?